Friday, April 30, 2010

Coming Attractions June 2010

Catherine Coulter


Clive Cussler

Jefferey Deaver

Janet Evanovich

James Patterson & Maxine Paetro

Danielle Steel

Click on the title to reserve your copy now!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

A Fresh (and Palatable) Perspective

An old Spanish proverb states, "The belly rules the mind." If this is true, much of history could be said to have been influenced by peoples' palates as well as by anything else. Examining history through the lens of food and drink is a fun and delicious way of approaching standard events and cultures through a new perspective.

One of the best examples is the book Salt: A World History by Mark Kurlansky (I highly recommend the audiobook, read by Scott Brick). While we take salt for granted, it was not always as ubiquitous as it is today. The quest for it has shaped civilization and felled empires. The almost 10,000 year-old city of Jericho was established as a salt trading center, and soldiers of the Roman Empire were paid in portions of salt for their services (hence our current word "salary"). It was a major contributing factor in the French Revolution and the focal point in a critical moment in Gandhi's protest against British rule. This all goes to show that not everyone has good taste, but everyone likes their food to taste good.

A world history not your cup of meat? You can pour yourself a refreshment of American history with Charles Cowdery's book Bourbon, Straight: The Uncut and Unfiltered Story of American Whiskey. Purely an American creation, bourbon whiskey's origins in 18th century Bourbon County, Kentucky to its modern-day domination of American spirits exports is truly a tale of American culture, entrepreneurship, and refreshment. Cowdery is a local author, but is a giant in this particular field. His writing style is direct yet witty, see also: "fun to read".

Not doing it for you? Something else on the tip of your tongue? Maybe it's Tabasco sauce, in which case McIlhenny's Gold: How a Louisiana Family Built the Tabasco Empire by Jeffrey Rothfeder might do the trick. It is an account arcing from Edward McIlhenny planting pepper plants on a swath of swampy ground in Louisiana in the 1860's to an examination of the slow decay that has fallen over the still family-owned company after its zenith a few decades ago. Rothfeder's stalwart objectivity allows the flavor to be brought out not only of the trademark sauce itself, but of the story behind it as well.

Moving to foreign shores, Bacardi and the Long Fight for Cuba: The Biography of a Cause by Tim Gjelten is a stirring account of the rich history of Cuba seen through the eyes of the Bacardi family. Facundo Bacardi was the first Cuban to distill a refined native rum in the first half of the 19th century. His son, Emilio Bacardi, was a rugged opponent of the Spanish government that ruled Cuba at the time and used the successful spirit company as a front from which he operated his clandestine revolutionary activities. When Fidel Castro nationalized Cuban business a hundred years later, the Bacardi corporation moved to the Bahamas and Puerto Rico, where it still combated Castro from afar.

Good food and drink are often closely associated with action and change. Because of this, it's easy to see that people are passionate about their nourishment and refreshment. It serves to reinforce one of my own beliefs: behind every good dish, there is a good story.

Friday, April 23, 2010

The Book Review

I just read the book, Solar, by Ian McEwan. I put it on reserve as soon as I heard about it, not waiting for a review. Enduring Love, Atonement, On Chesil Beach, a few of his other titles, were each creatively written, clever stories. I was game for this one.

Solar was enjoyable but it included a few slapstick scenes and a predictable main character. Elements I find distracting.

Walter Kirn (the author of Up in the Air) reviewed it in 1400 words for the New York Times this week. He said..."a book so good — so ingeniously designed, irreproachably high-minded and skillfully brought off — that it’s actually quite bad." With a sentence like that, what is a reader supposed to do?

Maybe just enjoy and appreciate the well crafted review.

I recently learned that there is an award for excellence in book reviewing - The Nona Balakian Citation for Excellence in Book Reviewing. In 1974, the community of reviewers and critics realized that respect for the profession was slight, and thus the National Book Critics Circle was organized as a professional support group. The award was later created after the death of Nona Balakian, one of the founding members of the NBCC.

Donna Seaman, a Chicagoan, and a finalist for the award this past year hopes the award "conveys to the public that book reviewing is a demanding, creative and significant endeavor, an art held to high standards..."

We read a lot of reviews here at the library, and write a few too. I'll be looking out for Donna's reviews. (and, of course, Des Plaines staff reviews in the TribLocal.)

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Reuniting with Lost Loves at the Jewel and in the CD Section

Not long after I started working at the library, I was reunited with a lost love at the Jewel, in the bread and cereal aisle to be precise. The lost love was not a person but a song, and when I heard the opening keyboard line it was as if some missing puzzle piece of my heart had snapped perfectly into place, and all felt right in my world.

The song was Dancing in the Moonlight by King Harvest, and if you listened to rock radio in the 70s you probably heard it, even if you've long forgotten the title. To my pre-teen ears, this song was happiness itself bottled in a perfect little three minute song. I especially loved the keyboard part, a bit of contrapuntal wizardry that sounds like something Bach might have written if Bach had lived in the 1970s and taken to an electric keyboard on a night when he was feeling especially loose.

When I was growing up, my older sister had the song on a 45 rpm, probably purchased at the local drugstore back when drugstores sold 45s. Although I had been explicitly forbidden to touch her albums and 45s, I'd sneak a listen to Dancing in the Moonlight when she was out of the house. (I also touched her Beatles white album, multiple times. I have no regrets.) Though I absolutely adored this song, I somehow lost track of it.

Thankfully, after hearing it that day in the Jewel, I tracked it down on a CD at the library. The song has found its way onto a number of compilations over the years, including Have a Nice Decade: The '70s Pop Culture Box, as well as the soundtrack to Outside Providence, both of which the library owns.

Did you know you can search the online catalog for songs? A lot of patrons are surprised when they learn this; they think you can only search by CD title, not song title. Here are are a few tips and tricks for searching for songs in the online catalog:

Use the default words or phrase search.

Type the words "and" and "cd" along with the song title, so your search string looks like this:

dancing in the moonlight and cd

But let's say you know that the band Toploader also recorded Dancing in the Moonlight, but you only want the King Harvest recording. You can add the name of the band, King Harvest, to your search string so that your results only contain the King Harvest original. Your search string would then look like this:

dancing in the moonlight and cd and king harvest

As a general rule, if you know the name of the performer or performers of a song, type it in and it'll speed your search. This is especially true if you're searching for a song that has lots of common words. For example, say you're looking for the song Baby, I Love You. If you type in Baby, I Love You and CD, 377 titles will come up. If you know that the fabulous Ronettes recorded that song, and you type in Baby, I Love You and CD and Ronettes, the catalog will bring up only the CD that contains that song performed by the Ronettes--The Best of the Ronettes. A great CD by the way!

Other songs I've been happily reunited with:

Fool's Gold by Graham Parker on Graham Parker: The Ultimate Collection. One of rock's all-time great angry young men allows a glimpse of the idealist and romantic behind the dark glasses--without sounding mushy. Most of the other songs on this collection are great, too.

Dixie Storms by Maria McKee on Maria McKee: The Ultimate Collection. A haunting song of beauty and longing sung by the unparalleled McKee. That she isn't well-known given her extraordinary voice, emotional range and brilliant songs is one of the world's great mysteries. (And how can I not love a songwriter who wrote several songs inspired by the work of Tennessee Williams?)

Maria McKee

Happy searching and listening, and feel free to share your own stories of reunion with songs from your past.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Dark, Dreadful, Dead, and Poetic

Ah, poetry. I never thought of myself as much of a poetry fan until I started viewing the recent videos of staff members reading their favorite poems for National Poetry Month. As I laughed my way through Sister For Sale and the Crocodile's Toothache I realized I have always liked poetry, just not the sweet, sappy stuff. Dark and dreadful - that's my style. So it should come as no surprise that Edgar Allen Poe is among my favorite poets, with The Raven leading the pack. There's just something about that bird croaking out "Nevermore" that gets to me. Plus, it's midnight and dreary, and the poet is weak and weary, and it's in bleak December, and there are dying embers, and ... well, you get the idea. Years ago I saw John Astin perform his one man show of Edgar Allen Poe out at Fermi Labs (on a foggy night, of course) and since then I've been fascinated by The Raven and Annabelle Lee (and "her tomb by the side of the sea.")

Another wonderfully haunting series of poems, recited by the dead in the local cemetery, can be found in Edgar Lee Masters Spoon River Anthology. Again, it was a production at the Des Plaines Theater Guild that brought that poem to life for me as I watched the characters rise from their graves to tell their life (and death) stories.

So take a look at our Poetry Theater under Plaintalk and celebrate National Poetry Month!

Oh, and by the way.. what's your favorite kind of poetry?

Posted by Linda K.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The Ebooks Are Coming, The Ebooks Are Coming, The Ebooks Are Here.

In his first bestseller The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell analyzes the sociological phenomenon when things, people or places suddenly hit the country's collective radar screen. He calls it "the moment of critical mass, the threshold, the boiling point."

We are now experiencing the tipping point for ebooks. Yes, they have been around for some years now but no one was paying attention. Not everyone wanted to read books on their computers and the first portable ereaders were clunky and the LCD screens were hard on the eyes.

The kinks and glitches are finally gone and ebooks and ereaders are the new black. Once Oprah announced that she loved her Kindle, everybody got into the act. Amazon has its Kindle, Barnes & Noble has its Nook, Apple has its iPad and those are just the big boys.

Which is not to say that this brave new world is without brave new problems. Each of these companies sells its own ebooks which work exclusively on its own ereader. In other words, you can't buy a book from Amazon and download it on a Nook. And Sony is the only company who has made an ereader on which you can download free ebooks from your public library.
Hmmm. That never happened with a paperback!

Ebook-o-mania is also causing some havoc in the publishing world. Amazon wants to sell all its ebooks for $9.99 (just like iTunes used to sell all its songs for 99 cents.) The publishers and many authors think the price is too low, however. Who would purchase a book for $25 if you could download it for $9.99? And if you lower the price of each book by half or more, how can you continue publishing anything but known bestsellers? They'll be no more development for new authors. We'll have 24/7 of James Patterson, Danielle Steel, John Grisham and Nora Roberts and that's all.

There is also a huge storm brewing about copyrights. In the last ten years, publishing companies have negotiated royalties for ebooks, but not before. Who gets the money from older titles, the publisher or the author?

And what's the environmental impact? You would think that ebooks are vastly superior to paper books in this context. Maybe not. According to Daniel Goleman and Gregory Norris in a recent New York Times op-ed piece, one e-reader requires the extraction of 33 pounds of minerals. A book made of recycled paper requires only 2/3s of a pound of minerals. ( I recommend this very interesting article.* )

The Des Plaines Public Library tries to embrace the best of the new while preserving the traditional ways that still work well and are beloved.

We now have thousands of titles in our e-catalog that can be downloaded like an audiobook to your MP3 players or iPads, or as ebooks to Sony Readers or your computer. We are even starting an ebook discussion group. The Friends of the Library have graciously purchased six Sony Readers for us which we will distribute to patrons who need enlarged print. These patrons and all ebook owners are hereby invited to discuss the bestselling The Help by Kathryn Stockett on September 11, 2010. (More details later!)

Don't worry about the books though. They are going to be here forever. And as far as the environment goes, nothing can beat the public library for reusing and recycling! Public libraries were GREEN before blue and yellow went out on their first date.

*Goleman, D. & Norris, G. (2010, April 4). OP-CHART; How Green Is My iPad? The New York Times, retrieved on April 12, 2o1o at http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2010/04/04/opinion/04opchart.html

Friday, April 9, 2010

Dodging a Bullet

I feel like I just dodged a bullet. As far as idioms go, that one is pretty easy. According to the urban dictionary it means it means, "to get yourself out of a sticky situation. A close call... or successfully avoided a serious situation". In my experience there is also a major element of luck or divine intervention (depending on your spiritual point of view). The dodging of said bullet is often followed by an intense feeling of bliss and gratitude, not only for the second chance but for all the good things I might have previously taken for granted.

I don't know where the term originated, but in literature there is one author who literally dodged a bullet. In 1849, Fyodor Dostoyevsky was sentenced to death for being part of a liberal group of intellectuals. He was led before a firing squad, but at the last second his sentence was commuted to just 4 years of hard labor. At that point he had only written one novel. The world would never have read Crime and Punishment or any of his other great works. Who knows how our world might be different today.

I read Crime and Punishment when I was just out of high school, but before college. Something in that book changed me. I read everything I could by him and many of the other classics or Russian literature (I especially loved Turgenev and Gogol). Something in the darkness and melodrama spoke to me. I had loathed my literature classes during high school. But in college I went on to major in English and chose a career that keeps me close to books.

Having dodged a bullet myself recently, I am feeling grateful for both where my life has brought me, and for what the future holds. There is magic in the library. I see it in my son's eyes when I ask him if he wants to go, and I feel it when I am away for more than a few days.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Deep Impact

Comparing James Patterson to an asteroid striking the earth wasn't the first thing on my mind , but then the New York Times Magazine delivered today's topic to my front door (Jan. 24, 2010). We joke and grumble about the Patterson phenomenon in the book business, but no one can deny that he's, um, kind of popular. His impact on publishing, as the New York Times points out, is both great and unique. He was an advertising executive, and he brought that gift to selling himself when he became a novelist.

The next time you see a book where the author's name is as big as the title, and I can see dozens from my Readers' Services Desk view of the new fiction, you can thank Mr. Patterson. He also took the idea of visually identical books with sequential titles (like Sue Grafton and Janet Evanovich), which makes it easy for his fans to remember and identify his books. And the fact that he publishes a book every other month or more means he always has a new book visible on the shelf. He also writes in every genre: thriller, young adult, romance, beach reads. New readers discover him every day. He has his own iPhone app. He is the James Patterson BRAND.

Other writers and publishers are beginning to grasp his powerful marketing ideas. The dilemma is finding a way to market like Patterson without becoming Patterson. Or confusing the reader by resembling him on the outside, but not on the inside. Or does it matter? Will the reader enjoy Richard Powers or Harlan Coben or Quintine Jardine regardless?

Recently Patterson threw his planetary weight behind encouraging kids to read. Read, Kiddo, Read, is his website full of titles chosen to entice kids to pick up a book. He's working with writers, publishers, and at least one school librarian to make these recommendations. Many librarians grumbled a decade ago that it took Oprah to get America to crack a book, but I don't really care if it's Oprah, J. K. Rowling or Mr. Patterson, hey ho, they're using their "power" for good! I hope thousands of people check out Read, Kiddo, Read. There are lots of fantastic books on their reading lists.

What's your take, folks: James Patterson, is he Superman? Or Lex Luthor?

Friday, April 2, 2010

Coming Attractions May 2010

Isabel Allende


Lee Child

Stieg Larrson

Robert B. Parker

Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child

John Sandford

Sidney Sheldon & Tilly Bagshawe


Scott Turow


Lauren Weisberger

Click on the title to reserve your copy now!