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How Do You Find Your Next Good Read?

January 17, 2014

reading stack by burningairlinesgiveyousomuchmore via flickrHow do you discover new books to read? We have some patrons who religiously place holds on titles appearing on the New York Times Best Sellers lists. Others track like-minded readers on social reading sites like Goodreads. Did you know your library has some pretty nifty tools – both high-tech and low – for finding your next great read?

  • The Books & More section of our digital branch is a portal of sorts for all kinds of book-finding tools. Browse the latest Literary Links article, a monthly piece that appears in the Columbia Daily Tribune and provides a book list on a timely topic. You’ll also find links to our latest book recommendation posts appearing on this blog, as well as those for Teens and Kids.
  • Get book recommendations in your inbox! Sign up for BookNews, monthly themed newsletters that highlight new titles in our catalog. You can choose our newsletters highlighting our book club picks, new nonfiction, mysteries and more.
  • Browse the staff picks book lists in our online catalog for hand-selected fiction and nonfiction titles.
  • Join us for an upcoming Facebook Friday reading recommendation program. Just watch for our Facebook post asking for the last few books you enjoyed, leave a comment, and a staff member will suggest your next great read.
  • Finally, just ask! Our staff members are expert recommenders, so next time you are in one of our buildings or on the bookmobile, you can let one of us know a book or author you liked, and we’ll suggest some titles for you to try.

Do you have a favorite tool for finding your next good read? Let us know in the comments.

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Looking for a New Project to Start 2014? Take on The Rosie Project!

January 15, 2014

Book cover for The Rosie Project by Graeme SimsionWhat happens when a 39-year-old brilliant genetics professor with Asperger’s and, therefore, few social skills sets out to find a wife? He approaches that task the way he approaches all his tasks, i.e. like a scientific project. First, Don Tillman develops a double-sided, 16-page questionnaire, whose purpose is to screen out unsuitable candidates: smokers, the mathematically illiterate, those with body mass index over 26, vegetarians, the perpetually tardy, etc. He then pursues his task with robotic precision (and, not surprisingly, very little luck) – until the most unsuitable candidate walks into his life and turns it upside down. This candidate, sent to Don as a joke, is Rosie, a volatile bartender and a graduate student of psychology. Rosie has a project of her own – she’s trying to find her biological father.

As the story unfolds, Don, a guy who cannot stand being touched, who can barely read social clues or understand people’s reactions, puts his project on the back burner and begins helping Rosie with hers. In the process, an unpredictable thing happens (kind of unpredictable, mind you, it is a romantic comedy after all :) ) – Don’s Asperger’s gradually gives way to affection and, ultimately, love. And these newly awakened emotions help Don learn how to sympathize with people around him and discover the things that really make him happy.

Graeme Simsion’s “The Rosie Project,” a clever and laugh-out-loud celebration of our individual differences, is a great read for those who like happy endings and also for those who want to start their New Year on an optimistic note. Readers who enjoyed Mark Haddon’s “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time” and Toni Jordan’s “Addition” (as well as fans of the TV show “The Big Bang Theory”) will enjoy it, too.

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Classics for Everyone: A Brief History of Time

January 13, 2014

Book cover for The Brief History of Time by Stephen HawkingThe changing of the year always prompts me to note the swift passage of time. And the realization that we now have fewer than 50 years to wait until first contact with an alien species, as established in the Star Trek canon, makes me think of space. So what better book to highlight this month than Stephen Hawking’s non-fiction classic, “A Brief History of Time”?

In his acknowledgments for the book, first published in 1988, Hawking writes: “…the basic ideas about the origin and fate of the universe can be stated without mathematics in a form that people without a scientific education can understand. This is what I have attempted to do in this book.” More than almost any other modern-day scientist, Hawking helped the average person get a grasp on what physicists mean when they discuss the big bang or quantum mechanics or black holes, and why they now refer to space-time as one single term rather than two separate things. In “A Brief History of Time” he provides an historical overview of beliefs about the workings of the universe, beginning with Aristotle. Then he moves into current (at the time) knowledge and theories.

In 2005, Hawking published “A Briefer History of Time,” an updated and even more simplified version of his earlier work, for those of us whose brains move at a pace considerably slower than the speed of light. He followed this in 2010 with “The Grand Design,” co-authored by Leonard Mlodinow, which discusses further recent developments in cosmology, including something called M-theory.

Hawking’s life is as interesting as the subjects he explores, and he shares some of the details in his new autobiography, “My Brief History.” He just celebrated his 72nd birthday on January 8, over 50 years after being diagnosed with ALS at the age of 21 and told he didn’t have many years to live. But he spends more time discussing his research and education than his physical condition. Late bloomers take heart – he did not learn to read until he was 8 years old.

For those who can’t get enough Stephen Hawking in their lives, he maintains a website with up-to-date information about himself and his work: http://www.hawking.org.uk.

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Reader Review: Grace and Grit

January 10, 2014

Book cover for Grace and Grit by Lilly LedbetterEditor’s note: This review was submitted by a library patron during the 2013 Adult Summer Reading program. We will continue to periodically share the best of these reviews throughout the year. 

Grace and Grit” is the story of Lilly Ledbetter, an employee of Goodyear Tire & Rubber, and her fight for equal rights and fairness in the workplace. This book tells the story of a courageous woman from a poor county in Alabama who, because of her struggles throughout her life, helped give all women in our country the right to be paid the same as anyone else for doing the same job. I enjoyed this book because it is a true story about one of the heroes of our time. She fought all the way to the Supreme Court of the United States for the rights that she and all other working women in this country deserve.

Three words or phrases that describe this book: empowering, inspiring and powerful.

Who should pick up this book? Anyone who cares about equal rights for everyone would find this book to be very informative and interesting.

- Anonymous

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Inspirational Models for Sustainable Living

January 8, 2014

Photo by Ajay Tallam, via Flickr, creative commons licenseImagine being able to claim that you live a zero-waste lifestyle.  What does that mean and how hard would it be?  Is it really possible? In Amy Korst’s book “The Zero-Waste Lifestyle: Live Well by Throwing Away Less,” she gives a blow by blow description of how to come very close to achieving this. In fact, she states, “What if I told you that you could go from an overflowing can perched on the curb each week to making less than five pounds of trash in a year? That taking the trash-free plunge would simplify your life, ease the strain on your pocketbook, and help the planet, all at the same time?”

Photo of Steung Meanchey Garbage DumpRecently on a walk I discovered one of my neighbors picking through a huge load of trash left curbside on our street. She had unearthed a set of chef’s knives, among other things.  Oh my goodness! It was hard to conceive of throwing those out; they could have been donated to Goodwill or the Salvation Army or given to friends or coworkers (donating items you no longer use is one way to just say no to the landfill). I’ve worked on paring down my waste stream since I’ve become more conscious of my contributions to the landfill, but I have a long way to go to get to zero. If this seems like an overwhelming idea to you, consider that the most important thing to do is start somewhere and choose something that seems manageable for you. For example, you might start buying food and cleaning products in bulk, purchasing used clothing or composting kitchen waste. Korst’s book is very inspiring with lots more suggestions to help you move in this direction. She has certainly motivated me to regroup and continue to take new measures to reduce my waste. If we all work collectively at this we can make a sizeable impact and stake our claim to living more sustainably.

In “Making Home: Adapting Our Homes and Our Lives to Settle in Place,” Sharon Astyk describes how she and her family arrived at the decision to live in a more sustainable manner: “We came to this project simply – we had little money but a strong desire for a good life for ourselves, for our children and for our extended family. We wanted to eat good food, drink clean water, breathe good air. We wanted a home and a place to call our own, a stable place where our kids could live and thrive. We wanted our children to grow up with family. We wanted elderly family to live well as long as they lived. We wanted relationships with good neighbors and reasonable comfort. We wanted to do as little harm to others as possible and have as happy a life as we could. Someone, we thought, had to model what a life with less that produced more could look like. Why not us?”  This family has examined the systems in their lives that provide them with what they need (staying warm/cool, access to food and water, shelter, etc.) and figured out ways to provide for themselves using fewer resources while producing more of what they need on their own and by accessing community resources.

If you would like more inspirational models and other ideas on how to live sustainably, come by and take a look at the display on the 2nd floor of the Columbia Public Library.  From January 12 to February 9 we’ll have lots of books on this and related topics including renewable energy resources, energy conservation, nature conservation and climate change.

Photo credits:
Zero Waste Encouragement Patrol by Ajay Tallam via Flickr. Used under creative commons license.
Steung Meanchey Garbage Dump by Raphael Surber via Flickr. Used under creative commons license.

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A New You in the New Year With Help From Your Library

January 6, 2014

Book cover for A Short Guide for a Long LifeI don’t make official New Year’s resolutions, but I do enjoy the clean slate feeling that comes each January. And I can’t help but catch a bit of the self-improvement bug, spurred on by my holiday overindulgence and the fact that January is Get Organized Month. If you are also looking to be a better you in 2014, your library can help.

Aspiring to improve your eating habits? Check out this program:

Learn to Eat Smart This Year
Monday, January 20, 2014 › 6:30-7:30 p.m.
Columbia Public Library, Friends Room
Dietitians Megan Kemp and Lauren Knaup will show you how to stick to your New Year’s resolution of eating healthier food and avoiding crash diets after the holiday binge. Sample some foods and go home with healthy recipes. Co-sponsored by the Central Missouri Dietetics Association.

We also have a number of new books on the topic of living healthier, like David Agus’ “A Short Guide to a Long Life” and Tom Rath’s “Eat, Move, Sleep.”

Want to learn a new skill? Universal Class, available for free with your library card, offers hundreds of online, self-paced courses taught by actual instructors who communicate with you via email and evaluate your progress. These are rich continuing education courses in everything from accounting and real estate to cooking and crafting.

Ready to declutter? Here’s a whole slew of books to help you get started.

Finally, if you have made a resolution but are worried about keeping it, join us on Wednesday, January 15 at 6:30 p.m. at the Columbia Public Library (Conference Room B) for “Don’t Give Up on Your New Year’s Resolutions,” presented by Phoenix Programs, Inc.

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Top DBRL Next Posts from 2013

January 3, 2014

Images from top blog posts of 2013We’ve had a great year of reviewing and recommending books, community events and library programs here at DBRL Next, and we thank you for your readership and contributing to our success. To ring in the New Year, here is a recap of our most popular posts from 2013. Read on for some great book recommendations from staff, patrons and around the Web.

  1. As part of this year’s Summer Reading program, we asked our readers to share books they had found personally groundbreaking. Read the comments at the end of this post to see the results.
  2. Celebrate strong women and check out these titles with not one damsel in distress.
  3. If you haven’t been following the recommendations of the library’s resident gentleman, you are missing out on some great books as well as some pretty hilarious writing from the gentleman himself. His profile of Lauren Beukes, thanks in part to a tweet from that author about his review, was his most-read piece this year.
  4. 2013 saw the launch of LibraryReads, a monthly top ten book list identifying those titles librarians nationwide identify as their favorites publishing that month. You, too, can read like a librarian!
  5. Read about the book one of our writers considers the most beautiful novel he has ever read.
  6. There are many reasons to pick up a book – to escape, to be entertained, to explore new topics, to expand our understanding of other people and places. Another popular post this year was this list of fiction for understanding mental illness.
  7. The crafting and upcycling craze of recent years continues, and we shared one librarian’s list of ideas for transforming your stacks of t-shirts into something new.
  8. It’s cold outside, but you can warm up by revisiting this list of recommended summer vacation reads.
  9. If your New Year’s resolutions include a radical reduction of your carbon footprint or a commitment to living with less, read this post about “living tiny.”
  10. Finally, at DBRL Next we enjoy digging up overlooked gems from the bottom shelves of nonfiction. Here are some bottom shelf books from the 600s that are sure to make your mouth water.

Happy New Year to all of our readers!

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Back to Downton Abbey

December 30, 2013

Book cover for Lady Catherine, the Earl, and The Real Downton AbbeyEverybody watches it, including Prince William and Kate Middleton. The royal couple, of course, has an advantage over us regular Americans (well, not just one, mind you :) ). They reside in Britain, where the fourth season of Downton Abbey was shown last year, while we are still waiting for its American opening on January 5. The series, which is one of the biggest hits PBS Masterpiece Theatre has had in recent years, won best mini-series at the Golden Globes in 2012, and it has been nominated for best drama television series in 2014. As for the publishing industry, it continues to reflect Downton Abbey’s glory, too.

Lady Catherine, the Earl, and the Real Downton Abbey,” by Fiona Carnarvon, tells the story of Catherine Wendell, the beautiful American woman who married the son of Lady Almina, the 5th Countess of Carnarvon (see another Fiona Carnarvon book, “Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey”). The book also presents a history of Highclere Castle (the setting of the show), especially the period when, during World War II, the castle became a home for evacuee children from London and its expansive property a troop training ground.

Emma Rowleyl’s “Behind the Scenes at Downton Abbey: The Official backstage Pass to the Set, the Actors and the Drama” depicts the inner workings of the show. The author describes the actors and the staff, the kitchen and the wardrobe, the make-up and the hair, and much more. The book is written in a conversational style, and it is supplied with multiple illustrations any fan of the show will enjoy.

Those who have been following the PBS Masterpiece series (both with and without the “Theatre”) should not miss “Making Masterpiece: 25 Years Behind the Scenes at Masterpiece and Mystery,” by Rebecca Eaton, an executive producer of the series for 25 years. Eaton’s book is a mix of interviews with writers, directors and other contributors to the show, as well as personal reminiscences about her life, history of the show and the actors who have been involved in it.

If, come January 5, you’ll be hosting a Downton Abbey viewing party, check out “While We Were Watching Downton Abbey” by Wendy Wax beforehand, so you’ll know what to expect from that experience :) .

And last but not least, don’t get upset if you miss one or two new episodes. Your library will receive the fourth season of the show at the end of January (the first three seasons are already in our collection). Also, remember, we have enough Masterpiece shows here to get you through the winter. Happy watching and reading!

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