Friday, April 29, 2011

The Leftovers: It's Not About Pot Roast

I'm tempted to call Tom Perrotta my favorite comic novelist, but I fear that description doesn't capture how rich and wonderful his books can be. They're laugh-out-loud funny, but they also display more depth and understanding of human nature than so-called serious books. Take The Abstinence Teacher, his 2007 novel, in which a liberal, high school human sexuality teacher finds herself deeply attracted to a married, ultra-conservative Christian--her daughter's soccer coach--who is equally smitten. Perrotta could play it strictly for laughs, and although he does have some fun at the expense of the Christian right and liberals, you feel that he likes these characters and sees beyond their hypocrisies, allowing readers to come to a deeper understanding of people, including those whose values may clash with their own.

His upcoming novel also offers food for thought as well as laughs. His inspired title, The Leftovers, refers not to day-old pot roast but to residents of a suburban community who experience something that may or may not be the Rapture: millions of people all over the world mysteriously disappear. Those left behind--"the leftovers"--must go on with their lives, stumbling in multiple directions. Some join a cult called the Guilty Remnant, taking vows of silence. Others join something called "The Healing Hug" movement. As in The Abstinence Teacher and other Perrotta novels, the author isn't concerned with passing judgment but with illuminating the foibles--alternately heartbreaking and humorous--of people in situations they never imagined.

Although The Leftovers isn't due out until late August/early September, you can placed it on hold now by clicking here. One of the cool things about the online catalog is that you can place holds on items in the catalog—on everything from books to DVDs—once they appear in the catalog as on order. You’ll then be contacted to pick them up when they come in. Sometimes you can even place holds on items on order at other libraries in our system—libraries we’re online with and with whom we share materials.

For me, Perrotta is an author whose books I'll read no matter what direction his imagination takes him. I've read all his books except his first, Bad Haircut: Stories of the Seventies, an oversight that I must correct! Other Perrotta books I haven't yet mentioned are The Wishbones, about a wedding band, and Little Children and Election, both of which were made into excellent movies. They're all worth checking out.

Who are your favorite comic novelists? Are there authors you'll read anything and everything by, no matter what the subject matter?

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Nature's Minstrels

When my two year-old son began yelling "BIRD!" whenever he saw a robin, or a seagull, or a flock of geese, it reminded me that there is wildlife around us every day, we just have to pay attention to it. If you enjoy watching wildlife, but don't have the time to head to the nearest zoo or nature preserve, a simple step outside on a sunny afternoon could yield a wealth of natural beauty.

Learning to recognize common birds and their calls (along with identifying local trees by their bark, branch structure, and leaf shape) might sound mundane, but if one takes the time to learn about them, it could greatly enhance one's sense of nature. And an increased awareness of nature could lead to tranquility or to just plain feeling smart.

Here at the library we have some materials that could help you embark upon your path to pocket-sized moments of suburban serenity.

Audubon Videoguide to 505 Birds of North America
Birds, Birds, Birds!: an Indoor Birdwatching Field Trip

Backyard Bird Song
More Birding by Ear: Eastern, Central Regions (Petersen's Field Guides)

Books (with attached audio):
Bird Songs: 250 North American Birds in Song
Common Birds and Their Songs
The Songs of Wild Birds

Books on Tree Identification (no attached audio):
Trees of North America: a Field Guide to the Major Native and Introduced Species North of Mexico
The Complete Trees of North America: Field Guide and Natural History

"Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better." ~Albert Einstein

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Serial Adventures

"Now that all the bookstores are closing, I'm going to have to go to the library."

I didn't know whether to laugh or cry when I overheard that statement from a person reading a paperback on the train. Mainly, I wanted to get up and shout the benefits of public libraries and get that person a library card. Tout de suite.

It seems fitting that I should now list ALL the advantages of a library but I've been wanting to post about the new magazines we have added to the collection for 2011.
About 25 plus new titles were
added. Ironically, we learned of many of these new titles by visiting a nearby Borders. The closing of that store won't stop us from finding new and interesting titles this year. We are a resourceful bunch and greatly admire Mr. Magazine and you for suggestions.

Many of the magazines we added in 2011 follow a new trend. Highly specialized and diverse. Chicago Crescent, India Today and News China focus on specific communities affecting all of our lives. Midwest Gaming, Cardmaker, Just CrossStitch, Woodcraft target hobbyists. Looking Back appeals to Seniors. Cicada to teens. If you had to open your wallet to read one of these magazines, you'd probably stick with a familiar topic. But at the library being adventurous doesn't cost a thing.

2011 Additions
Cardmaker, Chicago Crescent, Cicada, Do It Yourself, Equus, Fitness Magazine, Guitar Aficiando, Heart and Soul, Illinois Game and Fish, Just CrossStitch, Looking Back, Midwest Gaming and Travel, News China, Realms of Fantasy, Shonen Jump, Small Business Opportunities, UC Berkeley Wellness Letter, WoodCraft, Yoga Plus Joyful Living

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Tiger, tiger...

Amid the war-scarred landscape of a fictionalized Balkan country, a young doctor, Natalia, faces superstition and secrecy on a humanitarian trip to an orphanage across the border. At the same time, she searches for the truth of her grandfather's mysterious final days and his solitary death in a small country village. In Eastern Orthodox tradition, we learn, “the forty days of the soul begin on the morning after death.” During that time, it will “make its way to the places of its past.” Natalia must return home with her grandfather's personal effects before those forty days pass so that his soul can find it's way.

That is the basis for the finely-crafted mix of history and legend, reality and allegory that is The Tiger's Wife by Tea Obreht. This debut novel, by the youngest writer on The New Yorker's 20 Under 40 list of 2010, emerges from a barrage of prepublication fervor as that rare literary gem: deserving of all the hype.

With extraordinary skill and imagination, Obreht slowly illuminates the grandfather's life through the re-telling of "the deathless man" and "the tiger's wife," two of his own fantastic tales. “These stories run like secret rivers through all the other stories” of his life. Subtly, each bit of myth and memory builds on the next to reveal the character of both the man and the land he comes from.

This novel is not a light read. Its richness and complexity awes, and we are left with the understanding that who we believe our loved ones to be is powerfully influenced by the stories they tell. And in turn, the stories lived out by everyday people define their homeland more truly than any boundary drawn on a map.

Buona Fortuna Signora Manfrotto

Our dear friend Karen McBride is bidding farewell to us tomorrow. Our loss is Barrington Area Library's gain when Karen assumes the position of Head of Public Information for them.

If you have had any contact with the Des Plaines public library including (and especially) our website, you have been the benefactor of Karen's great gifts. Her job title is "Web Librarian" but that's like the proverbial tip of the iceberg. Not only did Karen develop and maintain our website, she also (brace yourself): wrote and directed all our library videos, created all the videos created for Des Plaines businesses; acted as an instructor for numerous computer and social media classes; lectured and presented several times at the Illinois Library convention, the Public Library convention and other venues on behalf of Des Plaines Public Library; wrote much of the copy for the library website and database information; wrote the "Plain Talk" blog daily; was a star member of the Singing Librarians which have entertained us in numerous July 4th parades and Christmas shows; taught staff and patrons how to blog, use Twitter; use Facebook, use iTunes and use iPads; worked the Reference desk and Readers' services desk; worked on the online catalog committee for almost two years and helped design our new "MyCatalog."

This remarkable work product is not the best thing about Karen, however. The best thing about Karen is, well, she's Karen. She is super smart, creative and gracious. She likes platform shoes and Ronzoni pasta. She loves her family and Bono. She sings like an angel, or at least like a blond Barbra Streisand. If you need to laugh, she's your gal.If you need to cry, she is also your gal.

When I think of Karen, I see her in my mind's eye setting up the video camera on the Manfrotto tripod (hence, the moniker "Mrs. Manfrotto".) And I see something else too - her generosity. In the all the time that Karen and I worked together, I never once saw her turn down a request for help. And believe me, when you're a tech wiz, there are plenty of requests for help. Like endless waves rolling to shore, everyone wanted Karen's assistance with something, and never once, not once did I ever hear her say no. They say human cloning is wrong, but when it comes to Karen McBride, I'm all for it.

So, our good friend, in Irish it's said Go n'éirí an t-ádh leat. In Polish, it's Powodzenia! In Des Plainesian, we say you were a joy to work with and we wish you every good fortune that life can deliver.

And thank you.

Friday, April 8, 2011

The Magic of History

Each time we open a book, the written word offers us an escape into a previously undiscovered reality--a mystery may plunge us into a world of deceit and intrigue, all the while testing our intuition, and vigilance; a good science fiction story might test the limits of our imaginations by creating a whole new world around us with a reality which calls into question even our most fundamental assumptions, while a historical fiction is another breed entirely.

What is it about historical fiction which so captivates our imaginations? The romance of a bygone era, the scrupulous social axioms by which both love and war were meant to abide, or perhaps the inherent contradiction therein?

Perhaps the allure of the past is our propensity to single out the great figures of lost times--when one has the expanse of history from which to draw inspiration for a great character, and a great story, the potential for excellence is only as limited as the history of the human race.

Of course, it can't be called easy to call up the specters of the past, all the while giving them modern relevance and depth. As Oscar Wilde said, "any fool can make history, but it takes a genius to write it."

Here are some geniuses you might enjoy:

The Scarlet Pimpernel, Baroness Emma Orczy

The Constant Princess, Philippa Gregory

The Paris Wife, Paula McLain

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Happy New Year!

Many people associate New Year celebrations with champagne, Auld Lang Syne, freezing weather, and blowing noisemakers. For me, the new year kicks off with dollar dogs, Take Me Out to the Ballgame, and high-fiving random fellow fans after a home run. The weather? Yes, chilly weather is still an unfortunate factor of April baseball in Chicago). Major League Baseball's Opening Day is a great time to reset: the young season is fresh with unique and surprising possibilities yet to be written. However, if you are in the market for a baseball storyline that has already been written, and you'd like to go beyond The Natural and Shoeless Joe (adapted into the film Field of Dreams), we have them here at the library in our fiction stacks.

The Curse: Cubs Win! Cubs Win! or Do They? by Andy Van Slyke and Rob Rains
Penned by a former major leaguer, this novel has Cubs the in first place around the All-Star break, but even the pursuit of their first pennant since 1945 takes a seat on the bench compared to the swirling mysteries of the owner's shadowy past.

Oh Johnny by Jim Lehrer
A young baseball phenom enlists in the Marines in 1944 and falls in love with a girl en route to deployment. After the war, he pursues both his baseball career and his lost love but encounters results much different than what he expected.

Legend of Mickey Tussler
by Frank Nappi
The title character is an autistic teenager with a "plus, plus" fastball who is recruited by the manager of the Milwaukee Brewers, Arthur Murphy. While Mickey becomes a star in the major leagues despite adversity from his abusive father and jealous teammates, Murphy embarks on a quest to win the pennant while wooing Mickey's mother.

Season of Gene
by Dallas Hudgens
Joe Rice is an owner of a car-detailing service and player/manager of the company's baseball team. When his best friend and business partner, Gene, has a fatal heart attack while sliding into home during on of their games, members of the mob appear looking for a vintage 1932 bat used by Babe Ruth worth $3 million. Joe promptly decides the payoff of locating the bat is worth fighting gangsters and facing down his own past.

In a closing note: just think, a year ago the Cubs still hadn't won a World Series since 1908. Of course, nothing has changed this year, but it was still nice to say. It's got to happen someday, doesn't it? Until then, happy reading!

Friday, April 1, 2011

Coming Attractions May 2011

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

Jackie Collins

Charlaine Harris

Robert B. Parker

James Patterson & Maxine Paetro

John Sandford