Friday, September 28, 2012

Banned Books Week 2012

Celebrate the freedom to read. September 30 through October 6, 2012 is Banned Books Week.

So what's the big deal about censoring a few dusty tomes? Well, click here for a list of books that have been banned, challenged or restricted in the last year. Do you recognize any of them? Some of the titles may surprise you. The Adventures of Super Diaper Baby by Dav Pilkey and Nickel and Dimed by Barbara Ehrenreich, for instance, would never have entered my radar as dangerous. But there's probably a little something for everyone on that list. As Nebula award-winner Catherynne Valente said, "If it's good and popular, it's been banned."

Find out if one of your favorite classics has been threatened with censorship and why. I discovered that A Separate Peace by John Knowles, which I studied in high school, was challenged for “unsuitable language” within my own school district just two years after I graduated. I loved A Separate Peace. It shaped how I look at the world, I believe, for the better. How sad it would have been if my fellow students had been denied the same opportunity I had to learn from that book. If you want to know more about the censorship of books, the American Library Association (ALA) has a wealth of information, including a video essay by Bill Moyers, the honorary co-chair of this year's Banned Books Week.

Celebrated author Junot Diaz said of censorship, "Every time we ban a text we're basically tearing a page from the book of our democratic culture." If you want to see what he and several other prominent writers think about their favorite banned books, the Association of American Publishers (APA) asked them and this is what they had to say:

Do you have a favorite book that has been banned or challenged?

Friday, September 21, 2012

The Road Goes Ever On

Today, friends, is Hobbit Friday. For those who are not enormous Tolkien geeks, this means pretty much nothing. You can skip to the next paragraph if you want to. But for we who are, September 21 marks the day that J.R.R. Tolkien first published The Hobbit 75 years ago. And tomorrow, is of course, the birthday of both Frodo and Bilbo Baggins, the heroes of Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, respectively. So for me, this day has been celebrated by eating a second breakfast, watching the trailers for the new adaptation of The Hobbit (being released in December), and wearing a replica of the One Ring on a chain around my neck--although it does seem to fit perfectly on my finger... maybe I could just slip it on for a second...

 But even for those who do not subscribe to various Tolkien-related newsletters and message boards, Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is still highly anticipated. Simply put, it promises to be spectacular. Stories of epic journeys have always intrigued me, speaking to that place of deep wanderlust that lives inside mankind, which is probably why these are some of the oldest stories ever told. Everyman leaves home to find adventure, and grows along the way. Even the most homebody-ish of us seems to want to live vicariously through these characters that get dragged into a journey, often reluctantly, and come out all the better for it.

So, without further ado, here is just a sampling of the great journeying and adventure stories, both with reluctant adventurers and eager ones, that we have here in our collection at the library. There's something for everyone, from Under the Tuscan Sun to The Odyssey.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

How Junot Díaz Almost Made Me Miss My Bus Stop

Some authors are so good that I want to give them my full attention, which means not reading them on the bus. Sometimes I fail at this.

Back in April, I was on the bus on my way to the library when I saw that my magazine had the latest story by Junot Díaz. I told myself to save if for when I got home, so I could savor it. Then I told myself I would just read a few paragraphs. And then I almost missed my bus stop, hustling  down the aisle and out the door, magazine in hand, before the bus pulled away.

The story was "Miss Lora," and like the best stories in his 1996 short story collection, Drown, it is electric, crackling with energy that seems to rise off the page. Here's a passage that practically dares you to stop reading:

"You were at the age where you could fall in love with a girl over an expression, a gesture. That's what happened with your girlfriend Paloma--she stooped to pick up her purse, and your heart flew out of you. That's what happened with Miss Lora, too."

Although Díaz won the Pulitzer Prize for his novel, The Brief, Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, there are fans of his stories who swear he's at his finest in the shorter form. Do the words Pulitzer Prize-winner put fear in your heart? Fear not: his stories are as accessible as they are dazzling, their immediacy heightened by Díaz's exuberant use of language.

Although his stories are frequently irreverent in tone, they often traverse dark and emotionally complex terrain. In "The Pura Princple," Yunior, who narrates most of the stories and who previously appeared in Drown and Oscar Wao, recounts his volatile brother's final months and his marriage to Pura, whom his mother hates. "She'd never been big on church before," Yunior says of his mother, "but as soon as we landed on cancer planet she went so over-the-top Jesucristo that I think she would have nailed herself to a cross if she'd had one handy." In "Alma," Yunior tells of his first love, "one of those Sonic Youth, comic-book-reading alernatinas," and his foolishness. When Alma reads his journal, which recounts an infidelity, she confronts him, to which he replies with "a smile your dissembling face will remember until the day you die: 'Baby . . . this is part of my novel.'"

All the stories above and more are included in Díaz's latest collection, This Is How You Lose Her. I checked my copy out on September 14th, just one day before the start of National Hispanic Heritage Month, which runs through October 15th. It's a time to celebrate the contributions of American citizens of Spanish, Mexican, Caribbean, and Central and South American descent. I'll be celebrating with Díaz's latest stories, grateful to him and to the grade school librarian he spoke of at his recent Chicago appearance, a woman who didn't speak any Spanish but who empathized with the young boy, only recently arrived from the Dominican Republic, and said the magic words: "Have some books."

Who are your favorite Hispanic American writers? And feel free to share any suggestions on how to celebrate Hispanic American Heritage Month.

Friday, September 14, 2012

The Hits Just Keep on Coming

How do you figure out what book to read next? I think a fair amount of us rely on a combination of serendipity while browsing and other people’s recommendations. There are a lot of areas in the library where you can get the best of both of those worlds. 

Courtesy of zen

Take for instance the somewhat hidden and mysterious Mullenbach Collection. Often shrouded in secrecy in the Rotary Heritage Room, all the books available in this collection are classics or contemporary favorites of literary quality. A few new titles are added each year so along with perennial picks such as The Catcher in the Rye you can find fresh copies of instant classics such as The Help. The first section of books across the Rotary Heritage Room is the Book Group Collection. This area features copies of past book club reads and is a great place to look if you are stumped on what to read next. Or if you never got around to reading “that book everyone keeps talking about” such as The Hunger Games.  

Another place to look for recommendations is the Positively Ellinwood Street blog display located on the third floor. We feature suggestions from our blog posts there, along with bookmarks and flyers on different topics such as popular teen books or books to read while you wait for your Fifty Shades of Grey hold to come in. 

Of course we are always available at the Readers Services desk if you are not sure where to look for your next great read. Beyond our powerful minds we can provide lists of similar authors to your favorite writer or similar materials to a book you just read and loved. One of my new favorite quotes about reading comes from Diane Duane’s So You Want to Be a Wizard: “Reading one book is like eating one potato chip”. If you feel the same way about reading, Des Plaines Public Library can easily be all that and a bag of chips for your reading tastes.  

How did you stumble across the last great book you read? And how will you find your next read? 

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Winter Woeful-Land

Now that Labor Day has come and gone and the days are getting fractionally shorter with each sunset, the promise of a glorious autumn is imminent. Fall, though, like Spring is a fleeting season with very few days of its own, most of them belonging to either a fading summer or an all too eager winter. Indeed it's at about this time of year that I begin to think about the winter season. Holiday promotions begin to appear in magazines and shop windows and the bitter winds, slushy snow, and frosty nights of January seem no more than a blink away. While the twinkling white lights in the trees and enormous holiday meals shared with loved-ones bring some feeling of warmth to the dreary cold, the essence of a Chicago winter is a brutal and unforgiving one. It is a setting of low, blank skies and an overpowering sense of the color gray. It's an empty, forsaken time wherein one passes few people on the street and those who do pass by walk quickly and say nothing. 
Forthcoming from Arnaldur Indridason

While a Chicago winter might have little or no appeal as a vacation destination, its essence shares something special in common with the gritty atmosphere of many mystery novels put forth by several popular Scandinavian authors. Bitter cold and a sense of pervasive personal isolation feature heavily. For fans of murder and mayhem and for those whose sense of wonder is awakened by the chillingly sinister approach of another Chicago winter I've compiled a short list of new and forthcoming Scandinavian mysteries. Enjoy!

Friday, September 7, 2012

IMAX, why did it have to be IMAX?

In the midst of composing today's planned blog post, my machinations came to a screeching halt when I discovered Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark will be coming back to movie theaters, for one week, Sept. 7-13. In IMAX.

There are few instances in life when my schedule becomes instantly rearranged due to a piece of news: this is one such case. Now, I am not especially crazy about shelling out a chunk of cash on a suped-up movie viewing experience. Sure, there are some movies that just beg to be seen on the big screen (Marvel's the Avengers and Prometheus come to mind), but I have always viewed IMAX as a sort of overkill for the movie-going experience. I suppose my biggest fear is that I would feel that the quality of the movie would not stand up to the IMAX experience (and I'd feel like I wasted my hard-earned funds). Well, what better time to cut my teeth on a supposedly unbelievable way of watching a movie with a film that single-handedly personifies the term "larger than life"?

By the way, this whole Raiders-on-IMAX gig is meant to be a precursor to the release of the first three Indiana Jones movies (the real ones) on BluRay on Sept. 18. We'll have these at DPPL - keep an eye on our catalog for an opportunity to place these on hold!

Raiders of the Lost Ark is mine. Do you have a film that would make you drop everything and run to see it if it arrived back on the big screen?