Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Farewell to Authors 2006

The following authors died in 2006:

Wendy Wasserstein, playwright, the Heidi Chronicles

Betty Friedan, feminist, the Feminine Mystique

Peter Benchley, Jaws

Mickey Spillane author of the Mike Hammer mysteries

Ernestine Gilbreth Carey, Cheaper by the Dozen

see this USAToday article for a list of "2006 Passings"

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

You are Time's Person of the Year

By now most of us know that we are all Time Magazine's Person of the Year. Just look in that mylar mirror on the cover: there YOU are reflected as clearly as in a funhouse mirror. It must be everybody's fifteen minutes of fame.
Military blogger, Captain Lee Kelley is one of the fifteen people profiled in the cover story who have been influential in their use of the blog or other web 2 feature to bring news directly to the consumer without using newspapers, magazines or other traditional news media. His blog is Wordsmith at War, one of the hundreds of military blogs reporting the war first hand. His pieces have also appeared on Slate's The Sandbox, a military blog compiled and edited by Doonesbury creator, Gary Trudeau which has been mentioned on the BHPL Blog before. The Sandbox has some good, solid writing and reporting of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars direct from the soldiers serving there.
BHPL's latest book on that subject is The blog of war : front-line dispatches from soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan by Matthew Currier Burden. A catalog search for the phrase "Iraq War personal narratives" yields 23 books, in addition to Burden's, Colby Buzzell's My War, Riverbend's Baghdad Burning and From Baghdad, with love : a Marine, the war, and a dog named Lava by Jay Kopelman.

The Angry Raisins and other Urban Legends about Books

Is it really true that Steinbeck's the Grapes of Wrath was published in Japanese with the title, the Angry Raisins? According to the urban legend-busting website,, the status of that book rumor is "false."

Will Bounce fabric softener sheets pressed between the pages of a musty book make it smell better? According to Snopes, "Well, kinda." Don't try it on a valuable book though... and please, not on library books.

Really weird reference question: did "an international cookbook compiled by California home economics teachers include a recipe for "Stuffed Camel?" Answer: "True!" The Snopes article goes on to explain that the recipe might be a joke and compares it to the "recipe" for elephant stew that kids learn in elementary school, but it leaves out the punch line which was something about adding ten rabbits to the stew is optional because some people don't like hare in their food. (That is high humor if you are in fourth grade, remember?)

For more, interesting, bookish urban legends, go to and type in "books" to learn if a young reader committed suicide having learned the plot of the last Harry Potter book, or if a woman who used the rest room at a funeral home and signed the guest book inherited the fortune of the deceased and so on.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Two Shopping Days Left to Buy Books

More end-of-year and best-books-of-the-year lists can be found on the following websites: Best of List 2006 What to Give/What to Get A Print and Save Guide for Grandparents to Holiday Gift Books

Librarians surf the net so you don't have to!

Here's a good reason to give books as presents that isn't mentioned too often: Romance author, Brenda Coulter writes in her blog, No Rules, Just Write: "No gift is easier to wrap and ship than a book. Remember that the next time you ransack your attic for a piece of Christmas paper large enough to cover a CrockPot". I've been meaning to add her blog to the list of links on the right... look for it soon.Her posts are brief, soothing, funny, with interesting tidbits of book lore or sometimes just musings on daily life.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

More End of the Year Best Books Lists

Critical Mass has this post on best books of the year, including this article on suggested gift books. The last book on that list: "Finally a stocking stuffer from the incomparable paper engineer Robert Sabuda, "Christmas" (Scholastic, $12.99), with delightful pop-up figurines for each letter of the title, the last one featuring a resplendent Santa opening a card, accordion-like, with the words "Merry Christmas." "
Robert Sabuda is one author/illustrator whose name pops up (aargh!) on most gift lists for children's books. Take a look at his web site to get a feel for his wonderful work. His books would be perfect for a child old enough to treat the book gently, but not too old to think it childish.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Slate Article: The Year in Books and other Adventures in the Bibliosphere

I found this article in the online magazine, Slate. Below is the first pick by Michael Agger. For the rest of the article, click on the link below.
"The Year in Books
Slate picks the best books of 2006.
Posted Thursday, Dec. 7, 2006, at 1:31 PM ET

Michael Agger, associate editor
Like all good liberal arts majors, I used to read The Great Gatsby every year. That got old, though, and I switched to Richard Ford's The Sportswriter, the 1985 novel that introduced Frank Bascombe, a failed novelist adrift in a fog of suburban detachment. As a character, Bascombe is a charming paradox: a thoughtful guy trying to fit himself into a thoughtless existence. (In New Jersey, no less.) He's an Everyman in a particular sense: the modern male's often fumbling attempts to embrace normalcy. The Lay of the Land is the third Bascombe book, with Frank reappearing in fine, ruminative form. The novel spills over with drive-by philosophy, conjecture, and bullshitting. Despite a few Iron John moments, you bounce off Ford's prose as though it were a backyard trampoline: feeling weightless and alive. "

LibraryThing, the site where truly obsessive bibiophiles with time on their hands can catalog their own book collection, has a list of the "25 Most Reviewed Books" and the "Top 75 Authors" on their site. There are other lists of lists and categories of categories or classifications of obsessions on this page if you have some time to zone out in the bibliosphere (my word, will it be as popular as "truthiness"?)

Tuesday, December 5, 2006

Home of the Perfect Christmas Tree

The Town of Spruce Pine, Mitchell County, NC has been hit hard by layoffs from local mills and according to this USA Today article has found some work for its residents in marketing hand-made crafts. The White House Christmas tree this year features ornaments from the local craftsman. The website for the catalog is at
According to their website: "During the Christmas season of 2003, author Gloria Houston gave a gift to the small town of Spruce Pine, North Carolina. She gave the rights to her award-winning children’s book, The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree. Over the preceding twelve months, Spruce Pine and Mitchell County had suffered serious economic challenges, losing over 2,500 textile, furniture and other manufacturing sector jobs to outsourcing.
From that original idea, the Home of the Perfect Christmas Tree project was born. With entrepreneurial development as a primary focus, the project has created 30 individual small businesses that have produced quality, handmade products as part of the Home of the Perfect Christmas Tree collection. The project also serves as a scholarship tool, with a portion of royalties received from product sales used to fund a scholarship program is to combat the alarmingly low student retention rate at Mitchell High School, the only high school in the county."

The crafts featured in the online catalog are gorgeous and can be ordered by calling its toll-free number.
The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree: an Appalachian Story by Gloria Houston, illustrated by Barbara Cooney (1988) tells the story of young Ruthie who finds the perfect tree before her father comes home from WW I and can be found in BHPL's Children's Department.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

The French Have a Word for It

According to the New York Times Book Review (the headlines of which stream at the bottom of this blog unless you use Firefox, in which case they are to the right blocking out valuable sidebar information) The French Have a (Precise and Elegant) Word for It.

In their review of the book The Story of French by Jean-Badoit Nadeau and Julie Barlow, reviewer William Grimes tells us that, "The unique relationship between French speakers and their language is one of the grand themes in “The Story of French,” a well-told, highly accessible history of the French language that leads to a spirited discussion of the prospects for French in an increasingly English-dominated world."

Further he says, "Arguments are as much a part of French as the acute accent and the nasal “n.” Since the 17th century, it has been treated by French speakers less as a language than as a work of art, something worthy of constant analysis and curatorial devotion. "

He ends with question, "Is French a surprisingly robust international presence, as the authors’ carefully harvested statistics seem to suggest, or an invalid that needs help crossing the street, terrified at being run down by Anglo-Saxon vehicles with an insane, cursing American at the wheel?"

He hopes that French will not be run over by the allegorical Anglo-Saxon vehicle. For those of us belonging to the generation traumatized and trained like the recalcitrant peanut-butter consuming savages that we Americans are, by (native born) French teachers, and feeling that we really should have taken Spanish, I hope French lives on and even makes a comeback for several reasons.
1. I won't have to learn a new foreign language to feel useful
2. Arabic is too hard and also involves learning a whole new writing system
3. Sacre Bleu! French really does have the "bon mot" for so many things that English does not
4. People will tire of visiting other countries and want to return to France without feeling unpatriotic.
5. I tried to learn Spanish, but they pronounce all the vowels as written and that is too confusing.
6. We will all greet each other with a musical and not-to-be-ignored "bonjour!" How refreshingly polite.

Local Author Dina West to Visit Library

Dina West, former Governor Livingston student and current Mountainside resident, will visit the Berkeley Heights Public Library on Saturday, December 2 at 2:00 p.m. to talk about her book, Bloom and Grow with Your Learning Disability.
Overcoming the hardships of a learning disability herself,Ms. West's book addresses high-school and college students with learning disabilities. She presents helpful motivational techniques which will contribute to a successful college experience. Ms. West will discuss the best methods for learning disabled students to navigate the college application process and to choose a suitable college program. After the program, copies of her book will be available for purchase and may be signed by the author.
Please join us for this free program, put call the Reference Dek to reserve a space (908) 464-9333

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Science Fiction Assignment

Lately local mothers have been coming to the Reference Desk with seventh grade progeny in tow, and the question du jour is: can you recommend a science fiction book for a class assignment? Yesterday it was further elucidated that the book should take place in the future and that the student is expected to create a diorama as the final project. I remember the mad dash to find shoeboxes in my house when my children had that diorama-in-a-shoebox assignment. It seems like for the sake of closet organization and the artistically disinclined student that a written book report should be an alternative format. But, as local public library reference librarian, we just follow orders that come from the school, just as parents, and sometimes even students do. So I went to a database called Novelist that BHPL subscribes to and looked up their ready-made readers' advisory lists by topic and emailed the sci-fi ones to this blog. Because of copyright issues, below a partial list can be found. To see the rest of it and to learn how to access and use Novelist from your home computer, please check at the Reference Desk.

"The following information was generated by NoveList.
Explore Fiction -; Science Fiction -; Post-Apocalypse

1. Armstrong, Jennifer The Kindling

2. Carmody, Isobelle Obernewtyn

3. DuPrau, Jeanne the City of Ember

4. Foon, Dennis the Dirt eaters

5. Hoffman, Alice Green Angel

Something about the books on this list:

What happens as the worlds as we know it, ends? The books on this list explore the possibility of life after an apocalypse.


Beatrix Potter and the Loch Ness Monster

The Times of London reports that Beatrix Potter's letters show that she had ideas about what the Loch Ness monster would have looked like if it did in fact exist. Look for interest in all things Peter Rabbit when the biopic of the author opens soon with Renee Zellwegger as the author and accomplished naturalist and illustrator. The Times states, "Such is Potter’s enduring appeal that The Tale of Peter Rabbit alone has sold more than 40 million copies worldwide since it was first published at the turn of the last century. Although more than two million Potter books are sold each year, the film — due for a nationwide release on January 5 — is set to inspire a dramatic rise in sales. "
In completely unrelated book news, NPR reports that, "Each year, thousands of tourists create their own Rocky moment by running up those [Philadelphia Museum of Art}... stairs. Photographer Tom Gralish and writer Michael Vitez spent a year meeting and photographing those runners. They've written a book called Rocky Stories: Tales of Love, Hope, and Happiness at America's Most Famous Steps."
The Guardian book blog has a poll that asks what is your favorite book and why. Blogger Sarah Burnett asks, "What makes a book your favourite? Is it certain characters, is it because it changes your life, or is it down to memory and circumstance?" She goes on to say, "On a writing course recently we were all asked to bring a favourite book. We nodded sagely as the usual suspects rolled up: Orwell, Waugh, McEwan, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. And then someone flourished The Alchemist, by Paulo Coehlo. It was a good book to read if you were thinking of changing your life, said its advocate.
I should confess straightaway that The Alchemist doesn't do it for me: I can't think of a reason why anyone would finish it, let alone nominate it as their favourite book. But putting my prejudice to one side, it still struck me that something 'being a good book to read if you are thinking of changing your life' is an unusual reason for choosing a favourite (of course, she may have had other reasons as well, but those escape me)."

I was interested in her reaction to the Alchemist, because a local book group just finished that book and although opinions were generally that it was somewhere between "ok, a light read, not bad, and new age clap trap," it did lead to a very interesting and lively discussion. The book is an allegory about a shepherd who goes on a journey to find his "Personal Legend" or what might commonly be called a life's dream. The book has an almost cult-like following, including Madonna, which is of course enough to turn a reader off right there in guilt-by-association. If your book group is looking for a short read, a break from the long tomes, and a possiblity of a good starting place for a discussion though, ignore the cheap shots and sarcasm employed by the Guardian book blogger and this blogger; try the Alchemist. Or, I could say, if you liked Jonathon Livingston Seagull, or other inspirational books, this might interest you also.
Finally, Conversational Reading has a link to a list of book lists which are fun to browse.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Jack Prelutsky selected Children's Poet Laureate

Popular children's poet and poetry editor, Jack Prelutsky, is the first Children's Poet Laureate. For more information, take a look at this USAToday article and at his biographical article in the Academy of American Poets website. "Prelutsky, who lives in Seattle, says he writes the "kind of poems I would have liked as a kid: about food fights, dinosaurs, imaginary animals and outer space," ' according to the USAToday article. That's why his poetry is so popular with children. Not as well known as children's poet, Shel Silverstein, Prelutsky's books make a terrific gift for children and also answer that pesky assignment to select and memorize a favorite poem which can send any household into a tizzy.

Tuesday, November 7, 2006

Money Saving Tip for Bookaholics

A funny article by Ian Frazer in the Shouts and Murmurs section of the New Yorker, "Downpaging," cites a bogus article in the "News":
"Check books out of the library instead of buying them. . . . New releases of hard-cover novels cost $25 and more these days. If you buy just two a month, that’s $600 a year. —From “Ten Sure Ways to Trim Your Budget,” in the News."
He goes on to give some "examples" from "real life people" about how buying books is sending them into debt.
"Polk Benham, St. Marys, Ohio: “Right now, it’s costing me forty-five dollars to fill up my 4Runner, which is about two novels. Tough decisions are going to have to be made. I’m used to having a newly released hardcover on the dash of my vehicle, another in the back seat for the kids. At home, we’ve got a novel in each bedroom, two in the family room, one in the laundry room for my wife when she’s down there, and a novella in the john. We go through a couple of dozen novels in a year without even noticing. I hate to say it, but this can’t go on.” "
and, in a beautiful bit of irony,
"Mrs. Louise Rodgers, Eau Claire, Wisconsin: “I never owned brand-new hardcovers when I was a girl, and now I want my twin sixteen-year-old boys to enjoy opportunities I didn’t have. My boys are like any American teen-agers, in that they eat, sleep, and breathe novels. And they don’t want the three-dollar used paperback version, either. It’s got to be new, mint, original dust jacket, the works. How do you tell a youngster that he can’t have that just-released Modern Library edition of the complete Sinclair Lewis he’s been dreaming of? But I guess that’s what I’m going to have to do; I don’t see any other option.” "
I know all parents of teenagers can relate to that, so remember, the library is here to save you from your bookaholic debt. Don't give in to that siren call of brand new hardcovers!
"Mitch Gelman, West Hempstead, New York: “As an accountant, the first thing I tell my clients is ‘Get a library card!’ "

Friday, November 3, 2006

A Good Year: movie, based-on-the book, opens soon

Laura Bly writes in USA Today, "Nov. 10, the author's (Peter Mayle) pal and part-time neighbor Ridley Scott hits theaters with A Good Year, a film based on the 2004 Mayle novel about a London trader (played by Russell Crowe) who winds up inheriting his estranged uncle's Luberon château and vineyard."
USA Today's Travel section features an interview with Peter Mayle, author of A Year in Provence and other memoirs of this transplanted Brit. The article links to a review of wines of the region which are improving, it states, due to an influx of monied new vinyard owners, rich people retiring there for a second career as a vintner.
Take a look at the photo montage from Provence A - Z, Mayles new book or click around for a taste of the scenery, including a guide to the famously beautiful hilltop villages of southern France.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Celebrate Halloween - Give Blood

Too old to trick-or-treat? Give blood on Halloween, the Day of the Dead or ASAP. Here is a link to the Summit Area Red Cross and the Blood Center of New Jersey. Wherever you are, just google "blood donation" and your geographical area to find a place near your home. There is usually a blood shortage and the pool of eligible donors seems to be growing smaller with more restrictions being added from time to time, so if you can donate blood, you should do it.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Who Needs Libraries?

The last three posts were about public perceptions of libraries. Putting it that way kind of takes all the fun out of the posts though doesn't it? Comedians Bill Maher and Jerry Seinfeld touched on the stereotype of shushing, timid librarians, but basically seemed to be pro-library, if a bit condescending towards the people who run them. Oh well, librarians are used to it and won't lose any sleep over it. But the piece in the London Times by a guest contributor was worth considering because it's a bit worrisome that people want to abolish libraries. The opinion piece is based on a few false assumptions. One is that libraries are about, or should be about, books and only books. Another assumption is that the internet has replaced the need for books to do research. Finally, she assumes that everyone has the financial means to buy books and own a computer. The writer is wrong in all cases. Public libraries are about universal free access to information for education and entertainment. The form of the materials in these "people's universities" is not central to the mission of the library. At one time library materials were almost exclusively books. Now libraries offer information in many formats: videos, dvd's cd's, books on cd, downloadable audiobooks and music, databases and, yes, books. The library also serves as a community center, a place where people search for jobs, learn English, get help with taxes, attend free programs of all kinds and so on. Where else would these activities take place FOR FREE if not in a public library? What institution in any country would be willing to take on these services? And what profession would be willing to offer these services other than the library profession?
The second false assumption in the Times article is that the internet replaces the library as a source for information and research. The problem is that there is still a generation, baby boomers and older, who often do not know how to use the internet, do not own a computer and need help sorting out the rubbish on the internet from the truth. This is the generation that libraries and librarians help and teach every day.
Finally, not everybody has the money, or wants to spend the money, to buy books or to own a computer to access the internet. The Times piece is not totally without merit though, it is true that libraries are changing and may not always take the form they do now, but the reports of their near demise are premature, I think.

Comedians Maher and Seinfeld on Libraries

This piece has been turning up in librarians' email lately. Enjoy.

New Rule: We Don't Need Drug Tests for Librarians

They can't have very nice lives - librarians. It's like being a teacher, only without the opportunities for dating, because the only kids you meet are the nerds. So the last thing America's shsssshing minority needs is the indignity of a urine test. But that's just what we're doing. I'm not sure this is the best use of our time.
The last time a librarian did something really stupid and reckless on drugs was when Laura married George.
Last year, Florida's Levy County introduced drug testing for library volunteers. Whose average age is between 60 and 85. The volunteers were required to drive to another city - Gainesville - and urinate in a cup "within hearing distance" of a laboratory monitor. That'll teach 'em for offering to work for free. "Okay, grandma, now get pissing. And I'd better hear a nice even unbroken stream."
And then something weird happened. Inexplicably, the number of volunteers dropped from 55 to two. It's almost like they didn't enjoy being degraded. And they call themselves the greatest generation.
I know what you're thinking. If Aunt Iris has nothing to hide, she can get a little of her own urine on her hands and prove she's not strung out on junk. Then we can feel safe, and she can go back to mis-shelving the Readers Digests. But then a second thought occurs to you, later, when you really, really think about it. And that thought is this: What the f*** is wrong with us? Are we high?
They're not flying planes. They're showing the homeless how to use the microfiche readers. For free. The only people who profit from this are the stockholders of the drug testing company, who stood to make $33 a head, money the library would have otherwise just wasted on books.
A spokesman for the libraries said she wouldn't make the volunteers drive to Gainesville for their cavity searches anymore. And she also thought the problem wasn't the drug test itself, but the method they used. That's why they're looking into switching from urine tests to mouth swabs. The same method used by the Florida Department of Corrections.
Bill Maher is the host of HBO's "Real Time with Bill Maher" which airs every Friday at 11PM.
Sienfield weighs in on libraries too...
"What's amazing to me about the library is it's a place where you go in you can take out any book you whant they just give it to you and say bring it back when you're done. It reminds me of like this pathetic friend that everbody had when they were a little kid who would let you borrow any of his stuff if you would just be his friend. That's what the library is. A government funded pathetic friend. And that's why everybody kind of bullies the library. I'll bring it back on time ... I'll bring it back late.
... Ooh, what are you going to do? Charge me a nickel? "
and Lt. BOOKMAN,library investigation officer, counters...
"Well, let me tell you something, funny boy. Y'know that little stamp, the one that says "New York Public Library"? Well that may not mean anything to you, but that means a lot to me. One whole hell of a lot. Sure, go ahead, laugh if you want to. I've seen your type before: Flashy, making the scene, flaunting convention. Yeah, I know what you're thinking. What's this guy making such a big stink about old librarybooks? Well, let me give you a hint, junior. Maybe we can live withoutlibraries, people like you and me. Maybe. Sure, we're too old to change the world, but what about that kid, sitting down, opening a book, right now, in a branch at the local library and finding drawings of pee-pees and wee-wees on the Cat in the Hat and the Five Chinese Brothers? Doesn't HE deserve better? Look. If you think this is about overdue fines and missing books, you'd better think again. This is about that kid's right to read a book without getting his mind warped! Or: maybe that turns you on, Seinfeld; maybe that's how y'get your kicks. You and your good-time buddies. Well I got a flash for ya, joy-boy: Party time is over. Y'got seven days, Seinfeld. That is one week!"

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Bye Bye Libraries, or, Buy Your Own Darn Books

This column in the (London) Times Online from a guest contributor caught my eye: The Personal Library - Now There's an Idea . Author Helen Rumbelow states that the "public lending library" is a Victorian idea, that like the public bathhouse, was useful in it's time, but it's time is past. She lists several reasons why libraries are no longer a good idea:
1: "we can afford (to buy) our own books." "for a few quid Amazon will deliver to your door." "Let us admit that people can buy their own books if they want to." Or, if not, she suggests getting books at a thrift store or reading them in a bookstore.
2: "the internet happened. ...anything you could want...the computer could do better."
3: "book-borrowing has dropped by 40 per cent while the cost of the service — now at £1.3 billion — has risen by the same proportion."
4. but, she opines, "to be anti-library is thought to be anti-book, literacy and all nice, decent British virtues that come with being shushed by a lady in a cardigan."

As I reread this (yes, while wearing a cardigan) I am simultaneously astounded at her unsubstantiated assumptions and resigned that many people apparently would agree with Ms. Rumbelow. People often ask me if I have been replaced by the internet. The answer is "no." At least I don't think all the people who I helped with their research today, and the people who take my computer classes think that I am a computer-in-a-cardigan. In fact, reference librarians are busier than ever. Next blog post, after I calm down and rest from all the "shushing" I did today, I will tell all about the modern public library and why it is not an anachronism and why librarians are not cardigan-wearing dinosaurs (ok, maybe the cardigan-wearing part is sometimes accurate...) but excuse me, I see a patron wandering around in the stacks looking for a ....BOOK!

Richard Ford Down the Shore

The Lay of the Land by Richard Ford is reviewed in this article in the New York Times. Ford brings back Frank Bascombe, the main character from Ford's previous titles the Sportswriter and the Pulitzer Prize winning Independence Day. The NYT review states, "He’s wiser than the Frank of the two previous books, a little crankier, and has also acquired a Tibetan business partner, Lobsang Dhargey, who goes by the nom de real estate of Mike Mahoney. Their office and Frank’s beachfront house are in the made-up town of Sea-Clift, a version of Seaside Heights, Seaside Park and Ortley Beach." In the Times interview, Ford expresses real fondness and familiarity with the Jersey shore: "Mr. Ford, who was born and reared in Mississippi, discovered the Jersey Shore in the late 1970’s, when he and his wife were living in Princeton, where he had a teaching job. After years of being “university mice,” he said, they felt newly liberated, but they were also house-poor, and so for recreation on the weekends they hopped into the car and just drove around. The shore quickly became one of their favorite destinations, and even after they moved away, he continued to feel what he now calls a “tidal pull” in that direction." The review and the author's comments about his book seem to indicate that the book has humor but not at the expense of New Jersey and not by using Jersey stereotypes.

Books on a Desert Island

"What books/food/music would you take if you were sent to a desert island?" Is that a question you have ever considered or posed? On Nancy Pearl's website, Booklust, there is a section called Desert Island Books which features lists posted by readers of the ten books they would take with them if stranded on that proverbial island. Nancy Pearl, of course, is the rock-star famous librarian and readers' advisor extraordinaire whose "Librarian Action Figure" has taken the world of majorly geeked out bibliophiles (read: librarians for one) by storm. I can say that because I travel in those circles myself. The rule of politically incorrect comments seems to be that you can diss a group if you are of that group, so don't email any outraged comments about stereotyping librarians, please. But, back to desert island books, you can add your own list to Nancy Pearl's site or you can click on "comment" at the end of this post and post your list here.
You can cheat by saying which AUTHOR's books you would take if you want, but then it's only fair that you can only take one author's works. To answer my own question - I would choose P.G. Wodehouse, my favorite writer, a very prolific one and one whose works would definitely keep me distracted from the harsh realities of life on a desert island. I would feel guilty about not choosing Shakespeare, but should a person feel book-guilt when in exile?

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Medical Science of House (the TV Show)

Calling all House fans, read The Medical Science of House by Andrew Holtz. Holtz, a medical journalist, clarifies the mysteries and diagnoses in the television show House, which follows an irascible, but brilliant, diagnostician named, you guessed it, House. Take a look at this review on Diane Kristine's Unified Theory of Nothing Much blog. According to the review, the book is about more than just the television show, Kristine writes, "It's mostly a Dummies Guide to the Health Care Industry, with the show as its jumping off point, so anyone reading specifically for real insight into House might be disappointed."
If you watch the show and it goes so fast that you need a review of medical terms and conditions or a clarification of the lightening fast thinking and and Jersey-esque verbal speed and brusqueness of the doctors (supposedly in a hospital in NJ represented by Robert Wood Johnson Medical Center in the opening sequences), go to the show's website which recaps each episode in detail. Of course, bringing this BHPL blog back to it's core purpose,(promoting books, libraries and specifically BHPL) we think BHPL has a very good consumer medical reference collection. Because October is National Medical Librarians Month , we want to remind our patrons that the reference staff have been trained by NJ Medical Librarians to use MedlinePlus and other credible and authoritative sources on the internet to find reliable health information and we keep current on the best medical sites on the net, such as these "Top Ten Most Useful Sites" from the MLA site. Or this webpage which deciphers the acronyms on prescriptions "RX Riddles Solved."
I hope you are reading this blog "qd" or "adlib" with "os" and "od" of course.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Meet the Author, tonight at the Library

Meet Timothy B. Benford, author of To Kill a Princess: the Diana Plot, tonight at 7:30 PM at the Berkeley Heights Public Library. The program will be held in the meeting room on the ground floor. Mr. Benford will talk about the research that went into the writing of this new book about Princess Diana that combines fiction with truth. The author will sign his book after the program; the book will be available for purchase. Check our website for directions.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

The Sandbox, soldiers' stories from Iraq and Afghanistan

The soldiers' stories on this website are riveting, you won't be able to stop reading. People are posting comments for each article by the dozens and you will be tempted to also: to praise, to commiserate, to send your support to U.S. soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Here is the introduction to the Sandbox:

"Welcome to The Sandbox, our command-wide milblog, featuring comments, anecdotes, and observations from service members currently deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan. This is GWOT-lit's forward position, offering those in-country a chance to share their experiences and reflections with the rest of us. The Sandbox's focus is not on policy and partisanship (go to our Blowback page for that), but on the unclassified details of deployment -- the everyday, the extraordinary, the wonderful, the messed-up, the absurd. The Sandbox is a clean, lightly-edited debriefing environment where all correspondence is read, and as much as possible is posted. And contributors may rest assured that all content, no matter how robust, is currently secured by the First Amendment. "

Read this post, The Search, by Adam Tiffen (Airborne JD) and look at his own blog, the Replacements.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

So Many Book Awards

On Wednesday, The National Book Critics Circle blog posted a list of the National Book Awards finalists. For fiction: "Mark Z. Danielewski, Only Revolutions (Pantheon) Ken Kalfus, A Disorder Peculiar to the Country (Ecco/HarperCollins) Richard Powers, The Echo Maker (Farrar, Straus & Giroux) Dana Spiotta, Eat the Document (Scribner/Simon & Schuster) Jess Walter, The Zero (Judith Regan Books/HarperCollins". Click on the link above for the rest of the list.
Today, NBCC posts the Nobel Prize for Literature winner, Turkish novelist, Orhan Pahmun whose book Snow is BHPL's book group November selection.
The U.K." Mann Booker Prize was awarded Tuesday night to Kiran Desai. As the website for the prize states, "Kiran Desai was tonight (Tuesday 10th October) named the winner of the £50,000 Man Booker Prize for Fiction for The Inheritance of Loss, published by Hamish Hamilton. The Indian-born writer has a strong family tie with the prize as her mother Anita Desai has been shortlisted three times since 1980 but has never won. This year, however, her daughter, Kiran, has won the acclaimed literary prize. Author of the 1998 universally praised Hullabaloo in the Guava Orchard, Desai is the first woman to win the Man Booker since 2000 when Margaret Atwood scooped the prize with The Blind Assassin. Her winning book, The Inheritance of Loss, is a radiant, funny and moving family saga and has been described by reviewers as ‘the best, sweetest, most delightful novel’.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

It's a bird! It's a plane! It's Super Librarian!

We quote from the NJLA website here: "Who is the Super Librarian? Bedecked in purple spandex and an orange cape, the Super Librarian is part of a statewide campaign to promote some of New Jersey’s best resources: NJ libraries and librarians. For more information please see:The New Jersey Library Association website"
Super Librarian, she of the figure-hugging superhero suit flying high on a computer mouse with headphones at the ready, was devised as a marketing device to promote library use in New Jersey by giving the old bun-wearing, shushing Marian the Librarian stereotype a total makeover.
If you are looking for the perfect gift for the librarians or librarian wannabee's in your life, you can even shop at The SuperLibrarian online shop. Who can resist a dog dressed in a SuperLibrarian dog coat? The clock and the throw pillow are so UNUSUAL that they are sort of cool. Maybe the clock will remind kids it's time to go to the library to study? Anyway, the proceeds go to a good cause - New Jersey libraries.

Friday, October 6, 2006

NextReads Newsletters by Email

What should I read next? If that's a question you ask yourself after finishing a book, you might like NextReads Newsletters. BHPL now offer subscriptions to NextReads free email newsletters which describe upcoming titles and older books by subject interest. The titles are linked to the library’s online catalog so patrons can check availability of materials at any time.
NextReads is available for fiction and nonfiction readers' advisory, 24/7.

How to Sign Up: Patrons can sign up for this new library service by going to the
Berkeley Heights Public Library’s website, then click on the “Weblinks” icon which will lead to the NextReads link.

NextReads provides twenty adult-level reading lists crafted for discriminating readers. Lists are sent out to the subscriber’s email inbox on monthly or bimonthly basis. The lists combine new releases, read-alikes, classics and forthcoming titles, not just the bestsellers. Both fiction and non-fiction lists are available and patrons may subscribe to as many or as few as they choose by selecting from genres such as Romance, Science Fiction, Armchair Travel, History, Biography, Mystery, Horror, Inspirational fiction and more.

Wednesday, October 4, 2006

Introduction to Computers: a BHPL Class

Welcome to Berkeley Heights Public Library's Introduction to Computers Class. This is today's lesson.
Read the following text; point the cursor at the purple text so that the arrow becomes a hand; then left-click to go to the practise pages.

First: the Mouse - you need to know how to handle a mouse, so here are links to websites that will teach that skill. Click on the links below to go to "mousercize" lessons.
Mouserobics! is cute or annoying or both, but it does cover all the basics, so practise on this website by left-clicking on the word "Mouserobics" in the line above. Next try this site:
Mouse Exercises from SeniorNet, and this site from the Washoe County Nevada Library System which are both good sites for learning how to use the mouse.

Second: the Keyboard - you have to know your way around the keyboard. Here is a link to a keyboard tutorial. Point and click to any key on the keyboard picture to find out what the key does. The keyboard diagram comes from a Computer Training Tutorials site which is a couple of years old, but still useful. Click here.

Three: Vocabulary - you should familiarize yourself with some computer vocabulary. Go to this site. Your class handout also has a glossary of terms at the end.

Four: Shutting Down the Computer - when you are done using your home computer, this is how to turn it off properly. At the library, just log out using the red button on the lower left of the screen. Click on "Yes, reset the terminal."

Five: Practice what you have learned today by using this site from UNC and by returning to the sites listed in this lesson.

Tuesday, October 3, 2006

To Kill a Princess: the Diana Plot - author to visit library

Timothy B. Benford, best-selling author and Mountainside resident, introduces his new novel, To Kill A Princess: The Diana Plot, at the Berkeley Heights Public Library on Wednesday, October 18, at 7:30 PM. His new book examines conspiracy theories in the death of Princess Diana. Released on the 9th anniversary of her death, the novel poses the question: Accident or Murder? Though a fictional story, the plot unfolds simultaneously with real events and actual dialog from the last five years of Diana’s life. “It’s really like reading two books at once,” Benford said. “One is the novel, the other relates factual incidents in Diana’s life, and the fiction keeps pace with those real events. I’ve taken great pains not to have the fiction cross over into the facts and vice versa.”

A former newspaperman and magazine editor, Benford’s eight published works include: the nonfiction World War II Quiz & Fact Books; World War II Flashback; Pearl Harbor Amazing Facts!; The Space Program Q&F Book; The Royal Family Q&F Book; the true crime book, Righteous Carnage (the List murders in Westfield) and the novels, Hitler's Daughter and The Ardennes Tapes. His works have been translated into French, Spanish and Polish, made into movies, television documentaries, CDs, used in trivia games, and have been book club selections. He also contributes articles on travel, history, antique cars, politics, coins, and crime to the New York Times Syndication; Associated Press, Travel & Leisure; Caribbean Travel & Life; American Legion; New Jersey Monthly and more than a dozen other publications in the U.S., Canada, and Australia.
After the program, copies of the book will be available for purchase and may be signed by the author.
This program is free and open to the Public, but please call the Reference Desk to reserve a space.

Monday, October 2, 2006

Woodward's book: State of Denial in the News

The top book in the news this weekend of course is Bob Woodward's third book on the Bush administration: State of Denial, covered here on the BBC News website:
"Veteran US journalist Bob Woodward has claimed that the true extent of insurgent attacks in Iraq has been hidden by the administration.
He makes the claim in a book, State of Denial, due to be released on Monday."

BHPL patrons can put a hold on the book from the online catalog.

Last week, or maybe the week before, was Banned Books Week which passed uneventfully. Here is a USA Today article about that most frequently banned book these days, Harry Potter (the series). The article states:
"A Georgia mother takes her fight against Harry Potter books to the state's highest school officials this week, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports, as her push hits the year mark and keeps going."
The Georgia mother believes the books promote witchcraft.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Computer Classes at the Library

BHPL is offering computer classes at the library. Introduction to library computers will be offered on Thursday, October 26 from 10:00 am to 11:30 am and the same class will be repeated on Wednesday, November 1 from 7:00 pm to 8:30 pm. The class will give a tour of the library's computer system, from the OPAC's (online catalog) to the internet terminals. The library has online databases of newspapaers, magazines, downloadable audiobooks and music, research databases in all subject areas, from investing to medicine, history, science, literature and more, which will be demonstrated. Come see what's new in the 21st century library. Free, but pre-registration is required.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Herbal Medicine

The National Geographic Desk Reference to Nature's Medicine is the latest herbal acquired by BHPL's Reference Department. Another resource the reference librarians use to answer questions about medicinal herbs and alternative medicine is Memorial Sloan-Kettering's website - About Herbs, Botanicals & Other Products. The site is maintained for doctors but has consumer versions of many articles like this one on vitamin C. The database is searchable by name of herb or product, has links to PubMed and JAMA articles, and the articles can be emailed or printed in a printer-friendly format. There are also links to current issues in the news about herbals, such as this one on the use of peroxide as medicine.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Oriana Fallaci

Famed, or rather, infamous, Italian journalist and author Oriana Fallaci died September 16. This obituary in the International Guardian gives a good sense of the radical and even bigoted side of the feisty Fallaci. There has been very little in the news here about her even though she was a fascinating and to many, an infuriating, figure in political journalism. This article in The Jerusalem Post describes her as a "small, but fearless Italian journalist and author. " Going on to say, "The image of her with dark sunglasses on, cigarette in hand, churning out endless smoke and declaiming true and politically incorrect words would defy time and be with us forever." Her recent books, the Rage and the Pride and it's follow-up, the Force of Reason, were extreme in their criticism of Islam which brought her death threats and more notoriety. Jon Friedman of MarketWatch reviews her life in his article today. On the theory that even a stopped clock is right twice a day, Fallaci's works are interesting most of the time, rarely dull, and as for "right", that's up to you. Here is an excerpt from the Guardian article which quotes her interview with Henry Kissinger in 1972, "when she described him thus: "This too famous, too important, too lucky man, whom they call Superman, Superstar, Superkraut ... this incredible, inexplicable, unbearable personage." He later called the interview, where he characterised himself as a lone cowboy riding on a horse into town, "the most disastrous I ever had with any member of the press".

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Reading in England

Or - what I read before, during and after a recent trip to the University of Bath in England. Leaving the U.S. behind, I finished Pawley’s Island: a low country tale by Dorothea Benton Frank, a comforting “woman’s book” about a bereaved lawyer who takes refuge on the South Carolina island to escape the tragic memories of her life. The book is formulaic but soothing, passing the time agreeably and I don’t think I’m giving anything away to say that it ends happily with all loose ends tied together nicely. The main character in the book is Pawley’s Island itself which comes off as a great place for r&r. If you like this one, try the Mermaid Chair by Sue Monk Kidd.

Then, having studied up on my destinations of Wells and Bath, I scanned through Watching the English by Kate Fox and True Brits by J.R. Daeschner to try to get a sense of Englishness. The first, an anthropologist’s field study of her countrymen gives insight into important cultural traditions such as talking about the weather, being polite, being reserved, pub talk, being self-deprecating and, most of all, being very funny - funnier than people from any other country on earth she says in a rare unbiased moment. True Brit describes events which reinforce the stereotype of the British tolerance or even love for eccentrics. For example the annual cheese rolling event in Cheddar Gorge which was banned at one point because of the dangers inherent in hurling oneself down a very steep, rocky hillside in pursuit of a hurtling wheel of cheddar cheese.
Next, I reread the appropriate portions of ex-patriot (American author) Bill Bryson’s Notes from a Small Island. I recommend the whole book and all his others too, if you like humor. While I was there, the Guardian ran an excerpt from Bryson’s new book, the Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid, a memoir. Bryson has lived and worked as a journalist in the UK for over twenty years and seems to be popular over there judging by the piece in the Guardian. His description of growing up in the 1950’s in the American Midwest must seem like a window into American culture for non-Americans.
Then I bought a book by my favorite Scottish author even though reading about the Celts to the north wasn’t strictly on the syllabus. Alexander McCall Smith’s Friends, Lovers, Chocolate, the second in his Sunday Philosophy Club series featuring the fictional ethicist Isabel Dalhousie of the University of Edinburgh (not fictional of course.) The mystery for Isabel this time was to find out if the recipient of a new heart was experiencing “cellular memory” when he repeatdly dreamed of a menacing face which he felt might have been involved in the death of his heart donor. Isabel’s woolgathering musings are every bit as entertaining as McCall Smith’s other great female character, Precious Ramotswe of the Number One Ladies Detective Agency series.
Then I read Hotel du Lac by Anita Bruckner which was about an English author who exiles herself to a remote Swiss hotel in the off season to escape a scandal of her own making. What I didn’t do is reread Hardy (of the West Country) who is terrific - if you feel strong enough to read something depressing, like when you are a teenager and like to wallow in that kind of thing, but the countryside, replete with cows, sheep and scudding clouds, seemed like a postcard and not a place where Tess would wander around in a cloud of hopeless yearning. But that’s just my opinion now – I loved Hardy when I was a gloomy teenager.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Books on the Daily Show

BHPL patrons often ask for books they have seen on TV. Here are links to TV shows that feature authors as guests.
Comedy Central's The Daily Show turns serious when Jon Stewart interviews Daily Show guest authors.
The Daily Show's
spinoff with more fake news is the Colbert Report. Here is the link to the authors featured on that show.
Some shows have books clubs like Oprah's Book Club such as -
The Today Show Books
Good Morning America's Read This!
The Early Show Books

Friday, September 15, 2006

The Week in Books

What's new in the book world this week? Dr. Phil's wife, Robin, has a new book out: Inside My Heart: Choosing to Live with Passion and Purpose, (featured on the Women of Faith website.) Since she has access to the power and publicity machine of her husband's show, the demand should be huge, there are already holds on this title at BHPL.
The list of nominees for the British Booker Prize were just announced which are not as well known on this side of the pond, at least not until the awards are announced which usually stirs up more American readers' interest.
USA Today's Carol Memmott reports that Janet Evanovich has a new book out: How I Write: secrets of a bestselling author. Her Stephanie Plum series about the Trenton, NJ bounty hunter are so popular, this will sell by association. Many of her readers write to her for advice about becoming an author and so this book was born. It will probably be fun to read even by people who do not aspire to write.
And finally, our very own ex-governor, James McGreevey's new memoir, the Confession, is out and he will appear on the Oprah show next week. Present NJ governor, Jon Corzine, comments on his predecessor's book and TV appearance in today's Star Ledger: "I think Jim would have served himself a little better just to continue to go on and build his life. I don't know what's in the book, and I'm not particularly interested." Corzine went on to say in yesterday's radio interview, "I think that the stuff that gets off track and into, you know, prurience is not exactly positive for him or even the things he wants to have defended in public life."
What to look for in the near future: take a look at this preview of big name author releases this fall from USA Today's book section. Reporter Jaqueline Blais writes, "There is an impressive array of literary titles from Cormac McCarthy, Alice McDermott, Richard Ford, Charles Frazier and Thomas Pynchon."

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Laura Bush's Summer Reading List

This piece on fellow librarian Laura Bush's summer reading turned up in the Daily Tar Heel's Book section which they took from the Washington Post Book World. (And now I'm borrowing it, but always with attribution.) Last year, Mrs. Bush facetiously, "told the White House Correspondents Association dinner: "George and I were just meant to be ... I was the librarian who spent 12 hours a day in the library, yet somehow I met George." Her reading includes Ann Tyler and Alexandre McCall Smith, both gentle humorous observers of the human character.
Mr. Bush's summer reading last year included books that took the UK newspaper, the Guardian by surprise. According to the Guardian article, he lugged around the following titles: "Salt: A World History by Mark Kurlansky... The other tomes are reported to be Alexander II: the Last Great Tsar by Edvard Radzinsky and The Great Influenza: The Epic Story of the Deadliest Plague in History by John M Barry."
I think this is the President's 2006 summer reading as provided by the White House Press office. It looks like he read a lot of history, hard-boiled detective stories (John D. MacDonald's Travis Magee series were terrific even though they have fallen out of popularity since MacDonald's death), a book about Fidel Castro, which makes sense of course, and another book on an epidemic, polio this year, last year it was the influenza of 1919.
It's always interesting to find out what other people are reading which is why Amazon has links to related titles based on people's purchasing habits.

Monday, September 11, 2006

September Buzz

Follow this link to our September BHPL Buzz, our library email newsletter, which is also linked to our webpage
This month's book display features books about 9/11. A partial booklist can be seen in the BHPL Buzz.
Take a look at St.Paul Pioneer Press movie critic, Chris Hewitt's article about 9/11 books and movies at this link.
Here is an excerpt from the column:
"9/11-themed books, movies worth checking out

Movie Critic (St. Paul Pioneer Press)
My job required me to see many 9/11-themed movies, but somehow I've also become a voracious consumer of 9/11 nonfiction and fiction. I'm skipping the much-discussed quick responses such as "Fahrenheit 9/11," but here are a batch of recent books and movies worth checking out:
"102 Minutes," by Jim Dwyer and Kevin Flynn: If you're going to read one book about 9/11, this is it. Using interviews with survivors, cell-phone calls from inside the World Trade Center and astonishingly detailed reporting, this heartbreaking, compulsively readable work of nonfiction makes you feel like you are there, awed and inspired by the heroism and sacrifice that occurred between the time when a plane slammed into the first tower and when the last tower fell.
"A Little Love Story," by Roland Merullo: It wouldn't be fair to say how this aptly titled charmer connects to the events of 9/11, but it's not giving away too much to say the novel offers hope by showing how life can go on in the wake of tragedy.
"Between Two Rivers," by Nicholas Rinaldi: The rivers are the Hudson and the East River, which converge near what's now Ground Zero. Rinaldi creates a dozen vivid characters who refer to 9/11 only obliquely but who also live their lives between two metaphoric rivers, as well: the future and the irretrievable past.
"Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close," by Jonathan Safran Foer: Surprisingly witty picaresque story about a guy trying to put together the pieces of his life, with his father's key, retrieved from the World Trade Center wreckage, to guide him.
"The Looming Tower," by Lawrence Wright: What if the CIA and FBI had met, three months prior to the attacks on the World Trade Center, possessing the information needed to stop the attacks but refusing to share it with each other? Well, they did (on June 11, 2001), and Wright's riveting nonfiction account of the rise of al-Qaida argues convincingly that the attacks should have been prevented.
"Triangle," by Katharine Weber: This novel about the last survivor of New York's 1911 Triangle Factory fire does not appear to be about 9/11, but its connections to the World Trade Center go way beyond the coincidental similarity of the dates. In the lyrical final pages, Weber imagines a compelling, oddly hopeful answer to one of the most horrifying questions of that day: How could people bring themselves to jump?

Friday, September 8, 2006

Sisters in Crime-Central New Jersey

This just received in the blogger's mailbox from a New Jersey mystery writers group:


On Saturday, September 23, 2006, award-winning multicultural author Shirley Hailstock will speak with the members of Sisters in Crime-Central Jersey. This best-selling author has revolutionized the publishing industry with her novels of suspense, which include dynamic characters and high speed, intense plotlines. "...her plots...are over the edge of the world" quotes the New York Times.
Suspense and mystery are close cousins in the publishing world and few know the publishing world or how to write edge-of-your-seat suspense like Shirley Hailstock. Every year, the September Sisters in Crime meeting is about honoring the Queen of Mystery, Agatha Christie, and this year is no exception.
Sisters in Crime meet monthly (except in November) at the Jamesburg Senior Center, located at 139 Stevens Avenue, Jamesburg, NJ. The writer’s group will meet at 930, general meeting starts at 1030 and Ms. Hailstock will take the podium at noon, right after coffee break.
Sisters in Crime is a mystery readers and writers organization devoted to the promotion and support of women mystery authors. Both men and women are welcome to attend and join the organization. For more information on Sisters in Crime-CJ, visit the website at

N.L. Quatrano
"Mayhem at Buckelew House"
CRIME SCENE NEW JERSEY:Mysteries by Garden State Authors
Order by mail at

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Today's Book News

Anyone can vote for their favorite books in the online poll for the Quill Awards. There are nominees for every genre as well as for 'Debut Author of the Year.' In the latter category there are five nominees including William Alexander for The $64 Tomato which is described on the site -
"William Alexander had a simple dream of having a vegetable garden and small orchard in his backyard. It was a dream that would lead to life-and-death battles with groundhogs, webworms, and weeds; midnight expeditions in the dead of winter to dig up fresh thyme; skirmishes with neighbors who feed the vermin (i.e., deer); the near electrocution of the tree man; and the pity of his wife and children. When Alexander decided to run a cost-benefit analysis, adding up everything from the Havahart animal trap ($60) to the Velcro tomato wraps ($5) to the steel edging ($1,200), then amortizing it over the life of his garden, it came as quite a shock to learn that it cost him a staggering $64 to grow each tomato."
Any non-professional (ie: not an actual farmer) who has grown tomatoes can relate to his experience I think.

Monday, August 21, 2006

TumbleBooks Library: E-Books for Kids

BHPL has just acquired TumbleBook Library, an online library of streaming audio books which offers young Berkeley Heights Public Library patrons unlimited remote access to a wide variety of children’s books, read-alongs, animated storybooks, puzzles, games and language learning. Audio books in French, Chinese and Spanish are available for read-along. TumbleBooks are never all checked out, never on hold. Children who enjoy educational software will love these audiobooks and games and improve reading and comprehension skills while having fun. Berkeley Heights Library patrons can access the entire collection from any computer with an internet connection by visiting the Berkeley Heights Library website and first clicking on “Remote Databases.” After entering their BHPL barcode and pin, patrons should then click on “TumbleBook Library.” Netlibrary, the popular audiobook service which the library introduced last summer, also offers downloadable books for teens and children. Netlibrary titles can be transferred to an MP3 player and broadcast over a car radio for vacation trips.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Island Memoirs: Sicily and Harris, Scotland

"Strange and magical things happen on islands," begins the blurb from John Rasmus, editor of National Geographic Adventure on the back cover of Seasons on Harris: a year in Scotlands Outer Hebrides by David Yeadon. Yeadon is a travel writer and visiting the Hebrides, west of Scotland, where Gaelic is spoken, Harris tweed is woven and ancient Celtic traditions survive, is his latest adventure. The author illustrated the book with charming line drawings throughout. Escaping to a remote island is a dream and a dread for people, as Yeadon says (p. 3) "[it] surely must be the fantasy of many of us -- to live simply on a remote island among warmhearted people, sampling strange and wonderful foods, and sipping, in this instance, the glorious malt whiskies so beloved by the Highlanders, and the world in general for that matter." But not a good fantasy for everyone, a Scottish judge once sentenced a criminal to Harris figuring it "would probably be a 'more effective punishment' than sending him to jail on the mainland." (p. xix of the Foreward) This combination of yearning but with dread and condescension towards island life is common, but Yeadon's story goes deeper than that and reflects admiration and awe for it's history and people.
Sicily, three thousand years of human history by Sandra Benjamin is another island history book on BHPL's New Non-fiction Shelves. "Sicily is know for its Mafia and its emigration," states the author (p. xiv Introduction.) That's a provocative statement about a fascinating island's history. Starting in 800 BC and ending with autonomy after World War II, Benjamin covers the sociopolitical history of the island.

Wednesday, August 9, 2006

Joe Queenan - Reading as Multi-Tasking

Why I Can't Stop Starting Books, a recent Sunday New York Times Book Review column by humorist Joe Queenan expressed a problem we've heard a lot about this summer. Patrons keep starting books, but, unlike, Queenan, do not wish to finish them. This is the summer of the disappointing book, but maybe that's what happens when you look for mere entertaining "beach reads" instead of going for the classic and serious tomes as he does. Still, despite wide- spread cases of severe trashy-book-guilt, there really should be books that fall somewhere between abysmal schlock and mind-numbing erudition. Shouldn't there? Perhaps Queenan's own 2004 title Queenan Country, a reluctant Anglophile's pilgrimage to the mother country would fall in that category. The reviews are good, the book is short, the author is well-read and the cover is ironic or iconic (?): the famous photo of the Beatles crossing Abby Road with Queenan substituted for the four moptops.
Since the NYT's links go bad after a short while, here is an excerpt from the column. The library has the NYT online, so full-text articles can be retrieved from as far back as 1851 even after blog links go to link heaven. He states at the start of the column:
"... I am never reading fewer than 25 books. I am not talking about books I have delved into, perused and set aside, like “Finnegans Wake” or Pamela Anderson’s first novel — that would get me up way over a hundred. I am talking about books I am actively reading, books that are on my nightstand and are not leaving there until I am done with them. Right now, the number is 27."
Later he names names:
"A few weeks ago, I read Barbara Freese’s “Coal: A Human History,” four chapters of “The Guns of August,” and a collection of harrowing stories about addicts, creeps and losers called “Jesus’ Son,” by Denis Johnson, which served as a 75-minute pit stop between Archduke Franz Ferdinand’s assassination and the coal industry’s offensive against Al Gore in 2000. Simultaneously, I wrapped up “The Pickup,” a brilliant, insufficiently appreciated novel by Nadine Gordimer, and “Henry Miller on Writing,” ramblings by the most overrated writer of the 20th century. Meanwhile, I was blasting away at story collections by Mavis Gallant, John McGahern, Thomas Mann and Marcel Aymé, none of whom write about addicts. I was also plowing through A. J. P. Taylor’s heretical “Origins of the Second World War,” Paul Cartledge’s snappy reappraisal of Alexander the Great, and Jeff Long’s gutsy demythologizing of the Alamo legend. A bit farther back on the burner were Flann O’Brien’s uproarious “At Swim-Two-Birds” and Oscar Wilde’s children’s tales. I am also reading not one but two books about Pizarro’s conquest of the Incas. This is madness."
Yes, madness, but impressive. But about that Pamela Anderson title...?

Women Who Write: Madison, N.J.

BHPL just received the new copy of Goldfinch, volume 9, the literary magazine of an authors group based in Madison, NJ called Women Who Write. For more information about them, take a look at their website. The Goldfinch will be kept in our New Jersey Vertical File under NJ - Authors. The information in the cover letter will be kept in our blue community binders. Ask at the Reference Desk for these materials.
There is also a writers group that meets at the Scotch Plains Public Library called the New Jersey Writers Society. Call the Scotch Plains Library for further information (908) 322-5007

Thursday, August 3, 2006

Online Book Clubs

If you would like to try an online book discussion group, try Abebooks' Avid Reader Book Club. The current book is The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon. Previous choices were:
ElleDouglas Glover
Angle of ReposeWallace Stegner
The Kite RunnerKhaled Hosseini
The Time Traveler's WifeAudrey Niffenegger
EmmaJane Austen
Balzac and the Little Chinese SeamstressDai Sijie
Jonathan Strange & Mr. NorrellSusanna Clarke
Life of PiYann Martel

The Reading Group Guides website is currently discussing Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon, one of my favorite books in recent years.
On the same website is a reading guide and discussion for the Big Stone Gap Trilogy by Adriana Trigiani and Water for Elephants by Sara Ruen which has been touted as the best new read of the summer.

Tuesday, August 1, 2006

Boarding School Literature

The fascination with boarding and prep schools noted in this blog not long ago continues with Marisha Pessl's Special Topics in Calamity Physics. Janet Maslin of the New York Times writes in the Sunday Book Review, "Marisha Pessl’s “Special Topics in Calamity Physics” is the most flashily erudite first novel since Jonathan Safran Foer’s “Everything Is Illuminated.” With its pirouettes and cartwheels, its tireless annotations and digressions, it has a similar whiz-kid eagerness to wow the reader. In Ms. Pessl’s case that means sustaining the mock-academic brio of her title throughout a long, serpentine, seemingly lightweight schoolgirl story. It also means that the narrative, described as “Core Curriculum,” is sectioned into chapters named for works by writers familiar from the classroom. "
The website for the book is very weird and I gave up on it, but here's the link if you like interactive and, to my mind, ornery, websites. Googling the title turns up many reviews which discuss the beauty of the author and the size of her advance fee, but most reviewers seem to agree that the book does have merit and isn't just a case of what Justine Ettler in the Australian called "hot young author syndrome." Ettler goes on to say,

"Special Topics in Calamity Physics is a clever, sweet, lovable book. I really liked it. Maybe it's a bit precious in a Legally Blonde kind of way but I can live with that. I loved the PoMo way, even though it was a novel, it used conventions usually found in a university thesis. While it's true that Pessl is young, photogenic and precocious, she's also a very talented writer who has crafted a first-class debut. "

Benezit Dictionary of Artists

BHPL has just acquired Benezit Dictionary of Artists which has been translated into English for the first time since its initial publication in 1911 as The Dictionnaire critique et documentaire des Peintres, Sculpteurs, Dessinateurs et Graveurs de tous les temps et de tous les pays. BHPL is the MUF library specializing in art (Each of the seven libraries in the Morris Union Federation of Libraries has a subject specialty), so this fourteen volume reference work with it auction records and biographical information in 170,000 entries fills a need for information on artists and their works not easily found elsewhere.
Reviews state:
"The major advantage of Benezit over artist indexes . . . is that it provides more detailed biographical data. . . . And yes, Benezit often has the most comprehensive listing on an artist available anywhere, especially more obscure names. It also lists many artists who are not found in artist indexes or price guides. " -, May 2006

"This authoritative and useful work is the standard biographical listing of artists, outdoing similar resources in both size and scope. As such, it belongs in all major American libraries." - Library Journal, June 1, 2006

Monday, July 31, 2006

New Databases at the Library

The Berkeley Heights Public Library has added two new online databases to its online research collection: Alexander Street Press Music Online and Learn-a-Test are available free to library patrons from our website at

Music Online from the Alexander Street Press offers Berkeley Heights Library patrons three distinct music collections. African American Song includes jazz, blues, gospel, ragtime, folksongs and narratives. Classical Music Library has more than 50,000 recordings from various labels. Smithsonian Global Sound/Smithsonian Folkways includes music from around the world. Patrons can create an account and collect their favorites in a playlist. A recent post to this blog mentioned listening to Chaucer recited in the original Middle English from the Smithsonian database. This internet-based resource can be accessed from home computers by Berkeley Heights Library patrons or from the public access computers at the Berkeley Heights Public Library. These databases are really fun to browse through and listen to single tracks or whole albums, spoken-word (poetry and other recitations) or natural sounds (animal sounds, beer drinking, the office, the ocean and, get this, a frog being eaten by a snake!)

Learn-a-Test from Learning Express gives Berkeley Heights Library patrons remote access to a wide range of practice tests for the SAT’s, Advanced Placement, ASVAB, Civil Service, Real Estate, Postal, Police, Paramedic, Nurses Aid, TOEFL and more. Set up a free account, start a test anytime and finish it later if desired. The library's book collection has test books, but they always seem to be out when you need them, so this database ensures that you have no excuse not to study for those pesky SAT's etc.

To access these databases, go to and click on “Remote Databases.” You will be asked for your BHPL barcode and pin. Call the Reference Desk at (908) 464-9333 for more information.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Pop Goes the Library: Summer Reading Lists

Take a look at this extremely thorough and well-reasoned response to a Wall Street Journal piece about the quality of summer reading lists: Pop Goes the Library: Summer Reading Lists
The WSJ editorial was a tired and formulaic lament about how kids just don't read the classics anymore and why don't teachers and librarians put those fondly remembered books on summer reading lists? As Liz B. points out in the blog piece, actually we do recommend classics, but we also recommend lots of other kinds of books too. Be honest with yourself - do you always read classics and great literature? Do you sometimes read for entertainment? Well, children do that too and many grow up unscathed by the experience of reading books that have little literary merit. But don't get me started - read the blog piece linked above. Then cut your kids a break and let them enjoy summer.

Friday, July 28, 2006

The Quill Awards

The first Quill Awards for literature was broadcast last fall. It was supposed to do for books what Oscar does for movies, that is: nominate best books in various categories and announce the winners on a television broadcast of the awards. The second annual Quill Awards will be on October 10 and broadcast on NBC on October 21. For more information , go to the the PW (Publishers Weekly) website where you will be able to vote for the Quill Awards at some point in the future. The site lists last year's winners. You can also subscribe to one of PW's e-newletters for email updates on the publishing world in the area of childrens literature, religious publishing, comics or just general book news.

In other book news this week, A Dress for Diana by Elizabeth and David Emanuel is the story behind Princess Diana's wedding dress and the authors have been making the rounds of TV shows to promote it. Some other most-requested new or upcoming books this week at the library were: Fiasco: the American Military Adventure in Iraq by Thomas Ricks, The Language of God by Francis Collins, The Memory Keeper's Daughter by Kim Edwards, and for kids, riding on the wave of Pirates of the Caribbean - Piratelolgy by Dugald A. Steer a beautiful book that you might want to keep in mind for birthday or holiday gifts.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Janet Evanovich Read-a-Likes

Say you've read everything about Stephanie Plum in Janet Evanovich's numbered series about the hapless (she is always described as hapless, sorry) bounty hunter from an urban but cozy neighborhood of Trenton, New Jersey: now what can you read while you eagerly await the next title in the series? I just finished Dirty Laundry by Tori Carrington. Carrington is actually a husband and wife writing team who created Greek American bounty hunter, Sofie Metropolis who operates in the Greek-American part of Astoria, Queens. Everything about her mirrors the Stephanie Plum novels. Ethnic? check. Thirtyish and single? check. Mysterious exotic potential lover? Check. Ditsy and clumsy? checkcheck and check etc etc. But this doesn't mean the book has no merit, it's just very derivative. Greek recipes included at the end. I checked BHPL's database Novelist to see what other books might appeal to Stephanie Plum enthusiasts and here is the list of authors as given by readers' advisor and columnist Joyce Saricks.
Nancy Bartholomew's stripper/detective (!) Sierra Lavotini featured in The Miracle Strip.
Sarah Stohmeyer's hairdresser/detective Bubbles Yablonsky from Lehigh, Pa.
Anthony Bruno's Loretta Kovacs novels, especially Devil's Food.
and for the more romantic, Jennifer Crusie's Welcome to Temptation.
Thanks as usual to Joyce Saricks who must read instead of sleeping. To access the Novelist database which has book reviews, book lists by theme and genre, book suggestions, go to our home page and click on Remote Databases.