Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Random thoughts on new books

I am a fiction reader.  I like all types and often have several books going at once.  But, every once in a while a nonfiction book jumps out and begs to be read.  Lately, I have found several books that grabbed my attention.  So, in no particular order, here's what I've been reading.

This book was brought to my attention by the author when he was a guest on the Tonight Show.  It details the history of the planet, and explains why Pluto was demoted to a comet.  When I got to work, one of my co-workers was already reading it and he also gave it a big thumbs up.  I've since recommended it several times and everyone has come back with good comments about the book.

Davis has written several history books with the philosophy that history doesn't have to dry, dusty and boring.  His speciality is relating obscure bits that often had a bigger impact than was first realized.  A case in point is the story about Christopher Columbus in the first chapter.  Queen Isabella insisted that he take pigs on one of his voyages to the Americas so the sailors would have fresh meat.  When the sailors arrived in America, the last of the pigs were introduced to the new land.  The pigs brought new diseases which did not agree with the natives.  As Davis himself said, "... these are tales that the textbooks left out."

The millennial generation are those children born in the 1980s and 1990s.  According to Alsop, they have been raised with high expectations of personal achievement and they are the pride and joy (trophy kids) of their parents.  Now they are entering the workforce with a sense of entitlement and the intention of reshaping their job to mesh with their personal goals instead of adjusting their lives to suit the work environment.  This perspective is radically different from their older co-workers and can cause friction between the generations.  The contrasts between the generations and their perspectives of what their careers should be makes for a fascinating study of the workplace.

Fort Worth writer Guinn has penned a well-researched biography of the depression-era bank robbers Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow.  Bonnie and Clyde were poor kids from north Texas who actually robbed more gas stations and small country stores than banks.  But, because they were popularized in movies reels of the time, they gained national notoriety for their exploits.  As their fame grew, it grew harder to hide and they were eventually killed in Louisiana in an ambush while they were both in their early twenties.

Love it or hate it, Texas is known for the stereotypical flamboyant, over-the top millionaire oilmen popularized in movies such as "Giant" or the television show "Dallas."  H.L. Hunt, Roy Cullen, Sid Richardson and Clint Murchison (known as the the Big Four) more than live up to that reputation of the Texas tycoon. They wielded political, economic and social power in the Houston and Dallas-Fort Worth metro areas.  When that wasn't enough, they began influencing state and national politics with donations and deals.  An engrossing and illuminating story of big men and even bigger money, native Texan Burrough's book re-creates a time of back room deals and flashy society.


posted by Karen Hufham

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Deweying it by the numbers: 600s

The 600s are Technology or Applied Sciences, depending on where you look. All this means is the 600s aren't raw science, but science put to use. For instance, 608 is inventions (a sort of general technology), and 620 is machines. And if you dig down deeper into machines, you'll see trains at 625. But by far the most extensive collection of books in the 600s are those in the 610s--medical sciences. This is where are books on diet and excercise are kept, as well as books on specific diseases and illnesses. Today a brand new book from this section caught my eye and I thought I would share it and others like it.

I never knew anyone with any kind of cancer until recently, and I am just amazed at the temerity and tenacity of those individuals that have this life altering condition. So it is with delight that while checking in our new books I found Crazy sexy cancer survivor : more rebellion and fire for your healing journey. Kris Carr also wrote Crazy Sexy Cancer Tips a couple of years back and one reviewer wrote about that book that "If Deepak Chopra, What To Expect When You're Expecting, and Sex and the City had a love child, it would look just like Kris' Crazy Sexy Cancer Tips." And her cancer survivor book is no different. It has mini articles such as "Beat Cancer With Your Fork" and "Create a Cancer Posse." There are a couple of parts that I thought were for more specific lifestyles, such as becoming a vegetarian to beat cancer or a meditation "boot camp" but for the most part this is a book that I would recommend to anyone, cancer or not, that is looking to live life to its fullest.
For more traditional books on being a cancer survivor, one of our own staff members who is a survivor recommends The Cancer Survival Guide: practical help, spiritual hope by Kay Marshall Strom on coping from a Christian perspective, or The Complete Cancer Survival Guide, which focuses on advice from medical professionals.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Taxes are fun!

For all those tax preparers out there, check out the presidents own tax records at

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Judging a CD by its covers

One of my favorite things about music is hearing how one song can be performed and interpreted in different ways by different artists. Even if its not one of my favorite songs, its almost always interesting to hear something familiar delivered in an unexpected way. Broadly speaking, cover versions can either be faithful and reverent towards the original, as is the case with the Dub Pistols' trip-hop update of Blondie's "Rapture", or go in a completely different direction, perhaps subverting the intent of the original, like Lou Barlow's folksy take on the hair-metal classic "Round-n-Round". Occasionally artists will stretch the art of the cover version to a whole new level, as exemplified by the following CDs.

Rebuild the Wall, by Luther Wright & the Wrongs
This is a cover of an entire album, Pink Floyd's The Wall, as performed by a Country and Western band from Ontario. It sounds crazy, but if you give it half a chance it starts to make beautiful sense. The banjo-fueled sing-a-long version of "Goodbye Blue Sky" is a personal favorite, although the pedal steel flourishes on "Comfortably Numb" are quite nice as well. For a full review from the All Music Guide, check here.

Petra Haden Sings: The Who Sell Out
This is another album-length cover, but instead of doing The Who's 1967 album The Who Sell Out in a different musical style, Petra Haden performs the entire album a capella! The guitar parts, percussion, strange little interstitial bits and everything else are duplicated by her singing. Literally every sound on the album is one woman's voice, and that's pretty impressive. Her version of "Armenia City in the Sky" gives me chills. The Who's Pete Townsend is a big fan too, according to Entertainment Weekly. Check out both versions of this album, and prepare to be amazed.

Mixtape: Classical Piano Arrangements of Pop Hits, by Andrew Russo
The gimmick here is that classical pianist Andrew Russo approached a handful of leading composers of modern music and asked them to do an arrangement of their favorite popular song in their own idiosyncratic style. The result is a wide range of songs reinterpreted in an eclectic array of styles. Most of the songs, like the Velvet Underground's "All Tomorrow's Parties" and Wild Cherry's "Play that Funky Music", are instrumentals, leaving you to pick out the vocal melody from amongst the surrounding clamor. Others, like Steppenwolf's "Born to be Wild" or "Search and Destroy" by Iggy Pop & the Stooges retain the vocals, but deliver them with a completely different spin than the originals. There are also some fun reworkings of songs originally by Gary Numan, Radiohead, the B-52s, and others.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

I love magazines

I fell in love at an early age with magazines. My grandmother bought the Weekly World News and other sorts of fantastical and gossip rags. She sat all of these along with her daily newspapers on plastic tables next to her chair so she could read and watch soaps at the same time. Being at my grandmother's house during the summer was sometimes akin to being in a doctor's waiting room, long and boring and nothing Bo or Jack did on the screen could keep me entertained. To entertain myself I would wade through stories about bat kids and JR Ewing. And if I dug deep enough through her self made slush pile, I would find her Reader's Digest and take as many as I could find and horde them in my room. Sometimes they had puzzles or quizzes and sometimes the articles would be interesting, but my absolute favorite part was the jokes at the very end of each article. I would start at the back of the magazine since I only wanted the ends of the articles. I remember thinking some of the jokes were hilarious and some barely made sense to me. For instance: "classified ad: nice apartment. within walking distance of car wash and gas stations."

After awhile I didn't go to grandma's in the summer anymore and I started reading teen magazines such as Seventeen and old editions of MAD. I even did a stint as a Rolling Stone reader. Later on I became a Wired afficianado and I personally own an entire bookshelf of Martha Stewart's Living as well as a couple of well used Real Simple issues.

As a devout user of our library, I can now pick up that odd Entertainment Weekly with Jeffrey Dean Morgan on the cover and I can read Money's front page article on the Seven New Rules of Financial Security. And I owe my love of all of these to the woman who paid so much for magazines like this, and I love my library because I don't have to shell out the dough at the checkout stand at the grocery store.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Resource Spotlight: Tell Me More

Whether you're a native speaker of English who wants to learn a second language or you come from another linguistic background and want to improve your English skills, you should take a look at the library's Tell Me More resource. Tell Me More is a complete language learning solution featuring more than 2,000 hours of learning per language, including American English, Spanish, French, Italian, German and Dutch. Tell Me More allows you to set your own learning objectives, lets you focus on either business or everyday language use and select specific skills to work on. Tell Me More covers all the skills to learn a language: reading and writing, listening and speaking, grammar, and vocabulary.