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

Authors

juneauI love Jon Krakauer’s books. For some reason I assumed that I had read them all, but then I stumbled upon Into the Wild, Krakauer’s book that tells the story of Christopher McCandless. And it turns out this is probably the author’s most famous one (especially after the 2007 movie of the same name, directed and produced by Sean Penn, which is also available at DCPL).

It’s eerie that I should discover and read this book right before my vacation to the very state where the real-life McCandless journey takes place: Alaska. No, I will not be going out “into the wild,” foraging for berries and sleeping on the ground, trying to eke out precious protein by catching small rodents, or wearing crampons and climbing with an ice ax along mountainous crevices. I will be cruising on an ocean liner in luxurious comfort, receiving massages and eating an abundance of tasty food–being waited on hand and foot like the naive and lazy adventurer that I am–for I am not really an adventurer but a shameless tourist. No doubt I will purchase souvenirs in Alaska that were actually made in China.

glacbayAs of writing this paragraph, I have now returned from my 9-day trip. It was beautiful, as you can see by the photos taken by yours truly, a wanna-be photographer with an iPhone. I can totally understand McCandless yearning to spend time in Alaska. But I would never be willing to “rough it” as he did. I did consider it quite rough, however, when our stateroom commode overflowed in the middle of the night and we had to call maintenance in at 3:30 a.m. I had to use my best wilderness survival tactic: I blamed my spouse.

And now, DCPL has added to its collection The Wild Truth by Carine McCandless, Christopher’s sister. Written almost 20 years after Krakauer’s book, Carine shines some light on her brother’s legendary adventure.

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May 18 2015

What’s In a Story?

by Jencey G

Mary Alice MonroeMary Alice Monroe stopped by DCPLive to discuss her new book coming soon to DeKalb County Public Library. I first met her at a Georgia Center for the Book event while she was giving a talk on The Butterfly’s Daughter. I have had the honor to read and share some of her other books. Her most recent series is the Lowcountry Summer Trilogy, which includes The Summer Girls and The Summer Wind. It will end this year with the publication of The Summer’s End.

Thank you for coming! I am excited to discuss The Summer’s End. Could you tell our readers why it was important to tell this story in three different books: The Summer Girls, Summer Wind, and Summer’s End?

Summer GirlsMary Alice Monroe:  This story required more words! Dolphins are an exceptional and beloved species. Dolphins excel in communication, have strong family and community bonds, and live in the present. Three issues face dolphins that needed attention: feeding of wild dolphins, water quality, and injuries. I needed a strong trilogy with memorable characters to carry through all the themes: communication in The Summer Girls as the estranged sisters reconnect; healing in The Summer Wind as Dora and Delphine heal from wounds, and release in The Summer’s End as each woman discovers her own voice and path.

How did you decide to focus your books around the lives of animals? Why is it important to tell their story?

MAM: The inspiration for my books is always some aspect of nature. I wait for some signal–either from a person or event–to alert me it’s time to write about that species now. For the trilogy, it was learning that 49% of Charleston’s resident dolphins were deemed “not healthy.” That number is 52% in Florida. I didn’t want to write Flipper but a book that was relevant today.

What do you hope it accomplishes?

MAM: I believe in the power of story to effect change. I’m a storyteller. I do not preach or tell my readers what to do. Instead, I create compelling stories peopled with rich, well-rounded characters that will bring my readers into the story world. When my readers connect emotionally with the animals, then they care.

The focus in this novel is the bottlenose dolphin. What other animals have you written about?

MAM: The list is growing. In The Beach House novels I’ve written about sea turtles. I’m still on the turtle team, so maybe another is in the pipeline. The monarch butterfly is in The Butterfly’s Daughter; raptors–hawks, owls, eagles–in Skyward; the shrimping industry in Last Light Over Carolina, The Summer Windand the disappearing grass and craft of sweetgrass baskets in Sweetgrass.

Can you tell us about your next project?

MAM:  In the Lowcountry Summer novels I told the story of three women during one remarkable summer on Sullivan’s Island. There is an engagement, or two…so, you’re all invited to a wedding next summer! I’m writing A Lowcountry Wedding and having the best time. My daughter had a lowcountry wedding so I’ve a lot to share. It will be fun to bring back the summer girls, and especially the dueling grannies Mamaw and Granny James!

Do you think you would write another series?

MAM:  Yes, when the story idea merits the time and effort. Each book of a series must stand alone and yet continue the themes of the series. It’s a complex, challenging process and not every story idea can or should extend beyond one book.

How can readers support your cause that you are so passionate about?

Summer's EndMAM:  When I was young and overwhelmed with all I wanted to do to help the planet, my Daddy told me to just “light one candle.” It was very wise and has guided me throughout my life. My hope is that if a reader is inspired by my book, she will find her own path to help that species through volunteering or donations, or her vote–and, perhaps discover what candle she can light in her own life. One small change in one life can change the world!

Could they visit or support the Georgia Aquarium?

MAM:  The Georgia Aquarium has several ongoing research and conservation programs that all make a difference for species and for the community.

Thank you again.

To learn more about bottlenose dolphins, check out these fine books: Hope for Winter: The True Story of a Remarkable Dolphin Friendship told by David Yates, Craig Hatkoff, Juliana Hatkoff, and Isabella Hatkoff (and the related story Winter’s Tail: How One Little Dolphin Learned to Swim Again), The Dolphins of Shark Bay by Pamela S. Turner, Eight Dolphins of Katrina: A True Tale of Survival by Janet Wyman Coleman, and Dolphins by Anna Claybourne.

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TeegeHow would you feel if you opened a book one day and found out your grandfather was a high-ranking Nazi commandant? That’s exactly what happened to Jennifer Teege.

The Georgia Center for the Book presented Teege in April at the Decatur Library. She spoke about her book My Grandfather Would Have Shot Me: A Black Woman Discovers Her Family’s Nazi Past.

Ralph Fiennes played her grandfather in his haunting portrayal of Amon Goeth, the maniacal Nazi death camp commander in Steven Spielberg’s film Schindler’s List. Teege, who was adopted, learned the surprising fact that her biological mother was the daughter of Goeth, the “Butcher of Plaszow,” one day as she was looking for a book on depression.  She happened to see a book with the familiar face of her mother on the cover.

According to People Magazine‘s online article by Michelle Tauber:

The first shock was the sheer discovery of a book about my mother and my family, which had information about me and my identity that had been kept hidden from me, Teege, 44, had told Israeli newspaper Haaretz in a story featured on NPR.

“I knew almost nothing about the life of my biological mother, nor did my adoptive family, she said. I hoped to find answers to questions that had disturbed me and to the depression I had suffered from. The second shock was the information about my grandfather’s deeds.”

Teege’s book, co-written by Nikola Sellmair, is available at DCPL. You might also be interested in The Road to Rescue: The Untold Story of Schindler’s List by Mietek Pemper, in collaboration with Viktoria Hertling, or The Boy on the Wooden Box: How the Impossible Became Possible–On Schindler’s List, A Memoir by Leon Leyson, with Marilyn J. Harran and Elisabeth B. Leyson.

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Apr 13 2015

I Challenge You!

by Jencey G

Are you up for a challenge? Are you tired of reading the same types of books all the time and interested in a change? A reading challenge is a great way to do that. There are no prizes, but there are opportunities for you to try something different. Who is ready for something new or different?

Reading challenges, such as Pop Sugar, have tasks to help you pick books that you the reader would not ordinarily read. Since summer reading is coming up soon, this challenge would be a great way to keep track of books for the summer reading program at your local library. This year, Pop Sugar came out with a reading challenge that offers many opportunities for you to grow as a reader.  The challenge offers up tasks such as:

What book can you read in one sitting?

What is the first book that came out by your favorite author?

Read a book that has a number in the title.

Read a nonfiction book.

The Library has all kinds of resources to help you pick a great read.  Take a look at our Shelf Help page, DCPL on Pinterest, or use our online resource Novelist. For other reading challenges to participate in visit Goodreads or Book Riot. See how one of these challenges might fit into your summer reading!  You never know where a good book might take you!

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Terry Pratchett at the 2012 New York Comic Con - © Luigi Novi / Wikimedia CommonsThe world of fantasy literature lost one of its luminaries earlier this month when beloved author Terry Pratchett died at age 66 after a lengthy battle with Alzheimer’s disease. Pratchett was a prolific writer who was best known for his Discworld series, which spans 40 novels published over the course of more than 3 decades. He has also collaborated with other popular authors such as Neil Gaiman (Good Omens) and Stephen Baxter (The Long Earth series). The recipient of numerous honors and awards, Pratchett was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire in 1998 and received a knighthood in 2009, in both cases for “services to literature.”

Given his prodigious output, readers unfamiliar with Pratchett’s work may wonder at the best place to start. This handy graphic might be useful in making that determination; it lists all of the Discworld novels, grouped by storyline and arranged chronologically, with the connections between individual novels mapped out. Personally, I’d suggest beginning with Small Gods; it is almost entirely stand-alone but provides a great introduction to the Discworld setting and Pratchett’s characteristically humorous and satirical style.

Pratchett’s wit and way with words have resulted in a plethora of notable quotations attributed to him, many of them originating as lines in his novels. The quote used in the title is from the book Going Postal, and I’d like to conclude this post with another from the book Reaper Man:

No one is finally dead until the ripples they cause in the world die away — until the clock he wound up winds down, until the wine she made has finished its ferment, until the crop they planted is harvested. The span of someone’s life, they say, is only the core of their actual existence.

By that measure, Terry Pratchett will live on on our bookshelves forever.

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Mar 9 2015

Survival 101

by Hope L

232In a couple of months I will be going on an Alaskan cruise. That’s the good news. The bad news is that we will have to fly to Vancouver, B.C., to begin the cruise. I’m excited, as this will be my first cruise. Alas, it will not be my first time flying.

When I was growing up my family traveled a lot, so flying was no big deal for me. And frankly, I did not think about how and why that huge thing we were in was up in the air.  But the older I get, the less I want to get on an airplane to go anywhere.  I should not have started reading about aircraft.

You see, some fifteen years ago, I made the mistake of reading about airline turbulence and what can happen when one is not wearing a seatbelt. This was around the time when airlines started asking passengers to keep their safety belts fastened even after the captain turned off the seatbelt sign. It was then that my OCD really started to kick in and I became obsessed with hurtling through the sky in a tube. (It shouldn’t surprise you that during this time I began to experience panic attacks.)

According to Aerospaceweb.org, a Boeing 777 has a typical cruise speed of about 560 mph (900 km/h) at an altitude of 35,000 ft. (10,675 m).  That’s over six miles up, folks.

Now, I know that it is common knowledge that flying is much safer than riding in an automobile (which on I-285 can be a real death wish), but still.

Recently, I read Flight 232: A Story of Disaster and Survival by Laurence Gonzales, and I have learned that yes, it IS possible to survive an airplane crash. So now, I shall choose to meditate on my “Brace, Brace, Brace” position (this is what the flight attendants called out to remind the passengers what to do just prior to when the plane landed -er- crashed in that Iowa cornfield in the summer of 1989).    Miraculously, 184 of 296 passengers and crew lived.

A miracle because:

“…the captain has told us that we have lost all our hydraulics.”  (According to a flight attendant informing another United pilot onboard.)

“He stared at her for a minute…. He knew that wasn’t possible. DC-10s must have hydraulics to fly them. Period.”

But the aircraft had lost its hydraulics.  And according to the pilot:

…The plane was traveling northeast at thirty-seven thousand feet. Just east of the Cherokee airport, the fan on the number two engine blew apart, cutting hydraulic lines and disabling flight controls.

“Having hydraulic fluid in the lines is a necessary condition of flight in a DC-10. After a complete loss of hydraulic power, the plane would have no steering. It would roll over and accelerate toward the earth, reaching speeds high enough to tear off the wings and tail before the fuselage plowed into the ground. Or it might enter into an uncontrollable flutter, falling like a leaf all the way to the earth, to pancake in and burst into flames.”

 

And yet the pilots of this aircraft managed to steer and careen, in circles, and somehow lower the 185-ton behemoth. You can see the wild flight in the diagram below.

232path

Evidently, I’m not the only one obsessed. The author of this book has written other books about surviving, the following which are available at DCPL:

Deep Survival: Who Lives, Who Dies, and Why–True Stories of Miraculous Endurance and Sudden Death

Everyday Survival: Why Smart People Do Stupid Things

Actually… I’ve just been thinking…wouldn’t the view be just gorgeous to Vancouver on Amtrak…or Greyhound?

 

 

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Mar 2 2015

Happy Birthday Dr. Seuss!

by Jesse M

Dr. SeussThe man who would come to be known as Dr. Seuss was born Theodor Seuss Geisel on March 2, 1904. He made his living as a writer and cartoonist, and is most famously an author of children’s books, responsible for such well-known characters as The Cat in the Hat and his nemesis the Grinch. The award-winning author has seen his work adapted into a variety of formats, including animated films, movies, and musical theater.

Although his entire bibliography is worth celebrating, as a child my favorite books of his were those whose pages featured a variety of zany fictional animals, like On Beyond Zebra, Scrambled Eggs Super, If I Ran the Circus, and If I Ran the Zoo. All of those titles and more are available from DCPL!

In recognition of the appeal that his books still hold for young readers, March 2nd has been designated Read Across America Day by the National Education Association. Across the country, thousands of schools, libraries, and community centers participate by bringing together kids, teens, and books!

To view information about Dr. Seuss related programming at DCPL, follow this link.

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Oct 29 2014

A Halloween Surprise

by Joseph M

I love this time of year. With the chill of autumn in the air and Halloween just around the corner, something about late October always seems to be imbued with a spooky, magical aura, and I’ve been craving reading material that suits the mood. Luckily, J.K. Rowling has got me covered.

Regular readers of this blog may recall one of my posts from this past summer about a new J.K. Rowling short story set in the Harry Potter universe. Well, Rowling has indicated that she has another original work to be posted Friday, October 31, on her Pottermore website. This tale apparently features one of the villains of the series, just in time for Halloween. See this article for more details.

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Oct 13 2014

Echopraxia

by Jesse M

Echopraxia coverPeter Watts, author of the recently published novel Echopraxia, is one of the luminaries of modern hard science fiction. Drawing on an educational foundation that includes both a Bachelor’s and Master’s of Science as well as a PhD in Zoology and Resource Ecology, Watts has paired his scientific knowledge and creative talents to produce a number of award winning novels and short stories.

His novels have a reputation for being bleak and nihilistic; although, in a recent reddit Q&A session, Watts argues that it isn’t a nihilistic viewpoint so much as one that is informed by his background as a biologist:

I was trained as a biologist. Humans are vertebrates, humans are mammals, and when you take a clade-wide perspective you can’t not notice that we’re all connected by far more than that which separates us. People…assume that anyone who regards us as just another mammal must be a cynic, must be doing it for shock value or trendy points. But I remember whole buildings where everyone had that perspective, and it wasn’t considered grim or nihilistic. It was cool; we were discovering patterns… We were connecting the dots in a global puzzle. It wasn’t depressing. It was exciting.

Echopraxia is the follow-up to his critically acclaimed 2006 novel Blindsight. Like Echopraxia, it takes its title from a neurological condition which serves as a motif for the events of the novel. In Blindsight, Watts takes both common (alien first contact) and uncommon (vampires in space!) science fiction tropes and weaves them into one of the most brilliant hard science fiction novels I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading, a tour de force exploration of the nature of consciousness and its utility for intelligent life.

For those unfamiliar with Watts, or in need of a refresher, I recommend checking out this in-depth guide compiled by a fan. Watts’s website is also worth taking a peek at. Watts has released much of his shorter material for free; I recommended starting with The Island, which won the Hugo Award for Best Novelette in 2010.

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Sep 22 2014

A Sad Goodbye

by Hope L

diva1“Can we talk?”

One of my all-time favorite icons passed away unexpectedly.  She was as active as ever. Still tossing her barbs out, she had just written a book, was starring in two television programs and a podcast, and was still delighting audiences including myself in her stand-up performances (I saw her three times, the latest this past February at Atlanta’s Symphony Hall), plus she was hawking her very successful QVC merchandise.  Her energy amazed me, and I had to keep reminding myself as we watched her recent performance that she was an octogenarian.

“I don’t exercise; if God had wanted me to bend over he would have put diamonds on the floor.”

Her jokes were often salty and politically incorrect, but her favorite target was definitely Joan Rivers. Her constant joking about her numerous plastic surgery procedures and gravity’s effect on her aging body, the fact that she was ugly (“Bow-wow!  Arf-Arf!”), or fat, or old…  And, of course, one must ALWAYS marry rich, no matter what:

“The problem with marrying for money is that you end up earning it.”

Now, arguably, much of what came out of Joan’s mouth is not appropriate to include here, and she was constantly garnering attention because of her politically incorrect or just plain crude statements.  I always thought she got a lot of flak, though, for saying things that male comedians could say with impunity.

“The first time I see a jogger smiling, I’ll consider it.”

When I find myself missing that catty chatter from my favorite comedienne, I can turn to one of the books written by Joan here at DCPL, her most recent being this year’s Diary of a Mad Diva.

“My mother kept asking ‘why can’t you be more like your sister?’ My sister had died at birth.”

I must admit that I have winced and even pouted at things she said at times during the all the years I’ve listened to Joan.  But, I know what Joan would say to me:

“Oh, GROW UP!!!”

Joan, you made me laugh until I cried.  You will be missed.

 

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