Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Best Mysteries

Take a look at several of the many mystery writer organizations that give annual awards in the mystery genre. The Shamus , Agatha, Edgar, Anthony, MacAvity, and Barry awards are all listed on the website's award section as well as having their own websites. The Mystery Writers of America website lists the Edgars and other MWA awards. The awards are divided up into best first mystery, best paperback original, lifetime achievement, best non-fiction, best short story, and so on. The Shamus award is for books with a P.I. protagonist (Private Investigator.) The Agathas celebrate the mystery in the traditional style of Agatha Christie. Each organization explains its criteria and specialty on its website.
I can't list a favorite for 2005, but I just finished Death Without a Trace by Gerard Murphy about Irish brewer, Madigan, of Dublin who works as an investigator on the side to earn money to pay child support/alimony to his ex-wife. The novel takes the form of a "noir" mystery; Madigan has a rather dismal existence and takes a dim view of life in modern Ireland. Look on Amazon's United Kingdom site for more information on this book and other books from the U.K.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

End of Year Best Books Lists

I'm trying to find as many on-line best books lists of 2005 as I can. If you know of one I've missed, click on "Comment" and tell us about it with the URL please. Or you can tell us what your favorite books of the year were. Comments will not appear immediately because I need to vet them first due to bad experiences with blog spammers. What follows are lists I have found so far, mostly for adult books. Every regional newspaper seems to have a list, but they tend to be the same books mentioned over and over, so if you find a list with a new and different point of view, that would be great too. The Metacritics Meta list is what could be called the Mother of All Lists, so there is overlap in the listmaking of lists too. The mind boggles.

NYT Best Books of 2005
NYT 100 Notable Books of the Year
Amazon's Best Books of 2005
Christian Science Monitor Best Fiction 2005
School Library Journal Best Books 2005 for children and teens
Seattle Times Best Books 2005
Salt Lake Tribune Best Books 2005
Metacritics Meta List

Monday, December 12, 2005

PostSecrets: Post Cards Project

The Weekend Edition of NPR featured the book PostSecrets by Frank Warren. Warren asked people to send him hand-made postcards revealing a secret they have never told to anyone. Eventually, he received thousands of postcards, created a website and published a book. The book is on order at BHPL. In the meanwhile, take a look at the examples of postcards on the website. The artwork is original and the secrets range from the bizarre to dark, humorous or, as Warren said in an "All Things Considered" interview last march: "gross."

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Fun with Mitochondrial DNA

Unlike my last post about reading when your mind is sidelined by a cold virus, reading about genetics, even written for the layman, obviously takes a certain dogged concentration. Our latest book display near the Reference Desk is called "Non-Fiction that Reads Like Fiction." A lot of science writing these days is very readable and entertaining and usually fairly comprehensible, even for the science/math-challenged among us. At least you won't be tested after reading these.
A reference question from a patron who wanted to know where and from whom he is descended in pre-history, got me going on mitochondrial DNA - which is the kind that passes unchanged (except for occasional natural mutations) down the matrilineal line. This is the kind of DNA that was tested to determine that there were seven women in pre-history who were the common, maternal ancestors to currently living Europeans. How this research came to this conclusion is told in the Seven Daughters of Eve by Brian Sykes. The theory is not undisputed but it's a lot of fun to read about. For a very funny review click on "My Mum is Older Than Your Mum" reviewed in the Observer. Reviewer Robin McKie notes that, "It is an intriguing story, though qualifications should be noted. For a start, the Seven Daughters of the book's title refer only to Europe's founding mothers. Another 26 maternal lineages have since been uncovered on other continents, although Sykes ignores them, presumably because The 33 Daughters of Eve makes a crap title." That's the kind of bluntly funny review you will never find in a U.S. newspaper.
I also took out The Human Genome and Genetics Demystified, which looked like nice primers to bring me out of my three decade out-of-date bare bones knowledge of genetics. The library subscribes to Access Science, a database which you can access from our homepage or from library computers. It has concise articles with links, drawings, illustrations and bibliographies for further study. The Reference Librarians can help you use this database and/or email articles to you from the database about subjects of interest.

Rhinovirus got you down? What to Read When You Are Too Sick to Think

Go to the paperback originals (published right to paperback rather than hardcover) for really light reading. Before capitulating to a bad cold this week, I grabbed two mysteries off the New Fiction shelf which turned out to be entertaining, light, funny and just the right degree of mindlessness to penetrate my cottonwool-filled brain. As the snow came blowing in, I read Witch Way to Murder by Shirley Damsgaard which is about a thirty-something librarian, Ophelia Jensen, who with the help of her grandmother Abby and a handsome stranger in town, solves some local mysteries involving thefts of fertilizer, murder and a bomb-making militia group in small-town Summerset, Iowa. The hook here is that Ophelia and Abby are psychics or good witches who practice Appalachian-style, folk magick - the good kind.
I'm back at work and will finish the other mystery this weekend: My Very Own Murder by Josephine Carr. Fifty-something, divorced, wealthy Anne Johnson, lives in a beautiful old apartment building near Rock Creek Park and the National Zoo in Washington, D.C. She and a new friend solve a murder which hasn't happened yet. This book is wryly funny with sassy middle-aged women characters. The hook here, for me, is that I lived in the apartment building right next to Anne's not-really fictional one, while I was in library school, and I used to walk to the Zoo daily.
Which brings me to a non-book thing to do while sick, or well, or just in need of a pleasant diversion: go (immediately) to the panda cam site of the National Zoo to see the baby panda, Tai Shan, play and roll around and eat and sleep and do other really adorable panda activities. Sometimes his large mother, Mei Xiang, ambles in front of the camera and picks up and cuddles Tai Shan. Tai Shan is five months old and yesterday was his official debut; unfortunately he slept through most of the wildly anticipated event. He does sleep a lot, but be patient, when he plays, it's worth the wait.

New on the Bestseller Lists

Dean Koontz' Forever Odd is new on the NYT fiction list this week. On the non-fiction list, Bob Spitz' The Beatles appears for the first time this week. Jan and Michael Stern give the Beatles book a very favorable review despite reservations about its 1000 page length and as they note, "we had to wonder what could possibly be left to say about the musical foursome whom John Lennon once declared more popular than Jesus."
I was wondering that myself, since most fans know the Fab Four's story as well as their own life story. But there was something left to say, and it's all in this massive tome.
For more current book news, click on the RSS feed to the NYT Book section at the bottom of this blog. (Use Microsoft IE, not Firefox to view.)

Thursday, December 8, 2005

Favorite Holiday Books

Searching for Hanukkah books in the library catalog can be a bit tricky because of the variant spellings. "Hanukkah" will produce 59 titles (childrens and adult books and videos). Take out one 'n', "Hanukah" gets you 27 results. "Chanukah" turns up 27 also. I'm not sure it's the exact same 27. Such are the vagaries of the catalog. But anyway, here are some of my favorites.
Hanukkah lights: stories of the season: from NPR's annual holiday special (Fic HAN - with CD) is new this year, with stories from Daniel Pinkwater (author of the Hoboken Chicken Emergency and many other really funny, must-read kids books), Elie Wiesel, Mark Helprin, Harlan Ellison and others. Hanukah Money by Sholem Aleichem illustrated by Uri Shulovitz (who wrote and illustrated Snow, a wonderful picture book for read-a-louds this time of year.) The Power of light: eight stories of Hanukkah by Isaac Bashevis Singer, also a good choice for reading aloud during Hanukkah. And Celebrating the Jewish Holidays: cooking, crafts and traditions (296.4 KAL) nicely illustrated with photographs and art reproductions.

"Kwanzaa" typed into the catalog gets 19 or so results, depending on how you design your search. K is for Kwanzaa: a Kwanzaa Alphabet Book by Juwanda Ford (J394.261 FOR) is illustrated in bright, jewel-like colors. Kwanzaa, an African American Celebration of Culture and Cooking by Eric Copage (641.59 COP) in the cookbook section brings together the holiday and traditional foods.

Come see the holilday display in the foyer display case and be sure to ask the reference librarians for book recommendations during the holiday season.

Tuesday, December 6, 2005

Christmas Books

The clock is ticking away towards December 26 and those hard-to-buy-gifts-for people are making a lot of us feel anxious. What better present could there be than a book? And you can always borrow it or read it before you give it, so here are a few suggestions.
Books about Christmas, collections of stories and traditions, Christmas mysteries, Christmas crafts and on and on, are a whole burgeoning genre at this time of year. Try A Dixie Christmas: Holiday Stories from the South's Best Writers, from the Algonquin Press, the third in a series of collections of holiday stories from editor Charlene McCord. It features favorite Southern writers Bailey White, Rick Bass and Ellen Gilchrist among others.
For kids, try Robert Sabuda's Winter's Tale: an Original Pop-up Journey. Sabuda is the master of pop-up book engineering. His Twelve Days of Christmas: a Pop-up Celebration is also gorgeous. If you give your children a Christmas book every year, they will have a wonderful collection for life and it makes gift shopping a little easier.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

U.S.A.'s Most Literate Cities

According to a study by John Miller of Central Connecticut State University, Seattle is the most literate city in the U.S.; Minneapolis is second; Washington, D.C is third. These results are based on rankings in six categories: newspaper circulation, number of bookstores and library resources and so on. The study is posted online at this site. The 'Factoids' section notes that
'The number of public library staff per capita, number of retail bookstores per capita, and magazines published per capita are significantly related to more other literary factors than any of the other variables.' Nice to feel appreciated.

Monday, November 28, 2005

New York Times Book News

This blog now has a site-feed from the New York Times about books. See the black box at the bottom of the page. And don't miss the New York Times free, Online Book Section.
The library subscribes to the full content of the New York Times back to 1851, so if you need articles that don't appear for free on their website, don't pay for them, your tax dollars have already done that. Come to the library, or call, and we will show you how BH residents can access the full-text NYT.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Browsing the New Non-Fiction Shelf at BHPL

I just finished Alice Hoffman's The Probable Future, a fairly typical Hoffman quasi-wiccan/feminist tale of a family of eccentric New England women with secret powers that connect them to nature in unusual ways. Not to minimize her talent in one "run-on" sentence, but if you have read her work, you might recognize that as the gist of her philosophy. If you liked her titles - Practical Magic, Second Nature or Here on Earth, as I did, you will also enjoy this one. The book group gave it good reviews except for one member who found the happily tied-up loose endings contrived and unsatisfying. Of course if happy endings aren't a problem for you, go for it. You could say that The Probable Future is a bit improbable but heartwarming.
So anyway, I am now "between books" and resorting to browsing through the subset of non-fiction books described by subject catalogers as "Life Skills - Humor" or "Conduct of Life - Humor" which sounds kind of stuffy. First off, a British best-selling import, described on the fly leaf as hilarious essays by a well-known humor columnist.
Never Hit a Jellyfish with a Spade: How to survive life's smaller challenges by Guy Browning didn't reduce me to a lump of helpless hilarity at first, but as I randomly jumped around this smallish book, I found that the section on politics is pretty funny in a dead-pan, ironic kind of way, so I will keep that on the bed-side table for a while.
Next, A Man Without a Country, Kurt Vonnegut's latest, also a collection of essays about politics, which could be cataloged under "Political Satire" but it isn't which should explain why it's so hard to find things in a library.I saw Vonnegut on the Daily Show and he looked exactly the same as always and was bitingly funny, bitter, but funny.

Christmas Craft Books in the Library

Beautiful Floral Christmas: 16 Easy Christmas Decorations (745.92 BEA)
Shows how to make wreaths and centerpieces from natural materials, beautiful full-page, color photos of each project.

Christmas Decorations from Williamsburg by Susan Hight Rountree (745.59412 ROU)
How to create colonial decorations, wreaths, topiaries, kissing balls and table settings.

Simply Christmas: great ideas for a noncommercial holiday by Mary Thompson
(394.2 PAX) Ideas for cards, gift wrap, gifts, food gifts, decorations.
Gooseberry Patch Christmas Books series (394.268 GOO) are similar to the Better Homes Christmas Ideas series.

Forever Christmas by Tasha Tudor (394.2663 DAV) featuring the famed illustrator’s watercolors, her hand-built house – Corgi Cottage, hand-made toys, candles, gingerbread, dollhouses and recipes in the 19th century style of her life.

For more craft ideas try the website or

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Happy Thanksgiving

We are thankful that there are cookbooks to show us the way, like
Betty Crocker's Complete Thanksgiving Cookbook and the Betty Crocker website where you can download a Holiday Planner, watch a cooking video, get recipes and advice and more.

Monday, November 21, 2005

National Book Awards

The National Book Award winners were announced last week: Joan Didion won for her memoir The Year of Magical Thinking which recounts the year her husband of many years died while at the same time her daughter was very ill. William T. Vollman won the fiction award for Europe Central, a reimagining of World War II.
For lists of other award winners, go to
The American Library Association also has lists of book awards and Recommended Reading
for children, teens and adults on its site.

Reference is Cool

Salem Press, publisher of reference books, has created a website dedicated to the idea that "Reference is Cool."
Librarians have been emailing ideas, links, pictures and so on with enthusiasm fueled, I think, by the desire of the often underappreciated to be noticed. That and the library profession's perennial discontent with our stereotypical image as shushing, humorless, bun-wearing, pen-wielding nerds. Not that that is necessarily a bad thing to be - take a look at the Librarian Action Figure with Amazing Shushing action aka Nancy Pearl.

The Librarian by Giuseppe Arcimboldo

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Time Traveler's Wife

Audrey Niffenegger's first novel, The Time Traveler's Wife, is a bestseller and a favorite for bookclubs. Take a look at an interview with the author where Niffenegger shares her thoughts on her book.
I read it with my local book club and an on-line book club and would like to share some of their comments with you. There was a lot of discussion about Henry being an unpleasant or dislikeable character. In his defense, Jan wrote:
"One of the most powerful things for me about Henry is his inability to control his comings and goings. It is as if he experiences an extreme form of fate; incidentally not unlike the Greek conception -- I loved Niffennegger's quote at the very end from the Odyssey. The fact that he remained sane, and learned to live with his affliction, was amazing; I think I would have been tempted earlier to win the lottery, or otherwise try to use my condition more to affect my life, or even considered suicide when things were really out of hand. I think it is an important choice by the writer that he didn't, but lived within the confines of his condition (including his long and agonizing injuries towards the end.)"
And Margy wrote another explanation for his behavior:
"As to comments about Henry not being a very nice guy. I think you have to take the approach, much in the way that the book does, that if a person has a disability, then there are going to be other issues as a result of that disability. For example, a child with autism or ADHD isn’t always able to meet behavior expectations in a classroom. The child is labeled as a trouble maker instead of the adults understanding that the behavior may be result of the disability. If you accept the time traveling as a disability, then Henry is just trying to survive, much in the same way that a child with disabilities tries to survive in the classroom. It isn’t always pretty picture. It doesn’t mean that there shouldn’t be accountability for the actions, just that there should be understanding as to why they happened."
Judy wrote:
"Henry didn't bother me too much. Between the loss of his mother, his emotionally unavailable father, and his "disease", he had reason to be difficult."
The consensus seemed to be that Henry was not "nice", but we could understand why.

The question of whether Clare was too much the "stand by your man" type of woman, rather than a feminist also came up. Jan wrote:
"Is Clare a feminist? Not in a political sense, her world is too small. But I think so, in the way I define it -- does she have the self-authorization, the self-assurance, the self-respect and determination to live her life as she defines it, without bowing to outside pressures and expectations (whether from family, tradition, or socio-political movements)? Her passion happens to be another person (a male of her species) and her child by that person, not a job or career, or calling or organization, the pursuit of which passions by women are more often thwarted by our society and culture and so more quickly invoke the political-feminist feature of the situation. "
The Time Traveler's Wife is a passionate love story, built around a difficult premise of time travel. It is a dark story with one of the main characters, Henry, being at best, rough around the edges. It's a sad story for Clare, who always waits.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Pride and Prejudice, a new look

A new version of Pride and Prejudice opened at the movies and, coincidentally (or not,) a new book of literary criticism makes a nice companion piece to this renewed interest in Jane Austen. Flirting with Pride and Prejudice: Fresh Perspectives on the Original Chick-Lit Masterpiece. Edited by Jennifer Cruise (BenBella 2005) is a collection of critical essays about the book and the author with the novel approach that Austen's works were the precursors to the current "chick-lit" best-sellers.
Chick-lit is the kind of book that talks about shopping, sex, young single women in the city, and probably lots of fashion, especially shoes. The Devil Wears Prada by Lauren Weisberger (2003), Handbags and Gladrags by Maggie Alderson (2005), Bergdorf Blondes by Plum Sykes (2004), Shopaholic Takes Manhattan by Sophie Kinsella (2002) and so on, along the lines of Sex and the City by Candace Bushnell (1997) are chick-lit. It's hard to believe that Austen even remotely fits in that category, but it is a good "hook" to trick people into reading good literature, I guess.

Monday, November 7, 2005

Jarhead: a Marine's chronicle of the Gulf War and other battles (2003)

Jarhead, the movie based on the book of the same name, by Anthony Swofford, opened last weekend. In one of the many first-hand accounts that came out of that war, Swofford tells about his experience as a marine in the first Gulf war. The present war in Iraq is also inspiring many personal accounts by soldiers and journalists. The difference this time around is the presence of the internet and specifically, of the blogs (weblogs) created by many American soldiers and Iraqis.

Baghdad Burning Girl Blog from Iraq by Riverbend is a book based on the blog by a young Iraqi living in Baghdad and writing about the war and politics of Iraq from her very personal perspective.

Journalists have also contributed to the outpouring of books about the Iraq War. Naked in Baghdad, the Iraq War (2003) as seen by NPR’s correspondent Anne Garrels covers the start of the war. Asne Seierstad (Bookseller of Kabul) wrote A Hundred and One Days, a Baghdad Journal (2003) which also covers the beginning of the war. Boots on the Ground, a Month with the 82nd Airborne in the Battle for Iraq by Karl Zinsmeister (2003) recounts the war from a battlefield perspective. All these titles can be found in the BHPL collection.
A search for ‘Iraq War’ in the BHPL catalog results in 54 titles; in Amazon it turns up 2,401 hits, and 201 titles can be found in Ingram, the library’s book supplier. So it’s safe to say that this war is being heavily written about. But the most up-to-date and realistic accounts are the blogs. There are now probably 200 military blogs. Take a look at some of the soldier’s blogs linked to this page in USA Today which lists sources of military blogs.
A good blog to start with is My War by Colby Buzzell

Saturday, October 29, 2005

The latest book news from PW

The October 17, 2005 issue of Publishers' Weekly has a picture of John Lennon on the cover. The lead stories are about manga, Japanese style comics and several other currently popular topics and authors. John Lennon died 25 years ago which has generated interest in the Beatles. The PW cover article reviews eight new books about the Beatles. In another article, PW notes that the movie Capote has created interest in Truman Capote's works, especially In Cold Blood. Take a look at thePW website for book reviews, free email newsletters you can sign up for to keep informed about the latest news in publishing and more.


Memoirs have been around in one form or another from pre-literate days to the present-day online blogs and personal tell-all websites. The book that stands out in my mind as the beginning of the latest surge in popularity of this genre would be Angela's Ashes: a Memoir by Frank McCourt (1996.) Despite, or because of, his grim and brutal childhood, McCourt's memoir was widely read and it was beautifully written.
Other popular and literate memoirs written in the last decade that come to mind are: Having Our Say: The Delaney Sisters' First Hundred Years by Sarah and A. Elizabeth Delaney; The Liar's Club by Mary Karr and A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggars. But then the inspired or merely perspired, the depressed, addicted, talented or talentless all took pen to paper to confess to an avid reading public.
Whether the memoirist is telling his stories over a campfire in a cave or huddled over the warm glow of a computer screen, telling our own stories and learning other people's stories is an age-old tradition. In recent years, so many journal writing groups have formed that the unwritten memory barely existed. For a while it seemed as though publishers were literally grabbing random people off the street and sticking a microphone in their faces to dictate their story to a ghostwriter. And of course, every celebrity seems to have penned his/her story, no matter how thin a book that might make.
Rick Bragg (All Over But the Shouting) tells about writing memoirs in this issue of The Writer magazine
Frank McCourt writes about memoirs in this issue of Writers' Digest magazine. And in another issue of the same magazine, there is more advice on the subject.
Good, bad or indifferent, memoirs remail a popular genre.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Funny Websites Vaguely Related to Books

Libraries have evolved in recent years into showcases of cutting-edge technology, and in the process have changed so much that patrons of yesteryear would barely recognize the 21st century library. Librarians' top priority should be educating patrons about all these innovations and in that spirit I strongly recommend this educational website
Peeps Visit the Library
In fact, the modern library must be updated to accomodate all the new hardware. Here are some cost-effective ideas for library renovation -
Unusual Library Solutions
And finally, the modern, wired library needs to retain a human touch, or feline, as the case may be:
Library Cats Map
If it's weird, it's on the web. If it's really weird, it's at the library

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Books into Movies

This month there are three movies out that are based on books: Where the Truth Lies, North Country and In Her Shoes. To read more about these books and others that have been made into feature films, go to Books into Movies which is a regular feature of the website BookReporter.

The Virgin Blue

The Virgin Blue was the first published novel by Tracy Chevalier, author of the popular and well-reviewed Girl With a Pearl Earring. The reviews were not as favorable and my bookgroup as a whole did not like it as much as her second book, but it did spark a very lively discussion. The story of 20th century American, Ella, who is living in France, is linked with the life of her distant relative, 16th century Huguenot Isabelle. Ella's dreams and other mystical feelings and signs lead her to uncover the secret of her ancestors. The coincidences and devices that drive the plot are somewhat arbitrary and unconvincing but the writing is solid and novel will appeal to historical fiction fans.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Publisher Websites:Algonquin

If you are always looking for the next good book to read, try publisher websites. They have downloadable studyguides for book groups, email newsletters you can sign up for, lists of author events, interviews with authors, books excerpts and more. Algonquin Press of Chapel Hill is a small press that specializes in current Southern fiction writers, slightly offbeat or quirky authors. For example, they have published the Lost Girls and other books of Lee Smith, Candy Freak by Steve Almond, The Woman I kept to Myself by Julia Alvarez, Tab Hunter Confidential, A Dixie Christmas, Enslaved by Ducks by Bob Tarte and other memoirs and literary fiction.

Top 100 Books

Americans love lists and one new one about books is on Time magazine's website. It lists the top 100 books in English published since 1923. This is one of the most popular pages of Time's website. There is also a place for reader comments, reviews of each book and a look back at Time cover stories on various writers over the years.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Rhiannon Nolan mystery series

Like most readers, I'm always looking for an author who reminds me of my favorite authors whose works I have read and reread. So when I saw the promotional comments of the back cover of Kathy Buchen's detective series comparing her to M. C. Beaton, I checked it out. Besides, Buchen is a librarian, so I felt I had to support a fellow librarian who made the leap to the authorial side of the book business. Buchen's detective is fiftiesh lawyer Rhiannon Nolan, self-deprecating and wise-cracking, who moves to a small town in Wisconsin filled with eccentrics and the odd murder or two. The first in the series of three, so far, is Death in Chintz (2004.) The town Lothario is murdered and all his many ex-girlfriends and their husbands are suspects. We meet Rhiannon's best pal, her family, the ineffectual police chief, her always-present handyman and her adoring (from afar) mechanic who repairs her car after her many fender-benders. If you are looking for a fast, entertaining book of the "cozy" mystery variety, give this series a try.

28 Year Old Retires to Florida

I just finished Early Bird; a memoir of early retirement by Rodney Rothman which passed the time pleasantly. The book received mostly favorable reviews, but it isn't hilariously funny, so don't expect that. Rothman, former writer for David Letterman, was laid off from his job as a television writer and decided to try out retirement well ahead of schedule. He moves to a retirement community in Florida and gives a balanced and non-judgemental view of his senior citizen roomate and others he meets during his six month "retirement." You can read the reviews on Amazon to get a more detailed view of the book. My feeling was that it filled in the time between books that I really "meant" to read or "should" read for book groups and it was perfect for reading on a rainy day, which we've had a lot of lately.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

What Berkeley Heights Patrons Are Reading, part two

A Long Way Down by Nick Hornby, Judy comments that it is "a humorous take on a serious subject." Hornby, author of About a Boy, discusses suicide in this latest work.

My Kind of Place: Travel Stories by a Woman Whose Been Everywhere by Susan Orlean. Pam notes that it has "well written travel essays. Most first appeared in the New Yorker. Good read." Orlean also wrote the Orchid Thief which was made into the movie Adaptation. Orchid Thief delved into the long history and strange world of orchid collectors.

Eragon by Christopher Paolini, "If you like Harry Potter and dragons," notes reader Marilyn. Paolini wrote this book while still in his teens and invented an entire language for its fantasy world. Young adults are eating it up and apparently adults like it too. For fantasy fans.

The Miracle of Saint Anthony: a season with coach Bob Hurley and basketball's most improbable dynasty by Adrian Wojnarowski, "Great! Especially if you are from Jersey City."

I haven't posted any negative reviews from patrons...maybe next post.

Tuesday, August 9, 2005

Convicted Felon Self Publishes Best Seller "Natural Cures They Don't Want You to Know About"

Yesterday, USA Today had an interesting article about Kevin Trudeau, author of the bestselling Natural Cures “They” Don’t Want You To Know About. (Monday, August 8, 2005, section D, p.1-2.)

Gary Strauss reports, “Kevin Trudeau has no medical training. He’s a convicted felon. And he has been banned from hawking products and services on TV that federal regulators charge have no merit.” The Federal Trade Commission sued Trudeau in 2003 for making false claims about coral calcium and as a result of that lawsuit, he is not allowed to make any medical claims on T.V. or to sell any products at all on TV, except for his book, which is protected by the first amendment (free speech.) In addition to his problems with the FTC, he served two years in prison for credit card fraud. In the related article in the same issue of USA Today, reporter Lisa Szabo relates the following bits of erroneous and even dangerous medical advice found in Trudeau’s book: “The sun does not cause cancer. Sunblock has been shown to cause cancer.” “Get 15 colonics in 30 days.” Yikes! I think that speaks for itself. “Antiperspirants…[are] one of the major causes of breast cancer.” Major medical groups, researchers, doctors, and government agencies have disputed much of the health advice he gives in his book. The book advises readers to go to his website, which can be used for a fee and on which Trudeau does hawk his products. The FTC banned him from TV advertising of his products, other than the book, but they do not have the authority to ban his use of the internet. Anyone can make a website and say anything at all on the world wide web.

So why did the library and a couple dozen other libraries in New Jersey purchase this book? It was not reviewed in any of the usual review sources that librarians read to select books, but it is on the bestseller list and patrons were requesting it. Since it was added to the collection a couple of months ago, it has been checked out four times and currently has five holds on it. We don’t always agree with the contents of the books we select for the library, but it’s the patrons’ responsibility to judge for themselves.

Wednesday, August 3, 2005

'How Right You Are, Jeeves'

“In his creation of Jeeves [P. G. Wodehouse] has done something which may respectfully be compared to the work of the Almighty in Michelangelo’s painting. He has forged a man filled with the breath of life.” - Hilaire Belloc

Fans of P. G. Wodehouse are an avid breed who always welcome new converts to the canon. I’ve been thumbing through his books trying to find quotes that show how funny he is, but it’s hard to take his dialogues out of context and keep the flavor of the exchange. There are also many websites about P. G. (“Plum” to his friends) and his “bon mots” are included in many books of quotations. “If not actually disgruntled, he was far from being gruntled.” “The fascination of shooting as a sport depends almost wholly on whether you are at the right or wrong end of the gun.” “Has anybody ever seen a drama critic in the daytime? Of course not. They come out after dark, up to no good.”

His humor can make you laugh out loud and definitely makes you want to read it aloud to anyone in the room with you while you are reading. And it is very frustrating if that person isn’t also a fan. So the best thing to do is to just get one of his books and start reading.

Wodehouse books can be roughly described as being in series (sort of) featuring different characters in each series or locale. There are the famous Jeeves and Wooster books and stories starring a dimwitted and idle young man and his omniscient gentleman’s gentleman (not really a butler) Jeeves. There are the Blandings Castle books featuring another dimwitted upper-crust type, Lord Emsworth and his beloved, prize-winning pig, The Empress of Blandings. There are the stories that the garrulous Mr. Mulliner tells at the local pub. Wodehouse wrote almost one hundred books, enough to keep the die-hard fans reading and re-reading and generally off the streets and out of trouble.

Here is what the actor, Stephen Frye, who played Jeeves in the T.V. version of ‘Jeeves and Wooster’ says about Wodehouse. Hugh Laurie (currently in the T.V. series ‘House’) who played Bertie Wooster wrote this, falling into a sort of P.G. style of expression.

If you need an escape and a dose of laughter, and who doesn't, pick up Wodehouse ASAP and dive in!

Monday, August 1, 2005

New Jersey Authors

What do James Fenimore Cooper, Walt Whitman, Peter Benchley and Albert Payson Terhune have in common? They are all New Jersey authors, according to Paging New Jersey, a Literary Guide to the Garden State by James F. Broderick (810.9 BRO.) Broderick's book covers writers "connected to the state in some arguably meaningful way," (p. 2.)
By that criteria he includes Toni Morrison, a professor at Princeton; Joyce Carol Oates, also of Princeton; and Thomas Nast, the political cartoonist of the 19th century.
Stories about New Jersey, some by N.J. authors, some not, are in A New Jersey Reader by Henry Charlton Beck (974.9 N) which includes Stephen Crane's account of 'New Jersey Ghosts' and 'The Story of Tempe Wick' by Frank R. Stockton.
To find more New Jersey authors go to the website of the New Jersey Literary Hall of Fame
which is at the New Jersey Institute of Technology.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

What Berkeley Heights Patrons are reading

Patrons who join our Summer Reading Club fill out purple "Book Review " slips for each title they read and put them in a box to enter our bi-weekly prize raffle. Here are a few of the books and comments that have been entered so far.
Falls the Shadow by William Lashner, Judy comments, "Lashner, always a good read, funny dialogue." Judy also comments on
Freddy and Fredericka by Mark Helprin, "a very funny spoof!"
Killing Time by Linda Howard, Patti comments, "excellent book. difficult to put down."
Soapsuds by Finola Hughes, Julie comments, "light summer fun."
Ya-Ya's in Bloom by Rebecca Wells, "If you liked Divine Secrets, you will like this."
True Believer by Nicholas Sparks, "great story, well told, good character development and engaging story, and a happy ending!"
Vanishing Act by Jodi Picoult, "after page 25, you will lose sleep until you finish reading. Brave father!!"
Enchanted, Inc., by Shanna Swendson, Julie comments, "wonderfully fun read! Can't wait for the next one..."
This Dame for Hire by Sandra Scoppettone, "fun 40's slang."
And many people are reading and laughing their way through Janet Evanovich's Eleven on Top.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

The New Non-Fiction Book Shelf

I try to look over the new book shelves when I have a chance and think about what I would read if I had more time. Here are a few from the new non-fiction shelf that look good.
American Gothic by Steven Biel is the story behind the famous painting by Grant Wood of the dead-pan farmer couple in which the husband holds a pitchfork. One appealing thing, to me at least, is that the book is only 170 pages and the type face is largish, which makes it that perfect size to read between books that take a larger time-commitment. According to the book jacket, 'American Gothic' "painted by a self-proclaimed "bohemian" ... the image was first seen as a critique of Midwestern Puritanism and what H. L. Mencken called "the booboisie." It has been taken seriously as a symbol of strong American values and taken as a parody, and always played an important part in our national identity in some way or another.

The next two books that caught my eye are A Hundred and One Days: a Baghdad Journal by Asne Seierstad (The Bookseller of Kabul) and The 8:55 to Baghdad, from London to Iraq on the Trail of Agatha Christie by Andrew Eames. The first book covers the time just before and during the initial stages of the U.S. invasion of Iraq from this journalist's point of view. Eames' book is more of a history of Iraq and a travelog.

Finally, two books with a European slant. Death and the Sun, a Matador's Season in the Heart of Spain by Edward Levine follows one matador and in doing so tries to show how bullfighting is part of Spanish culture and why. Between Salt Water and Holy Water, a History of Southern Italy by Tommaso Astarita is a history of Italy from Naples to Sicily. Quoting the book jacket (and my grandfather!) one has to "see Naples, and then die." I never totally understood that vow as a child; perhaps this book will illuminate that part of Italy known to so many Italian Americans.

Monday, June 27, 2005

Advanced Placement History

Here at the BHPL Reference Department, we keep getting high school students looking for something "good" to read to fulfill their A.P. U.S. History summer reading assignment. Well, "good" is a subjective term, but we know most students mean "short" for one thing when they say that. What follows is a list of entertaining, readable, fairly short, books about some aspect of American history. We hope this helps some student out there.

Please add to this list by clicking on "comment" and telling about your favorite. "good" American history book.

Really Readable American History books for AP U.S. History Students

Ashes of Glory, Richmond at War by Ernest B. Ferguson (975.5 Fur) Life in the capitol of the Confederacy during the Civil War.

Confederates in the Attic, dispatches from the unfinished Civil War by Tony Horwitz (973.7 Hor) Reporter's humorous take on Civil War reenactments across the South.

The Day Lincoln Was Shot by Jim Bishop (Bio Lincoln) An hour by hour account of the President’s assassination.

Devil in the White City: murder, madness, and magic at the fair that changed America
by Erik Larson (364.1523 Lar) A portrait of the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair and American life in that era.

Fire in the Lake, the Vietnamese and the Americans in Viet Nam by Frances FitzGerald
(959.7 Fit) One of the first and one of the best histories of that war.

Flag of Our Fathers by James Bradley (940.5426 Bra) The Battle of Iwo Jima.

Founding Brothers, the Revolutionary generation by Joseph J. Ellis (973.4 Ell) The lives of Adams, Burr, Franklin, Hamilton, Jefferson, Madison and Washington converge to create the new republic.

General Washington’s Christmas Farewell, a Mount Vernon Homecoming 1783 by Stanley Weintraub (973.4 Washington) After the war, Washington steps down and resigns his commission rather than accepting a third presidential term.

Ghost Soldiers, the forgotten epic story of World War II’s most dramatic mission by Hampton Sides(940.5425 Sid) U.S. prisoners of war in the Philippines.

The Longest Day by Cornelius Ryan (940.54 Rya) D-Day by WW II war correspondent.

In Pharoah’s Army (Bio Wolff) Recollections of a Viet Nam veteran.

Men to Match My Mountains, the opening of the far west 1840 – 1900 by Irving Stone (978 Sto)

Shadow Divers, the true adventure of two Americans who risked everything to solve one of the last mysteries of World War II by Robert Kurson (940.5451 Kur) In 1991, two scuba divers found a German U-boat wrecked off the coast of New Jersey in WWII.

Terrible Swift Sword by Bruce Catton (973.7 C) Dramatic history of the Civil War by preeminent Civil War historian Catton.

To America, Personal Reflections of an historian by Stephen Ambrose (973 Amb) Highlights of American history from the Revolution to present day.

Triangle: the fire that changed America by Dave Von Drehle (974.71 Von) The 1911 factory fire that changed American labor and safety laws.

The Wild Blue, the men and boys who flew the B-24’s over Germany
by Stephen Ambrose (940.5449 Amb) The story of WW II flyers told by a very readable historian.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Food Memoirs

Tender at the Bone by Ruth Reichl is the BHPL selection for the July first meeting of the Friday Morning Book Group. Reichl writes about growing up in NYC and how she learned to cook, partly in self-defense, because her mother's cuisine could be lethal. If you liked Reichl's memoir, BHPL has other titles of interest in that vein.

Non-fiction that intersperses recipes with autobiography or travel writing is quite popular. Feeding a Yen, savoring local specialties from Kansas City to Cuzco by humorist Calvin Trillin is one of several he wrote about his favorite cuisines.
Hallelujah! the welcome table, a lifetime of memories with recipes by Maya Angelou has stories introducing each recipe.
In the mystery section, try the following authors whose detectives are in the food business.
Diane Mott Davidson, Phyllis Richman, or Virginia Rich. In the fiction section, try Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquival, Five Quarters of an Orange by Joanne Harris or Friendship Cake by Lynne Hinton.

The book display for July will feature food memoirs and mysteries.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Hot Summer Read

The hype is starting for The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova which is about a family of historians who research Vlad the Impaler, the "real" Dracula. Movie rights have been sold. Expect demand.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

What to Read Next: the hardest question to answer

Reference librarians are still asked all kinds of questions despite the popularity of the internet , but the most challenging reference question is, "what should I read next?" BHPL has a whole collection of "readers' advisory" reference works and a database, NovelList, that help answer that question. Nancy Pearl, a now-retired Seattle Librarian, is the Queen of Readers' Advisory, as mentioned in a previous post. Lately I haven't been able to find a book that really grabs me. My pile of books have all been started and rejected. Nancy, help! So I turn in desperation to Pearl's Book Lust: Recommended Reading for Every Mood, Moment, and Reason. Since I just finished Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress, I turn to her chapter on 'Asian American Experiences.' She describes Donald Duk by Frank Chin; Gish Jen's Typical American; Gus Lee's China Boy; and Chang-rae Lee's Native Speaker.

How do you find the next book to read?

Thursday, June 9, 2005

Book Blogs and Online Book Groups is an online book discussion group worth looking at. Each month one member chooses a book and leads the discussion. The site has an archive of past book discussions.
My question with online book groups: who brings the food and wine?

Related websites:
Reading Group Guides, very useful for book suggestions and discussion questions.

Fantastic Fiction list all books by authors in series and chronological order, invaluable site!

Vintage Reading Group Center: reading on a theme (instead of everyone reading the same title)

Thursday, June 2, 2005

Boleyn, Balzac and Bryson

I am doggedly plowing through the final part of The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory. Most people loved the book and the book has been flying off the shelves at BHPL as well as other libraries. For me though, Anne Boleyn's demise and the end of the book can't come soon enough. She comes across as a fascinating, driven, ruthlessly ambitious and generally disagreeable person, but the style of the book falls somewhere between serviceable and deadly prose, IMHO.

At the same time, I am reading Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress about two young men dispatched to the countryside in China to be "re-educated" during the early 1970's. This book is well written, wryly funny and goes very quickly.

I just finished an offbeat book: The Schopenhauer Cure byIrvin Yalom which alternates chapters about a psychotherapy group and the life of the famously gloomy philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer. The book has a bit of a problem deciding whether it is a biography or a novel, but it was informative and completely different from most books I've read.

Also on my pile of books to be read are: Bill Bryson's African Diary; Library, an Unquiet History by Matthew Battles; several books on painting technique and keeping sketchbooks and Book Lust by Nancy Pearl, a librarian famous in the library world as a Reader's Advisor and also noted for having been the model and inspiration for the Librarian Action Figure with Amazing Shooshing Action which stands on a small shelf in my house next to a pile of miniature books in a kind of shrine to librarianship and reading.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Library Book Groups

The Berkeley Heights Public Library currently has two book groups. The First Friday Book Group meets at 10:30 A.M. The Second Tuesday Book Group meets at 7:30 P.M. Both groups meet in the library's Meeting Room, which is on the same level as the Children's Room. The book groups are moderated by reference librarians, Ellen Zander and Anne deFuria. .

The full text of published book reviews can be found by using the library's Ebsco database. Ask at the Reference desk how to find reviews using Ebsco and other library databases or reference books.