Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Complete Guide to Prehistoric Life by Tim Haines and Paul Chambers

We just received a copy of this book that I catalogued for the Branch, and I have to say it has in it some of the most spectacular pictures of dinosaurs I've ever seen. It's like stepping back in time and having them appear right in front of you, so life-like that you feel the breath from a roar or the water droplets shaken from an aquatic beast.

This visual encyclopedia of prehistoric animals would appeal to anyone who has a fascination with the prehistoric world and the dinosaurs who ruled it. It features over 100 of the largest, weirdest and scariest animals that ever existed. Many of these creatures have never been illustrated before. This book is packed with information on the biology, lifestyle and behavior of these creatures, as well as what they ate, how they raised their young, how they survived, and the landscapes in which they lived.

This book is a visual feast from the creators of the highly acclaimed "Walking with Dinosaurs" series.

The book is divided into three parts: Part One, The Rise of Life; Part Two, The Age of Reptiles, and Part Three, The Age of Beasts. Using the latest digital techniques they have been able to range across time and bring back to life the weirdest collection of creatures you could ever imagine. What a treat this book is.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

The Library: an Illustrated History by Stuart A. P. Murray

This is a fascinating book incorporating beautiful illustrations and images and insightful quotations and descriptions to take us on an informative journey through the history of our libraries. It is an eloquent account of this indispensable and remarkable institution from its earliest times to the present. "A great library cannot be constructed," the nineteenth-century Scottish historian John Hill Burton reminded us in The Book Hunter, "It is the growth of ages."

After the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the charismatic mayor of New York City, Fiorello H. La Guardia, took to the airwaves for a series of Sunday night broadcasts in which he would speak directly to his constituents, keeping them appraised of world events, giving them all an encouraging pep talk. At the end of each program, it was his custom to conclude his remarks with the words "patience and fortitude", calm advice that he felt would see everyone safely through the long ordeal that lay ahead. So inspirational was his message of comfort and hope that "Patience and Fortitude" were adopted as the unofficial names of the majestic lions carved from pink Tennessee marble that guard the entryway to the New York Public Library on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan. With concern in some quarters that technology has rendered 21st century libraries quaint and archaic, these names have taken on renewed significance.

In the early months of 2009, when we faced a financial crisis, news reports began to crop up that libraries were busier than ever, a circumstance made especially curious by the fact that so many of them were among the first to suffer severe cutbacks in funding. In New York, attendance for 2008 was up 13 percent over the previous year, circulation reached 21.1 million items, an increase of close to 4 million. Similar patterns were evident from coast to coast, with the ALA reporting more active borrowing cards in use nationally than at any other time in history. Americans visited their libraries some 1.3 billion times in 2008, and checked out more than 2 billion items. "It's a national phenomenon," the ALA's president told NBC News. "Library use is up everywhere." Too bad it takes hard times for some people to appreciate libraries.

This volume speaks to the book lover in all of us, while offering a panoramic view of the history of libraries across the centuries.

Four Spirits by Sena Jeter Naslund

In the early days of the civil rights conflicts, Birmingham, Alabama was infamous for its racial injustice. Police Chief Bull Connor, the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr., lunch counter sit-ins, the Klan, and the bombing of the church where four little girls died...all play a part in this book that brings to life the shameful history of our nation's past. Having grown up in Alabama, not far from Birmingham, and experienced first hand some of these inequities when I was a girl, I was very interested in reading Naslund's account.

Some people have found it hard to keep up with the characters, and I must admit that I had a bit of trouble myself in the first part of the book. But once Naslund sets up the framework of the book, and once I got the characters straight, the sensuous language of the book told the story beautifully. Naslund is a very gifted writer and knows the human heart well and her writing can be very reflective and somber and soaring all at the same time. It's a book that will probably not be a quick read, because it is chock full of real and imagined characters who's lives intersect as they persevere in their struggle for equality, but it is one that you should read and savor in bits and pieces enjoying Naslund's skill in capturing the turmoil and heartbreak of the time.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Pat Conroy is back

Pat Conroy writes beautifully. It has been 14 years since his last book. His fans are really excited about his new book, "South of Broad". I can't wait to read it.

'South of Broad' Ends Pat Conroy's...

Books Aren't Dead

The number of books in print in 2008 rose 38 percent from the year before (which itself was up 38 percent from 2006)

Where are all those books coming from? Both mainstream and self-publishers have contributed to the flood. But the real answer lies in university libraries, which are suddenly hawking publishing rights to the contents of their stacks--or at least what's out of print or in the public domain. Latest example: the University of Michigan (partnering with Google for the digitization and with an Amazon offshoot called Book-Surge for the printing) plans to offer more than 400,000 titles for sale on demand. Cornell plans to do the same with 500,000 titles, and the University of Pennsylvania plans to add another 200,000. Publishing's obituary may be, much like Mark Twain's, premature. [Malcolm Jones, Newsweek, August 24 & 31, 2009]

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Britain's Most Avid Reader

Louise Brown: She borrows mainly large print books because she is partially sighted, and has almost worked her way through her local library's entire stock.

Louise Brown, 91, has read up to a dozen books a week since 1946 without incurring a single fine for late returns.

Library staff in Stranraer, Dumfries and Galloway, say the pensioner's rapacious reading habits over 60 years could earn her a place in the record books.

Mrs Brown, a widow, said: "My parents were great readers and I've always loved books. I started reading when I was five and have never stopped. I like anything I can get my hands on."

She said her favourite genres are family sagas, historical novels and war stories, but added: "I also like Mills and Boon for light reading at night."

She said she had read too many books to have a favourite or top five, but if she had to choose a preferred genre it would be family sagas or historical novels.

Over the past six decades she has borrowed at least six books every week throughout each year and has recently increased that to about 12 every seven days.

"Although she has borrowed nearly 25,000 books, she has never once had to pay an overdue charge.The staff at Stranraer Library think she's a remarkable lady and look forward to her weekly visits. They would like to know if anyone can beat her reading record."

Friday, August 14, 2009

Face by Sherman Alexie

The New York Times Book Review has said that Mr. Alexie is one of the major lyric voices of our time. I would have to agree. I love his poetry. Kiowa novelist and poet N. Scott Momaday won a Pulitzer in 1969 for "House Made of Dawn" and is a talented native american writer. Leslie Marmon Silko and Joy Harjo are two more native american writers that I admire. But I think Sherman Alexie is probably the most famous native writer in the land, and has been for years now. His work is funny, self-deprecating, profound, and above all honest. He was born and raised on the rez and that background is a rich source of material for his writing. There is a taste of poetic genius in his poems. He writes sometimes in sonnets, rhymed couplets, short quatrains, villanelles, and even manages to incorporate footnotes. The title of one of the poems in the book gives you a clue to Sherman's poetic approach. It's called "Comedy is Simply a Funny Way of Being Serious." His verse is sometimes confrontational and therefore he is controversial and maybe not everybody's cup of tea. But I find him truly amazing and thought provoking and I look forward to anything new from him that comes along.

And here is a quote from Mr. Alexie that I really enjoyed, as it pertains to librarians. And by the way, just so you know, I'm a tour guide!

"During my journeys in the children's book world, I have found that librarians enjoy a kind of promotional power that they don't have in the adult book world. And, generally speaking, I've also found there are two types of librarians: the gatekeepers and the tour guides. The gatekeepers are the traditionalists of children's literature. They seem to be far more culturally and aesthetically conservative, and are wary and sometimes censorious of contemporary realism (sex, drugs, and rock 'n roll). These librarians seek to promote a few great books, often historical classics (To Kill a Mockingbird) that they believe should be read by everybody. These librarians are a minority. A large majority of librarians are tour guides who seek to find the one book that matches the loves and hates of any one reader. These librarians could very well hand To Kill a Mockingbird to a certain reader, but they are more apt to deliver Walter Dean Myers or Sonya Sones or E. Lockhart or Chris Crutcher. My summary? Gatekeepers favor the book; tour guides favor the reader."

Friday, August 7, 2009

The Lovely Bones

This book by Alice Sebold has been on my "to read" list since its release in 2002. After seeing the trailer below for the film that will be released in December of this year, I know that I will have to work it in in the next few months. You may want to too.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

1969 Revisited

Not only did we just celebrate the 40th anniversary of the moon landing, but it is also the 40th anniversary of another auspicious event that occurred in 1969--Woodstock. Michael Lang's book is the story of how those three days of peace and love and music came about.

It was also the 40th anniversary of the Manson murders.

Charles Manson - Helter Skelter and Beyond is a biography of Charles Manson, the infamous convict charged with murder and conspiracy to murder in the late 1960's. Manson formed and led the "Manson Family" to heinously commit the Tate-LaBianca murders. Helter Skelter, a reference to a Beatles song, is forever connected to the Manson murders; but by his own account, Helter Skelter was a term Manson used to predict and produce an apocalyptic racial war between whites and blacks. Charles Manson and the Manson Family murders have become a symbol of evil, bloody violence, and the macabre.

NPR had a list of racy reads from that landmark year from their special series Three Books, which features great reads on a single theme. Click here.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Flooding at Louisville Library

Waterlogged library books were strewn across the lower level of Louisville’s main library on Tuesday after a thunderstorm soaked downtown and flooded parts of the city. Libary Director Craig Buthod says computers and “tens of thousands of books” have been lost to the water damage. He says three bookmobiles, staff vehicles and even his car were under water in the underground parking garage.Mayor Jerry Abramson says the damage will likely exceed $1 million in the downtown library.The director estimates at least three feet of standing water was inside the lower level Tuesday afternoon. Along with the lost books, several computers that were headed to a new library branch were ruined.

Buthod said the library's Web site is down and that notice will be provided through the media when the Main Library and the closed branches will reopen.

He said people who want to donate to help pay for the damage can mail checks to: The Library Foundation, 301 York St., Louisville, KY 40203, Attn: Flood. Or they can call, 574-1709 for information.


After Fonzie got a library card on "Happy Days", library card applications reportedly increased 500%.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

The Big Thrill

If you enjoy thrillers, here's a link to the latest webzine put out by the International Thriller Writers. There's even a spot on here where you can sign up for their monthly emails to keep up with information on the latest thrillers being published that month, along with in-depth stories and interviews. There's also a chance to win first edition signed thrillers by your favorite authors. What are you waiting for?
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