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

February 2014

Feb 28 2014

Book Club Play

by Rebekah B


Many of you may already be members of book clubs which often form in neighborhoods, among school parents or students, at your local library, senior center, community center, or from meet-up groups.  I have happily been a member of a neighborhood book club which I joined shortly after moving to Atlanta in 2007.  Although I have changed neighborhoods a couple of times since joining the group, I have remained faithful to my book club.  Each month I look forward to sharing good food, conversation, laughter, and company with this group of women. At the close of each year, one member hosts an always delightful holiday party, and each member chooses a book to share with the group for the coming year.  We do have a leader, but we have few rules, unlike some book clubs!  Our group is all female.  While there is no obligation to provide wine, it does seem as if most of our members particularly look forward to sipping wine while discussing our monthly selection.  Often, we try to coordinate the food served with references to meals or items eaten by characters in the book, or to the ethnic cuisine referenced.

DCPL was kind enough to offer staff members free tickets to the preview presentation of Karen Zacharias’The Book Club Play” currently at the Horizon Theater in Little Five Points.  I went to the play with my son, not quite sure what to expect.  The theater itself is quite intimate, with the stage level with the first row of seats.  The living room setting was very realistic and cozy, with all seating quite close to the stage.

the book club play atlanta

Prior to the performance, the audience was asked by theater staff if we belong to a book club, and if so, what are the reasons that we continue to enjoy these groups.  Among the responses were neighborhood gossip, wine, good company, and food.  Funnily enough, no one mentioned the books!  Personally, I have discovered many books and authors that I would have otherwise not read without the recommendation of other readers, and the insight of fellow readers is always valuable too.  The Book Club Play was entertaining and certainly more dramatic than most “real” book clubs, but the characters were convincing and experienced transformation through the situations caused by a new member being drafted into the club and the reading selections he brought to the table.  The premise of the play is that a renowned international documentary film-maker will be filming all of this particular group’s meetings.  As the members of the group reveal their intimate secrets despite trying to keep them covert, their relationships evolve.

book-clubWhat I find most interesting about book clubs is that while reading is for the most part a solitary activity (unless one is reading to another or being read to), the book club is almost entirely a social rather than an intellectual or intimate event.  When I read, it is for my own edification, personal growth, as well for entertainment.  I love fiction because of the sense of intimacy which occurs as I share a selection of a stranger’s most innermost thoughts, musings, and feelings.  Reading is the place, in my opinion, where we are the most close to other people’s true thoughts and feelings.  A sense of anonymity is created by the remove of the book itself, written by a person whom we most likely won’t ever meet or encounter.  This artistic replica of reality is then cloaked in a fictional layer of characters and situations which allows both reader and author to expose with true freedom of expression the tenderly vulnerable aspects of self and relationship.

While I do share some of my reactions to books read at book club meetings, I most look forward to reading books that other people in the group have suggested.  In this manner, I get to know these women just a little bit better, and I enjoy the opportunity to read books which I would most likely not have otherwise encountered or read.

What do you like most about your book club?


paleoLike a lot of people my new year’s resolution was to eat better and exercise. Well, I don’t know about you, but I am not doing well. So I decided that I am going to try this new diet that I have been seeing. It is called the paleo diet or paleolithic diet. It is a nutritional plan based on the diet of the paleolithic humans. The premise is that human genetics have scarcely changed since the dawn of agriculture and that modern humans are adapted to the paleolithic diet.

The diet consists mainly of fish, grass-fed pasture raised meats, eggs, vegetables, fruit, fungi, roots, and nuts. The diet excludes grains, legumes, dairy products, potatoes, refined salt, refined sugar, and processed oils. If you are thinking about trying the diet out, the library has a few books that could help you out:

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Regular readers of this blog know that I am a passionate cook and an enthusiastic gardener. Another interest of mine is games and puzzles of all sorts but especially crossword puzzles. I used to subscribe to the Sunday New York Times but I stopped the subscription when I realized (and I’m embarrassed by this) that I was only reading the magazine and doing the crossword. Then,  I subscribed to the Atlanta Journal Constitution when I realized that it also runs the Times crossword on Sunday (the week after it runs in the Times). I stopped that subscription when I realized (and I’m embarrassed by this) that I was only reading the advice columns and doing the crossword. Now,  I buy the omnibus collections of the NYT’s Sunday puzzles. There are loads of crossword puzzles available online but I like the heft of the books and the sense of satisfaction that I gain from solving the puzzles one by one. I also enjoy contemplating the ego boost I will receive should anyone ever ask about my preferred puzzle and method. I will reply that not only do I consider the New York Times to be the gold standard of crosswords but that I always solve the puzzle in ink. Surprisingly, no one has ever asked me the question!

Of course, the NYT publishes American style crosswords which contain fewer shaded squares than British, Japanese, or Swedish style puzzles. American puzzles also (though not always) have a theme and these are the puzzles that I like best. Show me a puzzle with a title such as “When In Rome?” or “Proverbial Conflicts” and I can’t wait to sit down with a cup of tea and a writing implement (pen, please!).

Are you interested in crosswords? If so,  DCPL has plenty of material to keep you informed and entertained.

cruciverbalismCruciverbalism: a crossword fanatic’s guide to life in the grid by Stanley Newman with Mark Lasswell is an interesting look into the world of those who make the puzzles we enjoy (Newman is the crossword editor for Newsday) and also provides tips for solving puzzles and bits of history—such as the reasons that modern newspaper puzzles increase in difficulty as the week goes on.  Thanks to this book, I have also discovered (much to my shock) that the Sunday NYT puzzle is not the most difficult of the week (that honor goes to Saturday’s puzzle), it’s just the biggest. A cruciverbalist, by the way, is someone who (according to Merriam-Webster) “is skillful in creating or solving crossword puzzles.”

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Feb 19 2014

Second-Rate Novelist

by Jesse M

the serialist coverThese days, David Gordon knows the value of a good translator. His debut novel, originally published in America under the title The Serialist, won the 2011 First Novelist Award and was a finalist for the Mystery Writers of America’s 2011 Edgar Award for Best First Novel. However, despite these accolades, Gordon says his daily life didn’t change much; that is, until a Japanese translation of the book was published. Then things really took off.

Gordon relates the surreal story of his overseas success in a recent New York Times article. After being translated into Japanese by Aoki Chizuru and retitled “Niryuu Shousetsuka” (which translates back into English as “Second-Rate Novelist”), Gordon’s book won a trio of major Japanese literary awards, an unprecedented feat. The book was then adapted into a Japanese film, and Gordon was invited to the premiere, followed by a week-long tour of book signings and interviews. To view a brief clip of him speaking during this tour, check out this youtube video.

In addition to the NYT article, Gordon also recently did a Q&A session on the popular website reddit.

To see what all the fuss is about, you can reserve a copy of the book yourself through the DCPL catalog. If you’ve already read this book, tell us what you thought about it in the comments.


Feb 10 2014

Laura’s world

by Dea Anne M

Getting snowed in the week before last  reminded me of a much-beloved book from my childhood. I’m thinking of course of  The Long Winter which is part of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s “Little House” series of books. Set in the later 1800’s and forward and based on the Ingalls family’s peripetatic life (Wilder changed some things – most notably some of the chronology and the age of the main character whom she based on herself) the series begins with Little House in the Big Woods and ends with The First Four Years (which was published after Wilder’s death). The Long Winter is a fictionalized account of an actual event which took place in De Smet, South Dakota. Blizzards began in the early fall of 1880 and continued through the late spring of 1881 and attacked the area with such frequency that trains were snowed in on the tracks and the townspeople faced lack of fuel and near starvation. I don’t know about you, but that puts some aspects about our recent snow storm into perspective for me.

It’s difficult for me to exaggerate how much I loved these books as a child. That isn’t to say that there weren’t some aspects of the stories that bothered me. Some of the characters express very unpleasant racial attitudes (especially Ma Ingalls) and I was always vaguely troubled by Pa’s insistence on uprooting his family so dramatically and so often. In the books, the Ingalls family moves from Wisconsin to Kansas then back to Wisconsin then to Minnesota and finally to South Dakota. Of course, by the time I turned ten my own family had moved at least that many times, and always for my father’s work, so make of that what you will.

Now you shouldn’t think that I actually wanted to be a pioneer girl myself what with all the stampeding oxen, creeks filled with leeches and grasshopper invasions but it was delicious to read about such exotic things. It was also comforting to recognize things that Laura’s world and mine had in common – sibling love and combat, strong parental affection, animals, school and, of course, mean girls like Nellie Oleson. I especially loved reading about the clothes the characters wore and how they fed themselves (or couldn’t as in The Long Winter ) and to this day I love books that describe fashion and food in detail (like the books in George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series).

Would you like to explore the world of “Little House yourself or rediscover its pleasures? If so, DCPL has what you need. Here’s a list of the books and all are available from DCPL.big woods

cookbookAfter reading about such exotic foodstuffs as prairie chicken and maple sugar on snow you might get the urge to try out some frontier cooking of your own. If so, Barbara M. Walker’s Little House Cookbook: frontier foods from Laura Ingalls Wilder’s classic stories will be just what you need. I can’t promise that you’ll care for blackbird pie (Little Town on the Prairie) or stewed jack rabbit and dumplings (Little House on the Prairie) but you might very well love fried apples and onions (Farmer Boy) or vanity cakes (On the Banks of Plum Creek). All in all, this is a charming companion to the series.

wilderIf you really develop a fascination with all things Laura, don’t miss The Wilder Life : my adventures in the lost world of Little House on the Prairie by Wendy McClure. A lifelong devotee of the books, McClure begins to delve deeper into the world of the series. She even goes so far as to buy a churn on eBay. She sets up the churn, works the churn for about twenty-five minutes, and when she looks inside she discovers…butter. Butter which tastes remarkably like regular butter. McClure reports that “…I felt like a genius and a complete idiot at the same time.” McClure is an engaging writer – both sincere and hilarious. I’ve only just started the book and I’ve laughed out loud at least a dozen times. Highly recommended.


Feb 3 2014

Smaug the Paper Dragon

by Jesse M

Smaug book artWe’ve showcased art crafted from the pages of print books in the past (check out those posts here and here), but it’s been awhile, so when I came across this intricate paper Smaug (and Bilbo) made from pages of J.R.R. Tolkien’s classic book The Hobbit I just had to blog about it. The paper sculpture is a project by Denmark-based artist Victoria of VMCreations; take a look at her deviantART page for the full gallery of images.

Although the film that inspired the artwork (The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug) hasn’t yet been released on DVD, you can get the first installment in the film series (The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey) from the library!

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