DCPLive is a blog by library staff at the DeKalb County Public Library!

July 2011

Jul 29 2011

ShareReads: Summer Memories Shared…

by ShareReads

ShareReads appears on the DCPLive blog on Fridays. Each week, a different person will share a little about what they’re currently reading, and why they like or don’t like it. The heart of ShareReads will be responses from blog readers, and the window of opportunity here is wide. Feel free to respond and discuss the book or author being mentioned, ask or answer a question, or even take the conversation in a different direction: mention what you are currently reading, and how you feel about it. The point of ShareReads is to have an ongoing discussion about books and reading. Remember: posting a response also counts as an activity for the Summer Reading for Adults program.

Today I’m inspired to share some books I found when I perused the New Books shelves at my local library. I chose two books that seem related to me in some obscure, difficult to explain manner. The first is of local interest, From Mud to Jug: The Folk Potters and Pottery of Northeast Georgia by John A. Burrison. Several decades ago I was fortunate enough to take a class from Burrison when he was a new faculty member at Ga State. I can still recall the ardor he had for local, folk items, so this over size paperback illustrated with lots of color photographs grabbed my attention immediately.

This book offers chapters on the history of folk pottery, two clans (Meaders and Hewells) that represent the long tradition of North Georgia potters, the production process and traditional functions of this type of pottery and all you need to know about the relatively new Folk Pottery Museum of Northeast Georgia in the Sautee Nacoochee Community. This book delighted the eyes, awakened childhood memories of car trips through the northern part of Georgia with my family, and made me want to head north again to visit the new museum and learn more about folk pottery in general. Toward that end, Burrison included lists of potters and of books on Southern folk pottery.

The second book is Ready for Dessert: My Best Recipes by David Lebovitz, a food blogger par excellence who previously made desserts for Chez Panisse in Berkeley after training as a baker in France and Belgium. I’ve only eaten at CP once, on a late summer day, but I swear it is his chocolate cake that stays “tattooed” on my taste buds and calls me back there again. This is a luscious, large format book also full of compelling color photographs adjacent to complicated but not complex “company and holiday” desserts. I’m told the average adult gains a pound a year. I’ve vowed (unsuccessfully) to make it a cookbook a year instead. My theory is that if you read it instead of doing it, you can learn a lot for when a grand dessert is simply unavoidable—and try to limit the weight gain to a half pound.

Imagine spending an hour or more in your favorite reading place, with something you enjoy drinking when your taste buds need to settle down. Open this book and browse through the hints about ingredients and equipment that he puts up front. Then pick your place to dive in from: cakes; pies, tarts and fruit; custards, soufflés and puddings; frozen desserts; cookies and candies; and basics, sauces, and preserves. Wow, so hard to choose, but feeling faint I go from cakes to cookies and candies and then settle down with the basic, sauces and preserves which offers multiple photos of just how various stages should look when you are caramelizing (both wet and dry methods). I can hardly wait to start making holiday gifts of candied cherries, orange peel and ginger. I know many folks search by ingredients or name and pull their recipes offline now. I’m just not that efficient and pragmatic. I love old cookbooks with ample notes and stains, and big, new cookbooks all pristine and seductive. I can almost taste the photos and do, sometimes, to coax myself into waiting. After awhile my brain is awash in many, varied recipes I want to, will to, make … eventually. Now that is a wonderful hour spent in anticipation and few to no calories (depending on the drink).

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Jul 27 2011

Going to the dogs

by Dea Anne M

In case you haven’t been paying attention to the weather (which seems impossible I know) we are now in the midst of the dog days. A lot of folks think the the phrase “dog days” comes from the way domestic dogs will lay around during hot humid weather. I know I did. It turns out the term comes from the Latin “dies caniculares” which the Romans used to refer to the hottest days of summer usually falling between early July and early September in the northern hemisphere. The ancients believed that Sirius, the “Dog Star,” was responsible for the extreme heat and humidity. Apparently, Sirius was a pretty testy celestial body and prone to frequent fits of temper. According to John Brady’s Clavis Calendarium the dog days were a time when “the seas boiled” and “wine turned sour.” Also, “dogs grew mad, and all creatures became languid, causing to man burning fevers, hysterics, and phrenzies.”

So, best we all avoid our own hysterics by staying indoors, and passing the time with a book. In keeping with the seasonal theme, check out these offerings from DCPL.

If you’re interested in knowing more about the animal origins of common phrases, pick up a copy of  Dog Days and Dandelions: a lively guide to the animal meanings behind everyday words by Martha Barnette. Or you might enjoy Black Sheep and Lame Ducks: the origins of even more phrases we use everyday by Jack Albert.

Kids can keep cool and enjoy There’s a Frog In my Throat!: 440 animal sayings a little bird told me by Loreen Leedy and Pat Street.

If you’re in the mood for a movie, consider Dog Day Afternoon, Sidney Lumet’s 1975 drama about a bank robbery that goes about as wrong as it possibly can. Starring Al Pacino as a  first-time bank robber, the film garnered 6 Oscar nominations and won Best Original Screenplay. The cast is excellent particularly Pacino whose portrayal of Sonny is absolutely mesmerizing. Heavy on atmosphere, the movie perfectly captures the seediness and heat of an August day in 70’s era Brooklyn. One reviewer said “…you can almost smell the garbage baking” which I realize may not appeal, but this film is considered, quite rightly in my opinion, to be an American classic.

Stay cool!

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I recently came across a very interesting post from the Oxford University Press blog which presents census data and analysis about librarians in the U.S. from 1880-2009. The article tracks the myriad changes in the profession over time, including the growth (and recent decline) in the number of librarians, the breakdown by age, gender, location, and race, and also wage/income data. I will summarize some of their findings below, but you can also review the full article here.

One of the interesting points from the article is how much the library profession has grown over the years. Back in 1880 when the U.S. Census first collected data on librarians, they counted only 636 nationwide. 110 years later, in 1990, the number of librarians reached its peak with 307,273 identifying themselves as members of the profession. Since then, the number of librarians has actually decreased significantly, to 212,742 as of 2009.

Another interesting change over time has been the predominant gender of the profession. While today women comprise 83% of librarians, back in the 1880s 52% of librarians were men. The percentage of men dropped to its lowest point in 1930, to 8%.

The article also discussed the change in librarians’ marital status. In 1880 1 in 3 librarians were married, and the marriage rate had declined further by 1920, to 1 in 10. In the decades since, however, the popular notion of the “spinster librarian” began to fade as marriage rates increased. Today 62% of librarians are married, the highest rate reported to date.

It is apparent from the article that the profession has changed a great deal over the years, although the commitment to serving the community and acting as stewards of knowledge remains the same. Considering the many changes that have occurred over the past 12+ decades, it will be intriguing to see how the profession continues to evolve throughout the remainder of the century.

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Jul 22 2011

ShareReads: Stretching the Boundaries

by Dea Anne M

ShareReads appears on the DCPLive blog on Fridays. Each week, a different person will share a little about what they’re currently reading, and why they like or don’t like it. The heart of ShareReads will be responses from blog readers, and the window of opportunity here is wide. Feel free to respond and discuss the book or author being mentioned, ask or answer a question, or even take the conversation in a different direction: mention what you are currently reading, and how you feel about it. The point of ShareReads is to have an ongoing discussion about books and reading. Remember: posting a response also counts as an activity for the Summer Reading for Adults program.

One of my favorite literary characters is Maisie Dobbs, the entrancing sleuth/heroine of the eponymous series by Jacqueline Winspear. I recently finished the eighth book in the series A Lesson in Secrets and found it nearly impossible to put down. This has been my experience with every book in this wonderful series and part of the reason is that the books transcend their “genre niche.” A reader can experience the Maisie Dobbs books as satisfying mysteries, of course, but these books also work on a more “literary” level. Winspear’s depth of characterization along with her evocation of place and a subtly nuanced emotional tone elevate these books (in my opinion) to a different category of writing.

Are you interested in reading some “genre busting” fiction? Many readers regard China Miéville as an author whose writing provides a consistently high level of quality as well as a unique approach to a variety of genres. In particular, check out The City & the City, Mieville’s take on the hard-boiled detective story, and Perdido Street Station, an urban fantasy (although that capsule description doesn’t do this intricate book justice).

Another genre stretching novel that I have enjoyed and highly recommend is Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke, which skillfully blends the traditions of the British social comedy with folklore and fairy tales. I also found Michael Chabon’s interpretation of the noir detective novel, The Yiddish Policemen’s Union, very interesting although maybe a bit over the top with the tough guy flourishes.

Some other authors widely considered genre-stretchers:

Do you like exploring fiction that stretches genre? What books have you particularly enjoyed?

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Jul 20 2011

A Book By Any Other Name…

by Joseph M

When you see a book at the library or bookstore and want to know more about it, do you ever wish you could get beyond the vague summaries and overenthusiastic blurbs on the cover jacket and find out what the story is *really* about? If so, Better Book Titles may be right up your alley. Here’s a description from the website: This blog is for people who do not have thousands of hours to read book reviews or blurbs or first sentences. I will cut through all the cryptic crap, and give you the meat of the story in one condensed image. Now you can read the greatest literary works of all time in mere seconds!

Featured books include classics, modern best-sellers, and children’s books. While I would take issue with a few of the proposed title revisions, I found the majority of entries to be clever and amusing, and hopefully you will too!

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Jul 19 2011

To Be Young, Gifted and Adored

by Veronica W

Just to give my eyes a rest from the six hundred plus pages novel I was reading, I picked up the television remote and started channel surfing—two hundred channels and I have perhaps four that I visit on a regular basis. In my travels I reached PBS and stopped.  An aria was in progress and the soaring rendition of Nessun Dorma grabbed me.  Please understand that I am not a huge opera fan, although I have some favorite songs, Nessun Dorma being one of them.   However this time, it wasn’t the song which caught my attention, but the singer.  She was 11-year-old Jackie Evancho.

Since her debut on America’s Got Talent, Miss Evancho has taken off like the proverbial house on fire.  It’s amusing to watch the faces of the audience as they sit, stunned by her voice.  Watching and listening to her, however, made me reflect on the lives of child stars. The annals of Hollywood are filled with tales of super talented kids who have taken off, soared high, then crashed and burned.  From Jackie Cooper, who was the first child star to win an Academy Award nomination, to Melissa Gilbert, who grew up on Little House on the Prairie and on to Jaden Smith, Dakota Fanning, Joey King and China Anne McClain, these are young lives which changed because of their gifts.   Sometimes I wonder, have we done these “mega minis” a disservice?  If fame is hard for adults to handle, will children fare any better?

Whether you believe all gifts, regardless of the gifted one’s age, belong to the world or instead, feel a “normal” childhood is best, there are a number of interesting books which address the issue.  My favorite title is Get That Cutie in Commercials, Television, Films and Videos.  Additional reading includes Teaching a Young Actor, Raising a Star and Shirley Temple: A Pictorial History of the World’s Greatest Child Star.  There are also countless articles addressing the pros and cons of child stardom.

When I read about the tortured lives of some of today’s Hollywood starlets, I am in one camp. However I loved Melissa Gilbert in Little House and along with countless others, am awed by Jackie Evancho.  Take a listen to her, then choose your camp:

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Jul 15 2011

ShareReads: Guilty Pleasures

by ShareReads

ShareReads appears on the DCPLive blog on Fridays. Each week, a different person will share a little about what they’re currently reading, and why they like or don’t like it. The heart of ShareReads will be responses from blog readers, and the window of opportunity here is wide. Feel free to respond and discuss the book or author being mentioned, ask or answer a question, or even take the conversation in a different direction: mention what you are currently reading, and how you feel about it. The point of ShareReads is to have an ongoing discussion about books and reading. Remember: posting a response also counts as an activity for the Summer Reading for Adults program.

After reading Amanda’s ShareReads post last week about the disturbing plots of some teen novels, as well as traveling a good bit on MARTA recently, I have come to the conclusion that I am ashamed of my reading habits.  Yes, I read some books only in the privacy of my home where there are no witnesses.  Yes, I have been known to take a book jacket off, so as to not be judged by the cover art and title.  And, yes, I have even been known to rejacket the book with the cover from the hip, literary sensation that everyone is buzzing about.  I am guilty of reading books that cause feelings of embarrassment and that I don’t want to be seen reading; but, I just can’t resist these books and secretly love to read them.  What exactly are my guilty reading pleasures?  Teen books, including ones with disturbing plots, but my true loves are cheesy, romances where the biggest sources of angst are “Does he like me?” and “Am I going to flunk bio?”  Ah, the simpler, halcyon days of being a teen; these books are my true escapist pleasure!

One such book I recently finished is The Cupcake Queen by Heather Hepler.  An enticingly covered (how can you resist cupcakes with pink frosting and sprinkles?) story with the basic plot of new girl (Penny Lane) in a small town (Hog’s Hollow) who butts heads with the most popular girl in school and who longs to return home to the big city and her old friends.  It was a cute, fun read to get lost in, and I thoroughly enjoyed Penny’s rediscovering herself and her family in a new setting, as well as her adventures with new friends who challenge the popular clique in creative ways that I only wished I had thought of (and had the courage to do) when I was in high school.   But, I didn’t really want to be seen on the train reading a book with cupcakes on the cover that was written for a 15 year old, so I happily devoured this one sans jacket and with minor guilt.

OK, fair and tender readers, what are your reading guilty pleasures?  What books can you not resist, but don’t necessarily want to admit to reading?  I promise this is a judge free posting.  And, if you’re still not ready for a public declaration, you can post anonymously!

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Jul 13 2011

Real spicy…

by Dea Anne M

July 13th is the birthday of Paul Prudhomme, the New Orleans based chef who opened the legendary restaurant K-Paul’s Louisiana Kitchen in 1979. K-Paul’s became famous for its renditions of the distinctive Cajun cuisine of Louisiana. Many argue that Cajun cooking along with Louisiana Creole is a truly American cuisine (as opposed to being a type of regional cooking) with a body of classic and unique dishes and techniques. Gumbo, jambalaya, maque choux, and “blackened” fish are some of the typical dishes you will find at K-Pauls and other restaurants all over Louisiana.

Think you might want to try this style of cooking at home? DCPL has got you covered.

First up is Chef Paul Prudhomme’s Louisiana Kitchen which features all the Cajun classics beloved by all who crave this cuisine. Or you might try The 100 Greatest Cajun Recipes by Jude W. Theriot for a comprehensive take on some of the core Cajun dishes.

Perhaps you’d like to explore Creole cooking. Thought of by many as more suave and urbane than Cajun, Creole certainly has its passionate adherents and is very well represented in the “Old Guard” of New Orleans restaurants which include Commander’s Palace and Arnaud’s. Check out Arnaud’s Restaurant Cookbook by Kit Wohl or Commander’s Kitchen by Ti Adelaide Martin and Jackie Shannon.

A new addition to the canon of Cajun cookbooks, and one that I like a lot, is Donald Link’s Real Cajun: rustic home cooking from Donald Link’s Louisiana. Link is the chef/owner of Cochon and Herbsaint restaurants in New Orleans and his book is definitely the real thing. Well-written and lavishly illustrated, it is, I must warn you, a bit pork-centric. All told it’s a fine overview of a fascinating native cuisine.

So…Laissez les bons temps rouler! Not to mention Bon appetit!

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Jul 11 2011

Pack a book!

by Jesse M

For today’s post I’m going to share an interesting website a coworker recently turned me on to called Packabook. Here’s how it works: you select one of the 26 countries listed on the site, and Packabook will serve you up a list of fiction titles set in that country. The idea is that reading fiction set in a particular country brings that place and its history alive in a way that no guide book can, and that reading people’s stories encourages the understanding of difference in culture, religion and experience. Packabook can be an excellent resource for a prospective traveler attempting to get a feel for his/her intended destination beyond what the usual travel books convey, and also for those without the means or time available to journey to another country. Just reading a book set in a different and wonderful place can help you feel as if you have just visited the place itself. For more on the philosophy beyond Packabook, head over to their “About” page.

While clicking on most of the countries on the left hand sidebar simply takes you to a listing of books set therein, a few of the countries (including Spain, Australia, and Ireland) boast more detailed descriptions of their portrayal in literature and the cultural and historical themes that influence the authors.

Packabook is an excellent resource for travelers as well as those just looking to explore the world through the magic of books. Enjoy the journey!

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ShareReads appears on the DCPLive blog on Fridays. Each week, a different person will share a little about what they’re currently reading, and why they like or don’t like it. The heart of ShareReads will be responses from blog readers, and the window of opportunity here is wide. Feel free to respond and discuss the book or author being mentioned, ask or answer a question, or even take the conversation in a different direction: mention what you are currently reading, and how you feel about it. The point of ShareReads is to have an ongoing discussion about books and reading. Remember: posting a response also counts as an activity for the Summer Reading for Adults program.

I just finished reading the second book in the Hunger Games Trilogy, Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins. My husband and I listened to the first in the series, Hunger Games last month. If you are not familiar with the series, it is set in the future. The main characters, Katniss, Peeta, and Gayle, all hail from district 12 of the country Panem. Panem is located where currently North America is located. The basic premise of the series is that the government would like to punish and control people, to prevent them from rebelling. Each district selects a boy and girl randomly to participate in the hunger games. During the hunger games, the players fight until the death until the remaining survivor wins the games.

While we were listening to the Hunger Games, both my husband and I kept thinking that this was a horrible premise of a book, whether teen or adult. I mean, what is good about teens fighting each other to the death? In any case, we couldn’t stop listening to the book. It is captivating. The author writes the characters  in such a way that you care whether they live or die. The story moves fast, and you begin to find yourself rooting for a specific character. Are you team Gayle, Peeta or Katniss?

There has been much discussion lately about the dark themes currently appearing in Young Adult (teen) literature. Two articles, both pro and con,  have been written about this. The first, Darkness to Visible, was published in the Wall Street Journal. The author of this article believes Young Adult literature is running rapid with violence, depravity and abuse. The second, written in response, was called, Has young adult fiction become too dark?, and was published in Salon magazine.

Whether you believe Young Adult literature is too dark or tackles some deep subjects, the teens are reading. I came across an article from Entertainment Weekly about the book Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher.  Thirteen Reasons Why is about suicide. Hannah Baker has already committed suicide before the book begins. She has made thirteen cassette tapes to send to the thirteen people she believes contributed to her death.

The article points out how a book can open a person’s perspective and create empathy for others. The author, Jay Asher, stated that he has received several e-mails from teens who were contemplating suicide. He also has received e-mails from teens who realized after reading the book  that what they say or don’t say, and the way they act towards others can have a lasting impact on someone’s decisions or outlook on life.

Have you read any teen books lately? What do you think about this topic?

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