Friday, September 28, 2007

Banned Books Week

Banned Books Week kicks off on Saturday and runs through October 6.

According to the American Library Association, the most challenged book in American libraries last year was And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell. It's a picture book about the pair of male penguins who hatched and raised a penguin chick at the Central Park Zoo in 2004.

Last year during Banned Books week, readers voted online at the ALA web site for their favorite banned books. The Harry Potter series won, with 3 times as many votes as the runner-up (To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee). James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl, Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger and the Captain Underpants series by Dav Pilkey were also in the top 5.

The ALA defines challenges as "an attempt to remove material from the curriculum or library". It gets its information about challenges from schools and libraries directly, and from newspapers.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

If Alan Greenspan Met O.J. to Discuss Their Bestsellers

An article in this morning's USA Today's book review section referred to a funny piece in the current New Yorker. In the Shouts and Murmurs section, Andy Borowitz imagines what a conversation between bestselling authors Alan Greenspan and O.J. Simpson might be like. An excerpt from the column:
'Every now and then, we ask authors whose work we admire to come to our offices to discuss their work and the craft of writing. Last week, we invited two writers who have just published new books: Alan Greenspan (“The Age of Turbulence”) and O. J. Simpson (“If I Did It”). Here is their conversation.

Greenspan: I’m sure you get tired of people asking you this, but here goes: Where do you get your ideas?

Simpson: (laughing) Boy, do I ever get tired of that question! Sometimes I think I’m going to kill the next person who asks me that. (Makes a gun gesture.) Bang bang!

Greenspan: But as I was reading “If I Did It”—which I loved, by the way—

Simpson: Thank you.

Greenspan: —I couldn’t help but ask myself, How the heck did he come up with this? I mean, some of this stuff is really out there.

Simpson: I thought it would be interesting to put myself inside the head of a sociopathic killer—sort of like what Bret Easton Ellis did in “American Psycho.” '

Bestseller lists can make strange bookfellows. For example, The Dangerous Book for Boys which is currently on the bestseller lists will be followed by The Dangerous Book for Dogs: a parody by Rex and Sparky with some help from humans. Publishers Weekly gave it good review: (Caution: some things dogs write about can be in bad taste.)

'This gentle parody of the bestselling Dangerous Book for Boys-identical in look and tone to its source material-offers an often funny, surprisingly insightful take on dog behavior that's sure to resonate with the Spot set. With the "assistance" of their human companions, canine authors Rex and Sparky relate practical and authoritative information on topics simple (baths, fleas, bones, poop, "things you can chase") and complex: the rules of fetch (it's not officially over until a player earns 17,572 points), tips on crotch sniffing (under the heading "How to Make Your Owner Look Like an Idiot") and a critical guide to frequently ingested items (vomit and poop receive top marks; rocks and keys rank considerably lower). Among more than 50 short entries, the authors seem to have thought of everything, including escape tips for humiliating costumes, stirring true stories ("Great Dog Battles-Part Two: Pepper vs. A Patch of Light") and even a report on Pavlov (written by his two dogs). Though it occasionally pushes the envelope of good taste... this goofy, gleeful guide to the dog life will tickle anyone with a soft spot for canines. '

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Week in Review: Books

Former Chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank, Alan Greenspan's book, The Age of Turbulence, (reviewed below) came out this week - nicely timed to debut with the latest headline grabbing rate cut by his successor Ben Bernanke, continuing mortgage woes, market volatility and so on.

O.J. Simpson is back in the news on two fronts, arrested for armed burglary in Las Vegas and also in the headlines because his book If I Did It which was withdrawn from the market several months ago has been repackaged by Ron Goldman's family with the subtitle, Confessions of a Killer. If you buy it, the money goes to the reparation funds awarded to the Goldman family in the civil case against Simpson for the murder of their son, Ron.

Alan Alda has been hitting the talk show circuit to promote his latest memoir, Things I Overheard While Talking to Myself. His popular 2005 memoir Never Have Your Dog Stuffed and other things I have learned had a breezy light conversational style and was a quick, diverting book.

Loving Frank by Nancy Horan tells the story of Frank Lloyd Wright's turbulent and tragic love life.

President Bill Clinton discussed his book Giving with Jon Stewart on the Daily Show and also discussed his favorite presidential candidate.

Jeffrey Toobin discussed his expose of the Supreme Court on the Stephen Colbert Show: The Nine: Inside the Secret World of the Supreme Court, in which we learn that Stephen Breyer was so disturbed by the Court's intervention in the 2000 presidential election that he was brought to tears.
Take a look at Stewart/Colbert Books a list of authors interviewed on the Colbert Report and on the Daily Show.

Book Discussion groups may be the force that is fueling the continuing popularity of Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen; Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert; The Memory Keeper's Daughter by Kim Edwards; The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls and other psychological novels and memoirs of misery or womanly journeys both actual and metaphorical that members of women's bookgroups often request at the Reference Desk. Not that there's anything wrong with literary angst mixed with women's friendships, but as a constant literary diet...the craving for non-fiction may be a side effect.

Sue Grafton's alphabet series starring tough but sensitive but capable but commitment-phobic P.I. Kinsey Milhone continues with T is for Trespassing, always a sure bet for suspense and readability (unlike this run-on sentence.)

Alice Sebold (The Lovely Bones) is coming out with The Almost Moon.

Celebrities continue to take ghostwriter to paper and produce tell alls or almost alls like: Celebrity Detox by Rosie O'Donnell.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Greenspeak: Alan Greenspan's New Book Out Today

In a 2005 speech, Alan Greenspan said,
"The apparent froth in housing markets may have spilled over into mortgage markets. The dramatic increase in the prevalence of interest-only loans, as well as the introduction of other, more-exotic forms of adjustable-rate mortgages, are developments that bear close scrutiny."—September 26, 2005
Indeed! For "Greenspeak" that seems pretty clear and even clairvoyant. For more Greenspan wisdom, readers will be turning to Chairman Alan's new book, The Age of Turbulance out today.
To read Mr. Greenspan's blog, click here.

Friday, September 14, 2007

The Quill Awards for Popular Books

The third year of the Quill Awards will be broadcast on October 22, 2007. The awards were created in 2005 to be a kind of Emmy or Oscar award for books. Anyone can vote online. The list of this year's nominated books can be found by clicking here. To vote for your favorite book of 2006, click here.
General Fiction Nominees are:

American Youth by Phil LaMarche
The Road by Cormac McCarthy
Special Topics in Calamity Physics by Marisha Pessl
Jamestown by Matthew Sharpe
Brothers by Da Chen

Uff Dah! Garrison Keillor Returns to Lake Wobegon in Pontoon

Garrison Keillor's latest account of the news from his popular fictional town, Lake Wobegon, can be found in his just-released book, Pontoon. Take a look at the Pretty Good Goods catalog for a review and excerpt of the book:
"In Lake Wobegon lives a good Lutheran lady who is quite prepared to die and wishes to be cremated and her ashes placed inside a bowling ball and dropped into the lake, no prayers, no hymns, thank you very much. Meanwhile, the Detmer girl returns from California where she has made a killing in veterinary aromatherapy to marry her boyfriend Brent aboard Wally's pontoon boat, presided over by her minister, Misty Naylor of the Sisterhood of the Sacred Spirit. Brent arrives on Thursday. On Saturday, a delegation of renegade Lutheran pastors from Denmark come to town on their tour of America, their punishment for having denied the divinity of Jesus. And Barbara Peterson, whose mother, Evelyn, left the startling note about cremation and the bowling ball, is in love with a lovely fat man who slips around town in the dim light and reconnoiters with her at the Romeo Motel."
Mr. Keillor visited the Colbert Report on Tuesday, and as is customary on the Comedy Central show, subjected himself to the strange experience of being interviewed by Stephen Colbert. To see the video, click here. The dry, understated fantasy world of the Prairie Home Companion radio show host was in contrast to Colbert's bombastic satirical style and the result was sometimes awkward as these interviews often are.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

What Presidential Candidates Read May Surprise You

Publishers Weekly (July 30, 2007, p. 17) reports that bestselling mystery author Diane Mott Davidson lived in the same dormitory as Hillary Rodham Clinton at Wellesley College in Massachusetts. Davidson's website states,
"Diane started writing in 1963, encouraged by her high school English teacher at St. Anne’s, an Episcopal girls’ school in Charlottesville, VA. Diane gave up writing to study political science at Wellesley. There she lived across the hall from Hillary Rodham (now Clinton), who drafted her into the Young Republicans! "
According to this week's Newsweek cover story on Mrs. Clinton,
"Hillary Clinton has always put great faith in The System. Hugh Rodham's dutiful daughter stayed up late finishing homework assignments and kept Barry Goldwater's "Conscience of a Conservative" on her bookshelf. While others in her generation were turning on, tuning in and dropping out, she was running for student-body president at Wellesley College and applying to law school at Yale."
As reported in the Newton Reads Blog, the Associated Press asked presidential candidates what they are reading. Click here for the answers.

Butchered Book Titles

Have you read Khaled Hosseini's recent bestseller, A Thousand Splendid Sins? Or the classic by Thomas Hardy, Tess of the Ooba-Doobas? The librarians on the Fiction_L mailing list have come up with a hilarious list of books they have been asked for at their libraries. Some book titles are misheard - "Fire Hydrant 415" (Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury) - and some have been misremembered - "Angry Raisins" (Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck). Then there's the request for a book on "How to turn your dad into a bagel" - i.e. the country Trinidad and Tobago.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Today in History: Lascaux Caves Discovered

On September 12, 1940, four teenage boys looking for their dog discovered the Lascaux Caves in France which is painted with 17,000 year old paintings of hunters, animals and other scenes of prehistory. This and other fascinating facts can be found on Grolier Online from Scholastic Publishing, the online research database that BHPL has recently added to its collection. To access this and other databases, BHPL patrons may click on "Remote Databases" from the BHPL homepage, enter their library barcode and pin to get a menu of databases available for research.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

The Borgia Bride

The library's evening book club will be discussing The Borgia Bride by Jeanne Kalogridis on September 11 at 7:30 pm. For discussion questions, click here.

The Borgia Bride is the story of Sancha of Aragon, an illegitimate princess from Naples who is married off to the 12-year-old son of the infamous Borgia pope Alexander VI. Once she arrives in Rome, having survived baronial uprisings and the French invasion of Naples, she falls in love with her husband's older brother, Cesare, and initially attracts the jealousy of her sister-in-law Lucrezia.

You can read the first chapter here:

This site has photos of many of the Naples landmarks mentioned in The Borgia Bride.

The Sala dei Santi in the Borgia Apartments of the Vatican has a fresco painted by Pinturicchio, the Disputation of St. Catherine, that is said to depict Sancha (left) and her husband Joffre(right):

If you are interested in a factual account of the Borgias, Sarah Bradford's biography of Lucrezia Borgia is recommended.

There are a couple of historical mistakes in the novel: in one episode the pope eats chocolates from the bosoms of courtesans, but chocolate did not reach Europe until Hernando Cortez returned to Spain with cacao beans from Mexico in 1528. Also, tarot cards were not used to tell the future until the late 18th century (in France). At the time Sancha lived, they were used to play a card game (see The Tarot: History, Mystery and Lore by Cynthia Giles or Tarot: Talisman or Taboo? by Mark Hederman).

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Armchair Travel

This month's book display theme is "Armchair Travel" featuring travel memoirs and non-fiction works recommended in this NextReads Newsletter. Authors Peter Mayle (A Year in Provence), John Berendt (The City of Falling Angels), Joe McGinnis (The Miracle of Castel di Sangro), John McPhee (Uncommon Carriers) and others are featured.
It seems as though Italy is the most common destination of the writers. Who wouldn't want to travel to sunny climates, eat good food and pay for it by a publishing deal? The titles are intriguing: Falling Palace: a Romance of Naples by Dan Hofstadter, The Stone Boudoir: Travels through Hidden Villages of Sicily by Theresa Maggio, City of the Soul: a Walk in Rome by William Murray, and On Persephone's Island: a Sicilian Journal by Mary Taylor Simeti.

To subscribe to NextReads Newsletters, click here

Click here to see the blog of someone who really did start life over in Italy: Life Italian Style

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

The Madonnas of Leningrad

On September 7th, The BHPL First Friday of the Month Book Group will be discussing Debra Dean's The Madonnas of Leningrad (click on the title for a discussion guide.) Look at this National Public Radio webpage for an excerpt from the book. The Madonnas of Leningrad, Dean's first novel won critical acclaim and several awards including the Quill Award for 2006, and ALA Notable Book of the Year 2006. The book will appeal to readers interested in psychological fiction, historical fiction, art history, World War II and Russian history.

Set during the 900 day Siege of Leningrad, (1940 - 1944) Marina, a docent at the Hermitage Museum, lives in the vast museum basement with her family and hundreds of other starving citizens of the city during the Nazi bombings. Increasingly frail and malnourished, she stands watch nightly on the huge roof of the museum buildings spotting enemy aircraft.

The World War II scenes are interwoven with the present-day story of Marina as an old woman living in Seattle, Washington attending a grand-daughter's wedding. Suffering from Alzheimer's disease, Marina's mind floats freely between the clear memories of her past and her confused experience of the present. During the siege, to distract herself from hunger pains, Marina had memorized much of the huge collection of art treasures, creating a "memory mansion" of paintings and sculptures of the great masters of Western European art. The art lives on very clearly in her disease-riddled brain many decades later giving her the pleasure of viewing the art again as she "walks" through the miles of galleries in her mind.

Visit the State Hermitage Museum website to see panoramas from the roof overlooking St. Petersburg (formerly Leningrad) perhaps showing views that Marina looked at every night. Click on the various collection links to see the art and to see the splendor of the buildings themselves, including the main staircase that Marina describes in the book. Click here to see the timeline of the museum from the design and construction of the Winter Palace by architect Bartolomeo Rastrelli (1754-1762) to last year's Rembrandt Exhibit featuring works described in the book. The madonnas by Raphael, daVinci and others are also featured on the website.
Pictured: Raphael (1483-1520) Madonna Conestabile, The State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia

Read this piece in Wikipedia about Method of Loci or Memory Palace as a classical method of memorizing.