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The Gentleman Recommends: Jess Walter

October 12, 2015

Book cover for Does this gentleman’s influence know no bounds? First there’s the Gentleman’s Quarterly periodical that I presumably inspired and thus have no need to read, then there’s the fact that one of my recommendations was so convincing that an entire city banded together to read the same book. What’s next? A discount at the local deli? A trend of tattooing my face upon one’s own? No one knows (but at minimum I will surely be spared the glares and grimaces directed my way by fellow delicatessen patrons during my sampling hour). One thing is certain: I have tremendous clout and a duty to wield it wisely. So, friendly reader, I’m going wield it with incomparable wisdom and recommend Jess Walter.

Jess Walter is a genius, in part because he can tell a variety of different types of stories. First, I’ll type about “Citizen Vince,” another novel the Coen Brothers should adapt. It concerns a former low level criminal currently in witness protection; but – oh dang – his past is coming back to hunt him. Vince is a clever guy, and it’s tremendous fun to read his witticisms and follow his twisty tale. The story begins shortly before the 1980 presidential election and ends shortly thereafter. Like most people whose felonious past has been erased, Vince is giddy to take part in the selection of the nation’s next president. He reads the beginnings of a lot of books in order to always have a new one to talk about with a young lady who frequents the donut shop where he works. You should read this particular book to the end though, because “Citizen Vince” picks up steam as it goes.

Beautiful Ruins” is not the sort of book you’d expect the Coen Brothers to adapt (though I’m sure they could handle it), but it is easily imagined as an epic film. Some brilliant movie-makers will adapt it one day, and if they do it right,  they will probably win trophies, livestock and the other assorted plaudits Hollywood loves to dispense. The novel opens in a small Italian town with the proprietor of the “Hotel Adequate View” removing rocks from the port by hand in hopes of one day turning it into a proper beach. A young and purportedly dying actress arrives. The proprietor is smitten. But, before we learn their fates, we are spirited forward fifty years to Hollywood where a disillusioned production assistant is hoping to be convinced to stick with her movie making dreams. She decides if she doesn’t get a great pitch today,  she’s going to be the reluctant director of a cult’s museum.  A writer is ready to pitch his epic film about the Donner Party. (His pitch gets its own amazing, horrifying chapter.) A 72-year-old Hollywood big shot (with the surgically modified face best described as that of  a “nine year old Filipino girl”) is looking for a way out of his contract. The alcoholic war veteran that visited the Hotel Adequate View for a week every summer to drink and pretend to work on his novel turns back up. (We read his only completed chapter, which succeeds mightily as a short story and further proves Walter’s mastery.) Eventually, everyone’s paths intersect, and spectacularly so.

The novel closes with a firecracker of a montage that ties up the various loose ends; you will alternately and simultaneously cry and chuckle. Indeed, that sad fog condensed on more than one pair of monocles, and my chuckle hankie was often used to demurely conceal the happy bounce of my mustache. I was amazed by this book. My hunch is that you will be too.

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Staff Review: The Night Sister

October 9, 2015

Book cover for The Night Sister by Jennifer McMahonYou know those writers whose work is so captivating that you’d read their grocery lists? Jennifer McMahon is definitely one of those writers for me. As one half of a pair of sisters, I’m also sucker for a book where sisters play a prominent role, so it’s likely “The Night Sister” would’ve ended up on my bedside table one way or another. If you enjoy mysteries that feature multiple timelines, numerous points of view and the setting of a deliciously creepy house (or in this case, hotel-as-castle), then this book might be for you as well.

“The Night Sister” begins in the present with sisters Piper and Margot receiving the shocking news that childhood friend Amy has brutally slain almost her entire family and herself, with only her daughter escaping. Then the novel turns back half a century to the childhood of Amy’s mother and aunt. Rose and Sylvie live in the Tower Motel, built like a castle complete with tower. Sylvie dreams of escaping to Hollywood and becoming an actress, while Rose is caught up in the stories their grandmother told them of mares, shape-shifting monsters hidden inside regular-seeming people.

The bridge between these two story lines is the summer of 1989, where Piper and Amy test their fledgling adolescence against the backdrop of the disused Tower Motel. Despite little-sister Margot tagging along behind Piper and future-police-officer Jason keeping watch over his crush Amy, the two enjoy sufficient freedom to learn enough about themselves — and the mysteries of the Tower Hotel — to change their friendship forever. But can Piper’s knowledge of the past help her piece together what really happened in the recent tragedy?

The Night Sister” has the fast pace and plot twists I expect in psychological thrillers, as well as clean, vivid writing. Though there are more than a couple of characters, the straightforward delineation of dates and points of view make it easy to keep track of who’s who.

And luckily for me, there are still a couple Jennifer McMahon novels I haven’t read yet, so she won’t be hearing from me asking for her grocery list just yet.

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Latino Americans: 500 Years of History

October 7, 2015

Flora Sanchez 1Beginning later this month, the Daniel Boone Regional Library will honor the contributions of Latino Americans through story, song, dance and film. As a Mexican-American, I look forward to inviting our community to join in this region-wide celebration.

The roots of my family were planted in this country nearly a century ago and have been cultivated with much love, or as my Grandma Flora would say, “con mucho cariño.” In 1917, my grandmother immigrated to the United States as a toddler with her parents and older sister, Ruth. The Mexican Revolution had swept through their birthplace of Zacatecas and my great grandparents were seeking safety and security for their young family.

My great grandfather, Jose Moreno, and his brother Ezequiel eventually brought their families to East Los Angeles where they set up a Mexican bakery called “La Esperanza.” By 1926, they had 25 employees and a fleet of delivery trucks to distribute their pan dulce (sweet bread) and tortillas all over the city.

Bakery Trucks with Caption 1

Over the last 98 years, our family has done more than bear witness to great events in U.S. history; they have been participants in the story that binds us all together as Americans. My great grandparents realized the American Dream and laid a foundation that would give each successive generation the opportunity for success.

The library’s special program series, “Latino Americans: 500 Years of History,” will share how the rich and varied experiences of Latinos have contributed to American culture. In addition to the programs listed below, we will also have special displays throughout the Columbia Public Library showcasing Latino authors, artists and filmmakers.

Documentary: “Empire of Dreams”
Tuesday, October 13, 2015 • 6:30-8:15 p.m.

Heavy Medal: Mock Newbery Special Session
Wednesday, November 4, 2015 • 4:30-5:30 p.m.
For children in grades 4-8. To register, please call (573) 443-3161.

Singing and Dancing Through Stories With Olga Loya
Sunday, November 8, 2015 • 2-3 p.m.
For all ages.

Mexican Folklore With La Morena
Thursday, November 12, 2015 • 7-8 p.m.
For all ages.

Film: “Cesar Chavez”
Wednesday, November 18, 2015 • 6:30-8:15 p.m.

Spanish Story Time / Hora de cuentos en familia
Thursday, November 19, 2015 • 5:30-6 p.m. , 6:30-7 p.m.
Session 1 for children ages 1-5. Session 2 for children ages 6-12.

Latino Americans: 500 Years of History” has been made possible through a partnership with the Missouri Humanities Council and a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the American Library Association. The cornerstone of this series is the six-part, NEH-supported documentary film “Latino Americans,” created for PBS in 2013 by the WETA public television station. The award-winning series chronicles the history of Latinos in the United States from the 16th century to present day. Visit www.missourilatinos.org to see a statewide calendar of documentary screenings and other programs.

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Race in America

October 5, 2015

Book cover for Just Mercy by Bryan StevensonThe library recently added a copy of “The Ferguson Report” to the collection, and it is very much worth reading. The report covers an in-depth investigation into both the police department and the judicial system in Ferguson, Missouri where black teenager Michael Brown was killed by a white police officer. The report shows a systemic and “implicit bias” in these institutions. For those who have had to live as the targets of this system, this is not news and not isolated to this one municipality. The report is very critical, but it also offers specific recommendations, such as a publicly accessible database to track use of force.

For a broader understanding of race in America, pick up one of these excellent, recently published books.

Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption” by Bryan Stevenson

“Each of us is more than the worst thing we’ve ever done.”

This book was recently the winner of the Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence and the Dayton Literary Peace Prize. Of all the books on our justice system that I have read lately, this is one of the very best. It definitely puts a human face on it, case after heartbreaking case.

Book cover for Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi CoatesBetween the World and Me” by Ta-Nehisi Coates

“But all our phrasing—race relations, racial chasm, racial justice, racial profiling, white privilege, even white supremacy—serves to obscure that racism is a visceral experience, that it dislodges brains, blocks airways, rips muscle, extracts organs, cracks bones, breaks teeth. You must never look away from this. You must always remember that the sociology, the history, the economics, the graphs, the charts, the regressions all land, with great violence, upon the body.”

“Between the World and Me” is such a beautifully written and lyrical book. Just read it. And then read it again; it’s not that long. And when you think you understand Coates’ perspective, read it again. We have a lot to learn.

Book cover for Citizen by Claudia RankineCitizen: An American Lyric” by Claudia Rankine

“Yes, and the body has a memory. The physical carriage hauls more than its weight. The body is the threshold across which each objectionable call passes into consciousness—all the intimidated, unblinking, and unflappable resilience does not erase the moments lived through, even as we are eternally stupid or everlastingly optimistic, so ready to be inside, among, a part of the games.”

This powerful and visually striking book of poems, essays and images won the National Book Critics Circle Award, the NAACP Image Award, PEN Open Book Award and the LA Times Book Prize.

For more on Race in America, see the wonderful books in this catalog book list.

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Win a Copy of Jo Ann Trogdon’s Book About William Clark

October 2, 2015

Book cover for The Unknown Travels and Dubious Pursuits of William ClarkThis September, more than 50 history buffs came to the Columbia Public Library to hear attorney and writer Jo Ann Trogdon talk about her recently published book, “The Unknown Travels and Dubious Pursuits of William Clark,” in which Trogdon reveals Clark’s highly questionable activities during the years before his famous journey west of the Mississippi. Using Clark’s diary and ledger entries, she investigates evidence linking Clark to a series of plots in which corrupt officials sought to line their pockets with Spanish money and to separate Kentucky from the United States.

Win a copy of this imaginative, surprising and vividly written book from your library! One lucky winner will be notified after October 19. (Contest limited to residents of Boone and Callaway Counties. One entry per person, please.)

Enter now!

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New Magazines at DBRL

September 30, 2015

Bee Culture Magazine coverpoets and writers coverThe world of print is rapidly changing.  Many of the large metro daily newspapers are folding – think of the sad case of the Rocky Mountain News, once the beacon of newspaper publishing in the West, which died a slow death in the 1990s and 2000s and finally stopped printing in 2009. To survive, magazines and newspapers are either switching their format to a much reduced publishing schedule or even changing their look and format entirely. A good example of how the newspaper and magazine publishing industry is having to adapt is the example of the Christian Science Monitor. Once a daily newspaper, it is now published in a slick magazine format, just once a week.

The magazine world, however, is still hanging in there and indeed thriving in some respects. Lots of great new titles are now coming out, targeting a “boutique” independent magazine audience or changing their look with shorter articles and smaller format. The Daniel Boone Regional Library currently holds a wide and varied collection of magazines on our shelves at our Columbia, Fulton and Ashland branches.  Some of these magazines are brand new over the last couple of years, and some are actually old titles, published for many years, that we just recently acquired. Many of the magazines featured here were purchased due to patron requests. It must also be noted that several of the titles can be found through our digital magazine service, Zinio.  Let’s take a look at some of the newest and freshest titles that we are now carrying.

Bee Culture

One of the great things about the collection here at the Daniel Boone Regional Library is that we are constantly adapting and listening to patron needs and requests.  A perfect example of this is the magazine Bee Culture, which was requested to be included in our collection this past year.  The September 2015 issue of this magazine includes news items like the Regional Honey Price Report, in addition to articles about bee repellent and New Jersey bee laws. The September issue also includes an in-depth article about beekeeping at a state prison, and how the process of raising these bees helped maintain stability and focus for the inmates.


Commonweal is another patron request.  Historically a Catholic magazine that has concentrated on issues of social justice, the magazine also carries many articles about current politics.  See the September issue for a fascinating retrospective article about Thomas Merton and his theological writings and political philosophy.


One of several architectural titles that we carry here, Dwell has a focus mainly centered on urban and modern architecture. See the October 2015 issue for an in-depth look at concrete houses in the Australian bush, which are able to withstand the terrible brush fires that rage through the area on occasion.


Monocle is a product of famous restaurateur and jet-setter Tyler Brûlé and is certainly global in its outlook. With articles that range from features about tiny fantastic restaurants in the nooks and crannies of Beijing, to political features and commentaries on international sporting events, architecture and film, this magazine has a little bit of something for everyone. Monocle is one of the many “boutique” titles out there printed by independent publishers that has the appearance of a digital offering (short articles and a layout that has the look and feel similar to that of a webpage).  From the July/August 2015 issue – a story about wooden high rises in Stockholm, the Utrecht Cycling Club in the Netherlands and planned cities such as Tapiola Finland.

Poets and Writers

Poets and Writers is a key offering in a selection of titles for the literary folks among our patrons (other titles in the genre include Writer’s Digest and the Missouri Review). With author interviews, information about literary retreats and book reviews for new and upcoming titles, the magazine is heavily used by the author community in Columbia. Poets and Writers also includes information about where to apply for grants and fellowships related to the craft.

A final word – although current issues cannot be checked out, the last two years of back issues are available for checkout by patrons, limited to five per patron. Enjoy!

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Top Ten Books Librarians Love: The October 2015 List

September 28, 2015

Halloween is around the corner, but the list of books publishing in October that librarians across the country love isn’t scary. Well, unless you fear your to-read pile growing too tall. This month’s LibraryReads list includes novels from big names in literary fiction, like Geraldine Brooks (“March,” “Caleb’s Crossing“), David Mitchell (“Cloud Atlas,” “Bone Clocks“) and Margaret Atwood (“The Handmaid’s Tale,” MaddAddam Trilogy) – perfect for longer nights and cooler days. Enjoy!

Book cover for City of FireCity on Fire” by Garth Risk Hallberg
“WOW! An excellently executed work with intricate plot lines and fascinating characters. It’s a story of how the stories of many different people of New York City in the late seventies crash into each other like waves on rocks. This work may encapsulate the whole of New York City, as it has wealth, love, filth, passion, aimless angst and a myriad of other aspects of humanity swirling in that amazing city.” – Racine Zackula, Wichita Public Library, Wichita, KS

Book cover for After You by Jojo MoyesAfter You” by Jojo Moyes
“I loved ‘Me Before You‘ and thought it ended in the perfect place, but any doubts I had about continuing the story were quickly erased when I started this sequel. Jojo Moyes is a master at tugging on your heartstrings. I laughed, I cried and I nearly threw my Kindle against the wall at one point. Give this to anyone in your life who has experienced a tragic loss. With a box of tissues.” – Joseph Jones, Cuyahoga County Public Library, Cleveland, OH

Book cover for A Banquet of ConsequencesA Banquet of Consequences” by Elizabeth George
“Still reeling from a previous fall from grace, police detective Barbara Havers has a chance to redeem her standing–if she can unravel the very twisted threads that led to the murder of a prominent English feminist. Meanwhile, her superior officer Thomas Lynley pursues a love interest even as he keeps a sharp lookout for any slip-ups by Havers. This is the strongest addition to the series in years.” – Starr Smith, Fairfax County Public Library, Falls Church, VA

Here are the remaining October titles for your holds-placing pleasure!

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Staff Review: The Aeronaut’s Windlass

September 25, 2015

Book cover for Aeronaut's WindlassThe Aeronaut’s Windlass” by Jim Butcher

Why I Read It: Jim Butcher + Steampunk = Gimme. Now.

What It’s About:  Humanity lives in huge, stone Spires that rise above the surface and the monster-filled mists that cover it. Society is ruled by aristocratic houses that develop scientific marvels and build fleets of airships to keep the peace.

Captain Grimm commands the merchant ship, Predator. Loyal to Spire Albion, he has taken their side in the cold war with Spire Aurora, disrupting the enemy’s shipping lines by attacking their cargo vessels. But when the Predator is severely damaged in combat, Grimm is offered a proposition from the leader of Albion – to join a team of young, untried agents, an imperious cat and an utterly insane etherealist on a vital mission in exchange for fully restoring Predator to its fighting glory.

Why I Recommend It:  Jim Butcher is a wonderful storyteller. This is the first book of a series, and he has laid some excellent groundwork for this new world. He doesn’t explain everything all at once. You slowly learn about the history, landscape and politics of the Spires as Butcher builds to intense action scenes.

Rowl. If you took away the incredibly imagined world, the riveting battles and the promise of future intrigues, you would be left with several interesting and well-drawn characters, not the least of which is Rowl. He is a warrior and heir to Clan Silent Paws, and he’s a cat. He is ridiculously smug and demanding, but I don’t think anyone who has ever interacted with a cat would be surprised. When a cat is one of the heroes of the story…I mean, come on. You’ve got to be interested.

What To Read While You Wait:
Furies of Calderon” by Jim Butcher
Storm Front” by Jim Butcher
Boneshaker” by Cherie Priest
Retribution Falls” by Chris Wooding

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Going Round & Round: Docs About Buses

September 23, 2015

bus 2
Buses can be versatile tools of transportation. They can be used for a daily commute, to guide a tour or as a way to travel cross country. Check out these docs that explore some unique stories that have unfolded on various kinds of buses.

the cruiseThe Cruise” (1998)

Take an unforgettable bus ride through the concrete canyons of Manhattan with “Speed” Levitch as your tour guide. This acclaimed doc launched the career of Levitch, who has worked on several films with noted director Richard Linklater and given tours during the True/False Film Fest.

magic tripMagic Trip” (2011)

In 1964, Ken Kesey set off on a legendary cross-country road trip joined by “The Merry Band of Pranksters,” a renegade group of counterculture truth-seekers, including Neal Cassady, who was immortalized in Kerouac’s “On the Road,” and the driver and painter of the psychedelic Magic Bus.

bus 174Bus 174” (2002)

A powerful, award-winning examination of the tragic series of events that followed a desperate bus hijacking in Rio de Janeiro in 2000 that turned deadly when a SWAT team took evasive action against the drug-addled hijacker.

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Classics for Everyone: Fahrenheit 451

September 21, 2015

Book cover for Fahrenheit 451As I read this year’s One Read selection, “Station Eleven” by Emily St. John Mandel, I repeatedly thought of the Ray Bradbury classic, “Fahrenheit 451.” In my mind, the two books convey many of the same ideas, yet in much different ways.

In “Station Eleven,” a plague has decimated the population. Those who remain are left with a world where infrastructure and social systems have collapsed. The characters in “Fahrenheit 451” have everything Mandel’s lack: health, ample food, material comforts, advanced technology. But I believe Bradbury’s characters suffer more.

The motto for the Traveling Symphony in Mandel’s book is “Survival is insufficient.” The members have lost almost everything, except what keeps them human. Through music, art and literature they forge bonds and find meaning.

“Fahrenheit 451” gives us a world where books are forbidden, where the only music is that which numbs emotions rather than stirring them, a world devoid of meaningful connection. The book’s title refers to the temperature at which paper burns. The main character, Guy Montag, is a fireman. His job is to burn houses and buildings where books are found.

At the beginning of the story, Montag loves his job. The adrenaline rush he experiences at a fire makes him feel alive. But several events shake his world view. His wife attempts suicide and later acts as if nothing happened. An old woman chooses to stay in her home and burn with her books. Montag meets an elderly former professor who remembers the days before books were outlawed. A 17-year-old free spirit shares her joy in defying convention. Soon, Montag is consumed with the desire to see for himself what is inside the books he’s burning, and he begins to pocket one or two at each call.

First published in 1953, “Fahrenheit 451” contains many surprisingly accurate predictions about future developments. There’s a televised police chase, filmed from a helicopter. People own wall-sized flat-screen televisions and use a version of earbuds. Robots sniff out contraband. One area where Bradbury missed the mark was that of gender roles. All of his men have paying jobs while the women are homemakers.

If ever anyone has doubts about the value of literature and the arts, said skeptic should read “Fahrenheit 451” to get some idea of what life would be like without them.

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Creative Learning at Your Library

September 18, 2015

This spring, the Columbia Public Library celebrated the grand opening of our new creative digital lab, the Studio. Since then, we have helped over 600 patrons make sense of their mobile devices,  discover new apps, download free e-Books, scan old family photos and organize their digital photo collections. We’ve invited children to make their own stop-motion animated films and promoted literacy among preschoolers using fun learning tools like Tiggly Shapes. After such a successful launch, the library is happy to announce several new Studio programs for library lovers of all ages.

This summer we introduced our newly reorganized class, “iPhone and iPad Basics.” Through this two-hour program, we help patrons master the basic functions of their Apple devices. The class has been so popular that we will be offering an advanced course beginning October 28. Attendees will learn how to run updates, back up their data and explore shortcuts to use their Apple device more efficiently. 

Another exciting addition to our fall line-up is “iMovie for Mac.” In this two-part class, you can learn how to create your own films using iMovie on your MacBook. We will also review video editing and storytelling techniques to enhance your personal project. This class is for intermediate and advanced technology users. Mark your calendars now for October 21 and 28.

The Studio not only has enriching classes for adults, but engaging programs for children as well. On Monday, September 28 we will offer our first session of “Circuit Science.” Using Snap Circuits, children ages 8-12 can discover the basics of electrical circuits. We’ll make a “space war siren,” construct a lie detector and more!

“Circuit Science” complements our program series for younger children called “Digital Playground.” These hour-long sessions are designed to spark creativity using technology and exploratory play. Throughout the fall, little ones ages 3 and up will have fun learning about shapes and colors.

If you don’t see a Studio class that meets your specific needs, consider attending “Drop-in Apple Help.” A session is offered each week. This is a great class for getting assistance with your Apple computer, iPad, iPhone or iPod. Bring your device to the library and we can show you how to download photos from your iPhone, set-up your music library in  iTunes and access the library’s free eBooks and other online collections.

It is important to note that all of our technology classes require registration, with the exception of “Drop-in Apple Help.” To sign-up, simply call (573) 443-3161. Registration begins two weeks before each program. We hope to see you soon!

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Free Genealogy Events and Family History Research Help

September 16, 2015

HeritageQuest-newIn addition to drop-in classes and presentations on the online resources (HeritageQuest and Ancestry.com) for family researchers available through your library, there are a couple of upcoming events genealogists should add to their calendars.

The 40th anniversary celebration of the Genealogical Society of Boone County and Central Missouri — formerly the Genealogical Society of Central Missouri — will be held from 3 to 5 p.m. at the Columbia Public Library on Friday, October 9. That’s exactly 40 years to the date the society was formed at the Columbia Public Library in 1975! Come learn more about what we have achieved these past four decades. Current and back issues of our quarterly, The Reporter, are in our CPL reference collection, as well as many other publications that will help you find your ancestors who lived in central Missouri and elsewhere.

Another great opportunity to learn more about genealogy is to attend the local Genealogy CoMo Conference being held at 4708 Highlands Parkway in Columbia on Saturday, October 17. Sponsored by the local Family History Center, this event is free and open to the public. Register online at gencomo.org. The all-day event will feature the Senior Vice President, Genealogical Records Division, of FamilySearch as its keynote speaker and many more sessions offered by local genealogists who can give you clues to your family’s past.

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The Gentleman Recommends: Laurent Binet

September 14, 2015

Book cover for HHhH by Laurent BinetAs I perch at my word processor stroking my mustache, adjusting my top hat and considering how to write a blog post recommending a historical meta-fictional novel that is nearly as concerned with how to tell the story of the plot to assassinate monstrous Nazi Reinhard Heydrich as it is with telling the story, I have a eureka moment: I simply needed to stop massaging my elegant mouth parka and making minute adjustments to my headgear and start typing words.

I wonder how to convey that, though time is spent with the author during his research and his periods of doubt, and that we hear quite a bit about the problems inherent in writing historical novels, the story never loses its considerable propulsion. A good recommender would give some sort of proof, but for some reason my head is in tremendous pain and also my top hat is way too tight, so I’m just going to muscle on and assume that my audience knows that they should always trust a gentleman, and that I am one, which is obvious because I am wearing a top hat, and I say I’m a gentleman, and a gentleman never lies, unless it is a white lie and meant to spare someone’s feelings.

So, “HHhH” (the abomination known as Heydrich had a nickname: “Himmlers Hirn heist Heydrich,” which translates to “Himmler’s brain is called Heydrich”) by Laurent Binet is the gripping true story of Jozef Gabcik and Jan Kubis working to assassinate the horrifyingly evil Reinhard Heydrich. The momentum is sustained through the many asides wherein the author worries about how to approach his subject matter and how much to fictionalize the story when the true details are not available. (What color was Heydrich’s car? Which side of the train did he sit on?) As Binet says in the novel, “I just hope that, however bright and blinding the veneer of fiction that covers this fabulous story, you will still be able to see through it to the historical reality that lies behind.”

And a fabulous story it is. Fascinating throughout, the novel culminates with a sequence as riveting as that in any thriller. It is fascinating because we are given a thorough look at the monstrosity known as Heydrich and the horror he propagated, at the brave men commissioned to end his life, and at the process of writing the meticulously researched story of these men.

I debate how to end this recommendation and decide to do so with one further sentence of encouragement to read this book if you have any interest in the atrocities in Europe circa World War II, and the story of two heroes helping to end them. Then I remember it would be a shame not to give a tip of the top hat to the translator. Read this book if you have any interest in the atrocities in Europe circa World War II and the story of two heroes helping to end them. Also, I’d like to give a tip of the top hat to novelist Sam Taylor, who, as far as I can tell given that I don’t read French and didn’t read the French version of this novel, did a tremendous job translating it.

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Download Roots N Blues Artists’ Albums From Your Library

September 11, 2015

Hoopla logoSeptember is Roots N Blues N BBQ time in mid-Missouri. This year’s festival at Columbia’s Stephens Lake Park features some incredible musicians, from Buddy Guy to Lucinda Williams. If you want to hear some tunes from these artists before seeing them live, you can stream or download their albums FOR FREE from your library. All you need is to live in the DBRL service area and have an active DBRL library card. (And, you know, not have a bunch of overdue cookbooks blocking your account. Not that I have ever been in that situation.)

Dwight YoakamHoopla is an online streaming service for downloading not only music but also audiobooks, movies and much more. If you are new to the service, visit hoopladigital.com or download the Apple iOSAndroid or Amazon app. Click sign up, find Daniel Boone Regional Library, and follow the prompts to create your username and password. Easy! Then you can search for and download music from these Roots N Blues artists and more. (Limit of 10 items per calendar month per person.)

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New DVD List: Iris, The Walking Dead Season 5 & More

September 9, 2015

irisHere is a new DVD list highlighting various titles in fiction and nonfiction recently added to the library’s collection.

An in-depth look into the life of fashion icon Iris Apfel, and her husband of over 60 years. This quick-witted, flamboyantly dressed 93-year-old style maven is an outsized presence on the New York and Palm Beach fashion scenes. “Iris” is the last film by legendary documentary director Albert Maysles who died earlier this year.

walking dead s5

The Walking Dead
Season 5
Website / Reviews
The group crosses paths with a mysterious priest and takes shelter in his church. As Daryl and Carol follow a lead to the whereabouts of Beth, the others begin to realize that they’re being hunted. As Bob’s life hangs in the balance, the group prepares for the cannibalistic hunters of Terminus.

banksy does new yorkBanksy Does New York
A chronicle of British street artist Banksy’s surreptitious residency in New York City boroughs that drew a devoted following eager to find a new piece for each day in October 2013. The film incorporates user-generated content whose responses became part of the work itself, for an exhilarating account of the uproar created by the mysterious artist.

orphan black s3Orphan Black
Season 3
Website / Reviews
Season 3 of this sci-fi thriller finds many of the clones in grave danger. The season kicks off with Sarah (Tatiana Maslany) learning that Topside killed six clones over 24 hours and is planning a similar assassination, with her, Cosima and Alison as targets.

Queen Latifah stars as legendary blues singer Bessie Smith in this HBO Films presentation, directed by acclaimed filmmaker Dee Rees. The film focuses on Smith’s transformation from a struggling young singer into “The Empress of the Blues,” who became one of the most successful recording artists of the 1920s and is an enduring icon today.

the affair s1The Affair
Season 1
Noah is a schoolteacher and novelist who is happily married, but resents his dependence on his wealthy father-in-law. Alison is a young waitress trying to piece her life and marriage back together in the wake of a tragedy. The provocative drama unfolds when Alison and Noah meet.

i am big birdI Am Big Bird
For 45 years, Caroll Spinney has been beloved by generations of children as the man behind Sesame Street’s Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch, and at 80 years old, he has no intention of stopping. A loving portrait of the man in the yellow suit, the film features footage of Spinney’s earliest collaborations with Jim Henson as it traces his journey from bullied child to childhood icon.

Other notable releases:
The Returned
(French) Season 1 – Website / Reviews
Mighty Boosh
 – Season 1, Season 2, Season 3Website / Reviews
Revenge of the Mekons – Trailer / Website / Reviews
Gore Vidal: The United States of Amnesia
Trailer / Website / Reviews
PoldarkSeason 1 – Website / Reviews
Advanced StyleTrailer / Website / Reviews /
Hell on WheelsSeason 1, Season 2, Season 3, Season 4 – Website / Reviews
Deli Man – Trailer / Website / Reviews
Full HouseSeason 1, Season 2, Season 3, Season 4, Season 5, Season 6, Season 7, Season 8 –Website / Reviews

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While the Library Is Closed for Labor Day

September 4, 2015

In honor of Labor Day (which our trusty online version of the World Book Encyclopedia tells me Congress made a legal holiday in 1894 to honor the nation’s workers), your library will be closed Sunday, September 6 and Monday, September 7.

While our buildings are closed and the bookmobiles are parked in the garage, the digital branch is always open. Below are just a few of the ways you can use the library this Labor Day or any day.

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Celebrating the Life and Works of Oliver Sacks

September 2, 2015

Book cover for The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a HatThere are some writers you wish you could befriend, they seem so warm and endlessly fascinating. You want them at the table during dinner parties. You want to meet up with them for long walks or coffee. Oliver Sacks is one of those writers.

The neurologist and author passed away this weekend of cancer at the age of 82. Sacks was curious – always investigating – and a wonderful storyteller. Even after learning his time on this earth was nearing its end, he continued to write. He became introspective, focusing “on what is meant by living a good and worthwhile life – achieving a sense of peace within oneself,” as he states in his final piece for the New York Times.

Sacks’ books about the workings of the brain are full of vivid writing and detailed portraits of his subjects. His delight in scientific discovery runs through all of his books. His enthusiasm is palpable.

If you are new to Sacks, try “The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat and Other Clinical Tales,” one of his earlier books (and the one with my favorite title). Sacks presents a series of stories about men and women who, representing both medical and literary oddities, raise fundamental questions about the nature of reality.

Book cover for The Mind's Eye by Oliver SacksOther Sacks’ works center on a single theme, like “Musicophilia,” which explores the complex human response to music and how music can affect those suffering from a variety of ailments. Sacks investigated sight in “The Mind’s Eye,” telling the stories of six people whose lives have been profoundly altered by changes to essential senses and abilities, including a pianist who lost the ability to read scores and a novelist whose ability to read was destroyed by a stroke. “Hallucinations” investigates the types, causes and cultural significance of hallucinations generated by everything from intoxication to injury and illness.

Sacks’ most recently published book is an autobiography titled “On the Move,” and he certainly was. Always studying and researching, his mental energy and curiosity defined him until the end. In the February 15, 2015 New York Times piece in which Sacks announced his terminal diagnosis, he ended with the following words. I cannot think of better words to remember him by.

I cannot pretend I am without fear. But my predominant feeling is one of gratitude. I have loved and been loved; I have been given much and I have given something in return; I have read and traveled and thought and written. I have had an intercourse with the world, the special intercourse of writers and readers.

Above all, I have been a sentient being, a thinking animal, on this beautiful planet, and that in itself has been an enormous privilege and adventure.

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Labor Days

August 31, 2015

Book cover for Working by Studs TerkelThe death throes of summer will soon be marked by Labor Day weekend. Many of us will spend that time barbecuing or taking advantage of Great Labor Day Savings! This was not the original purpose of Labor Day. The intended meaning of the day was to honor “the social and economic achievements of American workers.” This purpose has mostly been lost, except most American workers do get a free day off. Unless they are one of the over 4,500,000 employed in retail.  Then they are probably helping people take advantage of those Labor Day sales.

We spend so much time working that it’s surprising there aren’t more more books on the subject. There’s a constant stream books about job interviews, changing careers or finding fulfilling work, but books that evocatively capture this experience that composes so much of our lives are rare. There are some good ones, and even some classics, but the number days we spend laboring isn’t really matched by the books out there.

Book cover for The Jungle by Upton SinclairThe Jungle” is a classic many of us probably had to read in high school. The book tells the story of a poor immigrant family that tries to make a living working in the Chicago stockyards. The  descriptions of the unsafe and unsanitary conditions became a catalyst for the passing of the Federal Meat Inspection Act and the Pure Food Act.

I’m not sure if Studs Terkel’s “Working” is technically considered a classic (who makes these decisions?), but it should be. Terkel conducted interviews with people from all walks of life about their jobs. You don’t just get insight into what the routine tasks of their jobs are, but you also learn how their time spent at work makes them feel.

Harvey Pekar adapted “Working” into a graphic novel. Pekar was a perfect fit for the job. In his long-running series “American Splendor,” Pekar wrote about the mundane details of his life in Cleveland in an unexpectedly compelling way. Many of those stories involve his job as a file clerk at the Cleveland’s Veterans Administration Hospital.

When Philip Levine died earlier this year, exhausted workers looking for breakfast after the late shift lost representation in American poetry. Many of his poems described the prosaic details of the lives of working people. Levine grew up in Detroit, and while working in the auto plants there he decided to give voice to the people with whom he worked.

Book cover for Blue Collar, White Collar, No CollarBlue Collar, White Collar, No Collar” is a collection of short stories about work.  It’s edited by Richard Ford, who also contributes a story. It’s fitting that a writer who won a Pulitzer Prize for a book about a real estate agent should edit such a collection.

The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit” details a man’s struggle with his inane PR job as he tries to provide for his family. It is often cited as an inspiration for the television show “Mad Men” because of their shared themes of a restless veteran trying to adapt to his working world and find his identity.

Then We Came To The End” tells the story of a Chicago advertising firm as a dysfunctional family that is gradually shrinking to nothing due to layoffs. It is a funny, insightful and empathetic examination of workplace culture.

In “Looking for A Ship,” John McPhee accompanies a merchant marine on a 42-day trip to South America. The book describes the difficulties of making a living as a merchant marine and is filled with seafaring stories that illustrate the dangers of this job. Might make a nice accompaniment to “Deadliest Catch.”

If you’ve ever been asked to do something at your job and wanted to respond, “I prefer not to,” then I suggest you take a look at Herman Melville’s enigmatic short story, “Bartleby, the Scrivener, A Story of Wall Street.” A man who is essentially employed as a human copy machine gets a sort of paper jam in his brain and keeps repeating that phrase.

Finally, whether you’re barbecuing, shopping or (sadly) working this Labor Day weekend, the Smithsonian has some sweet Labor Day jams for you.

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Tim O’Mara Back-to-School Book Giveaway

August 28, 2015

Book cover for Dead Red by Tim O'MaraReturning to school can be murder. Alarm clocks buzzing before dawn, heavy traffic on the roads, homework and assigned books (so rough after a few months of summer leisure reading). But at least we aren’t Raymond Donne, New York City cop turned high school teacher in Tim O’Mara‘s latest mystery, “Dead Red.”

After his friend and fellow former cop is murdered in a shower of bullets, Donne vows to not rest until he discovers who wanted Ricky dead, and why. This fast-paced, character-driven thriller is a great antidote to any dry textbooks or student handbook you are supposed to be reading, and you can win one of two signed copies from your library!

Enter to win a copy of “Dead Red” signed by author Tim O’Mara.

(Contest limited to residents of Boone and Callaway counties. One entry per person, please. Winners will be notified after September 25.)

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Deep Thoughts: Docs That Make You Think

August 26, 2015

nostalgia for the light - header

Who are we? Where did we come from? How should we live? Check out these docs that might get you thinking about these big questions.

nostalgia for the lightNostalgia for the Light” (2011)

Director Patricio Guzman travels to the driest place on earth, Chile’s Atacama Desert, where astronomers examine distant galaxies, archaeologists uncover traces of ancient civilizations, and women dig for the remains of disappeared relatives.

examined lifeExamined Life” (2009)

Examined Life takes philosophy into the hustle and bustle of the everyday. The “rock star” philosophers of our time take “walks” through places that hold special resonance for them and their ideas. These places include crowed city streets, deserted alleyways, Central Park and a garbage dump.

cave of forgotten dreamsCave of Forgotten Dreams” (2011)

Werner Herzog explores the Chauvet Cave in France, home to the most ancient visual art known to have been created by man. An unforgettable cinematic experience that provides an unique glimpse of pristine artwork dating back to human hands over 30,000 years ago.

amongst white cloudsAmongst White Clouds” (2007)

American director Edward A. Burger documents his journey into the lives of China’s forgotten Zen Buddhist hermit tradition. The Zhongnan Mountains have been home to recluses for some five thousand years; Burger’s experiences demonstrate that the tradition continues to thrive.

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