Thursday, May 28, 2009

Reading Without Looking

You may or may not have heard this one: "When is a door not a door? When it is ajar." Well, my question for you today is this: when is a book not a book? When it's an audiobook!

The true beauty of listening to a story as opposed to just reading it is two-fold: a richer experience and mobility. The sound of a human voice injects a sense of pathos into the whole book-reading situation that allows me to dig deeper into what is occurring in the book. When I hear a book being read by a professional, the passages come alive in the timbre of the reader's voice. I don't know about you, but each character has their own unique voice that I hear in my head when I'm reading what they are saying. What makes me enjoy a book-listening experience is when the reader's voice for a character matches the one that I would have picked out for it. This allows me to focus my imagination more on the entire scene, like I would listen to a radio show.

What got me started on audiobooks was the desire to read more in the same amount of time. I was able to double up on my reading as I read a regular book before I drifted off to sleep at night or was eating my lunch, and an audiobook while I was commuting in my car. Nowadays, with hours of sleep being few and far between while taking care of a 2 month-old child, audiobooks have become critical to my reading life as I don't read before going to bed anymore (I tend to crash at that point), but I do still have time to listen to books as I travel in my vehicle, whether it be on my way to work or out to run errands.

Audiobooks have even evolved into new formats from their original ones of cassette tapes and CDs. MP3's are audio data files that are much smaller than normal, allowing a lot of information to be stored in pretty small spaces. The library has a collection of devices named Playaways that are actually self-contained audiobooks that can fit in the palm of your hand. As a relatively new collection ,they are not currently able to be reserved, but are certainly available to be checked out for four weeks. The playaways are shelved together at the beginning of the audiobook section and are simply powered by a AAA battery, allowing you to listen to it while walking a dog or relaxing at the beach.

Another way of listening to books is by downloading them through mymediamall.net. Des Plaines Library card holders can download titles through this website via WMA files, that are able to be played on your computer, and MP3 files, that are able to be downloaded to MP3 players, including iPods. While there are not as many MP3 titles as WMA files, the number of MP3 files is steadily growing. Currently there are now over 700 MP3 titles to select from. For questions on how to download audiobooks to your computer through MyMediaMall, please visit this page on our website. If you'd like to talk to a live person about this, the phone number for Readers Services is towards the bottom of that page: we'd be happy to help you!

Now, an inherent danger in listening to audiobooks is that the reader and the listener won't sync together very easily, and if that happens, you can proceed in a similar manner to reading a book you don't care for (please see Cheryl's post on this blog from 5/14). There are a great multitude of books out there in many audio formats. Try one out today! Need a suggestion? Click here!

Monday, May 25, 2009

Intentional Meanderings

A frequent patron of the library and the Readers' Services department raved about the movie Snow Falling on Cedars. He spoke about it being beautiful to watch. He said he enjoyed the book by David Guterson, but loved the movie.

The patron is a prolific reader with varied interests but he is not a big film watcher. I suggested he consider other movies by the director of Snow Falling on Cedars. I'm not sure the patron followed my advice, but I did. Its been an interesting and delightful endeavor. One that has hit all the entertainment buttons - words, music and film.

Scott Hicks, the director of Snow Falling on Cedars, was nominated for best director in 1996 for Shine. It was a huge success of a film with Geoffrey Rush winning best actor. Though Hicks didn't win the Oscar, his work on this film propelled his career. Other films of Hicks' include No Reservations, Hearts in Atlantis, and a documentary of composer Philip Glass, Glass: A Portrait of Philip in 12 Parts.

Hearts of Atlantis, a story based on a Stephen King work with Anthony Hopkins was a completely new title for me. The movie is presented as a flashback by a 50 year man to his 11th year. It's captivating with a poignant story and good acting.

Regarding the Philip Glass documentary, had it not been for these intentional meanderings, I probably wouldn't have checked it out. Glass is a unique, intellectual artist with a colorful personality but I'll give Scott Hicks the credit for keeping my attention for two hours. The bonus dvd is aptly named, with performances from Glass' operas.

I still have more meandering to do - the short stories of Stephen King, the music of Philip Glass, films with Geoffrey Rush, novels of David Guterson......

Monday, May 18, 2009

World Music--Bollywood and More!!

If you loved the soundtrack to Slumdog Millionaire, by A. R. Rahman, composer of more than 100 Bollywood movie soundtracks, you should check out our World Music CD collection. We have not only Introducing A. R. Rahman: Original Soundtracks from the Musical Genius of Indian Cinema, but many other CDs featuring the music of Bollywood composers, including:

The Rough Guide to Bollywood Gold

Dance and Romance with Bollywood

Bhangra: The Sound of Bollywood

If the World Music section looks a little different these days, it's because we recently made some changes to make it easier to find what you're looking for. We've consolidated the International Folk collection with World Music collection, so that if you're looking for all the CDs by Ladysmith Black Mambazo, you can find them all in the World Music/South African section. We've also broken down the World Music section by country, region or language (for the most part):


So if you're primarily interested in the music of India, you can go straight to the World Music/Indic section. That's where you'll find all the above Bollywood CDs.

Or, if you want to sample a variety of World Music, check out the very beginning of the section--right before World Music/Afghan. There you'll find compilations like One World, Many Voices and At Home in the World--both part of the I Heard it on NPR series. Other popular World Music samplers include Putumayo Presents World Hits and The Rough Guides Collection.

The World Music collection allows you to introduce yourself to or immerse yourself in another culture. Be sure to check it out the next time you're on the third floor.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

To Stop Reading or Keep Going?

I love books. Even books where, quite frankly, I dislike the characters or the writing, I will keep reading. There have only been a couple of times that I remember where I have stopped and thought "This book is sucking up time I will never get back!!" and returned the book to the library. But still, I will skip to the end (horrors!) and find out what happens.

I remember once my mom and I were reading the same book. She was fed up with the main character's stupidity and stopped reading. What she really wanted to do was throw the book against the wall. I kept going with the hopes that it would get better. It did not.

This isn't about which books are awful and which rock. Rather, I find it interesting why people either choose to finish books, decide to move on to something else, and the reasons behind their decisions.

There's a poll to the right of this post! Please pick the answer that best describes you and don't forget to leave a comment about what you think.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The Soundtracks of our Lives

There is something about a movie soundtrack, something that speaks to us, that goes beyond the film it is allied with. Just hearing the music takes me to another time and place. It brings back emotions that had gone unfelt for years in some cases.

So when Entertainment Weekly published a list of the 100 best soundtracks of all time, I was curious to see how many I agreed with. Surprisingly my list would have been very different, and it made me realize how personal ones relationship is with music and film. Some of my favorites were Harold and Maude (music by Cat Stevens), Trainspotting, Chariots of Fire, Poltergeist, Star Wars, The Music Man, Grease, The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, The Commitments, This Is Spinal Tap and Pink Floyd's The Wall.

The top five on the Entertainment Weekly List were:
5: The Wizard of Oz
4: West Side Story
3: Saturday Night Fever (I hated disco)
2: The Sound of Music
1: A Hard Days Night

The library has an extensive collection of Soundtracks on CD. What are some of your favorites?

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Reigning Cats & Dogs

Bo the dog had been getting a lot of press lately. The Obamas’ new Portuguese water dog puppy is the latest in a string of presidential pets -- like Millie the dog (George H.W. Bush), Socks the cat and Buddy the dog (Bill Clinton), Barney the dog (George W. Bush) and perhaps the most celebrated presidential dog -- Fala (Franklin D. Roosevelt). If those “first pets” were royalty, one could say they are or were the reigning animal of our country.

At home, one of our reigning pets is Fluffy, who's hiding behind Edgar in the photo. She is president of F.A.L.L. – the Feline Anti-Literacy League. I cannot read the newspaper because she sits on it at inopportune times, and she often inserts herself between me and the book I’m trying to enjoy before it's time to retire for the night.

At the library, we have our own “reigning” cats and dogs – bestsellers and sleepers about the world’s two most popular pets – as well as materials about other beloved animals. Here are but a few of our selections about animals and their people. You can find even more information by stopping at the Readers’ Services or Reference desks. When you visit the Readers’ Services Desk, ask for bibliographies and bookmarks about books starring cats or dogs. Oh, and you can always take a look at our cat-alog.


Marley & Me: Life and Love with the World's Worst Dog – probably the best-known of the litter, this bestseller also was made into a movie and recorded as a book on CD.

The Art of Racing in the Rain – a fictitious family saga as seen through the eyes of their loyal dog.

Chicken Soup for the Dog Lover’s Soul – heartwarming stories about dogs and the people they loved.

William Wegman’s photographs -- dogs dressed up and looking forlorn.

Dogs in art -- man's best friend as seen through artists' eyes.

Also check out our books about dog breeds (individual breeds begin with the call number 636.7), how to choose the perfect dog, and dog training.


Dewey: The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World – a kitten is found in an Iowa library’s book drop and becomes a worldwide celebrity.

The Cat Who Came for Christmas – Humorist (and curmudgeon) Cleveland Amory recalls several moments with his cat, Polar Bear.

Cat mysteries by Lilian Jackson Braun, as well as fiction about women cat owners, sometimes also known as "crazy cat ladies."

Chicken Soup for the Cat Lover’s Soul – tales of cats and the people they own.

Cats in art -- artists' attempts to capture the feline soul.

And take a look at our books on cat care. Everything else about cats is under the call number 636.8. You would probably need to go to our fiction section to find books on how to train a cat, since it’s the cat who trains you.


Richard Bach’s "Ferret Chronicles" -- a really clever and funny fiction series. For example, one is titled “Rescue Ferrets at Sea.”

A Lion Called Christian – a current bestseller about the bond between two men and the lion cub they purchased in London, set free in Africa and with whom they were reunited a year later.

Alex & Me – a scientist and a highly intelligent parrot form a deep bond while researching animal intelligence.

Born Free, Elsa and Her Cubs, and Living Free – Elsa the lioness and her cubs find their way into Joy Adamson's heart.

Books about Dian Fossey, whose major work, Gorillas in the Mist, is about the great apes she befriended. That classic book was made into a feature film in the late '80s.