Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Circuit DVDs

"Circuit DVDs" always makes me think of circuit riders, and I imagine old-fashioned country preachers and judges on horseback with DVDs in their saddlebags. For those of you who have joined the circuit by paying a refundable $10 deposit, BHPL just got a fresh shipment in (not by horseback). If I wasn't so busy adding these DVDs to our computer system, I could give you more than just a list of some of the newer ones!
Venus (which got Peter O'Toole nominated for an Oscar)
Stomp the Yard (about fraternity stepshows at a historically black university)
We Are Marshall (based on a true story)
The Office, Season 2
Deadwood, Season 2
Year of the Dog (starring Molly Shannon, whose life changes in unexpected ways after her dog dies)
Wedding Wars (John Stamos plays a gay man!)
Two Weeks, with Sally Field
Seraphim Falls, a western
As You Like It by Kenneth Branagh

Friday, April 25, 2008

What To Do This Weekend

Here are some ideas culled from BHPL's varied New Jersey guidebooks (located in Nonfiction at 917.49):
* Watch glass eels migrate by moonlight at Hooks Creek Lake at Cheesequake State Park (from Twenty-five Nature Spectacles in New Jersey)
*Eat at the Summit Diner across from the Summit train station. O'New Jersey says there's a legend that Ernest Hemingway ate here.
*See the recreated 19th century Millbrook Village in Warren County (New Jersey Day Trips by Barbara Hudgins and Patrick Sarver)
*Visit the Alba Vineyard winery in Milford (Discovering New Jersey Wineries)

Thursday, April 24, 2008

The English American by Alison Larkin

The English American is a novel by a local stand-up comic, who, like her protagonist, is an American adopted at birth by English parents. In her interview with Liz Keill of The Independent Press, Alison Larkin said that the audience of the one-woman play that the book grew out of used to laugh when she told them in her British accent, "I'm Alison Larkin and I'm from Bald Mountain, Tennessee." (Maybe Madonna should try this at her next concert?). Booklist called this story of a woman searching for her birth parents, and romantic love, "smart, funny, and utterly charming." It's currently available on the new book shelf at FIC LAR, so come and get it!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Jane Austen's Northanger Abbey

The BHPL Book Blog will feature a series of posts on Jane Austen’s gothic romance Northanger Abbey as noted in yesterday’s post. I read the first three chapters of the book online, having left the actual (hard-copy) book on my bedside table where it didn’t do me any good at all last night at work. Reading Austen online was kind of exhilarating because I felt that in an emergency one can access this and many other full-text e-books with only an internet connection and the mere tap of keys and not ever risk being bereft of reading material regardless of absent-mindedness. Anyway, here is my quick take (everything in blogs should be quick I understand - which is completely contrary to the Austen style which seems to be catching.)
Our heroine, Catherine Moreland, is introduced as someone who does not in any way seem to be the wilting flower, imprisoned by villains, inward directed, fearful women featured in the gothic novels she likes to read. I understood that Austen was being very tongue-in-cheek about the fashion for a certain style of novels that were popular at the time, so I looked into it and found that she was satirizing Ann Radcliffe’s The Mysteries of Udolpho (1794), an extremely popular book in Austen’s time.
BHPL has a reference book, Encyclopedia of Gothic Literature (Ref 809.3 SNO) which has been very helpful in researching the history of the genre. I also started to read the e-text of Radcliffe’s classic novel and found it extremely wordy, but got the picture pretty quickly about why it would be great fodder for parody. Radcliffe’s heroine, the na├»ve orphan Emily is exactly what Catherine Moreland is not: imprisoned by a villain in a castle, she experiences one misfortune after another until, and I don’t think it’s too much of a spoiler here to say, love triumphs and all ends happily. There are obvious parallels to Catherine’s stay in Bath, but Emily is much more sensitive and accomplished than Catherine and Emily’s misfortunes are real, not imagined.
Here are some more Austen links:

The Republic of Pemberly Northanger Abbey message board, where I posted a plea for comments from the resident Janeites.

The Mysteries of Udolpho full-text from Adelaide University

A video of Bath, UK

A Day in Bath (with Jane Austen) from the same Bath tourist website. You can click on the links to see the sights of Bath which is in many ways unchanged since Austen's day in the central city.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen

The BHPL First Friday of the Month Book Group will discuss Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen(1775 - 1817) on May 2 at 10:30 a.m. There will be a series of BHPL Book Blog posts about Northanger Abbey between now and the second of May because there is so much information available about Austen's works, it would be difficult to cover in one post. So today, if you want to start with me, here is the link to a summary of the plot from the Vanderbilt University Department of English. And here is a link to the full text of the first chapter. If you want to read ahead, click on the chapter links from this page: the Northanger Abbey Index. At three chapters a day, readers will be right on target for the May 2 discussion if you would like to join us at the library.
I suggested this particular Austen title to the book group because I remember liking it when I read it way back when in my youth, finding it a bit lighter and less wordy than most Austen, in other words: shorter. It's a nice satire of gothic novels featuring a very imaginative heroine, Catherine Morland who visits the city of Bath during the social season.

Click here for a very short Austen biography. Austen began writing Northanger Abbey from 1795 - 1798 but it was not published until 1818, a year after her death in 1817. So it was one of her earliest written books, but the last to be published. Click here for an Austen chronology.

To the right is an adaptation of a portrait of Jane by her sister Cassandra.

Related websites:
The Jane Austen Centre in Bath, UK

Full text of the Mysteries of Udolpho by Ann Radcliff, the book that Austen satirizes in Northanger Abbey.

Reading Group Guide discussion questions

The Republic of Pemberly (Jane Austen website)

Monday, April 21, 2008

Spice Up Your Book Club

One way to liven up a book club meeting is with food. If you're not sure what to make, Read It And Eat by Sarah Gardner (BHPL call number 028.9 GAR) pairs titles with recipes. One year, a book club I'm in tried one of Read It and Eat's "fright night" themed pairings for October: The Turn of the Screw by Henry James with trifle. Even if you're not in a book club, it's amusing to look up what foods go with which titles, such as The Princess Bride by William Goldman and "Inconceivable! Frittatas" and tarts for Dorothy Sayer's The Busman's Holiday.

Phone chats with the author also make a book club meeting special. Your book club can apply to win a phone chat with one of 100 Random House authors here. Find more authors to chat with at Reader's Circle, which also has a directory of book clubs if you're looking to join one. If your book club ever reads mysteries, you might try reading a China Bayles mystery and signing up as a Book Club Friend of Susan Wittig Albert - you'll get the chance to have Susan chat with your group by phone, plus freebies in the mail like bookmarks, recipes and more.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Adventures in Flying by local author Jack Elliott

Local author Jack Elliott, former aviation columnist for the Star Ledger, has written Adventures in Flying (2006) (BHPL call #629.133 ELL)
Walter Boyne, former director of the National Air and Space Museum writes:

'Only a great pilot and a great writer with an intimate knowledge of the personalities and the events of American aviation could create such a superb book as Adventures in Flying. Jack Elliott takes you from the earliest days of flight through the most thrilling eras, always with style, grace and good humor. Every flyer needs to have this on the bookshelf and if you know people you would like to see get into flying, give them this book--it will convince them. '

Mr. Elliott, a pilot himself, has included stories of aviation heroism, history, and public service from the Wright brothers to modern day aviation. All modes of flight from balloons to gliders to blimps and sky divers are covered. Pilots and adventure lovers will enjoy this book; also recommended for young adults with an interest in aviation.

Mr. Elliott will be appearing at Union County College on April 24 at 7:00 PM. Click here for details.
see for details on this book or come in to the Berkeley Heights Public Library to check it out.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Snoopy, Dewey and 20,000 Years of Fashion

Yesterday's Peanuts strip originally appeared in 1961 in honor of National Library Week but still rings true. Librarians like to feel needed - who doesn't?
Librarians also like the web comic Unshelved, which on Sundays is always about a book, for instance Magic Pickle and The Planet of the Grapes. The rest of the week it's a comic strip about the Mallville Public Library and its Gen-X librarian, Dewey.

In honor of the blog reaching 20,000 hits a few days ago during the Nightshade blog tour, I looked up 20,000 in the BHPL catalog. Besides Jules Vernes' Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, I found 20,000 Years of Fashion by Francois Boucher. I didn't think that textiles could last that long, so I immediately turned to the section on prehistoric costume. There's a reproduction of a cave painting with women in fur skirts at the Museo Arqueologico in Madrid, and also photos of Bronze Age clothes in the National Museum in Copenhagen. (You can see a photo of a model wearing a modern replica here; scroll down to Bronze Age.) The museum doesn't have too many pictures on its site, but you can see more Bronze Age clothes at a museum visitor's blog.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Going Green at the Library

Yesterday a patron came up to the Reference Desk and asked if we had a "green section," meaning books about going green. The library does own books that fit that description, but they are not all in one place, as so often happens in libraries to the frustration of patrons. Green Living for Dummies (c.2008) would be on the New Books shelf with the Dewey number 333.72 JEF, if it weren't checked out. Good Green Kitchens (c. 2006) would be in the regular stacks located at 643.3 ROB, if it weren't checked out. Green Babies, Sage Moms can be found at PAR 649.1 FAS which means it is downstairs in the Parenting Collection in the Children's Room.
Green books are scattered throughout the library classified under various subjects. What the Reference Librarians can do to help pull related titles together is print out a list of BHPL books on the subject the patron wants to explore. These lists show the title, author, call number, location and availability of each book and are very handy for research or for putting holds on books for future use.
Other green resources:
  • The Green Guide website from National Geographic
  • Magazines subscribed to by BHPL: Environment; Natural Home; OG, Organic Gardening.
  • On the New Books shelves at BHPL: How to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint; Living Like Ed; The Rough Guide to Shopping with Conscience
  • Many books in the non-fiction stacks, search for "green movement," "green products," "environmental responsibility."

Monday, April 14, 2008

Getting Organized: Toss the Paper Tiger and Use the Library

Getting organized is big business. BHPL has dozens of books on the topic - from Kiplinger's Taming the Paper Tiger (651.5 HEM) to The Complete Idiot's Guide to Organizing Your Life (640 LOC.) To find books on organising use these key words to search the catalog: time management, paperwork, storage etc. These terms will find books about creating the perfect closet, house remodeling, making a home office, building shelving, best filing systems and so on. These books often advise readers to go to stores selling containers and other organizational items, install closet "systems", use big plastic boxes and milk crate knock-offs, build shelves etc. For a few bucks you can buy or make the perfect container to hold the worthless junk you will probably never use again. But it will look nice and neat. For a slightly larger outlay, garages can be suited up to hold old gardening and sports equipment worth in total at least $50.00 while your car worth thousands sits out in the elements. But your stuff will look nice and neat. My fairly neat garage houses a large collection of flaccid soccer balls neatly stowed in a decorative plastic sand pail. An almost antique stroller with high mileage that I just can't give up and two bikes my kids used in elementary school neatly hang from wall hooks. My kids are out of college...and starting their own neat piles of junk. My son even offered to give me some of his own junk this week in an ironic twist on junk migration within famlies.
Back to the library topic, in the spirit of trying to organize the tsunami of information, files virtual and actual, that threaten to swamp the Reference Department, I recently took a one day course called "It's About Time, It's About Space: Time and File Management," from the NJ Medical Librarians as part of our continuing C.E. (continuing education) efforts for staff. I learned that it's ok to use post its and not to feel "post it guilt." I learned that both time and space need to be considered as separate, but connected, organizational issues. They lost me a bit there. I learned about web-based electronic organizers like my yahoo, iGoogle, Meeting Wizard and various Firefox add ons and a thing called "Don't forget the milk" which I added to my Google calendar and haven't used since I tried it out. Many clever acronyms, mnemonic devices and key phrases were offered. Participants went back to work energized, psyched to reform our procrastinating, disorderly ways and armed with a one inch thick document with photocopies of the Power Point presentation used in the class. I filed it in a file labeled C.E. It looks nice and neat.
This is the most valuable piece of advice about organizing that I can think of: throw it out. Then there will be less stuff to organize. If you can't toss stuff, that's where the trouble starts and you will need to turn to BHPL's books to get back on track. At least you can return library books and they won't clutter your house. That's another good organizational tip: use your local library.

Friday, April 11, 2008

The Other Half

Today we're excited to have as our guests the authors Susan Wittig Albert (whose latest book is the new China Bayles mystery, Nightshade) and Bill Albert.

Berkeley Heights PL. How did you get started writing as a team?

Bill. It all started on our second or third date, back in 1986. Susan was working on a Nancy Drew book, and she wrote herself into a plot corner. Over pizza, she asked me to help her out of it. I guess she liked my ideas, because she asked me to marry her shortly thereafter.

Susan. I did? I thought you asked me! (Blushes, chuckles.) But whichever way it was, I have to agree that plotting was not my strong suit when I began writing YA fiction in the mid-80s. Characters, yes. Settings, yes. Dialogue, fine. But plot was a mystery and I was clueless. It’s difficult to remember just how inept I felt back then, but I recall having a hard time developing a coherent storyline, where one thing leads to another and everything gets tied up in the end. Then Bill came along. He was a systems programmer and his mind seemed to work like a flow chart. He helped me see what I needed to do to make the story work. I’m happy to say that some of his plot skills have finally rubbed off on me. I don’t view plotting with the dread I used to feel.

Bill. Which brings up something about team writing that needs to be said right off. I’m good when it comes to keeping plots and subplots straight, but characterization isn’t what I do best, and I’m not very strong when it comes to recreating a setting. I can’t spell very well, either. (Grins ruefully.) Susan is good at doing things I can’t. If you’re going to team up with somebody, find a person whose skills complement yours, rather than duplicate them. And stick with them long enough to make it work.

Susan. For us, that’s been twenty-some years. When we got married, we decided we would make freelance writing our “real job.” Working together or with me working on my own, we wrote over sixty young adult novels, including Hardy Boys, Sweet Valley Twins, Cheerleaders, and others. Most years, we produced a dozen books. Bill used to call us the “book a month club.” And whether Bill does any of the actual writing, he always makes a strong contribution. We talk over everything together, and he always does a careful line-edit before the manuscript is turned in.

Bill. You’ll find a list of our co-authored stuff on our website, along with the pseudonyms the books were written under. Most of these books are long out of print, but some of them are floating around the used book market.

BHPL. That’s a lot of books! It must have been quite a learning experience.

Bill. Yeah. And with so much practice, we got pretty good at it. Writing books, I mean.

Susan. But we also learned about the book business. We had to learn to deal with dozens of editors, agents (over the years, we’ve had four), and marketing departments. Publishing is a business, and if writers themselves aren’t business people, the process is pretty difficult. Doing all those YA books taught us several really important lessons about working as commercial writers.

Bill. And it ought to be said that doing all those books taught us to write together, which isn’t as easy as it sounds. We started in 1986. By the time we began the Robin Paige Victoria/Edwardian series in 1994, we were feeling pretty comfortable with it. So it took a while.

BHPL. I’m curious about how you work. Does Susan write the dialogue for the female characters and does Bill write for the male characters? Or do you divide the work differently?

Susan. That’s changed over the years. When we were doing YA work, Bill did most of the plotting and outlining, I did most of the writing, and he edited. The Robin Paige series, though, demanded a lot of research, since each book included a real person—Rudyard Kipling, Winston Churchill, Lily Langtry, Conan Doyle, Marconi. Bill did almost all the research for that series, compiling bibliographies, getting the books, studying them. Then he’d come up with a main plot and subplots—

Bill. Oh, yes, subplots! We used eight to ten points of view in every book, including our main characters, Charles and Kate Sheridan. For every point of view character, we had a subplot. It was kind of like playing chess on a 3-D glass chessboard.

Susan. Bill would create the plots, we’d write—he’d write one scene, I’d do another, and we’d trade. We read aloud to each other every day and revised as we went along. He was usually responsible for Charles’ scenes, and I’d do Kate’s.

BHPL. You’re using the past tense? Why?

[Bill and Susan exchange looks, and sigh.]

Susan. Because we’ve decided to stop writing the series. It was entirely our decision—in fact, our editor tried to talk us out of it. But the research—

Bill. It felt like the research had taken over our lives. And there are other things to do in life than write. I miss writing with Susan, but I’m not sorry that Robin Paige has retired. Death on the Lizard was the last book.

Susan. It was a hard decision. I wrote a long piece about it on my blog, explaining all the whys and wherefores. But we still work together as a team. I’m continuing the China Bayles series and the Cottage Tales of Beatrix Potter. Bill reads every book and always makes good suggestions. Also, for the past six or seven years, he’s acted as our literary agent—which is a job all by itself. He negotiates our contracts, keeps track of royalties, and handles the business end of things.

BHPL. As you look back, what has been the best part about writing together? The most difficult part?

Susan. For me, the best part is watching Bill’s mind in action. [Smiles.] I like all parts of him, but I love to watch him dealing with story material, pushing it into shape, organizing it, coming up with new possibilities. All of which means, of course, that there’s less work for me.

Bill. I’ve enjoyed the travel. We’ve been to England quite a few times—not just pleasure trips (although there’s always that), but working trips, where we did research on the sites where the Robin Paige books were set. Traveling together is the fun part of the job.

Susan. The most difficult part? For both of us, I think, that would be working through a writing project without letting the disagreements slop over into the other parts of our life together.

BHPL. How do you do that?

Bill. [Mysteriously.] We follow the 80-15-5 rule.

BHPL. Which is?

Bill. Well, when one of us raises a question, the other will consider and say, “Yeah. I should have thought of that.” That happens about 80 percent of the time. About fifteen percent of the time, one of us may not be convinced, but agrees that the other has made the most points. And in the remaining five percent, one of us realizes that the other has a strong emotional investment and backs down. [Grins.]

Susan. And then we move on. Really move on. Life is too short to spend it keeping score.

BHPL. Do you have a favorite book out of all the ones you have written together?

Susan. Mine would have be Death at Blenheim Palace. Bill and I visited the palace and Woodstock and took a lot of photos. I really enjoyed doing the research and weaving the history of Blenheim into the plot. It’s interesting (as well as sad and a little frightening) to see how that huge place has affected the Marlborough family. As Winston Churchill said, “We shape our dwellings, and our dwellings shape us.” Churchill understood: he was in line to inherit the palace, if his cousin’s wife (Consuelo Vanderbilt Marlborough) hadn’t produced “an heir and a spare.”

Bill. I guess mine would be Death at Rottingdean. The book featured Rudyard Kipling, who was living in Rottingdean—a village on the southern coast, near Brighton—and writing the novel Kim. For me, this book was a great example of the fun of tying together unrelated and unexpected research details. I learned that Kipling’s model for Kim is unknown, and thought it would be fun to create one. I very much wanted to develop a smuggling plot, but was frustrated when I discovered that while smuggling was once common in Rottingdean, it ended over fifty years before, when most excise taxes were repealed. Then I found out that the first automatic pistol went into production in Germany the year the story takes place and wondered what would happen if one of these appeared in this small English coastal town. Finally, I happened on a paragraph on the financing of smuggling operations and saw how we could tie all these odd bits together in a plot involving German espionage and one brave boy—the prototype for Kim.

BHPL. Questions or comments, anyone? Bill and Susan will check in over the next few days to reply. So post away!

About the book drawing and Susan’s blog tour

If you’d like to enter the drawing for a copy of Nightshade, click here to register. But you’d better hurry. The drawing for the Berkeley Heights Public Library Blog closes at noon on April 14, 2008.

Want to read the other posts in Susan’s blog tour? You’ll find a calendar and links here.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Q and A NJ

Teens from all over New Jersey have created 30-second videos advertising Q and A NJ, the 24/7 online live chat reference service for New Jersey residents. You can vote for your favorite - I'm partial to the Ninja video myself, although the video of the kid walking into the library's glass doors in "Closed" is pretty entertaining.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Up and Coming Thriller Writers

I won't name names, but I hate it when an author I once enjoyed is now churning out books by committee. That's why I always perk up when a reviewer compares a relatively unknown author to a bestseller. Here are some recent thrillers that got my attention:
James O. Born was recommended to fans of Michael Connelly in Library Journal for his series featuring ATF agent Alex Duarte, the latest of which is Burn Zone.
Denise Mina's main character in Slip of the Knife, Paddy Meehan, was called "one of the most praised heroines since Temperance Brennan" (the forensic anthropologist created by Kathy Reichs).
For fans of Martin Cruz Smith, "Robert Harris meets Gorky Park" was the verdict on Tom Rob Smith's debut novel Child 44.
Library Journal says that Lisa Lutz's Izzy Spellman could be a "wacky cousin" of Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Where's My Refund?

Where's My Refund is a bright spot in the otherwise dark and squishy depths of the IRS web site. If you are due a refund, you can find out when it will be ready at this IRS web page. You'll be asked to type in your social security number, your filing status and the exact amount of the refund.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Audiobook Snippets

A week or two ago I posted about our new Online Book Clubs (which is a bit of a misnomer as you'll see). But I didn't mention the audiobook club. If you join, you'll be emailed a link to 5 minutes' worth of that week's audiobook every day in your email. Click here to sign up for the club. If you aren't a Berkeley Heights resident, you can sign up here.

If you'd like to sample bits of one of the club audiobooks, here is the link to Hubris by Michael Isikoff and David Corn.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

A Poem Even Worse Than Harry Potter Haiku

It's poetry month -
Check out our display.
Don't miss Lewis Carroll's
"Confounding book of genius"
The Hunting of the Snark;

Maya Angelou's Celebrations,
The book with On the Pulse of Morning
(The second poem
To be read
At an inauguration);
John Ashbery "revels
In the American vernacular"
In Notes From the Air;
Turn back to poetry with
Poetry 180,
Edited by Billy Collins.

On April 9
At 7 o'clock
Chatham poet
Marcia Ivans
Reads from
Her book OverEasy.
Call 464-9333
To sign up.

Watch poetry unfold
On video online
At Poetry Foundation
Even videos for babies.
You can find
Poems by category
Or occasion there too.
Or by poet
Or first line.

If Google can't find
The poem you seek,
The venerable
Granger's Poetry
Index is now a

Here is a
Harry Potter haiku.
Written by J.K. Rowling
Arranged by FactMonster
I hope you're pleased with
yourselves. We could all have been
killed—or worse, expelled.
—Hermione Granger

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Mild Winter Means Bumper Spaghetti Harvest

New Jersey is one of the top importers of spaghetti so news of a bumper crop of pasta should bring down prices in a much needed break in consumer spending. Whether this will lead to lowering of Italian restaurant prices is unknown but the Consumer Price Index should reflect the numbers when it is next issued. The BBC released this statement today:
"It is not only in Britain that spring, this year, has taken everyone by surprise. Here in the Ticino, on the borders of Switzerland and Italy, the slopes overlooking Lake Lugano have already burst into flower at least a fortnight earlier than usual.
But what, you may ask, has the early and welcome arrival of bees and blossom to do with food? Well, it is simply that the past winter, one of the mildest in living memory, has had its effect in other ways as well. Most important of all, it’s resulted in an exceptionally heavy spaghetti crop.
The last two weeks of March are an anxious time for the spaghetti farmer. There is always the chance of a late frost which, while not entirely ruining the crop, generally impairs the flavour and makes it difficult for him to obtain top prices in world markets. But now these dangers are over and the spaghetti harvest goes forward.
Spaghetti cultivation here in Switzerland is not, of course, carried out on anything like the tremendous scale of the Italian industry. Many of you, I am sure, will have seen pictures of the vast spaghetti plantations in the Po valley. For the Swiss, however, it tends to be more of a family affair.
Another reason why this may be a bumper year lies in the virtual disappearance of the spaghetti weevil, the tiny creature whose depradations have caused much concern in the past.
After picking, the spaghetti is laid out to dry in the warm Alpine air. Many people are very puzzled by the fact that spaghetti is produced in such uniform lengths. This is the result of many years of patient endeavour by plant breeders who suceeded in producing the perfect spaghetti.
Now the harvest is marked by a traditional meal. Toasts to the new crop are drunk in these boccalinos, then the waiters enter bearing the ceremonial dish. This is, of course, spaghetti—picked early in the day, dried in the sun, and so brought fresh from garden to table at the very peak of condition. For those who love this dish, there is nothing like real home-grown spaghetti
April Fool! follow the links for the rest of the story
Spaghetti harvest hoax
Original BBC Broadcast

Gilead by Marilynne Robinson

Reading Gilead is like listening to a grandparent tell your old family legends for the first time. Tinged with beauty and humor, Gilead is the letter that Reverend Ames writes (a.k.a. "his begats") to the son born to him late in life in mid-century Iowa. Marilynne Robinson, who teaches at the Iowa Writers' Workshop, won the Pulitzer Prize for Gilead in 2005, and the morning book group will be discussing it on Friday, April 4 at 10:30 a.m. Everyone is welcome.

James Wood put it best in the New York Times Book Review:
"To bloom only every 20 years would make, you would think, for anxious or vainglorious flowerings. But Marilynne Robinson, whose last (and first) novel, Housekeeping, appeared in 1981, seems to have the kind of sensibility that is sanguine about intermittence. It is a mind as religious as it is literary -- perhaps more religious than literary -- in which silence is itself a quality, and in which the space around words may be full of noises."

If you are interested in the origins of Gilead, check out the NPR interview and Powell's interview with Marilynne Robinson. The Iowa Department for the Blind also has some interesting information about the author (including about how one of her books got banned in Britain) and more discussion questions about Gilead.