Friday, September 27, 2013

Watch This? Read That! Fall 2013 Edition

Continuing the theme of last week's list, here are some reading suggestions for the hot fall shows which are not already based on books!

If you are watching Junior MasterChef … 

Show premise: Will Gordan Ramsey clean up his language and attitude when a group of kids compete to be MasterChef?!

Try: Suzanne Collin's The Hunger Games for the darker side of children competing against one another (it involves food too!). For a more realistic choice Kathyrn Williams's Pizza, Love, and Other Stuff That Made Me Famous follows a 16-year-old who competes in a reality show cooking contest for teens.

If you are watching The Blacklist … 

Show premise: One of the men on the FBI's Most Wanted List strikes a deal to help them find other people on the list if he is given mercy.

Try: Thomas Harris's The Silence of the Lambs, where a serial killer is used to track another serial killer.

If you are watching Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D … 

Show premise: The Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement and Logistics Division attempts to fight nefarious organizations while finding and understanding people who develop superpowers.

Try: Jonathan Hickman's ambitious S.H.I.E.L.D. : Architects of Forever which imagines famous historical figures such as Leonardo Da Vinci and Galileo as members of the cult organization.

If you are watching Brooklyn Nine-Nine … 

Show premise: The odd couple trope gets yet another makeover as a laid-back detective and his strict captain work together to solve crimes in New York.

Try: Chris Grabenstein's Tilt A Whirl pairs together former military policeman John Ceepak with girl-crazy part-time cop Danny Boyle as they attempt to solve a high-profile murder during a Jersey Shore summer.

If you are watching The Michael J. Fox Show … 

Show premise: After being diagnosed with Parkinson's disease, Mike Henry had to give up his career as a news anchor and focus on his health and his family. Five years later, Mike decides to get back to work and struggles between family and career.

Try: Tough to find a book that hits upon the right sense of comedy and tone. Perhaps David Sedaris's Naked to try and match the dry humor, family situations, and comedic take on living with a disorder.

If you are watching Almost Human … 

Show premise: In the not-so-distant future, human cops are paired together with incredibly realistic android partners to fight crime.

Try: Isaac Asimov's The Caves of Steel, his response to the suggestion that science fiction and mystery stories were mutually exclusive ideas. The story pairs together a human detective and android cop to try and solve a high-profile murder. Also Philip K. Dick's Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (the inspiration for the movie Blade Runner), where a bounty hunter tracks down rogue androids while musing about their ability to feel human empathy.

If you are watching The Crazy Ones … 

Show premise: A zany father with good-intentions runs an ad agency in Chicago with his more straight-laced daughter.

Try: Joshua Ferris's Then We Came to the End about the employees and office dynamics of an ad agency in downtown Chicago. Also Matt Beaumont's  E: A Novel about a British ad agency with tons of misadventures in a desperate attempt to win a contract with Coca Cola.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Books to Television Fall 2013

Can't wait to see some of the new shows debuting this fall? Check out the source material first so you will be the expert!

  • The Annotated Alice
    ABC's “Once Upon a Time in Wonderland” is based on Carroll's classic novel of a Victorian girl transported to a fantastical reality.

  • I Suck at Girls
    Fox's new nineties-set “Surviving Jack” is based on Halpern's memoir about his mostly awkward attempts at interacting with the opposite sex.

  • I Suck at Girls
    Fox's new nineties-set “Surviving Jack” is based on Halpern's memoir about his mostly awkward attempts at interacting with the opposite sex. The audiobook won the Audies humor audiobook of the year!

  • About A Boy
    Hornby's novel about a bachelor who pretends to be a single dad in order to pick up women was previously adapted to film and will now be the NBC comedy "About a Boy"

  • About A Boy
    Hornby's novel about a bachelor who pretends to be a single dad in order to pick up women was previously adapted to film and will now be the NBC comedy "About a Boy"

  • The Complete Tales of Washington Irving
    Fox is adding a time travel twist the the classic tale of Ichabod Crane's deadly encounter with the Headless Horseman in "Sleepy Hollow"

  • The Returned
    A couple's deceased eight year old son suddenly returns to them years later, still frozen at the age he died. The book is the inspiration for ABC's new drama “Resurrection".

  • The 100
    Morgan's futuristic YA novel is the inspiration for a new CW series where 100 delinquent teenagers are sent on a dangerous mission to recolonize planet Earth.

  • Dracula
    NBC's "Dracula" stars Jonathan Rhys Meyers as the famous vampire from the classic gothic novel.

  • The Strain
    A horrific virus is transmitted through vampire bites in this novel turned FX series "The Strain"

  • The Republic of Pirates
    Colin Woodard's nonfiction account of Blackbeard's struggles is the source material for "Crossbones"

  • Undateable
    NBC's new comedy "Undateable" is based on Ellen Rakieten and Anne Coyle's humor book about various deal breakers when one is attempting to pick up women.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

A Paper Companion

The merits of books are many and seldom exaggerated. They have the capacity to entertain, educate, enrich, and exponentially enhance us. Few mediums are as versatile or as enduring. Books adapt; they have become commercial in a capitalist state and digital in a technological one. They can drive social change, or subvert it. School librarians have long touted the catchphrase “books can take you anywhere,” capturing the imaginations of young readers with the promise of exotic, hard-bound adventures, branding literature as a figurative paper airplane. I can affirm from years of experience in working with them that a librarian never lies with regard to a book, and indeed literature does have a unique gift for evoking a vast range of landscapes, both real and invented, but a trip by book and trip by booking are two very different experiences, both rich and meaningful in their own peculiar ways. There exist places on earth which are beyond the breadth of any language to describe, and images and experiences in books unmatched by the wonders of the physical world. I have found that when I see a new place I am overcome by a craving for books that will help me understand that new environment, to introduce me to unique ideas about that place that I mightn’t have had on my own. I’m referring more to fictional literature than non-fiction, but of course guide-books fit the bill as well. The reverse is equally true; when I read about a new place I invariably follow chapter one by a 45 minute booking site marathon searching for an affordable way to get there, and scouring my calendar for a moment when I might be able to see it for myself.
“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.”
This is a short list of some books that are dear to me for the meaning they brought to place I once went, or a place I one day hope to see.
  • The Shadow of the Wind (La Sombra del Viento)

The Shadow of the Wind had to be the first item on this list. Written by Spanish author Carlos Ruíz Zafón, the language of this novel is not painfully literary, but it is somehow hauntingly beautiful both in Spanish and in English. It’s a story about a young man coming of age in Barcelona during the long and difficult regime of Franco. It was once called “a love letter to books,” and in the Barcelona described by Ruíz Zafón, a little bit of magic isn’t unreasonable. It is followed by two equally beautiful, funny, and thrilling novels called The Angel’s Game (El Juego del Angel), and The Prisoner of Heaven (El Prisionero del Cielo). One of my favorite quotes from The Shadow of the Wind is as follows; “…few things leave a deeper mark on a reader than the first book that finds its way into his heart. Those first images, the echo of words we think we have left behind, accompany us throughout our lives and sculpt a palace in out memory.” I have it hanging on my desk at work to remind me why I work in a library.  I never made it to Barcelona on my trip to Spain, but I look forward to seeing it someday and remembering the special sort of magic realized by the author, and shared by all of the readers of this Cemetery of Forgotten Books series.
A shot of my very tidy desk.
  • The Alchemist

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho brings some of my favorite places in the world to life. It’s the story of a boy who sets out from Andalusía to cross the world in search of a treasure. I feel strongly about this book because it calls to mind the truth that all we travelers are children at heart searching the world for the next great treasure, be it a new friend, an incredible photograph, and irreplicable experience, or simply the best tiramisu you could ever taste (Tip: it’s at the restaurant furthest from the carousel in the Piazza della Repubblica in Florence). Santiago, a young shepherd by trade crosses Morocco and Egypt in his quest, and becomes wise along the way. “Remember that wherever your heart is, there you will find your treasure.” This quote was meaningful for me, and has a strong relationship with the drive many of us feel to travel, and see the world. 

  • Like Water for Chocolate (Como Agua para Chocolate)

Someone who hasn’t been to Mexico might not realize that it is a place where magic really exists. The strong influence of Roman Catholicism which, over the course of history has absorbed aspects of many indigenous customs has resulted in a decidedly open-minded attitude towards the supernatural among Mexicans. When I say "magic" I’m referring more to a sense of possibility that might be less narrow than that of someone living in the United States. The city where I lived in Mexico was called Guanajuato–it was a colonial city built following the conquest of Mexico by Spain for the purpose of mining silver. In Guanajuato there are hundreds of “callejones,” or small alleywas that are all unique, and usually have interesting or unexpected names like “Callejón del Infierno,” or “Callejón del Beso.” Each of these alleyways has its own legend–a story that describes how it got its name, and the legends are well-known to most of the locals. Most of the stories are strongly influenced by religion, and superstition. In many cases figures like witches, or demons even appear. Tourists can tour  the alleyways with the “callejoneada,” a group of minstrals who sing, and re-enact the legends of the various callejones. Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel comunicates the unique sense of wonder with which all life is imbued in Mexico. It is the story of Tita, and her personal struggle between love and tradition. I feel that it communicates a lot about Mexican culture. I liked the idea “the simple truth is that truth doesn’t exist. It all depends on one’s point of view.”

  • Life of Pi

Yann Martel's coming-of-age adventure novel is both fantastic and fantastical and spans decades and continents alike. While most of the book takes place both in Canada and India, the story emphasizes the protagonists spiritual journey over his physical one. The central plot device is the voyage by life-boat of a boy and several zoo animals through the Pacific Ocean from a sinking freight ship having embarked from India to the coast of Mexico. Over the course of the narrative Piscine Molitor "Pi" Patel discovers his own personal strength explores his spirituality. Hinduism plays a prominent role, and reading about Pi's childhood in India made me long to visit it--Christianity and Islam are also visited by Pi in his effort to "love God." More than anything Life of Pi explores the narrative of life; an idea expressed eloquently by Pi when he explains “The world isn't just the way it is. It is how we understand it, no? And in understanding something, we bring something to it, no?
Doesn't that make life a story?”

My thought here is basically, that while books have the ability to “transport” a reader anywhere, that they also have an incredible strength as a travel companion, and are likely to enrich your experience tremendously regardless of where on the globe you land. Have you ever read a book that made you want to see a new place, or been somewhere that gave you a thirst for local fiction?

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

So Many Great Hispanic Authors, So Little Time!

To celebrate Hispanic American Heritage Month, which runs from September 15th through October 15th, the library is hosting Hispanic Heritage Music Night on October 7th and a special Drop in Craft on October 14th. Both of these are sure to be fun--you can find additional information on the programs on our calendar of events here--but I'll be celebrating with a good novel.

But what to choose! Although I read In the Time of the Butterflies by Julia Alvarez several years ago, her novel based on the lives of the Dominican Mirabal sisters merits a second read: murdered in 1960 for participating in the rebellion against despot Rafael Trujillo, Alvarez brings the sisters to life again in this novel that takes us from their convent-educated girlhood in the Dominican Republic through their harrowing final days.

Then there's Music of the Mill by Luis J. Rodriguez, long on my radar and highly recommended by a couple of trusted readers. Set in the Los Angeles barrios it spans 60 years in the lives of the Salcido family, two generations of which work in a mill, including a second-generation son who stands up to those in power at the mill.

I think what I most want to read, though, is The House on Mango Street, published in 1984 and already considered a classic coming of age story. The author, Sandra Cisneros, based the novel on her experiences growing up in Chicago, one of seven children in a family that moved back and forth between Chicago and Mexico. The heroine of the novel is Esperanza Cordero. Here's Esperanza on the subject of her great-grandmother, for whom she is named:

She looked out the window her whole life, the way so many women sit their sadness on an elbow. I wonder if she made the best with what she got or was she sorry because she couldn’t be all the things she wanted to be. Esperanza. I have inherited her name, but I don’t want to inherit her place by the window.

Below is a list of other fiction titles by Hispanic American authors, all of which the library owns. What are your recommendations or favorites?