Friday, December 28, 2012

Start Your Resolution at Des Plaines Public Library

One last holiday stands between us and the end of the holiday season (not to mention year). As per usual, as we plan our parties and festivities for New Year's Eve we simultaneously plan to change our lives the very next day. New Year's resolutions though dubious are commonplace. Just check out this current list of the most common resolutions this year.


While I can't promise you will stick to your resolution(s), the library is here to help with tons of information to keep you on track! Here are some popular resolutions and links to items (books, ebooks, DVDs, audiobooks) we have to help give you a kick start. Just place a hold on the items in the catalog or give us a call and we can place the hold for you.

Losing Weight

Managing Personal Finances

Managing Stress 

Manage Time Effectively 

Developing Healthy Eating Habits

Landing the Job

Green Living

Start Volunteering  

In addition to these guides, the Reader Services department will have a display of inspiring fictional characters to help keep you on track!  Do you have a resolution this year or fictional character who inspires you?

Friday, December 21, 2012

Film Rx: Movies to Watch When You're Sick

It seems like everyone around me is sick right now. It's probably only a third of the people I work, play, and live with, but either way, that's a lot of folks lately who are stuck in bed, huddled under blankets, littering the floor with wadded tissues, and hoping to take their minds off their ills. If that sounds like you, send a friend over to the library to pick up your film Rx.

Movies have healing properties. They affect our moods. The right one can make us feel better. And recovery is often as much a psychological process as it is physical one. So any film that is familiar enough to fall asleep to and not too much of a thinker or a downer is just what the doctor ordered.

A friend of mine said he couldn't name a specific title because he'd want to use his sick time to catch up on all the movies he hasn't seen yet. That's a valid point. But as for me, when I'm sick, I can't focus and I don't want to multitask. I want my old favorites around me: my mug, my robe, my recliner, and my movies.

Most of the picks below will probably peg me as a child of the eighties, but it's really the genres that are important -- prescribing the right remedy to match what you're going through and what you need.

Classic call-in flicks:

Princess Bride
Ferris Bueller's Day Off

Sick over the holidays:

Elf or Home Alone
Love Actually or It's a Wonderful Life

Too sick to follow a plot:

Top Hat or Viva Las Vegas
Overboard or Dirty Rotten Scoundrels

It hurts when I laugh:

History of the World, Part 1 or A Night at the Opera
Caddyshack or Wayne's World

I want my mommy:

Tangled or Finding Nemo
Mary Poppins or The NeverEnding Story

Long term care:

All 3 Lord of the Rings or all 3 original Star Wars
All 3 Back to the Futures or all 3 Godfathers

On the mend:

Star Trek: Wrath of Khan or Top Gun
The Thin Man or O Brother Where Art Thou

Which movies do you want to watch when you're home sick?

Friday, December 14, 2012

A Very Literary Film Season

Sometimes there seem to be months on end with nothing I am interested in seeing being in theatres. Then, as if the clouds suddenly burst after a long drought, there is a flood of movies I’ve been dying to see. Not surprisingly, this often happens right around Christmas. And this year, it seems like almost all of those movies are based on some of my favorite books. 

While every year Hollywood releases a slew of movies based on popular books, it strikes me this season that there are more movies based not only on popular novels like the Jack Reacher series by Lee Child, but on deeply important and classic works like Les Misérables and Anna Karenina. Moviemakers also seem to be trying to use these classic stories to experiment with new film formats (as Peter Jackson has done by shooting The Hobbit in a higher frame rate and in real 3D, using a two-camera technique), different ways of recording singing in order to allow the actors to, well, act more in their songs (as in the upcoming Les Misérables) and unique, metaphoric settings (as Joe Wright has done with his new adaptation of Anna Karenina, emphasizing the theme of “all the world’s a stage”). Whether or not this makes for a better movie is up in the air, but it certainly is interesting to see how these techniques are used.

So far, I’ve checked off Anna Karenina and The Hobbit from my list of must-see literary movies this season. Still left to go is Life of Pi and Les Misérables. What’s on your list?

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Best Books of the 2012

One thing I love about this time of year is this is when all the "Best of" lists and award winners come out. I usually come out with my own best books of the year list. And as I was thinking about it I realized I didn't really have any. The best books I read this year were actually from last year. The Sisters Brothers, Caleb's Crossing, The Lost Memory of Skin, 11/22/63 and Steve Jobs were my top five reads this year and all were from the previous years. The new books I did read were more of the popular fiction variety. I don't think this was any worse of a year for literature. It was more that I was really trying to catch up on all the great books I've missed. Time stops for no man, so I now have more catching up to do.

The one list that I await the most is the New York Times list of 100 Notable Books. It came out on November 27th. In most years I count how many I have already read when in comes out usually there are five or ten. This year I have read none yet but I have now placed holds on many of the titles.

So when it comes time for new years resolutions, I would like read one book from 2012 and one book from 2013 each month.

What were some of the best books you have read this year? And which end of year lists do you most look forward to?

Friday, December 7, 2012

Murder at the Hospital OR Unconventional Sleuths

This holiday season, someone on my gift list will receive the latest Lenny Moss mystery, even though he doesn't read many mysteries. Am I one of those annoying gift givers who buys the recipient not what he wants but what I like? I hope not, although I'll cop to buying the occasional book for my niece when she wasn't a big reader. (Reading is too important and fun to miss out on. And I always got her something else, too!)

So why am I purchasing No Place to Be Sick, by Timothy Sheard, for a family member who only occasionally reads mysteries?  Why did I give this family member, who is interested in all things union and labor history and who will henceforth be referred to as Union Man, his first Lenny Moss mystery a few holidays back, which he loved and requested more of?

The answer lies in the story's hero and subject matter. The hero & crime solver, Lenny Moss, is a custodian, and, of greater interest to Union Man, a union representative. So the books, like every good mystery, aren't just about who killed whom. They weave labor issues, such as harassment of workers, into the stories. For example, in the first book, This Won't Hurt a Bit, a laundry worker at a large university hospital is accused of murdering a doctor. Lenny and his co-workers at the hospital, however, believe the man is innocent, and together they undertake their own investigation into the murder.

The heroes of mysteries these days are no longer just private eyes and police detectives. They are janitors and cleaning women, reporters, herbalists, teachers, librarians and more. Whatever your interests, you can likely find a mystery set in your milieu, and there are even books to help you find your mystery match, such as Make Mine a Mystery: A Readers' Guide to Mystery and Detective Fiction. The book, which you can view at the Readers' Services desk on the third floor, contains a subject index that goes from Aborigine-Australia to Zoo. Some subjects included are:

HMOs (for those who have ever been frustrated with an HMO)
Shipboard (for those who can't afford to take a cruise)
Railroads (love this one!)
Theater (for those who have ever wanted to kill a director or theater diva)

Another helpful book is What Mystery Do I Read Next, which includes both time period and  major character indexes (activist, aged person, animal trainer, etc). Want personalized suggestions? Ask the helpful staff at the 3rd floor Readers' Services desk.

What's your favorite mystery or series featuring an amateur or unconventional sleuth? Do you have a favorite setting or locale? Do books make good gifts?

Friday, November 30, 2012

November Noir

November is National Novel Writing Month. A month in which aspiring writers all over the country flock to NaNoWriMo's website to commit to writing every single day in November to kick-start their creative drives. Our very own Des Plaines Library staff is in on the action this November with a Murder in the Des Plaines Library mystery novel which is available to to read here for any party interested in a little bit of municipal murder. As of today, the novel is complete, so you won't even have to suffer any unnecessary suspense!

That's not the only place to look for a new Mystery, though; we've got a lot of great recently arrived titles and coming attractions by beloved authors like Janet Evanovich and J.D. Robb. Or, pick up a darker read by Swedish author Helene Tursten. For a complete list of new and upcoming Mysteries and availability details, click here.




Monday, November 26, 2012

A Look Back at Des Plaines

Images of America: Des Plaines is a new book, just released today! 

Part of a series of local pictorial histories produced by Arcadia Publishing, it affords a fascinating glimpse into the Des Plaines of the past. Using photographs from it’s own substantial archives, along with those of local residents, the Des Plaines History Center collaborated with our very own David Whittingham of the Readers’ Services department here at the library to create this unique treasury our city's memories.

I grew up here in Des Plaines so I've always figured that I know this town pretty well. It's landmarks and history feel familiar to me. Among this book’s 200 photographs, there were places and incidents I recognized instantly, like the old McDonald's, the Methodist Campground, and the crash of Flight 191. But there were also a number of surprises inside, like the legacy of Socrates Rand and the town’s reputation as a leisure destination. Part nostalgia and part discovery, Images of America: Des Plaines uses photographs to tell the intriguing story our city.

The book will be available for purchase at the: 

Saturday, December 1st from 9:30 AM to 3:30 PM in  Friends Room B/C. 

David Whittingham will be there so come and get your book signed by the author! What a wonderful gift idea for a long-time resident.

On December 14th from 5:30PM to 7:30 PM celebrate with us at a book launch party here at the library! Author David Whittingham will talk about making the new book. Plus, we'll have an introduction to the new Des Plaines history portal, desplainesmemory.org by librarian Steven Giese.

You can also buy Images of America: Des Plaines at the Des Plaines History Center's gift shop or online at Amazon.com

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

What Am I Thankful For (Des Plaines Public Library edition)

It is Thanksgiving season and that always leads me to think about what I am most thankful for. I could provide you with a list of everything in the whole world that I am thankful but that would be a rather long list and I don't want the whole world to know just how much I love things like Wendy's Baconator sandwich (but it is awesome!).  So here are five things about Des Plaines and our library that I am grateful for:

1. The People: I love working here. I have so many great coworkers whom I consider tmy friends. Whether it is talking books sports or our families, it is a great place to be. We are all much closer than coworkers and it really feels like a family.

2 The Collections: I love the books, the music and movies and all the different ways I can access them (digitally, in person, audibly, visually, etc). Have you checked out Zinio? or Freegal?

3. The Public. Public is the Des Plaines Public Library's middle name. There are folks who I look forward to seeing, talking with, and helping. I love the way the community uses and supports the library. Our patrons make the library fun and vibrant and memorable. Thanks for making my day every day.

4. The nearby Restaurants: OK. maybe I love my food a little too much, but there are so many great restaurants here in Des Plaines. I could list them all but that is what Yelp is for. My favorites are Paradise Pup, The Choo Choo, Via Roma, Mexico and Little Villa (and I really miss the pizza from the Depot Pizzaria and bowling alley).

5. The River. What the river? Really? The Des Plaines River is a metaphor for Des Plaines and for life. Several times over the summer I found myself sitting by the river watching it go by. It might be murky and seem a bit slow moving, but there is an abundance of life both within the river and springing up along the shores. And just when I have stopped thinking about it, it surprises me. It could be the sight of a fisherman, the change of a season, or a flood, but it wakes me up and makes me thankful.

Happy Thanksgiving Des Plaines.

Friday, November 16, 2012

David Bowie & Bing Crosby and Tony Bennett & Amy Winehouse: What Do These Pairs Have in Common

Tony Bennett & Amy Winehouse
It seems like every singer over a certain age has released a CD of duets in the last ten years, usually sharing the microphone with singers decades younger. Think Tony Bennett and Jerry Lee Lewis.

At my most cynical, I think of an old Saturday Night Live sketch, in which Joe Piscopo impersonates Frank Sinatra recording an album of duets with younger, hipper singers in an attempt to reach a younger audience. Piscopo as Sinatra calls the album, “Frank Sings Tunes the Young People Will Enjoy.”

While I think there’s some truth to the sketch, I nevertheless love the results of one such duet: Body & Soul performed by Tony Bennett and the late Amy Winehouse. Although Bennett is not a performer I seek out—he’s a little too smooth for my taste, his music too “easy listening”—pair him with Winehouse, whose voice crackles with warmth, and you’ve got a great duet. She brings her distinctive voice and edge and tension to the song, which was her father’s favorite, and when she and Bennett harmonize, the contrast of their voices and the way their voices rise and dip above and below one another is bewitching.

Fact is, duets done right can be sublime, and given the inherent drama of two people singing to one another, it’s no surprise that some of the best were written for musical theater. My musical theater favorite is One Hand, One Heart from West Side Story, sung by the characters Tony and Maria. With Bernstein’s gorgeous chord changes and soaring melodies and Stephen Sondheim’s lyrics, One Hand, One Heart is one of those songs that takes music--and the listener--to new heights. It’s been recorded by everyone from Barbara Streisand and Johnny Mathis to cast members of Glee, but I’ll stick with the Original Broadway Cast Recording with Carol Lawrence and Larry Kert.

Another lovely duet is The Sea of Heartbreak, recorded by Roseanne Cash and Bruce Springsteen for Cash’s album The List. Roseanne’s father, Johnny Cash, recorded the song, as did Don Gibson in the 1960s, but it makes for a perfect duet with Cash and Springsteen. Both of them capture the longing in the lyrics, and Bruce practically croons on this song—in a good way. (For some reason, singing on other artists' records often brings out his prettiest singing, whether he’s singing with Roseanne Cash or Roy Orbison.)

Some other great duets are:

You Mean So Much to Me performed by Southside Johnny and Ronnie Spector on the album I Don't Want to Go Home (which DPPL cardholders can download for free via Freegal).

You Can Close Your Eyes performed by James Taylor and Carole King, a show-stopper in the documentary Troubadours: The Rise of the Singer-songwriter. (But to hear their performance in full, check out Carole King’s CD Live at the Troubador.)

Sweet Jane performed by Maria McKee and Bono.

And while it’s not a personal favorite, for sheer weirdness I have to mention The Little Drummer Boy/Peace on Earth performed by David Bowie and Bing Crosby.

What's your favorite duet? Or what two singers would you most like to hear perform together? (I'd most like to hear Bruce Springsteen and the amazing Maria McKee, who in a better world would be better known.)

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Internetless, or How the Library Saved Me Again

In Miranda July's indie film "The Future," her character Sophie greets her husband Jason at the door as he is coming home one day, frantically telling him she's cancelled their internet service for the next month, and they have just enough time to "look up important things" before it shuts off entirely. While watching this film with my own husband, he (I had assumed) jokingly asked me what I'd do if he did that. Not wanting to reveal myself as a complete internet addict, I told him I'd be just fine. "It might even be fun" were my famous last words.

I did not realize he'd been inspired.
I was decidedly not fine.

We don't subscribe to cable or any newspapers. I rarely buy music, choosing instead to stream it for free online. Most of my friends, I keep in contact with through email or Facebook. The internet is our window to the world at home. It's what we have instead of practically everything else. So when it was gone, what could I do? How was I going to entertain myself and the young children that frequent my house, and magically know all the things the internet provided information for, like knitting patterns?

Well, the first day, I cleaned. Then I walked around, admiring my cleaning. Then, when I realized I was about to go stir crazy, I went back to the library.

I got 10 magazines, 5 dvds, 2 books, and, of course, checked my email, Facebook, Tumblr, Pinterest, Instagram, and used the wifi to download all my favorite podcasts onto my ipod. Within just half an hour, I was all set to go home and not be completely bored, clueless, and isolated from civilization.

That was a few days ago. Since then, I have calmed down. I've stopped sadly walking the edges of my house, hoping against hope that one of my neighbor's wifi signals magically opened up. I've almost forgotten what I used to do online every five minutes. I watched the first season of The Venture Bros, which I had forgotten how much I like. I've read The Graveyard Book, March, and am working on Doctor Who: Shada, the Lost Adventure by Douglas Adams. I even finished a few DIY projects for the holidays, thanks to the crafty books on the 4th floor, all without the internet's help. I've read countless books to my son, and he's gotten to see some old-school Sesame Street, which we never would have even thought to seek out online.

Seriously, without the library and its materials, I don't know what I'd be doing internetless. Definitely not magically knowing how to make vegan gift baskets on my own. But thanks to these things being available to me, it's not only been not-horrible, but actually a really stimulating way of taking a break and exploring new things I might not have discovered if I'd stuck to my own little niches online.

Friday, November 9, 2012

The Wonderful World of eReaders or: How I gained access to all the hot titles and stopped worrying about what to read during the holidays

Is there a book you have been on hold for what seems like forever for? Gillian Flynn's Gone Girl immediately comes to my mind. What if I told you you could become the first in the hold line without cheating? The library has three copies with no hold list (at this time of writing!), and all can be checked out for 28 days. If you are a Des Plaines Library cardholder, simply search “Nook” in our online catalog and place a hold on one of our ereaders.When your hold is in, visit the Reader Services desk on the 3rd floor and pick up one of the circulating Nooks the library owns. 

In addition to the Nook devices, we also have Sony Readers and Kindles available for checkout. The Sony Reader has both the Hunger Games trilogy and the first four books of the A Song of Fire and Ice series by George R.R. Martin (the inspiration for the Game of Thrones series you probably have a hold on). The Kindle also has a solid collection of new favorites including Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus and Chad Harbach’s The Art of Fielding. To find out the exact titles available on each ereader, click here to access the catalog, click on one of the ereaders (i.e. Sony Reader), and then click on the “Summary” option to view the titles available on the ereader. 

With the holidays coming up, if you have an ereader on your wish list but aren’t quite sure which one to go with, checking out different types of ereaders can be a way of seeing what might work best for you. These ereaders are equipped with at least 15 books apiece, easily enough to get you through downtime during holiday festivities without having to carry a bag of books with you.

If you have any questions regarding our circulating ereaders, feel free to contact the Reader Services department.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

American Historical Fiction

Another election season has come to a close. Whether your candidate of choice won or lost, it's good to remember that nothing is permanent in the United States. Every few years, we get another chance to decide what's important to us, and who we think will help make those things come to fruition. The years pass, the country changes and grows, and soon "tomorrow" becomes "history."

Historical fiction can take us back to a time long past in our nation, help us remember where we used to be, and where we've come. Here are some novels available at our library that take place during tumultuous times in the U.S. -- wars, the Dust Bowl, the turn of the 20th century, even back to our nation's very beginnings. Will our great grandchildren write novels about the 2010s? Only time will tell.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Horror, or Something Like It

H.P. Lovecraft
It's interesting to examine how different life situations can influence a person's fiction-reading and vice versa. As Halloween approaches, my mind is on how I came to enjoy horror fiction.

A pivotal moment in my life occurred when I did not have a book to read for an SSR (Sustained Silent Reading) period one day in eighth grade. I asked a classmate if she had an extra book I could borrow and thus I began Pet Sematary by Stephen King. A couple days later I returned it, equally thrilled and terrified by the reanimation-gone-evil plot line. I had never before had such a strong awareness that things were not going to turn out well yet was extremely anxious to know how everything ended. Ironically, one of the lasting impressions I had from reading that book was that I could tell how much fun King had in writing it. To this day whenever I read something by Stephen King, I enjoy his ability to completely immerse the reader into the world he is creating.

Two years later I asked my high school librarian if she could recommend any good scary novels. She immediately pulled The Keep by F. Paul Wilson off the shelf and gave it to me. It was about something ripping heads off of Nazi soldiers in an old castle during World War II - I was hooked. While reading it, I was fascinated by Wilson's ability to take this simple premise and create an epic novel through great characterization and a superb sense of suspense. This is a novel I return to every few years.

A third turning point on my highway of becoming a horror fiction enthusiast was a late-night discussion with a good friend of mine in college. The subject of Howard Phillips Lovecraft came up and I professed my ignorance of the name. Shocked, my friend made sure I left that night with a couple volumes of short stories by H.P. Lovecraft. As I read them and learned the mastery of his story techniques, I came to understand that Lovecraft was a dominating force of pulp horror-writing in the first part of the 20th century: almost like a missing link between Edgar Allan Poe and modern horror authors. The story I enjoyed the most (ie. gave me the most heebie-jeebies) was The Whisperer in Darkness. I had never felt my skin crawl quite like that before.

I won't even go into how I met Richard Matheson (staying up all night to read Hell House instead of studying for college finals) as I'm sure you get the idea. My question for you: do you let this upcoming scary holiday affect your fiction choices? If so, how?

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Need Help Concentrating? OR Nature Sounds

Whenever I hear an Elvis Costello song, I think of my college roommate, who studied and wrote to My Aim Is True, among other Costello albums. A brilliant student, she'd blast music while she did her homework, turning it down with an embarrassed smile whenever someone entered the room. (She was considerate as well as brilliant.)

Although I also love music, I rarely listened to it when studying: I can't really play "background" music while writing or studying, since it usually claims my attention over whatever I'm working on. But sometimes, particularly as a student, I'd wish for a little white noise to tune out distractions: the students chatting next to me at the library, the sound of a neighbor's television through the walls.

Too bad I didn't know about the library's Sounds CDs back then. Today they're my secret weapon: I listen to them whenever I need to tune out the noise around me and concentrate. For example, as I write this, I'm listening to Thunderstorm, an atmospheric, 60-minute CD of, yes, a thunderstorm: rain pouring down punctuated by distant thunder. Do you prefer your rain without thunder? Check out Summer Rain, part of the Atmosphere Collection, which also includes Island Jungle, Waterfall and A Month in the Brazilian Rainforest, among others. But my favorite of all our sounds CDs is The Sea: waves crashing on a shore, distant seagulls, and the occasional, subdued foghorn.

The Sounds CDs are located between our Rock  and Television Music CDs. Just stop by the Readers' Services desk and we'll help you locate them.

What's your preference when writing or doing homework? Music, white noise, nature sounds, the sounds of silence or something else?

Friday, October 19, 2012

Why So Sad?

Have you ever been deep in a book, joyfully immersed in its pages and soaking up each word, then it's as if you hear the Jaws theme in your head and you realize that this is not going to end well. You have been led into a dark place where no happy ending can live. You've been betrayed by a book.

Usually, this realization smacks into me when I reach that vicious twist in the final pages. I still recall finishing the story The Lady, or the Tiger? and throwing the book against a wall. Sometimes, though, that sense of betrayal can creep up on you because the darkness begins at word one. You know the book is melancholy but the writing is so luminous or the tale so engaging that you are tricked into believing there must be light at the end of the tunnel. But no, hope really is lost and all you are left with is unrelenting sadness.

But if readers didn't get anything out of a tear-jerker, the last one published would have been Where the Red Fern Grows back in 1961. Inexplicably, we are drawn to heartbreak, even without the possibility of redemption.

Here are some books that have made me want to crawl back into bed and stay there:
  • Bambi: A Life In the Woods - Yes, it's a children's book, but don't read this classic by Felix Salten if you want a dose of Disney magic.
  • Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes  - It teased me with the promise of miracles but only delivered tears. 
  • Swamplandia! by Karen Russell - Everything about it, from the exclamation point in the title to its off-beat humor and plucky teen aged heroine, fools you into leaving your tissues in the other room.
  • A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness - I cried through nearly every page and somehow still loved it. 
  • The Road - Cormac McCarthy's writing is radiant. I read it twice but the relentless despair makes it hard to suggest this book to others.
  • 1984 - George Orwell's bleak vision is politically powerful because it is so personally tragic. 
  • Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates - As a book or a film, it is equally devastating.
Of course, movies have the same power to lead us into a voluntary state of depression: 
  • City of Angels - billed as a date movie, back in the late '90s my date ranted at me for what felt like hours after being ambushed by the surprise ending.  
  • Awakenings - Starring Robin Williams and Robert De Niro, this film is amazing, but it's the emotional equivalent of Flowers for Algernon.
  • Requiem for a Dream - I have it on good authority that this is not a film for the fragile psyche.
  • Life is Beautiful (La Vita e Bella) - I challenge anyone to walk away unmoved. 

So what is the appeal of the sad stuff? I don't know. All I know is that I am not alone in loving stories that break my heart.  I guess sometimes it feels good to feel bad. Can it be that simple?

What makes you say, "I want to read (or watch) something that is going to make me cry until my eyes are puffy and my nose runs?"