Saturday, April 29, 2006

Books with B(ee) in the Title

Ever mindful that blog posts should have a theme, today we discuss books with "B(ee)" in the title.
The Backyard Beekeeper, an absolute beginner's guide to keeping bees in your yard and garden by Kim Flottum who is " editor of Bee Culture magazine and chairman of the Eastern Apiculture Society, a noncommercial beekeeping club." If you are thinking of getting into the bee business, the BeeCare site even has a discussion board called the Swarm. Who could resist? Bees really are serious business though and important to agriculture, so if you want information about bees in New Jersey, go to the New Jersey Department of Agiculture website. Here you will find everything you need to know about raising bees, beekeeper registration forms, bee law in NJ as stated in the NJ Statutes, and, an exciting bonus, you can email the state apiarist at
Could it Be B12? An epidemic of misdiagnosis by Sally M. Pacholok, R.N. and Jeffrey J. Stuart, D.O. For the official National Institutes of Health Dietary Supplement Health sheet on vitamin B12, click here. It would be great for this B(ee) theme if honey contained B12, but it doesn't. Here is the nutrient fact sheet on honey. Based on this chart, it's safe to say that honey is basically a sugar with no appreciable nutrients. (Caveat Emptor, when surfing the net for nutrition and medical advice, the FDA and NIH/NLM sites are more credible than the dot coms that are trying to sell something.)
And finally, the weirdest short story with a bee theme is "Royal Jelly" by Roald Dahl (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) which can be found in several of his short story collections including the Umbrella Man. An overzealous father feeds his infant royal jelly from bees with surprising and macabre results. Yellow, downy fuzz, anyone?
What got me going on bees? A reference question of course. Several days ago a patron, flapping his barncoat pockets, came in asking simply for, "BEES!" I answered, "The Secret Life of Bees?" That usually works, but he looked puzzled. "The Bee Season," I offered? Still puzzled, the patron repeats, "BEES." Time for the "Reference Interview." "Can you bee (sic) more specific? What would you like to know about bees?" And so we found The Magic School Bus Inside a Beehive by Joanna Cole. Miss Frizzle to the rescue!

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Plagiarism in the News (Again)

By now everyone knows that the Harvard undergraduate writing phenomenon, Kaavya Viswanathan has been accused of using ideas and phrases from Megan McCafferty's Sloppy Firsts for her book, How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild and Got a Life, reviewed in this blog recently. Every day the case against the young author sounds worse, but there seems to be plenty of blame to go around - to her editors and handlers and the hired college "coach" specifically. See this article in the New York Times which discusses the process that goes into making a teen/chick lit title. The article states: "Nobody associated with the plagiarism accusations is pointing fingers at Alloy, a behind-the-scenes creator of some of the hottest books in young-adult publishing. Ms. Viswanathan says that she alone is responsible for borrowing portions of two novels by Megan McCafferty, "Sloppy Firsts" and "Second Helpings." But at the very least, the incident opens a window onto a powerful company with lucrative, if tangled, relationships within the publishing industry that might take fans of series like "The It Girl" by surprise. "

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Today in History

Have you ever wondered where newspapers and other news media find those bits about what happened today in history or whose birthday it is or whether it's National Yo-Yo day or whatever? One source for all that information is a tried and true reference book from pre-internet days called Chase's Calendar of Events which is published annually (Ref 394 CHA 2006 in BHPL.)
Amazon gives the following book description:
"For almost 50 years, Chase's Calendar of Events has been the most trusted and comprehensive reference to what's going on today. Be it an important historical anniversary, the phases of the moon, a sports event, the birthday of a favorite celebrity, a festival, or much, much more, Chase's has all the answers. Whether it's Valentine's Day (February 14), American Heart Month (February), or International Accordion Awareness Month (June), Chase's covers observances of all kinds: holidays, anniversaries, sporting events, astronomical phenomena, and more."
It also has a CD-ROM included which I haven't tried yet. More on that later.
Today, Arpil 25, is ANZAC Day, Battle of Gallipoli Anniversary, Sinai Day, the Anniversary of the First Automobile License Plate (1901), Ella Fitzgerald's birthday (1917), the start of the Tribeca Film Festival and my personal favorite: Hall of Fame Basketball player, George "Meadowlark" Lemon III's birthday (1932)
There are lots of history timelines and chronologies on the internet too. On the History Channel's website, you can find Today in History and that is subdivided by categories like "Literary," from which we learn in one click that it is the anniversary of the publication (1719) of The Life and Strange Adventures of Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe. You can get a first edition of that from Buddenbrooks for only $15,000.00. Or you can search in Abebooks and find over 12,000 used copies, most a lot cheaper. You can also download if for free from Project Gutenberg.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Weird Titles on the New Non-Fiction Shelf

The following books were picked from the new non-fiction shelf recently having attracted the library blogger's attention purely because of their catchy titles. To honor the product-placement sense of their publishers, here are three random new library aquisitions:
Love in the Time of Cholesterol, a memoir and recipes by Cecily Ross. PW writes, "Ross, food critic at Canada's Globe and Mail, chronicles the prelude to and two years following her husband's heart attack and open heart surgery." The couple are foodies who had to change the way they cooked and thought about food. If it can kill you, don't eat it. Next on the killing category:
Working With You is Killing Me, freeing yourself from emotional traps at work by Katherine Crowley and Kathi Elster. The publisher's publicity states, "The solution is simple: Take control of your own response." I am tempted to say, "duh!" Isn't that the solution to everything really? I mean if you are in pain and you can control your reaction to the pain (ouch) then we wouldn't need pain relievers, would we? There must be something more to this book. And finally the most puzzling title, but the book has a really cute pig on the cover.
Lipstick on a Pig, winning in the no-spin era by someone who knows the game by Torie Clarke. Torie's publisher states that, 'Distilling her twenty-five years of experience and wisdom into eight concise rules, Clarke counsels that politicians and executives need to tell the truth early, often, and in plain language." ' Torie also gives "riveting behind-the-scenes accounts" from her years at the Pentagon and other Washington agencies. What rivets me is how she looks so young in her cover photo despite having 25 years experience.

Dog Training Books

Cesar's Way by Cesar Millan, is #13 on USA Today's Best-Selling Books list. We just ordered it for the library. It's kind of hard to keep track of the dozens (scores, hundreds?) of dog books published every year, but we try. Cesar Millan is a "star of National Geographic Channel's Dog Whisperer" according to the ad in the paper and the reviews. Cesar has a blog (who doesn't would be an apt question) There are lots of comments to the posts on his blog, but Cesar doesn't answer any comments so the commentators just muse and question and answer and exchange anecdotes among themselves. If you would like to post a comment about dog training to the librarian, (click on "comment" at the end of this post) we will find the very best dog training book for you (note, not for your dog, it's the humans that need to be trained I think we can all agree on that.) In the library biz, this is called: personalized readers' advisory service. And my dog Addie says she will be glad to anwer comments if there is a treat in it for her. She is also thinking of penning a human training book herself, but first she has to take a nap. and then maybe walkies, which Cesar recommends. and then dinner. some TV, a nap, go outside, come in, go out, come in...take over the sofa. She has a full life, maybe being the first canine author of a dog training book just isn't in the cards for her.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Odyssey retellings: the Penelopiad

Margaret Atwood's new book, the Penelopiad is written from Odysseus' faithful wife Penelope's point of view. What was she really doing and thinking during those twenty years her husband was away fighting the Trojan War and then slowly meandering home by way of various enchanted islands inhabited by immortal temptresses. Was she faithful? Did she miss him? How, in modern parlance, did she cope? The voice of Penelope is hip, ironic and she is no one's victim, but as wiley as Odysseus in her own way.
Fully searchable text of the Odyssey

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Pulitzer Prizes Announced

PW covers the winners of the Pulitzer Prizes for literature, announced yesterday. The article states:
"While it may have been overshadowed in the press and at bookstores by another similarly titled Civil War epic—E.L. Doctorow's The March—Geraldine Brooks took the spotlight today winning the Pulitzer Prize for fiction for her book, March (Viking). While we refrain from commenting on the odd overlap (Doctorow's book was, by the way, a finalist for the fiction prize as well), here's a rundown of today's winners:"
March by Geraldine Brooks (Viking)
Polio: An American Story by David M. Oshinsky (Oxford University Press)
American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer by Kai Bird and Martin J. Sherwin (Alfred A. Knopf)
Late Wife by Claudia Emerson (Louisiana State University Press)
Imperial Reckoning: The Untold Story of Britain's Gulag in Kenya by Caroline Elkins (Henry Holt) '

New Jersey Blogs of Interest

NJ.Com hosts blogs on a variety of New Jersey subjects: NJ sports teams, towns, entertainment and more. Take a look at the Devils Due by Tom Lycan to get the update on every Devils game and links to articles about the game. (Full disclosure - the Devils Due blogger is this blogger's son, but it really is a terrific website!) Another blog that I can recommend is the Summit Journal by Kevin Cahillane; it's very funny. (No, the blogger is no relation to me.) Too bad there isn't a Berkeley Heights blog.
What does this have to do with books? Well, nothing, but NJ.Com does have a book blog by BlogCritics. And they are? By their own admission -
' is a "sinister cabal of superior bloggers on music, books, film, popular culture, and technology - updated continuously," with 400 writers from all over the world. Webby-winner has also received awards and recommendations from Yahoo!, Forbes, NBC, PBS, BBC, TechTV, and many others, and is one of the fastest-growing news and reviews sites on the Internet.'

New Jersey Writers Society

This came across my virtual desk today. There is a New Jersey Writers Society that will meet at The Scotch Plains Public Library on Thursday, April 27 from 7:00 tp 8:30 PM. You can join the group's online site by going to their website. The Scotch Plains Public Library phone number is (908) 322-5007. Directions are on the library website.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

WWTD: What Would Thoreau Do?

The Web Watch column in The Guardian Unlimited, a web-based newspaper, reviews online blogs "written" by famous dead writers, or rather fronted by a blogger who has found an unending source of copy-right free content. (Wouldn't that be nice and easy?) Guardian columnist Sean Dodson wrote:
"Web watch has long been an admirer of Phil Gyford's blog of the diary of Samuel Pepys. Since it launched in January 2003, the award-winning site has inspired dozens of bookish bloggers to publish more online diaries with classic literary themes. Recently we also mentioned Dracula's blog, Bram Stoker's novel being similarly re-published, but diaries of famous writers including Franz Kafka and Henry David Thoreau have been spotted and you can even read James Joyce's Ulysses, at the gentle pace of one page a day."
What these blogs do is to post (publish) a snippet of a writer's work each day, possibly from the same date in the life of the author. This way the blog reader can take in the works of authors a little bit at a time. Thoreau's Diary is quite beautiful; give it a try.
Why are people making these blogs? We all try to control the glut of information that threatens to inundate us daily. Best lists and book snippets parceled out daily are one way to feel in control of the vast literary universe. Librarians live to transform untamed bins of books, piles of periodicals and muddled masses of miscellaneous materials into orderly rows and shelves and files. (Some of us like alliteration as an organinzing tool too.) We haven't completely read every single item of course, but we sure like to know where they are and that someone, somewhere gave it a good review and we can find it if needed. A big job, but someone's got to do it.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Book Suggestions for Reading Groups

BHPL's own reference librarian, the one who leads our Friday morning and Tuesday evening book groups, has combed through piles of best books lists, bibliographies and readers' advisory resources to produce the following list, alphabetical by title.

14 Sisters of Emilio Montez O'Brien by Oscar Hijuelos
Adventure of English by Melvyn Bragg
Ahab's Wife by Sena Jeter Naslund
All but the Waltz by Mary Clearman Blew
Almost Americans by Patricia Justiniani McReynolds
Among Schoolchildren by Tracy Kidder
Are You Mine? By Abby Frucht
At Play in the Fields of the Lord by Peter Matthiesen
Bastard Out of Carolina by Dorothy Allison
Beggars in Spain by Nancy Kress
Betsey Brown by Ntozake Shange
Bloodlines by Susan Conant
Bonfire of the Vanities by Tom Wolfe
Broken Cord by Michael Dorris
Buffalo Tree by Adam Rapp
Cage by Audrey Schulman
Carmichael's Dog by R. M. Koster
Cave by Jose Saramago
Close to the Knives by David Wojnarowicz
Coming into the Country by John McPhee
Conscience and Courage by Eva Fogelman
Country of the Pointed Firs by Sarah Orne Jewett
Crick Crack Monkey by Merle Hodge
Dad by William Wharton
Dancing at the Rascal Fair by Ivan Doig
Deadwood by Pete Dexter
Defiance by Carole Maso
Disturbing the Universe by Freeman Dyson
Dollmaker by Harriette Arnow
Dream West by David Nevin
Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton
Everything is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer
Fair is Fair by Sharon Creeden
Family History by Dani Shapiro
First Lady of Dos Cacahuates by Harriet Rochlin, from the Desert Dwellers Trilogy
Floatplane Notebooks by Clyde Edgerton
Forgotten by Eli Wiesel
Front Runner by Patricia Nell Warren
Gastronomical Me by M. F. K. Fisher
George Eliot: Voice of a Century by Frederick R. Kari
Girl, Interrupted by Susanna Kaysen
Good Morning, Midnight by Jean Rhys
Gorillas in the Mist by Dian Fossey
Green Berets by Robin Moore
Hard Evidence by John Lescoat
Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers
Hero's Walk by Anita Rau Badami
Hollywood by Gore Vidal
House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros
I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith
Ida Mae Tutweiler and the Traveling Tea Party by Ginnie Siena Bivona
Immigrant's Daughter by Howard Fast
Indian Country by Philip Caputo
Intruder in the Dust by William Faulkner
It Can't Happen Here by Sinclair Lewis
Jazz by Toni Morrison
Joseph Andrews by Henry Fielding
Jump-off Creek by Molly Gloss
Kennedy for Defense by George Higgins
La Maravilla by Alfredo Vea Jr.
Language of Threads by Gail Tsukiyama
Law of Similars by Chris Bohjalian
Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula Le Guin
Live at Five by David Hynes
Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry
Love Always by Ann Beattie
Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold
Madame Curie: A Biography by Eva Curie
Making History by Eric Marcus
Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat by Oliver Sacks
Mary Barton, A Tale of Manchester Life by Elizabeth Gaskell
Memento Mori by Muriel Spark
Mirror by Lynn Freed
My Life as a Dog by Reidar Jonsson
Nick Adams Stories by Ernest Hemingway
Nightwood by Djuna Barnes
Norma Jean the Termite Queen by Sheila Ballantyne
Notches by Peter Bowen
October Suite by Maxine Clair
Old New York by Edith Wharton
Original Sins by Lisa Alther
Paint the Yellow Tiger by Dong Kingman
Patchwork Planet by Anne Tyler
Perfect Storm: A True Story of Men Against the Sea by Sebastian Junger
Physicists by Friedrich Durrenmatt
Pleading Guilty by Scott Turow
Praying for Base Hits by Bruce Clayton
Purple America by Rick Moody
Rain or Shine by Cyra McFadden
Rats by Robert Sullivan
Red-Tails in Love: A Wildlife Drama in Central Park by Marie Winn
Return to the Sea by Anne Johnson
Road from Coorain by Jill Ker Conway
Room With a View by E.M. Forster
Rumors of Peace by Ella Leffland
Seize the Day by Saul Bellow
Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
Simple Truth by David Baldacci
Slaves in the Family by Edward Ball
Snow by Orhan Pamuk
Someone Not Really Her Mother by Harriet Scott Chessman
Souls Raised from the Dead by Doris Betts
Split by Lisa Michaels
Still Life by A. S. Byatt
Strange But True by John Searles
Summer Lightning by Olive Senior
Taipan by James Clavell
Tending to Virginia by Jill McCorkle
This House of Sky by Ivan Doig
Tiger in the Grass by Harriet Doerr
Tom: The Unknown Tennessee Williams by Lyle Leverich
Trash by Dorothy Allison
Tripmaster Monkey by Maxine Hong Kingston
Turtle Moon by Alice Hoffman
Under the Feet of Jesus by Helena Maria Viramontes
Unsettling of America by Wendell Berry
Venus in Copper by Lindsey Davis
Virginia Woolf by Hermione Lee
Waiting for the End of the World by Madison Smartt Bell
War of the Worlds by H. G. Wells
Way to Cook by Julia Child
What the Heart Knows: Milford-Haven by Mara Purl
White Album by Joan Didion
Wildlife by Richard Ford
Winter in the Blood by James Welch
World's End by T. Coraghessan Boyle
You Can't Go Home Again by Thomas Wolfe

I just finished Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon which I highly recommend. My book discussion group all loved it. I thought Stones for Ibarra by Harriet Doerr, her first book written while in her seventies - that should give hope to all late-starting novelists) was terrific and inspired a good discussion in my book group. So her book of short stories, Tiger in the Grass, would be a good bet for a book discussion also, based on the reviews. The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, by renowned neurologist Oliver Sacks, describes several of his most intriguing medical cases. It is a fascinating and sympathetic glimpse into the minds of people who experience the world in very puzzling ways due to various neurological and psychiatric conditions.