Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Hidden DVDs

The holidays are winding down, and the cold days of winter are fast approaching. When it's too cold to get out, I've found the perfect way to while away the nights is to watch DVDs. Lately, I've been watching TV shows that were recommended to me by others. Several shows I'd never heard of because they had short runs and were cancelled before they could find an audience. So, here are some of my picks for under appreciated television shows that are available in DVD at the library.

Sports Night ran on ABC for two seasons and looked at the behind-the-scenes atmosphere of a late night television show similar to ESPN. Directed by Aaron Sorkin (The West Wing) and starring Felicity Huffman and Peter Krause, Sports Night sparkles with intelligent and witty dialogue. You don't have to be a sports fan to enjoy the antics, but it does deepen the enjoyment of the plots.

Jericho was recently cancelled after two seasons on CBS. Centered in the small Kansas town of Jericho, it asks the question of how would you survive if atomic bombs were dropped in key American cities. Since communication with the outside world is very limited, food distribution is halted and gasoline becomes a precious commodity in this new world, the citizens of Jericho must become self-reliant and pull together as a community in order to have a chance of survival. It almost seems like a modern day Western. The contrast between the visiting urban New Yorker and the rural citizens of Jericho makes you realize how dependent we are on modern conveniences.

Wonderfalls and Joan of Arcadia are two similar dramas. In Wonderfalls, Jaye is a twenty-something college graduate working at a gift shop in Niagara Falls when inanimate objects start talking to her. In Joan of Arcadia, Joan is a teenager new in town who begins getting visions from God. In both series, the action centers on whether they will do as directed to take specific actions in order to help others, and what happens when they ignore or don't correctly interpret what is expected of them. While both are humorous in the predicaments that happen, both also provoke some thought about how our actions can impact other people's behaviors.

These are just several of my favorites that when I reached the end of each of them, I wanted more! DVDs of television series are a fun way to try something that you may not have heard of before. It is also easy to get spoiled because all of the episodes are easily available and you don't have to wait for the next episodeto be televised. So, try something new this winter when it is too cold to venture outside.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Make Reading Part of Your Christmas Tradition

Christmas time is reading time as we celebrate the holidays each in our own way. Last December the Southeast Arlington Reading Group read the novel, Finding Noel, by Richard Paul Evans.
"When I was a boy, my mother told me that everyone comes into our lives for a reason. I'm not sure if I believe that's true. The thought of God weaving millions of lives together into a grand human tapestry seems a bit fatalistic to me. Still, as I look back at my life, it seems at times when such divinity is apparant. None is more obvious to me than that winter evening when I met a beautiful young woman named Macy and there ensued the extraordinary chain of events that encounter set in place. Of course such a theory carried to the extreme would mean that God sabotaged my car that night because, had my car's timing belt not broken at that precise moment, this story never would have happened. But it did, and my life was forever changed. Perhaps my mom was right. If God can align the planets, maybe He can do the same to our lives."
So begins the wonderful Christmas love story of two people Mark Smart and Macy Wood. Mark's mom recently was killed in a car accident and his relationship with his father is troubled. Macy can barely remember her birth parents and she would like to forget the family she was adopted by. All she has is a Christmas ornament with the name "Noel" on it. This was the only clue to the younger sister she barely remembers. This clue leads Mark and Macy on a journey of restoration of the past and of both their families.

In the Epilogue Mark brings completion to the story.
"There are stories, Christmas stories that are stored away like boxes of garlands and frosted glass ornaments, to be brought out and cherished each year. I've come to believe my story is a Christmas story. For it has forever changed the way I see Christmas. That season I learned perspective, for Joseph the carpenter and Stuart the auto mechanic both raised someone else's son. We don't know much about Joseph; the Bible tells us little. But I've gained a new respect for the man."
And he goes on to say that in the first Christmas story it was a story of searching. Mary and Joseph sought in Bethlehem a place to start their own family, the three wise men searched for the King of Kings, and "the shepherds sought a child in a place most familier to them: a manger." And that we search for the familiar every year when we experience the food and traditions of Christmas.

So this Christmas start the tradition of reading and make your own Christmas memories to revisit year after year. Join a reading group, read alone, read to and with your family during this Christmas time. The important thing is to read. It's your choice.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Movies from books: Winter Edition

I was browsing through my stacks this morning and found The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, which I only knew as a Brad Pitt movie I was sure I didn't want to see. So I flipped open the book and found out that it was a reworking of F. Scott Fitzgerald's short story from Tales of the Jazz Age. About an old man that ages in reverse, who starts out five feet eight inches tall and is forced by his father to play with a rattle--"whereupon the old man took it with a weary expression and could be heard jingling it obediently at intervals throughout the day." The short story looks so good that I can't wait to see the movie now. Other movies on my list after reading the book:

The movie: The Watchmen to be released 6 March 2009
The website: http://watchmenmovie.warnerbros.com
The book: graphic novel, The Watchmen by Alan Moore

The synopsis: The title of the graphic novel comes from the Latin quote "Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?" which is most often translated as "Who watches the watchmen?". For someone who usually thinks of graphic novels as "light reading" this particular one proved me wrong. In the Watchmen world, superheroes are reviled, in part because of their methods. While deconstructing the superhero ethos, Moore also manages to speak on such mundane topics as childhood trauma, depression, and spousal abuse. This graphic novel is not for children.

The movie: Twilight in theatres now
The website: http://www.twilightthemovie.com
The book: Twilight by Stephanie Meyer

The synopsis: Vampire stories have been around since 1047, but it wasn't until John Polidori's "The Vampyre" published in 1819, that vampires were brought to the English speaking world. The most unique aspect about Meyer's vampires is not the love story (although that is why teen girls read it), its the sparkly vampires. They can be awake during the day, but can't be in too much sunshine, lest the show their diamond skin to the world. Intended for young adults, this should be a fun and easy read for anyone interested in the subject.

The movie: City of Ember in theaters now
The website: http://www.cityofember.com
The book: City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau

The synopsis: If the last one was just for young adults but a good read for us adults, City of Ember is really just for kids. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't read it. As an adult, I appreciated the possibilities of this book about an underground city that doesn't understand its origins. They believe that Ember always was and that canned goods are the way that food comes. At one point Lina, the 12 year old protagonist, has a discussion with another character about what pineapple must have tasted like--the last can was eaten so long ago. The book and subsequent sequels make me pine for a version written for adults, but until then I can glean things from the books that I don't think children are able to, such as the underpinnings of what it would have taken for someone to create a city like Ember.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Resource Spotlight: Auto Repair Reference Center

Are you interested in performing routine maintenance on your car yourself, but aren't really sure where to start?

Are you an accomplished home mechanic, but need to track down a specific wiring diagram to finish up a tricky repair job?

Do you want to check to see if there have been any manufacturer's service bulletins on a used car you're considering purchasing?

Then take a look at the Auto Repair Reference Center, available from any internet-enabled computer with your Arlington Public Library Card!

Content includes:
• Approximately 31,660 vehicles, from 1945 to present
• Over 205,000 drawings and step-by-step photographs
• Approximately 75,000 technical service bulletins & recalls
• Over 130,000 enhanced wiring diagrams for easy viewing and printing
• Specifications & maintenance schedules
• Labor Time Guide & Estimator
• AutoIQ – Detailed content, full-motion video and animated technical diagrams
• Quick Tips – a complete guide to vehicle ownership & maintenance

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Reference question of the month: Judge a book by its what?

As a librarian, people of all kinds come to me and ask: what book should I read next? Often I give them Novelist or a subject guide on inspirational fiction, but not when people come in with assignments. Specifically, when there is not a specific book that they need to read but a book on a certain subject, say historical fiction, or asian recipes, or bears. In that case, I guide them to look with their eyes before they read one word. Now this is contrary to what I (and many others) were taught when they were young. And sure, I've found books that I was sure were chick lit only to find the were literary fiction, and I've found those that you were sure were historical but found out they were science fiction, but on the whole I can tell what a book is about based on the cover. Now this isn't to say that I won't like books with ugly covers, but what usually happens is I will read a book with a nice cover by the same author, then go and read his or her other works.

If you feel the same as me you may be inspired to read the following:

Things I've Learned From Women Who've Dumped Me
edited by Ben Karlin
I read this book before The Book Design Review named it one of the the top book covers of 2008. Its a series of essays written by the likes of Stephen Colbert, Bob Odenkirk, and Will Forte. If that sounds like a Comedy Central lineup, its because Karlin is a former executive producer of The Daily Show. My favorite essay is "Women are Never Too Young to Mess With Your Head", in which Larry Wilmore, who is currently serving as the "Senior Black Correspondent" on The Daily Show, describes his infant daughter's refusal to do anything but cry when her dad takes care of her, to the point where he has to hire a babysitter to watch her while he's there.

One Red Paperclip, or, How an ordinary man achieved his dreams with the help of a simple office supply
Kyle MacDonald
To be honest, I believe that I read this book after it was named by The Book Design Review as one of the top book covers of 2007. But it is still an amazing story. He blogged that he would trade a paperclip for anything. Someone offered a fish pen. The fish pen became a door knob, the door knob became a Coleman stove and so on and so forth until he got a whole house out of the deal! And checking on his website he is trading the house now!

Born Standing Up
Steve Martin
What struck me about this cover is not the almost bleakness of it, but the fact that the title of the book is almost a pun juxtaposed to the photo of him where he looks like he is falling down. In his interview on NPRs Fresh Air show, he conveyed how much of what he was doing when he first started stand up was not comedy, but more performance art. I think this cover conveys that.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Deweying it by the numbers: 200s

When Melville Dewey set up his system, the world was a much different place. Not only were there no computers, microwaves or airplanes, there weren't even automobiles! The time was 1876 and the majority of Americans were Christian. So when Dewey set up his system, Christianity was the most important subject in the 200s: religion. Even today the United States is still 78% Christian. If you look at what Dewey believed to be the other important religions at the time he recognized: Greek and Roman Religion, Germanic religion (think Thor and Odin), Buddhism, Judaism, Islam, Bahai, Zorastrianism, and a grab bag of Other Religions at 299 or misc.).

One book that I've read recently that encompasses all religions is Religious Literacy: what every American needs to know--and doesn't by Stephen Prothero. It proposes that religious studies should start in junior high and high school. To back this up he gives his students at the religion department at Boston University a test--one in which they resoundly fail. Most in this religious studies class can't name all four Gospels. The book itself is more of a clearly written history of religious literacy with a large glossary of religious terms at the end a la Cultural literacy : what every American needs to know by E.D. Hirsch, which my 11th grade English teacher used to test us every week on everything from Moby Dick to Ophelia. In fact, one school in California has a mandatory religion course that Prothero believes the rest of the country should model.

I really like the idea of both of these books, with lists of terms to memorize and learn from (hey I aced 11th grade!), although their has been criticism of this method of lists. Who decides what is on the list of what is religious or cultural literacy? And just because you know the names of the four gospels, does that mean you understand the meaning and context of them? One thing is for sure: I've got some studying to do.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Anathem: Soundtracks for books?!?!?

I've recently been reading Anathem by Neal Stephenson, an epic length 937 page book about a group of devout monks that study math and the heavens - in an alternate universe of course. I've spent so much time ruminating on the protaganist, Erasmas, and his quest to understand the universe, that I did a quick Google search about the book to enhance my understanding of the book. Its kind of a tough read. The book is divided into distinct sections so it feels like I have been reading wildly different books with the same characters. The first part has our monks in their monastary, studying and learning which includes some heady philosophical questions couched in quantum theory and cosmological study (not to say the book is not readable--just weighty at times--one reviewer called it "philosophy extreme sports"). The second part is this sort of bumbling humorous adventure; the third, an almost Jack London Arctic trek, the next a political tale about aliens... and well I'm not done with the book yet. And to my surprise Stephenson's website has a wealth of information, including a soundtrack to listen to as you read the book (downloadable here). I had never heard of a soundtrack to a book! The music is chanting, inspired by Eastern Buddhist and Western Monastical traditions.

I did some research and dug up other books that have soundtracks, that might help you get through that next book. I know I will probably need the soundtrack to finish this one. If you like this list, check out Amazon's "hear the soundtrack to your favorite book" list for more suggestions, or to find mixtape suggestions from authors check out the Book Notes Archive.

The Black Angel
John Connolly
The book itself includes a cd that has Kate Bush, Neko Case, and more.

The Book of Lies
Brad Meltzer
This soundtrack starts of with REM and Five for Fighting and ends with Mahler and Elgar. Very eclectic and can be found on Meltzer's website.

Omar Tyree (Urban Griot)
As you might expect, Omar Tyree's soundtrack is filled with with rap and r&b. It looks like the cd is no longer available, but you can check out the discography on Blackauthors.com.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Resource Spotlight: EBSCOhost

EBSCOhost is a powerful online collection of databases accessible at home using your library card. It offers 35 databases with some being in full text. The databases range from MasterFILE which has such popular magazines as Real Simple and Fortune in full text, to Academic Search Complete for use during those school projects when you need peer-reviewed journals. Other databases include health, history, legal, military, science and technology databases.
Included with the EBSCOhost database is a collection of photos for use with papers and school projects including flags, maps, historical places and more! It even has recent photos taken for newspapers available for your non-commercial use.

EBSCOhost recently revamped their look making magazines and journals easier to find as well as a visual search that helps you visually narrow your topic down from the generic to specific, making sure you find the right article for you to look at. EBSCOhost 2.0 also has the following new features:

  • A new simpler basic searching screen
  • The ability to preview an article or image by mouseover
  • New result list
  • New detail display
  • New search history capability
  • Enhanced personalization features
  • New organization of limiters and expanders
  • New search modes including SmartText
  • URLs that can be bookmarked

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Good Grounds For Books - November Meeting

This morning was the second meeting of the Woodland West Branch's Good Grounds For Books group. Our group members come from such different backgrounds (a former lawyer, a children's librarian, a retired Air Force pilot) that our selections are just as diverse as our lives. The atmosphere is very relaxed and inviting, and the free coffee and biscotti helps, too. Here are some of the titles and authors we shared:

Robyn suggested mystery author Donna Leon. Leon writes a series of novels featuring Venetian detective Guido Brunetti. Robyn described Leon's Venice, Italy as very atmospheric and sure to draw you in.

Jane, who is one of the most voracious readers I have ever met, brought us a wonderful list of titles that include Love Medicine by Louise Erdrich (suggested last month by Pete), Caribbean by James Michener, and Elements of Style by Wendy Wasserstein.

Pete and Laureen recently made a trip to Austin for the Texas Book Festival. Both came back with titles they had discovered at TBF. Pete shared a collection of humorous essays entitled The Customer Is Always Wrong, edited by Jeff Martin. In it, writers share their real-life experiences of, as Pete put it, "time served behind the counter" at various retail businesses. Laureen's TBF discovery was Hey Ranger 2 by Jim Burnett. Hey Ranger 2 is the second volume in a collection of humorous anecdotes that take place in various National Parks. Campers and non-campers alike should really enjoy this one. Laureen also suggested Caldecott Celebration: Seven Artists and Their Path to the Caldecott Medal. She especially recommends the story of how Robert McCloskey came to write Make Way For Ducklings.

Joyce recommended Shadow Diver's and Titanic's Last Secret: The Further Adventures of Shadow Divers John Chatterton and Richie Kohler, both by Robert Kurson. The Diane Rehm show on NPR featured a great interview with Robert Kurson about Titanic's Last Secret and how and why the Titanic really sank.

Ron said he loves everything by David Baldacci because he doesn't load his books down with violence or bad language. He also recommended reading the non-fiction book The Apocalypse of Ahmadinejad by Mark Hitchcock to get a better understanding of Iran before reading Joel Rosenberg's novels.

I focused my selections mainly on graphic novels for teens. I read The Plain Janes and Janes In Love written by Cecil Castellucci and illustrated by Jim Rugg. This is a fully-engaging story about a girl who survives a terrorist-like attack and uses her horrible experience to form a group of local artists into the P.L.A.I.N. Janes. I also read Richard Matheson's short story collection Button, Button: Uncanny Stories. Matheson's stories are spare and eerily frightening without being gorey.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Neiman Marcus

Every year Neiman Marcus's Christmas Book is a feast for the eyes (and pocketbook!). This year you can buy such mundane things as edible gold (starting at $40) all the way up to a Jack Nicklaus Custom Backyard Course Package where for, starting at $1 million dollars, Jack will design a golf course just for you.

To get into the Neiman Marcus spirit, check out Shopgirl, by Steve Martin. The writing can be a tad dry (Publishers Weekly considered it "neither a triumph nor a disaster"), but the story of a lonely girl at a service desk that no one goes to is intriguing. Martin's prose is compelling, but do not read this book and expect a lot of humor.
For those that are yearning for the delicious culinary offerings of Neiman Marcus, check out Neiman Marcus Taste: timeless American recipes. It offers over 110 recipes from potato and bacon soup to the more classic garlic and herb monkey bread.

Monday, October 20, 2008

A Personal Library To Top Them All

When I was about 6 or 7 years old, I was convinced that I would be able to read every single book in the world (assuming I lived to at least 90, of course). It didn't take me very long to realize that I would probably never accomplish that goal, seeing as how I might need to learn a few dozen more languages.

Instead, I decided to concentrate on building my own library of books. When I was in middle school, I had a fairly small collection (maybe 100 titles) that I arranged in alphabetical order. On a sheet of lined notebook paper I created a sort of spreadsheet that included categories for "Person's Name", "Book Title", "Book Author", "Date Checked Out", "Date Returned." I then told my younger brothers that they were allowed to check out one book at a time from my personal library. Today, I still categorize my books, but I now have a few more than back then and I let my brothers check titles out without any paperwork involved.

Although I know I will never read every book ever written, in my mind I still imagine that one day I will build an addition to my house (which does not exist because I live in an apartment) with a library to rival this one:

New Englander James Walker has built a 3,600 square foot personal library to rival even some of the most well-known and beautifully curated public libraries in the world. Not only does Mr. Walker have editions of rare books (such as the 1493 Nuremberg Chronicle), he has an amazing collection of artifacts (from the Nazis' Enigma machine to pieces of the Sikhote-Alin meteorite).

Please click on the photo above to see more images and to read more about Mr. Walkers library.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Good Grounds For Books

This morning, Woodland West Branch hosted the first meeting of a new daytime book group called Good Grounds For Books and was, if I do say so myself, a terrific success. Held the third Wednesday of each month from 11am to 12pm, Good Grounds For Books is not your typical book group. We do not assign a specific book to read. Instead, we brew a fresh pot of coffee, munch on some biscotti, and talk about our favorite reads.

As fun as it is to read and discuss the same book, it turns out that it's even more fun to simply bring the latest book you've read (as I did) or a list of what you've read in the last couple of weeks (as a few others did) and just talk books. Armed with pen and paper (and plenty of caffeine), we each jotted down titles that sounded intriguing as group members gushed or ranted. Here are just a few of the books we talked about:

Laureen (Woodland West's Children's Librarian
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

The River of Doubt by Candice Millard

Rebecca’s Tale by Sally Beauman

Off Season by Anne River Siddons

Love Medicine and The Plague of Doves by Louise Erdrich

Giants in the Earth by O.E. Rolvaag
Back When We Were Grownups by Anne Tyler
The Jungle by Upton Sinclair
Babbitt by Sinclair Lewis

The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2008 edited by Dave Eggers

Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling
The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
The Hot Zone by Richard Preston

Friday, October 3, 2008

Arranged marriages and books

I came across a review of Marrying Anita: a quest for love in the new India during my perusal of the August 31 edition of the New York Times Book Review and immediately thought of the multiple chick-lit type books that show arranged marriages in a new, fresh light. I've read many of them, so this non-fiction version would surely appeal to me.

Anita decided to spend a year in India after she wrote an article for New York magazine asking if arranged marriages were really any worse than Craigslist. Are they? I don't know. But I like delving into another world, where mendhi tattoos are the norm for brides and everyone is wrapped in silk (and parents who want the best for their children in ways not usually seen in the United States).

Fiction like Marrying Anita:

The Mistress of Spices by Chitra Divakaruni
For Matrimonial Purposes by Kavita Daswani
The Hindi-Bindi Club by Monica Pradhan
Goddess for Hire by Sonia Singh

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Banned Books Week roundup

Every year, books are challenged as being offensive to someone. Most of these challenges occur in public schools. My favorite banned book? I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou. Her story is a sad and compelling one about a woman that started with very little in life and ended up being one of the most remarkable poets of the 20th century (and today!). Check out these links for more banned book goodness:

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Deweying it by the Numbers: 100s

Job Stress (158.7) and dreams (135.3), along with philosophy (180s) and Self Help (158)--The 100s are all about you and your life.

Job Stress has been in the news a lot lately. One Microsoft executive blamed job stress as one of the reasons she embezzled $1 million from the company, while the Center for Disease Control and Prevention says that job stress is really bad for your health.

Books to read on job stress:

The Inner Game of Work by W. Timothy Gallwey
The Truth about Burnout : how organizations cause personal stress and what to do about it by Christina Maslach
Stress for Success: the proven program for transforming stress into positive energy at work by James E. Loehr

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Money Mortgage Melancholy

With AIG, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, WaMu, and possibly others, the mortgage crisis is still very much underway. The New York Times has an interactive graphic that really puts it into perspective for me: $1 trillion has been lost so far. So money and mortgages have been on my mind. Take a look at some of these books to find some money peace of mind:
Every time Suze Orman is on the tv, I stop and take a look. She always makes sense even if she can be a little rough on her guests. With her books I get comprehensive guides on money. This one includes information about mortgages.
With all of the homes foreclosing, it is interesting to look at a book about increasing the value of your home. I don't know if I have the time to take all of her suggestions, but still an interesting read.
Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert T. Kiyosaki

Everyone asks for this book. To know it is to love it. Its a New York Times bestseller, spawned dozens of other books, and you can even buy the board game.
Along with Orman and Kiyosaki, Ramsey is one of those financial gurus that people hang on their every word. His bestselling book, Financial Peace, was updated a couple of years ago with more information on marriage, singles, kids and families. And now with Ramsey's show so popular, he's even made an online "university" (there is a free preview lesson). But why pay money to find out how to save money? Just read his and others books at the library!

Friday, September 12, 2008

Presenting Powerfully

Presentations are everywhere. I posted earlier about the book, Presentation Zen, and said how remarkable it was. Well I got to put it into practice this week when my child had to do a Powerpoint for his technology class. He liked having a different background for each slide, and he said that my presentations for work were too "professional."

If he thinks that my presentations were too professional then he definitely hasn't seen what is out on the Internet. I recently received an email from slideshare.net about their World's Best Presentation 2008 contest. The top winner (Thirst) is an awesome combination of words and images. Enough so that it made me want to read more about the subject and see if the facts presented are correct. My next books to read are going to be about water:

Monday, September 8, 2008

Celebrity Reads!

These days everywhere I look, there is something on a billboard, or magazine, or television screen that tells me exactly what is going on in celebrities lives. Sometimes I am utterly fascinated, most times not (although I have watched my occasional reality show--even watching a design show on Style network about a reality television star's house makeover).

However, it is really fascinating to me about what a celebrity reads. Why did they choose that book? Who Reads What? doesn't answer all of my questions, but it does give me more books to read. The list is compiled by Gardiner Public Library in Gardiner, Maine and features people from Pat Boone to Jeff Foxworthy. The latter recommends the Bible: "It starts off with a bang and has many fascinating chapters. The ending is a page turner too!"

My favorite is Johnny Cash's choice of two Edna St. Vincent Millay's books: Collected Poems and A Few Figs from Thistles. The man in black likes poetry!

Friday, August 8, 2008

Dog Days of Summer

The dog days of summer are here and the heat has taken its toll. All I want to do is lay around and read or listen to my mp3 player. The best of both worlds are the downloadable audiobooks or the mp3-cds that I can listen to and while away the hours. If you haven't tried them yet, they are wonderful. Through Overdrive or Netlibrary (available through the library website), I can download books to listen to on my mp3 player. With the mp3-cds, I can listen to the cds in my car while driving without having to download them. For some reason, I've tried new authors and genres with the audios, and I have discovered some new favorites.

Robert Dugoni writes stories that are similar to John Grisham, and I found myself not wanting to turn off the car to listen to just a little more of the action.

J.D. Robb writes a futurisitic cop series with a female lead that is set about 50 years in the future. The good thing about this series is that there are currently over 25 titles in the series so I have many hours of pleasurable listening to look forward to.

Stephanie Laurens is another prolific writer who pens historical romances. She has several series, the most recognized one being about the Cynster family. Fiesty heroines, commanding leading men and a dash of sensuality -- makes those hot days a little warmer.

I've even dabbled in some non-fiction titles, primarily histories or biographies. Barack Obama's biography was intriguing, and I really enjoyed learning about the culture of Afghanistan in "Kabul Beauty School: an American Woman Goes Behind the Veil" by Deborah Rodriguez.

So, take the heat out of the hot days of summer with some frosty and enjoyable audios. There's no bookmarks to lose and no heavy lifting with mp3-cds or downloadable audiobooks.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

End of Summer Reading

Summer reading is at an end, and I am truly exhausted. Last year I read 40 books, but this year I managed to only read 25. That ends up being about 3 books a week. I know that sounds like a tremendous amount, but it is my number one past time. I read an hour before bed each night and also find time to read while watching (listening to) tv, eating, and even sometimes at traffic lights. Its an addiction. I also took the easy way out this year and read around 10 romance novels and 10 science fiction novels. I wasn't reading Proust or any heavy literature, that is for sure! I am sure, however, that I will get on one of those kicks again when I see another best 100 books list such as Entertainment Weekly's The 100 best reads from 1983 to 2008 (I've read 20) or Modern Library's 100 Best Novels of All Time (I've read 12 of the editors picks, 29 of the readers). And if I really want to make myself feel better about percentages of books read, I can always take a look at the top 100 science fiction--I've read 45 of those.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Read Fiction and Learn

Reading fiction can be a motivator to read nonfiction. I have just finished reading Loving Frank by Nancy Horan, which is the August selection for the Southeast Arlington Book Discussion Group. It's a novel based on the true story of the affair between Mamah Borthwick Cheney and the architect Frank Lloyd Wright. My undergraduate degree is in architecture so I am familiar with Wright as an architect but less about his personal life. He lived to be 92 so the events of the book occur when he was in his forties.
Wright designed the Edwin H. Cheney house in 1903 and this was how Cheney and Wright met. Wright who was married at the time and Cheney both went off to Europe together in 1909 leaving their families and children behind. This created a scandal at the time. Wright went to Europe to get a book published of his early work, which was published in 1911. I personally and also the library owns an English reprint edition titled The Early Work of Frank Lloyd Wright= The "Ausgefuhrte Barten of 1911." Cheney was divorced by her husband while she was away. Upon their return to America, Cheney and Wright lived together in the home he called "Taliesan". There the story ends in 1914 and I don't want to give the ending away, but it really happened. You will need to read the novel to see how true life can inspire great reading.

I invite everyone to come on August 21st at 7:00pm when we will be discussing the book here at the Southeast Branch. In preparation for the book discussion I did some Internet searching to get more background information about the book. The following links were informative.



So enjoy your fiction and use it to motivate you to read what it was based upon. The library has a lot books about Frank Lloyd Wright for you to learn more about the Frank of the novel. Here is just a few:

Frank Lloyd Wright by Meryle Secrest

Many Masks: The Life of Frank Lloyd Wright by Brendan Gill.

Picturing Wright: an album from Frank Lloyd Wright's Photographer. by Pedro Guerro.

Frank Lloyd Wright: The Interactive portfolio. by Margo Stipe.

The library also has two VHS titles.

Frank Lloyd Wright PBS

The Homes of Frank Lloyd Wright A&E

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Summer Reading Club: Reviews Anonymized

Woodland West patrons are reviewing SO MANY BOOKS that I can't keep up!

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See

“At the suggestion of the librarian, I listened to this book on tape – very helpful with many Chinese words. With all eyes on Beijing and the Olympic, this book gave a picture of Chinese culture and history set in 1832. It is the story of two girls whose lives and life experiences are shared. Good book for book clubs to discuss.”
God’s Smuggler by Brother Andrew

“This amazing autobiography retells Brother Andrew’s missionary journeys behind the ‘Iron Curtain’. This is proof how the love of Christ shines bright in the darkest of times. You won’t be able to put it down.”
Heaven is Real by Don Piper

“Heaven is Real is a very inspiring book about a courageous man. Whether or not you believe his story about Heaven, his recovery from a terrible accident and his will to carry on is a story to inspire anyone recovering from physical or emotional injury and pain.”

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Summer is almost over

Thank you all who have participated in the Summer Reading Club. For those of you who haven't, we still have a couple of weeks left so get your reading logs in!

If you are stumped on what to read, of course use our Novelist service, but you might want to take a look at Booklamp, who says that soon their software will be able to predict what books you will want to read next based on similar levels of action, amount of description, dialog, tense and perspective. It is only in Beta right now, so there are not many books in the database (and frankly, most of them are science fiction).

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Garfunkel fan?

I always like to hear what the rich and famous are reading. And if you are an Art Garfunkel fan then this is your treasure trove.

Since the 1960's, Art Garfunkel has been a voracious reader. We are pleased to present a listing of every book Art has read over the last 40 years. To view a list of Art Garfunkel's favorite books, go to Favorites. This book list has been divided into several pages to allow easy downloading. Each page indicates the author, title, date of publication and number of pages (when available).
Link via Boing Boing

Friday, July 11, 2008

Summer Reading Club: Reviews part Deux

Valencia C., one of our valued readers from Woodland West, submitted the following reviews:

The Doomsday Conspiracy by Sidney Sheldon
“The Doomsday Conspiracy is a wonderful book that gives great details on how we are not the only living beings in the great universe. Sidney Sheldon really did his research when it comes to this novel.”
Hide by Lisa Gardner
“This book was very detailed and filled with suspense. It kept me on the edge of my seat and it took me through an array of emotions. During the book, I was able to feel and understand various perspectives from three of the primary characters. Hide was so well written and organized, it took the reader to various levels of life, love, forgiveness, and, most of all, happiness, a right we all share.”

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Deweying It by the Numbers: 000s

There are only a couple of categories in the 000s that people even look at: the computers (at 004 and 005), encyclopedias (at 032), and journalism (at 070). Out of these, computer books are our most popular.

I have really been poring over computer books recently. By far, the one that I am in love with is Presentation Zen: simple ideas on presentation design and delivery, written by Garr Reynolds. Basically, the central theme of the book is that slides should support the presenter, not replace the presenter. If you want to "check out" the book before you check it out at the library, take a look at Reynold's presentation tips on his website.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Summer Reading Club: Reviews from you!

Denise Ann Hanna, one of our patrons participating in the summer reading club, reviewed two Nicholas Sparks books for us, The Notebook and The Wedding:

Easy Reading--I fell in love with being in love once again, and couldn't put the book down. I didn't want to anyway! I love the way Nicholas Sparks tells a love story.
A review of the Garden of Last Days, by Andre DuBois, comes to us from Tricia deWinter:

The Garden of Last Days is a fascinating page turner set in Florida just before 9/11. The interweaving characters and their connected plot lines make for a compelling story. This is as good as DuBois' other work, The House of Sand and Fog.
Thank you for submitting your reading logs and keep reading!

Friday, June 27, 2008

I Am A Native Texan

I am a native Texan and proud of it. I can trace my roots back to Stephen F. Austin's first 300 settler families. I even have license plates that proclaim me to be a native. ( I tell everyone the special plates help support the preservation of the Alamo, but that's secondary -- really it's just pride talking) And, I desperately wanted my children to be Texans, too. But, (thanks to the U.S. Navy) they were born in Louisiana so they are transplanted Texans. So, whenever I can find a novel with Texas as the place of action, I stop and take a second look.

The last book I read with Texas characters was The Ex-Debutante by Linda Francis Lee. Carlisle Wainwright Cushing left Willow Bend, Texas as soon as she was granted her license to practice law. She's spent the last three years in Boston, practicing law, dating a Yankee and reveling in her anonymity from her privileged Southern background. Now, her mother is dragging her back to town to help with the latest divorce. Once back in town, Carlisle learns that unless she takes the reins for the 100th debutante ball that has always been sponsored by the Wainwright family, the local symphony will be disbanded since the ball provides the capital to operate the symphony. The final straw comes when Carlisle leans the the opposing attorney in the divorce suit is her former boyfriend whom she left without a forwarding address when she fled to Boston. As she quotes Michael Corleone from the Godfather III movie, "Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in." Carlisle's attempts to find debs for a ball that no one wants to participate in, disentangle her mother from her marriage without losing her social standing, and not fall back in love with an ex-flame form the nucleus of a funny and smart book that explores the crazy things we all do for the sake of family.

Other books similar to The Ex-Debutante include:
My Big Old Texas Heartache by Geralyn Dawson
Alamo House by Sarah Bird
Lone Star Cafe by Lisa Wingate
Lady be Good by Susan Elizabeth Phillips
Blue Blood by Susan McBride
Not Another Bad Date by Rachel Gibson

So, pick up a book about my favorite state and spend a lazy summer day reading.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Summer Reading Club: No Time to Read?

Think you don't have time to read this summer? Think again. Try some flash fiction that is only six words long. Or for a little longer reading, try Flash Fiction Forward. The book has 80 very short stories, from Dave Eggers to John Updike.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Deweying It by the Numbers: Introduction

This library and most public and school libraries in the country use the Dewey Decimal Classification System for their non-fiction books. There has been a move by some in the library world to drop the system. I know that some might find the string of numbers confusing, but it is actually one of the better ways to classify books out there, especially when it comes to finding a particular book or a particular subject.

Here is a breakdown of the basic Dewey list:

The Ten Main Classes

000 Computer science, information & general works
100 Philosophy & psychology
200 Religion
300 Social sciences
400 Language
500 Science
600 Technology
700 Arts & recreation
800 Literature
900 History & geography

Over the next couple of weeks I will be writing on how I find the Dewey Decimal System useful, starting with the 000s all the way to the 900s (and then back to biographies, which, while 92s, are shelved separately). For a really in-depth treatment of Dewey on a blog, check out 025.431 The Dewey Blog (025.431 is the Dewey Decimal Subject for, you guessed it, the Dewey Decimal Classification).

Monday, June 23, 2008

Summer Reading Club: Romance Novels

The Summer Reading Club is in full swing, and I have had time barely to read five books. That is all that you need to complete an entry into the Adult Summer Reading Club drawing, as well as a free book coupon to the next Friends of the Library book sale and (while supplies last) a free map or other item in our box of "goodies". If you are on the road a lot this summer, or don't have time to read, you can also listen to audiobooks.

I read a variety of books, but I've been focusing mainly on romance novel and chick lit type books. After this, I am going to read some science fiction novels. I am a sucker for genre books.

Certain Girls: a novel by Jennifer Weiner
This is a follow up to Good in Bed, the book that put Jennifer Weiner on the map. I loved this book. It was a smart update of what happens to the heroine thirteen years after the first book when its time for her daughter to have a bat mitzvah.

Secrets by Jude Deveraux

I've loved Jude Deveraux ever since I read Knight in Shining Armor when I was a teenager (gave me a love of time travel as well as romance novels). But her foray into psuedo romantic mysteries and supernatural romance has not had me impressed. Secrets does a better job than most of her recent books have of keeping my interest. The love interest is a secret agent and the nanny of his daughter, who is our heroine, doesn't know it. Misunderstandings over this basic plot fuel the rest of the book.

No Choice But Seduction by Johanna Lindsey
Another novel in the ongoing series about the Malory family. I really do love Johanna Lindsey (I used to own every one of her books in first edition), but it can get annoying with her having to describe every single person who is in the main character's family.

Bellwether by Connie Willis
Not an actual romance or chick lit novel, but the closest thing to it that Connie Willis, an award winning science fiction author, has. The book is about a scientist that studies fads only to find that sometimes only chaos has the answers. She has two love interests, one rancher who spends more time on the internet than with his sheep, and a scientist she works with who might be "immune" to fads.

Undead and Unworthy by MaryJanice Davidson
I haven't read this particular novel in her Queen Betsy series, but I just picked it up yesterday and can't wait to read it. This series brought the supernatural to romance novels, in this case with vampires and werewolves. Trying not finding a supernatural romance novel now can be daunting.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Be Sure To Watch and Read

From personal experience television and movies can be a motivator to read. I watched a television production of Why Didn’t They Ask Evans? and it opened a whole new world of Agatha Christie mystery novels. They are entertaining and keep you guessing. At home now I probably have all of her novels in paperback and some in hardback. Another popular Christie book is And then There Were None which also goes by the title of Ten Little Indians. In the movie versions they take artistic license and change the ending. The book has a different ending where…well you will have to read the book to find out.

Another example was the Masterpiece Theater production of A Town like Alice based on the Nevil Shute novel. This is a wonderful story set during and after World War II about Jean Paget, who was working in Malaya when the Japanese invaded. She meets a young Australian soldier, Joe Harmon, who helps her and her fellow prisoners. He is punished by the Japanese and she thinks he has died. She survives the war and inherits money and decides to go back and build a well in a village where the people sheltered her. There she learns that Joe is still alive and she travels to the town of Alice Springs, Australia, where Joe lived before the war. In the meantime Joe has heard that Jean survived the war, and he goes to England looking for her. Jean’s solicitor Noel Strachan tells him she is in Australia and they both meet again in Australia in the town of Willstown. Noel visits Jean in Australia where she is using some of her inheritance to start a business and make Willstown a “Town like Alice”. Jean and Joe fall in love again and eventually marry and in the meantime Noel returns back to England. It is a love story with a bittersweet ending. Noel as her solicitor sums up in the last sentence of the book the story and his own unfulfilled love for Jean. “Of a girl that I met forty years too late, and the life in that small town that I shall never see again, that holds so much of my affection.”

When I watch and get interested in a television series, such as watching them on video or DVD, I will track down books written about the shows to provide a guide to watch. I have read such books as Colombo Phile by Mark Dawidziak, Alfred Hitchcock Presents by John McCarty and Gunsmoke: an American Institution by Ben Costello.

When I watched the movie The Ghost and the Darkness I tracked down a copy of the book it was based on The Man-eaters of Tsavo by John Henry Patterson. It’s the true story of two lions that attacked and killed over 130 of the builders of the Uganda-Mombasa Railway in 1898. Lieutenant Colonel John Henry Patterson was successful in killing the lions. The movie is loosely based on the book so to get the real story you need to read the book.

So the next time you watch a show on television or see a movie, check to see if it was based on a story or book, and then read it. You might be surprised to find out that the book is better.

Posted by David J.

Monday, May 12, 2008

It's a Mystery to Me

Jacqueline Winspear's Maisie Dobbs series is always a good read-the latest is An Incomplete Revenge. Maisie travels to the country to check out a property an old friend wishes to purchase and finds more going on than she bargained for. Winspear's books do a great job of transporting you back to a different time and place. Maisie is one of my all time favorite characters.

Elaine Flinn's new Molly Doyle mystery Deadly Vintage is her typical Doyle adventure-Molly hoping a new business deal will pan out and murder (of a very nasty fellow) happening instead. What I like about Molly is her Carmel setting-she makes it sound like such a charming small town and the antiques stuff-this mystery seemed a little light on the antique info but still a good mystery.

Susan Kandel's biography writing sleuth Cece Caruso is writing a biography of Agatha Christie. Cece gets roped into writing a play for the opening of Christietown, an entire community based on Agatha Christie's Miss Marple's village. What a hoot! Of course someone gets murdered-and gee they think someone named Christie did it! Kandel is always funny and if you love Agatha Christie you would get a kick out of this book.




posted by Linda S.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

The Thirteenth Tale

The Thirteenth Tale, written by Diane Setterfield, is an interesting novel full of intrigue. I read it recently for the Southwest Book Group. The group is usually led by our wonderful senior reference assistant, Tamera, but she went out of town and entrusted me to carry on in her absence. While the group missed her, we had a lively discussion. For those that are interested in some of the themes of the book and what kind of discussion questions could be asked, take a look at ReadingGroupGuides.com.

As for me, I could not put the book down. When it first came out I thought it was dry and too wordy. This time around, I ended up at one o'clock in the morning with a flashlight trying to finish the book. Margaret and Vida Winter, the main characters, are at once compelling and creepy. I could not decide whether or not to like them even if I did like the book.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Murder and Mayhem!

Murder and mayhem….

I was taking my undergraduate classes at the University of Texas at Arlington. I ended up gravitating towards classes in the English Department. Up until this time in my life, I only read romance novels. I am not ashamed to admit it. But, then I took a class that changed my reading preferences. It seems like centuries ago when I took the class with Dr. Lacy.

Hard-boiled or traditional detectives, Dr. Lacy taught a class illustrating the difference between the two. I was introduced to the world of mysteries. Dr. Lacy had us compare the hard-boiled detectives in the Agatha Christie and Sherlock Holmes novels against modern authors such as Sue Grafton, and Elizabeth George. I even read the Maltese Falcon. I would NEVER have picked that up before his class. His class wasn’t easy. However, I will always remember his teaching and test methods.

Dr. Lacy taught us to pay attention to all of the details in a mystery. We played games such as Concentration or Match Game, where we had to know the details of the story and which book it was in. If you got the answer correct, he gave you a tootsie roll pop. His exams were multiple choice, however, they were quite difficult. For instance, what color was the lamp on the table in the living room? We learned to remember those details. The experience is something I will never forget.

Fast forward to 2008. Mysteries are all I read, for the most part. However, because of his class, I was encouraged to read all types of mysteries. I have read the entire Detective Kinsey Millhone, alphabet series by Sue Grafton. The series works of lawyer Ben Kincade, by William Bernhardt, or the gruesome works of Patricia Cornwell. The Inspector Linley novels of Elizabeth George, which takes place in Great Britain, and the Cat Who books of Lilian Jackson Braun. However, lately, I am reading Harlan Coben.

His mysteries are keep you at the edge of your seat. You NEVER know who did it and how it is going to end. I love his work because as the reader, you spend your time reading the book just positive you know who did it! The latest book that I read by him is The Woods. Some very bad things happened to several young adults during summer camp. As the reader you get so involved in the lives of the characters that you are trying to figure out what happens too. He has a new title out Hold Tight. I can’t wait to read this new title—even though I work at the library, I have to wait my turn just like anyone else.


Thursday, April 17, 2008

Exercising at the library

At work, I am participating in a Health and Wellness program that encourages city employees to eat right and exercise. Being at the library, I have a head start on all of the information I need about exercise and diet. Three fat chicks on a diet: because we're all in it together is an excellent book in trying to decide what diet is right for you. You get the pros and cons of each diet, guilt-free ways to snack and still stay with the program, and straight talk for making the diets work for every meal of the day from not only the authors but opinions culled from their online forum.

Once I decided what diet I wanted to try, keeping on it has been hard. One gigantic help has been the website DietFacts.com. They find the nutritional information on various store brands as well as tons of restaurant information. The best part is that they don't promote one diet over another so you can find not only carb information, but also calories. Its like having your own nutritional labels that you can read before you buy. And I couldn't get by without finding some good recipes when I have time to cook at home. I love Alton Brown's [of Food Network fame] I'm just here for the food: food + heat = cooking, because it explains why you cook certain foods in certain ways, but unfortunately, he doesn't do calorie counts. For that I can read a book such as The Good Morning America cut the calories cookbook : 120 delicious low-fat, low-calorie recipes from our viewers. Or I can also go to my favorite cooking website, Recipezaar.com, which converts all of their recipes with the calories and fat per serving.

As for exercise, the library has tons of DVDs from cardio to pilates to bellydancing! Kathy Smith is the queen of aerobics, and The rules of fat burning doesn't dissapoint with five separate workouts. Since there is such a variety of DVDs I won't get bored. Keeping to a schedule will be the hardest part.