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Books

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.

tub

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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How many of you check magazines and newspapers for the next best read?   Such as Red Book, Real Simple, Glamour, or USA Today?  These lists usually comprise what is currently the hottest books in the market.  I myself usually find these lists interesting to see what the selections are and which authors areThe Sun Is Also the Star included.

A website or blog has recently joined these hot magazines in offering the hottest books.  This site is Pop Sugar.  The posts are written by author Brenda Janowitz.  We currently have her latest book  The Dinner Party.  I thought it would be fun to see what titles DCPL has that were recently noted on her 50 Books of 2016 list.

So here are some titles from the best of 2016 that you can find at DCPL:

THE SUN IS ALSO THE STAR by Nicola Yoon

THE TRESPASSER by Tanya French

Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult

Every Song Ever:  twenty ways to listen in an age of  musical plenty  by Ben Ratliff

Sons and Daughters of Ease and PlentySons and Daughters of Ease and Plenty by Ramona Ausubel

The Lonely City: adventures in the art of being alone by Olivia Liang

Do Not Say We Have Nothing by Madeliene Thien

My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout

Moon Glow by Michael Chabon

Known and Strange Things by Teju Cole

Imagine Me Gone by Adam Haslett

13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl by Mona Awad

YOU WILL KNOW ME by Megan Abbott

And more…

Many of these books are available in audiobook format, ebook, and downloadable audio.  If you are looking for reader advisory then visit Pop Sugar for the 2017 list.  Happy Reading!

 

 

 

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Aug 8 2016

The Great Indoors

by Dea Anne M

Despite my abiding love of gardening and the ocean, I’ve never been what you’d call an “outdoorsy” sort of person. While I was growing up, my decided preference for indoor activities never presented much of an issue except when it came to my yearly summer visit with my maternal grandmother. Every summer, my brother and I spent several weeks away from our parents and with grandparents and a wide assortment of aunts, uncles and cousins. Mostly this was a wonderful time and something to which  I greatly looked forward – the only hitch in the unalloyed pleasure for me being the fact that Grandma was of a generation who resolutely believed that all children (along with other animals), belonged outdoors. This was fine with my brother and cousins who spent the days happily outdoors coming inside only for lunch.

I, on the other hand, preferred reading and drawing to almost any activity available outside. Anytime of day presented its problems – afternoon (sun!), dusk (mosquitoes!), nighttime (slugs!) and unless it was early morning, or we were at a pool, I opted for the indoors every time. This presented a dilemma for Grandma who truly needed for there to be no children “underfoot” in order to do her daily housework but who also had a genuine desire to help her eldest grandchild (me) enjoy the summer. So, I wound up inside tucked away with my book or drawing pad in an unobstrusive corner. Grandma eventually even stopped commenting on how odd it was any child would rather be inside rather than out in “the sunshine and fresh air.”Actually, I think Grandma wound up enjoying my company, especially when it came to watching her “stories” each afternoon. Usually unenthusiastic about most contemporary culture, Grandma sure enjoyed her daily soap operas although she often reminded me that the shows were better “back before aliens or the FBI started showing up in every episode.”

Well, I don’t keep up with the soaps anymore, but these days I still venture outside as little as possible, at least between June and sometime in late September. As a gardener, I have to devote daily time to my plants but this happens in the early hours of the day. Other than that, you’ll find me inside and happily so.  Maybe you feel the same way but need some suggestions for new and different ways to “nest” when it’s ridiculously hot outside. Well, allow this list give you a few ideas – along with suggestions for resources available from DCPL.

1. Practice preservation.

Canning has changed, a lot, from the stress-filled and steam-weary marathon sessions of decades ago. Small batch canning is entirely possible now – and even more desirable for many of us who don’t possess the large living spaces and their attendent storage options that people once had access to. Say you return from a local farmers marketpreserve with an extra pound or two of peaches or a gardening friend planted a little more okra than she could use herself and gifted you with some of it. With a large pot, a few ingredients and some sealable jars you can turn that surplus into jam or pickles in quantities that won’t have you renting a storage locker for the overflow. I recommend America’s Test Kitchen’s excellent Foolproof Preserving: a guide to small batch jams, jellies, pickles, condiments and more to provide you with all the tips and recipes you’ll need to keep your own pantry stocked with just the right amount of luscious and useful treats.

2. Organize something!

Most of us have a closet, a shelf or a drawer somewhere inside of our living space that could use some rethinking and persona blazing hot day might be the perfect time to pour a cold glass of lemonade and tackle the job. And don’t think that you need to purchase a lot of tools and supplies in order to get organized. According to Marie Kondo in her book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, you already have all the space, tools and containers that you need to organize perfectly. After applying Kondo’s method to my own clothes closets and all of my bookshelves, I have to say that I think that she’s right. Kondo’s method has worked well for me, but some of you may find it a little more off-beat or time-consuming than feels comfortable. Check out The 8 Minute Organizer by Regina Leeds or Stacy Platt’s What’s A Disorganized Person To Do? for practical tips and bite-sized projects that anyone can tackle, and feel good about, in record time.

3 Rediscover the power of cool.

Remember going to the refrigerator for a glass of ice water that hot July afternoon when you were nine years old andpops finding the chocolate wafer cream cake resting on the middle shelf atop Grandma’s special cut glass platter like a treasure hunt prize? “Don’t you touch that cake!” Grandma (who seemed to have eyes everywhere) yelled from upstairs. “It’s for after supper!” Remember playing with your cousins out in the backyard when someone would hear the distant lilt of the ice cream truck playing its music from a couple of streets away? Remember running to meet it with everyone clutching their change and jostling to be first in line? Recreate those days with Icebox Cakes: recipes for the coolest cakes in town by Jean Sagendorph and Jessie Sheehan or Cesar and Nadia Roden’s Ice Pops!: 50 delicious, fresh and fabulous icy treats.

4. Stretch your boundaries.

Awhile back, one of my co-workers told me that she sets herself a challenge every summer to read at least one book countthat falls outside the scope of her usual preferred genres. I have yet to try this myself, but I think that it’s such a great idea. Say you read almost exclusively books about science or military history – why not try a western or a contemporary romance? Do you only read young novels? Try a collection of political essays or a work of popular history such as How to Be a Tudor: a dawn to dusk guide to Tudor life by Ruth Goodman. And remember, summer is a great time to dip into a classic such as David Copperfield by Charles Dickens or Alexandre Dumas’s The Count of Monte Christo.  Or you could try a few titles from a well-regarded list such as Books All Georgians Should Read or the American Library Associations list of Banned and Challenged Books.

I don’t know about you, but I believe the height of summer seems like the true inclement season here in the Southeast, and I plan to stay inside. What about you? What’s your favorite way/plan to while away the hot weather days?

 

 

 

 

 

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Mar 24 2016

Mommy and Me

by Hope L

MommyRecently the Workplace Advisory Group of the DeKalb County Public Library volunteered for a project to help the Mommy and Me Family Literacy Program located in Clarkston.  The DCPL volunteers will be fixing up a space in the school for mothers and their children to read and relax during their school day.

The Mommy and Me Refugee Family Literacy Program is a nonprofit school located in the heart of Clarkston where immigrant mothers and their children learn together.

When I found out about this program, I was delighted.  For a time I worked at the Clarkston Branch of DCPL, and it was (and is) a very busy place!  There were many immigrant children, most of them refugees whose families fled to this country from their homelands.

According to their website, the school’s students come from more than a dozen countries from around the world: Eritrea, Burma, Bhutan, Rwanda, Somalia, Sudan, Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, The Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, and Burundi.

From the Mommy and Me website,

​We are a nonprofit school located in the heart of Clarkston, Georgia where immigrant mothers and children learn together.

A family literacy program, we offer four components of instruction: (1) ESOL classes for refugee women, (2) onsite early childhood development program for their young children, (3) Parent and Child Time sessions to promote family engagement, and (4) weekly workshops on parenting, health/nutrition, and life skills.

“Clarkston’s transformation dates back to the late 1980’s, when the U.S. State Department and various resettlement agencies chose Clarkston as an ideal site for refugee resettlement.  A mass exodus of middle-class whites to Atlanta’s more affluent suburbs left behind inexpensive apartments that could serve as affordable housing for newly arrived refugee families.  The easternmost stop on MARTA, Clarkston also offered its residence access to public transit and a commute to employment opportunities in Atlanta.”

To find out more about the program or to volunteer or make a donation, click on the link below:

Mommy and Me Family Literacy | about us

 

 

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Feb 17 2016

Brian K. Vaughan

by Joseph M

I am a big fan of sequential art. As a kid I read comic books all the time, and as an adult the graphic novel continues to be one of my favorite formats. Luckily, DCPL has a wealth of great titles to enjoy. One of my favorite “graphic novelists” is Brian K. Vaughan, author of such series as Runaways, Saga, and Y: The Last Man, among others. Some of his work may be a bit on the edgy side for the sensitive reader, but for the adventurous I highly recommend trying it out. Take a look at this catalog listing for a selection of his titles owned by DCPL. Happy reading!

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Dec 30 2015

Thinking in Systems

by Arthur G

Curiosity isn’t just a gift–it’s a gateway. Children endowed with an unquenchable thirst for figuring things out will be a real force in the world–as long as they never lose the simple joy in finding the bridge between knowing and not knowing. As a kid, that bridge was always over another horizon, obscured by a mountain of books and a plethora of facts, equations, theories, and gadgets–the collected wreckage of my endless pursuit for understanding. In my childish egocentrism, I thought I was alone in my thirst and occasionally wondered if anyone else thought the same way. I used to fumble through my local library, digesting facts, flitting from shelf to shelf and from subject to subject. It was there that I first discovered the quintessential “Renaissance Man,” Leonardo di Vinci. The fabled “Universal Genius” was my first encounter with the polymath concept, and every book on him I explored filled me with the hope that it was both possible and desirable to be a jack-of-all-trades and master of some.

LeonardoLegacyBut there was something missing. Many authors tended to rattle off his accomplishments like a Wikipedia list: he IS a scientist-mathematician-painter-sculpture-anatomist-writer-engineer. Any insight into his mind, his motivations, are usually swept under the rug or left unexamined. But there is one notable exception: Leonardo’s Legacy: How da Vinci Reimagined the World. A spectacular book penned by Stefan Klein, noted physicist and essayist, it departs from the laudatory fluff of most da Vinci biographies and examines some of the core tenets driving not just the man, but the polymath paradigm as a whole.

For instance, while da Vinci’s extensive resume usually places “mathematician” near the top, he in fact only knew the basics of long division–pretty advanced for his time, but hardly the stuff of pure genius. Instead of firing labels like a rabid kid with a paint gun, Klein looks for the origin of da Vinci’s unique mind view in his notes, letters, and sketches. As it turns out, da Vinci’s drive and most of his discoveries sprung from his pursuit of the ideal expression of art. His examinations into anatomy were born out of dissatisfaction with the outdated models of his time, so often used by artists; his discoveries in optics were spurred by his obsession with accurate light and shadow, and his engineering feats were extensions of these findings, fed also by his need for patronage and the demands of his volatile slice of Italy. Klein presents da Vinci’s achievements as both an extension of his artistry and as an outgrowth of his social and historical context.

By moving his development and discoveries beyond the vague and unhelpful “genius” label, Klein introduced me to a fuller and, dare I say, more accurate model of the “Renaissance soul.” Da Vinci never viewed his varied accomplishments in isolation. Though stricken by a lifelong love for knowledge, he tried to fit what he learned into a comprehensive framework, one much greater than the sum of its parts. Though Klein doesn’t quite mention it by name, his book was my first introduction to the idea of “systems thinking”–an approach to problem solving that views different elements and ideas in the world as part of a larger, interconnected whole, however isolated they appear. To da Vinci and other polymaths, knowledge isn’t just a series of disparate facts, separate leaves to be admired and collected in isolation. The objective is always to get at the “root,” so to speak, to see the tree in its entirety–leaves, branches, and all.

Unfortunately, Klein also points out just how fragile this peculiar brand of curiosity can be when not nurtured or funded by a generous patron. He argues that while we often lament the dearth of “modern day da Vincis,” our current emphasis on specialization and compartmentalization in education can hammer a budding polymath’s interests flat. This, of course, is a debatable point–but even so, Leonardo’s Legacy is a great book for anyone whose passions branch in many directions by offering a peek into one of our most illustrious champions.

Here are other books well worth a look:

The Renaissance Soul: Life Design for People with Too Many Passions to Pick Just One by Margaret Lobenstine (the rare career advice book aimed at people with multiple passions)

How to Think Like Leonardo da Vinci: Seven Steps to Genius Every Day by Michael J. Gelb

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Dec 28 2015

Whale of a Story

by Hope L

SmithsonianDec2015My favorite quick read, which is available at DCPL (natch), is Smithsonian Magazine*–and the December issue certainly does not disappoint.

The article “Quakers with a Vengeance” is all about the history of Nantucket, so of course it delves into the history of whaling–and, of course, it talks about Herman Melville and Moby Dick. And it explores a more recent item: Ron Howard’s new movie In the Heart of the Sea, now in theaters.

One fascinating tidbit I just picked up from reading this piece is that Melville had never been to Nantucket (the place where his famous classic is at shore) when he wrote his famous story. Turns out he only visited it a year after Moby Dick was published. I did know however (being a Card-Carrying Know-It-All and everything), that Melville’s book was a flop during his lifetime, which is indeed a shame. The more I read about Herman Melville, the more I respect him as a writer and an adventurer. (You, too, can be a Card-Carrying Know-It-All by signing up today for a DCPL library card.)

I haven’t been this excited about whaling since I visited Provincetown, MA, a few years ago. Not quite Nantucket, but it’s the closest I’ve been to the world-famous home of whalers, that little island out there off of Cape Cod. It also turns out that Nantucket and its environs had little in the way of whales in any nearby waters after about 1800, having been all fished out. Still, the infrastructure was in place for the processing of whale blubber, and Nantucket continued to be the top producer of whaling oil in the world.

The thing about Melville’s Moby Dick is that initially one could mistake it as a difficult and monotonous read, as I did before I became a die-hard ship/sea stories/whaling aficionado. But when I read it years later, I was smitten.

melville

Melville’s tales of his seafaring adventures led to his success as a writer with Typee published in 1846. Other books followed, with Moby Dick being published in 1851 to little acclaim.

So, if you care to dream about ocean adventures while in landlocked Atlanta, DCPL has an assortment of whaling and seafaring books in addition to Melville’s writings, for example:

Looking for a Ship (1990) by John McPhee

Seaworthy: Adrift with William Willis in the Golden Age of Rafting (2006) by T.R. Pearson

The Shipwreck that Saved Jamestown: The Sea Venture Castaways and the Fate of America (2008) by Lorri Glover and Daniel Blake Smith

*The Smithsonian Magazine is available in print (paper) at various DCPL branches. Check with your local library. You can read full-color, digital issues of the Smithsonian Magazine in our DCPL Zinio Library Collection, and the magazine is also available full-text via EBSCOhost from GALILEO.

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Dec 8 2015

Speak the Speech, I Pray You…

by Amie P

Authors have often used animals as great characters and narrators for children’s books. Who hasn’t read Frog and Toad, The Wind in the Willows, Charlotte’s Web, or Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH? (If you are that person, I recommend catching up on all of them, because you’re missing out.)

Still, in the back of my mind, this was a motif only used by the authors of children’s books. Adults need human narrators for their books, right?

Wrong.  Plenty of authors have figured out how to make animals the star of the show. While there are some classics (Watership Down, anyone?) and some serious titles like The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein, the mystery writers have done a good job of using animals to make their genre more entertaining.

wishThe classic cat mystery series begins with Wish You Were Here by Rita Mae Brown. Harry, a small-town postmaster, realizes that people being murdered have all received a postcard with a tombstone on it prior to their deaths. Harry is on the trail of the killer, but doesn’t realize that her cat, Mrs. Murphy, and dog, Tucker, are way ahead of her.

dogA newer dog mystery series starts with Dog On It, by Spencer Quinn. Bernie is a private detective who takes on the case of a mother looking for her missing teenage daughter. Chet, Bernie’s dog, proves to be just as good a sleuth as his owner—unless Chet gets distracted by something like, say, the scent of bacon.

threeIf you’re not into reading the perspective of pets, you can try a sheep mystery, Three Bags Full by Leonie Swann. Sheep aren’t known for being the smartest animals in the world, but when George Glenn shows up in the pasture with a spade lodged in him, his sheep decide to find out who killed their shepherd.

If you’re looking for a fun read with a different perspective, give one of these a try. You might get hooked—and you might start looking at your pets a little differently.

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I used to think that I only liked stories.  Give me a good novel any day, but if a book was found in the nonfiction section, then I wanted nothing to do with it.

Now, with the authors of narrative nonfiction telling so many crazy facts in a wide range of styles, I’ve had to change my mind.  Nonfiction done well is just as entertaining as a novel, and you can even impress your friends with some new facts when you’re done reading.

devilErik Larson introduced me to narrative nonfiction with his The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America.  Fascinating… and creepy! This is a tough story about a serial killer on the loose during the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair —I wanted to think it was fiction, but Larson’s meticulous research proves otherwise.  Don’t try this one if you are easily rattled.  Considering Larson’s other subjects include devastating hurricanes, sinking ships, and the rise of Nazi Germany, if you don’t like a serious subject with some dark themes, you’d best stay away.

Try Mary Roach instead.  She tackles a variety of science subjects—gulpspace travel, digestion, human cadavers—with a witty and irreverent tone that makes strange topics accessible and appealing.  Start with Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal.

Travel writing has long been a mainstay of narrative nonfiction, and one of my favorite authors is John Steinbeck.  How wonderful for me that he decided to write about one of his road trips!  Travels with Charley: In travelsSearch of America is the story of Steinbeck’s 1960 road trip through almost 40 states in his pickup truck with his dog Charley.  While not light subject matter—Steinbeck witnessed firsthand the difficulties of desegregation in the South, for example—this book paints a fascinating picture of America and of the author himself.

So if you’ve been stuck on novels, give one of these a try.  I’m glad I did.

 

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Sep 4 2015

This weekend, don’t forget…

by Dea Anne M

The annual AJC Decatur Book Festival will take place this coming weekend and it is an event that you surely won’t want to miss. This year’s key speaker is Erica Jong who will appear in conversation with flyingRoxanne Gay at Emory University’s Schwartz Center for the Performing Arts starting at 8:00 p.m. on Friday September 4th, although a quick check reveals to me that the event badis now sold out. Erica Jong is, of course, the author of the notorious novel Fear of Flying, which celebrated its 40th anniversary two years ago. She is as well a noted poet and also has published books of essays including Fear of Fifty: A Midlife Memoir. Her new book (on order now at DCPL) is Fear of Dying. Roxane Gay is the author of the provocative book of essays Bad Feminist.

The festival has offerings for every range of ages and interests. Tracks include Business and Marketing, Personal Journeys, and Healthy and Local. Every year includes programming for childrenboss as well as teens. The Decatur branch of the Dekalb County Public Library will provide the stage for a series of programs presented by WABE. Featured are Paul Downs, author of Boss Life: Surviving My Own Small Business, with a special look at local arts publishing powerhouse (now sadly gone) Nexus Press hosted by ArtsATL, and a special presentation honoring the winners of the 2015 Lillian Smith Awards.

Clearly, the festival offers something for everyone. See a complete schedule here.

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