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


What’s it like to be a professional dishwasher, or a tax collector for the IRS? What enormous pressures is a prison guard subjected to on a daily basis? What were the hotel staff laughing about while you were checking out last weekend? With these – and other – questions in mind, we assembled a list of 12 memoirs that will take you behind the scenes of 12 very different workplaces. You can click on the book covers or titles below to be taken into our catalog, or click here for the entire list.

Dishwasher: One Man’s Quest to Wash Dishes in All Fifty States by Pete Jordan

This is the true story of a man on a mission: to clean dirty dishes professionally in every state in America. Part adventure, part parody, and part miraculous journey of self-discovery, it is the unforgettable account of the author’s transformation from itinerant seeker into “Dishwasher Pete” – unlikely folk hero, writer, publisher of his own cult zine, and the ultimate professional dish dog – and how he gave it all up for love.

Confessions of a Tax Collector: One Man’s Tour of Duty Inside the I.R.S. by Richard Yancey

Richard Yancey needed a job. He answered a blind ad offering a starting salary higher than what he’d made over the three previous years combined. The job? Field officer with the Internal Revenue Service. Yancey was brilliant at it. As a revenue officer, Yancey knocked on doors and made people pay. (Never mind that he couldn’t remember where he stashed his own tax records.) Yancey details how the job changed him, and how he managed to pull himself back from the brink of moral, ethical, and spiritual bankruptcy.

Lab Girl by Hope Jahren

In this book, Jahren recounts her childhood in rural Minnesota, with a father who encouraged hours of play in his classroom’s labs. These early experiences led to a career as a paleobiologist, a role that takes her around the world, from the North Pole to Hawaii to Ireland. The core of her book is the story of the relationship she forged with a brilliant, wounded man named Bill, a student who becomes her lab partner and best friend.

Nature Noir: A Park Ranger’s Patrol in the Sierra by Jordan Fisher Smith

This is the story of Jordan Fisher Smith’s fourteen years as a park ranger on 48 miles of Sierra Nevada river canyons. Ranger work, in this place where wildness tends toward the human kind, includes encounters with armed miners who scour canyons for gold, drug-addled squatters, and extreme recreators who enjoy combining motorcycles, parachutes, and high bridges.

Blue Blood by Edward Conlon

Conlon, whose uncles, father, and grandfather were all police officers, and who becomes a NYPD officer himself after graduating from Harvard, paints a vivid portrait of the world of Big Apple law enforcement. Despite the fact that his father wanted something better for him, Conlon is irresistibly drawn to the force, and this book relates in thrilling, comic, tragic day-to-day details his ascent from beat patrolman to detective.

Working Stiff: Two Years, 262 bodies, and the Making of a Medical Examiner by Judy Melinek and T.J. Mitchell

Two months before the September 11 terrorist attacks, Dr. Judy Melinek began her training as a New York City forensic pathologist, throwing herself into the fascinating world of death investigation – performing autopsies, investigating death scenes, counseling grieving relatives. This book, which chronicles her two years of training, takes you behind the police tape of the events large (the disastrous crash of American Airlines flight 587) and small (the individual murders, suicides, and accidents that are her stock-in-trade).

Newjack: Guarding Sing Sing by Ted Conover

In this book, author Ted Conover spends a year as a prison guard at New York State’s infamous maximum-security facility, Sing Sing. A gallery officer, Conover often has to supervise scores of violent felons – by himself. As he confronts the impossibility of doing his job by the book, he begins to develop the sense of balance between leniency and tyranny that defines a good prison guard. This is an excellent look at what prison life does to people on both side of the bars.

Free for All: Oddballs, Geeks, and Gangstas in the Public Library by Don Borchert

Borchert, a longtime assistant librarian in a suburban Los Angeles library, pulls back the curtain on public library service and reveals a world overflowing with outsized, oddball personalities – on both sides of the desk.

Heads in Beds: A Reckless Memoir of Hotels, Hustles, and So-Called Hospitality by Jacob Tomsky

When Jacob Tomsky emerged from college with a philosophy degree, he didn’t intend to enter the hospitality business. Yet he did, becoming a valet parker for a luxury hotel in New Orleans. Ten years later, Tomsky was still in the industry and had worked his way around and through the hotel world. In this book, you are provided a backstage look at what lies beneath the surface of hospitality.

Smoke Gets in Your Eyes: & Other Lessons from the Crematory by Caitlin Doughty

Doughty, the blogger behind the popular web series Ask a Mortician, describes her experiences working at a crematory. In addition to detailing her day-to-day experiences – sweeping ashes from the machines, caring for bodies of all shapes and sizes – Doughty unearths and details the sometimes weird history of cremation and undertaking.

Garlic and Sapphires: The Secret Life of a Critic in Disguise by Ruth Reichl

Reichl, a former restaurant critic at the New York Times and once the editor-in-chief of Gourmet, recounts her visits to some of the world’s most acclaimed restaurants, where she often dined both as herself and – in disguises involving wigs, makeup, and credit cards under assumed names – anonymously.

Heat: An Amateur’s Adventures as Kitchen Slave, Line Cook, Pasta Maker, and Apprentice to a Dante-Quoting Butcher in Tuscany by Bill Buford

Author Bill Buford had long thought of himself as a reasonably comfortable cook before he decided to answer a question that ate at him every time he prepared a meal: How would his skills measure up in a professional kitchen? Buford seizes the opportunity to train in the kitchen of Mario Batali’s three-star New York restaurant, Babbo, and this book is the story of his time spent under Batali’s tutelage and of his apprenticeships with culinary masters in Italy.


Oct 15 2018

Are You Sleeping?

by Dea Anne M

Thomas Edison famously referred to sleep as “an absurdity” and “a bad habit.” Of course, one could argue that the advent of artificial light disrupted our natural sleep patterns forever for good or ill. Certainly, when I was coming along in college and then further along in my working life, the general consensus was that if one was faced with an overloaded schedule, sleep was naturally the first thing to go. My friends and I bragged about how little sleep we were getting. That seems ridiculous to me now but at the time it seemed like a badge of honor – proof positive that our lives were full, rich and interesting. Don’t even get me started on the epic battles my parents had with me about my more than reasonable bedtime. Small children need their sleep but to me it just didn’t seem fair.

My current thinking on sleep and its importance diverges wildly from Edison’s as well as my younger selves. I make sleep a priority these days and I find that the much touted eight hours a night is just about perfect for me. Of course, some people really do fine on less and then there are folks who need quite a bit more. Model, Heidi Klum says that she sleeps 10 hours a day and LeBron James reportedly needs a full 12 hours. Personally, I find that enough sleep eases stress, keeps my appetite stable, makes exercise more satisfying…in short life is just more fun!  My 25 year old self would say…”How can it be more fun? You’re asleep…you’re missing so much!” To that self I say now, “You don’t know what you’re missing.” My five year old self  would say “But…why?” and, of course, the proper reply to that is “Because I said so. Now go to bed!”

Current research indicates that sufficient sleep helps with metabolism, memory and concentration, and athletic performance. As well, it might decrease your risk of heat attack, stroke and diabetes.

Are you someone who needs help getting the sleep that you know you need or are you someone just interested in learning more about the fascinating (and in many ways still mysterious) world of sleep? Never fear! Either way, DCPL has got you covered.

In recent years, the most visible person lending face and voice to the importance of sleep is Arianna Huffington. Huffington, who has provoked plenty of controversy through the years, is probably best known as the co-founder of the Huffington Post (now known as HuffPo) the news and opinion website. A few years ago, Huffington was your typical high achieving go-getter and sleep was in no way a priority. Then one day exhaustion finally laid its claim. She collapsed at her desk and woke up in a pool of blood with a broken cheekbone. Much has changed since then and Huffington is a true believer in the power of sleep. Check out her book The Sleep Revolution: transforming your life one night at a time and find out how you too can benefit.

But wait! There’s more! Try these titles too for more about the importance of sleep and how you can reap its rewards.

Nodding Off: the science of sleep from cradle to grave by Alice Gregory

Sleepyhead: the neuroscience of a good night’s rest by Henry Nicholls

The Sleep Solution: why your sleep is broken and how to fix it by W. Chris Winter

Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker

Wild Nights: how taming sleep created our restless world by Benjamin Reiss

So tonight, do yourself a favor and…go to bed already!

Also, of course, sweet dreams.



Sep 6 2018

Unlikely Friendships

by Camille B

We’ve probably all heard the expressions, fighting like cats and dogs, or being as scared as a mouse. These popular sayings are most likely derived from the knowledge that many species generally do not get along well together. As a matter of fact the entire premise for the cartoon, Tom & Jerry is based on it–a cat and mouse who fight and torment each other at every chance they get.

Lions and zebras, bear and fish, foxes and rabbits–alongside each other these animals are seen for the most part as predator and prey–left together for any period of time, one can quickly become food to the other.

The book Unlikely Friendships puts this theory to the test with true stories of animals who you’d never expect to be friends under any circumstances. Jennifer Holland, science writer and author of the book says, “It is about animals who, with nothing else in common, bond in the most unexpected ways and thrive on the warmth, closeness, and trust that come with being true friends.”

While reading some of the stories in this book, I was totally fascinated by one in particular about a 230 pound ape called Koko who is taught to communicate in American Sign Language, and who asks for a cat for her birthday after being read the stories “The Three Little Kittens” and “Puss in Boots.” Not satisfied with just a stuffed animal, she is finally allowed to choose from a litter of abandoned kittens. Koko calls her new friend “All Ball.”

I cannot begin to fathom how a gorilla would befriend a cat, but Koko does so with ease, treating Ball as gently as she would one of her own babies. When asked if she loved her little Ball, she signs to her teacher “Soft, good, cat.”

I was curious for an explanation to all of this. What would make a snake befriend a hamster? Or cause a golden retriever to be fascinated by a fish? Why would a tiger cub want to take care of orangutan babies or an elephant become pals with a stray mutt?

Holland, narrates each of the stories in the book, explains, “Sometimes there are plausible scientific explanations: an orphan seeking comfort from an older animal; an adult yearning for a younger creature to nurture, as in the case of the lioness who befriended and protected a baby oryx- unexpected, but not inexplicable. Sometimes a friendship is about need, as in the case of the blind Lab and her “seeing-eye” cat. But sometimes it’s just a lovely mystery, like the story of Owen the hippo and Mzee the tortoise, two notoriously surly creatures who became bosom buddies.”

In another book “Raising the Peaceable Kingdom: what animals can teach us about the social origins of tolerance and friendship” the author Jeffrey Masson conducts an experiment to try and determine if several different species- some, natural enemies- raised together from an early age could live peacefully side by side. He takes into his home seven young animals- a kitten, rabbit, two rats, two chickens, and a puppy- and sets about observing the process of socialization.

Says Masson, “At first the animals displayed typically what was expected of them, but as time went by and they began to adapt to their environment, they began to change in startling ways, I wondered then, can animals, including humans, truly change when direct experience tells them it’s safe to do so?”

Is it true? Can we learn a thing or two about relationships and peaceful coexistence from animals? If they can get along, how much more should we be able to no matter what our differences.

Unlikely Friendships is truly a lighthearted and entertaining read, guaranteed to be enjoyed, whether you’re an avid animal lover or not.

Each story reveals the true power of friendship and, to some degree, the many forms of “love” that seems to exist in the animal kingdom. Yes, scientists might scoff at that notion, but readers may feel a little differently about the world after they finish this book.” – Jennifer Holland

DCPL carries both books in its Library System.

Unlikely Friendships: 47 remarkable stories from the animal kingdom/ Jennifer Holland

Raising the peaceable kingdom: what animals can teach us about the social origins of tolerance and friendship / Jeffrey Masson


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Jul 25 2018

Having The Conversation

by Camille B

“Hey Dad, how’s the game? Oh, and do you want to be buried or cremated? And how much money are you leaving me?”

As I read these words in a CBS’s MoneyWatch article, I had a hard time keeping a straight face. Even though the underlying tone was a somber one, I couldn’t help but imagine the look of horror on the father’s face at his son’s question. It did, however, make me stop to think about how I would broach a subject like this myself if I had to.

In a nationwide survey, ninety-percent of people who responded said that they knew they should have a talk with a family member about end-of-life care and becoming power of attorney- but only 30 percent of them actually had. Some of the reasons given were: their loved-one wasn’t sick yet, the subject made them uncomfortable, they didn’t want to upset their loved-one, or the time just never seemed right.

But research has shown it can be equally upsetting for grieving family members who are left behind with no clear directives to follow. In this situation, they are now unsure of whether they’re fulfilling their loved-one’s last wishes or not- not to mention the family spats and arguments that can erupt out of nowhere. 

Let’s face it, family members don’t always behave the way we expect them to behave.  The passing of a loved-one can bring out the worse in some of them. Having no will in place only complicates matters, leading to all sorts of unnecessary drama that could have been avoided.

You now have children, stepchildren, first wife, second wife, uncle Ed and cousin Fred, all in line trying to sort through family possessions with no clear guidelines as to who gets what if anything at all, igniting family feuds that could sometimes take years to resolve.  

It’s not enough that Ma said she’d leave you her designer handbags. If it’s not stated in a will it’s fair game for Aunt Rachel and all of your cousins. Even though a verbal agreement is legally binding you may still have to prove it in court. Put it in a will and make sure that the will is current. As one person rightly puts it, “A will is your chance to end the argument before it begins.”

Well, you say, I’m an only child, so no drama for me. But it’s more than material possessions and who gets what. As our parents get older it brings to the forefront their quality of health and end-of-life concerns as well, not to mention the financial considerations that go along with them. Do they have a living will or advance directive? Who has power of attorney if they are no longer able to make important decisions for themselves?

So what’s the best way to go about having this conversation without seeming insensitive or rude? Or worst yet, like you’re after money? Here are some ways that experts say work best:

  • First of all, let them know your intentions are honorable, and you don’t have any ulterior motives. You’re inquiring because you’re concerned. If anything should happen to them you’d want to honor and respect their last wishes and do things the way they would have wanted it done. Be sensitive in your approach remembering that you’re dealing with two very unpleasant subjects-death and finances.
  • Make sure the timing is right. You don’t want to bring up the subject right after someone’s funeral, especially if it’s a friend of theirs. Maybe you can casually mention it in passing one day-that you were thinking about drawing up a will of your own, letting this open the doorway for discussion. It doesn’t have to be all at once. A vseries of small conversations over a period of time can work as well.
  • Discuss your intentions with your siblings ahead of time.  Get their input if you can do it without argument or discord. You may not agree on every single detail, but your overall intentions for your parents’ well-being should be the same. Take one of them along with you if this works. Sometimes the person that the parent relates to best can make them more open and receptive to talking about a difficult subject.
  • Gather as much information ahead of time as you can so that you can put them at ease if they have questions. You may also need to assist them with finding the proper documents and paperwork to begin and complete the process.
  • Include in your concerns: whether or not they have a will, if they have power of attorney, advance healthcare directives, an authorized user on their bank account if a family member needs to access funds to cover expenses such as medical care, nursing home, and funeral arrangements.
  • Listen to what they have to say, giving them time to think things over that they’re not sure about. Don’t coerce them into signing documents and paperwork that they’re not comfortable with. Remember that the end result of all of this should bring them peace of mind, not cause further worry or anxiety as to whether or not they’re doing the right thing.
  • When you think that you have everything in place, set up a meeting (or series of meetings) with a lawyer to have a will drawn. Even if your loved-one has a simple estate with no property or no real investments, you can still create a legally binding will yourself using software from NOLO.com .

And if all of this seems a bit overwhelming for you and your loved one, The Five Wishes document is another avenue you can take to securing a will. It is an advance directive created by the non-profit organization Aging with Dignity, and currently meets the legal requirements for an advance directive in 42 states and the District of Columbia. More people have used this document for their living will or advance directive than any other document.

It is popular because of its simplicity and everyday language. It helps you to express your wishes in the areas that matter most. The person you want to make care decisions for you when you can’t; the kind of medical treatment you want or don’t want; how comfortable you want to be; how you want people to treat you, and what you want your loved ones to know.

So it may not be one of the easiest conversations to have, but financial advisers say that the conversation with your parents is one of the best things you can do for them and for yourself. And the earlier you do it the better.

Here are other helpful books on the subject matter that you can find in the DCPL system.

The everything guide to caring for aging parentsKathy Quan

Quick & Legal Will Book– Clifford Dennis

The Conversation: a revolutionary plan for end-of-life care– Angelo Volandes

Caring for our parentsHoward Gleckman

Caring For Your Parents: the complete AARP guideHugh Delehanty

The Power of Attorney Handbook– Edward Haman




We are bombarded every day with news stories that can be sometimes disheartening or just plain depressing, so you could agree that it’s refreshing when you stumble across one that makes you smile and gives you a good feeling inside.

Michaela DePrince’s life story is one such, rekindling hope and courage within the human spirit and touching even the most calloused of hearts.  It’s a story of triumph over tragedy for anyone who’s ever had to face seemingly insurmountable odds or told they were less than for whatever reason, be it color, race, gender, ethnicity or handicap.

Though it reads like a fairy tale, Michaela would be the first to tell you that it’s not.  As you read her memoir you realize that her story is one of dedication, perseverance and survival. Born in Sierra Leone in 1995, during the country’s bloody civil war, her given birth name then was Mabinty Bangura. After losing both parents at the age of three (her father to the war and her mother to illness), Michaela is placed in an orphanage where she is faced with harsh and sometimes inhumane treatment by the women there, mostly because of her unusual skin pigmentation condition called vitiligo. They believed that the white spots on her dark skin were evil or a curse, and she was soon labeled “the Devil Child.”

It is hard to imagine, but the kids at the facility were ranked in order of favoritism. “They ranked us,” said Michaela. “Like number one was the favorite child and number 27 was the least favorite…I was number 27.” For her, being last on the list meant that she was the last child to get food at dinner, the last to receive clothing etc.

She quickly became friends with another little girl, number 26, whose name was also Mabinty, and who had found herself at the bottom of the “special” list because she was left-handed and wet the bed. Together, the two Mabintys shared a grass mat to sleep on at bedtime, their rice at mealtime and, since they were always blamed for everything anyway, decided to both take the blame so they could have their time-out together.

There were many days when, teased by the other children and missing her parents, Michaela would sit at the orphanage’s gate and cry. It was on one of these occasions that a gust of wind blew a page from a magazine up against the gate. It was a dance magazine depicting the picture of a beautiful woman in a pink tutu and pink slippers. She said that what she remembered most about the photo was how happy the woman looked. “It was not just the fact that she’s a ballerina,” said Michalea. “It’s that she looks happy. And I wanted to be happy. If what she was doing made her happy, that’s what I wanted to do.”

The next day, her teacher explained that the woman in the photo was a famous ballerina, and Michaela wanted to know if she too could one day become a ballerina, to which her teacher replied yes. If she took lessons, worked hard and practiced every day, it was definitely possible.

It was not long after that the children learned that people from America were coming to adopt some of them. Her friend, number 26, was one of the lucky ones. An American family chose her and sent her an album of photos. But no-one was coming for number 27. There was actually little hope that she would ever be adopted because of her skin condition. “Why would somebody want to adopt the Devil’s Child?” they said.

Across the sea in New Jersey, Elaine DePrince and her husband Charles were getting ready to adopt. They had previously adopted three American boys who tragically, all had died of AIDS from contaminated blood. Even though they were devastated, Elaine did not let that stop her from opening her heart and home to another child who needed a family. She and her husband made preparations to adopt Mabinty. What they didn’t know was there were two of them. Elaine was surprised when she got a call from the adoption agency asking, “Which Mabinty are you adopting? We have two of them.”

She was told that twelve different families had refused to take the other Mabinty because of her vitiligo. She did not hesitate. “We’ll take her,” she said. “I really don’t have a problem with spots, after dealing with AIDS.”

She remembers getting to Africa to adopt the two 4-year-olds, and meeting an angry, almost defiant Number 27. “She was standing there with her arms folded really angry. I think… she just thought there was gonna be more rejection ahead for her.” Michaela also recounts the moment when Elaine took both their hands and said to them, “I’m your new mama.”

It would have been rather difficult to have two Mabintys, so Elaine re-named both girls after her late son Michael who had encouraged her and Charles to adopt in Africa. Number 26 became Mia Mabinty DePrince and number 27 became Michaela Mabinty DePrince.

Michaela now felt closer to her dream, and one of the first things she did was to show her new mother the page from the magazine that she still had with her. “I couldn’t believe that I had adopted an orphan from Africa who wanted pointe shoes!” Elaine laughed. “I had to promise her she could dance.”

And she kept that promise, signing both girls up for ballet lessons. Michaela took it seriously from day one, and even at a young age was said to be laser-focused on becoming a professional ballerina, even with all the obstacles that were going to come her way–the first being her skin condition. At her first show she was terrified that people could see her spots from the audience, and felt that if they were able to, in her child’s mind, it meant the end of her dancing. She asked her new mother to see if she could see the spots from the audience and Elaine told her that from where she sat it just looked like pixie dust. Michalela’s response was, “Oh good. Now I can be a professional ballerina.”

Even after that, it was still and uphill battle, as she was still faced with obstacles and prejudices because of the color of her skin. She had never known anything about racial intolerance but quickly learned, when she experienced it not just in the neighborhood around her but in the world of ballet as well. In one instance, a teacher whose opinion meant a lot to her said to her mother, “We don’t like to waste a lot of time, money, and effort on the black girls. When they reach puberty, they develop big thighs and behinds and can’t dance ballet anymore.”

But for every person that put Michaela down, there was someone there waiting with an encouraging word, to help her keep her head up. The following week another teacher told her. “If you keep working hard, I don’t see any reason why you can’t one day become a world-class dancer.”  So with focus, hard work, practice and dedication, she persevered, not allowing the racism, jealousy and bigotry to break her spirit. “The only way I could survive,” she says. “Was to prove everybody wrong.” And this is exactly what she did.

Today Michaela dances classical ballet. After studying at the American Ballet Theatre at the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School, in New York, she moved up the ranks, joining first the Dance Theatre of Harlem in 2012, then the Dutch National Ballet Junior Company in 2013 and finally the Dutch National Ballet where she was promoted to coryphée in 2015, and to grand sujet at the beginning of 2016. She is presently a soloist for the Dutch National Ballet.

Michaela was featured in an award-winning documentary by Bess Kargman called First Position, which was nominated for an NAACP Image Award, as well as a dancer in Beyonce’s album Lemonade. She has also been an ambassador for War Child since 2016, an organization which helps children living in war zones. Together with her mother, she has written the memoir Taking Flight: From War Orphan to Star Ballerina as well as a children’s book Ballerina DreamsBoth books, as well as the documentary First Position, can be found in the DCPL library system, where you can read more about her remarkable journey.

First Position- DVD


Apr 30 2018

How to Find a Book

by Dea Anne M

bookspostI worked as a bookseller for a number of years and I’d have to say that the most rewarding aspect of that job for me was helping my customers pick out great books to read. Of course a lot of folks would come in knowing already what they wanted to purchase (“Do you have the latest John Grisham?” Where are your yoga books?” “Harry Potter! Harry Potter! Harry Potter!”), but more people than you might think want to have books recommended to them. Not to brag (except that, of course, I’m bragging), but I took a lot of pride in my ability to ask the right questions in order to guide my customer to just the right book.

Not so for a co-worker of mine at another store (at the time I was working for a small local chain of “neighborhood” bookstores). This guy was famous for his love of the thriller genre. I mean that’s all he ever read. There’s nothing wrong with that. Everyone has their preferences. The problem was that thrillers were all that he’d ever recommend…to anybody. I’d heard this about him, but I’m not sure that I completely believed it (how could a devoted bookseller be so wedded to a genre?) until he filled in at my store for a week. It was true! Whatever the customer’s expressed preference – lush romance, civil war novels, the hardest of sci-fi – he’d show them all the same thriller that he’d been raving about all week – let’s call it “Be Very Afraid!”

Me – “That lady asked for an historical romance set in late 1800’s Colorado.”

Him – “Yeah. So?”

Me – “You showed her “Be Very Afraid!”

Him – “She wanted a good book and that’s a good book!”

Me – “So if someone came through that door right now and wanted a good book for her seven year old nephew who loves dinosaurs, color wheels and knock-knock jokes would you show her “Be Very Afraid?”

Him – “It’s never too early to get kids hooked on quality fiction!”

Anyway, I’m sure you get the picture.

Now some of you might look at the title of this post and think “Well, gee, she works in a library! How hard can it be to find a book? Just go to the shelf!” I can assure you that even when surrounded by books it can often be difficult to find just the right one. Luckily, DCPL is here to help.


Sometimes you might just want to know what other people have read and enjoyed because the odds are pretty good that you might enjoy it too.  In Ten Years In the Tub , novelist Nick Hornby chronicles his own pursuit of the pleasures of reading. He talks about the books he has read and loved, the books that he’s purchased then shelved never to be picked up again, and those books hurled across the room in anger or set down in bored indifference. You might get new reading ideas from this very gifted writer – plus he’s very, bookshelfvery funny.

My Ideal Bookshelf Thessaly La Force (editor) and Jane Mount (illustrator) is a charming idea, and beautifully executed. La Force invited authors, chefs and other luminaries (Malcolm Gladwell, Alice Waters and James Patterson to name a few) to name the books that have been the most important in shaping their lives. Mount then created charming paintings featuring the spines of said books. Also included is commentary from each contributor illuminating the personal importance of each title. This is a gorgeous coffee table that might just inspire some new choices for you.reads

Sometimes you want your book to be more of a snack than a seven-course meal. For those times, you’ll want to peruse 100 One-Night Reads: A Book Lover’s Guide by David C. Major and John C. Majors. As you might suspect from the title, the book surveys a number of very short books – both fiction and non-fiction. It’s clear that the Majors brothers are deep readers with a breadth of interest. The summary of each title is succinct, while still compelling, and the authors often include biographical information on the author and some of the publishing history as well. It’s true that the most recently published recommendation is probably Seamus Heaney’s Beowulf: A New Verse Translation but that shouldn’t deter you. Classics are, after all, classic for a reason.

magicFinally, we come to a fabulous tool that’s available to you through DCPL’s website. This wonder is NoveList Plus (scroll down under Books and Literature and click NoveList Plus link) and you’ll find it among our reference databases . You can use NoveList Plus to search for potential great reads in all sorts of useful ways. I happen to love Elizabeth Hand’s novel Waking the Moon and NoveList Plus provides me with a handy list of “Title Read-alikes” such as Counterfeit Magic by Kelly Armstrong. I can also look up “Author Read-alikes” to find authors who share a similar style such as Stephen Baxter.  I can also search for books that I might enjoy by inputting appeal terms that mirror aspects of Hand’s work flightsuch as “complex” (character), “atmospheric” (tone) and “richly detailed” (writing style). This brings up suggestions like Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver and The Secret Chord by Geraldine Brooks.  You can search by genre or by audience (adult, teen, ages 9-12 and ages 0-8). You can specify books of a certain lexile range or narrow your search to authors of a specific cultural identity. You can even use NoveList Plus to look for non-fiction. I can’t recommend this tool highly enough if you’re looking for your next great read. And if you work in a library (like me!) NoveList Plus is one of the best tools out there that you can use to find good books for your patrons.

How do you find a book?

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Apr 23 2018

A Room Of One’s Own

by Camille B

Cosy Room 2I remember seeing a TV commercial some years ago where a mother was desperately trying  to find a little peace and quiet from her little ones. Seeking refuge in the restroom, she sat there for a few minutes with the door closed trying to catch her breath. But it wasn’t long before she looked down to see tiny fingers wiggling beneath the restroom door, trying to get her attention once again.

We can all relate to reaching that level of exhaustion where we need to just take some time away to breathe. And even though we may not be dealing with small kids on a daily basis, we know when our mental batteries are drained and need recharging.

When we’ve had a horrible day, sat in traffic for hours, got flipped off by an impatient driver, picked up the kids late from school- again, forgot to take the chicken out of the freezer for dinner, the list goes on and on.

But where do you go to find that alone time? Where is that sacred place that’s yours and yours alone? Where you can hang a Do Not Disturb sign on the door and have it respected? Where is your place you can kick off your shoes and unwind, preferably with a glass of wine, or a cup of coffee or tea?

Some of you are probably laughing to yourself, wondering “Is she serious? I can barely take a restroom break for a full five minutes without being interrupted, much less find time for, what is it? Rest and Relaxation?”

And it’s understandable that we feel this way, with the whirlwind of life around us. Slowing down or stopping for anything “me related”  seems like such a luxury, and many women claim to feel that twinge of guilt when they step back for a moment to take care of anything that doesn’t involve their family or loved ones–like that mother probably must have when she saw the tiny fingers peeping under the bathroom door.

The truth is though, we’re no good to ourselves or anyone else when we get like this. Stress left unchecked can lead to other health problems in the long run such as high blood pressure, heart disease, and diabetes. According to an article in the Huffington Post “Having your own space—where you can think, dream, ponder, plan and create, or just be—is essential in our fast-paced, over-connected world.”

Still the question remains, where is that place that we go when we need to retreat and refuel? Daddy has his Man Cave, the kids have their game rooms or tree houses. And let’s face it, they would be contented just about anywhere as long as they have their smart phones with them.

What is the woman’s version of a Man Cave? And if one more person says it’s the kitchen, I’ll scream. Because I’m betting you that as much as Martha Stewart and Rachel Ray love their kitchens, it is not the place they go when they need to relax and unwind.

She Sheds are now becoming quite popular with women everywhere, and before I began writing this post I had actually never heard of them. They are apparently the woman’s version of a Man Cave and women are becoming very creative with building their own. So if you have the space and resources, this might be the way to create your getaway. Check out She sheds: a room of your own by Erika Kotite at your DCPL branch for interesting ideas for this project.

But having your own space doesn’t have to be as elaborate as a She Shed, nor does it have to be an entire room, although that would be ideal. It could be just a nook or cranny, an unused storage room or closet, whatever space you have available in the home. Not all of us have the luxury of a backyard shed or greenhouse that we can turn into that idyllic place, but we all have a place in the house where we can set up our own sanctuary.

In his book A Room of Her Own: women’s personal spaces, Chris Madden shows you how you can use whatever space you have to create that level of comfort you want. A review on Amazon describes the book: Full-color photography and a charming text capture the special places that women have created as retreats from busy daily routines and offer creative and inspirational decorating ideas to help transform one’s dream room into reality. 

Maybe you’ve had it at the back of your mind for a long time to create that reading room, or crafting room. A place where you can take a mental holiday, exercise, light a scented candle and pray or meditate, do yoga, take a nap, or unplug. But somehow you haven’t gotten around to it as yet. Here’s hoping that the seed of an idea has been replanted once again and that you’ll be inspired to start wherever you are, using whatever you have. Because we all deserve to have a room of our own.


Check out these titles at DCPL:





A room of her own: women’s personal spaces– Chris Casson Madden


Book 2




Small Spaces /the editors of House Beautiful magazine






500 ideas for small spaces: Kimberly Seldon










Mar 6 2018

Are You A Luddite?

by Camille B

technophobe 2

So what exactly is a Luddite?  Is it, a) A type of religion? b) Some form of igneous rock or stone? Or is it c) A person opposed to increased or new technology?

Well if you’re like me, your first answer was probably a or b. Because doesn’t it sound very much like some type of religious order or semi-precious stone? When in truth and in fact the answer is c, a person who is- not just opposed to technology- but is downright hostile towards it.

A Luddite can be your Uncle Bob who refuses to be harassed into updating his rotary phone for a cell- not even a push button one. Or your mother, bless her heart, who presses the buttons on the computer like they’re hot, all the while reminiscing about the good old days of pen and paper.

The origination of the word Luddite came about in 1811 during the British Industrial Uprising, when skilled workers, who mostly worked in the textile industry, attacked the automated, steam-powered looms that were threatening to replace them. It is said that the workers got their inspiration from the fabled General Ludd (King Ludd), who lived in the Sherwood forest and supposedly led the movement.

The Luddites feared that the new machines were going to replace them and cut their wages, since factory owners were hiring less-skilled workers to operate them at a lower pay rate. They fought with government soldiers and sent threatening letters to their employers, attacking them as well as magistrates and food merchants. They also carried out nighttime raids, breaking into factories and destroying the new machinery by smashing them with sledgehammers.

The breaking of the machines spread to the West Yorkshire wool workers as well as the Lancashire cotton mills, and these workers followed the same pattern, even going as far as burning down some of the mills; eventually leading to machine breaking becoming a capital offence.

Today, the meaning of the word Luddite has taken on a slightly different meaning. It is now used to describe a person who, while they may not break their computer screen or smartphone in anger, has a certain fear or dread towards modern technology. A more familiar word would be a technophobe.

We can all think of someone who falls into this category, be it a family member, friend or co-worker. Just the thought of having to use a new machine or gadget causes them to break out in a cold sweat. They would rather leave well enough alone and stick to what they know.

Some of these individuals may not own a computer or even know how to use one. They don’t text, and they read all of their news from the newspapers. They still use paper maps even though they have a GPS, and they would never be found standing in self-check out lines.

Even in the workplace you have individuals who are hesitant and sometimes downright reluctant to “get with the program.” A new machine or program is introduced, and they disappear like clockwork whenever an occasion arises to use them. You’re seriously beginning to worry about Craig and what’s causing him to run off to the restroom every half an hour, and are getting just a little peeved with Margaret for taking so many breaks back to back, when it suddenly dawns on you that the new copy machine came in on Monday. The one with all those fancy buttons. It needs to be avoided at all costs.

So how do you assist people who are afraid of, or have a strong aversion to new technology? Well first of all, maybe the reason behind their reluctance should first be identified, because I’m sure that not all of it is stubbornness.

Is it an irrational fear? Or is it justifiable? Maybe they’ve had a bad experience using new technology in the past that has left them a little weary. Maybe they’re embarrassed or uncomfortable  because they figure that they should know how to use it.

This is one of the main reasons I believe many people shy away from embracing new technology. No-one likes to seem incompetent in front of others, and so would rather feign knowledge or avoid an embarassing situation all together.

As library staff we interact with patrons everyday who come in to use our computers, printers and copy machines. They can sometime get pretty nervous or anxious if they’re not quite sure about what they’re doing, approaching the machines like they would a swarm of bees.

But these same people, if you let them know that 1) it’s really not that hard, and 2) there are some things that you yourself are still learning, they immediately relax. They realize you’re not judging and are there to help, and so they open up a little more to embrace what you’re showing them.

Also, a person struggling with new technology would probably find it harder to learn from someone who is a technophile and delights in new technology. The techie’s mantra is, the newer the better. Gizmos, gadgets, digital thingies, it belongs in their world and they’re fluent is all things tech related. So while grandma is still trying to remember the password to the Yahoo account she created yesterday, Junior has already retrieved the code from her cell phone and is already typing it in.

Overall, patience and a simple approach is needed in dealing with a person who is technologically challenged. Anything that’s perceived to be harder than it really is will be met with resistance. Better small steps than no steps at all.

Below is a list of books at DCPL to help you get a hang of some of the gadgets you possess but never use.


Teach yourself visually Android  phones and tablets– Guy Hart-Davis

Android tablets for dummies– Dan Gookin

Overdrive at DCPL provides eBooks and downloadable audiobooks.

Book 2

Laptops for seniors in easy steps: Windows 10- Nick vandome

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Jan 26 2018

Vision Boarding

by Camille B

vision-board-What are your goals for 2018? Do you have a pretty good idea of what you want to achieve for the coming year, or no clue at all as to where to begin? After all, you may still have some goals left over from 2017 that you’ve somehow managed to drag over into the New Year. Why would you want to add more to that?

Each year, millions of people set out to make New Year’s resolutions which they sincerely intend to keep but somehow never quite make it to the finish line. Research shows that about 80% of people won’t stick to their New Year’s resolutions for longer than six weeks. That’s a huge number. This year, not wanting to find myself in that percentile yet again, I decided to try a different approach to tackling my goals; one that’s actually been around for quite some time, and has brought success to many: vision boarding. I figure that visualization might be just the thing I need this year to help me stay the course in achieving my goals.

What is a Vision Board?

A Vision Board, or Dream Board as some people call it, is a collage of images, pictures and affirmations of one’s dreams and desires, designed to serve as a source of inspiration and motivation.

They can be created to represent the goals you want to achieve in the different areas of your life such as travel, relationship, finance, career, home, personal growth, spirituality, health, education or any combination of these.

The purpose of your Vision Board can vary. It can be made to cover the different areas of your life at once or tailor made to focus on one very specific aspect of it, like planning a wedding, getting a book published or taking that dream vacation.

You can also use separate poster boards if you prefer to compartmentalize the different areas of your life and have a cleaner, less cluttered look. For example, you might have one board for your financial goals and another that represents your personal goals.

Rose 3


Visualize this thing that you want, see it, feel it, believe in it. Make your mental blue print, and begin to build. Robert Collier



Why Do I Need A Vision Board?

Now you may be asking, “Why do I even need a vision board? Why can’t I simply get a yellow legal pad and make a list of all the things I want to accomplish for the new year?”

Well you can, if that’s the way you want to go, after all you have to use what works best for you. But there’s just something about visualizing what you want and having a clear picture of it.

According to author and motivational speaker Jack Canefield, “The daily practice of visualizing your dreams as already complete can rapidly accelerate your achievement of those dreams, goals and ambitions: it activates your creative subconscious, it programs your brain, it activates the law of attraction and it builds your internal motivation.”

What You’ll Need For Your Vision Board

Although you can make a virtual vision board on your computer with photos and images using a special program, the most common way is with an actual, tangible board (poster or cork). You’ll also need glue, paste, magazines for cutting images and quotes, scissors, tape, pins, markers, stickers and anything that inspires you and helps you bring that mental picture to life.

Write down your goals by hand instead of using a computer. Studies done with participants on goal-setting showed that you are 42 percent more likely to achieve your goals by writing them down on paper.

And don’t just write down goals for the near future, but the long term ones as well. Because you may not be able to take that trip to the Bahamas until 2019, but you can eliminate a debt, finish a course or lose ten pounds by the end of 2018. Go ahead and pin up that little black dress in size eight on your board.

Bring all of your senses into play as you make your board, without overthinking or stressing over it. It is supposed to be a fun and creative process, so play some music in the background, sip some wine (not too much in case you end up with a totally different board than the one you intended). But you get the picture, anything that puts you in a positive and creative mood.

Rose 3


Make sure you visualize what you really want, not what someone else wants for you. Jerry Gillies



What Do You Want It To Say?

Your Vision Board should reflect all things you. Put on it all the things that motivate you and give you inspiration. Go ahead and photo shop yourself into some of the images. You should feel good every time you look at it. Find photos that correspond to your goals or dreams.

For instance, if I wanted to publish a book by the end of 2018, I would probably put things on my board that inspire that particular dream such as pictures of my favorite authors, quotes by writers who inspire me, special book covers, scenery that inspire me to write the kind of stories I want to write, even a mock book cover of what I want my published book to look like.

Place It Where You Can See It

It makes no sense going through all the trouble of making a Vision Board, engaging in such an awesome creative process, then placing it where it’s seldom seen. You want to see it every day! Let it be your sacred place if you will. Even if you don’t see it all day every day, you want to be able to see it at some point during the day, even if it’s first thing in the morning and the last thing at night. Place it in your closet, on your bedroom wall, office, cubicle, study desk or even in your kitchen if that’s where you spend most of your time.

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To accomplish great things we must first dream, then visualize, then plan… believe… act! Alfred A. Montapert



Here are some books you can find at DCPL that feature motivation, visualizing your dreams and the laws of attraction.

Dare to Win


Dare to Win- Jack Canfield and Mark Hansen


The Secret


The Secret– Rhonda Byrne           


The Power of Positive Thinking– Norman Vincent Peale                                  The power of Positive thinking

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Dec 7 2017

The Season Of Giving

by Camille B

Wrapped Gifts 4

The Christmas season is upon us once again, and with it comes that good old feeling of Christmas cheer. We’re all in great spirits as we walk through the malls shopping. Our favorite holiday music filtering through the airwaves as we decorate our houses and Christmas trees or spend time cooking and baking with family and friends.

This is also the time of year when people seem to be even more generous with their giving, wanting to spread that good cheer to those around them by giving to charities, churches or food banks across the country.

While folks may be eager to dig deeper into their pockets during the holiday season, they can also be a little weary of those fake charities that pop up quite frequently from year to year, leaving many good Samaritans completely hoodwinked. And believe me, no one wants to be swindled out of their hard earned cash, especially while trying to do a good deed for someone else. They want to know that their generous donations are going to the right places and into the hands of the right people. People want to know their donations are being used for the purposes they were intended.

Fortunately, there are still many legitimate organizations out there that you can depend on to have your contributions make a difference in someone else’s life this Christmas; whether it be a child or another family who find themselves in less fortunate circumstances this year.

Some of them you’re probably already familiar with since they’ve been doing charitable work for years, and you’ve more than likely used them in the past. But if perchance there’s an organization out there that you’re not quite familiar with and need a bit of assurance about their work, you can always check first with the BBB Wise Giving Alliance at give.org to see if it’s a reputable one, before making your donations. Below are a few examples: 

Walmart Fill The Truck Toy Drive- this year will be Walmart’s fourth annual Fill the Truck Toy Drive. In partnership with The imagesSalvation Army, they collect hundreds of thousands of toys for children in need. Shoppers visiting participating Walmart stores on select weekends from November 27 through December 13, will have the opportunity to drop off new, unwrapped toys and coats for children who take part in The Salvation Army programs year-round. Lists of suggested gifts for local children will be provided to shoppers at participating Walmart locations. Once the truck or bin is full of donations, the Salvation Army will distribute the gifts to families in need. Find a Walmart near you at by visiting  http://www.walmart.com/store/finder.

toys for tots 2Toys for Tots Foundation-  the aim of Tots for Tots is to help kids throughout the United States who are less fortunate experience the joy of Christmas, by partnering with businesses such as Hallmark, Toys R Us and The Walt Disney Company. Their mission is to collect new, unwrapped toys during October, November and December of each year and distribute them as Christmas gifts to the less fortunate children in the community in which the campaign is conducted. So you can purchase a new toy now and take it (unwrapped) to a Toys-for Tots drop off location. For more information visit  www.toysfortots.org

Clark’s Christmas Kids- every Christmas, Clark Howard and News/Talk WSB join with the Georgia Department clarkschristmaskids2017of Family and Children’s Services to provide gifts for the foster kids all across Georgia. This is their 27th year collecting toys and gifts. You can participate by donating online or visiting locations hosting this year’s toy drive. Clark Howard will be onsite at these locations. Click here on the link for a list of them www.clark.com


ChildOperation Christmas Child-  is part of the Samaritan’s Purse International Relief organization. It provides opportunities for giving abroad and providing gifts for children in Tanzania. The National Collection Week has passed, but it’s not too late to pack a box for the Operation Shoe Box program. Shoe box gifts collected in the United States in 2017 will be delivered to 114,240 children in Tanzania.

Just find a regular size shoe box, decide if you want to donate your gift to a boy or girl and choose the age category. Then select a medium to large “wow” item like a soccer ball with a pump or a stuffed animal, and complete it by filling it with other toys, hygiene items and school supplies. Click here to get an idea of some of the items you can include. If you don’t have time to shop for and pack an Operation Christmas Child shoe box gift, with a few clicks of your mouse or swipes on your touchscreen, you can build one online. Make it your own by choosing from a list of gifts, then add a personal letter and photo. Your shoe box will be sent for you for a suggested donation of just $25.  www.samaritanspurse.org

The Empty Stocking Fund- the Empty Stocking Fund purchases brand new items for kids of different ages up to the age of 12 years old. The parents and guardians of these kids are invited to visit Santa’s Village and select gifts for their children. The organization is in great need of, not just monetary gifts, but also support from volunteers and sponsors to keep it going. If you are interested in supporting this Fund you can make your contribution here  www.emptystockingfund.org          Baby

The Christmas Spirit Foundation’s mission is to advance the Christmas Spirit for kids, families and the environment through programs and activities is a charitable organization. They work to recognize and support the true meaning of Christmas for U.S. troops and military families through the Trees for Troops program. This year, support Trees for Troops by making a tax-deductible contribution to the Christmas Spirit Foundation (some employers would match your donations), or by purchasing a collectible Trees for Troops teddy bear from their online store.                                            For more information visit www.christmasspiritfoundation.org

Remember, there are many kids and families out there whose Christmases would not be as merry and bright without our generous contributions. Even if this year might be a financially binding one for you as well, you can always give of yourself and your time. Many of these organizations function mainly with the help of volunteers and sponsors, so find out how you can lend a helping hand.

Get your kids, grand kids or nieces and nephews involved too., They can experience the side of Christmas that’s not just about getting presents on Christmas morning but also about giving to someone else who is not as fortunate as they are.







Books at DCPL about Giving: 




Giving, the sacred art: creating a lifestyle of generosity– Lauren Tyler Wright

Book 2



Give a little: how your small donations can transform our world– Wendy Smith



Book 3

The Power of giving: how giving back enriches us all– Azim Jamal


Book 4

In a Heartbeat; sharing the power of cheerful giving– Leigh Anne Tuohy