RSS Feed

Staff Picks: Books

This is What a Librarian Looks Like

The first librarian in my life was my elementary school librarian. Everyone was so afraid of her. She would yell at us if we didn't put the books back to the correct places. Since then I have always thought that librarians were book police that all they did was keeping their books safe.

It was not until I was in a college research writing class when I realized librarians can also help me come up with research topics, guide me through the research process, and even proofread my citations! And of course, working at the library now also helps me understand that librarians actually do all kinds of things.

This book includes more than 200 portraits of librarians. They share their passion towards what they do and why that is meaningful and important. This books helps the public to understand that there are so many different kinds of librarians out there, and they all share a common goal: to help people. 

Get to Know Your Muslim Neighbors

On May 15 the Oshtemo Branch Library hosted a Get to Know Your Muslim Neighbors event inviting folks to participate in one-on-one and small group conversations with members of our local Muslim communities. Station activities included henna and hijab tutorials and information stations about prayers and holidays. Shawarma King on Drake Road provided snacks, local Kurdish and Iranian musicians performed, and the Kalamazoo Islamic Center's imam was available to answer questions about the Quran.

If you were not able to make it to the event, or you want to do some reading on your own, check out these books from the library:

The Muslim Next Door: The Qur'an, the Media, and That Veil Thing by Sumbul Ali-Karamali

No god but God: The Origins, Evolution, and Future of Islam by Reza Aslan

Muslim Girl: A Coming of Age by Amani Al-Khatahtbeh

Growing Up Muslim: Understanding the Beliefs and Practices of Islam by Sumbul Ali-Karamali

1001 Inventions and Awesome Facts from Muslim Civilization by National Geographic Kids

Golden Domes and Silver Lanterns: A Muslim Book of Colors by Hena Khan

And Still We Rise

There’s still time to go see And Still We Rise: Race, Culture and Visual Conversations, the quilt show on display at the Kalamazoo Valley Museum (KVM.) But hurry, it ends June 4. Give yourself plenty of time both to appreciate the amazing artistry and also to take in the depth of the stories depicted.

The quilts have so much texture, vibrancy, passion woven into them. Many depict painful, brutal episodes of racist treatment of African-Americans in the United States’ story. The very first in the display is 3-dimensional. Instantly, you are face to face with the picture of many Africans stuffed into the hull of a slave ship headed to Virginia, while one man escapes to ‘freedom’ into the ocean. Many others offer deep celebration of the inventive, intellectual, creative, athletic, entrepreneurial, political and heroic triumphs of various African-American individuals and groups in the past 400 years.

Dr. Carolyn Mazloomi, founder of the Women of Color Quilters Network, curator of this exhibit and author of the book by the same name, will be at KVM this Sunday, May 21. If you plan to go, tickets are free, but required.

Each quilt has an artist’s statement. These appear in the book, alongside photos of their quilts. Reading the book, you have a second chance to absorb what they had to say about their piece and remember.

Animal Cuteness Overload

Animal Ark: Celebrating Our Wild World In Poetry and Pictures by National Geographic photographer Joel Sartore , with captivating poetry by Newbery Award winning author Kwame Alexander, observes the natural beauty, diversity and fragility of the animal world.

This mesmerizing and amazing book features more than forty unique full-color animal photographs accompanied by lively haikus, each set against a solid black or white page. The message here is simple: it's steadfast focus is on the conservation of the "natural" in the planet we all live on.

Although officially a children's book, this brilliant collaboration between photos and text will certainly please anyone interested in nature and the animals that inhabit it.

Now For Something Completely Different

When I was a kid, Monty Python’s Flying Circus came on at 11:00 pm on Sunday nights on PBS, long past my bedtime, especially with school the next day. My older brother had discovered it and his room was in the basement where the tv was, unlike my younger brother and I who shared a room upstairs. So on Sunday nights, my brother and I would sneak into the upstairs bathroom and lower ourselves down through the laundry chute that my dad had made by cutting a hole in the floor and a plastic garbage can and shoving that garbage can into the hole in the floor. It was pretty easy to get down, but it was a struggle as my older brother had to push us back up the chute when it was over.

So I was eager to read Monty Python alum, Terry Gilliam’s book Gilliamesque: a pre posthumous memoir. Gilliam rarely appeared on the Flying Circus, but he was responsible for all the crazy animation sequences. He was also the only non-British member of the troupe, having grown up in the United States. 

Gilliam also directed a few of my favorite movies: Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Time Bandits, and The Fisher King and he touches a little on all the movies and projects of which he has been a part. 

What surprised me most was how normal his childhood was. Especially for someone who created such bizarre images and fantasy filled movies. It’s nice to know that is possible.

The Circle

 So you might have noticed that new movie out in theatres right now. You know the one starring Tom Hanks and Emma Watson called The Circle? You might have seen the trailer and thought, “Oh, that looks interesting, I will spend my money on this.” I am here to urge you to think again!

I want you all to read the book by Dave Eggers instead for two reasons: 1, the movie is horrible. 2, The book is a thrilling masterpiece exploring the way information is shared and stored in modern times that will have you examining all of your life choices regarding social media.

Some of you are saying, “But I really like Tom Hanks,” and to that I just want to point out that 1, you can always imagine Tom Hanks in your mind’s eye as you read the much better book, and 2, there are so many other great Tom Hanks movies. So many.  

I Want That Love

I Want That Love is a book about Tyrannosaurus who, after a lifetime of terrorizing smaller animals, is transformed when he is mistaken by some juvenile Triceratops for a less fearsome dinosaur. The Triceratopses offer the senior dinosaur something that challenges his perception of himself. He had spent his life thinking that "he could do anything he wanted because he was the strongest." After the elder Tyrannosaurus sustains a tail injury from a group of younger and faster Masiakasauruses, the Triceratopses offer Tyrannosaurus some berries. Then he protects the Triceratopses from a pair of violent Giganotosauruses and passes on his new-found world view which, a generation later, another young Triceratops gleans from his dad: Love is stronger than violence. That is a nice message in this picture book, one in a series from Tatsuya Miyanishi. Originally in Japanese, the art in these books is pretty great, I think. Younger children who like dinosaurs will appreciate the focus on real dinosaur names, if they aren't too put off by the anthropomorphized dinosaurs.

300 Arguments

Slimmer than a bloated, philosophical treatise and far weightier than pap self-help drivel, Sarah Manguso’s formally clever 300 Arguments offers readers a powerful collection of epigram-sized nuggets bursting with personal wisdom, truth and naked self-analysis about what it means to desire, regret, love and investigate one’s inner life. It is a magnificent little book that bobs and weaves with sly, aphoristic intelligence, periodically sneaking up on the reader with taut punches to the gut. Here's a review from NPR.

Celebrate Elderhood

Celebrate Elderhood is a Kalamazoo County initiative that brings attention to the issues of aging, challenging myths and misconceptions so elders can reach their full potential no matter what their circumstances are, benefiting themselves, their families and communities. In this article, we will explore the myths and realities of aging.

Myth #1 – Dementia is a normal part of aging. FALSE
Getting a little forgetful is a normal part of aging. It is normal to forget milk at the store, or to forget someone’s name. It is not normal to become so forgetful that it is impossible to manage the tasks of everyday life.

Dementia is a severe form of memory loss and is not normal. There are a variety of causes of dementia and some can even be reversed. Malnutrition, depression, dehydration and drug interactions can all lead to dementia. Depression can be treated with talk therapy or medication and the dementia from depression may be reversed. Once the person receives proper nutrition and/or adequate liquids, the dementia may lift. Physicians should always be informed of all medications a person is taking to avoid the dementia that can result from bad combinations of drugs.

More severe and long-term forms of dementia are caused by diseases such as Parkinson’s, strokes or brain injuries. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common kind of dementia and causes severe memory loss and confusion. Alzheimer’s disease creates physical changes in the brain and people with it eventually fail to recognize their own family members and sometimes themselves. There is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease and the cause is still unknown. According to the 2016 Alzheimer’s disease Facts and Figures Report published by the Alzheimer’s Association, one in nine people 65 and older (11%) have Alzheimer’s disease. About one-third of people age 85 and older have Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimer’s disease is not a normal part of aging.

Myth #2 – As people grow older, their intelligence declines significantly. FALSE
Current research evidence suggests that intellectual performance in healthy individuals holds up well into old age. The average magnitude of intellectual decline is typically small in the 60s and 70s. In the 80s there is more average decline observed, although even in this age range there are substantial individual differences. Little or no decline appears to be associated with being free of cardiovascular disease, little decline in perceptual speed, at least average socioeconomic status, a stimulating and engaged lifestyle and having flexible attitudes and behaviors at mid-life. TIP: Intellectual decline can be modified by life-style interventions, such as physical activity, healthy diet, mental stimulation and social interaction.

Myth #3 – Most older people are in poor health. FALSE
The myth of being old means being sick is simply not true for the majority of adults 65+ who rate their health positively. In fact, more than two-thirds of people over 65 told researchers that they are in good, very good or excellent health and more than half over 85 said that too. Older people make mental adjustments in their reference point of judging their own health and will typically see themselves as more healthy than they originally expected for their age, or compared to others their age.

However, older people are much more likely than younger people to suffer from chronic conditions (lasting 3 months or more), such as arthritis, diabetes, osteoporosis, high blood pressure, heart disease, and cancer. Most of us will have some type of chronic condition as we age, and many of us will have at least two. The good news is that there are proven programs that can help us live better with these chronic conditions, such as the Stanford Personal Action Toward Health programs and Matter of Balance Falls Prevention Program offered through the Area Agency on Aging IIIA in coordination with community partners and Enhance Fitness and Arthritis Programs offered by the Portage Senior Center, Senior Services Southwest Michigan, and YMCA.

What’s important is how we as older adults cope with the aging process and how our community responds. Staying active and engaged in our communities, whether that is volunteering with non-profit and faith based organizations, schools, having a part-time job, helping out our relatives and neighbors will pay dividends as we age. For those elders who due to more debilitating conditions cannot get out much, as a community we need to make sure they can stay at home with the supportive services needed and also determine how to keep them engaged with purpose in their lives.

Myth #4 – Older adults are less anxious about death than are younger and middle-aged adults. TRUE
Although death in industrialized society has come to be associated primarily with old age, studies generally indicate that death anxiety in adults decreases as age increases. Some of the factors that may contribute to lower anxiety are a sense that goals have been fulfilled, living longer than expected, coming to terms with the end of life, and dealing with the death of friends and relatives. However, this shouldn’t obscure the fact that some groups have great concern about death and dying, and that the process of dying might be feared more than death itself.

The topic of death and dying is not one that people want to discuss, but it is something that needs more understanding and discussion by everyone, including the medical community and long term care facilities that are often a part of the end of life journey.

*Contributors to this article are: Judy Sivak, Director, Region IIIA Area Agency on Aging, Vicki Martin, MA, LPC Administrator, Senior Services Southwest Michigan, and Breytspraak, L. & Badura, L. (2015) Facts on Aging Quiz (revised; based on Palmore (1977; 1981).

The Platinum Age of Television

Although subtitled 'From I Love Lucy to The Walking Dead, How TV Became Terrific,' this is not just another history of television presented in a chronological manner, although such a presentation can be quite wonderful. No, this one is organized by type of show, making it easy to find the sections that will interest the reader. There are children’s programs, animation, variety/sketch, soap operas, crime, legal, medical, family sitcoms, workplace sitcoms, splitcoms (a word coined by the author), single working women sitcoms, sci-fi/fantasy/horror, westerns, spies, general drama, war, miniseries, and topical comedy. Five examples of each are detailed, dating from the earliest days of television and coming all the way down to shows like ‘Downton Abbey,’ ‘The Office,’ and ‘Mad Men.’  Also included are interviews with or profiles of individuals connected in some way to television, such as Mel Brooks, Carol Burnett, Tom Smothers, Steven Bochco, Norman Lear, and Bob Newhart. This is primarily a narrative study, although there are some pictures as well. Anyone interested in the development of television broadcasting would enjoy looking at this good effort on the part of author David Bianculli.