Thursday, January 28, 2010

Resource Spotlight: Mango Languages

Learn a Language with your Library Card!

Did you know you can learn a new language from the Arlington Public Library’s website? The Library offers a free online service called Mango Languages that is accessible from the Library’s website.

Mango Languages uses real-life situations and conversations to teach a new language. The user listens and repeats material designed from native conversations to learn how words and phrases are used in practical situations. Currently, the Arlington Public Library offers the following languages through Mango:

  • English for Spanish Speakers
  • French
  • German
  • Spanish
  • Russian
  • Mandarin Chinese

There are two levels of learning. Mango Basic courses quickly teach basic words and phrases, helpful to travelers going on business trips and short vacations. Mango Complete courses are aimed at students who want to move beyond basic language skills.

To access this service, all you need is an internet connection and an Arlington Public Library card. Try it today!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Good Grounds For Books - January 2010 Meeting

As usual, a list of titles mentioned or discussed at Woodland West's January meeting of the Good Grounds For Books group. It was the most lively meeting we've had yet and I hope the next one follows suit! Remember, click on a title to read more about it or request a copy to be held at the branch of your choice. Happy reading!

Flags of Our Fathers: heroes of Iwo Jima by James Bradley
The Mysteries of Beethoven's Hair by Russell Martin
Baking Cakes in Kigali by Gaile Parkin

Say You Are One of Them by Uwem Akpan
The Qur'an: a biography by Bruce B. Lawrence

Islam: a short history by Karen Armstrong

Home to Holly Springs by Jan Karon (listened to the audiobook version)
The Road by Cormac McCarthy (listened to the audiobook version)

Homer and Langley by E.L. Doctorow (This is the Woodland West Reading Group's February 2nd selection.)
Brass Verdict by Michael Connelly

Ice Land by Betsy Tobin
The Greenlanders by Jane Smiley
Kristen Lavransdatter trilogy: The Bridal Wreath (bk.1) ; The Mistress of Husaby (bk.2) ; The Cross (bk.3) by Sigrid Undset

Ford County: stories by John Grisham

The End of the Alphabet by C.S. Richardson
In the Company of the Courtesan by Sarah Dunant
Sacred Hearts by Sarah Dunant

The Hour I First Believed by Wally Lamb

The Woman Who Named God by Charlotte Gordon
Cruel and Usual Punishment by Nonie Darwish
True Blue by David Balducci
The Case for God by Karen Armstrong

Deadly Triangle: a true story of lies, sports, and murder by Fran Parker
Love in Condition Yellow: a memoir of an unlikely marriage by Sophia Raday
Shake the Devil Off: a true story of the murder that rocked New Orleans by Ethan Brown

Green Rider by Kristen Britain
The Devil You Know by Mike Carey
Bloody Jack: being an account of the curious adventures of Mary "Jacky" Faber, ship's boy by L.A. Meyer (listened to the audiobook version)

Pirate Latitudes by Michael Crichton
My Lobotomy: a memoir by Howard Dully

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Robert B. Parker 1932-2010

Robert B. Parker died of a heart attack at his desk Monday, at the age of 77. He was the author of 60 novels, with the majority of them being about Spenser, a character that ushered in a new brand of hardboiled detective. Split Image, a Jesse Stone novel, is due out in February.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Display your collection @ the library

This is a call to all! If you have any artifacts, doodads, memoribilia, art, avocation, craft, craze, distraction, diversion, divertissement, fad, fancy, favorite occupation, labor of love, leisure activity, leisure pursuit, obsession, occupation, pet topic, relaxation, schtick, sideline, specialty, sport, thing, vagary, weakness, whim, or whimsy that you would like to display at the library, please let us know! There are display cases at multiple locations and while some are stockpiled for the coming months, some are waiting for your collection.

(Thanks to Tom McQueen for his awesome dragons at the Southwest Branch, and thank you for the above words)

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Food Journey in 2009

I haven't eaten any beef or pork products since 2001. I haven't had a glass of milk since then either. No I am not crazy...seriously. I'm just unique! Or at least my mom thinks so. I'm still trying to live the same way as I did eight years ago. But I admit, I've gotten a bit lazy. Which is why 2009 was the year of food for me, reminding myself of why I started on this Journey of Crazy years ago.

I started listening to Michael Pollan's In Defense of Food when it first came to the library on audiobook. I typically cannot STAND to read adult nonfiction but I do love to listen to it, and the narrator of this book does a great job of keeping the listeners interest. Pollan's food laws are simple: "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants." He argues that humans used to know how to eat but nutrition and diets have since been distorted by scientists, marketers, writers, and the phenomenon of convenient food. As a result our once interesting and nutritionally complex diet is now based on foods that aren't nutritionally real. This is a great book or audiobook and I recommend it..not as a diet book but for anyone who wants to eat the way their great-grandmother used to.

After Pollan's audiobook, I HAD to listen to more. I was so intrigued, mainly because he suggested ways I could eat red meat again guilt free. Hoorah! Immediately I began to listen to Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver. The book follows Kingsolver and her family as they make a commitment to become locavores -people who only eat self or locally grown foods. This meant having to move from Tuscon, AZ to a family farm in Virginia. Thankfully Kingsolver and her husband already had a hand at gardening and their daughters were up to try 14 different varieties of potatoes and squash! The novel was enchanting and even though I cannot grow a plant to save my life Kingsolver and her family inspired me to visit my local farmer's market! What an experience (and wonderful food!).

So at this point I was in love with Pollan and Kingsolver. Ha. . .but seriously I was intrigued by their stories and theories. This interest finally led me to the Angelika Theater in Plano where I saw a movie by myself for the first time ever. And yes, it was a bit weird, but definitely worth it. Food, Inc. was a phenomenal documentary that talked to farmers, authors, and advotcates like Michael Pollan (fan love!) and Eric Schlosser, author of Fast Food Nation. I don't know how to explain this movie other then to say see it. See it and let it change the way you look at your food. The movie is not overly preachy or stuffy and it is quick to praise those who have taken steps to be responsible eaters (including Wal-Mart!).

For the new year I'd like to give you a challenge to think about what you eat. Quit counting calories and hounding yourself for eating that last chocolate chip cookie. Instead read and watch and become aware of what you put into your body.

Other titles I would recommend:

King Corn

Super Size M

Fast Food Nation
by Eric Schlosser

The Omnivore's Dilemma
by Michael Pollan (adult version)

The Omnivore's Dilemma
by Michael Pollan (teen version)

The End of Overeating
by David A. Kessler

written by Jenny Ethington, Young Adult Librarian

Monday, January 11, 2010

Amy's Top 5 Books of 2009

I am very excited to talk about 5 of my favorite books that I read in 2009. These titles weren't necessarily published in 2009. I never can get to all the books published in one year that I really want to get to! And if you haven't already looked at my top 5 young adult books of 2009, why don't you take a quick peek?

5. Dexter by Design by Jeff Lindsay
If you watch the Dexter television series but haven't read the books, then you are really missing out on some brilliant, clever writing. If you don't know Dexter at all, let's just call him your friendly, neighborhood sociopath. Dexter is a serial killer who lives by a code that requires he only kill bad guys. Twisted? Yes. But you will find yourself rooting for Dexter. This is the fourth installment of the series and, to my great relief, is back to Jeff Lindsay-caliber writing. The first two books were fabulous, but book number three fell short of Lindsay's usual clever plotting. In this fourth installment, Dexter's home life has changed drastically and that means Dexter must be more clever than before. If you were disappointed with book three like I was, book four should lift your spirits (although that does sound funny when in reference to this series).

4. Johannes Cabal: the necromancer by Jonathan L. Howard
I actually bought this book after reading the first few pages at a bookstore and laughing hysterically in the middle of the aisle. Plus, I really just loved the cover. Johannes Cabal is, as the cover says, a necromancer. But he's also a big snob and sometimes kind of lazy. There is a great cast of bizarre and amusing characters and, as it turns out, hell is basically a place where the dead are stuck in an endless line because the massive amount of forms required to enter are too complicated for even the most supreme genius to complete. This is a great mix of horror, fantasy, and humor. It's a weird amalgamation of Jim Butcher, Douglas Adams, Christopher Moore, and Brian Lumley.

3. The Brief History of the Dead
I picked up this book because of an excerpt I heard the author read on NPR. It was beautiful. I couldn't stop thinking about it for days. When I finally read the entire book (it was one of our selections for the Woodland West book club), I read it pretty much in one sitting. While this isn't a book for every reader, it is one I highly recommend to someone who loves what certain authors can do with the English language, with description, with the idea of what a story is. In this novel, there is a city in which the dead live after they pass from their earthly lives. The people who live in this city are only there as long as there is someone alive on Earth who remembers them. But something terrible is happening on Earth because there is a sudden influx of the dead and, just as quickly, a sudden disappearance. I love how the author shows the importance of memories of little moments in the lives of his characters. If you enjoy slightly odd literature such as Carolyn Parkhurst's The Dogs of Babel (another absolute favorite of mine), I would recommend this title.

2. The Help by Kathryn Stockett
I almost feel as if I shouldn't even introduce this book because everyone is reading it! This is the story of three women who live in Jackson, Mississippi in 1962. Chapters alternate between two women who are "the help" (black maids to white women) and one white girl who has recently returned home from college. I loved the unique voices of each character, even the minor ones. Now, there are a few historical inaccuracies (like the mentioning of Shake 'n Bake, which wasn't in stores until a few years later, and the mentioning of a Bob Dylan song that hadn't come out yet), but they are done to help further plot and character development, so I am able to forgive them. I highly recommend the audio-book version of this. It is also available as a download-able book via our website.

1. The Road by Cormac McCarthy
This last one is definitely not for everyone. It is a harsh, bleak, and ultimately horror-filled landscape that McCarthy writes about. The premise is that a disaster of some kind (most likely a bomb) has destroyed nearly all life on our planet. The reader follows a father and a son as they journey across the vast wasteland that America has become. We never know the names of the father and son, and this only serves to give them both an "everyman" quality. Many of the survivors have resorted to cannibalism of the most extreme kinds, but throughout their journey the father and son hold on to their humanity. McCarthy crafts gorgeous, lyrical sentences despite such a gruesome topic. In the end, this is a story about the persistence and endurance of the individual and of the pure, uncompromising love of a parent for a child. I also highly recommend the audio-book version of this. This novel won the 2007 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Science Fiction and Fantasy Reading Group

I know there are several reading groups already in the system. So, why create another?

Well, this one focuses on science fiction and fantasy. Yes, other groups read these genres. However, this group is willing to take on the challenge of lengthy series and titles. The book's a thousand pages, you say? No problem.

The group will decide which books and/or series it wants to tackle next. So, if you've ever read a book you were just dying to discuss with someone, come to the Science Fiction and Fantasy Reading Group at the Northeast Branch Library the third Wednesday of every month at 7 p.m. Books available at the Northeast Circulation Desk. All adults welcome!

Can't make the meetings? Don't worry. The Science Fiction and Fantasy Reading Group is also online at:

Upcoming Selections:
January 20th: Green Rider by Kristen Britain
February 17th: Darwin's Radio by Greg Bear
March 17th: The Nameless Day by Sara Douglass
April 21st: Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert A. Heinlein

Friday, January 8, 2010

Name That Frog

For four years I have lived across the street from the pond of a 103 acre park. It’s a great location; even though it’s in the city it’s home to all sorts of wildlife. Being of a curious bent where critters are concerned, I’ve used the library’s resources to identify widgeons, shovellers, mallards, great blue herons, grebes, loons, kinglets, swallows, meadowlarks, martins, kildeer, eastern screech owls, red sliders, snapping turtles, grass snakes, green anoles, and Texas spiny lizards. I’ve seen raccoons, possums, armadillos, and road runners; no research needed to identify them!

There is one park dweller though who has defied all my efforts at identification. I’ve never seen him, at least not that I know of. Hearing him is a totally different matter! On a midsummer night each year his chorus begins. Don’t worry if you miss his opening number; he and his cohorts will repeat it, loudly, for hours, every night for weeks. The calls are very distinctive – loud, metallic, and repetitive, and they come from above, in the treetops – many different treetops. I suspect he’s a treefrog, and next summer I plan to be ready for him, thanks to a book we recently added to the collection: The Frogs and Toads of North America : a Comprehensive Guide to Their Identification, Behavior, and Calls by Lang Elliott. This marvellous book comes with a cd of frog and toad calls. Perfect! Especially since the author is known and respected for the quality of his recordings of bird and animal calls.

If you are likewise intrigued by the nature around you, you might also enjoy Music of the Birds : a Celebration of Bird Song which includes a cd and is by the same author.

It's that time of the year, folks

It's tax time! Don't let April 15th sneak up on you this year. Many tax forms are now available at George W. Hawkes Central branch (and will be ready at the branches soon, if they aren't already). Hurry and get yours today before we run out. It might even be a good idea to get a few of extras. You know, in case you mess up a couple of times.

If you find that you need a form that we don't have, a staff member would be happy to print it off from the IRS website for a small fee of fifteen cents per page. Also, don't forget to check out our AARP Tax-Aide Tax Filing Assistance!

Happy Tax Season!

Monday, January 4, 2010

MJ's top books of 2009

We've been really busy at the library already in the new year, and Amy over on Library Ninja helpfully suggested that I might want to list my top five books that I read last year--trying to keep my choices actually published in the past year. So hear they are in reverse chronologically read order (I can't choose in order of favorites).

The Magicians
by Lev Grossman

In the spirit of taking my own advice from this blog, I continue to check NPR books out and read them. This time I grabbed this right before my Christmas vacation because it was billed as a "Harry Potter for adults". The author sort of melds the school vibe of HP with the magical traveling to a Narnia like place in the second half of the book. What struck me most about the book was how the author described most books about magic. They are definitely escapist, but what if magic didn't make you able to escape a dull and dreary life? Maybe no matter how interesting your life is, you've got to learn to deal with the mundane aspects.

Peter and Max
Bill Willingham

I don't read many fantasy books, so as I'm looking down my list of choices I find it odd that 3 out of 5 can definitely be considered in the fantasy realm. Peter and Max is the first hardcover book version of the award winning Fables comic book series. The Fables in the book are ones that are familiar to lovers of fairy tales--the Big Bad Wolf (now reformed and married to Snow White), Little Bo Peep (who lost it all escaping from an invasion of their homelands), and the protagonists of the story Peter and Max Piper; respectively Peter Piper and the Pied Piper. There is no need to read the comic books before reading this book--I honestly think it might detract from the book since I was expecting more characters from the comics to show up. But I loved Willingham's prose so much so that I want more Fables in this text format of lush and vibrant wordplay.

Hands of My Father
Myron Uhlberg

I read this for our Southwest morning book group and I loved this non-fiction book about growing up in the depression with parents that are deaf. He describes 1930s New York and makes me feel if I was there with him while he is helping take care of his seizure-ridden brother and while he is listening to boxing matches over the radio.
Dead and Gone 
Charlaine Harris

For my final of my fantasy books, I give you a mystery/fantasy mixed together. After I wrote a blog post in the summer about werewolves, I promptly went back and read a couple of vampire books--among these, the Sookie Stackhouse books. I loved them all and even went on to check out the True Blood series based on the books. What I think I like the best about her books is that the vampires aren't "other". They live in the world just like us and while they might have different problems, they still have problems I can understand--not big fantastical wars or cabals (just small skirmishes). In fact because I started to like the mystery parts of the books as much as the sexy vampire parts, I started reading J.D. Robb's (Nora Robert's) In Death series.
Free Range Kids
Lenore Skenazy

My life changing book! I first heard about Lenore when she was "America's worst mom" (google it!) when she let her elementary school child ride the subway one stop while she walked along topside to pick him up. Since the uproar, she's written a book and has a blog chronicaling this year's "contenders" for worst mom as well as things children aren't allowed to do any more. My favorite recent incident was when a girl was suspended from school for bringing peppermint oil to flavor her and her friends water (its an "over the counter substance"). While some of the incidents are amusing, her main point is completely serious--from her blog
Any kid killed is a horrible tragedy. It makes my stomach plunge to even think about it. But when the numbers are about 50 kids in a country of 300 million, it’s also a very random, rare event. It is far more rare, for instance, than dying from a fall off the bed or other furniture. So should we, for safety’s sake, all start sleeping on the floor?
The book has the statistics to back her facts up and even if I still won't let my kids play in the front yard (more so they won't run in the street), Lenore has opened my eyes and countless other parents to the idea that maybe they won't try to poke their eyes out on everything.