Tuesday, December 28, 2010


Who out there reads book reviews beforehand particularly when you are eagerly awaiting an author's new book?

I just got my hands on the new book by Dennis Lehane titled Moonlight Mile. Wow, lucky me, I thought. I loved his earlier books, especially Mystic River and Shutter Island. And he is not an author who comes out with a new book every other month. I was especially curious to see what he would do next since Shutter Island seemed such a diversion from his normal style. I thought, hey I should write in the blog about what people think when an author goes off in a completely different direction, like he did with Shutter Island (I normally hate it, but Shutter Island was so good that I forgave him for it).

In order to write about Lehane I read a few reviews and comments about the new book. What a mistake. The comments really made it seem like a dud. Perhaps I should thank the reviewers for the forewarning. Now I really don't feel like reading it anymore. I know enough to know that those comments are definitely other people's opinions. And I have loved many books that others have panned. But I now have a bad taste in my mouth. I went from having eager expectations to dread. I will probably return the book and read something else for a few weeks and maybe I will try again later.

Do you read reviews and comments beforehand? I use them when I am looking for a new book or author, but I never do when I feel I already know about the author. Now I need to go find a good new book.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Love in Action

We recently reached the winter solstice, the point when the North Pole is tilted the farthest away from the Sun. For us in Illinois (and the rest of the Northern hemisphere) that means that December 21st was the longest night and shortest day of the year. As evening now begins to creep across the sky before 5pm, it is no wonder that the symbols of the holidays we celebrate this time of year involve light.

One of the most enduring symbols of the season is the candle. During Hanukkah (also known as the Festival of Lights) a candle is lit on the menorah for each of the eight nights of the holiday: each candle can only be lit from the ninth candle known as the shamash, or the servant candle. These eight lights symbolize the eight evenings the lamp oil miraculously replenished itself after the Jews reclaimed the Holy Temple in Jerusalem from the Syrians in 165 BCE. The celebration of Kwanzaa also involves the lighting of candles to commemorate the holiday. Seven candles are lit on a kinara, each of them representing the Seven Principles of Kwanzaa: unity, self-
determination, responsibility, cooperativeness, purpose, creativity, and faith. Soon, many Christian churches will have candle-lit ceremonies to commemorate the birth of the baby Jesus. They also will have the four candles lit on the Advent wreath that marks the season of waiting and anticipation of the Christmas holiday.

Another symbol of the holidays is the star. I grew up near Bethlehem, PA (inevitably, there is also a Nazareth, PA nearby). One of my favorite things about the season was the giant star located on South Mountain, up above the city (pictured above: photo credit alan(ator), A. Strakey). The original star was installed in a ceremony in 1937, the same year Bethlehem conferred upon itself the moniker "Christmas City, USA". I'd always enjoy seeing the star almost anywhere I went in the valley below South Mountain. It made me think of hope, peace, and expectation as it represented the star that was said to shine above the original town of Bethlehem guiding those in search of the baby in the manger.

So, candles and stars can be symbols for many things: hope for the future, reflection on the past, introspection of self, and freedom from oppression, among others. What if we could become lights ourselves? What if we could all be shamash candles, seeking to serve others and illuminate their lives as much as our own? Whether you are religious or not, the reason of this holiday season is to bring light into this darkest of natural seasons, including letting friends and family know how important they are to us, and to possibly even include strangers in our light. In a perfect world, this would be done year-round, but things being as they are, we are lucky to have this time of the year to remind us of what that world could look like.

I don't often quote Roy Rogers, or his wife, but Dale Evans had this to say: "Christmas, my child, is love in action."

My wish for all of us is to shine brightly and love actively in this season of celebration.

Happy Holidays!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Christmas Music Not in the Christmas Music Section

After years of writing songs about his father, Bruce Springsteen finally wrote one about his mother. Called "The Wish," it's a tribute to the woman who held the family together and who bought him his first guitar one Christmas, though they had little money.

The first verse ends:

On top of a Christmas tree shines one beautiful star
And lying underneath it a brand new Japanese guitar.

It's one of my favorite Christmas songs, though you won't find it with our Christmas CDs, but on Springsteen's Tracks album, located in the Oversize CD collection.

There's a lot of great music perfect for the Christmas season that isn't cataloged as Christmas music, most of which is part of our classical music collection.

Below are some CDs worth checking out.

In the Ballet Section:

The Nutcracker, Op. 71: A Ballet in Two Acts. This is the complete ballet. It includes the "hits" from the suite and more.

Essential Ballet contains selections from the Nutcracker.

Check out The Nutcracker Suite for Guitar for Steven Pasero's take on this Christmas chestnut.

In the Oratorios* section:

Handel's Messiah, which narrates the life of Christ in condensed form, is his most popular oratorio, and with good reason. Rock out to the Hallelujah chorus in the comfort of your own home (with your stereo turned up to 11, for you Spinal Tap fans).

Messiah: The Dream Cast. Selections from Handel's much-loved work performed by Kiri Te Kanawa, Leontyne Price, Jerry Hadley, Bryn Terfel and more.

A Met Messiah. Selections from Handel's Messiah performed by greats like Marian Anderson, Joan Sutherland and Jon Vickers.

Christmas Oratorio by Bach. NPR calls this "one of the most joyful and sumptuous works of Johann Sebastian Bach." Composed of six cantatas** for six different services between Christmas and epiphany, and sung in German.

Christmas Oratorio, BWV 248. Another recording of the above, this one performed by the Failoni Chamber Orchestra for Hungarian Radio in 1992.

In the Orchestra section:

The CD entitled simply Peter Tchaikovsky contains the Nutcracker Suite, Op. 71, which is the better-known, shortened version of the Nutcracker. It includes the Waltz of the Flowers, the Arabian Dance, the Dance of the Sugar-Plum Fairy and more.

In the Piano section:

Martha Argerich's recording of Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto No. 1 also includes a charming arrangement of The Nutcracker Suite for two pianos.

In the Religious section:

Chant Noel: Chants for the Holiday Season. Want a change from the usual Christmas fare? Check out this recording of Gregorian chant and more performed by the Benedictine Monks of Santo Domingo de Silos.

Marian Anderson. This recording by one of the great contraltos of the 20th century includes both classical sacred music--excerpts from cantatas and oratorios--and spirituals.

Sacred Songs. Renee Fleming can sing just about anything--and sing it gloriously. Check out her interpretations of Ave Maria--the CD includes Bach's Ave Maria as well as Schubert's--plus excerpts from Handel's Messiah and more.

In the Vocal Section:

Mad About Angels: The Greatest Stars, The Greatest Voices. While not exclusively Christmas music, Mad About Angels features "Heavenly Music" to elevate the spirit.

*oratorio: "a musical composition for voices and orchestra, telling a religious story" (The American Heritage Dictionary of New Cultural Literacy.)

**cantata: "a musical setting of a text, esp. a religious text, consisting of arias, duets, and choruses, interspersed with recitatives" (The American Heritage Dictionary of New Cultural Literacy).

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

What Was Your Favorite?

2010 is drawing to a close, and as the new year approaches, the Best of 2010 lists are popping up all over the place. Publishers Weekly chose their top 100, with 10 overall front-runners, and 90 picks from specific genres. Of note among the genre favorites were: Faithful Place by Tana French, Bury Your Dead by Louise Penny, and Let's Take the Long Way Home: A Memoir of Friendship by Gail Caldwell. Amazon's Omnivoracious blog released The Top 10 (and More) (pictured above) in November. And most recently, the New York Times Book Review published their Top 10 Books of 2010. You can click on the link to check them out.
Personally, I enjoyed a couple of books that popped up on these "best of" lists -- Tana French and Louise Penny are two writers I just discovered this year and they now rank high among my favorites. I'm looking forward to reading a few others, though I probably won't get to them until the new year. But I try not to feel like I should read a book simply because it has been deemed important by the powers that be. Personal recommendations carry far more weight, probably because they usually yield better results. My favorite read of 2010 was suggested by a colleague and was published years ago. The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruis Zafon is where dark and gothic intersect, rife with plot twists and layers of complexity, and simply beautiful.

NPR has a whole slew of "Best of" lists broken down into amusing categories, including Sex, Drugs, and 'Life' - The Year's Best Guilty Reads. I don't know if Rick Springfield's memoir would normally catch my interest, but Susan Jane Gilman's annotation of it was a fun read. In that light, I look on all of these "best of" compilations not as any kind of definitive 2010 canon, but as a source of inspiration for the next time I find myself without a good book on my nightstand.

And now for the vote that really counts: what was your favorite book of 2010?

Friday, December 10, 2010

Jack Reacher vs Mitch Rapp Fistfight Part Two

A few years ago I posed the question "If Mitch Rapp and Jack Reacher got in a fistfight, who'd win?" It prompted quite a few replies and since both Vince Flynn and Lee Child have new books, I figured it was worth revisiting. I just finished Child's newest Reacher book Worth Dying For, and for me the verdict is in. Jack Reacher is the ultimate tough guy. I am still waiting for the new Mitch Rapp thriller American Assassin. But it would have to completely blow me away to surpass Reacher.

I know I complained about the last book and how it ended with a cliffhanger, but I have no complaints about this one (my wife might complain after I completely neglected her and the kids for a few days with my head stuck in the book). I love how Reacher describes every minute detail of every fight. You never question if he will persevere, but you are dying to know how.

The original blog was about how real we like our characters. One commenter noted that Mitch Rapp is more pragmatic but also more of a jerk, whereas Reacher is more irresponsible and being a drifter was bothersome. I think Reacher being a nicer guy makes me like him more, and his hobo ways make him more mythic and mysterious. Rapp, being more real and human makes me not like him as much.

There are a lot of other tough guys out there. And though I think Reacher and Rapp are the best, many others are good too. Let us know who else you like and why. I have listed a few tough guys I have liked below.

Dave Robicheaux by James Lee Burke
Scot Harvath by Brad Thor
Jack Ryan by Tom Clancy
Bob Lee Swagger by Stephen Hunter
Alex Hawke by Ted Bell
Elvis Cole and Joe Pike by Robert Crais

(And what is it with all the author's one-syllable names?)

Monday, December 6, 2010

FREEDOM is Overrated

The book Freedom that is. The one by Jonathan Franzen that had tremendous media coverage this fall. Saying it was over-promoted rather than overrated is probably more accurate. The usual suspects like The New York Times, The Washington Post, and Oprah promoted Freedom, but also GQ, Esquire, four periodicals in the UK and newspapers in Kansas City, Portland, Minneapolis and Cleveland. And this is far from an exhaustive list.

The content of the reviews varied but many used the term "Great American Novel." That's a tough phrase to ignore. Freedom went on my reading list.

I'm two-thirds done with the novel and I'm feeling uncomfortable with it. Not with the style or the prose, but the characters and the social commentary. I don't even care how it ends. Though reviewers have hinted at a surprise ending. I just want to discuss it with fellow readers. Why did this book get so much attention? Will it be read in future generations? Are comparisons to Tolstoy and David Foster Wallace accurate? And what about those sex scenes?

Read it and let's talk. By the way, Freedom was shortlisted for the tongue-in-cheek "Bad Sex in Literature" award distributed by Britain's Literary Review magazine. This year's prize went to Alastair Campbell for his novel Maya. Read more on BBC News.

For a good selection of reviews - go to Bookmarks Magazine

Friday, December 3, 2010

Have a Little Faith

In the beginning, there was a question. "Will you do my Eulogy?"

That is where an eight year journey of faith began for Mitch Albom, a journey that would culminate in the book Have a Little Faith . When a rabbi from his childhood synagogue asked that he deliver the older man's eulogy, Albom began visiting Rabbi Albert Lewis in order to learn more about him. At the same time, he met another, very different religious leader. Pastor Henry Covington of the I Am My Brother's Keeper Ministry was an former drug dealer and ex-convict shepherding his congregation out of a decrepit church in downtown Detroit. It was hard for Albom to fit Henry into his image of what a man of God should be.

The truth was, while I tried to be a charitable man, I still drew mental lines between "my" side and the "other" side - whether cultural, ethnic, or religious. I had been taught, as many of us are, that charity begins at home, and helping your own kind should come first. But who was my "own kind"?

As Albom came to know these two very different men, he began to realize that what they had in common transcended their differences. Both men seemed to live the idea that "faith is doing, you are how you act, not how you believe." And that idea led him to ask another question, "What if our beliefs were not what divided us, but what pulled us together?" That is a central theme in the book, and it challenged the author's own core beliefs.

In the video below, Mitch Albom reads an excerpt from his book and talks about what inspired him to write it.

This book lacks the fluid style and poignancy of Albom's earlier book Tuesdays With Morrie. However, it is touches on issues of faith and community that have great relevance in modern society and are too often ignored. Moving between two very different religious worlds, Albom came to realize that the basic, heartfelt desires of all people are what can unite us. "When the world quiets to the sound of your own breathing, we all want the same things: comfort, love and a peaceful heart."

We'll be talking about this book at the next Thursday night book group.
Join the discussion on Thursday, December 9 from 7:30 to 8:30 PM in the Rotary Heritage Room on the 3rd floor.

Check out more by Mitch Albom here at DPPL:
Tuesdays With Morrie
The Five People You Meet in Heaven
For One More Day

Friday, November 26, 2010

Lighten Up

And it is upon us. The ultimate Day After, Black Friday is the foot on the pedal that revs the engine of holiday shopping. There are a few ideas of where the term originated. Some people think it was traditionally the day when many retailers come out of the red part of their ledgers and into the positive end, the black side. While that may be true, the actual term "Black Friday" is said to have been coined in the mid-1970's by the Philadelphia police department in their chagrin of having to deal with jam-packed traffic and extremely crowded sidewalks on the 1st official Christmas shopping day after Thanksgiving (being from the greater Philadelphia area myself, I will choose to believe that origin as gospel).

It being a day of heavy and unrestrained shopping in retail stores (ie. many, many people in smallish, enclosed spaces), Black Friday has achieved a connotation of being a day filled with frustration, angst, and consternation. I'd like to encourage an alternative to venturing out into the merchandising blizzard out there: come to the library and get a holiday movie to watch with your family! We are open today and have a lot offer. The following is a list of my favorite holiday movies:

Planes, Trains, and Automobiles
John Candy and Steve Martin offer up comedic genius in this odyssey to get home for the holidays.

A Christmas Story
"You'll shoot your eye out, kid!" One of the most quotable movies ever. Ever.

Grumpy Old Men

Another excellent comedic pairing, Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon act as best friends gone awry, upper Minnesota style.

Miracle on 34th Street (1947 version)
Doris Walker does not believe in Santa Claus, but her daughter Susan is not so sure herself. Very appropriate for Black Friday with the feud between Macy's and Gimble's.

It's a Wonderful Life

George Bailey realizes the impact he could have on other people's lives by seeing what life would be like without him. It's just not the holidays without watching this film.

National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation
Maybe I shouldn't admit to this, but Clark Griswold has long been a hero of mine. When I put Christmas lights out in front of and on my house for the first time this year, I will watch this movie for inspiration.

Which films do you like to watch around the holidays?

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Upside of the Unavailable Book

Aimee Bender's latest novel, The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake, is no longer on the bestseller lists, but we still can't keep it on the shelves. All three copies are currently checked out. Which pleases me, as Bender is a wildly inventive and singular author deserving of readers' attention. The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake is about a girl with a gift and affliction: she can taste the feelings or emotions of the person who prepared her food, whether the ebullient family that runs a local restaurant or her put-on-a-happy-face but ultimately unhappy mother.

The downside of all three copies of the above checked out is, of course, that if you want to check it out today, you can't. (Though you can put it on hold.) But I'm going to argue that there's an upside to this. While you're waiting for her latest book, you can check out her EVEN BETTER FIRST BOOK, An Invisible Sign of My Own, which as I type is currently on the the shelf.

All the strengths of her latest novel are present in An Invisible Sign of My Own, published back in 2000 when Bender was 31: her masterful metaphors, her quirky but authentic characters, her singular use of language, and her magical realism grounded in a desire to illuminate the darker terrain of her characters' lives. The heroine of this book is a young woman with many gifts who, when her father becomes mysteriously ill, begins to abandon all at which she excels and denies herself all that brings her pleasure, with the exception of math: she is an inspired and unconventional math teacher. The book follows her struggles and growth as she deals with her compulsions (which include knocking on wood), tries to help an eight-year-old student whose mother is dying, and starts to fall for a socially maladroit science teacher. Although I enjoyed The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake, and savored much of it, An Invisible Sign of My Own is ultimately the more satisfying book with a much stronger ending.

So, the next time the book everyone's reading is checked out, check out that author's previous books. Some of them might even be better than the one on the bestseller list! Just search for the author in our online catalog or ask for assistance at the public service desks.

Are there any authors on the current bestseller lists, fiction and nonfiction, whose earlier books you highly recommend? For example, John Grisham's latest novel is The Confession, but what is the best Grisham you've read? Which Vince Flynn thriller would you recommend to someone waiting for American Assassin?

Friday, November 19, 2010

"What do we count?"

I recently finished A Rule Against Murder by Louise Penny, the fourth book in a wonderful mystery series featuring the wise and steadfast Chief Inspector Armand Gamache. This is a whodunit, revolving around murder, money and hidden motives, so I'll stop now to issue a SPOILER ALERT. Just a bit of a spoiler, though. I won't reveal who did, but rather who didn't do it.

Beyond the beautiful writing and well-crafted plot, what strikes a chord in me is a minor sub-plot that I believe is central to the book's spirit and also to my thoughts this season.

In this thread in the story, each morning and evening during his lakeside holiday, an old man makes his way down to the dock. "I come here to do my sums. It's a natural place for it." This character, Bert Finney, is a retired accountant, described as very old, and very ugly, with little to do in life except cater to his fabulously wealthy, and exceedingly unpleasant wife. Everyone around him, including his four embittered stepchildren, believe he spends his time counting money -- perhaps the money he'll inherit from his wife when she dies. But once the police tape is rolled up and the murderer unmasked, Finney explains his "sums" to a curious Inspector Gamache: "I count my blessings."

This is Finney's power as a red herring: it is so much easier for us to believe that a man in his unenviable position would be driven by greed, than to accept that he humbles himself in thanks daily. For his life, far from perfect, he is grateful.

Among my many blessings, I'm always grateful for a good read. I'm doubly pleased to find a bit of inspiration alongside the murder and mayhem of a good mystery. I recommend any of the Inspector Gamache series -- Louise Penny tells a fine tale. But this holiday, my pick is A Rule Against Murder.

"We're all blessed and we're all blighted, Chief Inspector," said Finney. "Every day each of us does our sums. The question is, what do we count?"

What blessing will you count?

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Don't Be Shy

"HERE, take another one. Why not? One's not enough."

Who was this talking?

When I heard it, I imagined a babushka covered matriarch with a plate of hot cookies. But nope, it was me. I was singing my Readers' Services anthem while helping a patron find a John Grisham read-alike. Why take only one. It's the library. They're free. If you get home and don't like one, there should be another option right there.

I like to encourage going home with multiple books and multiple authors. The patron did take home several books by Steve Martini. I was happy she took more than one book but privately admonished myself for not introducing a more unique choice. Steve Martini is a baby boomer lawyer turned writer just like John.

This experience reminded me of a The New Yorker magazine list of 20 authors under 40. The article highlights these young talents one by one, provides a brief interview with each and a sample of their writing. None of the writers on the list would have been a great match for someone wanting a legal thriller but the library is a great place to take a chance on someone new.

Adichie, Chimamanda Ngozi

Adrian, Chris

Alarcon, Daniel

Bezmozigis, David

Bynum, Sarah

Ferris, Joshua

Foer, Jonathan Safran

Freudenberger, Nell

Galchan, Rivka



Meyer, Philipp

Morgan, C.E

Packer, ZZ

Friday, November 12, 2010

Take Cover

Working both at a library and a bookstore, I encounter many books everyday. One of my favorite aspects about being surrounded by books is enjoying cover art. You really shouldn't judge a book by its cover, but let's face it - the cover is generally the first impression you have of a book. Some publishers get that concept, many do not. A couple of my favorite book covers:

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo cover is tastefully vibrant, and, in my opinion, really cool. While it took me a couple attempts to get into the book, the cover is really what lodged this novel into my head and wouldn't let me forget about it.

The Alienist cover is pretty simple, yet extremely compelling. "Who is this cloaked individual? Where is he going? What has he done?" These are the thoughts that jumped through my brain when I first saw this cover. I picked up the book to find out and wound up enjoying one of my favorite books ever.

My favorite cover of all-time, however, is pictured at the top of this post. Any guesses as to which book it is? (Hint, the author's name does not rhyme with "Chatterson".) It's the first book of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, by J.R.R. Tolkien. My dad owned this edition, and I remember being mystified from an early age by the occult-looking markings around "The Eye". The first time I read the Lord of the Rings, it was using this edition. The writing, of course, turned out to be the Elven script of the dark language of Mordor that was engraved upon the One Ring. (Translated, it says:

"One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them,
One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them.")

I credit this book cover with developing a good amount of my reading tastes today, and I still find this book to be the most fascinating cover art I've ever clapped eyes upon. And you? What are some of your favorites?

Monday, November 8, 2010

A Change Will Do You Good

In January 2010 I resolved to stop thinking so much about food; specifically, to stop READING so much about food. I was spending quality time with cookbooks, cooking magazines, Eat Pray Love . . . you get the picture. Since reading about food tweaked my appetite, I was often combining the two “vices”. And then switching on The Food Network.

When all my pants became too tight, I decided to switch to books and magazines and TV about fitness and fashion. I started taking home issues of Shape and Women’s Fitness and Oxygen and Women’s Health from the library. I exploited a loophole by deciding it was all right to read the recipes in those magazines. I discovered there was a fitness channel – who knew?

Best of all, I found a world of great fashion guides on the fourth floor of the library. 646.34 became my favorite Dewey number! We’ve come a long way since Dress for Success and Color Me Beautiful helped women discover how to tie a floppy foulard tie and figure out whether they were a Summer or a Spring. (At that time I was told I was an Autumn and that my best colors were leaf mold and pond scum.)

Nina Garcia of Marie Claire magazine and Project Runway has written several great books on breaking out of a fashion rut and looking your best. Try The One Hundred: A Guide to the Pieces Every Stylish Woman Must Own . Kim Johnson Gross, the founder of Chic Simple, has several great books out as well, her newest being What to Wear for the Rest of Your Life: Ageless Secrets of Style.

But fashion isn’t all about shopping. One of my top ten books for 2010 is The Thoughtful Dresser by Linda Grant. In the most accessible and erudite way, she looks at why every human culture for thousands of years has decorated the body in one way or another, what fashion and dress mean to her personally, and what fashion meant to a woman named Catherine Hill, who survived Auschwitz to bring couture first to Canada and then to Manhattan. It’s the Ph. D. version of Love, Loss and What I Wore , a lovely, brief biography in clothes by Ilene Beckerman.

I can't explain it, but reading about my interests seems to amplify the enjoyment of that preoccupation. There’s a kind of amplification or boost to the experience when you share your enthusiasm with someone else, even if it’s a writer you’ll never meet. And if you lose a few pounds because of that enthusiasm, that's just the silver lining.

You can wander up to the 4th floor and visit 646.34, or click here for a selection of new fashion, color and clothing books available at the library. Or if that doesn’t move you, tell me what hobby YOU like to read about in the comments!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

And I thought I had it bad....or, It isn't always about me

I complained about having no shoes until I met a man with no feet.

My Mom would use that old adage when I'd whine about not having this or that (and not just when I was a kid).

This holiday season concludes a year that has been fraught with fear and an especially sluggish economy. Many people remain out of work and/or their homes. Needless to say, there are countless Americans worse off than us.

Call me preachy if you insist. However I don't think it's too much to ask you to give during this last quarter of 2010--not just a check (if you have the $), or items you no longer want/need, but of your time. An hour, or two or three, is not an exorbitant amount in the span of a lifetime. And regardless of your own problems, you might just feel (at least a little) better afterwards.

I know what volunteer work has done for me. Over the years my own stints have included volunteering at a rehabilitation hospital and for an arts organization. I've found that old line--about getting back more than you give--to be true.

Not sure where to volunteer? Pick a cause. There's a multitude of good ones. Where do you think you could help the most? A hospital? A nursing home? A theater troupe? A soup kitchen? A shelter? A church? Or, drop off your used clothes and other items.

If you don't know where to begin, call the Reference desk at: 847-376-2841. Or, email us at:

If you want to do your own research, check our Web site, http://www.dppl.org/. Look for: How do I ... in the right-hand corner, click, and go to the bottom line--Volunteer at the library/in Des Plaines... One good cause in town is the Self-Help Closet & Food Pantry of Des Plaines at 600 E. Algonquin Road, phone: 847-375-1443.

For other ideas, you can peruse the Web. Other good links include:


You may not bump into a man, woman or child with no feet this holiday season, but there are plenty of people out there with no shoes. Or ones that are falling apart. Literally.

Posted by Reference Assistant Gwen LaCosse

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Listen While You...


Here at the library, there are a few ways to enjoy a good book even when you are on the move.

Choose an audiobook and your eyes and hands are free to move while someone else reads to you. Choose an ultra-portable audiobook format, like the 2 ounce Playaway or a downloadable audiobook, put onto your own MP3 player or iPod, and the rest of you is free to wander, too.

You can listen while you...

Stroll through your neighborhood with a favorite title, or step it up with Leslie Sansone's Walk Away the Pounds.

A fast-paced thriller can speed you through the miles.

Smaller than a deck of cards, a Playaway digital audiobook is a great way to listen to a book when you're on the go. Each Playaway unit already has a specific title pre-loaded onto it. You can pause your listening, change narration speeds, move back and forth through the chapters, and bookmark where you left off. It runs on one AAA battery, so it doesn't need to be charged. To see how easy it is to operate, run your cursor over the buttons on the picture of the Playaway above.

You can listen while you...

Travel in the company of a good book, without using up extra space in your carry-on. With French: The Complete Language Course, you can brush up on your francais on your flight to Paris.

Turn your commute into an opportunity for a relaxing read. Playaways feature a universal headphone jack -- simply plug in your MP3 or iPod adapter to listen through your car's speakers.

Just enter "playaway" as a keyword to browse our selection of Playaway titles.

If you are one of more than twenty million Americans who own an iPod or MP3 player, you can enjoy an audiobook on the go by downloading it from our virtual library: My Media Mall. Browse the online catalog, download some software, then download the title you want, and transfer it to your media player. Get started with a guided tour or visit us at the library for one of our My Media Mall Open Lab sessions to answer any questions you have about downloadable audiobooks.

You can listen while you...

Plant your perennial bulbs this fall to Nora Robert's Bed of Roses.

I love a good audiobook while I do dishes and laundry. It helps turn chore time into leisure time!

Listening to a great book can be enjoyable, educational, even inspirational -- and here at the library it's free and fully portable...

So you can listen while you...


...or sit back and relax in your favorite spot!

Where would you like to listen?

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

So Long and Thanks for All the.....

Fans of the late science fiction author Douglas Adams may think the next word in that title sentence should be "Fish," but they would be wrong. * (The aquarium on the second floor is nice, but it's not one of my favorite things at the library.) Instead I am saying so long and thanks for all the ... great books, wonderful co-workers, videos, music, magazines, and programs that I've enjoyed while working at the 3rd floor Readers' Services desk. So many good times, so many talented people. Work. Play. Learn. Create. Dream. and soon ... Remember. Anyway, the reason for the "so long" is that after 10 years here, and over 30 years in private industry, I've decided to retire at the end of October. While I will miss ordering the mystery books and interfacing with my co-workers, my second love is gardening. This year I became a Master Gardener with the University of Illinois Extension service and have made many new friends with lots of new volunteer opportunities that require free weekends. The picture above is me at one of our volunteer booths in front of the library, standing next to a vertical art project that two of my fellow Master Gardener interns created. We had a great time that weekend, following the extension service's motto of "teaching others to learn to grow." I hope to do more projects like this one, join a garden club or two, and take a few more classes.

Since I live in town you'll still see me around because I just can't stay away from books. (Thank goodness for the Mobile Library because it makes a stop every other week just a half a block from our house.) I'll also still be working with that great group of people who care about the future of the library, the Friends of the Des Plaines Library, and may show up at library board meetings from time to time to keep track of what the new board members have in store for my library. In other words... there's really no getting rid of me.

In addition to gardening I will also be spending more time with my husband Ken, and my gray tabby cat Maggie. (Maggie's picture has often been featured in my previous blog posts so of course, she must be in this one too.) It's been a great run and thanks for all the good times!

* So Long and Thanks for All the Fish is the
4th book in the Hitchhiker's Guide "trilogy" by Douglas Adams. If you haven't read it I would highly recommend it. Who knows? You may just discover the answers to Life, the Universe, and Everything!

Posted by Linda Knorr - formerly of Readers' Services

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

"What Music They Make"

The spooky season is here and this Halloween I'm going retro. If, like me, you are appalled by the violence and lack of imagination of most of the scary movies of today, might I recommend a return to where it all began: the Universal Pictures monster films of the 1930's and 40's.

When Bela Lugosi, starring as Dracula in the self-titled 1931 Universal studios hit, noticed wolves howling outside of Castle Dracula and said, "Listen to them, the children of the night - what music they make" he ushered in an unforgettable era of film-making that still resonates today. Universal would pump out 23 films over the next 17 years featuring Dracula, the Mummy, Frankenstein's monster, the Invisible Man, and the Wolf Man. Using new camera techniques, cutting-edge special effects for the time, and innovative costuming and make-up ideas (masterminded by Jack Pierce, pictured above) these films leapt into the imagination of the general public.

Recently, Universal has put together DVD editions known as the Legacy series for each of these monsters. They all include the character's original movie, the sequels that followed, and a documentary on how the movies were made, plus special features that include commentary during the film (a must-watch for anyone interested in film history). Here at Des Plaines Public we have the following Legacy editions: Dracula, Frankenstein, The Mummy, The Invisible Man, and The Wolf Man.

Have some fun experiencing the thrills of yesteryear.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Chopping at the Frozen Sea

The author Franz Kafka once stated in a letter to a friend, "A book must be the ax for the frozen sea within us". A Kenyan proverb says, "Having a good discussion is like having riches". In other words, if you feel like chipping away at your soul while learning about what others think and have it all feel like a million bucks, come to the Des Plaines Public Library where we have book discussions every month.

There are two book groups here at DPPL: one that meets the 1st Tuesday of every month at 10am and one that meets the second Thursday at 7.30pm. These are not exclusive book clubs, but ones where anyone is welcome to attend. The schedule of titles and books for the book group are at the 3rd floor Readers Services desk. You may also access the schedule on our website under the tab Events/Programs and then Adult Calendar or you can click here. The 2011 book group schedule will be coming soon.

For every discussion that is completed, we take copies of the book that were lent out to the registrants and add them into the Book Group collection, on the west side of the 3rd floor. So if you are looking to do your own personal book group, this is an excellent location to scout as we have multiples of many titles.

So, if you are free Tuesday mornings or Thursday evenings, feel like reading a book you can sink your teeth into, and delving into a hearty discussion about it: the library is the place for you!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Hollywood Goes to Washington

The Honorable Rufus T. Firefly, President of Freedonia

Turn off your phone, unplug your t.v. and do not answer your doorbell. It's election season.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not advocating that you don't vote. The issues at stake in the upcoming elections are as serious as they have ever been, and I encourage everyone to exercise their constitutional privilege.

What I'm against are the so-called political campaigns. The issues are never discussed. Instead, we get a media barrage of name-calling and untruths. Hundreds of millions of dollars are spent trying to confuse, distract and obfuscate.

Well, if I'm going to be lied to, I'd rather pay $10 and go to the movies. Or better yet, go to the library and borrow some movies for absolutely nothing. Plus, the actors who play the politicians are much more handsome.

Here's a list of some of my favorite movies featuring elections, campaigns and presidencies. None of them will call you on the phone, stuff up your mailbox and invade your television. And they're all free at the Des Plaines Public Library.

Comedies: Bulworth, Dave, Duck Soup, Primary Colors and Wag the Dog.

Dramas: All the King's Men, Frost/Nixon, JFK, The Manchurian Candidate (both versions), Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Nixon, and Thirteen Days.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Born in 1759. Alive in 2010

Candide, he's a splendid character. And a character he is. That picture to the left is his creator, Voltaire, the French writer, poet, philosopher of the 18th century. Candide moves through his life of abandonment, treachery and brutality with a sense of wonder and optimism. He's searching for his one and only love Cunegonde as wars ravish Europe and pirates roam the high seas. As he suffers, he keeps repeating the mantra his teacher Pangloss professed "all is for the best in this best of all possible worlds."

Recommending a classic does not come easy to me, but Candide has it all: adventure, romance and great sardonic wit.

After reading the many reviews of the current Goodman Theater production, I approached Candide from various fronts. Printed book, audiobook, and Leonard Bernstein's music from the Broadway production. A multi-media event with items found at the library. Delightful and accessible. I invite you to find Candide the next time you are in the mood for something new (old) to read.

PS - Speaking of the classics, Barbara Brotman of the Chicago Tribune recently wrote an article providing tips to enjoy a Chicago Symphony Concert titled "Advice on etiquette at the orchestra." Turns out the atmospheric gallery seats are the best for the acoustics.