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reading

Feb 3 2016

Try a New Format

by Amie P

I always had some trouble working through graphic novels. I love books of comic strips—my parents own dog-eared collections of Calvin and Hobbes, Foxtrot, Get Fuzzy, and The Far Side. But full-length graphic novels are more difficult for me to work through. Every one that I had looked at seemed dark and bloody, or difficult to follow, or cheesy, or… or… or…

Then I read American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang. I’m not going to tell you that suddenly I embraced all graphic novels, that I’ve become an ambassador for the form, that it changed my life… but when I finished, I did understand for the first time why people would read and write graphic novels.

americanThe story follows three different characters: Jin, a Chinese-American teen struggling to deal with the racism he encounters from his classmates; Danny, another teen dealing with the embarrassment caused by a visit from his Chinese cousin Chin-Kee; and the Monkey King of Flower-Fruit Mountain, a mythical figure from Chinese folklore. I don’t want to give anything away, so I won’t explain how these different stories come together—I’ll just tell you that it is extremely well done and worth the read.

If you haven’t yet tried graphic novels, or if you’ve struggled with them as I have, I highly recommend giving American Born Chinese a try. I can’t guarantee you’ll come away wanting to read every other graphic novel ever written, but I do think you’ll be satisfied with this read.

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Aug 21 2015

To Read or Not To Read: No Question

by Amie P

I have a confession to make: I hate reading Shakespeare’s plays. (This can be a bit of a problem when you major in English Literature and Writing.)

That said, over the course of my high school and college years I saw productions of As You Like It, The Comedy of Errors, The Merchant of Venice, Much Ado About Nothing, The Taming of the Shrew (twice, once as a western and once set in 1950s Italy), Antony and Cleopatra, Hamlet, and Macbeth, and I was one of the fairies in a production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

I’ve seen Shakespeare productions at the Royal Shakespeare Company in London, England; the Stratford Shakespeare Festival in Ontario, Canada; the Chicago Shakespeare Theater; and the Atlanta Shakespeare Tavern, in addition to many smaller theaters.

I’ve loved them all!

How does this work?  I made a deal with myself: I only read a Shakespeare play after I’ve seen a production of it. After all, plays were made to be seen, not read, right?

It’s not always possible to find a theater production for each play you want to see, of course, and that’s where DVDs come into play.  Two of my favorites are available from the library. Try these:

Much Ado About Nothing

A Midsummer Night’s Dream

There’s more where those came from, so just ask your librarian for a hand if there are others you’d like to see.

Taming of the ShrewIf you’d rather read your Shakespeare (or if your teacher says you have to), take a look at the No-Fear Shakespeare series. Each book has Shakespeare’s original words on one side of the page with a modern English translation on the other. I recommend starting with The Taming of the Shrew.

See? Easy-peasy. Enjoy!

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Dec 26 2012

Best in 2012

by Dea Anne M

As the year draws to a close, it’s no surprise to see “best of” lists appearing everywhere online. I’m always interested in these and sometimes even more interested in checking out the accompanying comments. Everyone it seems has an opinion about “the best” and many of us express our opinions on this topic with great, shall we say, energy. Here’s a roundup of some recent top reads lists.

NPR publishes several targeted lists each year. Lists for 2012 include:

The  New Yorker’s “Page-Turners” blog features favorites from regular contributors. Not all these picks are new books but the list is nonetheless thought-provoking.

On November 30th, the  New York Times published its 10 Best Books of 2012. Several of these titles are available from DCPL including:bodies

Fiction

Non-Fiction

Goodreads, the popular “social cataloging” website has announced its Choice Awards for 2012. Readers vote for the best books in a wide range of categories including Paranormal Fantasy, Food and Cookbooks, Graphic Novels and Poetry. Some top picks include the following—all available at DCPL.

[read the rest of this post…]

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Sep 7 2012

Know Your Type!

by Jimmy L

What type of book reader are you? That’s what a recent article in The Atlantic Wire aimed to help you answer. Are you always starting a book with enthusiasm only to be distracted by another book and never finishing the first one? Then obviously, you pick up a third book and forget all about the second? If so, you may be a “promiscuous reader.” Or do you only have time to read for the 5 minutes before you fall asleep every day? If so, you may be a “sleepy bedtime reader.” But the types outlined in this article left a lot out, and an addendum was written with many other types, including my favorite type, “the Cat”: “Sometimes, if you’re lucky, your owner has left [a book] open, and you lie on top of it and let its smooth pages touch your whiskers.”

I think most readers are probably a combination of several categories. When reading through these, I really identified with being both a “book buster” and a “critic”. What type are you?

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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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May 2 2012

Do you have a secret?

by Dea Anne M

Rebecca Joines Schinsky of  The Book Lady’s Blog recently featured an amusing post (found via Atlanta Book Lover’s Blog) in which she reveals some of her own “dirty little reading secrets,” and asks readers to share theirs. Schinsky’s revelations and request certainly generated a lot of lively comment and the responses are a lot of fun to read. Quite a few of the respondents admit to never having liked Jane Eyre or the works of Gabriel Garcia Marquez. One of my favorite comments comes from someone who admits to often judging a book by its cover. As a former bookseller, I can certainly relate to that and I smile to remember a customer rejecting one of my suggestions with the words “I can’t let anyone see me reading that!” Her objection was either to the title or the cover and unfortunately I’ve forgotten the book altogether. Anyway, it was for me another great illustration that our choices in reading are often (maybe mostly) more emotional than rational. Here’s a short list of my own guilty reading secrets:

There was a period in college when I carried Finnegan’s Wake around with me at all times. I couldn’t make any sense of it but I sure wanted people to think of me as the sort of person who would choose to read (and understand!) such a work. “Oh no, it isn’t for a class. I just wanted to read it.” I’d rehearse saying… in answer to the question which never came.

I fell under the spell of J.D. Salinger for awhile (also in college) particularly his novel Franny and Zooey.  I find the title characters nearly unbearable now but at the time I thought their urbane and angst-ridden cleverness well worth imitating. I’m sure my circle of friends found my “witty”  posturing as baffling as it was irritating.

I read two pages of The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen then put it down never to pick it up again. Actually, I don’t really feel guilty about that…it just wasn’t a novel for me.

I really hated The Da Vinci Code. When I made the mistake of bringing up my thoughts at a party one night, I was roundly castigated as a “book snob” and schooled forthwith in all the ways my opinion was objectionable and wrong. I don’t care…I still hate that book.

A fun, related article is this one from The Awl in which writer Nadia Chaudhury asks various authors and publishing professionals about their embarrassing “first book crushes.” From Ayn Rand to Sweet Valley High, the usual suspects are here as well as some surprises. The work of Raymond Carver comes up for more than a few of the respondents and On the Road is a top choice for many of the men. My own cringe-inducing literary period would have to be that double-header year when I was obsessed not only with Robert Graves The White Goddess but also with the entire oeuvre of Anais Nin. Yikes!

What are your guilty little reading secrets? Do you have a first book crush that makes you cringe now?

P.S. Thanks to Robbin P. for steering me to this!

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Dec 16 2011

Choosing the best book for a child

by Patricia D

When I worked in the Children’s Room there was one question, above all others, that we were asked this time of year.  “What is the best book for a holiday gift for my child/niece/nephew/young friend?”   We would ask about the child’s interests and age, and offer up some of our favorite titles, things that were new during the year and also things we loved, either from our childhood or from our own experiences with children.   I completely understand the worry over choosing just the best book for that special child.  I ordered books for children for a living and was  stopped in my tracks by indecision at the bookstore every time I tried to buy a gift.

It’s almost impossible to predict what a child will actually like—I hated, hated, hated Dr. Seuss as a child (still do in fact) but Junior can’t get enough of Fox in Socks.  Thank the great Great Panjandrum there are other adults in her life who are thrilled to read him to her.   I have yet to be able to interest her in The Cricket in Times Square (charming and age appropriate) but she couldn’t wait each night for the next chapter in Calico Captive, something I thought was way too much for her but that she picked off the shelf herself.

There’s a secret to choosing the best book for a child.  Wanna hear it?  Lean in, and pay close attention because I’m only going to say this once:  The best book for a child is the one you are reading together.

That’s it, that’s the secret.  Books and children work best, even when the child is older, when you are sharing them.  If they hate it, if they love it—doesn’t matter.   Shared reading isn’t really about phonemic awareness, sequencing and decoding of letters.  Those things are part of it, sure, but it’s really about you and the child.  It’s about your undivided attention as you snuggle in the oversized easy chair or under the covers.  It’s about crying together when Charlotte or Ann & Dan dies, and cheering in one voice when Taran is finally revealed to be the High King.  It’s about taking the time to show your child that reading matters and that it matters to you.

I read aloud to a blind classmate during my college years.  I didn’t really want to read The Last Temptation of Christ or Mr. Sammler’s Planet and I well and truly did not want to read Anna Karenina but we read them together and the memories of those times are still sweet.   I think the same will be true for that special child in your life.  Is it tough to work reading into the nighttime routine?  Absolutely—there’s dinner to manage and that always takes longer than I think it will (seriously?  75 minutes to eat a hotdog and some slaw?) and then there’s the goofy homework assignments and the bedtime fight over how well the teeth got brushed, among other things. So yeah, it is tough to work in some print time.  I promise you though, this gift will keep on giving long after that amazing pop-up book by Robert Sabuda that I’m going to recommend has fallen to bits.

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Nov 15 2011

Libraries of the Past

by Greg H

A week or so ago one of my colleagues wrote an entry about The Libraries of the Future. I find that I have enough trouble wrapping my head around the Libraries of the Present, so I started to think back, fondly, to the library of my past I grew up in Latrobe, Pennsylvania, and our library was the Adams Memorial Library, located at 1112 Ligonier St. where it intersects with Chestnut St.  My grandmother lived on Fairmont, just a few blocks from the library. The day I got my first library card I remember lying stretched out on her sofa reading the first book I ever checked  out, Paddle-to-the-Sea by Holling Clancy Holling.

At that time the library was under the management of  the “legendary”, to quote the library’s webpage,  Sara McComb.  She was a tiny, spinsterish woman with slightly hunched shoulders and could be seen daily, walking through town to and from  the library in her very sensible shoes. She never came off as menacing but the old Victorian house she lived in, the one surrounded by the pointy black wrought iron fencing, certainly did.  It very much resembled the type of house that trick or treaters told scary stories about and avoided and, I think, added to Miss McComb’s mystique.

My library of the past even had a technology that has made a lasting impression on me, maybe because even then I understood it.   While checking out I would watch the library staff process each book, making their notations with a pencil and then tilting that pencil forward to stamp the due date with this gizmo attached above the pencil point!  It struck me at the cleverest labor-saving device I’d ever seen to that point in my life and I guess it’s still in my top ten.

All in all, my hometown library probably was little different from most anyone else’s. Still, it will always be a special place to me, as is any place that has enhanced my love of books and reading.

The following books about libraries are available through the DeKalb County Public Library system:

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Nov 22 2010

Need a Nook?

by Veronica W

Hilton Head beach on a shimmering summer day. Comfortable lounge chair? Check. Umbrella for shade? Got it. Snacks? Yup. Long awaited best seller? Oh yeah!  Everything was  in place for an anticipated, much needed time of leisure. I picked up Nicholas Sparks’ newest and proceeded to read the first paragraph…and never got past  it. Whether I was too distracted by the sailboat on the horizon, the warm sand between my toes or just the sheer immensity of the water, I don’t know. I just know that I could not concentrate and trying to read was a waste of time. I needed my favorite nook at home.

There are folks who can read anywhere, as evidenced by the New York City subway riders, who can hold on to the pole with one hand and focus intently on a book or newspaper held in the other hand…and still know when their stop comes! It’s a skill I never acquired, even when I lived in NY and rode the subway on a regular basis. For some of us, where we read is almost as important as what we are reading.

During my online travels, I came across a delightful website called “the boo and the boy: reading nooks for kids.”  It showed some of the most charming and creative spots in which kids can hide away and lose themselves in a good book.   For adults there are other sites which will encourage you to create or find a nook of your own such as this one and this one.  Readers may enjoy Paul Deen’s Savannah Style, which has a section on book nooks, as well as Southern Lady Gracious Spaces: Creating the Perfect Sanctuary in Every Room.

There are some people who can read comfortably in odd positions and places. ..

…while others are happiest only in the most luxurious settings.

After taking an informal poll of where people read, I found that a few actually enjoy reading in cemeteries. Honesty compels me to admit that I generally don’t have an inclination to visit graveyards and found the thought of sitting among tombstones and reading a good book a bit unnerving. Then I came across this picture of Highgate Cemetery in London and understood how reading in this sylvan setting could be  possible.

To borrow from a favorite Seuss book, Green Eggs and Ham “Would you, could you in a house? With a mouse? In a box? With a fox? Would you, could you here or there? Would you, could you anywhere?” Although I am usually in the habit of carrying a book with me at all times ( just in case I have a flat and have to wait for the HERO truck), my beach experience has shown me that for anything heavier than a fashion magazine, I need my nook. How about you?

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Dec 14 2009

The Best Thing to Spend on Children

by Patricia D

Years ago I had the pleasure of working with Mr. Eddie Bonnemere.  He had played piano for Duke Ellington and told wonderful stories of late rehearsals and long road trips.  One story that stuck with me was this: whenever the band finally stopped for a meal Mr. Ellington would return thanks not only for the food but for the time and company as well.  All these years later I’m still grateful to Mr. Ellington, by way of Mr. Bonnemere, for reminding me that time and the people we choose to spend it on are precious.

Now, let me get to my point.  As a children’s librarian I am frequently asked, especially this time of year, by Grandma and Uncle and godpapa to help them choose books for the darling young person in their lives.  They have gotten the message that books are good for youngsters and are eager to do their part in setting that child on the path to academic success.  There’s a second, delicious part to the equation though.  Books are great gifts, but they are all the better when a much loved adult spends time reading them with the child.  If the adult is too far away there is reading together over the phone, or a video call, or even a homemade read-along with a CD or (yikes) a cassette tape of the adult reading.  Jim Trelease can tell you all about the benefits of reading aloud, even to older children, and offers many wonderful suggestions.  Any children’s staff member at DCPL can do the same.  So, buy the books, check them out of the library, it really doesn’t matter either way but be certain to treat yourself, and that special child, to time together talking, laughing or crying over a book.  Books are great, but books + time together is the best.

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