Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The Smart Money's on Money Smart Week

Next week is Money Smart Week. Whether you're looking to take control of your financial destiny, or you just want to spend a little smarter, the library is a great place to seek out ideas, information, and inspiration.

In partnership with the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, the library will be hosting 3 seminars on money management and personal finance. You can click on the program title to get more information or to register.
You can also visit the fourth floor. Go to the 332.024 section to find books on personal finance. Or simply ask at the desk. A librarian is always happy to help.

If DVDs or audiobooks are more your style, click on one of the lists below to see what's available on the 3rd floor:You can also get up-to-date investment and consumer information through our online research databases.

So next week, take the opportunity to exercise a little fiscal responsibility. For Money Smart Week, be really thrifty: check out some free financial information at your library.

Friday, March 25, 2011

The Sin Box and The Shawshank Redemption OR The Power of Music

One of my favorite moments in the novel A Lesson Before Dying is when a self-righteous, old-school southern minister in 1940s Louisiana rails at a young schoolteacher for supplying an imprisoned man with a radio. "He needs God in that cell, and not that sin box."

A sin box!!??

I burst out laughing the first time I read that line. The author's inspired term for a radio in the eyes of Reverend Ambrose offers some much needed comic relief in this heart-breaker of a book. Winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction, A Lesson Before Dying is the story of a young black schoolteacher, Grant, assigned to instill a sense of worth, courage and pride in Jefferson, an 18-year-old black man wrongfully convicted and sentenced to death in the Jim Crow South.

Referred to by his own defense lawyer as a hog ("Why, I'd just as soon put a hog in the the electric chair as this"), Jefferson has been repeatedly degraded and denied his humanity by an unjust society, and is understandably embittered. When Grant begins visiting the imprisoned Jefferson, Jefferson is virtually unreachable. He is uncommunicative and beaten-down.

But then Jefferson begins to change. It is a seemingly small change: when the schoolteacher comes to visit him one day, Jefferson looks at him without hate. "Last Friday," Grant tells the Reverend, "was the first time he ever asked me a question or answered me without accusing me for his condition."

What brought about the change in the imprisoned Jefferson? That little "sin box" the schoolteacher gave him.

I'm a great believer in the power of music. I'm convinced that it reaches some part of us that words cannot. When I first got into Beethoven, I remember telling someone that Beethoven was good for the soul. I still believe that. I also feel the music of Bruce Springsteen is good for the soul, though my appreciation for both puzzles some. (To which I'd reply with a Leonard Bernstein line: there are only two categories of music that matter--good and bad.)

Which is why I love it when the schoolteacher in A Lesson Before Dying balks at the possible removal the "sin box" from Jefferson's cell. "You can take it from him," Jefferson tells the Reverend. "But you won't reach him if you do. The only thing that keeps him from thinking he is not a hog is that radio." The radio and the music that comes out of it has lifted Jefferson to a higher plane.

An equally powerful depiction of the power of music is in the movie The Shawshank Redemption. Although Stephen King wrote the novella on which the movie is based, this scene is not in the novella, and full credit must go to the empathetic imagination of screenwriter and director Frank Darabont.

This scene also takes place in a prison, Shawshank Prison, where a prisoner played by Tim Robbins bars the door to the guard's station, places a record on the turntable, and then broadcasts the music over the PA system, so that every prisoner in Shawshank can hear it. Everything in the prison comes to a halt as the men stand transfixed by the music, staring at the speakers from which a duet from Mozart's The Marriage of Figaro is broadcast.

In the movie's voice-over, Red, played by Morgan Freeman, says:

"I have no idea to this day what them two Italian ladies were singin' about. Truth is, I don't want to know. Some things are best left unsaid. I like to think they were singin' about something so beautiful it can't be expressed in words, and makes your heart ache because of it."

Do you have a favorite example of the power of music in literature, film or our lives? Feel free to share it!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Read Something Different

I was talking to someone about our book discussions. Last month we discussed Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonsen and I heard that most of the participants loved the book. However, when asked if they thought teens would like it, the consensus was no. Interestingly, next month's discussion is on The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, a book very popular with teens.

When I am choosing a book discussion book, I will often choose a title I have wanted to read and started reading (often several times) but stopped. I know that I will read it for the discussion. I love reading our book group selections because it gets me to read something different, something I wouldn't have otherwise finished. And even though some have been more difficult to get through, they are always rewarding.

Similarly, I will occasionally read something completely out of my normal routine. A few years back I read a few romance books, at another time it was a couple of westerns. My intention is usually to find out what makes them popular. But what surprises me each time is that I really enjoy reading them. Maybe I just enjoy reading. But stepping outside my comfort zone from time to time reminds me of how much I enjoy reading. So next time you're looking for something to read, pick something different and see how it goes. It's like exercise but without the pain. If you need more of a nudge, sign up for a book discussion.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Friend Me

I think once you hear the statement that Eskimos have 1000 words for snow you never forget it. At least I never have. True or not, it makes sense that something that is so integral to a community would be described with such specificity. This makes me wonder why we really rarely use another word for "friend" in our regular day to day lives. These are such complex and varied relationships they should be described with more precision.

I started thinking about this after realizing I had just read these three books. The False Friend, The Last Friend, and A Friend of the Family. In all these books, the friendships are puzzling and complicated. People drawn together for various reasons. All three of these stories have somewhat ambiguous endings and all three would make for a good book club choice with your ....friends.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Coming Attractions April 2011

Click on the title or the book cover to reserve your copy now!

David Baldacci

Elizabeth Berg

Suzanne Brockmann

Mary Higgins Clark

Michael Connelly

Jonathan Kellerman


Anne Perry