Monday, December 31, 2007

Arsonist's Guide to Writers' Homes in New England

I recently read a book that I am just crazy over, although not crazy enough to do what the title suggests. An arsonist’s guide to writers’ homes in New England, by author Brock Clarke, is a novel about an accidental arsonist of Emily Dickinson's house (and accidental murderer in the process). It also covers a wide range of issues from parental and marriage relationships as well as what it means to have lived your life not quite what you were hoping for. The Washington Post called the book a “straight-faced, postmodern comedy,” while the book can be found in our catalog under the subject heading Black humor (Literature). Clarke even has his own mini guide set up on the book’s website named “The Arsonist’s View” where you can create a blurb for your own memoir, read some would-be arsonist’s letters, and find some practical advice on becoming an arsonist. For all of this irreverent humor, however, I found the narrator’s poignant desperation to be the best part of the book. There is a sad sweetness in the way he describes his parents, his children, and even the group of stock brokers he lives with in his ten-year stay at a minimum security prison. But maybe that innocent sweetness is what is required in what, essentially, is a book about how to fail and succeed at life at the same time, and burn a couple of houses down along the way.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Christmas Christmas time is near

I've always loved to read holiday and Christmas stories. My brother gave me a collection of Christmas short stories for my 10th Christmas-it included O. Henry's Gift of the Magi and stories by James Hilton, Thomas Hardy and Ray Bradbury-I've reread that book nearly every Christmas and still love the stories. Some of my other favorites include Mary Higgins Clark's Alvirah and Willie Meehan and Regan Reilly cute mysteries which always take place around the winter holidays. Another favorite is Truman Capote's A Christmas Memory, a wonderful story for all ages. For a lot of fun read John Grisham's Skipping Christmas - I can just visualize the snowman on the roof! And last, but not least-Dickens, A Christmas Carol - I've read this several times and seen so many movie versions-my favorite is Scrooge (1951) which stars Alastair Sim. One of my all-time favorite anytime movies. At Central we always display our holiday books-so drop by and pickup some holiday cheer! Or mysteries! Or cookbooks!

Related links:

Originally posted 12/14/2007 9:54 a.m. by Linda

The Uncommon Reader

It's a very appealing title (at least to a librarian), and the reviews are good..."Briskly original and subversively funny,...a fun little book" from Publishers Weekly, "delightful political-social comedy by a celebrated British writer" from I thought I couldn't go wrong by sending this novella to a couple of book-loving friends.

Well, I'm glad that I checked it out and read it before purchasing it and sending it as a gift.  It's short (took me about an hour to read) which is good for busy people, but I found it boring---not good for this busy person.  The Uncommon Reader is slightly funny, but it certainly didn't live up to its billing.  The "surprise ending" was a dud, too. Maybe if I was an Anglophile or a great fan of British comedy, I would have liked it better.

Now I've gone back to my usual choice of nonfiction,  and I'm reading Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson.  The subtitle is "One Man's Mission to Fight Terrorism and Build Nations...One School at a Time".

It's an inspiring story about Mr. Mortenson's quest to educate the children who live in the shadows of the world's greatest mountain peaks.  To read more about Mortenson and Three Cups of Tea see the website:

Originally posted by Penny - November 7, 2007

Books on a plane!

One of the things librarians try to keep track of is what sorts of things people are reading. One way to do this is to pay attention to a wide variety of Bestseller Lists, or to track what library books have the longest waiting lists.  Personally, I prefer to do a little bit of field research. For the past several years, whenever I’m travelling by plane, I’ve made a point of noticing what other travelers are reading.  I’m usually surprised by what I find.  Then when I come back to the library I’ll check my list to see what the library has.  Sometimes I’ll find a book that I really want to read that I hadn’t noticed in our collection before, and other times I’ll find something we don’t have, but should probably get.  Thanks in part to a four-hour delay in my connecting flight, I got a lot of research done over Thanksgiving weekend.  There were a wide variety of books, fiction and non-fiction, bestsellers and books with more cult appeal, recently published works along with timeless classics.  Here are the highlights, with occasional comments: 

Fiction:Next cover

Pride and Prejudice
by Jane Austen    

The Collectors,
by David Baldacci

, by Michael Crichton

The Adventures of Vin Fiz, by Clive Cussler

Treasure of Khan: a Dirk Pitt novel, by Clive Cussler and Dirk Cussler

Blink, by Ted Dekker

The Lost World: Being and Account of the Recent Amazing Adventures of Professor George E. Challenger, Lord John Roxton, Professor Summerlee, and Mr. E.D. Malone of the Daily Gazette, by Arthur Conan Doyle

The text of the book itself, I believe, is only slightly longer than the title.

The Memory Keeper's Daughter coverThe Memory Keeper’s Daughter, by Kim Edwards

Protect and Defend, by Vince Flynn

A Time to Kill, by John Grisham

Water for Elephants, by Sara Gruen

For Whom the Bell Tolls, by Ernest Hemingway

Apart from a few short stories, I haven’t read much Hemingway.  I always figured, though, that if I were to read one of his novels, this would probably be the one.

Dune: House Atreides, by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson

Death in Holy Orders, by P.D. James

Pontoon: a Lake Wobegon Novel, by Garrison Keillor

Main Street, by Sinclair Lewis

Proof Positive, by Phillip Margolin

The Emperor’s Children, by Claire Messud

Captain Alatriste, by Arturo Perez-Reverte

Lady Knight coverLady Knight, by Tamora Pierce

Fierce Invalids Home From Hot Climates, by Tom Robbins

This might actually be my favorite book of all time, so I was very glad to see someone reading the paperback edition while waiting for their plane.  I think I might even have cheered right out loud.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, by J.K. Rowling

The Interpretation of Murder, by Jed Rubenfeld

This one sounds pretty interesting.  On a 1919 speaking tour of America, Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung join in the search for a serial killer.  The reviews look pretty good as well.  I'll have to keep an eye out for this on the shelves.

Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger


Doyle Brunson's Sypersystem: A Course in Power Poker, by Doyle Brunson

Into Thin Air coverGhost Wars: The Secret History of the C.I.A., Afghanistan, and Bin Laden, from the Soviet Invasion to September 10, 2001, by Steve Coll

Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln, by Doris Kearns Goodwin

Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mt. Everest Disaster, by Jon Krakauer

The Homebrewer's Answer Book: Solutions to Every Problem, Answers to Every Question, by Ashton Lewis

I Shouldn’t Even Be Doing This!: And Other Things That Strike Me as Funny, by Bob Newhart

The Audacity of Hope, by Barack Obama

Fair Game: My Life as a Spy, My Betrayal by the White House, by Valarie Plame Wilson

Marooned cover
My Airplane Books:

Marooned: The Next Generation of Desert Island Discs
, edited by Phil Freeman

This is a fun book.  The premise is simple—ask a bunch of music writers what one album they would bring with them to a desert island and why.  I really enjoy reading about music, particularly when it helps me hear familiar music in a new way.  That was certainly the case with the essay on Spiritualized’s
Ladies and Gentlemen We are Floating in Space
.  Other highlights include a short piece on Miles Davis.

The City: A Global History, by Joel Kotkin

Exactly what the title suggests, this is a breezy little overview of how cities have changed over time.  As a municipal employee, I figure I have somewhat of a vested interest in understanding the forces that shape the development of cities.

You Suck coverYou Suck: A Love Story, by Christopher Moore

Publisher’s Weekly describes the one novel in my backpack as “a cheerfully perverse, gut-busting tale of young vampires in love.”  That sums it up pretty well.  Part of a loose network of books by the always entertaining Christopher Moore, the plot stands on its own as well as acting as part of a greater whole.

Redemption Song: The Ballad of Joe Strummer, by Chris Salewicz

Another book about music and musicians, this is the biography of Strummer, who once jokingly categorized himself as a “Punk Rock Warlord, with ‘Warlord’ being one word."

Originally posted by Patrick - November 30, 2007


Are you looking for a good Book and your favorite authors have nothing new out?

Librarians are frequently asked for recommendations on favorite authors or titles to read. While we enjoy these types of discussions, it can sometimes be difficult to match title to reader. As we move toward the holiday season and that yearly rite of making New Year’s Resolutions, I thought you might be interested in this list of 100 Best 20th Century Books from the “Hungry Mind Review”. It includes some nonfiction titles and more contemporary, female and ethnic authors than the traditional Modern Library list. Try a few of these titles and see if you don’t feel a little more “well read”. You may even be able to initiate an animated literary discussion at that next boring holiday office party!

The Hungry Mind Review's 100 Best 20th Century Books

Do you love lists? Here are some more 100 best books lists.

Librarians' favorite novels: 

Modern Library list: 

Times list: 

Originally posted by Linda E. - October 22, 11:24 a.m.

Romance rocks!

Back in February my library director forwarded an email from someone about the Romance Writers of America (RWA) national conference which would be held in Dallas in July. For the past several years RWA has had a “librarians day"  included in their conference-which, for a minimal fee you get to mingle with lots of romance writers and get free stuff. I sent my response and fee back immediately! And finally it was July 11th! What fun-to mingle to authors, librarians (near and far), and publishers.  To hear Jayne Ann Krentz and Susan Elizabeth Phillips, Nora Roberts and to get loads of free books and stuff! We had lunch with Shirley Jump, a delightful humorous contemporary romance writer. Other writers that I heard during the day were Suzanne Brockmann and former Arlington resident Shana Abe, Jane Porter and Barbara Samuel, Sherrilyn Kenyon and Sandra Hill. What a great day-very informative and well organized. Did I say how much fun it was!?

Authors' websites:

Originally posted by Linda, July 18, 3:05 p.m.

Join the Club ...

Have you ever thought about joining a book club? Or maybe starting your own?

Book clubs are a great way to meet people – or to find new sides to the people you thought you already knew. They can also open you up to books you’d otherwise never read – or the books you hear people talking about that you never take the time to read.

Sure, you may think that someday you’ll get around to reading The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime because of the empathy you can gain from hearing a story from the viewpoint of an autistic narrator. Or eventually, you’ll get around to reading Garlic and Sapphires: The Secret Life of a Critic in Disguise because it really must be fascinating to find out why Ruth Reichl actually put on a wig and created a whole new persona just to become a food critic.

But that’s not going to give you the drive to finish the last eight chapters in one night . . . not like if you had to be able to discuss how that new persona started strangling who she really was at the book club meeting the next day.

Tamera, who started the book club at the Northeast Library four years ago says, “I started the book club to talk about books that I loved to read. But the book club has allowed me to go beyond my comfort level and read books I never thought I would pick up. I have discovered many wonderful books this way.”

Book clubs each have a different personality, and you may have to shop around to find one that will be a good fit. If you read nothing but classics, don’t expect a book club full of mystery fans to suddenly change their reading tastes to suit yours – you may have to branch out and read mysteries. But there’s also nothing that says they won’t read the occasional classic, for a change of pace.

You may even decide to form your own club. There are a number of manuals available to help you do this, including:

Read it and Eat by Sarah Gardner

The Book Club Companion by Diana Loevy

The Mother-Daughter Book Club by Shireen Dodson

But before you go out and start your own book club, why not try one of ours? Three of our branches have book clubs, each with a different taste in books.

Northeast Arlington Book Reading Group

Second Tuesday of the month at 7 p.m.

Northeast Branch

They are currently reading Special Topics in Calamity Physics by Marsha Pessl for the July 10 meeting. Don’t have time to read it by tomorrow? Get started on Magic Study by Maria V. Snyder for the August 14 meeting.

Southeast Arlington Book Reading Group

Third Thursday of the month at 7 p.m.

Southeast Branch

They are currently reading No Nest for the Wicket by Donna Andrews for the July 19 meeting.

Woodland West Book Reading Group

First Tuesday of the month at 7 p.m.

Woodland West Branch

They are currently reading Crashing Through by Robert Kurson for the August 7 meeting.

Originally posted by Amber, July 9, 5:00 p.m.