Husband has been on a "food memoir" kick lately, reading quite a few books written by chefs, foodies or people who come from families where food is another beloved member. He enjoys these books and tells me bits and pieces of the things he has read to the point that my interest in reading a "food memoir" was piqued. I remembered that the Library had one such book and that it had received good reviews so I brought it home for Husband to read earlier this spring. He read the book in two days and gave it the big thumbs up so I decided to read it too and I'm glad I did. Blood, Bones & Butter is by Gabrielle Hamilton and not only can she cook, but she can write too. Hamilton owns a restaurant in New York City called Prune (there is a reason for this name) and has become a celebrity chef in her own right. She knows food and she can write it about it in a way that keeps the pages turning. Admittedly, if descriptions of food bore you, this is not the book for you. But if you like reading about food, how it is grown, how it is cooked, how it is eaten and what it does for a body and soul then you will enjoy this book. It's not all Hamilton writes about either. She has lived an interesting life albeit a sometimes desperate and lonely one. Read more »
Getting lost in a good book is a reader's dream. Getting lost in a good book that revolves around other good books (and short stories) is a reader's dream multiplied. Every time I read a book about books I wonder why I can't be so clever as to write something similar. So it was with the latest books book I read, "The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry", by Gabrielle Zevin. When this book arrived on the van delivery one look at the cover told me that it was going to have quirky characters. And indeed it did, starting with the titular character himself. A. J. Fikry owns a bookstore on a remote (fictional) island off the coast of Massachusetts. He is a curmudgeonly bookstore operator, not real fond of children and most other annoying customers. His bookstore isn't doing so well because it's not stocked with anything people really like to read; only books that pass muster with A.J., who is a bit of a literary snob, grace the bookstores shelves. A.J. is only in his late 30s but is already a widower, having lost his beloved wife Nic in a car accident a couple years previous. This is indeed a huge loss because while there is someone out there for everyone as they say, there might not be two people out there for A.J. and soon the reader starts to fear that A.J. will spend the rest of his days and nights alone. A.J. is doing everything he can to make sure those days and nights are numbered by staring down the bottom of a bottle of something almost every night. Read more »
It is almost the end of the third month of 2014 although you would not know it by the weather. Back in June we posted some staff picks from the first half of 2013 and the intent was to follow that up in January with some favorites from the second half of the year. So while I am a couple months behind, it's still possible to get this list done before it's time to post our favorites for the first half 2014. In the interest of actually accomplishing this post, I held staff to five of their favorites from the last half of the year. This was very hard for Lyn and Carol as they are prolific readers. It wasn't so hard for me. (the ipad is still cutting into reading time even though I resolve to change this week after week)
Here are our favorites from the last half of 2013 (these books were not necessarily published in 2013) Read more »
It is winter and we all have the blues... it must time for Biblio Bingo! Our annual adult reading program started on Monday and judging from the response we've received so far, people are ready to play. Winters can be hard around here and this program always seems to come along just when folks are looking for some diversion from the usual get up, shovel snow, go to bed, get up, shovel snow, go to bed. Each year we think we've exhausted all the possible book categories there could be and each year we surprise ourselves by thinking of some clever new ones. This year's favorite new categories are "Real Housewives of Historical Fiction", "Saved from the Chopping Block" and, pictured above, "Don't Judge a Book by Its Cover". This last category is especially fun because readers are asked to pick a book from an assortment that have been completely wrapped up. The idea behind this category is that all of us, whether we are aware of it or not, judge books by their covers. This category forces us to read something without the benefit of our initial judgments. So far, several participants have chosen "Don't Judge a Book by Its Cover" as one of their categories and they've been pleasantly surprised by what they've picked. If you do pick one of the wrapped books, you get to go in the stacks and find another one for staff to wrap for someone else to pick. Other book categories this year include "From Russia with Love" (because the Winter Olympics are in Sochi, Russia), "The Great War" (in observance of the 100th anniversary of the start of World War I), and "Pick-Up Artists" (books that have great first lines). Read more »
In October I wrote a post about the short list finalists for the 2013 National Book Awards. This is the first year that the awards started off with a "long list" and then narrowed that list down to five books in the categories of Fiction, Nonfiction, Youth and Poetry. The winners were announced at the annual Awards gala on November 20th. Here they are:
The Good Lord Bird by James McBride
The reviews on this book mention that it is "darkly funny" often. The book deals with slavery and features the abolitionist John Brown among its many real life historical figures. The protagonist is a young male slave who is mistaken as a girl and swept along with John Brown's "army". The Minneapolis Tribune summed it this way
“As in Huck Finn, this novel comes in through the back door of history, telling you something you might not know by putting you in the heat of the action…It is a compelling story and an important one, told in a voice that is fresh and apolitical.” Read more »
We are trying to get better at keeping displays in the adult stacks timely and connected to events here and now. This is why a couple of weeks ago I was taking down the Halloween books and preparing a display for the Thanksgiving holiday. There is a dearth of books about Thanksgiving that are targeted for adults so I was digging deep into the stacks to find what I could find. I remembered that we had purchased a book a couple of years ago titled "The Wordy Shipmates" and I went looking for this book thinking that it was about the daring souls who braved the Mayflower voyage back in 1620. I was wrong about that. The book, by Sarah Vowell, was about the Puritans who came later and founded the Massachusetts Bay Colony. I remembered that I had been interested in reading this book when we purchased it but held off because the book was part of our adult reading program Biblio Bingo. Like so many books that get on my list, it got put on the way way back burner. So even though the book was not about the "Thanksgiving Pilgrims" I decided to read it anyway in honor of the holiday. However, I had three books at home waiting to be read so I decided to order the audio version of this book through Infosoup. Choosing to listen to an audiobook is always fraught with a little risk. People who use audiobooks regularly will know exactly what I mean by this. The readers, sometimes hired actors, sometimes the authors, can make or break the "reading" experience. Read more »
Teacher on the Trail™ @ the Library
Wednesday November 13, 2013 at 6:30pm
Adults and Elementary school aged youth and up welcome
The Alaska Iditarod, the annual sled dog race, has a place in the collective imagination of nearly every American. The setting for the race, the wide open spaces between Anchorage and Nome, is just one of the many reasons why this is so. Alaska is our last frontier - if you want to forge a new life, test your mettle against the elements, or get lost in a big way, Alaska is still a place where this can be done. The Iditarod encompasses all of these things - it's a race lasting days, sometimes weeks and the dogs and humans that participate experience extremes in weather, endurance and accomplishment. The modern Iditarod race started in the 1970s as a way to bring historic Alaska to life in a way that would put the state on the national radar. The race also pays homage to a similar kind of sled dog race that took place in 1925. That year a diphtheria epidemic was threatening the village of Nome and the only way to get the vaccine supplies to the isolated town was by sleds. A relay of sorts began and both humans and dogs emerged as heroes in saving the children of Nome from the ravages of the dreaded disease. (Balto, one of the sled dogs is immortalized by statue in Central Park) Most of us learned this story at some point in our childhood and the image of those dogs racing to save the lives of young children stayed with us - as it does for today's children. The race these days is a test of wills supported by modern technology (which makes finishing times faster each year) and a network of volunteers that is huge in scope. It is Alaska's signature event. Read more »
Award season is upon us. I am not talking about the Academy Awards; I am talking about awards much more important than those. November is National Book Awards season and the five finalists for each of the four categories of writing that receive an award have been announced. When you live in a book world, the National Book Awards are kind of a big deal. But like everything in life, and I mean everything, there is oh so much politics involved in the granting of these awards. They were originally started by the American Booksellers Association and over time are now sponsored by the National Book Foundation. The judges are writers who are well respected in their field or genre of writing. The books are submitted primarily by publishers and well over 1,000 books are submitted each year. Previously, those submittals became a "short list" of five books in each of the four categories - Fiction, Nonfiction, Poetry and Youth. New this year, was a "long list" that was announced in September, followed by the "short list" that was just announced. The winners in each category will be announced at the National Book Awards Gala on November 20th. Through the years the books that have been chosen in their categories have been deemed worthy, or not - there always seems to be a controversy surrounding the picks. Read more »
It's mere coincidence that the same week as Banned Books Week I came across this article about coffee table books which featured a book that has been on so many coffee tables in so many design magazine photos through the years that some publications have banned it from their glossy pages because of overuse. The article on coffee table books would be interesting reading to all book lovers who have books here and there throughout their homes, but who knew that a whole industry existed where books are used merely to decorate a room and not to be read or looked through? As a matter of fact, the above mentioned article makes mention of something called "Book Bundles" that can be found at Restoration Hardware or Pottery Barn. Book Bundles are discarded books with their covers ripped off, sewn together to form a stack, that can then be displayed on your coffee table or bookshelf. Pottery Barn even sells this, which is a product that does not include books at all, just a picture of books in a stack. Say what???
This got me thinking of my own books and where they sit in my house and how they are arranged. There are books in almost every room of the house - our bedroom, the only room large enough for a big bookcase - guest bedrooms, to give our guests some reading options should they arrive without any - and the living room, which is usually where all of the library books we check out end up. However, we do not have many coffee table books per se and the ones that could fit that definition do not sit on our coffee table. The reason for this is because our coffee table is quite narrow due to the confines of a small living room. This is not to say we don't have a nice coffee table. Husband hand built the one we have and it is very nice and sized just right for the space. But not sized so much for coffee table books.
So as I was reading the article (the above mentioned one) up in my bedroom, I thought about the "coffee table" books that sit on the END table in our living room. I could picture them, but I could not recall the titles. Seeing as how this article (the one I keep mentioning) is titled "You Are What You Stack" I decided to go downstairs and see just what I was. And this is what I found:
Yes, buried under all of those newspapers and magazines are some books. If I had read the article (by now you all know I'm referring to the one mentioned above) on a day I had cleaned my house I might have been able to take a photo of the books without all the clutter. But since I only clean once in a while (hey, I'm a reader) the odds of that happening were slim to none. For the curious though, the books underneath all of the newsprint were:
Annie Liebowitz Women by Susan Sontag
The Irish in America
The Library in America: a celebration in words and pictures by Paul Dickson.
If, as the article is titled, you are what you stack, then I guess I am pretty comfortable with who I am. Especially since all of these books were gifts from people who know me well.
Library staff will be out and about at the Manawa Fall Festival this Saturday promoting a new program called 1000 Books Before Kindergarten. This easy, do it yourself activity is designed to get families reading to their children from infancy on. There has been a lot of research done in the past 10 years about how reading affects early brain development and the results suggest the earlier we start, the better prepared children will be to start learning once they reach school age. Sturm Memorial Library has been promoting early literacy for years with preschool and Babygarten™ programs and lowering the age children can get library cards to age 0. Many families have participated in our programs and love coming to the Library to get their babies signed up for a Library card. We are expecting that parents will be enthusiastic about this new program and we've set it up so we'll be celebrating benchmarks that parents and children reach along the way. A big bulletin board is being put together and every child that gets signed up will be recognized with a name tag. As they reach their benchmarks the name tags will get stickers on them. Families will receive book bags, bookmarks and books as they steadily work toward their goal of 1000 books.
Reading 1000 books to your child before Kindergarten may sound impossible, but many families probably already do this several times over. If you read one book to your child every day for three years you will have read 1,095 books. If you read two books every day you'll reach 1000 in half that time. And we all know that when young children get a book read to them that they love, they want to hear it again and again...and again. Well, you can count that book every time it's read. And if you attend the Library's preschool programs you can count those books too. The official kick-off for the 1000 Books Before Kindergarten is October 1st and we'll be sure to have some bright and shiny books on the shelves to get families off to a fun start. We hope we see lots of families sign up.