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NPR

Nov 21 2014

Color coding

by Dea Anne M

NPR has been running an intriguing series lately on the subject of color. The series is called “Color Decoded: Stories That Span the Spectrum” and it is well worth taking the time to check out. Stories include fun information about colors in the spectrum–you’ll learn here that brown is actually a low-intensity shade of orange and why a male visitor to China would be wise to avoid wearing a green hat. You’ll also find out why there are so few blue animals and consider if it might be time to “reappropriate” the color pink from the cultural forces that drive such phenomena as the Disney Princess Empire. Speaking of pink (and in case you’re curious), apparently pink was considered a “strong” color up until the twentieth century and much more appropriate for boys, whereas little girls were more often dressed in the “daintier” color blue. This is fascinating stuff and I urge you to take a moment or two to explore.

DCPL can also help you explore color and the many meanings that it can carry.

First, give a look to Life In Color: National Geographic Photographs. This gorgeous book is full of the high quality photography that the magazine is famous for. Separate chapters explore different manifestations of blue, green, orange, etc. The image of the alpine landscape of Alaska’s Denali National Park was stunning enough to take my breath away.language

Sumptuous photography also graces The Secret Language of Color: Science, Nature, History, Culture, Beauty of Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue and Violet by Joann Eckstut and Arielle Eckstut. The authors explore, among other things, how animals use color for self-protection and the use of color in religion. This book is also full of interesting bits of color trivia. For example, you really do see the neighbor’s lawn across the street as greener than your own. (You’re too far away to see the imperfections, so the color appears more uniform and saturated.)

Remember good old pink and blue? Well, you might be interested in exploring Drunk Tank Pink: And Other Unexpected Forces that Shape How We Think, Feel, and Behave by Adam Alter and Blue: The History of a Color by Michael Pastoureau. The former takes its title from the result of studies done in the early 80’s, which showed that a blueparticular shade of bubble-gum pink had the effect of calming down aggressive prisoners. The rest of the book deals in other fascinating aspects of applied psychology. Equally interesting, Pastoureau’s book explores the evolution in depth of a particular color. Ancient Romans considered blue a vulgar color suitable only for Celtic barbarians. During the Middle Ages, blue became closely associated with the Virgin Mary. Of course today, blue has conquered the world via Jacob Davis and Levi Strauss whose 1873 invention–denim jeans–has become a nearly global uniform.

How does color affect you? What colors do you love?

 

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Aug 6 2013

Crime in the City

by Jesse M

Little Green coverFor this post I’m going to highlight NPR’s annual series Crime in the City, a summertime series about fictional detectives and the cities where they live. Since its inception in August of 2007 the series has examined a total of 49 authors, their fictional characters, and the cities those characters inhabit. So far this summer six authors have been profiled, three of which have titles available in the DCPL catalog: Walter Mosley (Los Angeles), Robert Rotenberg (Toronto), and Chris Grabenstein (the Jersey shore).

Click on the pins in this map to see the cities featured in this series.

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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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Nov 14 2012

Good enough to eat!

by Dea Anne M

Last week, NPR’s culinary blog “The Salt” ran an interesting piece on food themes  in Grimms’ fairy tales. Of course, most of us can remember the witch’s gingerbread house in “Hansel and Gretel,” the poisoned apple in “Snow White,” and the laden picnic basket that Red Riding Hood carries to her grandmother through the dark woods. Food often presents a dangerous lure in these stories and sometimes is downright cannibal in nature as in “The Robber Bridegroom” and “The Juniper Tree.” Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm were compiling their German folk tales during the nineteenth century when hunger was still an ominous presence in many people’s lives and memories so perhaps it’s no surprise that food plays such a central role in these stories.

The NPR story focuses specifically on a new edition of The Annotated Brothers Grimm translated and edited by Maria Tatar. Though the book is far from complete, all the most important stories are represented along with fascinating annotations, lavish illustrations, and an introduction by A. S. Byatt. If you are as interested in folk lore and fairy tales as I am then this book is well worth your time and attention.

For other interesting views on fairy tales, check out Clever Maids: the secret history of the Grimm fairy tales by Valerie Paradiz, From the Beast to the Blonde: on fairy tales and their tellers by Marina Warner, and Fairy Tales: a new history by Ruth B. Bottigheimer. More works from Maria Tatar include The Annotated Peter Pan, Enchanted Hunters: the power of stories in childhood, and Off With Their Heads!: fairy tales and the culture of childhood. For more about the Grimm brothers themselves try The Brothers Grimm: from enchanted forests to the modern world by by Jack Zipes. Finally, for a really wild take on the Grimms and their work, check out Terry Gilliam’s 2005 fantasy film The Brothers Grimm starring Matt Damon and Heath Ledger. This movie isn’t for everyone (and definitely not for children…or easily spooked adults!) but I found it weird, original, and very very entertaining.

Do you enjoy fairy tales? What are some of your favorites?

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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 9 2012

Three Minute Fiction

by Jesse M

All Things Considered, the award winning news program on National Public Radio, is currently in the midst of judging a fiction writing contest. The contest has a simple premise: Listeners send in original short stories that can be read in three minutes or less. The contest has been ongoing through multiple rounds since 2009, with each round featuring a different prompt or requirement.

For Round 8, judge Luis Alberto Urrea asked participants to send in original fiction that begins with this sentence: “She closed the book, placed it on the table, and finally decided to walk through the door.”

Over 6,000 entries were received this round and the judges are still sifting through them all, with standouts being highlighted weekly.

To read through the stories yourself, visit npr.org/threeminutefiction. And if you’re curious as to what a winning submission looks like, check out round seven’s winner, Little Hossein, and the runner-up, Sleep Lessons.

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Oct 10 2011

The top 100 sci-fi and fantasy books

by Jesse M

Back in June, NPR asked readers of its website to nominate their top five science fiction and fantasy titles. Over 5,000 people responded with nominations. Of those nominees, several hundred were selected as candidates for a slot on the final list, and readers were then asked to vote on their ten favorites. Over 60,000 voters participated and, once all the result were tallied, NPR presented its list of the top 100 sci-fi and fantasy books. The winners are an intriguing mix of classic and contemporary works, diverse in style and subject matter. The number one selection: J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy.

The list is an excellent readers’ advisory resource for devotees of sci-fi and fantasy who are looking for something new as well as for individuals interested in exploring one or both genres who don’t really know where to start. If you count yourself part of the latter category, the writers at the science fiction and fantasy blog SF Signal have constructed a flowchart for easy navigation of the top 100 list. You can choose to view the flowchart in one of two ways, either holistically in a large scrollable image or in an interactive format.

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Aug 31 2010

Better Living Through Sci-Fi

by Joseph M

They say that necessity is the mother of invention, but inspiration can come from the pages of a book as well. In fact, science fiction authors can exert considerable influence on development of modern technology. An example of this is the virtual world known as Second Life, which was directly inspired by Neal Stephenson’s novel Snow Crash, as described in this NPR story. More examples can be found in this related article.

The website Technovelgy helps interested users explore this phenomenon with tools such as a timeline of science fiction invention as well as an alphabetic glossary of science fiction technology, searchable by book, author, or category. Users can also browse the site’s archive of almost 3,000 news articles featuring science fiction.

What science fiction innovations do you foresee in our future?

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Jun 9 2010

2010 Summer Reading List of Lists

by Jesse M

Looking for something good to read this summer but don’t know where to start?  For several years now the website Rebecca’s Pocket has compiled a comprehensive list of the many disparate summer reading lists published by various periodicals and institutions. You can check out this year’s reading list here. There are already dozens of lists to choose from, and more are added on a weekly basis.

Some of the more interesting lists include one from New York Magazine featuring six writers each recommending favorite books from their chosen genre, a Los Angeles Times article describing the placement and influence of literature in the recently concluded television series “Lost“, and another compiled by NPR that features picks made by a trio of independent booksellers.

There are also over a dozen lists targeted towards children and teens, just scroll to the bottom of the page.

And once you’ve acquired some reading material, don’t forget to sign up and participate in one of our summer reading programs for kids, teens, and adults!

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Dec 11 2009

Neil Gaiman on Audiobooks

by Jesse M

Coraline on audiobookRecently, award winning author Neil Gaiman hosted a segment on the National Public Radio program Morning Edition during which he talked about the past and future of the audiobook format. Among the subjects he addressed were whether authors should narrate their own audiobooks (appropriate for some, while others “should never be allowed in front of a microphone”), the various challenges of the recording process (including audiobook performers whose “loud stomach noises” are equal in volume to their voices), and the difference between audiobooks and traditional books.

The segment also includes brief interviews with author David Sedaris and audiobook performer Martin Jarvis. If you are interested in hearing more than the excerpts included in the piece, you can head over to Neil’s blog to listen to the full length interviews.

Of the four audiobooks authored by Gaiman available in the DCPL catalog, he has acted as his own narrator half of the time; both were books produced for younger readers (Coraline and The Graveyard Book). If you, like Neil, enjoy the sound of your own voice, you might enjoy doing some volunteer work for LibriVox, a website which provides free audiobooks from the public domain. Volunteers simply record themselves reading chapters of eligible books and then those recordings are uploaded and released online as free audiobooks (you can search their catalog of available titles here).

One final note: Gaiman will be in town speaking and then signing books at Agnes Scott College’s Presser Hall on December 14th. As the tickets were free, and of limited quantity, it is unlikely there are any available at this point, but I felt it worth mentioning nonetheless. Click here for more info.

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