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

Readers Advisory

Mar 18 2013

Listen Up!

by Nancy M

Bloody-Jack-298431Spring Break is just a few weeks away and I’m sure many of you out there have road trips planned. Personally, I hate being in the car. I was the youngest of 3 kids who always had to sit in the middle seat for our endless 16 hour drive to Lake Michigan every summer. These days, I have a long daily commute to the Library and on my weekends I get to drive around with a toddler who hates being in the car just as much as I do. But I really can’t complain (I know it would seem that’s all I’m doing) because I have access to something amazing…audiobooks!

Now, we have a pretty extensive audiobook collection and they get checked out quite a bit so I know most of you out there know about audiobooks. But what you may not know is how beneficial they can be to your child’s reading abilities. Listening to audiobooks carries many of the same benefits that reading instills in your child plus more. They can help improve language skills, (“oh, so that’s how you pronounce that word!”), concentration, and allow many children who might not be strong readers to enjoy a range of books without hampering their confidence. Plus, there are a ton of really great kid and teen audiobooks out there that parents can enjoy with their kids.

Here is a listing of my top 3 favorite audiobooks in the following categories:

Teen (12-13 and up)

3.  The Fault in Our Stars by John Green and narrated by Kate Rudd (be warned, especially if you are driving, that you will cry your eyes out. This was the 2013 Odyssey winner.)

2. The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman (narrated by the author as well as a full cast. This is truly an amazing imaginative audiobook experience. The Golden Compass is the first in the trilogy His Dark Materials. Book 2 is The Subtle Knife and book 3 is The Amber Spyglass.)

1. Bloody Jack by L.A. Meyer (hands down my favorite audiobook ever! Katherine Kellgren is the most talented narrator out there today and Bloody Jack is just the beginning of an expertly narrated series. Check out her other books as well; she is building quite a resume.)

Middle Readers (8-12)

3. A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket (13 books in total with Tim Curry narrating a number of them. The first book is called The Bad Beginning.)

2.  The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman and narrated by the author (Neil Gaiman lends a perfectly creepy voice to this perfectly creepy tale.)

1. Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling and narrated by Jim Dale. (117 hours of pure storytelling delight. Peter & the Starcatchers is the first in another great series narrated by Dale)

For Younger Children

3. Frog and Toad Audio Collection by Arnold Lobel and narrated by the author.

2. Magic Tree House series by Mary Pope Osborne and narrated by the author.

1.  The One and Only Shrek! Plus 5 Other Stories by William Steig and narrated by Stanley Tucci and Meryl Streep.

You can check out audiobooks at your local DCPL branch or you can download some of them by accessing OverDrive on our website. Click here for Amanda’s tips on how to download audiobooks or check out a tutorial here. And please feel free to share your own audiobook favorites for any age. I’m always looking for good suggestions!

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Mar 4 2013

Bonnet Fiction

by Amanda L

A Cousin's PrayerI recently mentioned to a coworker that I was going to write a post about Amish fiction. His response to me, “Oh, you mean bonnet fiction?” I have to confess I have never heard of the term but in doing some research, this term has been used in the publishing industry since  2009. Bonnet fiction is primarily fiction books written with Amish characters and typically have a romantic theme. Through Amish fiction, the authors give the readers a feel of what it’s like to live the Amish life along with the technological differences associated with that lifestyle.

The author who is most often thought of when you mention Amish fiction is Beverly Lewis. Most of her stories take place in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Two of her books have been made into television movies.  The Postcard is one of the older titles that we have in our collection. Rachel Yoder, a recent widower, meets Philip Bradley, a journalist from New York. They set out on a journey after finding a postcard.

Another author who writes Amish fiction is Wanda Brunstetter. She has written quite a few Amish books. A Cousin’s Prayer tells the story of Katie Miller who loses her boyfriend in a car accident. She becomes depressed and meets Freeman Bontrager who wants to be near Katie. He falls for her and wants to make her gain his trust and finally his love.

Beth Wiseman is another author who has written a lot of Amish books. In Plain Promise, Sadie, an Amish widow, works at her family’s store selling goods to tourists. She decides that she needs more income and decides to rent out her cottage. Kade, a single father, decides to rent the cottage to get out of the hustle and bustle of his world. Through the cold winter, Kade and Sadie begin a friendship which concerns the rest of the Amish community.

There is even a local author who writes Amish fiction. His name is Dale Cramer and his stories reflect his family’s history. His grandfather was Amish and lived in Ohio but, because of the enforced school rules, decided to move to Mexico to be able to have their own schools. Levi’s Will is one of the stories that tells the story. Mr. Cramer researched this story and community and at the end of his stories lists his sources for the reader to learn more about this interesting community.

Amish fiction is hot and there are a variety of authors who are trying their hands at this genre. To find some more authors, try searching the catalog under the subject heading Amish fiction. There you will find a variety of authors including Barbara Cameron, Kathryn Cushman and Leslie Gould.

Finally, do you want to learn more about the old order Anabaptist that include the Amish? On the Background to Heaven: Old Order Hutterites, Mennonites, Amish and Brethern takes each group and explains their origins and beliefs.  It helped me understand that many of the things described in the Amish fiction are in fact what the Amish community experience in their daily lives.


Mar 1 2013

Comic Relief

by Veronica W

Every Sunday  afternoon I get a newspaper and settle down for my usual ritual. I pull out all of the ads and coupons and set them aside for later perusal. I then pull out the sections in which I have no interest, foremost being the Sports section.  After that I neatly stack my favorites, World News, Metro, Living etc.  Then begins the hunt for the comics, which I set aside in a spot of their own.They will be the last thing I read; kind of like dessert.

The comics – or “funnies” – are considered by some to be lowbrow humor, not worthy of serious thought or consideration. However I have found that some of life’s most truthful and relevant realities are pinpointed in the strips. Listen to Lucy van Pelt (my favorite diva) from Peanuts, who asks, “What shape would the world be in today if everyone settled for being average?”  If you want to hear more from Charlie Brown and his gang, check out Peanuts: A Golden Celebration.

Scott Adams, the creator of Dilbert,  speaks to those of us who get up every morning and spend a good bit of time in the marketplace. His take on life in the corporate world is both hilarious and frequently on target.  On your “grin and bear it ” days, pick up Dilbert’s Guide to the Rest of Your Life: Dispatches From Cubicleland, for a good laugh. If you need a quick fix,  here you are.

dilbert best

The great thing about comics is that they speak to every age, interest and situation.  As my marriage aged, so did my understanding of that battling couple, the Lockhorns.  In his exaggeration of marital struggles, John Reiner portrayed what life is like sometimes after you say “I do.”  If  truth is in wine, it’s often in humor as well.


Get Fuzzy and Pearls Before Swine are comic strips for our times. Their edgy, occasionally dark and sometimes tart humor can be reflective of current values, thoughts and realities.  Those of us who grew up with Nancy, Blondie, Mary Worth, Little LuluPogo, and Popeye—just to name a few—are able to see how humor changes as the culture (and your age) changes.  That which elicits a polite, half-hearted grin from a fifteen year old today may make a senior laugh uproariously.   Which of these do you find amusing?  This one…


or this one…

circ 2

Perhaps in the grand scheme of things, it’s enough that we can laugh.   To paraphrase some wise person, in literature and love (and humor), we are often amazed at what is chosen by others.


Feb 25 2013

On Book Recommendations

by Jnai W

I realize that I’m at least a few years late to the party but I’ve just recently finished reading The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (loved, loved, loved it!) and am now tucking into book two of the trilogy, Catching Fire. I’ve been aware of The Hunger Games for the past few years because…well, it’s hard not to be when you work in a library. But for whatever reason I’d never gotten around to reading it. Recently, however, it became quite inexcusable for me to not read this book. In the case of The Hunger Games I ran out of excuses not to read it based on the recommendation of one of DCPL’s adorable teen patrons (yes, Readers, teens can be quite adorable!). Our circulation desk conversation had somehow turned to the Hunger Games series. I’d mentioned to the young patron that I hadn’t read the book yet but “I’ve heard good things”.

“Oh my gosh,” said the youngster. “You’ll love it! You’ll really love it!”

Her enthusiasm for this book was honest, overflowing and contagious, so much so that I’d decided that I would be reading this book at my earliest convenience. “Earliest convenience” is still slightly non-committal but at least now reading Suzanne Collins’ acclaimed trilogy was officially on my to-do list.  After talking for a while longer, I checked out the patron and wished her happy reading with the items she’d borrowed.  Perhaps half an hour later, the young lady and her mother returned to the library and presented me with their copy of The Hunger Games, suggesting that when I was finished reading it I could pass it along to someone else to read or donate it to the library. Ecstatic and touched by the gift, reading this book graduated from being a to-do list item to My Plans For The Evening. It took me three days to read it but only because I had to break for things like going to work and sleeping.

As a library worker, book recommendations from patrons are always welcome and appreciated. But nothing compares to when a teenager who’s normally too-cool-for-school cracks a smile at the mention of a book he likes.  Or when an adorable, gap-toothed kiddie-grin widens with the mention of each of Victoria Kann’s -Licious books (“Did you like Pinkalicious? Have you read Purplicious? How about Silverlicious?”).  So if there’s one recommendation from today’s post it is that it pays to pick your nearest youngster’s brain for an excellent book. May the odds of a great read be ever in your favor!


Feb 6 2013

African food heritage

by Dea Anne M

We all know that February is Black History Month but did you know that during February we also celebrate African Heritage and Health Week? According to Oldways, the nonprofit food and education organization, February 1st – 7th is a time for celebrating African heritage by eating meals inspired by the traditional cooking of Africa, the Caribbean, South America, and the African American South. Numerous studies have shown that traditional diets that emphasize vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and beans help to promote good health. I urge you to visit this very interesting website and learn more about the traditional food of Africa. You’ll find the African Heritage Diet Pyramid, information about African Diaspora cultures, tips on grocery shopping and setting up your kitchen, and my favorite feature “African Heritage Dine-Around-Town.” This is a list (with links) of restaurants in every state that serve African cuisine. Though it is by no means comprehensive (for example, no Ethiopian restaurants make the list for Georgia) it’s still a fun tool for those who want to dine out on African foods.

cuisineAre you interested in exploring African foods in your own kitchen? Check out these resources from DCPL.

Marcus Samuelsson is a world famous chef who was born to Ethiopian parents and adopted by a Swedish couple after the death of his mother. Raised in Sweden, he trained and apprenticed in Europe before coming to New York where he became the youngest chef to receive a three star review from the New York Times. His newest restaurant is Red Rooster in Harlem and his cookbook The Soul of a New Cuisine: a discovery of the foods and flavors of Africa (with Heidi Sacko Walters) was selected as the “Best International Cookbook” by the James Beard Foundation in 2006.

africaAlso take note of:


Over the weeks and weeks that this blog post idea had been brewing in my head, amazing things have been happening. The city of Atlanta was in the throes of football hysteria as our Falcons were beating themselves a path to the NFC Championship and possibly the Super Bowl. Atlantans were buzzing with excitement, anxiety and expectation for their Falcons. Buses, billboards and houses were festooned with the home team’s paraphernalia. I’d even begun engaging folks with the simple “How ’bout them Falcons?” greeting, sometimes opening the door for an avid football fan to hold court about statistics, history and analysis of a sport that is still a bit of a mystery to me.

But I’m finding that not knowing all of the ins-and-outs of football isn’t an outright impediment to enjoying a Sunday afternoon in front of the t.v, watching the game. That is especially true if you can catch the game with friends and family who don’t mind explaining how it all works—as long as you don’t ask too many inane questions or make too many comments about how cute Tony Gonzales is.

Of course, there also are great books in the Library that extol the wonders of football to the uninitiated, the intimidated or the indifferent-until-the-Falcons-have-a-winning-season type of prospective fan. Football for Dummies by Howie Long and John Czarnecki is an obvious first choice for me—I don’t mind admitting to dummyhood. Plus, you can never go wrong with a For Dummies book if you’re in need of straight-forward, easily digestible information.

But another excellent book for football novices is the well-written, extremely entertaining and lovably titled Get Your Own Damn Beer, I’m Watching The Game: A Woman’s Guide To Loving Pro Footballby actress, author and football wife Holly Robinson Peete. I’m thoroughly enjoying this book in which Peete shares anecdotes of her love for football and offers her knowledge and insight into the sport.

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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



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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Nov 28 2012

Home Matters

by Dea Anne M

I have a confession to make.

I keep house. In fact, I love to keep house.

Not very shocking is it? Yet there was a time in my life when such a confession would have provoked riotous laughter (not to mention downright disbelief) from those who knew me best. As a child, and as a teen, I was profoundly messy. I always enjoyed visiting non-messy friends. I would marvel at their orderly rooms and yet it never seemed to sink into my young brain that a neat,  relaxing space requires  a modicum of organized thinking as well as daily attention. All I knew was that the request (usually delivered through clenched, parental teeth) of  “Clean your room” sentenced me to several hours of arduous and deeply resented labor, the effects of which never seemed to last more than a day. Now if this makes me sound like some kind of spoiled brat, well…

Fast forward a number of years later when I am living alone in my own apartment. My father calls to chat and asks what I’m up to.

“I was just mopping the kitchen floor,” I said.

Several moments of silence followed before Dad said, “You’re kidding, right?”

While I’ll never be proud of my former habits, I’m glad that I finally figured out how much comfort and relaxation can be had when one’s home is clean and tidy. For me, housekeeping isn’t about cooking, decorating, or crafts—although I enjoy those things too. Real housekeeping for me has more to do with practicing habits and routines that turn a living space into a home—a place that consistently provides comfort, respite, and pleasure for those who inhabit it. While I didn’t grow up learning to keep house, mainly because I resisted the process so strenuously, I finally picked up the necessary skills, albeit very gradually and piecemeal.

Are you a late-blooming housekeeper? Maybe you’re already accomplished in this area but you want to refine your skills. Either way, DCPL has the resources to help.

My all-time favorite reference work on housekeeping is Cheryl Mendelson’s wonderful Home Comforts: the art and science of keeping house. Mendelson is a lawyer and a professor of philosophy as well as the author of the well-regarded new book The Good Life: the moral individual in an antimoral world. Be warned—this book is huge. Don’t allow its size to overwhelm you though. Inside you’ll find information on absolutely everything that you might ever need to know about keeping house. As a bonus, the author’s engaging writing makes the book as readable as a novel. If you’re looking for a housekeeping book to live with then I can’t recommend Home Comforts highly enough. I purchased my copy when the book first came out and I use it all the time.

If you’re looking for a more basic sort of reference book, try The Complete Household Handbook: the best ways to clean, maintain, and organize your home from the Good Housekeeping Institute. Packed with practical advice, this book is easy to use and contains some unexpected but very helpful tips. I had never thought about keeping two mops—one for the cleaning solution and the other to mop clean—until I read about it here, but that advice has made all the difference in the quality and speed of my floor cleaning. Another very useful reference is Cleaning: plain & simple by Donna Smallin. Smallin’s motto is “Work smarter, not harder,” and she shows you how to do just that by breaking major jobs down into smaller more manageable stages. I especially appreciate the alternatives that she suggests to the standard (at least for some of us) working person’s once-a-week cleaning. You can spend 30 monutes a day cleaning or pick one task a day and do it for the whole house or stick to one day a week. The important thing is to find what works for you.

An interesting slant on the traditional housekeeping book is Get Crafty: hip home ec by Jean Railla. As a staunch feminist and women’s studies major, Railla had cultivated an ardent disdain for domestic life. She found herself in her twenties living in New York City and pursuing a lucrative career as a web designer yet her life felt moorless and unsatisfying. Gradually, she found that making improvements in her living space began to improve her quality of life overall and, most importantly, did nothing to strip her of her feminist credentials. Get Crafty is a lively DIY manual full of great advice for decorating projects, thrift store shopping, and home made cleaning products. Railla’s voice throughout is funny, generous, and completely modern. Highly recommended.

Take a look at Susan Strasser’s Never Done: a history of American housework the next time you find yourself  faced with carpets in dire need of vacuuming or an Everest of laundry. Strasser’s fine history reveals that the work of the home was so consuming for the typical woman (and housework was done almost exclusively by women) of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries that she virtually had time for nothing else. Take that laundry for example: one day a week—often a Monday—the family’s clothes were soaped, boiled, beaten, scrubbed, rinsed, wrung, and hung. It was a process that required many hands and literally took up an entire day. It was draining, back-breaking work that probably wrecked the health of many. I try to keep this in mind as I pop a load of wash in my machine and go back to whatever else I was doing. This is a fascinating, enlightening book.

Thinking on this topic has me remembering a friend from my early days in college. Always beautifully dressed, this woman’s tiny apartment was equally impeccable. When I asked for her secret: no sleeping or eating in favor of housework? hired help? pixies?  she simply smiled and said, “It all starts with making the bed.”  At the time, it sounded like some sort of Zen koan but now, at long last, I think that I’ve started to understand.


Oct 31 2012

Talking Turkey!

by Amanda L

If you have been reading DCPLive for a while, you might have picked up that I love the outdoors and I love to cook. November is a great time to be out enjoying the change of seasons. With Thanksgiving approaching, my thoughts turn to turkeys, both in the great outdoors and for eating.

I’m sure most people know that the turkey might have been our national bird if the bald eagle had not been so majestic. Over the years, I have had a lot of personal experience with turkeys. One year, I was sitting on the ground being real still and quiet when a hen walked up to me within three feet. We startled each other and then she went running off. A couple of weeks ago, I was in the woods close to dark and it sounded like an invasion in the sky. To my delight it was a flock of turkeys going to roost.

The Library has a few books on turkeys. Wild Turkeys by Dorthy Hinshaw Patent is a children’s book that talks about the life cycle, habitat and behavior of these birds. The Turkey: an American Story by Andrew F. Smith is an adult book that looks at the symbolism of the bird, the characteristics and habitat as well as how to cook the turkey. If you ever wanted to call in a turkey while in the woods, you might want to check out Turkey calls and calling: guide to improving your turkey talking skills by Steve Hickoff.

As I said, I love to watch these birds in their natural surroundings but I also like to eat turkeys. I have eaten a wild turkey once and I have to say that it was much dryer and smaller than those that are raised domestically. The Library has a few cooking books dedicated to this bird. How to Cook a Turkey and all of those trimmings from the editors of Fine Cooking magazine covers dishes for that big Thanksgiving day dinner. Looking for a few recipes to try for your slow cookery? Try the Italian Slow Cooker by Michelle Scicolone. Finally, the Butterball Turkey Cookbook by the Butterball Turkey Company has everything you wanted to know about cooking a turkey all in one book.


Oct 26 2012

Bless Her Heart

by Veronica W

In the movie Steel Magnolias, two middle aged southern women, Clairee and Truvy, are at a wedding reception, watching one of their peers dance. Her “form fitting” dress shows all her curves and extras, in rolling, gyrating splendor.

Truvy: Clairee, you know I’d rather walk on my lips than criticize  anybody…but…Janice Van Meer…

Clairee: I know…

Truvy: I bet you money she’s paid $500 for that dress and doesn’t even bother to wear a girdle.

Clairee: It’s like two pigs fighting under a blanket.

Truvy: Well, I haven’t left the house without Lycra on these thighs since I was 14.

Clairee: You were brought up right.

This movie remains one of my favorites. It gave me an insight into a type of womanhood which I, growing up in my Yankee environment, would never have experienced otherwise. Although my mother was from Richmond, Virginia, there was little, if any, venom in her and she would have considered the above conversation in questionable taste. Then again, she had spent much of her adult life in the icy north.

There are so many books with southern women as main characters that I will only give you books or authors with whom I am personally familiar.  One of my favorite authors is Anne Rivers Siddons, whose Homeplace and Low Country delve into the lives of women returning to their southern roots.  The Secret Life of Bees, Cold Sassy Tree and Saving Grace are also good choices if you want to explore the hearts and minds of Dixie women. For pure fun, read the Miss Julia series by Ann B. Ross.

One of the most intriguing books I ever read was Kindred by Octavia Butler. In the story, a modern day, young African American woman goes back in time to live on a post civil war plantation. Without much warning, the young woman disappears from her current surroundings and reappears on the plantation. Only extreme, life threatening danger brings her back to her current time. On one such trip her husband, who is white, manages to hold onto her and he goes back with her, which causes all kinds of other problems. The premise is a fascinating one and a lot of insight is given into the relationship between black and white southern women.

For non-fiction fans, Pulitzer Prize winner Rick Bragg’s All Over But the Shoutin’ is an incredible paean to his Alabama mother, who “went eighteen years without a new dress so that her sons could have school clothes and picked other people’s cotton so that her children wouldn’t have to live on welfare.” It is the story of the “steel” that is not always evident beneath the slow, southern cadence or the often slower, rather deliberate movements of southern women. While I confess that much of my reading involves escapist fiction, I was enthralled by this book.

Two middle aged women sit in the crowded waiting room, their soft, honeyed drawls in big contrast to the litany of faults they obviously found in a mutual acquaintance. I unashamedly eavesdrop, my unread book in my hands.

“Poor thing,” one says with a sigh. “She just can’t seem to get her life straight.” Shaking her head, the other lady tacks onto this final assessment, the benediction “Bless her heart.” I smile to myself. Magnolias in full bloom.