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

June 2014

Jun 26 2014

Under the Radar Summer Reads

by Jesse M

TS Spivet coverSearching for something good to read this summer? Look no further than this post! NPR’s “books guru” (librarian Nancy Pearl) has a list of under the radar reads that she thinks deserve more attention than they’re getting. While we don’t have every title she recommends available in our catalog, we do have several of them, including Astoria by Peter Stark, The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet by Reif Larsen, and The Glass Sentence by S.E. Grove.

If that doesn’t satisfy your desire for book recommendations, check out another recent NPR summer reading list–All Aboard! A Reading List For Riding The Rails focuses on the journey, not the destination, featuring books involving transport by plane, train, car, boat, horse, balloon, rocketship, and even a giant peach!

Still need more reading lists? Take a look at Nancy Pearl’s trio of guides to what to read next: Book Lust, More Book Lust, and Book Lust To Go. Happy reading!

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feed-the-birdsHello readers,

The Reason I Jump: The Inner Voice of a Thirteen-Year-Old Boy with Autism is a small book written in question and answer format by Naoki Higashida, first published in 2007. Naoki is unable to speak, but he has an incredible degree of self-awareness and compassion for his own humanity and a passionate need to communicate with others.  Using a Japanese language alphabet board, he was painstakingly able to transmit his thoughts about his condition as well as what it is like, as far as he knows, to be autistic.  The book is introduced by and translated by David Mitchell (author of Cloud Atlas) and his wife, KA Yoshida, who have an autistic child together. Naoki’s purpose is to help others who are not personally affected by autism to understand and feel empathy for those whose every moment is a struggle against time, emotions, and the limits of the physical body.

Naoki+Higashida-200x300

His descriptions of his states of being are precise, sensitive, and pricelessly valuable to those of us who seek to understand others and appreciate the value of the differences in perception and experience that other ways of being and perceiving can bring to the human experience.  Today, as a young adult, Naoki is an advocate for those affected by autism, a motivational speaker, and author of several books. Please click on this link if you would like to visit his blog.

One of the passages in The Reason I Jump, which literally jumped out at me, is Question 58: “What are your thoughts on autism itself?”  I quote it here:  “I think that people with autism are born outside the regime of civilization.  Sure, this is just my own made-up theory, but I think that, as a result of all the killings in the world and the selfish planet-wrecking that humanity has committed, a deep sense of crisis exists.  Autism has somehow arisen out of this.  Although people with autism look like other people physically, we are in fact very different in many ways.  We are more like travelers from the distant, distant past.  And if, by our being here, we could help the people of the world remember what truly matters for the Earth, that would give us a quiet pleasure.”

Naoki expresses his love of nature, of beauty, and of detail, as his condition allows him to zero in on very minute fragments of experience and to immerse himself in the moment.  Doing so allows him to slow down time and to soothe the disconnections between his body, mind, and the world which causes incessant suffering that he describes as a constant struggle in his daily life.

The reason the passage above struck such a deep chord in me is twofold.  For one, I personally identify with Naoki’s sentiment of being outside of “normal” contemporary human civilization.  When he expresses his feeling of being a primeval being, a messenger come to peacefully remind modern humans to slow down, to appreciate what we have been given to enjoy, and to understand how we are all connected to one another and to nature, I am reminded of a novel for young adults that I started to write last year.  In this story, autistic and transgender children are messengers of this sort, exactly as described by Naoki.  It is uncanny.

As I read Naoki’s book, I thought back to a few works of fiction that I have read in our DCPL collection in which either the protagonists or secondary characters are autistic.  I feel that the medium of fiction often allows a reader to become immersed in another person’s world and way of being in his or her environment. Below my short list of books are several links to blogs and web pages with extensive listings and reviews of books and film centered around characters affected by autism spectrum disorders.

1. Unsaid by Neil Abramson – One of the minor characters in this novel is a young boy who has a deeply intuitive connection to animals.  The theme of the book is centered around the relationships between animals and humans, and the need for animals, who are not able to speak, to have human advocates.

2. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime by Mark Haddon – The main character of this novel is an autistic teen, Christopher Boone.  The well-regulated universe of the 15 year-old becomes upset when the neighbor’s dog, Wellington, is killed, and Christopher sets out to solve the mystery.

3. The Uninvited by Liz Jensen – Dystopian speculative fiction/thriller, this novel features an anthropologist with Asperger’s named Hespeth Lock.

The Nerdy Book Club blog has a list of books with autism spectrum characters for kids and teens.

Wikipedia features a listing of fictional characters on the autism spectrum in literature, film, and television.

Goodreads has a list of autism in fiction books.

The Quixotic Autistic blog is about autism in literature.

Autism Book and Movie Reviews blog highlights reviews of films and books with autistic characters.

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Jun 18 2014

Patsy

by Hope L

PatsyThe Wurlitzer All-Time Jukebox Hits lists Crazy as the #2 jukebox hit single. She would’ve been 82 this year. Her name was Virginia Patterson Hensley, aka Patsy Cline.

I once lip-synched the Patsy Cline song I Fall to Pieces at a convention, so I have  literary license to write about  Ms. Cline. Of course I remember Jessica Lange playing Patsy  in the 1985 film Sweet Dreams, but other than knowing that Cline died in a plane crash, I really didn’t know much about this 60’s icon of country music.  So I picked up Mark Bego’s I Fall to Pieces: The Music and the Life of Patsy Cline.

Many talented and ambitious people had hardscrabble beginnings and/or abuse growing up, and Patsy was no exception.  Now when I listen to her music, I have a whole new appreciation for the angst that can be heard in her singing of songs, my personal favorite being Turn the Cards Slowly.

Patsy Cline knew she would be a star, and at a young age she went about making it happen by singing everywhere and every chance she got, just for the experience: church, fairgrounds, restaurants, nightclubs.  At  age 15, “Ginny,” as she was known then, quit school to go to work to help support the family. Her first  paying  job: slaughtering chickens.

But Ginny found the time to nag her mother to take her around to Winchester, West Virginia’s small radio station and show off her singing skills to the likes of Joltin’ Jim McCoy–and eventually on to Nashville to try to get an audience with Wally Fowler, a big star of Southern Gospel with a regular radio show.

When I hear a song by Patsy, with its steel guitar intro, it brings me back to the days of country two-stepping and smoky barrooms of my  youth–fond memories, indeed.  Forgive me, young people–but they sure don’t  make music like this anymore. Click here to take a look at some of the items we have at DCPL.

 

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Jun 15 2014

Puzzle Me This…or That

by Dea Anne M

A couple of years ago I was visiting my family in south Georgia, visits that I wish were more frequent, and my nephew–then eight years old and as social a creature as has ever been born–was, as usual, directing our activities. He was mad at me because I had just beaten him at Scrabble. I reminded him that:

1. “You’re eight.”

2. “I only beat you by three points.”

He was having none of it. Revenge was the only viable option. Smiling an evil eight-year-old smile, he pulled out the Harry Potter board game.  Announcing that he would be playing the role of the Sorting Hat, he put us into our houses. He, of course, went to Gryffindor. His mother and his aunt were put into Ravenclaw.  I’ll leave you to guess which house I went to.

Here’s a hint–there were four of us playing and no one was sorted into Hufflepuff.

I hope I’m not making my beloved nephew out to be a brat. He’s a wonderful kid and he’s one of the people in the world I most enjoy hanging out with.

But he is a sore loser.

Come to think of it, I’m kind of a sore loser too–at least when it comes to Scrabble. Because I’ve been an avid reader for as long as I can remember and because I have what I think of as a decent vocabulary, I always feel as though I should be a better Scrabble player than I am. I’ve only recently come to realize that most of the really good Scrabble players that I’ve known are people who can easily visualize words “hidden” inside a random collection of letters. These are the same people who can whip through the “jumble” puzzle in the daily paper. I am not one of those people.

Still, I think I am pretty good at recognizing patterns in terms of colors and shapes, which is what makes working jigsaw puzzles so much fun for me. Along with board games of all sorts, we were always a puzzle family–my mom especially, and she and I would often stay up into the wee hours to finish a particularly difficult or intriguing puzzle.

So what’s your pleasure–Scrabble or jigsaw puzzles? While you ponder that question let me suggest a couple of titles from DCPL that you might find interesting.

Word Freak: Heartbreak, Triumph, Genius and Obsession in the World of freakCompetitive Scrabble Players by Stefan Fatsis concerns itself with the world of hard core tournament players. These are not your Scrabble-on-a-lazy-afternoon type of folks. These are people who know all sorts of words that use the letter “x” (worth 8 points) or “q” (10 points!). These are people who not only know the word “qepiq” but will be prepared to defend it against all challengers. (It is an Azerbaijani unit of currency.) Fascinating, and well worth reading even if you don’t have a particular passion for Scrabble.

carpetIf you’re a jigsaw puzzle buff or if you are a fan of intelligent, literate memoir, then check out The Pattern in the Carpet: A Personal History with Jigsaws by the British author Margaret Drabble. Drabble combines interesting facts about the history of jigsaws with her own history to make a beautifully written whole piece. Wonderfully entertaining, I recommend this book for a rainy day when you can curl up in a comfortable corner and really take your time–which on certain days might describe my perfect afternoon.

Are there other types of puzzles or board games that you enjoy?

 

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Jun 11 2014

Maya Angelou

by Joseph M

Two weeks ago, Maya Angelou died at the age of 86. A highly acclaimed writer, performer, and civil rights activist, Angelou achieved iconic status over the course of her lifetime, and her passing was widely mourned and marked with tributes from notable people around the world.

I recently found this article on The Huffington Post about the importance of libraries in Maya Angelou’s life, and I was particularly struck by the following quote:

“…I always felt, in any town, if I can get to a library, I’ll be OK. It really helped me as a child, and that never left me. So I have a special place for every library, in my heart of hearts.”

Interested in learning more? DCPL has many titles by Maya Angelou; click here to see a catalog listing.

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As readers of this blog know, I am a big fan of science fiction.  And as I’ve discussed in a previous post, I also enjoy reading flash fiction, which is usually defined as “fiction of extreme brevity.” In today’s post, I’ll be highlighting not one but two flash science fiction blogs, 30 Second Sci Fi and 365 Tomorrows.

The stories on 30 Second Sci Fi are all courtesy of a single author who began the project as a personal challenge. The rules are that the author must write one new story every day for a year, no longer than 250 words, that is complete in its own right (thus no multi-part stories). A look at the site’s archives shows that the project began back in November of last year.

Unlike 30 Second Sci Fi, 365 Tomorrows is a collaborative project involving multiple authors. The remarkable longevity of the site is probably attributable to this difference; like its fellow flash science fiction blog, it aims to present a new work of science fiction every single day, but it has been doing so since August of 2005. The stories are also a bit longer in terms of word count, with the maximum length set at 600. Another cool feature of 365 Tomorrows is that you can submit your own story for publication on the site.

If you are a fan of science fiction short stories you might also like one of these anthologies available through DCPL!New space opera
The New Space Opera

The Best of the Best: 20 Years of the Year’s Best Science Fiction

The Best of the Best. Volume 2, 20 Years of the Best Short Science Fiction Novels

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Jun 4 2014

Summer Salads

by Glenda

StrawberryAvocadoSpinachSalad500Now that summer is on the way this is a great opportunity to start eating more salads. There are a variety of salads that most of us eat on a regular basis, but this month take a chance and try some new salads. Most people love the classic Caesar salad or Cobb salad and I don’t know anyone who will turn down a fruit salad, but there are salads most people never try. So let us look at some of those salads. How about trying a Cantaloupe Carpaccio salad? To make this, slice cantaloupe extra thin, drizzle with olive oil and lemon juice, and top with pepper and ricotta cheese. This is an easy recipe and it’s very refreshing. Do you love fish in a salad? Well, try the Smoked Trout salad. To make this salad, whisk one part cider vinegar with three parts olive oil, minced shallots, horseradish, Dijon mustard, honey, salt and pepper. Toss with flaked smoked trout, julienne apple and beets, and arugula. If you don’t want to try either of these salads, then come by your local library and pick up a few salad books–such as Salads: 150 Classic and Innovative Recipes for Every Course and Every Meal by Leonard Schwartz with Sheila Linderman, Salad Suppers: Fresh Inspirations for Satisfying One-Dish Meals by Andrea Chesman, or Cooking Light: Big Book of Salads. When we think of salads we may think of only eating healthy, but salads can be fun as well, so make a fun salad.

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