“The two women were alone in the London flat.” The opening sentence of Doris Lessing’s “The Golden Notebook” let readers know this novel would be something different from much of the literature that preceded its 1962 publication. Here is a story showing women as they see themselves and each other, rather than filtered through the lens of male perspective.
When the British author passed away last month, her best-known book gained renewed attention. “The Golden Notebook” broke new ground with the way it focused on its female protagonists, and also in its structure. Before Margaret Atwood’s “The Blind Assassin” and David Mitchell’s “Cloud Atlas,” Lessing showed how a story-within-a-story motif could work in contemporary literature.
Her book contains a story, “Free Women,” that follows the lives of author Anna Wulf and her best friend, Molly Jacobs, both single mothers approaching mid-life. Interweaved with this narrative are sections from Anna’s various notebooks, each reflecting a different area of her life. The yellow one contains her novel-in-progress, or perhaps novel-in-stasis would be more accurate, as Anna suffers from writer’s block. The black notebook chronicles her thoughts about the time she spent living in Southern Rhodesia in her early twenties, prior to World War II. In the appropriately-colored red notebook she reflects on her involvement with the Communist Party. And she uses the blue one for her personal diary, a recording of day-to-day events. Finally, there’s the golden notebook, in which she tries to piece together her sanity by piecing together the contents of all of the other notebooks into an integrated whole.
“The Golden Notebook” isn’t action-packed. It’s short on car chases and long on conversations between the characters, often frank discussions about the intimate details of their lives. If this sounds uninteresting, I suggest watching the movie “My Dinner With Andre” to see how riveting a couple of hours of conversation can be. Then pick up Lessing’s book and get to know Anna Wulf. Her central struggle is one most of us can relate to, even if we aren’t authors or single parents or members of the Communist Party in the 1950s. The real struggle is how to live authentically, how to bridge the divide between ideals and actions while meeting the practical demands of everyday life.
Editor’s note: This review was submitted by a library patron during the 2013 Adult Summer Reading program. We will continue to periodically share some of these reviews throughout the year. Thanks to all who participated!
I finally can say I’ve read my first Agatha Christie mystery. From what I understand, “And Then There Were None” is a great one with which to start. The book moves very quickly and never has a dull moment. The first chapter or two requires a bit of perseverance as there are 10 characters to quickly get to know and keep straight. The basic premise of the book is that 10 people are invited to an island and left alone as one by one they are murdered. (Or commit suicide?) It quickly becomes clear that one in the group is indeed the murderer. Try as I might, I was not able to determine who the murderer was as I read the book. It is an extremely creative plot and one I’ve never encountered. Now, I’m tempted to read the book again, this time in search for clues given as the story progresses. The underlying themes of the book are guilt for one’s past crimes and the execution of justice. I’m glad I read it and look forward to my next Christie book. I’ve heard “Murder on the Orient Express” is another one worth the time.
Three words or phrases that describe this book: suspenseful, thought-provoking, page-turner.
You might want to pick this book up if: You love a fast-paced mystery that isn’t easily solved while reading.
For twenty-five years, my American in-laws lived in the state of Washington, in a small town that looked like the town of Twin Peaks from David Lynch’s TV series – minus the waterfalls. I visited them there only once, six months after we got married, for, soon after that, they moved to Columbia to live with us. Unfortunately, I didn’t see much of the state during my first visit – a week before our departure, my husband began exhibiting symptoms of what I first thought to be the flu (and so did his doctor), but what later was diagnosed as mononucleosis. For those who don’t know much about mono, it is often called the kissing disease, because you can get it by kissing someone with mono (this, I sincerely hope, was not the case with my husband), although it’s entirely possible to catch if through coughing or sneezing.
In any case, by the time we got to the Twin Cities, my husband was feverish, had trouble holding food down (hard to handle in an airport ), and had a killer headache. Not realizing what was happening, we continued our journey, with my husband feeling worse by the minute. When our plane finally landed in Seattle, it was clear that sightseeing in Seattle was no longer an option, so my father-in-law, who met us there, took us directly to Port Angeles. There I, still a new bride, spent a week worrying about the possibility of becoming a new widow, and my husband – who was so debilitated that he could not get up for meals – discussed with his father, a retired professor of physiology with an MD degree, how to calm me down.
Since then, the desire to visit Seattle stayed with me for years, so when we decided to visit Mt. Rainier National Park (see my previous post), I made sure that Seattle would not be missed either.
To get our bearings, we decided to make the Seattle Space Needle a “pivotal” point of our exploration – not only because the view was supposed to be great (which it was!), but also because I have a weakness for tall structures. Wherever I go, I make sure to climb every observation tower, for something about being high above ground deepens my breathing, raises me above my every-day problems and lets my imagination fly unencumbered.
For a while, we enjoyed the view of the city and its spectacular surroundings: Puget Sound, Lake Washington and other smaller lakes and rivers. Then we headed for a structure next to the Needle: Chihuly Garden And Glass Exhibition Hall.
Those of you who visited Dale Chihuly’s exhibit in the St. Louis Botanical Garden know how unusual his work is. And yet, Alice in Wonderland couldn’t have been more struck with what she saw than I was while exploring the rooms filled with glowing whimsical figures, flowers and other objects that didn’t seem to have any relation to the real world but that looked as beautiful as a dream (read my full report on the Chihuly Garden And Glass Exhibition Hall later).
On the other side of the Needle, we saw another unusual structure: Experience Music Project (designed by Frank Gehry), where one can visit the Jimi Hendrix room, play guitars, drums, and keyboards, experience what it’s like to be on stage and enjoy science-fiction exhibits dedicated to blockbuster sci-fi movies. Having done that, we got on the Central Link light rail and returned to our hotel.
Our next morning started at Starbucks. The number of Starbucks stores in Seattle is truly amazing. (This makes sense since the first Starbucks in the world opened here in 1971!) Then we looked for a city tour. If you want to take a Seattle bus tour, I recommend a Daffy Duck Tour (a six-wheel-drive amphibious truck is a must if you have kids with you). Not only will it take you around town and entertain you along the way (in our bus, the driver kept changing wigs, hats, and dramatized characters), but it will also plunge into Lake Union and give you an overview of the Portage Bay waterfront, including the boat house filmed in “Sleepless in Seattle.”
Whatever else you do afterwards, don’t forget to visit Pike Place Market, famous for its hustle and bustle, abundance of products and fish throwing – when somebody buys a fish, one fishmonger throws it from the front of the stall to the back, where another fishmonger wraps it up and, if you desire, packs it on dry ice, so you can take it with you on the plane home. Also, take the time to stroll along the waterfront – past a Ferris wheel, tourists, street musicians, eateries and ferries, arriving and departing – and in the evening, relax in one of the waterfront restaurants and watch the sun dive into the Puget Sound.
I could go on and on, but the size of this post doesn’t allow for a long description. Besides, there are guidebooks in the library that will help you plan your Seattle vacation much better. I’ll finish my post with a few tips:
Weather is an issue. As they say in Seattle, “The rain in Spain stays largely in Seattle,” so schedule your visit during summer months – July and August are your best bet.
Don’t buy tickets for the Space Needle, but have a leisurely lunch instead at a revolving restaurant atop the tower (make a reservation before leaving home). It does cost more, but you’ll enjoy the view much more, too.
On the other hand, if money is tight, instead of a boat ride, take a ferry across Puget Sound to Bainbridge Island.
No matter what the season, bring a jacket and an umbrella .
All photographs used courtesy of the author.
This December library staff members are taking their book-recommending expertise to Facebook to provide personalized reading recommendations. On Friday, December 6, starting at 9:00 a.m., visit the library’s Facebook page. There you will see a post inviting you to let us know about two or three books or authors you’ve enjoyed. Post a comment naming those books, and we’ll suggest your next read.
Here are a few of the other great programs coming up this month. See our full listing of events for adults in our online program guide.
Monday, December 2 › 6:30-7:30 p.m.
Columbia Public Library, Friends Room
Comet ISON promises to be a spectacular sight in the early part of December. Val Germann from the Central Missouri Astronomical Association will tell us more about comets and when and how to best see them.
Pillows of Hope: Your Story of Hope for the New Year
Tuesday, December 3 › 6:30-8 p.m.
Callaway County Public Library (Fulton), Friends Room
The Fulton State Hospital “Pillows of Hope” project provides an opportunity for adults to depict what they are hoping for and what gives them hope. Come discover more about the project with Peggy Reed-Lohmeyer, then illustrate your own pillowcase reflecting hope for the holidays and the new year. Please register by calling (573) 642-7261.
Writing Your Past Into Fiction
Saturday, December 7, 2013 › 10:30 a.m.-Noon
Columbia Public Library, Virginia G. Young Room
Author Carolyn Mulford explains how to draw on personal history to reveal the truth without reporting facts. This journalist and novelist used memories and research to write “The Feedsack Dress,” chosen by the Missouri Center for the Book as the state’s Great Read at the 2009 National Book Festival, as well as her most recent book “Show Me the Murder.” Please register by calling 573-443-3161.
Surf the Web Safely
Monday, December 9, 2013 › 6:30-8:30 p.m.
Callaway County Public Library (Fulton), Friends Room
Fearful of phishing? Skeptical about security? Puzzled by passwords? Soured by spam? Learn how to safeguard your online information. A representative from Socket will share information and answer your questions.
Make Your Life “Pinteresting”
Monday, December 9, 2013 › 7-8 p.m.
Columbia Public Library, Training Center
Looking for ideas on organizing and decorating your home, planning an event, changing your hairstyle, doing a new craft or cooking a certain dish? For a visual prompt to inspire you, Pinterest and other social media sites are great resources. Learn how to use their virtual pinboards, smart lists, social-bookmarking and more. Basic Internet skills required. A Pinterest account recommended. Please register by calling 573-443-3161.
How Much Is That Doggie in the Window?
Tuesday, December 10, 2013 › 7-8 p.m.
Columbia Public Library, Virginia G. Young Room
Are you thinking of adding a pet to your family over the holiday season? Or maybe surprising someone with a a puppy or kitten? “Be Your Pet’s Best Friend: Choose Wisely, Care Deeply, and Plan Carefully” by well-known dog rescuer Barbara Levy covers all the issues to consider before you become a pet owner.
Thursday, December 12, 2013 › 6:30-8 p.m.
Callaway County Public Library (Fulton), Friends Room
Drop in to ask questions about researching your family history.
The post December Program Preview: Get Personalized Reading Recommendations Via Facebook appeared first on DBRL Next.
For me, Thanksgiving has always meant dinner with family and friends. When my husband was in the military, we couldn’t always visit our parents for the Thanksgiving feast, but we always spent it with other people either at our house or theirs. There is something comforting about sharing a meal and connecting with the other people gathered at the table, not just at the holidays but at any time of year.
In “Dinner With the Smileys” by Sarah Smiley, a military wife invited numerous people to take the place of her husband at the dinner table while he was deployed for a year. She invited different people each week and documented these dinners with photos and stories. She started out carefully planning everything but eventually realized mealtime didn’t have to be formal or elaborate. She and her children gained friendships, support and awareness of new concepts, activities and ideas from these experiences. The people who attended the dinners not only experienced a good meal but benefited from good company and conversation. A wonderful community support system was built.
I could relate to the dinner where Sarah’s oldest son was looking forward to asking questions and having a debate with one of their guests who had certain political views. He was excited about carrying on an adult conversation. Fortunately, his questions were welcomed by the adult, and both sides benefited from the conversation. When my sons were younger, they looked forward to being able to join in the adult conversations at Sunday dinners at my parents’ home. They enjoyed the talk while we ate, but they were so proud when they were old enough to contribute their thoughts to the discussions that took place after the children left the table to go play and the adults continued to sit at the table. They learned about current events and what their parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles thought about different subjects. Sharing thoughts around the dinner table was fun as well as informative.
Get ideas for strengthening your own family’s ties through talk by picking up “Dinner With the Smileys” or one of these other books that discuss the importance of dinnertime conversation.
- “The Family Dinner” by Laurie David
- “The Secrets of Happy Families” by Bruce Feiler
- “Slow Family Living” by Bernadette Noll
- “French Kids Eat Everything” by Karen Le Billon
For more information about Sarah Smiley and her family, visit the website www.sarahsmiley.com
The post Bringing Back the Family Dinner: Books to Inspire Home Cooks and Conversation appeared first on DBRL Next.
When it comes to movies inspired by books, I tend to be something of a purist. I always try to read the book first, but considering the sheer volume of movies that are coming out this year based on books…well…I might have to pick and choose. Here are some of the titles to look for in the next few weeks!
Today, November 27th, “Philomena” opens nationwide. It is the true story, written by Martin Sixsmith, of an Irishwoman who became pregnant as a teenager in Ireland in 1952. After she was sent to a convent, the nuns took her baby and sold him, like thousands of others, to America for adoption. Fifty years later, Philomena decides to find him.
If you want something with a little more bang (and by bang, I mean explosions) for your buck, try “Homefront,” also opening on November 27th. Based on the novel by Chuck Logan, this film follows Nina, Phil and their daughter, Kit, after they relocate to New Mexico. The family is soon in harm’s way when a spat between Kit and a boy at her new school escalates into a vicious scenario of lawlessness and provocation.
“Inside Llewyn Davis” opens on December 6th. It is based on the book “The Mayor of MacDougal Street” by Dave Van Ronk. Van Ronk was one of the founding figures of the 1960s folk revival and offers a unique first-hand account by a major player in the social and musical history of the ’50s and ’60s. It features encounters with Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Joni Mitchell, Woody Guthrie, Mississippi John Hurt and Odetta.
You can also check out the soundtrack featuring artists like Oscar Issac, Mumford and Sons, Bob Dylan and The Punch Brothers.
The highlight of my December will definitely be when the second movie based on “The Hobbit” by J.R.R. Tolkien comes out on the 13th. In “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug,” Bilbo Baggins continues on his journey with the Wizard Gandalf and thirteen Dwarves, led by Thorin Oakenshield on an epic quest to reclaim the lost Dwarf Kingdom of Erebor.
On December 25th, the movie based on Jordan Belfort’s “The Wolf of Wall Street” opens. Belfort, who founded one of the first chop shop brokerage firms in 1987, was banned from the securities business for life by 1994, and he later went to jail for fraud and money-laundering. His book covers his success and how he and other insiders made large profits while public investors usually lost.
“Lone Survivor,” based on Markus Luttrell’s book of the same name, comes out nationwide on January 10th. Luttrell, The leader of a team of U.S. Navy SEALs sent to northern Afghanistan to capture a well-known al Qaeda leader, chronicles the events of the battle that killed his teammates and offers insight into the training of this elite group of warriors.
What book-inspired film are you most looking forward to? Let us know in the comments!
I love lists, and I love books, so I adore this time of year. Get ready to add lots of titles to your to-be-read pile, because the web is already awash with “best of 2013″ book lists. The picks are a bit all over the board, with not a whole lot of overlap among the lists so far. Here’s a handful of the books appearing on more than one list (and descriptions from their publishers), as well as links to the full lists themselves. Happy reading!
“A Constellation of Vital Phenomena” by Anthony Marra
In a rural village in Chechnya, failed doctor Akhmed harbors the traumatized 8-year-old daughter of a father abducted by Russian forces and treats a series of wounded rebels and refugees while exploring the shared past that binds him to the child.
“The Good Lord Bird” by James McBride
Fleeing his violent master at the side of abolitionist John Brown at the height of the slavery debate in mid-nineteenth-century Kansas Territory, Henry pretends to be a girl to hide his identity throughout the raid on Harpers Ferry in 1859. This historical fiction just won a National Book Award.
“The Bleeding Edge” by Thomas Pynchon
New York City, 2001. Fraud investigator Maxine Tarnow starts looking into the finances of a computer-security firm and its billionaire geek CEO and discovers there’s no shortage of swindlers looking to grab a piece of what’s left of the tech bubble.
“Tenth of December” by George Saunders
A collection of stories which includes “Home,” a wryly whimsical account of a soldier’s return from war; “Victory lap,” a tale about an inventive abduction attempt; and the title story, in which a suicidal cancer patient saves the life of a young misfit. See our own Gentleman’s recommendation of this short story collection.
“Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief” by Lawrence Wright
Based on more than two hundred personal interviews with both current and former Scientologists – both famous and less well known – and years of archival research, Lawrence Wright uses his extraordinary investigative skills to uncover the inner workings of the Church of Scientology: its origins in the imagination of science-fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard; its struggles to find acceptance as a legitimate (and legally acknowledged) religion; its vast, secret campaign to infiltrate the U.S. government; its vindictive treatment of critics; its phenomenal wealth; and its dramatic efforts to grow and prevail after the death of Hubbard.
And now, the lists:
- Amazon.com’s Editor’s Picks for 2013 – Find titles for teens, children and adults, as well as their top picks in categories from art and photography to sports and outdoors.
- Kirkus Reviews: Best Books of 2013 - includes not only fiction and nonfiction for adults, but also lists books for kids and teens.
- Best Books 2013: Top Ten from Library Journal – Keeping it simple, the magazine’s editors provide a top 10 list that includes adult fiction (six titles) and nonfiction (four titles).
- Publisher’s Weekly: Best Books of 2013 - lists for everything from fiction and comics to a category called “lifestyle” (think cookbooks and parenting). Kids’ books are also represented.
What do you think was the best book of 2013? Let us know in the comments!
Today marks the fiftieth anniversary of the assassination of John F. Kennedy. His presidency, though short, was one of the most influential of the past century. This coupled with his glamorous lifestyle and the tragic and mysterious circumstances of his death make his life and legacy a topic of endless interest. As one might expect, there is a glut of new titles being published this month, each one professing to reveal new insights into the life of our thirty-fifth President or definitively answer, once and for all, who was behind his murder. Here is a look at a select few that stand out.
“Five Days in November” by Clint Hill
The former Secret Service agent and author of last year’s “Mrs. Kennedy and Me” returns with an intimate look at the days leading up to and immediately following the President’s death.
“The Kennedy Half-Century: The Presidency, Assassination, and Lasting Legacy of John F. Kennedy” by Larry Sabato
Sabato explains just what makes Kennedy’s presidency so influential and how it has affected the decisions and policies of his successors.
“End of Days: The Assassination of John F. Kennedy” by James L. Swanson
Swanson had success with “Manhunt: The 12-Day Chase for Lincoln’s Killer,” and here he uses a similar narrative style to relate the events surrounding the JFK assassination.
“If Kennedy Lived: The First and Second Terms of President John F. Kennedy: An Alternate History” by Jeff Greenfield
An interesting thought experiment focused on how things might have been different if Kennedy had not been killed in Dallas, including theories on the fate of LBJ, civil rights, the Vietnam War and Kennedy’s own personal life.
Do you wonder if it is safe to consume foods that have been genetically modified? Did you know that 50 million Americans are “food insecure” and don’t know where their next meal is coming from? Do you know what a “food desert” is and how it contributes to the obesity pandemic in this country? A clean and ample supply of food is vital to our well-being and it ought to be available to each of us.
The League of Women Voters is co-sponsoring a discussion of agricultural policies and issues, including genetically modified foods, corporate farming and food policy, and these sorts of questions will be addressed. Please join us for this event from 7-8:30 p.m. on Thursday, November 21 in the Friends Room at the Columbia Public Library if you’d like to inform yourself more about these issues.
Thanking Day is upon us! That wondrous day when we don buckled hats and celebrate our freedom from, and subsequent dominion over, the turkey. We kill them by the millions and eat some of those, letting what isn’t consumed at the Thanking Day dinner rot over the course of days/weeks between sessions of picking at them like smug vultures whose smugness is leavened by the government-mandated shopping excursion just endured and all the getting-rammed-in-the-back-by-a-cart-full-of-big-screen-televisions-pushed-by-a-grandma-in-her-pajamas that that entails. After those beloved traditions, if there’s still time and one’s not too sleepy, people sometimes say thank you to concepts they enjoy. Your typical thanks are given for the obvious: family, suspenders, Kurt Vonnegut, food and our long ago victory on the horrific feather-drenched fields of the great turkey war. I, though, am most thankful for something altogether more tangible, besides suspenders: I’m thankful I’m not being hunted by a time-travelling serial killer. I’ve always said people don’t take enough time to reflect on and appreciate this facet of their existence.
As Lauren Beukes‘ unputdownable new novel makes abundantly clear, it would be terrible to be hunted by a time-travelling serial killer. Before I go further, I rescind my recommendation if you’re squeamish (guts get spilled, and the book is perpetually tense and intermittently gruesome). So for those that don’t care to be horrified in the process of reading a rip-roaring tale, I give you this for this month’s recommendation. Now, for those twisted folk thirsting for a horrifying yarn, I recommend “The Shining Girls.” The premise is ripped from the headlines: a monstrous lunatic named Harper finds a house that spits him into a different year between 1931 and 1993 every time he exits it to find a lady suitable for murder, though as is typical with these houses, inside it remains 1931. After murdering a girl he takes a souvenir (comb, Jackie Robinson rookie card, etc.) and leaves a previously acquired memento behind. Kirby, the heroine, first meets him as a young girl when the killer arrives to demonstrate his ability to pull the wings off of a bee. To her disappointment, the man tells her he’ll see her again “when she’s all grow up.” Though some reviews disagree, Beukes does a tremendous job investing us in each “shining girl” before brutally tearing them away from us via Harper’s murdery hands. I’ve also seen a complaint or two about Harper’s characterization (“He’s just a crazy murdering monster – where’s the humanity?” they wail), but as anyone with a couple of days work in the restaurant industry will attest, monsters exist. Regardless, does featuring a heartless, irredeemable monster remove all worth from “Jaws” or “Martha Stewart: Just Desserts“? In addition to all the murdering, Beukes uses one disturbing scene from his childhood to let us know Harper is simply an abomination rather than a human molded by cruelty into a purveyor of violence.
So, if chewing flesh and watching men concuss each other during their watered-down war games don’t sate your thirst for violence, or if you prefer to believe that you don’t have such a primal and distasteful thirst but do need a serious quenching in the thrilling read department, try “The Shining Girls.”
Editor’s note: This review was submitted by a library patron during the 2013 Adult Summer Reading program. We will continue to periodically share some of these reviews throughout the year. Thanks to all who participated!
“Wait Till Next Year” is a memoir by Pulitzer Prize-winner Doris Kearns Goodwin that tells about the years when she was growing up in the suburbs of New York in the 1950s. She describes the love of her family and the neighborhood in which she grew up, as well as the countless escapades involving the neighbors, local merchants and the church her family attended. But, this book is probably most of all about how she came to love the Brooklyn Dodgers after her father taught her the game of baseball. Her childhood was a major part of her early involvement in baseball. She was heartbroken when the Dodgers moved to California. I enjoyed this book because I am a huge fan of this author’s writings and because I found it to be a delightful telling of her growing up years in New York.
Three words that describe this book: humorous, entertaining, and uplifting.
You might want to pick up this book if: you are a fan of Doris Kearns Goodwin and her books or you might like reading the true story about a child’s love of baseball and life in a quiet neighborhood in New York in the 1950s.
A house of cards, noted for its instability, is an appropriate symbol for political intrigue. And as the Netflix series “House of Cards” showed us, a fictional representation of politics can trigger almost as much attention as real events. Not as much as shutting down the U.S. government, mind you, but enough to win three Emmy Awards.
Now, as we await the release of the second season of this series starring and co-produced by Kevin Spacey, let me tell you what the library has to offer to ease your wait. The first thing I would recommend to every “House of Cards” fan is the excellent Masterpiece Theater production called “The House of Cards.” Yes, you read that correctly. Wonder if these “houses” are related? Sure they are. In fact, the American “House of Cards” is based on the British TV mini-series, which, in its turn, is based on the book by British writer Michael Dobbs. (Kevin Spacey living in London may have something to do with this connection.) Of course, the events that take place in London are somewhat different from those happening in Washington D.C., but the motivations and the tactics of the characters are the same. And, if you watch the British version, you’ll have a glimpse into what will happen to Kevin Spacey’s character in the second season .
Want to stay closer to home? Watch “Recount: The Story of the 2000 Presidential Election,” dedicated to one of the most controversial events in recent U.S. election history. Not only will it make you rethink the American election model, it will also give you another chance to enjoy an excellent performance by Kevin Spacey.
Those who want to learn more about British politics should not miss another BBC political drama, “The Rise and Fall of Margaret Thatcher,” which provides insight into the life of one of the most formidable political figures in British history. Also, whether you’re interested in politics or not, don’t forget that the library has many Masterpiece Theater productions, as well as the books on which they are based.
Speaking of the books, fans of another Netflix series, “Orange Is the New Black,” may not know that this popular show is also based on a book whose author, Piper Kerman, was sentenced to 15 months for drug smuggling and money laundering. The book is titled – no surprise here – “Orange Is the New Black,” and it is available in your library in a variety of formats. Season one of its Netflix counterpart is likely to make a splash at the next Emmy Awards, so if you postpone reading Kerman’s book for too long, we may have a substantial waiting list for it!
Other Netflix original series based on books include “Hemlock Grove,” a takeoff on Brian McGreevy’s horror novel named – by now you know that Netflix likes to keep original titles, right? – “Hemlock Grove.” This book (as well as the show) examines the strange happenings in a fictional town in Pennsylvania.
“John Hodgman: Ragnarok” features material from Hodgman’s last book “That Is All.” And “Arrested Development,” the fourth season of which was aired by Netflix last May, has direct connections to your library, too, for we own the first three seasons of this show .
All in all, whatever your favorite shows are, don’t forget to check with your library. Chances are we’ll be able to increase your enjoyment of them.
Happy watching and reading!
What is a classic? Is it a book you had to read for school, with a confusing number of Greek deities, and there was a test later? Or is it set in a 19th century English drawing room furnished with fainting couches? Italo Calvino gave fourteen possible definitions of a classic.
Here’s my personal take: a classic is a book that sticks. It holds interest for readers decades later. Also, it can include time travel and alien abduction. Witness Kurt Vonnegut’s “Slaughterhouse Five.”
“Slaughterhouse Five,” published in 1969, grew out of Vonnegut’s own experiences as a POW in Germany during World War II. Like Vonnegut, the book’s main character, Billy Pilgrim, survives the fire-bombing of Dresden in the basement of a slaughterhouse. Unlike Vonnegut (I assume), Billy is “unstuck in time.”
After the war, Billy becomes a successful optometrist, but his life is complicated when he’s abducted by aliens called Tralfamadorians, who see all of time all at once. Billy is flung backward and forward through time, not always living his life in the right order, but again and again returning to the slaughterhouse in Dresden. It’s left to the reader to decide if the aliens exist outside of Billy’s traumatized mind.
Vonnegut’s writing is full of satire, helping us laugh at the tragedy of existence. In “Slaughterhouse Five” he shatters some writing rules. His main character knows in advance everything that will happen to him, and Vonnegut inserts himself, the author, into the story. He uses these absurdities to emphasize his views on the absurdity of war. Life and war do not follow neat narrative arcs, and neither does this book.
“Cat’s Cradle” is another Vonnegut classic, published in 1963. Employing his familiar tools of irony and wit, he provides such a thorough look at human nature in this science fiction novel that the University of Chicago awarded him a Master’s degree in anthropology for the work.
An author named John is writing a book about the day the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. But his plans go off-track in a major way when he discovers the existence of a potentially more lethal threat than nuclear weapons. At the behest of a general who wanted something done about the problem of mud, one of the co-creators of the atomic bomb developed ice-nine, a substance capable of solidifying a field of oozy muck with the deployment of one tiny grain. John instantly realizes such a material would also be capable of freezing the world’s entire water supply. Vonnegut uses this premise to explore all of the weighty topics you’re supposed to avoid at dinner parties – religion, politics, family relationships, scientific ethics and consumer culture.
To browse other classics of American literature, take a look at our catalog list. Enjoy your reading. I promise there won’t be a test.
I have always had a weakness for books that take a minor character in a familiar work and create an entire novel around that character’s life. A fantastic example of this is Geraldine Brooks’ “March,” which tells the story of the absent father from Louisa May Alcott’s “Little Women.” Jo Baker, in her well-reviewed novel “Longbourn,” performs a similarly pleasing feat. She recreates the world of Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice” by shifting the focus from the Bennet family to the lives of the servants below stairs. Considering both Austen’s enduring appeal for readers and the current Downton Abbey mania, it is no surprise that there is a waiting list for “Longbourn” at your library. Place a hold on this title and then pick up one of the following books to read while you wait.
“Below Stairs” by Margaret Powell
The subtitle of this memoir pretty much says it all: “The Classic Kitchen Maid’s Memoir That Inspired ‘Upstairs, Downstairs’ and ‘Downton Abbey.’” Powell’s frank, sometimes funny and often angry insights into the lives of servants employed by the great houses in 1920s England will make the modern day reader, at the very least, extremely grateful for washing machines and the fact that no one is asking her to iron his boot laces.
“The Dressmaker” by Kate Alcott
Like Baker, Alcott takes a situation we think we know inside and out – the sinking of the Titanic – and makes it new by shining the spotlight into the event’s less explored corners. In this novel, Tess, the titular maid and seamstress whose last-minute hiring by fashion designer Lucile Duff Gordon lands her a place on the doomed ship, takes center stage. The majority of her story happens after the tragedy, with Senate hearings and investigations into the Titanic’s sinking (as well as a bit of romance) highlighting issues of class and politics in the early 1900s.
“The Remains of the Day” by Kazuo Ishiguro
Ishiguro’s award-winning novel tells the story of an aging butler who has spent his life in service to Lord Darlington, upholding and believing in a class system that is crumbling around him in post-war England. A compelling look at both the servant’s mindset and a social order that has all but vanished.
“Pride and Prejudice” by Jane Austen
An obvious recommendation, perhaps, is the original work by Austen herself. Whether you need to re-familiarize yourself with the Bennet sisters and their hunt for husbands or will be picking up the novel for the first time, Austen’s book will immerse you in the lives of the upper classes in Regency England.
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Come celebrate the history of American music at the Columbia Public Library with the America’s Music series. Each program covers a specific genre of music and includes a documentary screening followed by discussion. Faculty members from the University of Missouri will be on hand to introduce the films and lead discussion. The series continues with an exploration of Broadway and Tin Pan Alley on November 11 and concludes with Latin Rhythms from Mambo to Hip Hop on November 18. These programs are free and open to the public (no registration required). Visit dbrl.org/americas-music for more details and a full list of events.
Broadway and Tin Pan Alley
Monday, November 11 › 6:30-8 p.m.
Learn about the 100-year history of musical theater and the story of its relationship to 20th-century American life with the film “Broadway: The American Musical, Episode 2: Syncopated City” and a discussion led by Dr. Michael Budds, professor of musicology at MU.
Latin Rhythms from Mambo to Hip Hop
Monday, November 18 › 6:30-8 p.m.
Discover how mambo migrated to New York City from Havana in the 1940s and broke social and musical rules with two short films, “Latin Music: USA, Episode 1: Bridges” and “From Mambo to Hip-Hop: A South Bronx Tale,” and a discussion led by Dr. Stephanie Shonekan, assistant professor of ethnomusicology.
In addition to these film screenings, there will be related musical performances at the Blue Note and the MU School of Music. These events may require ticket purchases.
America’s Music: A Film History of Our Popular Music from Blues to Bluegrass to Broadway is a project of the Tribeca Film Institute in collaboration with the American Library Association, Tribeca Flashpoint and the Society for American Music. America’s Music has been made possible by a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities: Exploring the Human Endeavor.
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Are you ready to get crafty? The winter holiday season is fast approaching, and many of us are feeling that crafty pull, the urge (hopefully inspired) to be creative with gift making for our family and friends. There are endless options for making homemade gifts, but I’d like to focus here on holiday paper crafts, including card making and using old cards to make decorations and gifts.
Do you have stacks of cards stowed away from winter holidays gone by? I do and I often make gift tags or create new cards out of them. It’s simple enough to recycle them in that manner, but there are many lovely ways to turn cards into keepsakes. Some elegant ideas can be found in Martha Stewart’s ”Crafts and Keepsakes for the Holidays.” Especially appealing are the card garlands and the geodesic globe ornaments; either would add festive seasonal touches to your home. In addition to using up old cards, you can create your own, and we have scads of books in the DBRL collection to instruct and inspire you.
When my children were young, I made them a set of cardboard dolls with cardboard lace-on clothes similar to the commercial lacing cards available for young children. They enjoyed this gift, and it was CHEAP and great for our low-budget times. Since I designed and made them myself they were completely unique, which added to their homemade charm. I was reminded of those cardboard dolls when I came across the book “Paper Puppet Palooza: Techniques for Making Movable Art Figures and Paper Dolls” by Norma V. Toraya. Inside are marvelous images that can be reproduced, with step-by-step instructions to make several styles of moveable puppets. These would make great gifts for your kids or someone else’s. You could even make a stage out of a large cardboard box to use for many hours of fun-time puppet shows.
Paper yarn – hmmm. Doesn’t that sound intriguing? What does one do with paper yarn? This book, with vibrant visuals, will show you. It has 24 paper yarn projects to make, including pillows, lampshades and hats, using a variety of handicraft techniques. You don’t have to start or stop with paper yarn though, because paper crafting books abound at DBRL and offer lots of inventive options for gift making.
If you need a kick-start to get crafty, come join us at the Southern Boone County Public Library in Ashland for our Winter Card Wonderland workshop on Friday, November 8 from 7-8:30 p.m. We’ll provide the materials for you to make your own holiday greeting cards. As the cooler temperatures and shorter days drive us indoors, why not relax and bond around gift making with your family and friends? And no matter what gift-making projects you choose, may the making of your offerings bring you joy and contentment this season.
Not all tech tools need to enhance your productivity or keep you organized and connected. Apps and websites that help you create funny pictures and memes to email to friends or post on Facebook are awesome, too.
You have probably seen in your news feed or inbox a drawing of a woman slumped in a chair accompanied by a caption reading something like this: “Why do they want dinner every single night?” These pairings of stock images with funny text can be created using the website Someecards. Choose from hundreds of irreverent ecards created by other users or create a free account to start creating and sharing your own.
Bitstrips offers tools for creating a personal avatar and then creating panel cartoons featuring your likeness (and likenesses of your friends, if you want). There are over 1,000 templates, with new ones added daily, so you can customize cartoons to express yourself, share something that happened today, comment on pop culture and so on. The original app is for Facebook, but the company just launched versions for Apple and Android devices.
Add speech or thought bubbles to your own photos or a selection of stock photos using the website Phrase.it. If you have a thing for funny cat pictures, you should check out this free tool.
Do you have a favorite tool for making funny pictures or creating memes? Let us know in the comments.
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At the beginning was the word. Or, rather, a paragraph I read in a blog – about Scott Kelby Worldwide Photo Walk. For those who don’t know about Scott Kelby, he is a photographer and an author. I discovered him while ordering books for the library, and he literally changed my life.
The thing is, I’m obsessive. Every time I develop a new passion, I throw all my time and energy into it – until I find something else to obsess about. Anyway, the first thing I did when I entered my Scott-Kelby-inspired photography stage was to buy a camera. For most of my life, I knew little about cameras, lenses, flashes and things like that. But when I opened Kelby’s books, I began craving expensive equipment as if my life depended on it. Of course, being a librarian married to an academic, I couldn’t really afford it. I had to settle for reading. So, today, if you let me, I’ll tell you everything I know about full-frame and cropped sensor cameras, good glass (that’s how photographers refer to good – and very expensive – lenses), flashes, task-sharp images (something I am still working on) and other things like that.
Unfortunately, none of my loved ones understands the importance of photography in my life. When I ask my husband to pose for me (I like taking pictures with a “human” element), he immediately assumes an expression described by a Russian proverb as, “Virazhaet to lizo chem sadyatsa on krilzo” or “He wears an expression that makes his face look like his butt.” As for my grandchildren, one of them begins rubbing his eyes with his fists and the other rolls her eyes or sticks out her tongue.
I persevere anyway, and the reason that I am still unknown to the world of photography is that I don’t have a high-end camera/lenses/etc. Another thing that holds me back is that I’m self-taught. I’ve never taken any photography classes, and, in fact, I don’t have anybody in my life with whom I could discuss f-stops, shutter speed, HDR photography and other fascinating subjects like that. This is why I got excited about the Scott Kelby Photography Walk. It was going to be a turning point in my photographic career.
The walk was set for October 6, which was great, since October is the best time of the year in our area. Yet when I woke up that morning, monotonous streaks of rain were hitting our bedroom windows, and the outside world appeared depressingly gray. For fifteen minutes or so, I debated with myself whether I should go. Who takes pictures in the rain? My camera will get wet. Of course, I can carry an umbrella, but how am I going to hold my camera steady with one hand? Then it occurred to me that somebody else may want to take my place, but I couldn’t think of anybody. Finally, I got myself together and drove along damp and empty streets to the gathering place.
A crowd of 15 or so people huddling underneath their umbrellas in the middle of a small park looked somewhat misplaced. Several of them were young, several had gray hair, and all carried bulky cameras. The leader gave us his last instructions and a map of our photo walk, and he let us loose on the town. In two-and-a-half hours we would meet for lunch.
The park and its surroundings appeared dull and lifeless. The only bright spots were umbrellas of my fellow photographers, many of whom had already sprung into action – some snapping pictures of a nearby creek and the bridge over it and some bending over wet bushes.
“What’s the point?” I thought to myself. On a day like this, nothing is going to look pretty. Then I lowered my gaze and, as things came into focus, I suddenly spotted little red berries on the bushes growing along the creek, drops of rain glistening on the leaves and the freshly green blades of grass. I was wrong. Even in the rain, the world was full of colors. In fact, they became as vivid as ever, and even simple objects – like benches, bikes chained to a rack and the railing of a bridge – looked interesting. And the air! It was fresh and energizing. I wasn’t wasting my time by coming here. I was encountering a different world. And I turned my camera on and began taking pictures.
True, operating a camera in the rain was … let’s say, challenging. But I welcomed the challenge, for it made me look, really look, and notice things I usually miss: patterns of puddles on the street, sidewalk paintings, reflections in shops’ windows and, of course, people, some of whom hurried along hidden under their umbrellas, and some paid no attention to the rain. I couldn’t stop pressing the shutter, as if I could see better through the small opening of my lens than I could with my eyes.
Time speeded up, and soon, I found myself at the end of our route. Now I needed to hook up with the rest of the group.
“I’m not going to lunch with them. I don’t feel comfortable with strangers.” I had said to my husband before I left home. But there I was, at the table with people talking passionately about resolution, lenses (What’s the sweet spot for this one?) and flashes (“You need one master and, at least, two slaves”). I was participating, too – if not by talking then by listening. I was learning about the art of photography, but, most importantly, I was learning about how differently we see the world. For we all walked the same streets, squares and alleys. We saw the same people and buildings. Yet what we documented with our cameras was different. None of us caught everything, but together, we could compile a picture of our town – things that were beautiful about it but also things that were mundane and ugly.
As I was driving back home, I kept going over my morning. Did it improve my technical proficiency? Not by much. That would require more time and effort. But, it improved my understanding of how we – if we want to – can fit our individual pieces into a larger whole. As for the rain, as one Russian song goes, “There is no bad weather in nature. Whatever happens has its time and purpose. And we should be grateful for all of it.”
I enjoy reading about food – cooking, what someone else enjoys eating or the science behind food and cooking. I recently finished “Pandora’s Lunchbox: How Processed Food Took over the American Meal” by Melanie Warner.
Warner takes us behind the scenes of Subway, Kraft, Kellogg and other processors of food. In an entertaining as well as informative manner, she writes about how processed cheese product came to exist, how some cereals are created using guns, how the nutrients are taken out of foods in order to increase their shelf life and how chemicals are added to increase shelf life and restore some nutrients. The book was fascinating and quite scary. The FDA does not regulate everything that goes into American foods – loopholes allow many things to be used without rigorous testing. Substances that may not be good for our health are added so foods can sit in the grocery stores and our pantries longer. I am going to be reading all food labels from now on.
But there is also an upside to all this processing of foods. In an article in the August issue of Atlantic Monthly, David H. Freedman describes “How Junk Food Can End Obesity.” He takes issue with some of Warner’s ideas. Freedman feels that food science could be used to make junk food and fast food healthier since people are going to eat these products anyway. Junk food and fast food are easy to obtain and usually taste good. This article was an interesting counterpoint to Warner’s book.
Thanks to the readers who grabbed a mystery from our special display at the Columbia Public Library and submitted an answer to the mini mystery included in all of the books. Three lucky readers were selected from the super sleuths who discovered whodunit, and they have won either a signed copy of Tim O’Mara’s “Sacrifice Fly” or a Barnes and Noble gift card.
Who set up the robbery in our mini mystery? It was art expert Gilbert Bowles! How did he do it? Read on!
Here are the clues that point to the culprit:
It was Bowles who signaled the driver to pull into the hotel lot. Knowing the location of their stop, he then called the backup car lagging a few minutes behind. He knew that Sims had parked in the area behind the hotel, and while the van was being parked, he finished the phone call.
Sims had a key to the cab and for the lock on the back doors of the van. But the two minutes in which he was alone at the van were not sufficient time to break the lock and also the case that held the Audubons. He only had the two minutes Keene mentioned to get his luggage, re-lock the back and front of the van, then walk into the reception area of the hotel. Keene could not have alerted the backup car while in the cab with Sims, and Keene had left his cell phone in the cab. So he could not have done it while walking across the parked van to join Bowles.
It was only the art expert, Bowles, who had the time alone with his cell phone, during the brief period when the van was being parked, to inform the backup car of the van’s exact location in the rear parking lot. The backup car did not have to be nearby. It could have been as far behind as five miles and have received Bowles’ signal on the cell phone permitting it to arrive within five minutes.
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