Friday, July 31, 2009

Yes, You May Check These Books Out!

One of my favorite questions I get asked at the 3rd floor Readers' Services desk is: "Where is the Mullenbach Collection?" This gives me the chance to show off one of my favorite sections of the library, The Rotary Heritage Room, which contains the Mullenbach Collection.

The Mullenbach Collection, generously funded by Jane Moore, consists of classic literature as well as contemporary literary fiction, including many award-winners. So you'll find classics like Jane Eyre and The Great Gatsby alongside less familiar titles like The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz, which won the Pulitzer Prize as well as the National Book Critics Circle Award. Other contemporary authors who have made it into the Mullenbach Collection are Philip Roth, Toni Morrison, Michael Chabon and Ann Patchett. The collection also includes chapter books for young people, such as Charlotte's Web and The Hobbit, many of which are special illustrated editions.

Upon showing patrons the Mullenbach Collection, the next question I'm usually asked is: "We can check these books out?" The Mullenbach Collection is housed in the Rotary Heritage Room, which has the feel of a luxurious private library, so I can understand why patrons might think that the gorgeous hardcover editions gracing the shelves are for in-house use only. But they're not. They are all available for checkout, and the Rotary Heritage Room is a quiet reading room open to the public. So the next time you're on the third floor, help yourself to a Mullenbach book, sink into one of the luxurious red chairs in the Rotary Heritage Room and enjoy! And yes, you can absolutely check these books out!

To access a list of the Mullenbach titles in our online catalog, click here.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

What's up with that?

If Maggie Kat was an author her glamour shot would take up the entire back cover, and maybe the front as well.

Have you ever noticed how many books have the author's name in huge print but the title is in teeny, tiny letters, sometimes in a lighter color that almost fades into the background? What's up with that? And what about those huge glamor shots of the author that take up the entire back of the book? (Clive Cussler, James Patterson, Dennis Lehane, Michael Connelly, Patricia Cornwell - you know who you are!) What's up with that?

I just read Jane Green's latest book, Dune Road, and had trouble verifying the title because it was hidden under the huge letters of the author's name. When Danielle Steel's latest book, One Day at a Time, is placed on the shelf, spine out, it is impossible to see the title, but you can read the author's name from 10 feet away!

Someday we're going to set up a display with the books facing backward and let readers choose their books from the author's glamour shot. Once upon a time I just passed over these books figuring the authors were on a major ego trip and therefore I wouldn't waste my time, but that's getting harder to do as many of my favorite authors have gone over to the dark side in promoting their work with their huge names and pictures! What's up with that?

Okay. Sorry. Now that I've vented...
What books have you read that gave you a "what's up with that" moment?

Linda K. Readers' Services

Friday, July 24, 2009

Discovery in the City of Big Shoulders

Being a transplant in this area of the country, I never cease to be amazed at the grandeur and gravitas of the city of Chicago, and I am proud to live and work within the shadow of its skyline. There are a multitude of exciting things about living so close to the city: being able to participate in Chicago's incredible sports heritage; witnessing the unique and diverse blend of cultures throughout the area; and viewing the beautiful, soaring buildings in the city that invented the skyscraper, among many others. One thing in particular that I enjoy is that, in Chicago, wherever you turn history is waiting to speak to you.

In a specific case of history just "happening" to me in the Second City, I went to see a Blackhawks game with a bunch of friends on Valentine's Day, 2004. After the game, we headed up to the Chicago Pizza and Oven Grinder Co. restaurant on North Clark Street (they make a pizza pot pie that is nothing if not sublime). While I was perusing the menu, I noticed a tiny blurb about the St. Valentine's Day Massacre, which I in my East Coast upbringing had vaguely heard about but never known the specifics. My curiosity was piqued as I wondered what a brutal mass murder and this bustling and cozy eatery could have in common. It turned out the two were connected only by the width of Clark Street. The St. Valentines Day Massacre occurred in a garage at 2122 North Clark Street, right across the street from where I was sitting. When I realized the actual date of this heinous act of gang warfare, February 14th, 1929, a chill tickled my spine. I had gone from not really knowing much about the St. Valentine's Day Massacre, to being in the almost exact vicinity of the crime - on its 75th anniversary! Boom, history!

Another nugget of history that I discovered was the Eastland disaster in 1915, though this time I wasn't at the actual site of the occurrence. A few years after I moved out here, I was watching a WTTW broadcast when it showed the story of the Eastland disaster, and I was dumbfounded by my ignorance of such an event. Over 800 people lost their lives when the steamer S.S. Eastland capsized near the south bank of the Chicago River between Clark and LaSalle Streets. Passengers were boarding the Eastland for a lake trip to Michigan City, Indiana when a crowd formed on the port side of the boat, possibly due to a passing canoe race. Suddenly, the boat rolled over onto its port side, coming to a stop on the river bottom just 20 feet below. Many people were able to be rescued, but a large percentage of the passengers drowned as they were trapped below decks. I mention my discovery of this tragic moment of Chicago history because it occurred 94 years ago today.

Am I alone in this? Does anyone else have any stunning experiences of unexpectedly unearthing huge chunks of Chicago's past?

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Wild at Heart Trivia Question

Have you been following along with our weekly literary odd couples? We've had Oliver and Jenny from Love Story, Christine and Erik from The Phantom of the Opera, and other mismatched-but-destined-for-each-other lovers. Let's see how you do with this week's clue:

HE is impetuous, sensual, wealthy, and trapped by duty in a bitterly unhappy marriage.

SHE is small, plain, frank, and hardworking (and based on the author herself).

Film versions of this classic gothic novel have starred Timothy Dalton, Anna Paquin, Joan Fontaine, George C. Scott and Charlotte Gainsbourg.

Think you know the answer? Stop by the third floor to fill out an entry and check out our other summer reading contests. Or email us the answer at Readers2@dppl.org. Be sure to include your name and phone number, too. The winner of the drawing for this contest will receive a $25 gift certificate to the newly re-opened Sugar Bowl! (Prizes will be awarded after Summer Reading ends, on August 2nd.)

Friday, July 17, 2009

Wild Flowering

Honestly, it wasn't premeditated. I'm speaking of my choosing to read the book Wildflower in the midst of our Read on the WILD Side adult summer reading program. While it fits our theme perfectly, it was just coincidental.(What would Freud say?)

Listed as a hot summer read in the Chicago Tribune in early June, this title caught my attention. I confirm it was an engaging, nonfiction read. Love, adventure, murder, the beauty of Africa, the dark side of capitalism all in 200 pages. The author, Mark Seal, wrote about Joan Root in Vanity Fair in August 2006 and it was so popular, he kept writing. His book Wildflower fleshes out the story of Joan and her husband Alan Root. They were reknown in the film world for their wildlife and nature films of the 1970's and 80's. They partnered with great actors to narrate their films, and won an Oscar for best documentary for Mysterious Castles of Clay in 1979.

How I would love to tell you we own their films on dvd but they don't exist. A few select libraries in the U.S. own some titles on VHS. I suspect this might change soon. Julia Roberts is going to be portraying Joan Root in a feature film that is currently in production. A big commercial film may entice the right business person to make the Roots' films into dvds.

In the meantime, savor the nature films we do have in our documentary film section and find the book Wildflower in the biography section.

I haven't read a nonfiction book that I've enjoyed this much in a long time. Please comment if you have one to recommend.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Books - Summer - Life is Sweet

Just in case you're running out of books to read this summer (horrors!) I have a few more suggestions that you might have missed. They are not written by your favorite bestselling authors, but hopefully these authors will become new favorites. One exceptionally entertaining new book is The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley. Flavia, an 11-year-old chemistry enthusiast, stumbles over a body in the garden and decides to solve the crime. The story is filled with eccentric characters, including a librarian, a groundskeeper, and Flavia's two older sisters who live to torment her. The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane by Katherine Howe is an intriguing mix of mystery, romance, and a bit of history of the Salem witch trials, told in flashbacks to the 1600's. Reading it reminded me of another good summer read, Thornyhold, by Mary Stewart. And finally, if you happen to be a fan of the classic tale of manners and romance, Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen, you won't want to miss Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Seth Grahame-Smith. In this version of the story the quiet village of Meryton is plagued with zombies and Elizabeth Bennet must fight them off while dealing with the arrogant Mr. Darcy. Crazy fun!

What new books have you been reading this summer?

Linda Knorr - Readers' Services

Monday, July 13, 2009

A Wild Man of Classical Music

This week's question is from the Wild Men and Women of Classical Music contest, which is one of several contests you'll find on the third floor of the library. The winner of the drawing for this contest will receive a $50 gift card to the Shop & Save. (Prizes will be awarded after Summer Reading ends, on August 2nd.) Here's the question:

This singular American composer lived from 1874 to 1954. The son of a bandmaster, he grew up in Danbury, Connecticut, where he played sports as well as music. Although he made his living in the insurance business, he spent much of his time composing. He wrote symphonies, chamber music, sonatas, and more than 150 songs, including "General William Booth Enters into Heaven." According to Composers since 1900, his "first significant attempt to make use of authentic American materials" was in his Second Symphony, a technique he was to become known for. He was also, according to Jan Swafford:
proclaimed a prophet in discovering on his own, before anyone else, most of the devices associated with musical Modernism: polytonality, polyrhythm, free dissonance, chance and collage effects [etc.]
Although few heard his compositions during his lifetime, his Third Symphony received the Pulitzer Prize in 1947. Other compositions include The Unanswered Question, Central Park in the Dark, Variations on “America,” and Piano Sonata No. 2, "Concord Mass., 1840-60," often referred to as The Concord Sonata.

Is he:

a. Aaron Copland
b. George Gershwin
c. Charles Ives
d. John Philip Sousa

Think you know the answer? Stop by the third floor to fill out an entry and check out our other summer reading contests. Or email us the answer at Readers2@dppl.org. Be sure to include your name and phone number, too.

Friday, July 10, 2009

"I don't believe what I just saw!"

Hall of Fame baseball announcer Jack Buck summed up the magic of baseball with those immortal seven words. At the time, he was describing Kirk Gibson's game-ending (see also:"walk-off") home run that sent the Dodgers to a Game 1 victory over the Oakland Athletics in the 1988 World Series. It is now the height of baseball season: the game's best players and/or fan favorites will all meet each other in St. Louis for the All Star Game next week, and I am actually headed to my first game of the season this weekend (up in Milwaukee!). In my humble opinion there is no better fit for a long summer than the crack of the bat, the thump of catcher's mitt, the search for the next euphoric moment.

My heartstrings have always been tightly wrapped around a rubber ball, covered with a two pieces of leather that have been rubbed with a special mud taken from a secret spot along the Delaware River and hand-stitched 216 times to form a sphere. From the days of being a kid when I would open pack after pack of Topps baseball cards and get a jaw-ache from chewing the accumulation of gum that was included in those packs to the current day where I'm able to watch any ballgame in the country via the internet, baseball has always been my thing.

A major mile marker in my love for baseball occurred when I was 7 years old: the second time I went to see the Natural. My parents, brother, and I attempted to see the Natural one time before, but ended up walking into the wrong theater, where we were treated to Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (another moment that altered the course of history for me, but that's a story for another day). The second time around to see the Natural, we managed to find the correct screen and my life was changed (again). For those of you not familiar with the movie, you probably would still know the ending, as it has become deeply interwoven into pop culture. Suffice to say, Roy Hobbs (played by Robert Redford) sends a fly ball into a bank of lights for a home run that wins his team the pennant (I still recommend watching the movie). This piece of cinema is really nothing without Randy Newman's masterfully composed score for that scene: it is the combination of these two that causes my scalp to tingle even 25 years after I first saw it.

What I enjoy about that clip is watching everyone's eyes as they see the one thing they wished for most at that moment come true (well, except maybe the catcher). It is a beautiful thing, a special moment, when someone hits a home run to end the game. I have seen one walk-off home run in my life: it was a minor league game about 15 years ago. Dan Held, the star of the Reading Phillies, cracked a three run homer over the left field fence to end the game in the bottom of the ninth and I was hugging perfect strangers in my excitement. It is a special memory of mine - a Roy Hobbs moment in real life - and its just one in a huge treasure chest of fantastic memories that baseball has already given to me. Every game I watch, every inning, every pitch, I am prepared for the next big play - the passion-filled moment where I put my hands to my head and exclaim, "I don't believe what I just saw!"

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

If you could travel in time. . .

I am normally not a fan of time-travel fiction, so when I do read a time-travel book and like it, I am surprised. It must be a really good book to get me over my peeve. As a plot device, time travel just doesn't do it for me. Several years ago I read The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger, and I enjoyed it.

Lately I have read (and recommended) The Little Book by Selden Edwards. Here the main character is transported back in time to Vienna in 1897. One reason it is so captivating is because it was such an interesting time and place. The book is populated with characters from history and the arts such as Sigmund Freud and and Gustav Klimt.

As I was laying awake the other night thinking about The Little Book, I wondered where I would want to go if I were able to visit another time. It is a tough question. Would I choose someplace interesting historically or in a literary sense, such as Hemingway's Paris or the Roman Empire? Or would I choose someplace personal, like Scotland in the early 20th century while my grandfather still lived there. Or would I try to answer some enigma like what was really behind the Kennedy assassination? Or would I try to change the history of the world by holding Bartman back from interfering with that foul ball in 2003? A good question is one that brings up more questions than answers.

Where would you go? What time? What place?

Monday, July 6, 2009

Girls Gone Wild, Literarily-Speaking

Here's the next question in the contest. Remember there are several contests on the 3rd floor and winners will be the lucky recipients of gift cards to some of our finest Des Plaines merchants like Cheeseburger in Paradise, Shop & Save, Panera, Longhorn Restaurant, Oliveti's, Starbucks and The Sugar Bowl! The question derives from the Wild Women of Literature contest.

The Wild Women of Literature are international characters. In honor of Independence Day, can you identify the only American wild woman of literature on the following list?

1. Anna Karenina

2. Cherie

3. Madame Bovary

4. Jezebel ( of the Old Testament)

5. Sister Carrie