Tag Archives: books

Have you read these?

Have you ever looked at all the different lists of “books everyone should read”?  There are some choices that seem consistent over time, but no two lists are exactly alike.

Recently, David McCandless of the website www.informationisbeautiful.net  took a look at this everlasting conundrum, and did a little research.

He explains, “I scraped the results of over 15 notable book polls, readers surveys and top 100’s. Both popular and high-brow. They included all Pulitzer Prize winners, Desert Island Discs choices from recent years, Oprah’s Bookclub list, and, of course, The Guardian’s Top 100 Books of All Time.”

Then he created this Wordle, which I hope you find as interesting as I do.  The size of the entry indicates how many times it was found on the various lists.  So take a look and see what you think:  are these the “books everyone should read”?  What would you add to the list?  Subtract?   Leave us a comment with your own opinion.  (Click on image to see larger version.)
                             —-Mary Beth

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New Books!

Here’s one of our fabulous volunteers, covering new books so they’re ready to go on the shelves.  (She’s shy, so I won’t put her name here.)   Not long after this picture was taken, she brought me a beautiful stack of non-fiction to put on the “new” shelves, so I thought I’d tell you about it.

First, some nifty how-to books.

How to Build a Fire is a companion book to an earlier purchase, How to Sew a Button.  Everything you ever needed to know but were embarrassed to acknowledge that you never learned.  Then, Point, Click, and Save is a technology-savvy guide to making (and saving) oodles of money at home.  And lastly, Show Me How, which knocked my socks off.  It is clever and intriguing and funny while it’s being education, and is almost entirely graphic illustrations.  You’ve got to pick this one up and have a look.

And for a little diversity, we have another trio of new books waiting for you.  Popular novelist Debbie Macomber has written God’s Guest List, reflecting on the power we all have to influence one another’s lives.  The Gourmet Cookie Book is jammed full of oh-so-elegant cookie receipes.  And The Pot Book is a comprehensive, scientific look at our culture’s uses of marijuana, both pros and cons.

We’ve got something for everyone.  Come down and browse!  
—Mary Beth

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New books

All right!  It’s a new year.  Let’s get down to brass tacks and tell you about a few of the new books on our shelves.  Here’s a sampling from our “new” non-fiction shelf:

If you have food allergies, you’ll want to know about this one:  The Divvies Bakery Cookbook, by Lori Sandler.  It’s full of beautiful pictures of mouth-watering confections — all without nuts, eggs, or dairy.  Bring leftovers to the library staff; we’re always happy to help.

The Emperor of All Maladies, by Siddhartha Mukherjee.   This book is on everybody’s “top 10 books of 2010” lists.  It’s a biography of cancer (which turns out to be thousands of years old) which many reviewers say reads like a novel.

And if you’ve had enough winter and want to start dreaming of spring, how about Lasagna Gardening, by Patricia Lanza?   She teaches a layered method of soil preparation, with lots of basic information about many popular crops.  “No Digging, No Tilling, No Weeding, No Kidding!”

Happy reading…
                 –Mary Beth

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Bibliotherapy lives

The other day, I was sitting in my doctor’s office, hoping I wouldn’t have to wait long.  I looked around for some people-watching to distract me, and was rewarded when a teenage girl arrived.  She was dressed all in black, and had long, straight, black hair.  She had studs in both eyebrows, a ring in one nostril, and another in her lip (ouch).  She was plump, had a few zits, and she did not move with confidence.  Her fingernails were painted black, and chipping. She did not make eye contact, and her hair fell forward fashionably to hide her face.  Everything about this person bristled and snarled, like an annoyed black porcupine with low self-esteem.  

And then something happened: she reached into her bag (black, with sharp metal adornments) and pulled out a book.   I couldn’t see the cover, but as she carefully opened the book and turned to the first page, I could clearly discern the familiar, unique design of… a Harry Potter book!  I could hear the beguiling notes of the opening theme!   Her foot drew up in a vulnerable, little-girl tilt, and she fell into that book like a stone in a lake.  Her shoulders dropped, and she absent-mindedly and unfashionably tucked her hair behind an ear.

And I smiled.  I felt unaccountably relieved that this young woman porcupining her way across the minefield that is adolescence (and I could be projecting here) had the company of a good book.  I wanted all the goodness of Harry’s world–great friends and mentors, developing strengths, a place to belong, and the triumphant power of love–to take root in her, and feed her, and lead her to the next book, and the next. 

Imagine: finding healing in a doctor’s office.  Who’d’ve thunk?
                        –Mary Beth

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The swans are back in town

These days may be gray and rainy (or worse), but this time of year has one redeeming factor for me: the swans are back in town.  Every time I drive to town, I’m sure to spot them – anywhere between two and two hundred.  I’m sorry for the farmers who do not appreciate them being in the fields, but oh, I do so like having them around.  Pure white birds with six-foot wingspans and outlandishly long, flexible necks!  How can you resist?  I love to listen to them mutter softly to each other when they’re on the ground.  And the music they make, flying together in those long, raggedy threads unspooling across the sky?  Magic.  Wild.  Makes me want to sing along.

One reason for my swan affection is a book by E.B. White, The Trumpet of the Swan.  Published in 1970, this children’s classic features Louis, a kind, pragmatic, mute trumpeter swan.   The lack of a voice is a big challenge to such a majestic bird, and the book relates the adventures of Louis and his father to help Louis learn to communicate and fulfill his swan destiny.  Louis is also aided by a human boy, Sam Beaver.  

It’s an endearing story of reverence for nature, friendship, and ethics, which are three of White’s favorite themes; besides Charlotte’s Web and Stuart Little, he also published loads of poetry, was one of America’s greatest essayists, and co-authored the classic writer’s reference work, The Elements of Style.

So nab or borrow a child, curl up by the fire, and start reading to each other.  If no child is available, don’t let that stop you.   And meanwhile, a Mary Oliver poem to honor our own swans.  —-Mary Beth

 

The Swan

Did you too see it, drifting, all night, on the black river?
Did you see it in the morning, rising into the silvery air –
An armful of white blossoms,
A perfect commotion of silk and linen as it leaned
into the bondage of its wings; a snowbank, a bank of lilies,
Biting the air with its black beak?
Did you hear it, fluting and whistling
A shrill dark music – like the rain pelting the trees – like a waterfall
Knifing down the black ledges?
And did you see it, finally, just under the clouds –
A white cross Streaming across the sky, its feet
Like black leaves, its wings Like the stretching light of the river?
And did you feel it, in your heart, how it pertained to everything?
And have you too finally figured out what beauty is for?
And have you changed your life?

© Mary Oliver. From The Paris Review # 124, Fall, 1992

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Reader, Nancy. Nancy, Reader.

I’ve touted Nancy Pearl before on this blog.  What can I say?  She’s one of my heroes.

Here’s my chance to introduce the two of you.  Click on the photo below and get a glimpse of Nancy’s passion, enthusiasm, and mission(s)… which happen to coincide with some of mine… and I’ll bet with a few of yours, too.

Click on the photo to meet Nancy.

                            –Mary Beth

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Two books that give glimpses of other lives

I am amazed at how well some authors can get inside their character’s mind and life.  Here are two examples of this I’ve read recently:

“Marcelo Sandoval is a high-functioning, extremely self-aware teenager with Asperger’s syndrome. He has an empathetic mother and a father, Arturo, who appears to be less empathetic as he pushes Marcelo to live in the “real world.” The form the real world takes is a summer job in the mailroom at Arturo’s law office. The teen is forced to think on his feet, multitask, and deal with duplicitous people who try to take advantage of him. Over the course of a summer, Marcelo learns that he can function in society; he is especially surprised to find that he can learn to read people’s expressions, even to the point of knowing whom he can and cannot trust. Writing in a first-person narrative, Stork does an amazing job of entering Marcelo’s consciousness and presenting him as a dynamic, sympathetic, and wholly believable character.”   School Library Journal review of Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco X. Stork

Booklist review of Blame, by Michelle Huneven: “ When college professor Patsy MacLemoore comes to in the drunk tank of the Altadena sheriff’s department, she can’t remember what she’s done. All she knows is that she has been there before and vowed she’d never return. This time it turns out that Patsy has killed two Jehovah’s Witnesses, a mother and daughter, while driving on a suspended license. She’s sentenced to four years in prison, and her life is never the same. From the horrific noise and filth of prison life to her membership in AA to her eventual release and slow climb back to normalcy, Patsy struggles to come to terms with the repercussions of her drunken blackout.”

Books like these help me feel I understand a little bit more about conditions I’m not familiar with.  Stork’s humor and depth presents Asperger’s syndrome in a new light for me, I feel that I understand the condition a bit better.  And Huneven writes in a very “unpreachy” way about someone who hits bottom and finds their way back to life with the support of Alcoholics Anonymous.

What books have helped change your perceptions?

–Janice

Place a hold on Marcelo in the Real World or Blame at the Burlington Public Library.

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“Have I Read This?”

Often, patrons come to the Information Desk and ask if we can bring up the history of what they’ve checked out in the past.   We don’t keep that information, partly to protect your privacy; but there are lots of neat ways for you to do so. 

For the low-tech folks, don’t discount a simple notebook or collection of index cards to keep track of books you’ve read or want to read.   And for the online crew, there are several great sites for you to consider.  They are social networking websites for book lovers (although you don’t have to share your lists; you can use these sites and stay private if you choose). 

All these sites are free or have free options.  Once you’ve created an account, you can start adding titles you are currently reading, books you’ve read, and what you’d like to read.  You can add tags to your books — any word or phrase that helps you describe a book.  A tag might be “mystery,”  “want to read,”  “five star,” or whatever is useful to you in categorizing.

Each of these sites have different features, but all encourage you to share your love of books with others on the site.  You can rate books, write reviews, comment on others’ reviews; you can see who else likes your favorites, and what else those people enjoy.  There’s lots of ways to get suggestions for good reads.

So here they are.  Explore a little and see if you’d like to be an online book-lover.

LibraryThing                 Shelfari                      Goodreads                   WorldCat

Enjoy!
                   —Mary Beth

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Book Trailers

No, I’m not talking about a metal thing on wheels you tow behind your car with books in it.  I mean “trailer” as in a movie trailer: a short video advertisements.  Do you know that many books now have trailers you can watch?!   And does it seem odd to you to watch a video trying to persuade you to read a book?  (Me too.)  

Some book trailers are pretty neat. ( Click here to see one I happen to like).   Others share the same qualities I dislike about most movie trailers: they show the most sensationalistic aspects of the movie rather than a more balanced representation.

On the other hand, these clips are often a neat way to get a glimpse of the author, and hearing a bit about their experience of writing the book.  They usually give you an idea of the plot, and sometimes also offer access to podcasts or other media too.

Where to glimpse these trendy ads?  To my knowledge, the best places are Amazon.com, author websites, and the larger publisher websites.   By the way:  have you visited author websites?  Amazing!  Justin Cronin’s new book, The Passage, is currently a bestseller.  Available on his website:          e-mail signatures; iPhone wallpapers; Twitter and message-board avatars; and computer wallpapers.  Then there’s the “companion website,” on which is posted “video evidence” related to the book so readers can continue to interact with the plot.

It’s a digital world, folks… even for book lovers.
Enjoy…..          Mary Beth

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Find what you want @ your library

This morning, I helped a gentleman check out a good-sized stack of books, and asked if he had found everything he was looking for.  “Yes! ” he said enthusiastically.  “This is the most new books I’ve been able to find for ages!”  He went on to say that sometimes, he comes in and whole shelves full of new books are available, and other times, there are very few.  Today, he had a good library day.

In an ideal world, we’d have those shelves so full, you’d always have more choices every time you visited us.  We’d be able to afford all the best-sellers, and even get multiple copies of the really popular ones.  We could update our non-fiction collection to reflect the most recent works in the fields of history, health, law, and popular areas like hobbies and movies.

But in this world, this year, we can only buy a fraction of what we’d like to have available for our patrons.  So here is a bit of a secret — at least to many people — you can ask us what to read!   If there isn’t anything for you on the ‘new’ shelf, and browsing through the shelves is overwhelming, just ask one of us for some help.  This is actually an art/science of librarianship; it’s called “reader’s advisory,” and just refers to the ability to help people find a book they might like.  It makes for some really fun conversations, and it might introduce you to some jewels you didn’t know we have. 

This is one of the most fun things I get to do.  So ask for me if I’m around! 
                                       –Mary Beth

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