Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Olympic Overload

If you're an insatiable Olympics fan, you'll want to take a look at BHPL's collection of Olympics books and DVDs:

Gymnast Shawn Johnson's memoir Winning Balance, along with Gold, Chris Cleave's novel about two women cyclists preparing for the London Olympics, are new and getting a lot of publicity.  Bounce is former Olympian Matthew Syed's book about the science of success. In one of my favorite nonfiction genres, the obscure yet nearly impossible quest, we have Off the Deep End, Hodding Carter's attempt to qualify for the Olympics in middle age.  Nazi Games and Triumph are both about the 1936 Berlin Olympics, with Triumph specifically about Jesse Owens and the four gold medals he won in that Nazi-hosted Olympics.  David Maraniss, whose most recent book is a biography of President Obama, wrote about the "eighteen days of theater, suspense, victory, and defeat" that was Rome 1960: the Olympics That Changed the World. If the hours-long Opening and Closing ceremonies in London aren't enough for you, we also have the Beijing opening ceremonies on DVD, plus Discover the Summer Olympics with Cecile and Pepo, a children's introduction to the sports of the summer Olympics.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Figures in Silk by Vanora Bennett

This Friday at 10:30 a.m the library book group will discuss Vanora Bennett's Figures in Silk, a novel whose heroine is a merchant's daughter in late 15th century London, an apprentice silkwoman named Isabel.  Isabel's sister Jane is one of King Edward's mistresses, which helps Isabel immeasurably with business; but she is secretly a mistress herself, to Edward's brother Richard. Anyone who has read or seen Shakespeare's Richard III knows that black clouds are gathering on the horizon at this point. Fans of Philippa Gregory should enjoy Figures in Silk as well.

The author has written some articles about the historical background of the book for her web site, including one about the silk trade.

Discussion questions are available here.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Reference Roundup

Some of this week's questions/requests:

Do you have a map of Antioch? The patron just finished reading a historical novel and was delighted to find many of the places mentioned in the book in one of our atlases. 

Please read me Joyce Kilmer's poem Trees. (Maybe I have the sensibilities of a third grader, but this is an awkward poem to read aloud to a stranger over the phone.)

Why are the library ebooks I downloaded via wifi showing up in Archived Items on my Kindle, where I can't read them? This is a good question, as our ebook provider says it's a Kindle problem and Amazon said in an email that the patron should use a USB cable to download the books. Finally, we called Amazon and they told us to hold the power button down for a minute. Once the Kindle rebooted, downloading via wifi started working again.

What is the size of the market for pressure vessels? See Composites World's article.

Sorry, what I really meant to ask was the number of carbon fiber reinforced pressure vessels for gas transportation.  This one's going to take a while ....

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

What I Was by Meg Rosoff

What I Was is Meg Rosoff's first adult novel, but like her novels for teens, it is a coming of age story. A 16 year-old boy, nameless to the reader, is sent to St. Oswald's in 1962 after getting kicked out of another boarding school.  St. Oswald's is on the coast of East Anglia - a setting shared with Elly Griffiths' mysteries - with its salt marshes, Roman fort and a medieval lost town.  To escape from the brutishness of his school, he visits his idol, Finn, another teenaged boy who lives alone in a cottage that is cut off from the mainland at high tide.  Of course it turns out that living off the grid when you are only a teenager is not quite a safe thing to do, and tragedy strikes.  At just over 200 pages, this small book is a quick and enjoyable read, although not a favorite of mine like Meg Rosoff's Printz-winning novel How I Live Now.

Friday, July 20, 2012

The Marriage of Figaro: coming July 27!

What do BHPL and the Comédie Française in Paris have in common? We are both hosting performances of The Marriage of Figaro this year. The library's performance will be in the back parking lot on July 27 at 7 p.m., to be exact. The Marriage of Figaro, the play, is not as well known as The Marriage of Figaro, the Mozart opera, but the play came first and is just as enjoyable.  To recap, if you are in the parking lot next Friday night, you will not hear the aria "Figaro! Figaro! Figaro!" 

But you will see "a hilarious and madcap" journey to the altar (as the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey's Next Stage Ensemble puts it) in which two servants, Figaro and Suzanne, must prevent the Count from taking advantage of exercising his droit du seigneur on their wedding night. That is, if they even manage to get married on their wedding day, as the housekeeper Marcellina is suing Figaro with marriage claims of her own.  Pierre de Beaumarchais' play was seen as subversive for its unflattering portrayal of aristocrats and was not allowed to be performed until 1784, 6 years after it was written.

Please bring your own lawn chairs. The play is in English, runs about an hour and is for ages 8 and up.  If it is raining, stop by the library before the performance to find out about the rain location.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Hot Books

Here are some titles which our ebook provider tells us are "hot" at the moment - just what you needed on a 90 degree day.

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
Wicked Business by Janet Evanovich
Seating Arrangements by Maggie Shipstead
Summer Days by Susan Mallery
The Amateur by Edward Klein
The Red House by Mark Haddon
For children - The Alchemyst by Michael Scott

The library has also been doing a brisk business in old fashioned printed library books. Here are the ten most circulated 10 novels from the past 3 months:

Calico Joe by John Grisham
Stay Close by Harlan Coben
Victims by Jonathan Kellerman
The Drop by Michael Connelly
Kill Alex Cross by James Patterson
"V" is For Vengeance by Sue Grafton
Beastly Things by Donna Leon
Bring Up the Bodies by Hillary Mantel
Private Games by James Patterson
The Beginner's Goodbye by Anne Tyler
Zero Day by David Baldacci

Nonfiction books that were giving even the most popular novels a run for their money:

Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson
The Idea Factory: Bell Labs and the Great Age of American Innovation by Jon Gertner
Unbroken: a World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand
Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake by Anna Quindlen
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Hypothermia by Arnaldur Indridason

I've always loved Arnaldur Indridason's police procedurals, but Hypothermia is my new favorite.  Icelandic detective Erlendur Sveinsson starts poking around in what appears to him to be an open-and-shut suicide case, after he is given a tape recording of a seance the deceased woman had with a psychic before her death.
Lake Thingvallavatn

Maria's suicide seems to be linked to Lake Thingvallavatn, as she hung herself in her cottage by the lake, and as a child witnessed her father's death by drowning in the same lake. She also had a great curiosity about the afterlife, going so far as to arrange for her dying mother to give her a sign if life after death existed. Chilling in more ways than one, Hypothermia is the perfect book for a hot day.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Shakespeare in the Parking Lot: This Friday!

The Next Stage Ensemble performs The Winter's Tale at 7 p.m. this Friday, July 13 (as well as The Marriage of Figaro on Friday, July 27 at 7 p.m.) Can you believe this is the seventh year that BHPL is sponsoring Shakespeare in the Parking Lot?  Given its popularity, perhaps it's not so surprising.  The play will be performed in the parking lot behind the library, so bring lawn chairs to sit in. If it rains, stop by the library before the performance to find out the rain location.  This one-hour adaptation is suitable for ages 8 and up. Shmoop.com has a great summary of the play. If you have any 6th to 12th graders in your household, sign them up for the Shakespeare for Teens class at the library on Tuesdays at 2 p.m. through July 24.

A sad tale's best for winter: I have one / Of sprites and goblins. - William Shakespeare, A Winter's Tale

Perdita, of The Winter's Tale, by the pre-Raphelite Frederick Sandys

Some fun facts about The Winter's Tale:

The Winter's Tale shares elements of both comedy and tragedy, which has led to its classification as a "problem play" or "romance".

The first half of the play takes place in Sicily.  The second half of the play takes place 16 years later in Bohemia.

Hermione of the Harry Potter books was named after Hermione of The Winter's Tale. Hermione is the Queen of Sicily, and unfairly accused by her husband of cheating on him with his best friend. (Dorcas is another name J.K. Rowling probably took from The Winter's Tale.)

The play contains Shakespeare's most famous stage direction: "Exit, pursued by a bear."  Wikipedia says "it is not known whether Shakespeare used a real bear from the London bear-pits, or an actor in bear costume". Exit, Pursued by a Bear is also the name of a band, a play, a theatre, and a video hoax.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Terry Conner's Ireland Photography Exhibit

Terry Conner is exhibiting a selection of his black and white photos of Ireland at the Berkeley Heights Public Library through the end of July. "The photos I have chosen to exhibit are a nice representation of the rugged beauty that is Ireland's West. Soaring sea cliffs, wide open bogland vistas, mist shrouded mountains and crashing ocean seas all collide together providing a unique hauntingly beautiful portrait of a region frozen in time," Conner said.

In a dozen visits to Western Ireland since 1995, Conner and his wife have taken to the open road, searching out the least traveled areas, taking unposted roads that often lead to wonderful tiny villages and a warm turf fire in their local pubs, where a cheerful welcome and lively conversation is an art form. "Armed with a 1948 Zeiss Ikon and trusty Nikon D-200 we continue our journeys, always looking for that special panorama, just around the bend. Enjoy the images," said Conner.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Nantucket Doctor

Island Practice, Cobblestone Rash, Underground Tom, and Other Adventures of a Nantucket Doctor by Pam Belluck (2012)

Dr. Tim Lepore (rhymes with peppery) left his mainland emergency medicine practice in Providence, Rhode Island to raise his family and tend to the people of Nantucket, MA. When he served a shift in the cottage hospital on the island one summer, he thought that trading the mean streets and mayhem of Providence in the 1980's for the quiet beauty of an American vacation paradise would be a gamble worth taking. Thirty years later, Dr. Lepore is such a fixture on the island, so legendary, and so deeply eccentric, that New York Times reporter Pam Belluck has written a book about him, his doctoring, his relationships with his patients, his service to Nantucket, his medical triumphs and tragedies. The good doctor is made in a mold that may have existed more commonly before managed care pushed patients and doctors into a few minutes of allotted time. He is the kind of doctor baby boomers remember having when they were young or heard about and wished they had. Dr Lepore has time to pay attention to his patients; he knows about their personal lives; he listens and he isn't afraid to tell the unvarnished truth to them. Dr. Lepore is no warm and fuzzy TV doctor like Marcus Welby, MD, though. Lepore is blunt, his bedside manner is more Dr. House than Dr. Welby. His waiting room is filled with heads of game he has shot and other evidence of his strange hobbies: "skulls, arrowheads, snake skin, turtle shells, fish jaws, and antlers." (17)

Chapter 1: Dr. Lepore is crashing through the underbrush on the island trying to find the "twigaloo" of Underground Tom, a homeless man who squats wherever he can remain undetected and builds tree-houses, underground bunkers or twig houses to live in until the authorities toss him off public land. The doctor makes house calls to Tom, if he can only find the well-hidden hovel. "Lepore allowed Johnson to pay his medical "fee" by providing informal advice about fashioning arrowheads." (17)

Chapter 3: Dr. Lepore makes scalpels out of obsidian by using a flint-napping method used in the Upper Paleolithic era and he uses them to perform surgery. (47) This method is discontinued when the health department objects to the method of sterilization used on the volcanic glass scalpels.(48)

Chapter 4: Moby-Tick. Dr. Lepore is an interesting mix of politically conservative ideas (pro-hunting) and libertarian ideas - he refers patients with severe pain to an island hippie who makes marijuana cookies. In Chapter 4, Lepore's practicality goes against the beliefs of the liberal segment of the island's population. Nantucket has a very high rate of tick-borne illness: Lyme disease, babesiosis and anaplasmosis (65). Lepore has educated himself to become a leading authority on tick-borne diseases and he thinks that the most effective way to combat the disease is to kill more deer which are the hosts for the infected ticks. Naturally that opinion does not go over well in Nantucket even though almost every resident or visitor has been infected or known someone who has been. The part-time population of celebrities and others who own summer cottages don't seem to like to hunt or to let anyone else extend the hunting season on Bambi. Lepore prints out bumper stickers ironically proclaiming "Save Our Ticks!" "Honk If You Love Ticks" (68).
It's a town hall confrontation we have seen here in New Jersey often enough.

Island Practice is a fascinating portrait of an eccentric, but highly capable doctor devoted to his community and his patients.

Readers who enjoy medical memoirs, biographies and popular non-fiction might also like:

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

Every Patient Tells a Story by Lisa Sanders

Monday, July 2, 2012

Dreaming in French by Alice Kaplan

Dreaming in French is the account of the year abroad that Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy, Susan Sontag and Angela Davis spent studying in Paris, as well as the influence that French culture continued to have on their lives and vice versa.  I originally picked it up because it is such a beautiful physical object (the endpapers alone are gorgeous) but found it highly readable.

In 1949 Jacqueline Bouvier lived with the comtesse de Renty, her daughters and two other American students on the avenue Mozart in the 16th arrondissement.  The de Rentys had been in the Resistance during World War II and had been deported; the count de Renty died in a labor camp. Bouvier was on the Smith College Junior Year Abroad program and took, among other classes, an international relations course at the Institut d'Etudes Politiques. She also went to dances and rode horses with French aristocrats and went to night clubs with the writer George Plimpton.  As First Lady she met statesmen like Charles de Gaulle, and she restored the interiors of the White House to the French style it was originally decorated in. 

When Susan Sontag was a graduate student in philosophy at Harvard, she won a fellowship to study at Oxford for a year. Over Christmas in 1957 she reunited with a friend living in Paris on the rue Mouffetard, and ended up staying through the summer. Sontag frequented the same establishments as the Beat poets, and once attended a lecture by Simone de Beauvoir, but she did not take classes at the Sorbonne. Instead she added to the elementary French she had learned in the U.S. by immersing herself in the language. In 1963 she published her novel The Benefactor, influenced by the New Novel movement in France, and later wrote essays on New Wave films.

Angela Davis is the exception in this trio of women, the American who had more influence on the French than vice versa.  She spent a year in France with the Hamilton College program beginning in 1963, taking a literature course at the Sorbonne for advanced students.  During the first few weeks of the proram Angela read in a newspaper about the church bombing in her hometown of Birmingham, Alabama that killed four fourteen-year old girls, including her neighbor, and a close friend of her sister's.

In 1971 Davis, then a philosophy professor at Stanford, was put on trial for charges that could have brought her the death penalty.  Jonathan Jackson, the younger brother of a prisoner Davis had corresponded with before his death (George Jackson, whose book Soledad Brother was later translated into French) died in a shootout, along with a judge that he and others had kidnapped from a courtroom. Four of the guns involved were registered to Davis, who said they had been taken without her knowledge.  On October 4, 1971 thirty to sixty thousand French people marched in the streets of Paris in support of Davis, who was a fellow Communist, and thousands of French people wrote to her.  Davis was acquitted in 1972 after a trial that involved, oddly enough, a lot of French literature used as evidence against her as well as in her defense.