September is coming, and here at DBRL, that means One READ month! One READ is a community-wide reading program coordinated by the library and supported (and planned and promoted) by an incredible group of area organizations, media and educational institutions. Each year area readers help select a single book for exploration and discussion with the goal of creating community around this common reading experience.
This year’s selection, “Station Eleven” by Emily St. John Mandel, provides ample opportunity to investigate topics as diverse as Shakespeare, comic books, the nature of fame and how to survive an apocalypse. Here are just a few of the programs happening in Columbia and Fulton at the beginning of the month. See the full line-up at oneread.org.
“Station Eleven” Audiobook Broadcast
August 31 – September 30, 1-1:30 p.m.
Listen to the audiobook version of this year’s One Read selection and hear announcements on additional One Read programming every weekday August 31-September 30 (except Sept. 7, Labor Day).
Rambler’s Club Unplugged
Tuesday, September 1 › 7 p.m.
Columbia, Rose Music Hall (formerly Mojo’s), 1013 Park Ave
89.5 KOPN and DBRL present an evening of free music to kick off this year’s One Read program. The world of “Station Eleven” is postapocalyptic, unplugged and off the grid. Join local musicians as they play short sets with no amplification for this One Read edition of the Ramblers’ Club. (Doors open at 6 p.m.)
First Wednesday Book Discussion
Wednesday, September 2 › Noon-1 p.m.
Fulton, Callaway County Public Library
Join us as we discuss this year’s One Read selection, “Station Eleven,” by Emily St. John Mandel. Twenty years after a deadly flu outbreak kills most of the world’s population, what survives? What matters? This haunting novel threads together the connected stories of people living before and after the end of the world into a lyrical examination of the importance of art and what it means to be human.
One Read Discussion With George Hodgman
Wednesday, September 2 › 7-8 p.m.
Columbia Public Library, Friends Room
We’ll kick off our month of One Read programs by discussing “Station Eleven” with George Hodgman, the author of “Bettyville.” Mr. Hodgman, a former book editor, will share his insights about this year’s One Read novel and lead an informal discussion.
First Thursday One Read Discussion
Thursday, September 3, 2015 › Noon-1 p.m.
Columbia Public Library, Friends Room
Join us as Daniel Regional Library Board member Julie Baka leads us in a discussion of “Station Eleven.” Bring a sack lunch if you wish!
One Read Film: “The Giver”
Thursday, September 3, 2015 › 6 p.m.
Fulton, William Woods University Library Auditorium
Based on Lois Lowry’s iconic and influential Newbery Award-winning science fiction novel, visionary director Phillip Noyce’s 2014 film explores weighty and provocative themes similar to those in “Station Eleven.” Dr. Greg Smith, WWU associate professor of English and film, will lead a discussion following the film. (Rated PG-13)
The kids are back in school, and the September LibraryReads list is here! Time to brew a cup of tea and enjoy a freshly published book. Here are the books hitting shelves next month that librarians across the country recommend, including the latest from the hilarious, refreshingly honest, irreverent, library-loving Jenny Lawson, also known as The Bloggess. “Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things” has gone immediately on to my personal holds list. Add a few of these forthcoming titles to your list, and enjoy!
“The Art of Crash Landing” by Melissa DeCarlo
“At once tragic and hilarious, this book is a roller coaster of a read. You’ll find yourself rooting for the snarky and impulsive but ultimately lovable Mattie. At the heart of this tale is a beautifully unraveled mystery that has led Mattie to her current circumstances, ultimately bringing her to her first real home.” – Patricia Kline-Millard, Bedford Public Library, Bedford, NH
“Make Me” by Lee Child
“Jack Reacher is back. Jack gets off a train at an isolated town. Soon, he is learning much more about the town, and its residents are learning not to mess around with Jack Reacher. Readers new to this series will find this book a good starting point, and fans will be pleased to see Jack again.” – Jenna Persick, Chester County Library, Exton, PA
“House of Thieves” by Charles Belfoure
“Belfoure’s intriguing novel is set in Gilded Age New York City. John Cross, head of the family, finds an unexpected talent for planning robberies, while his wife and children also discover their inner criminals. The historical details and setting evoke old New York. I enjoyed every minute of their escapades.” – Barbara Clark-Greene, Groton Public Library, Groton, CT
And here is the rest of this list with links to the catalog for your holds-placing pleasure.
- “Fates and Furies” by Lauren Groff
- “Did You Ever Have A Family” by Bill Clegg
- “The Gates of Evangeline” by Hester Young
- “Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things” by Jenny Lawson
- “This Is Your Life, Harriet Chance!” by Jonathan Evison
- “Girl Waits With Gun” by Amy Stewart
- “The Scribe” by Matthew Guinn
The post Top Ten Books Librarians Love: The September 2015 List appeared first on DBRL Next.
Congratulations to Michelle from Columbia on winning our ninth and final Adult Summer Reading 2015 prize drawing. She is the recipient of a $25 Barnes & Noble gift card.
That wraps up our Adult Summer Reading program for this year. If you didn’t win a prize, we hope you will try again next year. A big thank you to everyone who signed up and submitted book reviews. Make sure to come back to DBRL Next to see what other patrons have recommended. Also, don’t forget to sign up for our upcoming One Read program. This year’s selection is “Station Eleven” by Emily St. John Mandel.
While making for the nearest suitable reading cubby, I hold my chosen novel aloft as a means of recommending it without the need for electricity or wires (though, to be fair, I often employ a complicated series of large wires and pulleys to ease the burden of its weight upon my musculature and indeed have been researching the possibility of adding an electric motor to my contraption). This month’s recommendation did cause me some consternation, though. Fine book though it is, “A Cure for Suicide” is a title apt to raise eyebrows among those that don’t wish to see you dead. I bypassed this conundrum by merely regularly exclaiming, “Fear not for my well-being – this is a novel. I do not intend to curtail my glorious traversal through this magnificent existence!” My calls, in addition to allaying concerns and dispelling confusion as to why such a distinguished gentleman might consider cutting short his glorious traversals, earned me wide, respectful berths, providing me expedited arrival to the nearest cozy chair or nest of pillows and wigs (wigs are soft) that I’ve secreted around town so that I might recline comfortably with my reading material.
Onlookers’ dismay aside, reading Jesse Ball’s newest novel was a pleasure. Not only was it a fancy book, indicated clearly by the significant amount of blank space between most of the paragraphs, but it was also good. And that blank space wasn’t just indicative of fanciness and the author’s and publisher’s contempt for trees but was actually a useful style choice that emphasized the elegiac tone of the work and its fable-like qualities. And, as time passes, this novel continues to provide fodder for my mind monkeys to vigorously pull their various levers and add coal to their various furnaces. (Editor’s note: this book made the gentleman think.)
The premise is: a man, known initially only as the “claimant,” awakens with no memories. His “examiner” is at his side. Her task: to teach him the names of objects, how to interact with people and generally how to exist. We watch the claimant improve and regress and some twisty psychological drama enters the stage: there are injections, creepily idyllic villages and villagers, the claimant goes to sleep in one house and village and wakes up in a different house and village, etc. There is a great deal of discussion about the “whys” of things, sure to please the philosophy buffs that, as I understand it, make up much of our modern civilization. Then we come to perhaps the novel’s best section, the one that explains why our claimant is here, why he was driven to spoiler alert seek a cure for suicide. This relatively lengthy chapter foregoes the lovely blank space that dominates the rest of the novel, the better with which to gently bludgeon you with heartbreak. Later we return to the previous format and tone and are left with a doozy of a closing section and a complex query that might have the reader lingering in their nest of pillows and wigs, contemplating several facets of existence while they conceal the title from onlookers (as the reader is too deep in thought to be capable of calling out an explanation for the title of the work they hold, and so must hide it to ensure no one is concerned for their well-being).
A fun, sprawling sci-fi comic book series about a forbidden love between children of two warring factions. The story is told using the humorous voice of the two lovers’ (not yet born) daughter. A heavy dose of humor, fantasy, violence and a little more nudity than necessary makes up this series. The universe in which the story is set contains some very imaginative characters, alien races, technologies and socio-political structure. It is probably the most entertaining fictional universe I have encountered since Star Wars. The story itself is ok, but the characters that fit into the story are the best part. My favorite pair of characters is a bounty hunter and his pet that looks like a lion, hired to track down these forbidden lovers. The cat has a special power where it is compelled to purr the word “lyyyyying” whenever someone is not telling the truth. This, among other quirks, keeps the reader on their toes while the story takes tremendous twists and turns. Note, the story is not finished yet, but at least the first four volumes are available from the DBRL.
Three words that describe this book: Cosmic, imaginitive, humorous
You might want to pick this book up if:
- You are ok with HBO-type mature themes.
- You enjoy large space operas with fun new universes.
- You want to see one of the most exciting new comics currently out there.
- You are ok with not having the complete story available yet, as new issues are still being created.
Small children are naturally curious about what goes on around them, and this extends to what is going on in their kitchens at home. After all, they see their parents make what may seem mysterious efforts to prepare meals and snacks, as they orchestrate over counters, the stove and in the oven. Most wee ones get started in the kitchen when they crawl to a lower cabinet door and pull out pots and pans with which to play. (I believe this is where their first music lessons happen as well – bang, bang, bang!) I know my two boys spent plenty of happy time on the kitchen floor with pots, wooden spoons and measuring cups, to name a few of the culinary tools they got to try early on.
Four or five years of age is not too young to allow children into the kitchen to help out in some capacity, even if it’s just mixing pancake batter in a bowl or adding sugar to hot chocolate. There are benefits to children helping in the kitchen, beyond the reward of preparing and eating their own meals. My mother gifted us “Pretend Soup and Other Real Recipes,“ delightfully written and illustrated by Molly Katzen, when my boys were early elementary school age. It provided a pleasant entrée into the world of cooking together as a family. Favorite recipes were: Green Spaghetti (can you guess what makes it green?), Carrot Pennies and Hide and Seek Muffins. Here at your library there is a wide assortment of cookbooks calibrated for young chefs at various age levels with adult supervision factored in, so check them out if you’re in the need of a little inspiration. And there’s even a cookbook that lines up with our summer reading theme of superheroes: “The Official DC Super Hero Cookbook” by Matthew Mead.
As kids grow up they can take on more complicated cooking tasks. When my boys were in junior high they began planning dinner menus (yes, with prodding from me but they seemed very interested) so they could have more say-so in what appeared on the dinner table. It was gratifying to see them ratchet up their culinary skill levels. Planning to be relaxed and not in a hurry while supervising their efforts made for better family-time experiences. Their recipe choices certainly livened up our eating prospects (as in this recipe for Sweet Corn Cheddar Pancakes – so delish!).
If you struggle with picky eaters, take heart. That challenge has been addressed, and here are some cookbooks to help. We want our children to enjoy their food and to be well-nourished by it and then, once they are on their own, to be inspired to provide well-prepared and nutritious foods for themselves.
Photos used via Flickr under a Creative Commons License.
“The Little Paris Bookshop” is about the book seller, Jean Perdu, who sells only the correct books to his customers at his literary pharmacy. (This is a book shop on a barge on the Seine River in Paris.) Monsieur Perdu is able to “transperceive” each of his customers (and others) to prescribe the correct book to fix what ails them. He generously gives books away, but he is equally stern in refusing to sell the wrong book to a particular client. Success in his work life is juxtaposed against the anguish, loneliness and pain in his private life resulting from a severely unmendable broken heart. The mood is magical, the characters profound, the sensual presentation of the story causes one’s heart to move along the story line as if it were on a roller coaster. To accompany Jean Perdu on his life journey is a sublime experience.
Being a translation from French, I want to brush up on my French and read it in the original language because I cannot imagine how it could possibly be better than this marvelous translation. I am not sure how to do it, but this book would be a perfect candidate to nominate for a future One Read! Yes, I liked it!
Three words that describe this book: patient, tragic, literature
You might want to pick this book up if: you want to read an amazing book, you like books set in France or foreign countries, or you have known the power of a certain book on your life.
“Traitor’s Blade” by Sebastien De Castell
Why I Checked It Out: Three best friends, roaming the kingdom, looking for justice and purpose? With swords? I’m in.
What It’s About: In the European-esque, medieval setting, the Greatcoats greatly resemble Jedi Knights. These men and women are skilled warriors, but they are more concerned with upholding the King’s Law and keeping peace among all the ambitious dukes and duchesses of the land. Or at least they were, until the death of the King and the end of his enlightened law.
Now Falcio, Kest, Brasti and the rest of the Greatcoats are disgraced and scattered, taking what work they can and struggling to finish the enigmatic final tasks left to them by the King.
Why I Recommend It: I read this book in a day. And then I could not start another book because I was convinced nothing would be as good.
The story begins by launching the reader directly into the action and never really lets up. The reader learns of the rise of the King, the formation of the Greatcoats and their subsequent fall, all through flashbacks that span the entirely of the book. These flashbacks are well-timed and an excellent device. By the time you learn how the King died, you care for him as much as Falcio did, and his loss is all the more heartbreaking.
While there is plenty of death and loss in “Traitor’s Blade,” and Falcio and the others have definitely been shaped by tragedy, the book is not dark. De Castell has crafted a fun read, filled with smart humor and likeable characters. There are intricate political intrigues and swashbuckling adventures. The action scenes are incredibly descriptive, owing to the author’s training as a fight choreographer.
If you’re looking for a fast-paced adventure with well-rounded characters and hint of magic, I cannot recommend this book enough.
Warning: This is the first book in a quartet, but luckily for us all, the second book is already out.
What To Read Next:
“Theft of Swords” by Michael J. Sullivan
“The Three Musketeers” by Alexander Dumas
“Storm Front” by Jim Butcher
Congratulations to Jessica C., a Columbia patron, for winning our eighth Adult Summer Reading prize drawing of the summer. She is the recipient of a $25 gift card from Barnes & Noble.
There is only one more drawing left this summer, so keep your fingers crossed. You can still submit book reviews to increase your chances of winning.
In 2014, Reese Witherspoon starred in the movie adaptation of Cheryl Strayed’s “Wild,” her memoir of self-discovery and survival as she hiked the Pacific Crest Trail. This September, another movie about a long walk – this time along the Appalachian Trail – hits the big screen. “A Walk in the Woods” by Bill Bryson is a laugh-out-loud misadventure but also manages to share the trail’s history and argue eloquently for the preservation of our undeveloped forests, trails and parks. Read this funny travelogue before seeing the film this fall.
Want more books about long walks? Read on.
“Happiness for Beginners” by Katherine Center
This fast-paced charmer follows newly divorced 32-year-old Helen who signs up for a wilderness survival course, thinking it will propel her out of her rut. Never mind that she isn’t really athletic or outdoorsy. Then she learns that her younger brother’s best friend Jake will also be a part of this group spending three weeks in the mountains of Wyoming, and her hopes of finding herself by herself evaporate. Snappy dialogue, an entertaining cast of characters and sparks of romance make the hike through this book a quick and enjoyable one.
“Grandma Gatewood’s Walk: The Inspiring Story of the Woman Who Saved the Appalachian Trail” by Ben Montgomery
Think all grandmas spend their time baking cookies, golfing or playing bridge? Think again. Emma Gatewood, at the age of 67, hiked the Appalachian Trail. And then she did it twice more. Journalist Montgomery creates a detailed portrait of of Gatewood, her difficult and abusive marriage, and the attention her hikes brought to a system of trails in great need of care and maintenance.
“The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry” by Rachel Joyce
Harold Fry receives a letter from a former coworker and friend named Queenie, informing him that she is dying of cancer. Harold writes Queenie a response and begins walking to the mailbox to send his letter. But then he passes up the first mailbox and walks toward the next. He keeps walking. He reflects on his troubled past and the shaky state of his marriage, and falls into a bit of magical thinking – perhaps if he delivers this letter to Queenie in person he can save her. Thus begins his journey of nearly 600 miles and this quirky, moving novel.
“2 A.M. at the Cat’s Pajamas” follows several characters over the course of 24 hours. As the night ends they all end up at a local Jazz club called The Cats Pajamas! This is one of those books that I might have to go back and read closer to pick up things I have missed. It followed several characters in the course of a day/night and how all their lives connect. A quick read and interesting story. I am still not sure about one part of the ending, but I liked the book overall.
Three words that describe this book: charming, hope, loss
You might want to pick this book up if: If you enjoy the movie, “Love Actually,” you will like this book. If you like characters that are flawed and believable, you will like this book.
New to researching your family’s history? The Daniel Boone Regional Library is a great place to start, especially if you would like some in-person guidance. If you pick up one of our current program guides, check the index for our genealogy classes, or check the schedule online. You’ll find current programs and drop-in help sessions to make your family tree grow! Besides programs, we have two online databases we’ve previously recommended on this blog – Heritage Quest and Ancestry Library Edition. And we have a reference collection containing all kinds of local history as well as genealogy how-to books.
If your ancestors were local to this area, we have lots of great books of interest, from county and city histories and maps to extractions of marriage records and cemetery records. We also have a complete run of the Columbia Daily Tribune on microfilm at our Columbia location that you can access to get an obituary, marriage announcement or even a family reunion article.
In our circulating collection we have several how-to books you can check out and take home. Two of my favorite genealogy handbooks are: “The Source” and “The Handybook for Genealogists.” “The Source” provides excellent information about the types of records that you will find in your genealogical research of your American ancestry. Besides showing examples of these documents, the back of the book is loaded with names of libraries, archives and repositories that hold all kinds of records you might use to document the lives of your ancestors! “The Handybook for Genealogists” is a great guide that will help you learn about the various counties, their boundaries and when their records begin and how to access them. A whole section on maps – including migration patterns, trails and boundary lines – is also a part of this great reference book.
If you like to do your research online, or if you need to find documents and records from other states, see our genealogy subject guide – it has links to beginners’ guides, sources for vital records, cemetery records, immigration records and more.
So whether you want to come browse our reference collection and check out some how-to books or learn about online resources, we’ve got you covered! Who knows, maybe you will find the hero in your family tree!
The post Genealogy Tips, Programs and How-to Books at Your Library appeared first on DBRL Next.
“Still Life” by Louise Penny introduces Chief Inspector Gamache. There is a death in the small rural village of Three Pines near Montreal in Canada. Chief Inspector Gamache is called in to investigate what was originally thought to be a hunting accident resulting in the death of an elderly school teacher who was loved by all of the villagers. The plot unfolds to actually be a murder investigation with many twists and turns. The key appears to be in the painting done by the victim, and Inspector Gamache has to figure it out.
Three words that describe this book: Intriguing, captivating, interesting.
You might want to pick this book up if: You enjoy mysteries and like to try to figure it out as you read!
Congratulations to Monielle, a Fulton patron, for winning our seventh Adult Summer Reading prize drawing of the summer. She is the recipient of a $25 gift card from Well Read books.
We have just two more drawings left this summer, so keep your fingers crossed. You can still submit book reviews to increase your chances of winning.
My librarian pal Hilary and I just had the pleasure of presenting to groups of area teachers, letting them know all about the free online learning tools for the kids they teach, as well as for their own professional development. The boatload of incredible information available to you if you have a library card and Internet access is pretty amazing. Here is just a handful of the online tools you should be using.
Education and Elearning tools from Lynda.com
Want to take a course in deploying 1:1 iPads in the classroom? How about project-based learning or flipped classrooms? Need to get up to speed on a certain software, like Blackboard, Excel, Keynote or PowerPoint? These and so, so many more courses are available from Lynda.com. Your students can take courses, too, on topics like basic code-writing skills, time management, information literacy and research paper writing.
Test preparation with LearningExpress Library
SAT, ACT, TOEFL, AP Exams, GRE, HiSET – prepare for these tests and more with up-to-date courses and practice tests. LearningExpress has career help as well, with prep for occupational exams (Praxis, Civil Service, EMT Certification) and skills building courses (business writing, popular Microsoft software).
Language learning and ESL help from Transparent Language Online
Transparent Language Online provides an effective experience for learners of all levels looking to build their listening, speaking, reading and writing skills in a foreign language. This learning program provides courses and supplemental resources for over 95 languages, including English as a Second Language (ESL) materials for native speakers of 26 languages.
“Maine” is a story about three women, all related, who find themselves in different situations in their life but sharing their family vacation home in Maine. The women look back at events in their lives, how they’ve reacted to situations and built or destroyed relationships and what shaped them into the people they have become (or could have become if it weren’t for the structure and history of their family). This is a great summer read; the chapters are all built around the three main characters and move along at a quick pace. It’s a bit bittersweet, though, and not just because of the characters’ lives unraveling. It makes you realize that summer vacations come to an end, and we have to return to our lives.
Two words that describe this book: poignant, bittersweet, fun
You might want to pick this book up if: You’ve ever taken a family vacation or even thought about it.
As the summer heats up, many of us find that a great way to cool off is to head to the water. The swimming beach at Stephens Lake Park is a favorite place for my family to spend the afternoon, and we also enjoy canoeing at Finger Lakes State Park. In a figurative sense, one can cool off by reading great books about traveling on water, and the library has many that fit the bill. Let’s take a look at a few new and classic titles.
In the spring of 1834, Richard Henry Dana Jr. was a young man recently dropped out of Harvard University because of poor health and looking for something to do while recuperating from his illness. He signed on with the Pilgrim, a ship that launched from Boston. Dana recounted his experience in arguably the greatest work of maritime nonfiction, “Two Years Before the Mast.” The Pilgrim spent a great deal of time on the coast of colonial California, and Dana’s writing about these explorations is one of our best documents of the very early settlement period there. Dana also examines at length the injustices imparted upon common sailors. “The captain, in the first place, is lord paramount. He stands no watch, comes and goes as he pleases, and is accountable to no one,” writes Dana.
Dana was also obsessed, as were most sailors on these multi-year voyages, with the offerings of food and drink. “Food at Sea: Shipboard Cuisine From Ancient to Modern Times” by Simon Spalding is a detailed look at the history of food found on ocean-going vessels. On a ship like the Pilgrim, the fare was described in the following way by a common sailor: “the mush is never cooked, the beans are awful, and the Cape Cod turkey, or in plain English, the codfish, is the meanest mess of all.”
Dozens of books have been written about Ernest Shackleton and his expeditions to the Antarctic, but two stand out in the crowd for their uniqueness. The first is the graphic novel “Shackleton: Antarctic Odyssey” by Nick Bertozzi. Historically accurate and concise, grabbing from Shackleton’s and other expedition members’ diaries, this thin volume will delight readers young and old. “Shackleton’s Boat Journey” authored by Frank Worsley, the captain of the Endurance, is also of note. In order to save his crew, Shackleton made a harrowing journey from Elephant Island to South Georgia Island. Shackleton’s eight men almost miraculously made it across this stretch of the Southern Ocean in a 12-foot boat, mainly due to Worsley’s uncanny skill at navigating by dead reckoning. This ocean journey is an accomplishment with few modern corollaries and was indeed performed near the apex of Antarctic winter. As Edmund Hillary wrote in the introduction: “It only confirmed the view of his friends that Shackleton was ‘the greatest leader that ever came on God’s earth, bar none.’”
On a more local level, for a look at the historic navigation of the Missouri River, I suggest “Wild River, Wooden Boats” by Michael Gillespie. Gillespie says: “The untamed Missouri was as close to a living thing as a river could get.” In the chapter “Sudden Death” Gillespie catalogs a whole range of terrible ways that human beings could perish on steamships: “The steamer Big Hatchie blew her boilers at Hermann, Missouri on July 25, 1845. Thirty-five unidentified victims are buried in the cemetery there.”
Modern day Missouri has an incredible network of smaller rivers and creeks perfect for boating. “A Paddler’s Guide to Missouri” offers lots of information about these waterways. This handy guidebook was created by the Missouri Department of Conservation, and it includes a full listing of navigable rivers and streams in the state. It even has mile markers, maps and difficulty ratings for each section of the river run. Happy paddling this summer!
After the breakup of her engagement, Sarah Booth Delaney embarks on another case. This time she is investigating threats against a local blues club. The story takes many twists and turns, and Sarah Booth’s friends – Tinkie, Cece and Coleman – are instrumental in solving the case.
I love the Sarah Booth Delaney series because there is always a good mystery that keeps me guessing, but also because of the characters. The relationships between the characters are really what keep me coming back to see where they will go next. Especially Jitty, the ghost that does her fair share of complicating life for Sarah Booth, as well as providing some comic relief.
Three words that describe this book: mystery, Southern, adventure
You might want to pick this book up if: I found this series by looking for something similar to the Janet Evanovich Stephanie Plum series. While this one is similar in that the characters that become private investigators weren’t actually trained for that profession and they also get themselves in a fair amount of trouble, the series itself is a bit more serious than the Janet Evanovich books. Other similarities are strong female characters, the relationship development among the characters and the mystery aspect.
Sports are big business. The athletes are treated as commodities, and they are salesmen. They aren’t just coached on how to play their sport, but also on how to speak to the press. (It’s in cliches and non-answer answers. Really riveting stuff.) Sometimes it seems the true measure of an athlete’s accomplishments isn’t how many rings they win but the number of sponsorships they get.
Beneath this veneer of brand-spokesman blandness, corporate PR and the talking hairdos on 24-hour sports networks, something weird is still going on. The rules are arbitrary, the feats of physical accomplishments are freakish, and this slick business culture is built on a simple obsession over games. Yes, the fans can get obsessive, but the athletes themselves? They need an intervention. Ridiculous salaries for a few can make us forget how many people there are still playing their sport for very little. How many players in the Minor Leagues are sharing small apartments with teammates compared to Major League players with shoe contracts? Or Olympic athletes training early in the morning before work? It gets under their skin, and they have to play the game. Weird.
“The League of Outsider Baseball” captures some of that obsessive weirdness. Author and Illustrator Gary Cieradkowski has put together a collection of beautifully illustrated profiles of baseball players. Some are household names, like Babe Ruth, but most are lesser known or forgotten players, like the ones you meet in the chapter, “The Could-Have-Beens.” Some of these players could have been household names too, but dumb luck or bad life choices derailed their promising careers. Take Pistol Pete Reiser, whose combination of physical skill and unbridled enthusiasm for the game gave him a penchant for playing through serious injuries and running into outfield walls. Once he was knocked unconscious so long a priest performed last rights. The chapter, “The Oddballs” is populated with unlikely contributions to baseball history from a one-armed pitcher, a hunchbacked orphan, one team composed entirely of brothers and another from an apocalyptic sect. This is the scruffy underbelly of baseball, and it’s fascinating reading.
This project started for Cieradkowski as a way of coping with the loss of his father. Swapping stories of obscure baseball players several times a week was one way they stayed connected. When his father died unexpectedly, Cieradkowski realized he didn’t have anyone to share this obsession with. He started a blog, The Infinite Baseball Card Set, to honor that relationship with his father and share his passion for these forgotten players with the rest of the world. Reading “The League of Outsider Baseball” is akin to a friend sharing their prized collection of baseball cards with you.
A few more books that give you a tour of baseball’s scruffy underbelly (The titles say it all):
“Outsider Baseball. The Weird World of Hardball on the Fringe, 1876-1950,” by, Scott Simkus.
If you have not registered for the library’s Adult Summer Reading program, you can still do so online or by visiting any of our locations. Once you sign up, you are automatically entered in the prize drawings. Also, don’t forget to submit book reviews to increase your odds of winning. There are three drawings left this summer, so keep reading and sharing your reviews with us!