Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Escaping Reader's Rut

When I was a Girl Scout, we'd sing a little tune that went

Make new friends, but keep the old
One is silver and the other's gold!

Years later, I find that not only are the words true, but they apply to more than real life human friends. They apply to books and other media as well.

Up until a couple of years ago, when I heard “graphic novel,” I pictured the only kind I'd ever seen before-- just a giant comic book, usually involving a man with a tiny waist and huge biceps wearing a cape. Having never been interested in comic books, and considering myself a lover of good literature, I was not interested in reading any graphic novels. Then somebody-- somebody whose taste in books I greatly respected-- handed me a copy of Blankets by Craig Thompson. Here was a graphic novel that didn't involve superheros at all, but told the story of a young man's path to discovering his own beliefs, and of his first love. I gave it a chance, and lo and behold, my love of good literature came to include graphic novels. After Blankets, I found Maus by Art Spiegelman, and more and more titles seemed to come to me the more graphic novels I read. I even found a couple involving superheros that I came to love.

Sometimes we find ourselves in a comfort zone, even in a rut, as far as our consumption of media goes, be it books, movies, or music. It can be compared to sitting in one spot on the couch for too long-- it started out comfy, but after a while it just starts to make you feel stiff and achy and lazy. Sometimes it even takes a conscious effort to get out of it. You might even feel reluctant to get up at all. But the good part is that when it comes to getting out a media rut, you don't have to go it alone. Here at the library, there are always folks at the desk happy to give their recommendations and steer you toward something new and exciting. Stepping outside your comfort zone could lead you to a new favorite.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Book Lovers Needed

"Pass along your love of reading, literally."

That's the catch-phrase that caught me when I went to check out what World Book Night is all about. Turns out it is an opportunity for book lovers to promote reading in their own communities. Here's the goal: on 1 night, April 23, 2012, all across the country, 50,000 volunteers will give out 1,000,000 free books. They want volunteers - "givers" - to choose a book they have already read and loved from the 30 available and to share that book with 20 strangers who are light readers or non-readers. And when you apply to be a volunteer, you can tell them where you want to give the books away, to whom, and why.

Want to participate in this million book giveaway to promote reading? Be a volunteer book giver on World Book Night, April 23, 2012. Sign up at www.worldbooknight.org by Feb. 1.

I hope I can give out A Prayer for Owen Meany - one of my favorite novels of all time. When I first read it, I understood that reading was so much more than just a school requirement. Reading that book was a soaring pleasure and an escape to a whole new world. I'd love to share that treasure with someone who has yet to discover the joys of reading.

Which book would you want to give, and why? 
  • The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
  • Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson
  • I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
  • Friday Night Lights by H.G. Bissinger
  • Kindred by Octavia Butler
  • Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card
  • Little Bee by Chris Cleave
  • The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
  • Blood Work by Michael Connelly  
  • The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz 
  • Because of Winn Dixie by Kate DiCamillo 
  • Zeitoun by Dave Eggers 
  • Peace Like a River by Leif Enger 
  • A Reliable Wife by Robert Goolrick 
  • Q is for Quarry by Sue Grafton 
  • The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini 
  • A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving 
  • The Stand by Stephen King 
  • The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver 
  • The History of Love by Nicole Krauss 
  • The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri 
  • The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien 
  • Bel Canto by Ann Patchett 
  • My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Picoult 
  • Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson 
  • Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold 
  • The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot 
  • Just Kids by Patti Smith 
  • The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls 
  • The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Freegal Rocks

From Apple's iTunes to Amazon's instant downloads, internet tycoons left and right are wedging their feet into the door-jam of downloadable music. With a single content search nearly any recording from Bing Crosby classics to Ke$ha's electronic pop to cult favorites like Steve Goodman can be called instantly to your computer screen, and for about ninety-nine cents you can own  any of them instantly and transfer them to your digital music player of choice without ever changing out of your jammies.

The Des Plaines Library has provided patrons with an extensive selection of music for many years with an extremely well-developed and rounded collection of contemporary and classic music of all sorts on CD. Recently, however, we too have made a foray into instant downloads--as many will already know the Library has offered a great selection of e-books and audiobooks through our virtual branch MyMediaMall for a while now. A More recent addition to our bountiful list of services and products, however, is Freegal. Through the Freegal platform Des Plaines patrons will be able to access the whole catalog of Sony Records and will be entitled to three free downloads a week for keepsies. That's right--no torrent work-around, no fear for the consequences of violating intellectual property laws. Just free, legal music for keepsies in your jammies.

To access Freegal simply head to our homepage at dppl.org and hover over the "Reference" tab. Select "Research databases A-Z" and scroll all the way down to the bottom of the page. In the column on the right side the very last link will say "Freegal Test." After entering your library card number you will be directed to the Freegal platform where you can browse popular music or search for something that interests you.I personally used my three downloads for the week already on a Train song and two songs by Julieta Venegas, but there are plenty of artists to appeal to any music lover. Just remember, the catalog includes only albums and artists which were produced by Sony Records, so the selection isn't quite as extensive as platforms like iTunes. Still, though...Free...Legal...Jammies...Need I say more?

Friday, January 13, 2012

Our King's Speeches

It is a strange experience, listening to perhaps the greatest American of the 20th century, stating that he wants to be a good man. I can think of no better man than Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and yet one Sunday morning in 1968, speaking before the congregation of the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, King said: "I want you to know this morning that I'm a sinner like ALL of God's children. But I want to be a GOOD man!"

The sermon is called Unfulfilled Dreams, and in it he asked the congregation: "What's in your heart this morning?" He spoke of the need to "get your heart right" and the importance of trying to do what is right even if our dreams remain unfulfilled.

The sermon is in marked contrast to much of the self-congratulatory babble that fills the airwaves and our lives today, and it makes me want to dig out my old copy of Stride Toward Freedom: The Montgomery Story, King's eloquent memoir of the Montgomery bus boycott and the heroism of those who fought for civil rights.

On Monday, January 16th, we celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. It's hard to believe there was a battle over the establishment of a federal holiday to honor this American hero: it was not until 1986 that Martin Luther King, Jr. Day was first observed. In 1994, Congress designated it a national day of service. To learn more about the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service and how to participate, click here.

If you want to listen to some of King's sermons, check out A Knock at Midnight: Inspiration from the Great Sermons of Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. Also available for checkout is his I Have a Dream speech on the CD The Greatest Speeches of All Time.

Want to learn more about Dr. King and the civil rights movement in his own eloquent words? Here's a link to books by King you can check out from the library. You can also listen to or read many of his speeches here.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Awake and Alive

The Christian music scene has been growing slowly over the past years. Bands such as Kutlass, Thousand Foot Krutch, Pillar, Newsboys, Flyleaf, among others are just a few of the big name Christian Rock artists pioneering the scene. One exception for me that stands out is another Christian Rock band by the name of Skillet. Interesting name yes, as well as interesting music. All members are very much in touch with their faith, while their songs all mostly relate to that subject matter. Their eighth latest release, Awake, is so far their most successful album up to date. Their most popular song, Monster, also on Awake, has multi-million views on Youtube as well as the album receiving Gold status on the album charts. 

This album is definitely a cross between Hard Rock and Christian Rock. Who says Christian Rock can't be a bit edgy? This album not only has elements of hard rock, but they do keep true to the Christian theme and still keep songs on a listenable ear friendly tone. If you are a fan of violin and strings, I would recommend this for some of their songs have many violin melodies harmonizing with the rock sound. The album also won best Christian Album of 2011 and debuted at #2 on the Billboard Charts. My two favorite tracks off this album are, Awake and Alive, and Never Surrender. Both songs again, are very in touch with their faith and send the same message: Stay in touch with your faith and don't anyone push you around or stop you from believing in what you believe in. Stand up for your faith. The song Awake and Alive was also chosen to appear on the soundtrack for the movie Transformers: Dark of the Moon. This album has received many 4 and 5 star ratings on many critics reviews. By the end of 2011 the album was #4 on the Christian Billboards, #16 on the Rock Billboard, #15 on the Alternative Billboard. I would say that is a huge accomplishment considering the Christian music seen is overshadowed by today's huge mainstream artists. 

Interesting fact, Lead Singer and bassist Jon Cooper, and Female Rhythm Guitar player, Korey Cooper are married. Korey Cooper is from neighboring Kenosha, Wisconsin. No current announcements have been made regarding a new album or new material being written. This album is for those who need inspiration and feel like they want to get in more touch with their faith. Skillet is definitely one of the huge leaders in Christian Rock and will always be a name that sticks out. Many artists disband or get discouraged due to the overwhelming competition that the mainstream music scene has, but Skillet really focuses more on getting a positive message out, rather than trying to become the best and most successful. 


Tuesday, January 3, 2012

two one four six eight zero zero * * * * * * *

A patron marveled as I demonstrated the downloadable ebook product and typed in my library card number by heart. While not a particularly unique feat among librarians with a couple years under their belt, it's kind of fun (and handy) to show others you can memorize a 14 digit number.

This episode and two books I have read recently highlight this fascinating human function - memory. Moonwalking With Einstein is a journalist's story of his involvement in the US Memory Championships. Joshua Foer not only explains how the champions accomplish amazing feats but he provides a cultural history of man's need for memory. We don't need to remember for survival in the 21st century but it kept people alive before paper, pencil,printing presses and computers.

The loss of memory is the subject of the novel Turn of Mind by Alice LaPlante. It is a literary mystery with an Alzheimer sufferer as the main character. The reader gets to know the once powerful surgeon Jennifer during her lucid and foggy moments while her loved ones and police question her about the suspicious death of her best friend.

Both these books are available at the library and through our ebook/audiobook catalog MyMediaMall.net. Have your library card number ready if you are signing into MyMediaMall -- and here's a hint - the first seven digits are 2146800.