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

July 2013

Jul 31 2013

National Back To School Month

by Glenda

Back to SchoolAs summer comes to a close, parents and students all over the country will celebrate National Back to School Month. As we all begin to prepare for school, children all over will be doing back to school shopping and parents will be looking for information to ensure their students are prepared. One helpful series of books for this is The Core Knowledge Series. What your kindergartner needs to know: preparing your child for a lifetime of learning edited by E.D. Hirsch, Jr. and John Holdren is an excellent book for parents who have kindergartners starting school. This series continues through sixth grade with What your sixth grader needs to know: fundamentals of a good sixth grade education.

Some students may also be looking for something more light-hearted such as Back to school for Rotten Ralph by Jack Gantos, Seventeen things i’m not allowed to do anymore by Jenny Offill, or Back to school with Betsy by Carolyn Haywood. For kids in middle school a couple of great books are Middle school is worse than meatloaf: a year told through stuff  by Jennifer Holm and Middle school, the worst years of my life by James Patterson. An excellent book for high school student is 97 things to do before you finish high school by Steven Jenkins and Erika Stalder.

These are just a few titles that will help both parents and students preparing for school, so stop by your local library and pick up a great back to school book.

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Jul 29 2013

Canyon Dreams–and Nightmares!

by Hope L

book coverHaving grown up in Grand Canyon National Park, I often feel nostalgic about the place I remember so fondly;  short of a high school class reunion a few years ago, I haven’t gotten back for a visit.  But I can and do visit often by reading a good book, like Travelers’  Tales Guides’  Grand Canyon: True Stories of Life Below the Rim edited by Sean O’Reilly, James O’Reilly and Larry Habegger,  a compilation of short vignettes about different authors’ experiences while hiking, rafting and camping in the canyon. I almost felt the sunshine on my face, saw the bluest of blue skies with white cottony clouds  and heard the ravens squawk while I read some of these entries.

I also enjoyed Jack Hiller’s expeditions down the Colorado River and through several states and the Grand Canyon from the book “Photographed all the best scenery”: Jack Hillers’s diary of the Powell expeditions, 1871-1875. Talk about roughing it!

But by far my favorite canyon books are those by Michael Ghiglieri and Thomas M. Myers.

Over the Edge: Death in the Grand Canyon includes incidents from the time of some of the first visitors—Wesley Powell and his crew of 1869—to that of tourists falling off its rims today (the Library does not currently have this book in our collection, however, we do have Canyon by the same author). Living in the park for 10 years of my childhood, I was unaware of most of these happenings.

These accounts of nearly 600 people who have met untimely deaths in the Canyon held me spellbound: accidental falls off the rim or while hiking, drowning in the Colorado River, dehydration,  hypothermia, cardiac arrests,  aircraft fatalities, freak accidents, suicide and even murder and lightning strikes  are included.  Had I known even some of this while hiking rim-to-rim with my class in junior high school,  I would have been scared to….well, death.  Thanks to constant adult supervision and a bit of good luck, however, I survived with only one incident:  tripping on the very narrow trail down from the North Rim and falling facedown, my heavy backpack preventing me from getting up on my own power.  A beloved teacher, Mr. Eager, had to climb over me and push me up from my shoulders. I didn’t know then how close I came to being included in this book!

Another Thomas M. Myers book,  Grand Obsession:  Harvey Butchart and the Exploration of Grand Canyon (with co-author Elias Butler), follows the unbelievable adventures of  math professor Harvey Butchart, who spent 42 years exploring the Grand Canyon and hiked 12,000 miles, scaling plateaus, buttes, and blazing trails—making him perhaps the most prolific canyon hiker.  Needless to say, Mrs. Butchart, who did not share her husband’s passion, was probably a pretty lonely gal.

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Jul 26 2013

ShareReads: Adventures with the Classics

by Dea Anne M

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When I was 14, I went into the school library and checked out a copy of Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina. Later that day, my English teacher saw me carrying annait in the hallway. She raised an eyebrow and said, voice dripping with scepticism.

“Don’t you think that’s a little bit much?”

Well, that just made me more determined than ever to read the whole book. What I didn’t admit to myself (or to anyone else) was that as interested as I was in the book, I was even more interested in being seen carrying it around. Trying to impress others with my reading choices was a youthful bit of vanity that it took an unfortunately long time to shake. Anyway, I finally finished the novel though I had no real idea of what I had read. Not that I would have let anyone know that.

High school had its required reading as did college but none of the assigned northangertexts, though interesting enough, inspired me to take up reading classics in my leisure time. The change occurred in my Romantic Literature class when the professor assigned us to choose one of two novels and write a paper about it. I think the only reason I picked Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey was because I just didn’t want to read the Last of the Mohicans. I was only a few pages into the book, however, before I realized that I’d fallen in love. Since then, I’ve read all of Austen’s work and have happily reread most of them as well – notably my two favorites – Emma and Pride and Prejudice.

In the years since that first delightful experience with Jane Austen, I’ve brothersexplored classic novels sporadically. I went through a Dostoevsky phase which was pretty heavy going but overall worthwhile (favorite novel – The Brothers Karamazov). After that, I experienced a year long flirtation with the works of Henry James of which (and I’m a little embarassed to admit this) I like most the shortest namely The Turn of the Screw and Daisy Miller. Thomas Mann followed Henry James then came James Joyce and after that I stopped setting myself the “project” of trying to read any author’s entire body of work.

Lately, I’ve become interested in exploring the classics again though this timedavid I want to take a less studied approach and select books with an eye toward sheer reading pleasure. Remembering how much I enjoyed Great Expectations, I recently checked out Charles Dickens’ David Copperfield. I couldn’t put it down! It’s a very long book so it took me a good while to get through and I’m sure that the inmates of my house became less than charmed with my nightly cries of “Poor David!” and “I hate Uriah Heap!” but I really found it that engaging a novel. I followed Dickens with Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte and I’m happy to report that experience as every bit as enjoyable. I suppose I’ve finally learned that I don’t janehave to  read a classic work of literature in order to “improve” myself or (cringe) in order to impress other people. I can just relax and relish the reading experience. As Italo Calvino reminds us in his book of essays The Uses of Literature, “A classic is a book that has never finished saying what it has to say.”

If you’re interested in dipping into the classics but don’t know quite where to start, check out the “Best Classic Literature Ever” list on the Goodreads website. You can get more ideas from Modern Library’s “100 Best Novels” list. This last is actually two lists in one – the board’s list which is dominated by classics and the reader’s list which leans more toward genre fiction and includes more science fiction and dark fantasy.

What’s next on my reading list of classics? Middlemarch by George Eliot. Then, who knows, maybe I’ll tackle Anna Karenina again!

What are some of your favorite classics? How do you define a classic?

 PS – This is the last ShareReads post. Hope you had fun with us, and don’t forget to submit your reading and activities completed on our Adult Summer Reading page. Click here to see all of our ShareReads posts this year.

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Jul 17 2013

Library infographics from the 1930s

by Jesse M

Circle of Classified KnowledgeThese days, infographics are all the rage (for instance, take a look at this one I posted about last year regarding the value of libraries and why it is so important to support them), but libraries have been making use of them to illustrate how the library works for decades.

Check out this gallery of a series of library education posters created under the supervision of librarian Ruby Ethel Cundith for Peabody Visuals Aids in the 1930s and 1940s. The posters were salvaged by Char Booth from a throw-away pile at her library school in 2003.

From card catalog to the book on the shelf
My favorites include the “Circle of Classified Knowledge”, which illustrates the myriad categories and sub-categories of the dewey decimal system, and the two posters detailing the information present on a card from a library catalog and how it can be used to find a book.

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Jul 12 2013

ShareReads: A View From the Peanut Gallery

by Veronica W

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For anyone who loves sci-fi and/or fantasy, the Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins was a treat. It held you enthralled until the very end and when the movie came out, it was greeted with cheers. Although I didn’t go to the movies to see it, I didn’t want to be number 328 in line for a library copy either. So, when I found it on sale, I grabbed a copy. Big mistake. The book was wonderful; the movie, in my opinion, not so much. Even on sale, I felt it cost me too much.

FredericaAs I read my way leisurely through the summer, I can’t help thinking sometimes “What a great movie this book or that book would be!”  I even select the cast for them. A friend and I lament continually about the injustice of Jane Austen’s many works being made into movies (which we love) while the fans of the prolific and wonderful Georgette Heyer must make do with rereading her books over and over again.  (I know, literary elitists will be appalled that we would compare the two). However for those who often find it tiring to read Austen but love the regency era, Heyer’s works are clever, witty, true to the times and darn good reading. I would recommend starting with Frederica.

motherrainwaterThis summer, in addition to rereading Heyer, I have been drawn to fiction about the Dust Bowl during the depression era and can recommend two very good books. Mother Road, by Dorothy Garlock, has everything you need for some lightweight, on-the-beach reading, as does Rainwater by Sandra Brown. They have drama, history, suspense, action and romance. Also, they would both make great movies.

Have you ever been disappointed in a book’s transition to the big screen? Is there a book you feel screams to be made into a movie? Let me know. I have Warner Bros. studio on speed dial.

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Jul 10 2013

Rediscovered treasures

by Dea Anne M

Regular readers of this blog know that I am an avid reader of what I might term “culinary literature,” and I suspect that I am not alone with this fondness. Given the huge success of such books as Julie and Julia by Julie Powell, julieKitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain, and Blood, Bones and Butter by Gabrielle Hamilton, it appears as though many people are interested in reading well-written books that touch on the ways that food intersects with life. Indeed, it seems that every week there’s a new culinary memoir or collection of essays on gastronomy that appears on the publishing horizon and that trend shows no current signs of stopping.

But what about the older treasures?   There is much pleasure in discovering, or rediscovering, the wonderful food writing of the past. This was brought home lambto me recently after reading (I might even say devouring) The Supper of the Lamb: a culinary reflection by Robert Farrar Capon. Ostensibly a cookbook, this literary gem is also about what it means to be human and fully in the world. Capon, an Episcopal priest combines theological and culinary insights in a quirky yet completely readable fashion. Yes, there are recipes here (and they look like good ones) but what truly captivates is Capon’s obvious joy in creation and his love of simple pleasures. First  published in 1969 and reprinted as part of the excellent Modern Library Food series, the book is as strange, moving, funny, and gorgeous today as it must have seemed when it first appeared. Highly recommended.

Samuel Chamberlain and his family lived an idyllic existence in France prior to WWII. When war appeared inevitable, Chamberlain’s company called him home to the small town of Marblehead, MA. Accompanying the family, was Clementine, the magically resourceful cook who had come to work for them. First published in 1943 under the nom de plume Phineas Beck, Clementine In the Kitchen is a charming and funny portrait  of the Chamberlain’s culinary adventures in France and the U.S. courtesy of the indomitable and always interesting Clementine.

I have long been an fervent admirer of the writing of M. F. K. Fisher and A Stew or a Story:  an assortment of short works contains some of her best stewpieces. I particularly enjoyed “Love In a Dish” and “Little Meals With Great Implications,” but all the essays in the collection display Fisher’s trademark wit and beautiful use of the language. Also, included are some of Fisher’s short fiction and travel articles. All in all, the book provides a fine introduction to one of the best writers America has ever produced.

Elizabeth David was an elegant and marvelous writer and though DCPL does not own her fine collection of magazine writing, An Omelet and a Glass of Wine, you will find her Elizabeth David Classics: Mediterranean Food, French country cooking, Summer cooking which collects in one volume three of her best known cookbooks: A Book of Mediterranean Food, French Country Cooking, and Summer Cooking. Though this is a book of recipes, there is a wealth of David’s wonderful writing contained within, particularly in the prefaces to the chapters. David’s brief treatise on garlic in the French country cooking section alone is worth checking out this wonderful book. You probably won’t actually cook much from Elizabeth David Classics (David was notoriously inexact both in measurements and instruction) but it makes for marvelous reading.

A bit dated, the Compleat I Hate to Cook Book by Peg Bracken still makes for entertaining reading. Ruth Eleanor “Peg” Bracken published the first I Hate to Cook Book in 1960 and it was an instant sensation. Heavy reliance on cans, packaged products, and short cuts goes against today’s  general belief that good cooking must always use the freshest, highest quality ingredients and preferably be a bit (or very) labor intensive. You’ll find no handmade pasta here and you certainly won’t learn how to remove the bones from a chicken without breaking the skin, but if you’re a beginning cook you’ll actually find some usable recipes. Everyone else can enjoy the witty writing, Bracken’s sly sense of the absurd and vintage illustrations by Hilary Knight. Knight is famous for illustrating Kay Thompson’s Eloise.

What are some of your rediscovered treasures?

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