Staff Picks: Books
Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays because I love to cook (and eat). A few years ago when I was living in New Hampshire, where all my extended family lives, I prepared a huge Thanksgiving dinner for them and made everything from scratch, including the pumpkin pies, which required baking, scraping, and pureeing two whole sugar pumpkins. I relied on several books and resources for recipes and cooking techniques, and I recommend them highly.
I'm not much of a meat eater and don't cook meat very often, but that Thanksgiving I prepared what my uncles say was the best turkey they've ever eaten. I owe all the credit to Alton Brown and his Good Eats Roast Turkey method, which involves soaking the turkey in a brine for a minimum of eight hours. I got the pumpkin pie recipe, which I must say was the best pumpkin pie I've ever eaten, from Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook. Additionally, I referred to Pie: 300 Tried-and-True Recipes for Delicious Homemade Pie for tips on mixing and rolling pie pastry. I also used Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook for her multigrain rolls, which were tasty and much easier to make than I anticipated. If you're looking for vegetable sides, Recipes From the Root Cellar is a great book with tons of recipes for sweet potatoes, squash, Brussels sprouts, rutabagas, carrots, parsnips, beets, turnips-- all the great winter vegetables currently in season. The Maple-Balsamic Root Vegetables are a favorite. For past vegetarian Thanksgiving meals I've made a lentil loaf as the main dish, but that rarely goes over well with omnivores. I suggest Deb Perelman's Butternut Squash and Caramelized Onion Galette from The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook. It is so flavorful and satisfying, that I can't imagine even a meat lover not asking for seconds. The one dish that remains completely elusive for me is stuffing; I cannot find a recipe I like. I'll happily take your recommendations!
We have a bit more than two weeks to plan Thanksgiving meals. KPL has a wonderful cookbook collection, so you should have no trouble finding some great recipes to try. What will be on your menu this year?
Recipes From the Root Cellar
Someone, somewhere has compiled a list of books by most any imaginable subject or arrangement. This one caught my eye, especially for those of us who like books with “place” as a central theme.
50 States, 50 Novels: A Literary Tour of the United States
More books for my reading list….
Looking for Alaska
My book group had one of our most spirited conversations ever about The Burgess Boys by Elizabeth Strout. We had liked her previous book, Olive Kitteridge, so her new book was a logical choice for us.
Briefly this is the story of three siblings living with the guilt of their father’s death at a very early age. A crisis with their nephew compels the brothers to return to their Maine hometown. They revisit the tragedy, the relationship among the siblings, and the cultural divide between their small hometown and their current life.
We had so much to talk about….the relationship among the siblings, the action of the nephew that divides the small town, the Somali refugees, the marriage of Jim Burgess, family secrets. We even continued the conversation the next day on email!
This is a well-written, character driven story about family relationships. It is a good read alone or for a book group.
The Burgess Boys
A co-worker recommended the book A Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie to me. What a great suggestion! In 1950’s era England, eleven year old Flavia de Luce finds a body in the family’s cucumber patch. “I wish I could say I was afraid, but I wasn’t. Quite the contrary. This was by far the most interesting thing that had ever happened in my entire life.” She attempts to solve the mystery ( sometimes to the consternation of the local police) using her intelligence, advanced knowledge of chemistry, and just plain persistence. A quirky family- two older, literary sisters and a widowed father who is an avid stamp collector-also figure in the story. Canadian author C. Alan Bradley won the Agatha Award for Best First Novel for this delightful mystery, the first in a series featuring memorable Flavia.
Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie
Ever wonder why you can’t just eat one Dorito? Or why that can of Coca-Cola seems to call out to you from behind the refrigerator door? Read, Pullitzer Prize winning author, Michael Moss’s latest book Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us and you will wonder no more. The short answer, science. Plus millions of dollars in advertising and loads and loads of salt, sugar, and fat tossed in just to make sure we can't get enough. Moss takes readers inside the story of the rise of the processed food industry into the multi-billion dollar industry it is today and how big food’s insatiable craving for profit has left an obesity epidemic and generations with poor eating habits in its wake. Salt Sugar Fat is certainly a cautionary tale, and will have every reader questioning their own consumer behavior and eating habits. But Moss’s tone isn't overly preachy and takes a pragmatic view of the food industries focus on providing the much in demand convenience of processed food with the need for individuals to be aware of and responsible for what they put into their bodies. Highly recommended.
Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us
What do you get when you combine a word and a number? A Wumber!
Wumbers: It’s a book! It’s a game! It’s words cre8ed with numbers! Wri10 by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and illustr8ed by Tom Lichtenheld this is such a creative and fun book. Each two page spread is a little story. Characters speak through balloon captioned text. The text is so easy and fun that kids and adults will be it over and over.
Samples from the end pages:
- Have you ever tiptoed through the 2lips?
- What question would you ask a 4tune teller?
What a fun book to share plus you may want to try making wumbers yourself!
Wumbers : it's words cre8ed with numbers!
Last month Steve and Ann recommended two collections of short stories, and the New York Times declared the form is being revived because of the proliferation of devices like e-readers, tablets, and smartphones. I have always enjoyed short stories, but I've found myself more interested in reading them since acquiring an e-reader. Whether you read e-books or print, I recommend short stories as a way to get in a bit of reading every day.
The new collections at the top of my list are Vampires in the Lemon Grove, the latest from Swamplandia! author Karen Russell, and There Once Lived a Girl Who Seduced Her Sister's Husband, and He Hanged Himself: Love Stories by Russian writer Liudmila Petrushevskaia.
Here are a few good collections, published last year, that you may have missed:
Who are your favorite short story writers?
There Once Lived a Girl Who Seduced Her Sister's Husband, and He Hanged Himself
You Know When the Men are Gone, a collection of eight loosely connected stories, is centered on Fort Hood, Texas. The title of the first story and the collection refers to what is not heard through the thin walls of military housing: no boots stomping, no football games, no early morning doors slamming as they leave for drills. You know the men have deployed.
The women and the children wait, they cope in different ways. The men on deployment cope in their ways also; the homecoming can be bittersweet, challenging.
These are personal stories, not political. The tone is straightforward, the stories are compelling. They put a human face on the news stories.
You Know When the Men are Gone
NPR ran an interesting segment yesterday about libraries and e-lending—a good reminder that (to borrow a phrase from another NPR story) “change is the only constant in today’s publishing industry.” According to a recent study by the Pew Research Center's Internet & American Life Project, 75% of Americans read a book (in any platform) during the past year, and of those, 30% read an e-book. Sales of e-books for the same period grew modestly, up 34% over 2011, and e-book prices have somewhat stabilized at or near the $10 mark. With the growing popularity of e-readers and tablet pcs, however, the demand for e-content is forcing publishers to reexamine traditional sales and lending models.
Ok, you might say, that’s fine, but what about those of us who find the cost of purchasing our own content prohibitive (or restrictive at very least)? And once I buy an e-book, do I really “own” it anyway? Can I pass it along to my parents or my kids or a friend to read? Will there ever be such a thing as a digital “used” bookstore? (Probably not.)
Public libraries (including KPL) continue to expand e-book services, although selection remains frustratingly limited. According to the Pew study, only about 5% of library users borrowed an e-book in the past year, and only 31% were even aware that they could. Why is that? Don’t libraries know that users want more e-content? Of course they do, but the fact remains that many of the major publishers simply don’t want to play nice with libraries. They tend to view library lending as a threat to sales rather than the enormous promotional opportunity that it is. Brian Kenney, director of the White Plains Public Library in New York, says “public libraries, I mean, we're out there really pushing the product of these publishers, and I can't imagine another industry in this country that has that type of a relationship.” And as for those publishers that do make library content available, prohibitive pricing models and the resulting tangle of software designed to protect publishers’ digital rights only serves to compound the issue. So what do we do?
The answer is like Michigan weather… stick around, it’s bound to change. Currently, KPL licenses and distributes its e-content through a consortium of Michigan libraries in order to offer the broadest possible selection in a cost-effective manner. And we’re constantly researching new and different models for e-books, digital audiobooks, music, and other e-content. To help alleviate the waiting time, KPL purchases additional copies of many popular titles (called Advantage titles), which are available through the consortium but only to KPL resident borrowers. For first-time users, we’ve posted newly revised instructions to help make the library e-book experience as smooth as possible. And for hands-on help, the library is hosting a series of e-book information sessions where users can get help with technical questions and learn about new developments in KPL digital collections.
So go ahead, explore KPL’s digital collections and rest assured that as new developments come about, your library will be right there with you.
Dead until Dark is the first novel in the Sookie Stackhouse series by Charlaine Harris. It is a serial killer mystery and an unconventional romance complete with humans, vampires and other intriguing supernatural creatures. The story is set in the fictional town of Bon Temps, Louisiana. Vampires are attempting to coexist with humans because they can survive on newly invented artificial blood. The story is narrated by Sookie Stackhouse, a waitress with the ability to read minds, and begins with the murder of her co-worker Maudette Pickens. Sookie attempts to help solve a subsequent series of murders for which her brother, Jason Stackhouse is a prime suspect. At the same time, Sookie begins a socially unacceptable relationship with a handsome, 173 year old vampire, Bill Compton.
If you, like me, are a fan of the HBO television series True Blood, you will likely enjoy this book. It closely follows the plot of season one but not exactly. The book contains an interesting vampire character “Bubba” that is not included in the TV series and some characters from television are not in the book. Even though I knew the identity of the murderer, it kept me engaged and was a light, fun, end-of-summer read.
Dead until Dark
If you or a family member are one of the estimated 1 in 133 people needing to avoid gluten, due to celiac disease or gluten intolerance, look to KPL for more information. We have dozens of gluten-free cookbooks. Most have helpful suggestions in front about navigating a gluten-free lifestyle, like which foods to avoid and what ingredients to keep on hand. And the recipes are inspiring!
Consider these options:
Artisanal Gluten-Free Cooking, by Kelli and Peter Bronski. Check out the Crab Cakes recipe on p. 52.
Getting your Kid on a Gluten-Free Casein-Free Diet, by Susan Lord. Filled with straightforward advice and easy tips from a registered dietician, whose daughter was diagnosed with Autistic Spectrum Disorder and has been on a gluten-free, casein-free diet for many years. The “Nutrition First” chapter has wise tips for anyone pursuing a gluten-free diet. I can’t wait to try the Pad Thai recipe.
Deliciously G-free: Food so Flavorful They’ll never Believe it’s Gluten-Free, by Elizabeth Hasselbeck, co-host of The View. Chock-full of delicious recipe ideas, such as Smoked Salmon on Corn Fritters, Chocolista Chocolate Cupcakes and French Toast with Caramel Rum Banana. This one is even available in an e-book.
Getting your kid on a gluten-free casein-free diet
While leaving work on Friday, I noticed the newest release from sci-fi writer Daniel H. Wilson, Amped, sitting on a cart just waiting for me to take it home. I was very excited since I had heard so many good things about Wilson’s previous novel, Robopocalypse, and had already read a few good reviews of Amped. A friend of mine once stated that there are rarely any “new” ideas in science fiction novels. Most stories can be traced back to an idea that had been previously formulated in either book or film. The premise of Amped can be traced to the plotline most recently established in the comic book series X-Men. In Wilson’s novel individuals with technological implants (“amps”) are being persecuted by regular people (“reggies”) just like the mutant super-heroes in the comic book and movie series. When the main character Owen Gray discovers that the technology implanted in him by his father does much more than control his seizures, his life begins to spiral out of control. Soon he finds himself in a trailer park in Oklahoma hiding out with other amps while Senator Joseph Vaughn begins to push for more restrictions on the rights of “enhanced humans.” In the trailer park Owen meets Lyle Crosby, an amp trained to be a member of an elite military group. When Lyle confronts Owen about his role in the impending war between amps and reggies, he must decide if he wants to take his amp to the next level. The consequence of such a move could also lead him on the path to darkness and evil.
Amped fits the requirements of both a summer book and blockbuster. It took me less than three days to read and it was filled with fights, explosions, and super-powered people. There was nothing new in the already established storyline of “extraordinary people being hated for their abilities” but I enjoyed Wilson’s story nonetheless. If you are a fan of science fiction that contains amped up action and dialed down techie-talk, then you should add Amped to your summer reading list.
Popular magazines often fill space with little blurbs about what books are on prominent peoples’ nightstands, giving us a glimpse into their world as human beings with curiosities and interests outside of their own celebrity. While I do not presume that my own book choices would attract similar attention, my nightstand currently holds quite a variety that might be of interest to someone:
Hassman, Tupelo Girlchild (fiction) - Rory Dawn Hendrix, growing up in a trailer park in Reno, Nevada, is determind to defy the odds of her environment and family history.
Keaton, Diane Then Again (memoir) - Keaton’s own stories alternate with excerpts from journals kept by her mother, Dorothy Keaton Hall. Poignant account of an interesting life.
Green, John The Fault in Our Stars (young adult fiction) - Combine this popular young adult author with a love story about teenagers with cancer, and you get a fast-moving and powerful narrative that goes beyond the surface.
Cain, Susan Quiet: The power of introverts in a world that can't stop talking (nonfiction) - I have not read this one yet, but am looking forward to it, especially after seeing Cain’s TED presentation.
So many books, so little time...
Changes in the way in which downloadable e-books are bought, distributed, and accessed are coming fast and furious. How will this impact your e-book reading experience at KPL? The most recent change to the way in which you access our e-book collection impacts users who own Kindle devices or Kindle apps. The following alert concerns Penguin Publishers. Starting February 10, Penguin will no longer offer additional copies of e-books and downloadable Audiobooks for library purchase. Additionally, Penguin e-books loaned for reading on Kindle devices will need to be downloaded to a computer then transferred to the device over USB. For library patrons, this means Penguin e-books will no longer be available for over-the-air delivery to Kindle devices or to Kindle apps.
It is even more important now to note who the publisher of your book is when attempting to download and transfer e-books to your computer, e-reader or mobile device. We will continue to bring attention to these kinds of industry changes when they impact library use. Stay tuned.
Moonwalking with Einstein [electronic resource] : the art and science of remembering everything
Gary D. Schmidt does a superb job of character development and reality writing in his Young Adult novel titled: Okay for Now. It’s the late 1960s and Doug Swieteck, the main character, is 14 years old and has just moved to a new town in New York. Doug is the darling who frequently mends his family and community… a gigantic feat for a teen who is abused by his bum father, is mutually loved by his mother, is scorned by his jealous older brother, and is the lifesaver of his oldest brother who returns broken after serving in VietNam.
Doug’s best friend is Lil Spicer; her dad owns the grocery store where Doug gets a delivery job thereby befriending more townsfolk. Doug delights in his weekly redemptive visits to the library where he studies Audubon prints and learns to draw. Doug’s disabilities are painfully uncovered by an astute teacher, while yet another teacher creates nightmares.
You might ask, Why read this book? Doug is fun. Doug is cool. Doug triumphs. By the way, Gary D. Schmidt lives near Grand Rapids, Michigan, and is an English professor at Calvin College and has written other great must-reads!
Okay for Now
A novel based on a random selection of vintage photographs, Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children creates a fantasy world that blurs with modern day doldrums. The reader is never quite sure what is fact and what is fiction as Jacob makes his way from one reality to the next. Were the children in Miss Peregrine's home sequestered because they were simply unusual or because they were dangerous? Was Jacob's grandfather delusional or a product of the horrors of WWII? Author Ransom Riggs does a fine job of blending the details, creating a suspenseful story, and keeping the reader wondering. Rumor has it Tim Burton might direct a film based on the book and that Mr. Riggs might have a sequel. Both great ideas!
NOTE: I started this novel in hardcover and finished it in ebook format on an iPad. Because of the photos being an integral part of the story, a basic e-ink ereader without the ability to show the images well might not do the story justice.
Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children
An important academic voice for more than three decades, Manning Marable’s scholarly career was defined by an eclectic and astute collection of books that explored the relationship between racial politics, capitalism, and African American history. His final book prior to his death in April of this year was a controversial biography of Malcolm X (Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention). This National Book Award nominated title can be downloaded to your e-reader device or tablet.
Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention
It has been a long time since I’ve read any Hemingway. The Paris Wife, although fiction, is a look at his early years and the jazz age literary scene in Paris in the 1920’s.
The book is written in the voice of Hadley Richardson, Hemingway’s first wife. They met in Chicago, were married after a whirlwind courtship, and headed to Paris—part of the “lost generation” that included Gertrude Stein, Ezra Pound, and F. Scott Fitzgerald, among others.
Although Hemingway wrote “I wished I had died before I ever loved anyone but her,” their marriage was doomed in the hard drinking, fast living, huge egos of the time as Hemingway struggled to find his writing voice and eventually published The Sun Also Rises, dedicated to Hadley.
My book group will discuss The Paris Wife later this month. I’m guessing we all will have thoroughly enjoyed it and we’ll have some interesting conversation about the times, Hemingway, Fitzgerald and the others. Did the books of that generation stand the test of time? Are they still read and appreciated? There will be much to talk about!
The Paris Wife
Ever since I heard Susan Casey (the author) interviewed by Jon Stewart, and surfer Laird Hamilton (the book’s real-life character) grilled by Stephen Colbert, I knew that The Wave: in pursuit of rogues, freaks and giants of the ocean was a must-read for me.
While vacationing in Southern California or parts of Southwest Mexico, I remember encountering some 10 to 15 foot waves. For a good swimmer (which I consider myself as being), these don’t appear too daunting or intimidating. But they can and do come in succession of three or more at a time. If one knocks you down, another one is sure to quickly follow and it can be difficult to catch your breath and equilibrium by the time the next wave arrives. I remember meeting a particularly nasty little set of waves off the Malibu coast, that produced such a tremendous force that they left me completely discombobulated, disheveled, and practically disrobed! I was barely able to keep my bathing suit on as I struggled to swim. It was a hard lesson to learn, but I now appreciate what wiser Pacific Coast beach residents say, “Never, ever turn your back on a wave.”
In this tautly structured page turner, author Susan Casey examines giant, no make that humongous monster waves from three points of view:
- — The scientific by interviewing wave scientists who study them;
- — The practical by talking to mariners who have come across them in their voyages, and;
- — The playful/suicidal by spending time with the adrenaline junky extreme surfers who travel the world searching out these behemoths in the hopes of catching a ride, chief among them being Laird Hamilton.
At one time not so long ago, reports of 100 foot waves encountered by ships were dismissed by the scientific community based on the belief that such phenomena are counter to the theories of ocean physics. However, it turned out that it was the theories that should have been dismissed and not the reports, after a British research ship chock full of scientists ran into a North Sea storm about 10 years ago. Its research data collection equipment documented 90+ foot waves, and the existence of the giant wave phenomenon was confirmed. Later on, tracking satellites were able to determine that these rogue waves appear consistently and with greater frequency than was previously thought across all oceans.
This is also a story of personal obsessions, and some might say death wishes. These descriptors of course refer to the extreme surfers who seek out the rogues in an attempt to achieve hang-ten heaven. To gain their perspectives, Casey tags along with premier surfer Laird Hamilton, as he jet-sets across the globe in pursuit of this dream.
But watch out while reading this book! Because just like a strong rip current, Casey’s tale will easily pull you in, and before long you’ll find yourself powerless to resist this great watery read.
The Wave: in pursuit of rogues, freaks and giants of the ocean
Minding Frankie is one of Maeve Binchy’s best novels yet! Baby girl Frankie is born to mother Stella, who is dying of cancer. Stella names Noel--an alcoholic struggling with work and life, who has had no recent contact with Stella—as the father. Noel is forced to step up to the plate and do right by this infant. As a result, his life is transformed, as well as the lives of many family members and neighbors.
As happens also in Jan Karon novels, the lives of Maeve Binchy's characters intertwine with each other in unexpected ways. We get to know and care about who they are, how they are growing and how their lives touch each other. In recent Binchy novels, I’ve felt a strong thread of cynicism that has frankly put me off. The classic Binchy irony appeared again in this novel, but she left the cynicism out, allowing the humor and richness of the busy world we inhabit to shine through.
I would rank this one right up there with Evening Class.
I heard the title story in Karen Russell's collection of short stories read aloud by Joanna Gleason on PRI's Selected Shorts a while back and greatly enjoyed it. Each of Karen Russell's short stories in St. Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves is surreal and darkly funny, zooming right along in original and unexpected ways. The stories read like somone recounting "the strangest dream" and you're both laughing because it's so funny and otherworldly and you're really kind of glad that it was just a dream. If you like George Saunders you'll probably love Karen Russell, too. Now I'm looking forward to reading Russell's full length novel Swamplandia, a taste of which we get in "Ava Wrestles the Alligator", the first story in St. Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves.
St. Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves
David McCullough is in the news for his new book, The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris. By coincidence, I just read one of his early books, The Johnstown Flood, published in 1968.
I grew up in Pennsylvania and although I had heard of the Johnstown flood, I knew nothing about it. I’m a fan of McCullough’s and when I realized one of his earliest works was about the flood, I knew it would be a readable account of this tragedy.
The flood occurred on Memorial Day, 1889, when a huge storm caused the dam and lake at the South Fork Fishing and Hunting Club to give way and rush fifteen miles down the mountain destroying everything in its path, including much of Johnstown. Over 2200 people perished.
The Club was a mountain resort with large “cottages” of Pittsburgh’s wealthiest – Carnegie, Frick, Mellon, among others. When they bought the property the dam was neglected and “repairs” were made. Although there were many lawsuits, none were won and the club assumed no responsibility.
Of course floods are in the news currently. Now, unlike 122 years ago, there is some advance warning and preparation time, and a realization of the devastation that can occur.
This is yet another very readable, historical narrative from McCullough. Even though I knew the outcome of course, there is feeling of terror as the water approaches and the town is swept away.
The Johnstown Flood
Wilson Rawls, known for his Where the Red Fern Grows, has written a treasure titled Summer of the Monkeys. I happened on this book one night shift in Teen at Central. It’s the story of Jay Berry Lee, his family, and his blue-tick hound, Rowdy. The family lives on a farm “smack dab in the middle of the Cherokee Nation” in Oklahoma. The time is the late 1800s. Summer of the Monkeys is the story of 14-year-old Jay Berry Lee and his adventures in the bottoms of a river not too far from their homestead. Jay Berry has a younger sister by the name of Daisy, who was born with her right leg “all twisted up”. She walks with a crutch, and has a fairy-world type of imagination that lets her almost forget her leg and its limits on her life.
The Lee family is eking out a living on their farm, but there is not much money left over, and certainly not enough to take Daisy “to the city” where doctors can fix her leg.
Jay Berry comes upon a bunch of monkeys that belong to a circus and who have escaped on account of a train wreck. There is a reward for their return, and Jay Berry immediately sees $$$$ which add up to a rifle of his own, and a new pony.
The author says it much better than I can in this excerpt from the first chapter of his book: “Up until I was fourteen years old, no boy on earth could have been happier. I didn’t have a worry in the world. In fact, I was beginning to think that it wasn’t going to be hard at all for me to grow up. But just when things were really looking good for me, something happened. I got mixed up with a bunch of monkeys and all of my happiness flew right out the window. Those monkeys all but drove me out of my mind.”
Reading Rawls’ story was a real treat. I laughed. Out loud. I cried. Silently. I hope you will enjoy this story of familial loyalty as much as I did.
Summer of the Monkeys
After the death of her mother, Yeine Darr is surprised to hear her estranged grandfather name her one of three potential heirs. Now her cousins, the other two heirs, want her dead. To stay alive, she has to learn her way around the dynasty and the political complexities in its skytop palace while becoming acquainted with the gods her family has defeated and keeps as servants.
The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N. K. Jemisin is a fantastic story that combines power struggles, romance and a coming-of-age story. A compelling read, it introduces a creative new mythology with recognizable elements from various world religions. There are universal themes of order and chaos, and the explosive combination of the two which results in life. Fantasy with a touch of scifi, you'll find this book in the fiction stacks at the Central library, and as an ebook and a digital audiobook.
If you enjoy it as much as I did, you will be delighted to hear that this book is the first in a trilogy. The second is The Broken Kingdoms which is also available as a downloadable audiobook. The third, The Kingdom of Gods, is released at the end of October. I'll be placing a hold on it; feel free to join me.
The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms
Recently, I was reading the May/June 2011 issue of The Horn Book Magazine when an editorial caught my eye. Written by Roger Sutton, Editor in Chief for the magazine, the editorial, titled “Who Can We Count On?” raises several very good questions about reading in general, and specifically, about summertime reading by schoolchildren. These questions are certainly ones that teachers, parents, librarians, and other concerned adults should ponder. Here they are, with some of my own added:
• How many books should one read in a given time frame?
• Should we encourage schoolchildren to read?
• Does reading level (of the reader) really matter?
• Should summer reading schoolchildren be provided with incentives for reaching pre-set reading goals? And, who should set these goals?
• What types of incentives should be offered? (books, burgers, bicycles?)
• Should the number of books read count for anything?
As a librarian in a public library who works almost exclusively with children’s reading habits, I find these questions “right on the money” for insuring success in a summertime reading program or club. At the Kalamazoo Public Library, the summertime reading program for kids begins in early to mid-June, and continues until the last weekend in August. Somewhere close to twelve (12) weeks. The Library offers summer games for children ages birth-entering Kindergarten, for children entering 1st-4th grade, for ‘tweens who are entering grades five through seven, and for teens entering grades eight through graduation. (Don’t worry, adults, there’s a game for you, too!) Each of these games offers incentives at intervals along the way. Each of the children’s games encourages reading books at one’s pre-determined level (usually from the Accelerated Reader program in the schools). Each game encourages reading for a minimum of twenty (20) minutes a day, and also allows for reading at one’s level and for being read aloud to.
This year, incentives and games are going to be more “across the board” than they have been in the past. Readers will earn paperback books, tee shirts, stickers, and colorful beads at pre-set intervals.
Should you bring your child/encourage your child to come to the library this summer and read in one of the games? Absolutely! And, don’t forget to read yourself! What better role model than a reading parent?
Roger Sutton’s editorial concludes with this question: “…creating a second home on the floor of the children’s room…”. Won’t you join me this summer and read, read, read?
I always skim the lists of bestsellers in the Sunday New York Times Book Review when the library copy comes my way. The lists have traditionally included hardcover fiction and nonfiction, and paperbacks in various formats and genres.
Not surprisingly, there are now two news lists: E-Book Best Sellers and Combined Print and E-Book Best Sellers. There is also a comparison of the fiction bestsellers – where the same title falls on the print list vs. the e-book list.
There is quite a bit of overlap. The titles high on the print lists are also high on the e-book list. Obviously readers want a particular title and the format is increasingly unimportant.
Is the format important / unimportant to you? I admit I still prefer print.
The New York Times Best Sellers
As a librarian in the Teen Services area, I'm always interested in the Alex Award winners...books that were originally published for adults that have appeal for teens. This title, by Aimee Bender, is one of this year's Alex Award winners.
The story chronicles the childhood and young adulthood of Rose Edelstein who, at age 9, discovers quite by accident, that she has the ability to "taste," in homecooked food, the emotions of the person who made it. Not surprisingly, the first time it happens, the food has been prepared by her mother and Rose finds herself privy to some feelings that her mother has never outwardly expressed. And so it begins. Throughout the book, as Rose finds ways to manage (or in some cases, not) this unusual gift, she learns more than perhaps she ever wanted to know about herself and the people in her life, namely her parents and her reclusive brother.
I'm glad to say this was the first time I checked out an eBook with my KPL library card, and there were many things I liked about the experience:
• Because I had installed the appropriate Android app, I was able to download the title to my phone and was therefore able to read a few pages whenever I had time to spare...waiting to pick up my kids, in the doctor's office, even at the gym;
• I appreciated having a time limit on finishing the book. eBooks are not renewable so I had to finish the book in the allotted time (14 days) before it disappeared from my phone. That forced me--in a good way, of course--to keep reading;
• I continued reading one or two of the printed books by my bedside. In this way, the eBook was almost like a "bonus book" that I found myself enjoying at times and places where I might not normally have a printed book with me.
If you haven't tried it yet, and you have a device that allows you to read eBooks (or audiobooks too), I encourage you to give it a try.
The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake
Suddenly eBooks, and the associated devices that display them, seem to be everywhere, in the media and on the minds of many avid readers and the holiday gift givers who love them. As the way we think about books changes, KPL’s services to readers will change as well, but always with a focus on providing the titles that our community are interested in, no matter the format. To that end, I want to be sure our digital book reading patrons know that KPL has literally thousands of ebook titles available for checkout and download. From high demand bestsellers that can be placed on hold using your library card to public domain titles that are always available, the KPL eBooks webpage is sure to guide you to something you will enjoy reading as well as explain the service to those new to eBooks. There is something slightly incongruent to me about reading classic literature on an ebook reader, but that is exactly what I will be doing this holiday as I reread A Christmas Carol for the first time on a KPL Sony Reader. I have been reluctant to embrace the eBook experience, but as Mr. Dickens said himself: “An idea, like a ghost, must be spoken to a little before it will explain itself.”
A Christmas Carol
Are you wondering what great books you missed reading this year? It’s the time of year when the “Best Of” book lists are compiled and these lists are a wonderful opportunity to check out what titles the reviewers and critics preferred. I always enjoy taking a look through them, and I always end up adding a number of the suggested titles to my reading list.
These lists represent a wide range of reading preferences and offer some great choices to catch up on your reading as winter settles upon us. We even have our own Best of 2010 list here at KPL! Even if the holidays have you hustling and bustling, take a moment to click on these links to NPR, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and fictionawardwinners.com to see what all the reading buzz of 2010 is about. Happy Reading!
Staff Picks: Best of 2010
William Gibson is an author who suffers from a form of literary type-casting. Through his steady and consistent work in the late 1980’s and 90’s, including the masterful Neuromancer, he helped define the cyberpunk genre. But if you lost track of Gibson, as I fear many did, around Mona Lisa Overdrive then you may have missed out on his current, and I would argue some of his best, work. Gibson has said that he stopped writing about the far future because the present had become so choke full of technological and cultural weirdness that, when truly examined, it seems completely futuristic. His latest Zero History, which can stand alone but is the final book in a loosely tied together trilogy, certainly holds to that. Like a good internet surfing session Gibson seemlessly weaves together divergent subjects as far afield as micro trend spotting, base jumping, fashion, the military industrial complex, modern perceptions of privacy, addiction, the music industry and, my favorite meme from Zero History, the Festo Air Penguin (see video below), into a strong character driven thriller and sprinkles it all with a kind of slick urban dread that he does so well.
Diesel now has his own series! Janet Evanovich is expanding the world of that gorgeous character from her Stephanie Plum Between-the-Numbers series, and he has brought his shadowy cousin Gerwulf (Wulf) Grimoire with him. As Evanovich continues to explore the vampire world she also introduces a new character, Elizabeth (Lizzy) Tucker, a pastry chef whose cupcakes are fabulously beyond description. Lizzy has inherited her Aunt Ophelia’s house in Salem, MA and has a new job at Dazzle’s Bakery. Both Wulf and Diesel explode into her life like sizzling bombs looking for the Seven Stones of Power referring to her “gift”, and that they need her gift to find the Stones. The Seven Stones of Power represent the Seven Deadly Sins of pride, greed, lust, envy, wrath, sloth, and gluttony. They are everything that is wicked and have alluded treasure hunters for centuries. Lizzie’s world is turned inside out as she inherits a ninja cat and an extremely rude monkey, tries to keep one step ahead of Wulf, and not melt into a puddle around Diesel.
I always enjoy Evanovich’s books when I need a funny lighthearted escape from reality. Her stories are fast entertaining reads that are so much fun to follow. We will see how Diesel does now that he is standing on his own as the series continues. If you have never tried reading a Janet Evanovich book, take a break to breathe and entertain yourself while you relax with Wicked Appetite or another of her titles. You will enjoy yourself. Happy Reading!