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lists

Jan 29 2016

Cross That One Off

by Amie P

Call me a nerd (go ahead, do it) because I admit that I love lists. I love having a to-do list so I can check things off, I loved watching David Letterman’s Top 10 Lists, I love checking to see what’s on the New York Times bestseller list each week. I love lists!

So naturally when a new year rolls around, I have to check all the reading challenge lists that people post online.

Here’s the problem: I never truly like any of them.

Sure, they all have some strong points. “Read a book of comics.” Gladly. “Read a book about somewhere you’ve traveled.” Sure. “Read a book published in 2016.” A bit of a given.

But then this: “Total books for this list: 195.” I did the math. That’s one book every 1.87 days. “Read a book used as a textbook.” I got my master’s degree, so I don’t feel compelled to read textbooks anymore, ever again, thank you very much. “Read a book with a title that describes your life.”

Huh?

So I did what anyone else would in this situation; I made my own list! I made sure to include some things that I wouldn’t normally read—what good is a challenge if it doesn’t stretch my boundaries a little—but I didn’t include anything that I absolutely don’t want to read. It’s perfect.

MartianWeirAlso, I’ve decided that books can count for more than one category. I just finished The Martian by Andy Weir. That counts as both “a science fiction novel” and “a book that’s been made into a movie.” Good for me.

My list is currently 83 items long (one book every 4.4 days). Other highlights include:

  • a book written by an author with initials in his/her name
  • a book written by an author born in the same year or month as you
  • a book you saw someone else reading

As for “a book you’ve started but never finished,” well, The Elegant Universe: Superstrings, Hidden Dimensions, and the Quest for the Ultimate Theory by Brian Greene, I’m coming for you, and this time I’m going to finish.

What’s on your list?

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Dec 8 2014

The Best Books of 2014

by Jesse M

The MartianLooking for something good to read? It’s that time of year again when organizations begin putting out their lists of the “best books” published over the past twelve months. Over the past week, lists have been released from NPR, Goodreads, and Publishers Weekly, among many others.

I haven’t yet read any recently published books this year, so I’m hoping to rectify that by closing out 2014 with Andy Weir’s The Martian: A Novel, which I have heard described as a MacGyver story set on Mars. Weir initially had difficulty finding a publisher and began putting up the story for free in serial format on his website before eventually releasing a Kindle version at the request of his fans. The Kindle version (which is available through DCPL’s OverDrive collection) quickly rose to the top of Amazon’s list of best-selling science-fiction titles, where it sold 35,000 copies in three months, eventually attracting the interest of publishers. The book debuted on the New York Times Best Sellers list at number 12 in the hardcover fiction category, and a movie adaptation based on the story is slated for release in late 2015.

What were your favorite books published in 2014, and why? If you’re like me and haven’t read any yet, what books published this year are you most interested in?

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Jul 7 2014

Rare Recordings of Famous Authors

by Jesse M

Recently the folks over at Mental Floss compiled a list of 19 rare recordings of famous authors. The list is a who’s who of 19th and 20th century literary celebrities, including Hemingway, Kerouac, Whitman, Steinbeck, and many more! You can listen to J.R.R. Tolkien speak Elvish, Langston Hughes read his poetry, and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle talk about how he started writing Sherlock Holmes! Follow this link to check it out. Happy listening!

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Aug 14 2013

Documenting Life in Film

by Rebekah B

Au Palais du Louxor, cinema ParisGrowing up, I only saw three movies in the theater.  I specifically remember which ones: Bernard and Bianca, E.T., and The Meaning of Life (Monty Python). This rarity sparked a desire and love for film in me, and when I moved to Paris at age 19 to go to art school, I quickly became addicted to the cinematic arts. Paris is an amazing city for film, with hundreds of theaters, large and small, including some very unusual theaters. Every day, you can see movies made in every country, projected for the most part in V.O. (original version, with subtitles). The photo to the right was taken by my former teacher and photographer, Lesly Hamilton, at the Louxor, Palais du Cinema in the 10th arrondissement, quartier Barbes.  The Louxor was built in 1921 and is famous for its elaborate Egyptian style mosaics.  Recently entirely renovated, it re-opened in April of this year. Click on the links if you would like to see more photos.

ouverture-du-cinema-le-louxor-a-paris-7092

Documentary films are a genre that many people enjoy.  The fairly recent phenomenon of reality shows of which the documentary might be called the avatar, shows evidence for humanity’s thirst for real experiences.  One patron at the library confided to me that documentaries are her “best reality shows.” She also said that when ill in the hospital, documentaries on the themes of veteran’s rights, the state of health care, and other social welfare related issues helped her to keep up with continuing education requirements in her field as a social worker.

Vision is the primary sense with which we humans perceive our world, and culture helps us to understand ourselves and to relate to one another.  As global economics, world travel, and social media have extended everyday communication far beyond the borders of the familiar, it is important for all of us to be informed about how to better our world and to know more about cultures beyond our own.  It is the unique privilege of humans to witness life, and if we are truly paying attention and homage to our surroundings, to create works of art that reflect what we see.

Documentary films are a wonderful way to catch a glimpse of how others experience life in places and circumstances very different from our own, as well as to improve awareness about issues that are immediately important to our everyday lives.  Many festivals around the world celebrate documentary film, from Atlanta to Helsinki, Amsterdam to  Beijing.  Every continent – even Oceania – is represented.

I have discovered many wonderful, thought-provoking, and entertaining documentaries within the DCPL collection.  Perusing IMDB’s top 100 documentaries since 2000, I found several that I too had watched and loved, some that I know we have in our collections but have not yet seen, and yet others that are not available through DCPL. While each of us enjoys life through the particular filter created by our temperament and interests, documentaries on every possible subject can be found—from art to politics, environmental issues, animal rights, health, unsolved crimes, history, quirky personal stories, theater, education, music, travel, fashion…

Here is my own top ten.  Hope you explore the 650 plus films in the DCPL documentary collection (excluding tele-films) and find your own favorites. Each title is connected by hyperlink to either the title in our library catalog, or (if we don’t have it,) official movie website.

[read the rest of this post…]

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Jul 26 2013

ShareReads: Adventures with the Classics

by Dea Anne M

sharereads_intro_2013

When I was 14, I went into the school library and checked out a copy of Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina. Later that day, my English teacher saw me carrying annait in the hallway. She raised an eyebrow and said, voice dripping with scepticism.

“Don’t you think that’s a little bit much?”

Well, that just made me more determined than ever to read the whole book. What I didn’t admit to myself (or to anyone else) was that as interested as I was in the book, I was even more interested in being seen carrying it around. Trying to impress others with my reading choices was a youthful bit of vanity that it took an unfortunately long time to shake. Anyway, I finally finished the novel though I had no real idea of what I had read. Not that I would have let anyone know that.

High school had its required reading as did college but none of the assigned northangertexts, though interesting enough, inspired me to take up reading classics in my leisure time. The change occurred in my Romantic Literature class when the professor assigned us to choose one of two novels and write a paper about it. I think the only reason I picked Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey was because I just didn’t want to read the Last of the Mohicans. I was only a few pages into the book, however, before I realized that I’d fallen in love. Since then, I’ve read all of Austen’s work and have happily reread most of them as well – notably my two favorites – Emma and Pride and Prejudice.

In the years since that first delightful experience with Jane Austen, I’ve brothersexplored classic novels sporadically. I went through a Dostoevsky phase which was pretty heavy going but overall worthwhile (favorite novel – The Brothers Karamazov). After that, I experienced a year long flirtation with the works of Henry James of which (and I’m a little embarassed to admit this) I like most the shortest namely The Turn of the Screw and Daisy Miller. Thomas Mann followed Henry James then came James Joyce and after that I stopped setting myself the “project” of trying to read any author’s entire body of work.

Lately, I’ve become interested in exploring the classics again though this timedavid I want to take a less studied approach and select books with an eye toward sheer reading pleasure. Remembering how much I enjoyed Great Expectations, I recently checked out Charles Dickens’ David Copperfield. I couldn’t put it down! It’s a very long book so it took me a good while to get through and I’m sure that the inmates of my house became less than charmed with my nightly cries of “Poor David!” and “I hate Uriah Heap!” but I really found it that engaging a novel. I followed Dickens with Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte and I’m happy to report that experience as every bit as enjoyable. I suppose I’ve finally learned that I don’t janehave to  read a classic work of literature in order to “improve” myself or (cringe) in order to impress other people. I can just relax and relish the reading experience. As Italo Calvino reminds us in his book of essays The Uses of Literature, “A classic is a book that has never finished saying what it has to say.”

If you’re interested in dipping into the classics but don’t know quite where to start, check out the “Best Classic Literature Ever” list on the Goodreads website. You can get more ideas from Modern Library’s “100 Best Novels” list. This last is actually two lists in one – the board’s list which is dominated by classics and the reader’s list which leans more toward genre fiction and includes more science fiction and dark fantasy.

What’s next on my reading list of classics? Middlemarch by George Eliot. Then, who knows, maybe I’ll tackle Anna Karenina again!

What are some of your favorite classics? How do you define a classic?

 PS – This is the last ShareReads post. Hope you had fun with us, and don’t forget to submit your reading and activities completed on our Adult Summer Reading page. Click here to see all of our ShareReads posts this year.

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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

Fiction

Non-Fiction

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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Jul 11 2012

Hit the beach…reading!

by Dea Anne M

I’m heading for the Outer Banks at the end of the week and I’m excited—not only by the prospect of some down-time at the ocean, but also by the promise of hours of uninterrupted time to read. When I worked as a bookseller, the publisher reps would invariably try to sell certain titles as “the perfect beach read.” Actually, “beach reading” is a fairly broad category. It’s usually a book that goes down easy but it can be any author from Sophie Kinsella to Clive Cussler to Michael Chabon. Some people prefer non-fiction and there are certainly some beach worthy titles out there (Under the Banner of Heaven and The Tipping Point are two that come immediately to my mind) but for my beach reading it’s fiction all the way. I’m normally an enthusiastic reader of non-fiction but somehow it just doesn’t hold my interest near the waves as a well as a work of writing that carries me away to a different time and place. My co-worker and car pool buddy, Fran, describes a similar phenomenon. She is reading Agatha Christie but says that she is only able to read her when she’s away from home.

For this trip, I will, as usual, be overpacking books but I figure that it’s better to have too many than not enough. That sad situation actually occurred one year and I was forced to run to the grocery store in Gulf Shores AL to buy an emergency paperback. It turned out to be Dark Debts by Karen Hall, an excellent horror novel set in and around Atlanta that scared me silly (for me, a good thing) and proved impossible to put down. This time around, I’ll be steeping myself in Regency England as I re-read some of my favorite Jane Austen, specifically Pride and Prejudice, Emma, and Northanger Abbey. Also coming along will be Georgette Heyer’s Frederica and The Grand Sophy. I’m excited as well about a new thriller writer I discovered recently, Cornelia Read, and I’ll be taking along her novels A Field of Darkness and The Invisible Boy. I also hope to take along The Paris Wife by Paula McClain, Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts, and I may re-read Caleb Carr’s The Alienist.

Do you need some ideas for your vacation reading?

For “brainy” beach reads check out this list.  If Chicklit is your thing then take a look at this.

This year, GoodReads is asking readers to cast their votes for top beach reads, and back in 2009 NPR asked readers and their own Books Board to nominate the 200 “best beach books ever”. You can check the lists out here and here and get inspiration for great new reading or books you’ve read before that you can enjoy rediscovering.

What are some of your favorite beach/vacation reads?

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May 2 2012

Do you have a secret?

by Dea Anne M

Rebecca Joines Schinsky of  The Book Lady’s Blog recently featured an amusing post (found via Atlanta Book Lover’s Blog) in which she reveals some of her own “dirty little reading secrets,” and asks readers to share theirs. Schinsky’s revelations and request certainly generated a lot of lively comment and the responses are a lot of fun to read. Quite a few of the respondents admit to never having liked Jane Eyre or the works of Gabriel Garcia Marquez. One of my favorite comments comes from someone who admits to often judging a book by its cover. As a former bookseller, I can certainly relate to that and I smile to remember a customer rejecting one of my suggestions with the words “I can’t let anyone see me reading that!” Her objection was either to the title or the cover and unfortunately I’ve forgotten the book altogether. Anyway, it was for me another great illustration that our choices in reading are often (maybe mostly) more emotional than rational. Here’s a short list of my own guilty reading secrets:

There was a period in college when I carried Finnegan’s Wake around with me at all times. I couldn’t make any sense of it but I sure wanted people to think of me as the sort of person who would choose to read (and understand!) such a work. “Oh no, it isn’t for a class. I just wanted to read it.” I’d rehearse saying… in answer to the question which never came.

I fell under the spell of J.D. Salinger for awhile (also in college) particularly his novel Franny and Zooey.  I find the title characters nearly unbearable now but at the time I thought their urbane and angst-ridden cleverness well worth imitating. I’m sure my circle of friends found my “witty”  posturing as baffling as it was irritating.

I read two pages of The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen then put it down never to pick it up again. Actually, I don’t really feel guilty about that…it just wasn’t a novel for me.

I really hated The Da Vinci Code. When I made the mistake of bringing up my thoughts at a party one night, I was roundly castigated as a “book snob” and schooled forthwith in all the ways my opinion was objectionable and wrong. I don’t care…I still hate that book.

A fun, related article is this one from The Awl in which writer Nadia Chaudhury asks various authors and publishing professionals about their embarrassing “first book crushes.” From Ayn Rand to Sweet Valley High, the usual suspects are here as well as some surprises. The work of Raymond Carver comes up for more than a few of the respondents and On the Road is a top choice for many of the men. My own cringe-inducing literary period would have to be that double-header year when I was obsessed not only with Robert Graves The White Goddess but also with the entire oeuvre of Anais Nin. Yikes!

What are your guilty little reading secrets? Do you have a first book crush that makes you cringe now?

P.S. Thanks to Robbin P. for steering me to this!

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Dec 21 2011

2011 Favorites

by Joseph M

As this will be my last post in 2011, I thought it would be appropriate to take a look back and mention some of the books that I enjoyed this year.

I may have mentioned before that I keep a book list, which tracks all the books I read over the course of a year.  I don’t include magazines, newspapers, or blogs, but I do count audiobooks and graphic novels.  After I finish each book I try to include a little blurb describing how I felt about the reading experience.  Looking back over my list for 2011, I’m a bit hard-pressed to decide on a single favorite; I read a lot of good stuff!  Even so, I’ll try to limit myself to just a handful of worthies to namedrop.

First off, I read a great short story collection entitled Delicate Edible Birds and Other Stories by Lauren Groff.  It was recommended by a friend and did not disappoint.  In fact, it is one of the best short story collections I’ve ever read by a single author.  As it happens, I’m currently reading another short story collection, Karen Russell’s St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves, which is also quite good.

I read several great nonfiction works, but the one that really stands out is Just Kids, Patti Smith’s memoir about her time with Robert Mapplethorpe in New York City during the late 60s and early 70s.

I eagerly devoured A Dance With Dragons, the latest installment of George R. R. Martin’s masterful fantasy epic Song of Ice & Fire.  I can hardly wait for the next one!

Later in the year I finally took the advice of the many people who had been recommending it and read The Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins’ gripping work about a dystopian future.  I really enjoyed it and will definitely be checking out the other two books in the trilogy.

Finally, I have to talk about the Scott Pilgrim series by Bryan Lee O’Malley, one of the best graphic novels I’ve read in a long time.  I saw the movie and really liked it, so I figured I would probably like the comic it was adapted from as well.  I was not wrong!  Luckily, DCPL has all six awesome volumes.

Was there a particular book, movie, or CD that you enjoyed this year which deserves mention?  I’ll happily take recommendations for 2012!

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Sep 29 2010

Five Books

by Jimmy L

I found a great book recommendation site the other day called Five Books.  The concept is very simple.  Every day they find some prominent expert and ask them to recommend five books on their topic of choice (usually related to their area of expertise).  Topics vary as widely as “Faith in Politics” to “Football” to “Iranian History”.  The result is targeted, informed recommendations on important issues.

For example, veteran journalist and author of Krakatoa: The Day the World Exploded and The Professor and the MadmanSimon Winchester chose Volcanoes as his subject, and he recommends:

  1. Journey to the Center of the Earth by Jules Verne
  2. The Last Days of Pompeii by Edward Bulwer Lytton
  3. The Crater by James Fenimore Cooper
  4. The Violins of Saint-Jacques: A Tale of the Antilles by Patrick Leigh Fermor
  5. The Twenty-one Balloons by William Pène Du Bois

As you can see, sometimes the experts choose academic or rare books that the public library may not carry (#3 and #4 above), but the library usually has enough to at least get you started on most subjects.  In addition to just a list of books, the site also includes an interview with the expert so they can explain the reasons behind each of their choices.

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