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

July 2012

Jul 30 2012

Citizen King

by Jnai W

I wish I could do justice to the inspiration of this blog post in this blog post. There isn’t really enough space in this format, there isn’t enough time (as I’m anxious to get back to my reading on this, my inspiration), nor do I have enough words to fully express myself.

This past week or so I’ve been reading several books at once but most of them revolve around the life, the death and the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The first book that I have been reading that has inspired me to learn more about Dr. King is an incredibly insightful book by Michael Eric Dyson, one of my favorite contemporary writers and thinkers, called April 4, 1968.

In this book, Dyson examines the life, the activism and, most specifically the death of Dr. King.  Dyson writes that King’s understanding of his “calling”, the moral imperative to stand up against injustice, and also King’s sense of his own mortality were driving forces in his Civil Rights leadership. The spectre of suffering and death was ever-present in King’s life: from the violence that marked the Civil Rights movement to the constant threats against his own life. It was his deep belief in the righteousness of the cause and his strong faith in God and in America that sustained him throughout his life in the Movement.

Upon reading this book, I’ve been inspired to return to Dr. King’s sermons, letters and writings for deeper insight into his faith, his philosophy and acts of powerful non-violent demonstration against racial injustice and, increasingly, against poverty and war. The more I read the more I’d come to realize that, though I’d grown up aware of Dr. King’s legacy, there was much that I didn’t know about his life and his work. As a result I’m pouring over a few books featuring the words of Dr. King including A Testament of Hope: The Essential Writings and Speeches of Martin Luther King Jr.

In between studying his words, I’ve also seen an incredible PBS American Experience documentary Citizen King, addressing the last five years of Dr. King’s life. The film, directed by Orlando Bagwell and W. Noland Walker, is a richly-detailed, beautifully-realized exploration of the life and times of King. Citizen King tells the story of King’s work beyond the familiar images of his March on Washington and beyond the well-known words of his “I Have A Dream” speech. The film sheds light on his work in the Poor People’s Campaign, addressing economic injustice and poverty, and also addresses his vocal (and highly controversial) opposition to the Vietnam War.

The aforementioned works reminded me of the impact of Dr. King, a legacy that in my opinion shouldn’t be relegated to one day in January or to the following month of February. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. had a dream. But he also had the conviction, the passion, the courage and the clarity of vision to stand for what he believed in.

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Jul 27 2012

ShareReads: My Very Zombie Summer

by ShareReads

ShareReads intro

This was my very ambitious summer. Between summer school, work and other obligations, I was determined to read a few books for pleasure. I requested several books and even started a few but nothing would hold my attention. My only source of pleasure reading was article reviews and textbooks for class. Though my head was filling with knowledge, I still needed some form of escapism in the few precious moments of down time I had.

So when a friend suggested that I read Patient Zero by Jonathan Maberry, I hopped on the Library’s catalog and requested the book. I mean, a book with zombies, conspiracy theories and secret agencies that protected the world, who could ask for anything more? I started reading it, but alas, life happened and there the book sat for weeks, waiting for me to continue my journey through its pages whenever I had a break in my schoolwork.

Then one day, I read a DCPLive blog post about a 5K obstacle course with zombies that included a list of a few good books to read. Imagine my excitement as I perused the list of the post-apocalyptic fiction. I mean, who doesn’t love a good zombie story right? So, I requested a copy of Rot and Ruin, Jonathan Maberry’s YA zombie fiction and could not put it down.

Set in a post-apocalyptic future, Rot and Ruin is about Benny Imura, a young teen who is about to turn sixteen, and is faced with finding a job or losing half of his food rations. He tries out for everything, wanting any job but a zombie hunter like his older brother Tom. His career choice will set off a chain of events that will forever change his life.

I was truly engaged with the story and amazed by the care that Maberry took with such a subject. It went beyond the simple see-zombie-run-from-zombie formula and grabbed the reader. Before I knew it, 464 pages passed me by and I do not want the story to end. Thankfully, there is a sequel, Dust and Decay, that just as enjoyable as the first book.

After reading both books, I think I will give Mr. Maberry’s Joe Ledger series another try now that I have a break from school and a taste for a zombie thriller.

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As July ends so does National Ice Cream month. What better way to celebrate than to make some ice cream. Last year, I had a friend that shared all of the different flavors she was creating. Some of the flavors that she created were your typical vanilla, chocolate, etc. However, she did make a bacon ice cream that made me intrigued on what other unique flavors might be available.

I remember as a child, making ice cream by putting the ingredients in an ice cream maker, placing rock salt and ice around the bucket. One of us would sit on the top of the machine while someone else used the hand crank to make the ice cream. If you haven’t made ice cream in a while, the new machines can be quite easy. I purchased one last year where you just put the ice cream bucket in the freezer for twenty-four hours, add the ingredients and then plug it in for about about twenty minutes. This year so far, I have made vanilla, lime and mint-chocolate chip.

Looking for recipes for ice cream or frozen yogurt? The library has a few books that might inspire you.

If you are looking for a cozy mystery to celebrate National Ice Cream month try I scream, you scream: a mystery a la mode by Wendy Lyn Watson. Ms. Watson has a series of ice cream parlor mysteries. Finally, what is your favorite ice cream or the weirdest flavor you have ever tried?

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Jul 23 2012

ShareReads: How Books Learn

by ShareReads

So with all the extra activities of summer time, I enjoy my magazines even more because they offer succinct, timely windows on things of interest. One of my favorite magazines is The Atlantic which is the oldest, continuously published magazine in the United States. Now we have a choice of reading it in print or electronic form. That is, in fact, the topic of Alan Jacobs’ article “How Books Learn”. He extended my knowledge of a new movement I was only vaguely aware of: object-oriented ontology or OOO. As he wrote, “The key question of OOO is summed up in the subtitle of Ian Bogost’s Alien Phenomenology: What It’s Like to Be a Thing.”

Citing a recent OOO book, How Buildings Learn by Stewart Brand, he goes on to discuss how books are things in an often more personal way than buildings. Yet both change over time and with varying use. He notes the difference between the physical book as the format holding an idea or narrative and the concept of that idea or narrative that exists and gets re-formated and even translated, so to speak, over time and in different cultures that have other related events or ideas in play. The extended example he outlines for the reader is the Iliad which he traces from song, through transcription, to being copied by scribes, eventually printed and now available electronically.

It is a very short article but one I value because he helped me understand that “electronic reading is simply another stage in the education of books, and maybe not one of the more eventful ones”. I love that because it may finally help my aging eyes (and concept of reading) find peace with what feel like big changes to me. My age peers wax eloquent on the wonders of e-readers that allow us to change font size and background color. I think some of my resistance has been related to fear-of-losing-the-text.

Now that I consider the possibility that what seems a big change is only one step in a long process that has preserved (and changed, I know) many of the classics I still enjoy reading, I am ready to go back to my magazine reading online.

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Jul 18 2012

Please Be Advised

by Veronica W

There is a word that causes me great vexation of spirit. Place it in front of any commonplace word like book, meeting or speaker and my knee jerk reaction is annoyance. The word is motivational; actually I’m not too fond of its first cousin, “self-help,” either.

I’m sure it’s just (not so) pure contrariness  but I find intentional efforts to motivate me  doomed to fail. Queries that begin with “May I give you some advice” risk a polite but firm “No” in response and it’s no more acceptable when the advice is in print. I subscribe to the old adage about advice; wise men don’t need it and fools won’t heed it.

However as with any rule, there are exceptions and I admit to finding some motivational or self-help books less offensive than others.  A few even contain some basic home truths. If  forced to choose a  favorite, it probably would be Who Moved My Cheese. I thought Hem, Haw, Sniff and Scurry’s quandaries in the maze amusing and the whole presentation was certainly creative.

This book was written in the 90s, a decade which, along with the previous decade, spawned a number of these “helpful” books.  Among others, we were treated to What You Can Change and What You Can’tDon’t Sweat the Small Stuff and All I Really Needed to Know I Learned in Kindergarten. (although any book which espouses afternoon naps, warm cookies and cold milk  and saying you’re sorry when you hurt someone, can’t be all bad.)

Please note  that I am not talking about DIY books which tell you how to fix a lawn mower, your credit or your ailing rose bushes.  If the number of people reading Divorce Yourself, Beat Your Ticket and Retire and Start Your Own Business  is any indication, there is definitely a market for this type of help. It’s those how-to-fix your-life manuals that set my teeth on edge.  Would a book entitled Does Your Life Need A Laxative really be helpful?

I know some people find books about relationships harder to avoid or resist.  Who hasn’t at least been curious about the popularity of books like Men Are From Mars Women Are From VenusThe Five Love Languages, Act Like a Lady Think Like a Man  or The Seven Dumbest Relationship Mistakes Smart People Make? If nothing else, these are good for a rueful laugh or two because occasionally we see ourselves or our experiences in them.

There’s a story of a man who went to work  each day, carrying his lunch  in a brown paper bag.  Every day at lunchtime he joined his coworkers,  opened his bag and pulled out a sandwich. Every day he looked at the sandwich and said with obvious disgust, “Peanut butter!”  Finally, after this happened over a period of weeks, someone at the table got tired of hearing him gripe and said, “What’s up with you and the peanut butter? Who makes your lunch anyway?”  The man took a bite of his sandwich, swallowed, then said, “I do.”  Umm. Perhaps he needs to read Excuses Begone: How to Change Lifelong, Self-defeating Thinking Habits.

I recently re-read the only undisguised advice I have ever thoroughly appreciated. Although written many years ago, it is still powerful reading.  If I Had to Live My Life Over, by Erma Bombeck, is not so much about regrets as it is about our daily choices.  Please let me know if you have found any other really life changing motivational or self-help books out there. I will certainly take reading them under advisement.

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Jul 13 2012

ShareReads: Summer Reading Times Two

by Patricia D

ShareReads intro

My summer reading has taken a two-pronged approach.  Not only am I reading for myself (some cookbooks, Elizabeth Peters’s Amelia Peabody books, Arabella by Georgette Heyer, The President’s Club: Inside the Worlds Most Exclusive Fraternity by Nancy Gibbs and My Life in France by Julia Child ) but I am reading with Junior.  We’ve worked our way through The Mouse and the MotorcycleThe Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane and a huge stack of picture books.  Favorites out of that pile have been Mr. Pusskins, who can give Rotten Ralph a run for his money in the horrible department, the Pete the Cat books with wonderful illustrations by James Dean and favorite since toddler-hood Lyle the Crocodile.  Most importantly though, Junior has been reading to me, taking full advantage of any reader we can lay our hands on, as well as every bus, street sign and inappropriate billboard we pass.

Reading has been a hard-won skill for her and the only way I know to keep that skill sharp and improve on it is constant practice, something that is harder to achieve during the summer.   She has latched on to one reader in particular that was a hand-me-down from her cousin.  In all honesty, I am not enjoying repeated readings of the adventures of Stan, Dan and Lee at the pool.  Yes, there are plenty of wonderful readers out there but she prefers Stan and his ilk over Mr. & Mrs. Green, Mr. Putter and Tabby  and  Little Bear.  While I still make some selections for her, she is now insisting on her own choices when she is doing the reading.  I know she reads better when it’s something she wants to read, and that repetition in reading builds both comfort and confidence.  So, I listen while she reads the same books (there are others also not to my literary tastes) over and over.  This is what is called, in the world of parenting, a sacrifice. Yes, the book is meh but the payoffs?  The sound of my child’s voice as she works her way through a book with only 64 words and the obvious thrill she gets from conquering something that looked impossible last winter.  I imagine it will be pretty easy to forget the not so exciting books she loves this summer, but I will cherish the moments she’s cuddled next to me, frowning over how to sound out the word “aw,” while the miracle of learning to read becomes ordinary.

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Jul 11 2012

Hit the beach…reading!

by Dea Anne M

I’m heading for the Outer Banks at the end of the week and I’m excited—not only by the prospect of some down-time at the ocean, but also by the promise of hours of uninterrupted time to read. When I worked as a bookseller, the publisher reps would invariably try to sell certain titles as “the perfect beach read.” Actually, “beach reading” is a fairly broad category. It’s usually a book that goes down easy but it can be any author from Sophie Kinsella to Clive Cussler to Michael Chabon. Some people prefer non-fiction and there are certainly some beach worthy titles out there (Under the Banner of Heaven and The Tipping Point are two that come immediately to my mind) but for my beach reading it’s fiction all the way. I’m normally an enthusiastic reader of non-fiction but somehow it just doesn’t hold my interest near the waves as a well as a work of writing that carries me away to a different time and place. My co-worker and car pool buddy, Fran, describes a similar phenomenon. She is reading Agatha Christie but says that she is only able to read her when she’s away from home.

For this trip, I will, as usual, be overpacking books but I figure that it’s better to have too many than not enough. That sad situation actually occurred one year and I was forced to run to the grocery store in Gulf Shores AL to buy an emergency paperback. It turned out to be Dark Debts by Karen Hall, an excellent horror novel set in and around Atlanta that scared me silly (for me, a good thing) and proved impossible to put down. This time around, I’ll be steeping myself in Regency England as I re-read some of my favorite Jane Austen, specifically Pride and Prejudice, Emma, and Northanger Abbey. Also coming along will be Georgette Heyer’s Frederica and The Grand Sophy. I’m excited as well about a new thriller writer I discovered recently, Cornelia Read, and I’ll be taking along her novels A Field of Darkness and The Invisible Boy. I also hope to take along The Paris Wife by Paula McClain, Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts, and I may re-read Caleb Carr’s The Alienist.

Do you need some ideas for your vacation reading?

For “brainy” beach reads check out this list.  If Chicklit is your thing then take a look at this.

This year, GoodReads is asking readers to cast their votes for top beach reads, and back in 2009 NPR asked readers and their own Books Board to nominate the 200 “best beach books ever”. You can check the lists out here and here and get inspiration for great new reading or books you’ve read before that you can enjoy rediscovering.

What are some of your favorite beach/vacation reads?

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Jul 9 2012

Mock Caldecott: Round 1

by Nancy M

As mentioned in a previous post, the Library’s youth services staff are participating in a Mock Caldecott election. We’ve been busy reading and have found a lot of great picture books that have been published in 2012; we can’t wait to see what the rest of the year will provide.

The Youth Services staff are split into two groups so we have two sets of winners.  Here are the results of our first round:

Team 1

First Place:

Extra Yarn by Mac Barnett; Illustrated by Jon Klassen

Second Place/Third Place Tie :

Green written and illustrated by Laura Vaccaro Seeger

Jazz Age Josephine by Jonah Winter; Illustrated by Marjorie Priceman

Team 2

First Place:

Extra Yarn by Mac Barnett; illustrated by Jon Klassen

Second Place:

Laundry Day written and illustrated by Maurie J. Manning

Third Place:

And Then It’s Spring by Julie Fogliano; Illustrated by Erin E. Stead

What do you think of our choices? Have you read any of these books yet? Let us know what you think and if we are missing something great!

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Jul 6 2012

ShareReads: Altered Carbon

by Jesse M

Every year, I read a lot of books. Most of them are good, some of them are great, and occasionally a book is of such exceptional quality that I recommend it to people who don’t usually read that genre, and gift it for birthdays and holidays because I am so confident the recipient will enjoy it. Altered Carbon by Richard K. Morgan is one of those books.

Altered Carbon is a novel which straddles the boundary between the Cyberpunk sub-genre of science fiction and the Hardboiled sub-genre of crime fiction. It features one of most compelling anti-heroes in modern literature, Takeshi Kovacs, a former interstellar special forces soldier turned mercenary/criminal who finds himself drafted into the role of private detective by a very wealthy and powerful patron who is in a position to make him an employment offer he cannot refuse. Complicating matters is that Kovacs is a stranger to 25th-century Earth (his consciousness was digitally “needlecast” from his home planet of Harlan’s World to Earth, the only method of faster-than-light interstellar travel available to humanity) and the body he is “re-sleeved” in, that of former policeman Elias Ryker, had complex relationships of his own that Kovacs must navigate in order to succeed in and survive his new assignment.

Altered Carbon is graphic and unflinching in its depictions of sex and violence, but nicely balances these scenes with more contemplative passages that add depth and flavor to the characters and setting. The quality and complexity of the work earned the novel the Philip K. Dick Award for Best Novel in 2003. Film rights for the book and its sequels have also been optioned and Laeta Kalogridis, who penned Shutter Island and executive produced Avatar, will adapt the novel along with David Goodman.

Fans of Morgan’s work can find more at the library, including the two sequels featuring Takeshi Kovacs, Broken Angels and Woken Furies. Readers interested in pursuing more novels in the Cyberpunk or Hardboiled genres should check out William Gibson’s Neuromancer (the first book in his seminal Sprawl Trilogy) and The Raymond Chandler omnibus respectively; both Gibson and Chandler are considered among the premier writers of their genres.

While Altered Carbon has a lot to recommend it, for me the key element was the character of Takeshi Kovacs. His story and personality were so powerful and gripping I was unable to put Altered Carbon or its sequels down. Who are some of your favorite “anti-heroes” in literature, and what makes them so compelling?

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Jul 2 2012

Reaching Olympus

by Jnai W

The World is less than a month away from the 2012 Olympic Games in London and my excitement is steadily growing.  While I cannot rightfully call myself a sports fanatic, I always look forward to the Olympic Games. It’s hard to resist the glamor and spectacle of the Opening Ceremonies. The world’s elite athletes step forth into the Olympic Games with flags waving, beaming proudly in anticipation of representing their respective nations in competition. Then, of course, there are the sporting events, the opportunity to share in (at least, vicariously and from the comforts of our own living rooms) an athlete’s moment in time, the culmination of years of hard work, discipline and sacrifice for their sport. Needless to say, I find it all incredibly romantic and awe-inspiring.

In seeing these Olympians, or any great successful athlete,  I try to imagine what it must be like to have the drive, the strength and the mastery to scale the heights of their sport. What does it take to become a world class athlete ?

Right now I’m juggling a few books on the subject of great athletes and the success they achieve. I haven’t gotten as far as I’d like into one book in particular, Bounce: Mozart, Federer, Picasso, Beckham, and the Science of Success by Matthew Syed but I’m working on it. The author, himself a two-time Olympian and table-tennis champion, offers great insight into what it takes to achieve success and prestige in sports or any other field. Syed illustrates that one must apply “purposeful practice” to his or her craft in order to achieve excellence, with extensive research pointing to a minimum requirement of 10 years to gain mastery of one’s sport or field.

Additionally Syed proposes that natural ability and practice may not be enough to reach the Olympics but that “practically every man or woman who triumphs against the odds is, on closer inspection, a beneficiary of unusual circumstances”, some sort of opportunity or privilege that gives them the edge over their peers. In Syed’s case, for example, his excellence in table-tennis was the result of not only copious amounts of practice and his own propensity for the sport but also of having ready access to practice facilities—a tennis table in his own home and a table tennis club only a few miles from his home. These circumstances, plus having a teacher who was also a table tennis enthusiast and coach, all conspired to make Syed a champion, more so perhaps than his own talent.

While I’m still pouring over Bounce, I’ve since been drawn to another wonderful book on the life and times of one of America’s favorite athletes. For The Love of The Game: My Story is a gorgeous and well-written biography of Michael Jordan, basketball superstar and Olympian.  Of all the details of Jordan’s career and various achievements, there was one particular passage which, to me, is very telling of how he rose to the top of his game. Jordan is not only a talented, disciplined and industrious athlete but also he is a visionary of his own success. “I have used visualization techniques for as long as I can remember,” Jordan writes. “It wasn’t until later in my career that I realized the technique is something most people have to learn. I had been practicing the principles naturally my entire life.”

Imagine a young Olympian envisioning her journey from a youth spent practicing her discipline to the moment she reaches the podium, medal draped around her neck and her nation’s anthem playing triumphantly. No matter how these athletes have reached Olympus, the world will be watching. I can’t wait!

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