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We recently added “The Roosevelts” to the DBRL collection. The seven episode series played on PBS earlier this year, and is the latest from documentary filmmaker Ken Burns who has done other series such as “The Civil War,” “Baseball,” “Jazz,” “The War,” “The National Parks,” and “Prohibition.” Here’s a synopsis from our catalog:
Profiles Theodore, Franklin, and Eleanor Roosevelt, three members of the most prominent and influential family in American politics. It is the first time in a major documentary television series that their individual stories have been interwoven into a single narrative. This seven-part, 14 hour film follows the Roosevelts for more than a century, from Theodore’s birth in 1858 to Eleanor’s death in 1962. Over the course of these years, Theodore would become the 26th President of the United States and his beloved niece, Eleanor, would marry his fifth cousin, Franklin, who became the 32nd President of the United States. Together, these three individuals not only redefined the relationship Americans had with their government and with each other, but also redefined the role of the United States within the wider world. The series encompasses the history the Roosevelts helped to shape: the creation of the National Parks, the digging of the Panama Canal, the passage of innovative New Deal programs, the defeat of Hitler, and the postwar struggles for civil rights at home and human rights abroad. It is also an intimate human story about love, betrayal, family loyalty, personal courage, and the conquest of fear.
I’m happy to report that the first week of December has been designated National Cookie Cutter Week – who knew? It makes perfect sense to claim this week as such since the winter holidays are approaching and so many folks take up baking. Okay, and who knew there was a museum housing a collection of cookie cutters in Missouri? Well, if you didn’t, I can fill you in – I just found out recently myself. It’s in Joplin, and it’s officially called the National Cookie Cutter Historical Museum.
Maybe you’ve guessed that I’m a little partial to cookie cutters. I’ve amassed my own small collection over the years, including an aluminum Santa Claus from my early childhood. It’s a sweet relic from a past life in which my mother baked a huge assortment of holiday cookies – between eight and 10 mouth-watering kinds. I don’t know how she did that year after year between singlehandedly raising four children and working full time. (The homemade, rum-spiked eggnog must have helped!)
I could never keep up with my mother’s high gear production, but I do like to crank out a few batches to enjoy with friends and family during this time. There is a little more work involved in making rolled cookies, but it’s worth the effort, whether you have kids involved (most love doing this) or not. Depending on your time and inclination, you can decorate them simply, extravagantly or not at all. One of the all-time easiest recipes to make is Scottish shortbread, with just three ingredients. I like to make this recipe, roll the dough rather thickly and use my heart-shaped cutter to make lots of little hearts, stack them in jars or boxes and give them as gifts. No one has ever complained.
By the way, you don’t have to have a rolling pin to roll out dough. You can actually roll it out with a round, quart-sized glass jar (e.g., a mayonnaise jar). I know because I’ve done this in a pinch when finding myself in someone else’s kitchen without the real tool. A nice wooden rolling pin, though, feels good in the hands and speeds the whole process. I have a beautiful one, a gift from my father, made of pecan wood. I’ve also seen them made from marble, aluminum and hand-blown glass (functional art, yes!).
We are ready here at DBRL to assist you in your holiday cookie making with an ample collection of cookie recipe books from which to choose. For those folks dealing with gluten intolerance, we also have some gluten-free cookie baking books. With a little pre-planning you can make the cookie baking a time of relaxed enjoyment, perhaps selecting just a few recipes and not overdoing it (quality, not quantity). It’s a satisfying feeling to store freshly baked cookies away in jars and tins, but it’s even more satisfying to share them while drinking coffee, tea or hot chocolate and visiting with family and friends.
If you feel sorry that your cookie cutters languish unused too much of the year, take a gander at these alternative uses for them. You might just find new ways to employ them year round, and that will surely make your life more fun and interesting.
Wishing you good cheer this holiday season!
Nominations for our 2015 One Read book are now closed, but we will be highlighting some of the more than 100 suggested titles throughout the month so you can check out what your fellow mid-Missourians are reading and recommending.
Next up is “Empathy Exams” by Leslie Jamison. Recently named one of the best books of 2014 by Publisher’s Weekly, this collection of essays explores empathy, using topics ranging from street violence and incarceration to reality television and literary sentimentality to ask questions about people’s understanding of and relationships with others.
Our nominator writes, “It tackles a lot of interesting questions: what do we care about and how much control do we have over that? It’s got some pop science and some deeply reflective writing. It’s witty and fun and full of ideas that challenge in a good way.”
See what other titles have been nominated for One Read 2015.
Submitted by Katie Long, Children’s Associate at the Columbia Public Library
Recently I stumbled upon a type of decoration called a rag wreath. They have become one of my new favorite ways to add to add character the front of my house. I love how super simple they are to make, and the possibilities for colors are endless. The great thing about these wreaths is while they look complicated, they are quite simple, and can be made while watching television, or talking to friends.
I don’t like sitting for long periods of time without something to do with my hands (say during a football game on T.V.) and these are the perfect project. It is easy to pick up where you left off and rag wreaths don’t take much brain power.
You need only two things: a wire wreath frame (found at craft stores) and roughly 5 yards of scrap fabric.
Cut the fabric into strips, about six inches by one inch (or 1.5 if you prefer). I recommend using fabric scissors, but you don’t have to. Also, do not fret over getting every piece exact. No one will be able to tell if one or two strips are an inch short, or if they aren’t cut perfectly straight.
Knot one strip to one of the wires on your frame.
Repeat over and over, using different fabrics to form a pattern, or go random. As you go, twist your knots toward the front of the wreath. You want the back to be smooth, and the front to have the majority of the fabric. That’s all. It takes several hours to tie all those knots, though.
Some ideas of possible wreath themes include your favorite team colors, holiday themes, favorite colors, or just whatever fabric scraps you have on hand. Note that some fraying will occur as you handle the fabric. This is okay and it actually helps all the fabrics blend. If you want your colors to pop more, or are going for a cold/cozy theme, try using fleece or flannel fabric.
If you enjoy fabric crafts, you might also check out these titles at your library:
- “Never Been Stitched” by Amanda Carestio
- “Wise Craft” by Blair Stocker
- “The Complete Book of Home Crafts“
Originally published at Homemade Holiday Gifts: Rag Wreaths.
Editor’s note: This review was submitted by a library patron during the 2014 Adult Summer Reading program. We will continue to periodically share some of these reviews throughout the year. We thought the timing was right to share this particular review since the film adaptation of “Wild” hits theaters next week.
“Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail” was an engaging autobiography about the author’s time hiking the Pacific Crest Trail. The topic was well thought out and never got boring. Reading a book with a setting that constantly changes really gets you involved in the character, and the way the writing flowed actually made me feel like I was befriending Cheryl Strayed throughout her journey. This was a charming read for the summertime!
Three words that describe this book: Wilderness for Dummies
You might want to pick this book up if: you are in the mood for a emotional, yet charming read.
Many library users take advantage of DBRL’s online tools, classes and reference collections to research their family trees. Creating a family history takes a lot of time and effort for anyone, but it can be particularly challenging for those who were adopted. In honor of National Adoption Month, we have gathered some tips and resources for adoptees.
- Start with yourself and your adoptive family. Write down everything that you already know about your adoption, and ask questions of your adoptive family, including information they might have about birth parents’ health, education, background and interests.
- Request adoption records. Laws for obtaining information about birth families vary by state. In the State of Missouri, nonidentifying information is available to adoptive parents, a child’s legal guardians or an adult adoptee. This can include the physical description, nationality, religious background and medical history of the birth parents or siblings. See www.childwelfare.gov for a summary of laws by state.
- Here in mid-Missouri, the Adoption Triad Connection helps adoptees find their biological roots. They generally meet every other month at the Columbia Public Library and provide search help and support for adoptees, birth parents and adoptive parents, as well as adoption professionals. I know of several people this organization has been able to help. Visit their website (www.atcofmidmo.com) for more information and for contact information.
- Register with state and national registries that assist in reuniting birth parents and adoptees when both parties consent. The International Soundex Reunion Registry is a good place to start. The State of Missouri also has an adoption information registry.
- Use online search tools and support groups. The Internet and social media are fantastic research tools for adoptees. Cyndi’s List of Genealogy Sites on the Internet has a section on adoption with a number of resources on topics from general resources to use of DNA testing to find birth families. The American Adoption Congress, an advocate for open access to adoption records, also provides research tips and support. There are even a growing number of stories about adoptees finding birth parents or siblings through social sites like Facebook.
- Learn from others’ experiences. Books like Jean A.S. Strauss’ “Birthright” and Pamela Slaton’s “Reunited” provide first-hand accounts of their personal searches for birth parents.
The post Researching Family Histories: Resources for Adoptees appeared first on DBRL Next.
This is the last week that the Daniel Boone Regional Library will be accepting nominations for the 2015 One Read book. Make your suggestion at any of our branches, on the bookmobile or online.
One recent nomination is “The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration” by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Isabel Wilkerson. This book chronicles one of the great untold stories of American history: the decades-long migration of black citizens who fled the South for northern and western cities, in search of a better life. From 1915 to 1970, this exodus of almost six million people changed the face of America. Our nominator writes, “[This book is] gripping, beautifully written and very readable. It’s carefully researched and tells a story few of us know and everyone should know that is of crucial impact to our country’s past and current social landscape.”
What one book tells a story you think the whole community should know and discuss? Make a nomination today!
An intimate and candid look at the life and art of legendary composer-lyricist Stephen Sondheim, as revealed through the creation and performance of six of his songs, and remembered by the man himself. The six songs featured in the film are: Something’s coming, Opening doors, Send in the clowns, I’m still here, Being alive and Sunday. Art and life are intertwined for Sondheim, and it is a story of both.
Yes, it’s the holiday season, but it is also awards season. Each fall we are treated to not only best-of-the-year book lists but also the Man Booker prize-winner and National Book Award titles, among others. If you have readers on your holiday shopping list, consider giving them one of these excellent books. (Book descriptions provided by their publishers.)
“Redeployment” by Phil Klay
Winner of the National Book Award for fiction
This collection of stories takes readers to the front lines of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, asking us to understand what happened there, and what happened to the soldiers who returned. Interwoven with themes of brutality and faith, guilt and fear, helplessness and survival, the characters in these stories struggle to make meaning out of chaos. These stories reveal the intricate combination of monotony, bureaucracy, comradeship and violence that make up a soldier’s daily life at war, and the isolation, remorse and despair that can accompany a soldier’s homecoming.
“Age of Ambition: Chasing Fortune, Truth, and Faith in the New China” by Evan Osnos
Winner of the National Book Award for nonfiction
From abroad, we often see China as a caricature: a nation of pragmatic plutocrats and ruthlessly dedicated students destined to rule the global economy – or an addled Goliath, riddled with corruption and on the edge of stagnation. What we don’t see is how both powerful and ordinary people are remaking their lives as their country dramatically changes. As the Beijing correspondent for The New Yorker, Evan Osnos was on the ground in China for years, witness to profound political, economic and cultural upheaval. In Age of Ambition, he describes the greatest collision taking place in that country: the clash between the rise of the individual and the Communist Party’s struggle to retain control.
“The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry” by Gabrielle Zevin
LibraryReads favorite title of 2014
A.J. Fikry’s life is not what he expected it to be. His wife has died, his bookstore is failing, and his prized possession, a rare collection of Poe poems, has been stolen. He is isolating himself from all the people of Alice Island and from Amelia, the Knightley Press sales rep who refuses to be deterred by A.J.’s bad attitude. And then a mysterious package appears at the bookstore that gives A.J. the ability to see everything anew. It doesn’t take long for the locals to notice the change; or for that determined sales rep, Amelia, to see her curmudgeonly client in a new light; or for the wisdom of all those books to become again the lifeblood of A.J.’s world.
“The Narrow Road to the Deep North” by Richard Flanagan
Winner of the Man Booker Prize for fiction
A magisterial novel of love and war that traces the life of one man from World War II to the present. In 1943, Australian surgeon Dorrigo Evans is haunted by his affair with his uncle’s young wife two years earlier. His life, in a brutal Japanese POW camp on the Thai-Burma Death Railway, is a daily struggle to save the men under his command until he receives a letter that will change him forever. This is a savagely beautiful novel about the many forms of good and evil, of truth and transcendence, as one man comes of age, prospers, only to discover all that he has lost.
“Ordinary Grace” by William Krueger
Winner of the Edgar Award for best mystery fiction
Looking back at a tragic event that occurred during his thirteenth year, Frank Drum explores how a complicated web of secrets, adultery and betrayal shattered his Methodist family and their small 1961 Minnesota community.
For more inspiration, check out the awards lists in your library’s catalog!
The weather outside is frightful, but our library programs are delightful! Here are just a few highlights for the month of December.
Wednesday, December 3, 2014 › 3-4:30 p.m.
Columbia Public Library, Training Center
Learn how to create your own movie using Windows Movie Maker. We’ll go over how to make a movie and use transitions, sounds and special effects. Please bring a small collection of digital videos and/or images to work with. Adults. Call 573-443-3161 to register.
Coping With Holiday Stress
Thursday, December 4, 2014 › 6:30-7:30 p.m.
Callaway County Public Library (FULTON), Friends Room
LaDonna Zimmerman, team leader for the New Outlook Program for Behavior and Mood Self-Management at the Fulton State Hospital, will give you insights on what stress triggers to watch for during the busy holiday season and how to cope with stress levels. Call 573-642-7261 to register.
Thursday, December 4, 2014 › 6:30-8:30 p.m.
Columbia Public Library, Training Center
This class is a survey of the numerous tools Google provides to enhance your online experience. Learn how to optimize your web searches, improve your productivity with Gmail and Google Calendar, explore the world with Google Maps/Earth and Google Translate, and enjoy the arts through Google Books, the Play Store and YouTube. Call 573-443-3161 to register.
Facebook Friday Reading Recommendations
Friday, December 5, 2014 › 9 a.m.-5 p.m.
Get a personalized reading suggestion through Facebook one Friday a month. Just look for our reading recommendations post, leave a comment sharing two or three books or authors you like, and we’ll recommend your next great read.
Saturday, December 6, 2014 › 12:30-2 p.m.
Southern Boone County Public Library (ASHLAND)
Craft an ornament from a design created by the Ashland Artist Group. Members will be on hand to demonstrate the steps as you create your own keepsake. Space is limited. Registration begins Monday, November 24. Call 573-657-7378.
Checking Out Digital Materials
Tuesday, December 9, 2014 › 2:30-4:30 p.m.
Columbia Public Library, Training Center
Learn about the library’s digital services for borrowing eBooks, audiobooks, magazines, music, movies and TV shows. Bring your mobile device or laptop. Register for a 45-minute session. An active library card and email account are required. Adults. Registration begins Tuesday, November 25.
At the conclusion of our Book Cover Contest, we prepare for the launch of our next competition, the March Madness Teen Book Tournament. Through a series of votes, we are narrowing our list of the 32 most popular teen books to one grand champion. Each round you vote, your name will be entered into a drawing for a chance to win cool prizes like free book sets or a Barnes & Noble gift card. Subscribe to our blog updates to get program reminders and learn which titles will be advancing to the next round.
We are excited to announce that Amelia Martinez is the first place winner of our Book Cover Contest for her re-imagined artwork for “Burning Blue” by Paul Griffin. In this book, beautiful, smart Nicole is disfigured when acid is thrown in her face. She befriends a computer hacker named Jay while visiting the school psychologist’s office and he resolves to find her attacker. This title is also a 2015 Gateway Award nominee.
Amelia will receive a $20 gift card to Barnes and Noble as her award. Congratulations to all our winners and many thanks to our talented teen patrons for their participation! We hope you will check out the gallery of all the eligible entries we received this year!
Originally published at Book Cover Contest: First Place Winner.
During the month of November we are taking your nominations for One Read 2015 and highlighting some of those nominations here at oneread.org. One local reader thinks we should prepare for the eventual take-over of Earth by machines (!) and read “I, Robot” by Isaac Asimov.
Our nominator writes: “Isaac Asimov would have turned 95 in 2015. ‘I, Robot’ is a great collection of sci-fi short stories that might introduce some to the sci-fi genre without trying to tackle something too thick or extreme. Also, a university in Texas created an AI system, then purposely gave it schizophrenia. We need this book to prepare for the impending Robot Wars.”
In “I, Robot,” Asimov chronicles the development of the robot through a series of interlinked stories: from its primitive origins in the present to its ultimate perfection in the not-so-distant future – a future in which humanity itself may be rendered obsolete.
What one book do you think our community should read together in 2015? Nominate a title online, at one of our branches or on the bookmobile by November 30.
I am excited to introduce a new series here at DBRL Next: Ask the Author. In these posts we will interview writers in our library community. Do you know of a local author from whom you’re dying to hear? E-mail us and we’ll see what we can do!
Our first interview is with author Eric Praschan. Praschan launched his writing career after suffering from a reoccurring illness that left him temporarily mute and unable to feel his extremities. In order to process this traumatic event, Praschan decided to turn this experience into research for his writing. Three years later, he self-published his first full-length novel, “Therapy for Ghosts,” which he later turned into a trilogy following protagonist Cindy James on her quest to uncover her past and reconcile with her family’s dark secrets. The author has now sold over 16,000 books. His latest book, “Blind Evil,” was published earlier this year.
DBRL: One of your first books, “Therapy for Ghosts,” was inspired by your battle with mute paralysis, as well as your experience with cognitive behavioral therapy. Your latest book, “Blind Evil,” is a psychological thriller about a police detective whose best friend is a primary subject in a double homicide. Can you talk about some of your inspirations for this book?
EP: Strangely enough, the initial idea for “Blind Evil“ came to me almost eight years ago on my honeymoon. My wife and I booked an inexpensive “beachside cottage” in Florida, but when we arrived at night, we discovered that the cottage was several miles into the woods surrounded by head-high grass. The cottage didn’t have window curtains and the cottages next door didn’t have curtains, either. There were cars parked nearby, but no lights were on, and no one was around. The moonlight trickled in through the trees, and it was dead silent. It was very creepy. My wife and I looked at each other and said, “I don’t think so.” We got out of there like our pants were on fire and drove back into town to stay in a resort. After we were safe in a room fully furnished with curtains and working lights, we laughed about it and said that that cottage was the kind of place from a horror movie “where people go to die.” Lesson learned – don’t go cheap on your honeymoon.
The image of that creepy cottage stayed with me, and over the years, the story started to emerge.
I could still envision that chilling moonlight, the eerie stillness and our skin crawling. Then the characters began to come to life. In terms of the psychological aspects of “Blind Evil,” the subject of psychology is fascinating to me – how the human mind works, how we react to each other and how we respond in difficult circumstances. I wanted to see what would happen if three close friends, whose lives had been entangled in a complicated manner while growing up, were placed in a psychological pressure cooker. John, a police detective, doesn’t know if he can trust his best friend, David, who is now the prime suspect in a double homicide. Emily, the woman they both have loved, is caught in the middle, and the tension rises. My motto for writing is: the more conflict, the better!
DBRL: All of your published books, with the exception of your short story “The Furrowed Brow,” are set in Missouri. As a local Columbia, Missourian, you understand the advantages and limitations of living in mid-Missouri. What are some things you like most about living here?
EP: I love the geography of Missouri. The forests, hills and rivers provide rich texture to the landscape, and I’ve always found great story inspiration from nature. There’s haunting allure and mystery hidden in the picturesque Missouri scenery. I enjoy the close proximity of rural and urban territories in Missouri. If you’re in a city, just drive 10 or 15 minutes in any direction and you’ll probably end up in the country surrounded by farms, fields and majestic horizon lines. It doesn’t get any better than that.
Columbia, Missouri is particularly inspiring for me because it is located near Rock Bridge Memorial State Park and other natural landmarks that can fuel the imagination. For my most recent novel, I actually hiked one of the trails and descended into the Devil’s Icebox cave at Rock Bridge State Park to do some research for a scene. The experience was thrilling, and I took pictures and notes in the darkness of the cave with only the light of my cell phone, all the while trying to keep my feet steady on the slippery, wet rocks. The people around me probably thought I was crazy, but I just smiled. Authors do crazy things for their stories, I suppose!
I also enjoy living in Columbia because it offers a great artistic community. There are so many wonderful writers I’ve had the opportunity to meet and become friends with, and it’s been invaluable to share stories, resources and experiences with them. Writing can often feel like a solitary journey, so it’s encouraging to have a writing family around you, and Columbia certainly provides that sort of environment.
DBRL: Do you have any advice for aspiring writers in our area? Are there local resources they should consider taking advantage of?
EP: The best piece of advice I have is simply this: don’t give up. Everyone has an idea for a book, but the difference between an idea and an actual book is the willingness to commit to your idea, to shut out distractions, to dedicate yourself to developing your craft and to sit in the chair and pound out the pages until the story is done. Discouragement, self-doubt, fear of failure, fear of rejection and fear of negative criticism will loom like a dark cloud threatening rain, but it’s your job to ignore the cloud and keep those words coming, even writing through the rain, if you must. The only person who can make you stop writing is you, so never give up and never stop growing as a writer.
For writers in Columbia, I would recommend taking advantage of several local resources:
- Daniel Boone Regional Library - they offer book readings and writing-related workshops throughout the year.
- Orr Street Studios Hearing Voices Seeing Visions: a monthly program combining literary and visual arts.
- Osher Book Talk Series: first Saturday of each month, 9:30-11:00 a.m., located at 1907 Hillcrest Drive
- Meet the Author Book Talks: third Saturday of each month, 10:00-11:30 a.m., located at the Boone County Historical Society.
- Quarry Heights Writers’ Workshop: writing workshop for fiction and creative non-fiction writing.
DBRL: Have you read any good books lately that you would like to recommend to our readers?
EP: Recently, I’ve read and would highly recommend Laura McHugh’s “The Weight of Blood,” which is set in the Ozark Mountains. With deeply developed characters, a rich atmospheric setting and a barn burner of a plot, it’s a literary thriller you won’t want to miss. I also recently finished Daniel Woodrell’s “Winter’s Bone,” which is set in the Ozarks as well. Woodrell’s novel showcases the landscape of Missouri in an unforgettable manner, and his main character, Ree Dolly, is a heroine for the ages.
Today we continue to recognize the winners in the DBRLTeen Book Cover Contest. But first, did you know that the library has four apps that allow you to access free movies, music, ebooks, audiobooks and magazines?
Overdrive offers access to thousands of eBook and downloadable audiobook titles, including many of the most popular young adult novels. Download the Overdrive app for your iOS device and Android device.
Zinio offers over 100 free digital magazines for you to read on your computer, tablet or mobile device such as Seventeen, ESPN, Girl’s Life, Rolling Stone, Popular Science and more. Get the app for your Android, Apple,Kindle Fire, Blackberry, Nook HD, or Windows 8 mobile device.
Finally, we recognize Ashley Hrdina as the second place winner in the DBRLTeen Book Cover Contest. She will receive a $20 gift card to Barnes and Noble as her award. In her entry, Ashley shared her vision for the cover of “Out of My Mind” by Sharon Draper. In this book, a brilliant, impatient fifth-grader with cerebral palsy, considered by many to be mentally retarded, discovers a technological device that will allow her to speak for the first time. It is a powerful story and one of the most requested among teens at the Daniel Boone Regional Library.
On Friday we will wrap-up our contest by recognizing the first place winner and showcasing all the entries received in an online gallery.
Originally published at Book Cover Contest: Second Place Winner.
All month Daniel Boone Regional Library is taking your nominations for One Read 2015 and highlighting some of the suggestions we’ve received so far.
An area reader nominated “The Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine and the Murder of a President” by Candice Millard. This narrative account of the twentieth president’s political career offers insight into his background as a scholar and Civil War hero, his battles against the corrupt establishment and Alexander Graham Bell’s failed attempt to save him from an assassin’s bullet. Our nominator thinks this would make a great One Read because “it’s set during a historical turning point; it touches on the difference between medicine then and now; and one learns about Garfield (an extraordinary person), Alexander Graham Bell and the assassin Charles Guiteau. It’s in multiple formats and a relatively easy read.”
We recently added “Tim’s Vermeer” to the DBRL collection. This film played at the True/False Film Festival in 2014, and currently has a rating of 89% from critics at Rotten Tomatoes. Here’s a synopsis from our catalog:
Tim Jenison, a Texas-based inventor, attempts to solve one of the greatest mysteries in all art: How did seventeenth century Dutch Master Johannes Vermeer manage to paint so photo-realistically, 150 years before the invention of photography? Spanning ten years, his adventure takes him to Delft, Holland, where Vermeer painted his masterpieces, to the north coast of Yorkshire to meet artist David Hockney, and even to Buckingham Palace to see a Vermeer masterpiece in the collection of the Queen.
These days many people like to do more than one thing with their lives. The results are often generously deemed unspectacular. For every brilliant acting performance by political savant Arnold Schwarzenegger, there are three ill-advised folk or jazz albums by some actor who found the time to buy a guitar or piano and grow a beard on the downtime from his day job. For everybody that grimaces at the idea of Stephen King directing a movie, or Wolf Blitzer babysitting their kids, or catching a glimpse of Terry Bradshaw, there is understandable trepidation caused by a novel by an acclaimed rock and roller. But John Darnielle is not your typical song and dance man. His acclaim hasn’t been generated by facial paints or scandalous dance moves but by the quality of his songcraft. Indeed, the author bio on the back flap of the magnificent “Wolf in White Van” proclaims he’s “widely considered one of the best lyricists of his generation.” Now granted, not everyone that can pen pretty lyrics can craft a decent novel. But consider this: Darnielle’s acumen for fiction is made evident by the fact that his band is called “The Mountain Goats” when in fact it is comprised often times by only a single human, Darnielle himself, and never by any non-human mammals. Also, a big hat tip to the interns here at the Next Blog for pointing out the band’s inability to scale the sheerest rock faces.
“Wolf in White Van” is a powerful book, dense with pretty sentences you can imagine Darnielle setting to music. Darnielle, in addition to shaming Sir Elton John’s tennis game, has written the sort of page-turner character study that most novelists don’t have in them. It’s a melancholy and sometimes grim look at the early life of a damaged man. While a teenager, the narrator survived a gunshot that left his face radically deformed. The novel flashes between Sean’s present and his past, eventually coming all the way back to the night when a bullet changed his future. To deal with living inside his head during his hospital stay, and with the loneliness that sticks with him indefinitely, Sean has created a mail-in role playing game. There are frequent asides from inside the post-apocalyptic world its players must navigate. Completing the game is impossible, which, given its subscription based nature, is just good business sense. This perhaps hints at a third talent Darnielle could unleash; I’m sure Pat Sajak is somewhere gritting his teeth right now.
John Darnielle will write and perform more songs. It seems likely he’ll write more novels. Here’s hoping he has plenty of time to do both and that fewer athletes open restaurants.
Many thanks to the young adults who submitted their artwork into the DBRLTeen Book Cover Contest. We received 24 entries from throughout Boone and Callaway counties.
If you are looking to develop your skills as an artist, the library has plenty of resources to help. We provide free classes through our online service called UniversalClass. Learn more about digital photography, drawing, watercolor painting and other visual arts. These are just a few of the over 500 courses offered. To log in, you’ll need your DBRL library card number; your PIN is your birthdate (MMDDYYYY).
We are pleased to announce the third place winner in the DBRLTeen Book Cover Contest: Augusta Nickolaus. She will receive a $20 gift card to Barnes and Noble as her award. The subject of her contest submission was “Crush” by Gary Paulsen. Afraid to actually ask Tina Zabinski for a date, eighth-grader Kevin spends most of his time theorizing about love and romance and observing and analyzing male-female interaction.
Join us on Wednesday as we announce the the second place winner!
Originally published at Book Cover Contest: Third Place Winner.
This time of year is a list-lovers dream. 2014 won’t be over for weeks, but lists naming the year’s best books are already cropping up, just like Christmas trees appearing in department stores well before Thanksgiving.
These lists have some sleepers and some surprises, but there is something here for every reader. Below are just a few books receiving rave reviews, along with their publishers’ descriptions.
“A Brief History of Seven Killings” by Marlon James
A lyrical, masterfully written epic that explores the attempted assassination of Bob Marley in the late 1970s. Deftly spanning decades and continents and peopled with a wide range of characters – assassins, journalists, drug dealers, and even ghosts – “A Brief History of Seven Killings” is the fictional exploration of that dangerous and unstable time and its bloody aftermath, from the streets and slums of Kingston in the ‘70s, to the crack wars in ‘80s New York, to a radically altered Jamaica in the ‘90s.
“Everything I Never Told You” by Celeste Ng
“Lydia is dead. But they don’t know this yet.” So begins the story of this exquisite debut novel about a Chinese American family living in 1970s small-town Ohio. Lydia is the favorite child of Marilyn and James Lee – their middle daughter, a girl who inherited her mother’s bright blue eyes and her father’s jet-black hair. Her parents are determined that Lydia will fulfill the dreams they were unable to pursue – in Marilyn’s case that her daughter become a doctor rather than a homemaker, in James’s case that Lydia be popular at school, a girl with a busy social life and the center of every party. When Lydia’s body is found in the local lake, the delicate balancing act that has been keeping the Lee family together tumbles into chaos, forcing them to confront the long-kept secrets that have been slowly pulling them apart.
“On Immunity: An Inoculation” by Eula Biss
Upon becoming a new mother, Eula Biss addresses a chronic condition of fear: fear of the government, the medical establishment, and what is in children’s food, mattresses, medicines and vaccines. Biss investigates the metaphors and myths surrounding the conception of immunity and its implications for the individual and the social body. As she hears more and more fears about vaccines, Biss researches what they mean for her own child, her immediate community, America and the world.
“Station Eleven” by Emily St. John Mandel
An audacious, darkly glittering novel about art, fame and ambition set in the eerie days of civilization’s collapse. One snowy night a famous Hollywood actor slumps over and dies onstage during a production of King Lear. Hours later, the world as we know it begins to dissolve. Moving back and forth in time – from the actor’s early days as a film star to fifteen years in the future, when a theater troupe known as the Traveling Symphony roams the wasteland of what remains – this suspenseful, elegiac, spellbinding novel charts the strange twists of fate that connect five people: the actor, the man who tried to save him, the actor’s first wife, his oldest friend and a young actress with the Traveling Symphony, caught in the crosshairs of a dangerous self-proclaimed prophet.
“Thirteen Days in September: Carter, Begin, and Sadat at Camp David” by Lawrence Wright
A gripping day-by-day account of the 1978 Camp David conference, when President Jimmy Carter persuaded Israeli prime minister Menachem Begin and Egyptian president Anwar Sadat to sign the first peace treaty in the modern Middle East, one which endures to this day. With his hallmark insight into the forces at play in the Middle East and his acclaimed journalistic skill, Lawrence Wright illuminates the issues that have made the problems of the region so intractable, as well as exploring the scriptural narratives that continue to frame the conflict.
And if you are anti-best-of-book-lists, you might try some titles that appear on Kirkus Reviews’ list of most overlooked books (so far) of 2014.