Thursday, January 29, 2009


On this date in 1845, Edgar Allan Poe's classic poem, "The Raven", was first published in the New York Evening Mirror. It became an instant sensation, being re-printed no fewer than 16 times in various venues that year. It continues to be revisited and reinterpreted by modern artists, as in Lou Reed's 2003 CD "The Raven". The album is Reed's tribute to Poe's work, featuring rollicking songs inspired by his stories and poems along with a few direct recitations of a few key pieces. The titular version of "The Raven" is primarially a spoken-word piece fervently delivered by Willem Defoe, with a spare string arrangement filling out the corners of the track. Defoe is only one of Reed's all-star collaborators on the project, along with Ornette Coleman, Steve Buscemi, The Bind Boys of Alabama, Laurie Anderson and many others. So, happy 164th birthday, Raven. May you continue creeping us out and inspiring us in equal measure for evermore.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Resource Spotlight: NoveList

Have you read all the books your favorite authors have written? Are you waiting impatiently for them to publish a new title? Consult the NoveList Author Read-alikes for something to read in the meantime. You might just discover a “new” favorite author this way.

Or you could use the Search function on the NoveList homepage to look up a favorite title. After you click on the title from the results list that comes up, one of the options you’ll see in the Topics area is Find Similar Books. Clicking on this will bring up an interactive list of subjects for the title, that you can select or de-select as you like, then use to search for other titles.

These are just two of the features of the NoveList database. Spend some time exploring it and you are sure to come away with a list of books you’ll enjoy – books you wouldn’t have known about otherwise.

NoveList can be accessed from the library’s webpage by clicking on Research Tools, then Library Databases, then Fiction & Literary Criticism, and finally, NoveList. It can be accessed from outside the library in the same way by entering your library card number when prompted to do so.
prepared by Mary Harris

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Presidential Inaugurations

If you can stand to see more presidential inaugurations, look no further than Metafilter. They have a list of all the presidential speeches that have been on video. When I looked at Teddy Roosevelt's speech, I was confused at first because there was no sound, but quickly realized that since it was 1905, of course there wasn't any. If you are looking for the text of past inaugurations, look to If you think Obama is in any way similar to Kennedy, you might want to check out Ask not : the inauguration of John F. Kennedy and the speech that changed America by Thurston Clarke.

Monday, January 12, 2009

LOL at the library

Like pretty much everyone, I like to laugh and have a good time. I don't have cable or a DVR, so I often miss my favorite television comedies. Luckily, the library has a wide selection of books that are able to tickle my funny bone. Books are much easier to fit in my schedule as well. If you're looking for a good laugh, here are a few of my favorites....all available at the Arlington Public Library!

I am America (and so can you!)
by Stephen Colbert

Colbert provides his solutions to America's problems.

I feel bad about my neck: and other thoughts about being a woman
by Nora Ephron

In 15 comedic essays, Ephron describes the ups and downs of getting older.

Kick me: adventures in adolescence
by Paul Feig

With side-splitting humor, Feig details much of the humiliation that comes with growing up.

Are you there vodka? It's me, Chelsea
by Chelsea Handler

Chelsea shares ridiculous stories from her past about her family, career, and relationships that will make you laugh out loud.

Why we suck: a feel good guide to staying fat, loud, lazy and stupid
by Denis Leary

Leary brings a whole new meaning to "politically incorrect" as he rants about many aspects of American life.

Yes, you're pregnant, but what about me?
by Kevin Nealon

Nealon shows the funny side of becoming a first time father. This book gives the male point of view on pregnancy.

I still have it - I just can't remember where I put it: confessions of a fiftysomething
by Rita Rudner

This comic hodge-podge describes the joy of aging and the challenges of everyday life.

Me talk pretty one day
by David Sedaris

In this funny collection of essays, Sedaris tackles learning a new language.

Monday, January 5, 2009

1001 Books to Read Before You Die

Published in 2006, a British literature professor surveyed book critics, editors and academics to devise this list of so-called must reads, although they are not necessarily "the best books of all time." The description states, "For discerning bibliophiles and readers who enjoy unforgettable classic literature, 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die is a trove of reviews covering a century of memorable writing. Each work of literature featured here is a seminal work key to understanding and appreciating the written word."

Most of the list is what you would expect: Dickens, Austen, Tolstoy, etc. The most enlightening members of the list are the books published in the 20th century to the present. Some authors aren't all that surprising, like Philip Roth, Kazuo Ishiguro, and Margaret Atwood. But there are dozens of others I've never heard of - and I claim to be a librarian! Most of the books are novels, but there are a few literary nonfiction works, such as Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, and the occasional narrative verse. Longstanding members of the literary canon, like Shakespeare and Dickinson, are left out because they wrote plays and poetry, respectively. A second edition of the book published in 2008 includes more international authors (i.e., less white men).

There are several online discussion groups at social networking sites for book lovers, such as Goodreads and Shelfari, that serve the slightly OCD set like myself who can't resist this kind of list. I am a member of Goodreads, and it is great fun to engage in debates on the merits or enjoyability factor of the books on the list. But by far the most heated conversations center around what should or should not be on the list, with some members going so far as to create personalized reading lists. One really fun feature is this downloadable Excel spreadsheet that will allow you to track the books you've read from the list as well as keep a running tally of how many you'll need to read each year if you plan to finish the list before you die (assuming you live to the average life expectancy for a Western male or female).

I wouldn't suggest using the 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die as the end-all be-all of great books. There is a lot of worthwhile reading available. And even though I don't hold books from the list to the same 100-pages-or-quit standard I keep for other books, if it is a chore for me to finish a book from the list, I forget it and move on. (A recent casualty: Kim by Rudyard Kipling. I just couldn't get into it.) There's too much out there to waste time on something you have to force yourself to read. I suggest using the list as a guide to great literature you never read in school or great authors you've never considered before. Or at the very least, use the list to stimulate a conversation among ardent readers.