Friday, June 22, 2012

I Am Forbidden

Got your attention? It attracted mine, and I enjoyed an extremely solid historical novel by Anouk Markovits examining the esoteric world of Hasidic Jews because of this novel's title.

I've posted in the past about the impact that a book's cover has on your first impression of it and about what the author's photo might say about them, but there is a third component to sizing up a book while browsing: the title. A book's title is inherent to its very being. Think of one of your favorite books - now imagine it not being named what it is. You might as well try to rename your dog, it just doesn't work (although you could probably get away with renaming your cat, he wouldn't care as long as you kept feeding him).

Two books immediately come to mind when I think of ITA - Instant Title Attraction. The first is the jubilant/defiant-sounding You Shall Know Our Velocity! by Dave Eggers. At once a novel about loss and grieving, it is also dedicated to appreciating the good parts about life -all delivered with a crackling wit and a laconic style (another of his novel titles deserves honorable mention: What is the What). The other one is the redundant yet oddly informative title The City & the City by China Mieville: a terrific romp that reads like Kafka writing a noir detective mystery.

Novels I'd like to read in the future based on their titles? No One Is Here Except All of Us by Ramona Ausubel and Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said by Philip K. Dick top the list.

What novel titles have arrested your interest?

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Adult Summer Reading is almost here!

Summer reading is for adults, too! In addition to all the great summer programming for kids and teens, Des Plaines Public Library invites you to sample our vast “menu” with the Adult Summer Reading Diner, which is offering prizes and programs for adults as well, just for reading.  

Starting on June 25th, we will be taking entries for a raffle to win a free Kindle touch! All you need to do is read a book, fill out a ticket with your information and the book you read, and that’s a chance to win. One book read=one chance to win, with no limit on the number of books you can read. 

Speaking of there being no limit to the number of books you can read, for those of you who are “Power Readers,” there will be a prize just for book lovers given to those who read twenty or more books while the Summer Reading Club is going on. In addition to your prize, you can have your picture up on the All-You-Can-Read Wall of Fame on the 3rd floor of the library-- just as prestigious if you’d finished the prize porterhouse at a steakhouse, but without the stomachache!

Surely, reading is its own reward, but with these incentives, the experience just became a little sweeter.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Recommended Reading in the Digital Age

"My nook told me to read this book," a teenager  announced with casual certitude as she tucked the book under her arm and continued browsing.

I was taken aback, although I'm not sure why. Nowadays, (and yes, using the word "nowadays" makes me feel dated) we get most of our recommendations electronically, it seems. Customer reviews and starred ratings are available online for everything from toys to transmission shops.  Consumer Reports Online (available right here on our website) can tell you which car or toaster to buy and Yelp will happily point you toward your next great meal. Those are only two among a multitude of digital advisers many of us use daily in order to wade through our endless choices so we can, well, choose.

Entire dystopian novels and movie franchises have been crafted around the hazards of letting machines tell us what to do, but despite Sarah Connors dire warnings, here we are, taking tips from "Dear Search Engine." I don't intend this to be a cautionary tale, exactly, more of an observation. I accept the recommendations fed to me by my laptop and smart phone all the time. But a library staff member suggested my last great read. And I do think there is great merit in personal endorsements given by a trusted fellow-human.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Free Ravinia Lawn Tickets! Starry Nights of Classical Music!

Yes, it's that time again! As in the past, Ravinia has generously supplied us with a limited number of tickets for our patrons. These are lawn tickets to classical music concerts (so no Demi Lovato or Diana Krall tickets), and a great opportunity to listen to first-rate classical performers in a beautiful setting.

Tickets will be available on a first come, first served basis on Saturday, June 16th from 9 am to 11 am on the 1st floor. Any tickets available after that will be distributed at the 3rd floor Readers' Services desk. The ticket limit is 2 tickets per person.

Ravinia is the summer home of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the magnificence of which I've posted about previously. Among the CSO concerts we have tickets for are the "Brahms Bonanza" on Friday, July 13th and "La Mer and More," on Tuesday, August 7th, featuring pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet.    

Want to know the additional concerts we have tickets we for? Stop by the 3rd floor desk to view a list of available concerts. The third floor is also where you'll find classical music CDs--and all other music CDs--to check out.

Happy listening and concert-going!

Friday, June 8, 2012

You had me at "ape descended life-forms."

As I flip past the title page of a book I always wonder what's in store for me. I may have heard one thing or another about a given author or title; I may have read a review, or gotten a recommendation, or drawn my own conclusions based on the name of the book, which genre collection it came from, or its year of publication. As I read the first few words of a novel, though, that is when my preconceptions give way to the beginnings of an informed opinion.

As the proverb goes, you never get a second chance at a first impression, and the first line of a book sets the tone for what's to follow. The first phrase of a book can reveal incredible things about the story to come. It can elicit all sort of reactions from nostalgia, to curiosity, to shock, and many more--the possibilities are truly endless.

There's been a lot of discussion about the best opening lines, and while I can't offer a singular champion, I can say that my personal favorite intro is from The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by the late famed British author Douglas Adams. It begins “Far out in the uncharted backwaters of the unfashionable end of the Western Spiral arm of the Galaxy lies a small unregarded yellow sun. Orbiting this at a distance of roughly ninety-eight million miles is an utterly insignificant little blue-green planet whose ape-descended life forms are so amazingly primitive that they still think digital watches are a pretty neat idea.” I was immediately struck by the extraordinary wit of this statement as I began to read and was all the more eager to see what other clever lines Adams could deliver; he certainly didn't disappoint on that score (the story was also pretty good).

Perhaps the most famous openers in western literature include...

Charles Dickens'  A Tale of Two Cities,

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way—in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.” 

Janes Austen's Pride and Prejudice

“It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.”

Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451.

"It was a pleasure to burn,"

Iain Banks' The Crow Road deserves an honorable mention. While it isn't a particularly famous novel it opens with a bang. The first sentence is: "It was the day my grandmother exploded." If that isn't an attention grabber, I don't know what is.

Have you ever found the first line of a book particularly memorable or notable for any reason?

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Audiobooks - Free, Fun and for the Teen in all of us!

I just finished listening to the audiobook Townie by Andre Dubus III which I downloaded from MyMediaMall (the library's downloadable lending site). I was prepared to not like this book. I only checked it out because I was waiting for another title to become available. Something about the book made it sound less appealing. Perhaps it was that it was a memoir of an already famous person. Or perhaps I thought it sounded disingenuous. Andre Dubus III is the author of House of Sand and Fog which received a lot of acclaim. He is also the son of respected author Andre Dubus II and Townie is the story of growing up in rough streets of Boston. My preconcieved notion was how rough could it have been growing up as the son of a successful author (he goes in depth into his disfunctional family his relationship with his father in the book).

But since I have a long commute, I decided to give it a try. Within five minutes I was captivated. It is a really well-told story. But what I loved was the narrators's distinctive voice with a thick Boston accent. It sounded more like some fella at Boston bar telling of his life than a well articulated audiobook reader. When I got home I looked it up and discovered that it was read by the author. A-ha! It made for a much more intimate telling of the story and it made a huge difference here.

That got me thinking and I realized I LOVE audiobooks that are read by the author. In fact 3 of my favorite audiobooks were read by the author. Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier was read by the author and it also made the story much more intimate. And surprisingly the history book 1776 by David McCullough was also author-read and this nonfiction is enhanced by it. Several of Neil Gaiman's books are also read by the author, including Coraline and the Graveyard Book.

I decided to do a quick search in the catalog under the term "read by the author" and got close to 1000 returns. And here I thought all of our audiobooks were read by George Guidall. Who knew there were so many and that it was searchable. Now I know how I will be selecting my next batch of audiobooks.