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Staff Picks: Books

Biblio TECH

John Palfrey’s Biblio Tech: Why Libraries Matter More Than Ever in the Age of Google adroitly and lucidly argues for the preservation of that most democratic of public institutions, the public library. Clearly I am the very definition of “preaching to the choir” when it comes to the premise of this book, but Palfrey’s clear perspective and the light he sheds on a path toward a public library model that keeps pace with technology and our digitally evolving society is well worth reading and thinking about.

101 Two-Letter Words

For someone who loves books and reading, and is inflicted with an incurable case of curiosity, working in a library is often both a blessing and a curse. I read hundreds of book reviews every year, I see tons of books every day, and I talk about books with patrons, coworkers, and friends incessantly. On top of those sources, my love of bookstores and the existence of the internet means there are untold book discoveries to be made. All those books lead me to seek out even more books, and there's really no hope I'll ever get to all the titles that catch my eye. Earlier this week, while working in the 400 Dewey range of adult non-fiction (the section for language) I stumbled upon a newer book called 101 Two-Letter Words by musician Stephin Merritt, front man of pop band the Magnetic Fields. It's a little book of short poems, one for each of the two-letter words allowed in Scrabble. I recently started playing Scrabble again, so this book was a happy discovery. Merritt's poems make memorizing the two-letter words easier and more enjoyable. Here are a few poems:

The ai, a threatened three-toed sloth
Found only in Brazil,
munches on leaves and sleeps in trees.
I hope it always will.

Qi, in Chinese medicine:
vitality, or breath;
say it "chee," as in "Say cheese!"
Its opposite is death.

"Sh," says the librarian,
"people are trying to read.
And turn that goddamn cellphone off,
before I make you bleed."

The book is illustrated by Roz Chast, whose graphic memoir Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant?, appeared on numerous best of 2014 lists and was a National Book Award finalist. 101 Two-Letter Words persuaded me to finally pick up her book and reminded me that the library's digital magazine service, Zinio, now offers access to the New Yorker, which Chast works for as a cartoonist. My to-read pile continues to grow!

The Public Library

Here's a 2014 book on a subject that's close to my heart. It's a 'photographic essay' about the public library, and has quality photographs of a wide variety of libraries, both active and abandoned, around the nation. Interspersed with the pictures are essays by noted authors. One of these I especially like is the essay called 'What the Library Means to Me,' written by author Amy Tan when she was only eight years old. Among others who reflect on the book that Toni Morrison calls 'profound and heartbreakingly beautiful' are Isaac Asimov, Barbara Kingsolver, and even Dr. Seuss.

It's the most wonderful time of the year....

the time of year when all of the "Best of" lists for music, movies, and books come out! I usually scour a bunch of my favorite websites to find book recommendations and make a list of all the great stuff I missed. Then I put it all on hold at KPL and wait for that glorious moment when there's a stack waiting for me on the library's hold shelf! 

I like the lists from Publisher's WeeklyNPR, the New York Times (and children's) that come out around this year. But the list I most look forward to each year is KPL's Best of 2013. Our staff have a range of interests and each year the "Best Of" list has wonderful choices on it! Each title is conveniently linked to our catalog for quicker hold-placing! If the library doesn't own something you are interested in, fill out a "Suggest an Item" and let us know. 

Update as of 12/4: NPR has changed it up this year and is offering a book discovery tool called "Book Concierge" and it's lovely. No list format from them this year, just cover images to play around with! I'm in love!

Happy reading, listening, and viewing to you!   

Another book for the list

Like many of us, I have an extensive 'to-read' list.  (Actually, it's multiple lists and collections of clippings and hastily scribbled notes).  In my email today, a newsletter of recent releases had an item that caught my eye: Of dice and men: The story of Dungeons and Dragons and the people who play it by David Ewalt, which has now been added to the list.  Though I've never been a fanatical player, I am definitely a nerd, and I have a soft spot in my heart for dice with more than six sides, so this book looks like a fun read. 

The library has this book on order, so I can place a hold, or (more reasonably given the number of items I already have checked out) place it on one of my KPL lists.  Do you know about this great feature?  From the item record, I can click on the "Select an Action" button and choose "Add to My Lists" which will put the item on a list that is either temporary (if I'm not logged in) or attached to my account (if I am).  In the latter case, I can log in and look at the titles on my list, and place a hold from there.


Of dice and men

Setting your book club calendar?

If you're in a book club that is about to set a reading calendar for the year, don't forget to check our Book Club in a Bag offerings. We added new titles earlier this year, and will continue to add more--both fiction and nonfiction--in our ongoing effort to keep the BCIB collection as current and relevant as possible.

And if you haven't been to the Central library downtown in a few months, you may not know that the Book Club in a Bag sets are now available for patrons to browse and check out on their own, without having to talk to a staff person. You can also search for them in the catalog and place a hold to have a set sent to a different branch location for your convenience. Simply type "Book club in a bag" in the catalog to see what titles are available.

If you have any questions about Book Club in a Bag procedures, consult the borrowing guidelines or contact Reader Services.


Book Club in a Bag

Books about Books, What to Read Next, and other tools

We are what we read. But how do we decide what to read? Normally we don't have a systematic program for our reading life. Perhaps a friend told us, or the "customers also bought this..." on, or our last book mentioned it, or we heard it on NPR or Oprah. These are all great, but there's many other ways. Try the Now Read This through our website. Or, if you want a Read-a-Like based on an author you like, try our Books and Authors database (or try Good Reads or LibraryThing).

But, if you want to get super serious, we have tons of books that are about books (i.e. bibliographies, "treasuries," "anthologies," "companions").

Based on Age:

1001 children's books you must read before you grow up, 100 best books for children, The Book of virtues for young people : a treasury of great moral stories, Black Books Galore! Guide to great African American children's books about girls, 500 Great Books for Teens, Disabilities and disorders in literature for youth : a selective annotated bibliography for K-12, The Ultimate Teen Book Guide

"I just want the classics!" (usually this means great literature, not necessary from the Classical period):

Cambridge Guide to Literature in English, Magill's survey of world literature, Literature Lovers Companion: the essential reference to the world’s greatest writers—past and present, popular and classical, Assessing the Classics: great reads for adults, teens, and English language learners, The modern library : the two hundred best novels in English since 1950, Harvard Classics series (has the actual writings)

By Genre:

Short Story Writers, The Essential Mystery Lists, Harold Bloom writes several books, e.g. on British Women Fiction Writers, Asian American Women Writers, Major Black American Writers, Classic Science Fiction Writers, and more.

To find the major books in an academic field, like philosophy or physics or astronomy, look for an introductory book. They usually have primary sources and "further reading" sections.

Racial or Cultural Identity:

African Writers, Sacred fire : the QBR 100 essential Black booksConcise encyclopedia of Latin American literature, Native American literatures : an encyclopedia of works, characters, authors, and themes

Movements and Places:

Literary movements for students : presenting analysis, context, and criticism on commonly studied literary movements, Promised Land: 13 books that shaped AmericaThe Oxford companion to American literature (we also have these for Austrialian, French, Canadian, and more); Michigan in the Novel (really cool book list of novels set in MI or about MI)

Have fun reading, and slow down to think!


1001 Books for Every Mood

“More, More, More,” Said the Baby: Three Love Stories

“More, More, More,” Said the Baby: Three Love Stories is the story of Little Guy, Little Pumpkin, and Little Bird, three active babies whose caregivers affectionately “catch them up” to deliver kisses and nibble toes which, of course, the babies love. We've been enjoying this Caldecott Honor book along with our songs and rhymes at Baby Steps every Tuesday morning at 10:30 at the Central Library. While it's a great Valentine’s Day choice, More, More, More is nice any time of year and fun for older children and their caregivers, too. It's also available in a board book edition, perfect for sharing with the youngest readers-to-be.


"More, More, More," Said the Baby: Three Love Stories

Give the Gift of a Library

During this busy holiday season, parents and other adults are scrambling about in search of the perfect gift for their children, grandchildren, nephews and nieces. Well, look no further!

Consider a gift that will entertain and educate kids of all ages and bring your family closer together. Give the gift that keeps on giving - the gift of reading! Reading with a child/children and encouraging them to read independently are two of the most significant things an adult can do to influence a youngster’s life.

Of course, good books make wonderful gifts. Kids naturally enjoy the magic that a book brings as they go over the story and illustrations, (many times, often more than once), practice their reading skills and perhaps learn something new in the process. Magazine subscriptions also make great recurring reading presents.

But maybe the best option for a reading themed gift is to bring a child to the Kalamazoo Public Library sometime during their holiday break. If you time it right, you can attend one of many programs planned for children. Then you can sign up the little guys for their own library cards, which come complete with plastic carrying cases and lanyards. And even though it is free of charge, the amount of pride and joy you’ll see in the little ones’ faces when first presented with it, will form a pleasurable, lasting memory for all gift givers.


Once armed with the card, the child has the entire library’s collection at his or her disposal. They can choose their own books, audiobooks, magazines, CDs, and DVDs. Of course, librarians are always on hand to aid your young ones in the selection process, helping to match the child with books covering their particular interests, and on their reading level as well. Best of all, this process can be repeated again and again. Just return the items and pick out new ones as many times as you like. Truly the best gift of all. And one that will keep on giving for a lifetime!


Library Card

Time-crunched Life

Anyone who’s been out and about in Kalamazoo on a Saturday morning since early winter has likely encountered the large groups of runners, many organized by the awesome Kalamazoo Area Runners, who have been training steadily for the Kalamazoo Marathon (May 6-8). With the weather improving (any day now!) and the event now only a week away, the dedication and discipline of these runners who trained outdoors through the Michigan winter is sure to pay off. The fact that these folks are not professional athletes, but regular, busy, time stressed, everyday people with professional, social, and family lives is not lost on me. While I am not a runner, I am a (mildly) competitive cyclist and the older I get and the more packed my daily life becomes with family, professional, and community commitments, the more my fitness goals take a backseat in my life and my time to devote to training shrinks further. Luckily KPL has multiple resources that can help keep you motivated and getting the most out of even the most limited of training schedules. If its training/social groups that keep you motivated then there is no better place to start your search for local organizations than the Kalamazoo Public Libraries Local Organization Directory. If you are looking for books to help make the most of your workouts, Chris Carmichael’s The Time-Crunched Triathlete , Kris Gethin’s Body by Design, and in the extreme even the craziness of Tim Ferriss’s The 4-Hour Body, provide a scientifically (if not a tiny bit morally questionable in the case of Ferriss) backed approach to squeezing the most fitness out of the least amount of time. If it is advice or motivation from the vast amount of online communities and information sources that keep you going, KPL has you covered with free wifi in all of our locations and plenty of newly installed blazing fast computers. But even with all of these information sources easily accessible from KPL, it is still the individual that gets out of bed and out running on a cold and snowy January morning and that is why those folks running in next week’s marathon are so worthy of the communities support and I wish everyone participating, no matter what distance or target time, good luck in next week’s event. 


Time-crunched Triathlete