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Ask the Author: An Interview With J.B. Winter

June 8, 2015

Miss Mizzou avatarIt’s the mid-part of the 20th century. A beauty contest at Mizzou inspires a protest consisting of 300-700 students. The entire town of Columbia is in upheaval over the possibility of renaming Columbia’s Providence Road and a blonde woman in a trench coat replacing Daniel Boone himself on MU’s parking permits. All of these events took place because of a mysterious cartoon woman. That woman is Miss Mizzou, a fictional character in Milton Caniff’s famous comic strip “Steve Canyon.” Local author and artist J.B. Winter did some investigation into our local history to create his book “Miss Mizzou: A Life Beyond Comics.” He was nice enough to answer a few questions for DBRL Next before his talk at the Columbia Public Library on June 15.

DBRL: This is a really interesting story that, at least in the past few decades, hadn’t gotten much attention prior to the publishing of your book. How did you discover Miss Mizzou and Milton Caniff’s connection with Columbia?

JBW: I came across the character on a blog post and started researching from there. Cartoonist Milton Caniff was a big name in his day, so I wanted to see why he would have created a character related to Columbia. I had no idea I had come across such a unique and interesting character.

DBRL: Miss Mizzou is a college-aged woman who spends time with students at the university, though she herself is not a student, but a server at a local restaurant. How much do you think the University of Missouri and the town of Columbia actually inspired this character?

JBW: If Caniff had not taken a liking to how the word “Mizzou” sounded, I doubt he would have created the character. Once Caniff had the character name, he created a back-story to the character that was rooted in his memory of his short visit to Columbia. You can see evidence of this by the various references to Columbia landmarks in the strip. However, he repeatedly denied basing the character off any waitress he met in Columbia.

1952 photo of Milton Caniff & Bek Stiner – courtesy of Gabrielle AdelmanI think Caniff was fascinated by the Midwest in general, and that worked its way into the character. He was from the small town of Hillsboro, Ohio, and he’d often throw characters who had small town backgrounds into his comics. It added a lot of realistic background texture that played off of the more fantastical elements in the strip.

DBRL: Do you think a character like Miss Mizzou would be as popular, or cause as much controversy, if she were created today (perhaps in a different incarnation, such as in web comic or as a television character)?

JBW: The specific character traits of Miss Mizzou probably wouldn’t resonate as much with a modern audience as they did back in the 1950s. I think the character had some heavy ties to Marilyn Monroe’s popularity and that Monroe archetype is probably a little too dated at this point to get as much notice.

The idea of some modern character catching on in small town America seems possible–many small towns today are still eager for opportunities at national recognition. However, modern media as a whole (television, comics, movies, etc.) seem to devalue characters with ties to real small towns, and I think this was a central part of Miss Mizzou’s popularity.

The whole promotional aspect of Miss Mizzou emphasized that bond citizens had with their local newspaper. Caniff would occasionally give a nod to a city where the newspaper directly bought his strip; it was just a good public relations move for everyone involved. The cash flow in the modern media landscape doesn’t work like it used to, and as a result, I think that emphasis on specific small town locales gets written out of most stories in favor of larger cities or nameless small towns.

So in short, while it’s possible that some character could gain popularity and/or cause controversy in a small town like Miss Mizzou did, I don’t think it would happen very easily given the modern media landscape.

DBRL: In addition to writing this book, you also create your own comics. Would you care to tell us a little about your comic art?

JBW: I tend to do experimental comics. Sometimes I play around with conventions of the form, illustrating with unique constraints in mind. Other times I have drawn some regular comics, but have done them on a unique canvas like a sidewalk or tortillas. To me it’s all about pushing the boundaries of comics.

I’m probably most known for my 50 state comic. For that project, I used contributions from 50 artists from 50 different states in a collaborative jam comic that featured my character Izzy the Mouse. The idea was that Izzy toured America and in each of the 50 panels Izzy visited a different state. The results were published as a mini-comic when I was done.

DBRL: Have you read any good books lately that you’d like to recommend to our readers?

JBW: If you’d like to learn more about Milton Caniff, I’d highly recommend the current “Steve Canyon” reprints currently coming out from IDW & Library of American Comics. You can start out with Miss Mizzou’s first adventure in “Steve Canyon: 1951-1952,” or read the latest volume, “Steve Canyon: 1955-1956.” Caniff has never been reprinted with such care and attention to detail.

There were a lot of great graphic novels released last year, but one of my favorites I’d recommend is “Seconds” by Bryan Lee O’Malley. It’s his first book after the highly successful “Scott Pilgrim” series, and it really shows an organic growth in style and approach from his last effort. It has all the elements I like to see in a story: good relateable characters, fantastical situations, experimental storytelling, etc.

J.B. Winter will be speaking at the Columbia Public Library on Monday, June 15th at 7 p.m. in the Friends Room. More information about Miss Mizzou can be found on Winter’s website.

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Three Common Scams and How to Avoid Them

June 5, 2015

Have you ever gotten one of those, “You’ve won a cruise!” phone calls? An email from a distant family member asking you to wire money? You aren’t alone. The Federal Trade Commission says that fraudsters generally target consumers of all ages – but they know that older people are likely to have bigger nest eggs, which makes them attractive. And, the consumer protection agency says, when older people lose money to a scam – regardless of whether it involves prizes and lotteries, impostors or identity theft – it’s usually more difficult for them to recoup their losses, making the consequences even more devastating.

With their new “Pass It On” campaign, the FTC is sharing tips and tools for protecting yourself from these commons scams.

1. “You’ve Won” Scams
You get a call, card or email that you’ve won a prize (like a cruise) but you can’t claim that prize until you pay a fee, taxes or customs duty. They ask for a credit card or bank account information. What should you do?

If you have to pay, it’s no prize! Keep your money and information to yourself. Never share your financial information with someone who contacts you and claims to need it. And never wire money to anyone who asks you to.

2. Charity Fraud
Someone contacts you asking for a donation to their charity, and the organization sounds real and their cause worthwhile. How can you tell what is legitimate and what’s a scam? Scammers want your money quickly and often pressure you to give right away. They might ask you for cash or to wire money, and they often refuse to send you more information about the charity or tell you how the money will be used.

Here’s what you can do. Take your time. Tell callers to send you information by mail. Then do your research online or at the library. Is this a real organization? Is your donation tax deductible? How will the money be used? Rule out anyone who wants you to send cash or wire money. Chances are, it’s a scam.

3. Health Care Scams
You see an ad on TV, telling you about a new law that requires you to get a new health care card. Maybe you get a call offering you big discounts on health insurance. Or maybe someone says they’re from the government, and she needs your Medicare number to issue you a new card. The caller may even ask for your Social Security number or other personal information. Stop!

Before you share your information, call Medicare (1-800-MEDICARE), do some research and check with someone you trust.

If you suspect a scam, report it to the Federal Trade Commission at 877-FTC-HELP or online at ftc.gov/complaint. For more information about these and other common scams, visit ftc.gov/PassItOn.

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Friday is National Doughnut Day

June 3, 2015

Book cover for The Donut BookMy older brother used to have an early-morning paper route. Sometimes, on his way home, he’d stop by the only doughnut shop in our small town and buy two glazed doughnuts, still warm from the fryer, and give one to me. These days I have access to an array of specialty and boutique doughnut shops, but my favorites still tend to be simple – glazed rings, cinnamon sugar twists and iced cake doughnuts. Whether you like your doughnuts traditional or topped with bacon, this Friday you have reason to indulge in a fried treat – it’s National Doughnut Day!

Learn about the history of doughnuts and their annual celebration in “The Donut Book: The Whole Story in Words, Pictures and Outrageous Tales” by Sally Levitt Steinberg. The Salvation Army is credited with originating Doughnut Day. Their workers made and delivered doughnuts to the soldiers in the trenches in France during World War I, and during the Great Depression they celebrated the first National Doughnut Day, selling the treats as a way to raise funds and promote awareness of the organization’s activities.

Book cover for Donuts by Elinor KlivansSteinberg’s book has a few recipes sprinkled throughout its pages, but if you want nothing but recipes to make at home, try “Donuts” by Elinor Klivans. The opening chapter walks the doughnut novice through the basic process. The remaining pages provide a variety of recipes (with drool-worthy photographs) starting with traditional – glazed, jelly-filled – and finishing up with more trendy versions including flavors-of-the-moment like salted caramel and – of course – bacon.

For more unconventional doughnuts, check out “Glazed, Filled, Sugared, and Dipped: Easy Doughnut Recipes to Fry or Bake at Home” by Stephen Collucci, the pastry chef at Colicchio & Sons in New York City. His book includes cake and yeast-raised doughnuts as well as recipes for beignets, churros, bomboloni, glazes, fillings and sauces.

Doughnuts not a part of your diet? You can still celebrate by reading Jessica Beck’s cozy Donut Shop Mysteries, starting with “Killer Crullers.”

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Summer Reading 2015 Book Giveaway!

June 1, 2015

Summer Reading logoWhy should kids have all the fun? DBRL Next is home of the library’s Adult Summer Reading program. This year’s theme is the same for all ages: “Every Hero Has a Story.” We’ll explore and celebrate heroes in fiction and real-life, including unsung heroes and everyday heroes in our communities.

Registration is open, so sign up online, submit book reviews (the best of which will be posted right here for all to read) and learn about a range of events, from adult-only book discussions to programs on superhero science and Civil War soldiers.

Book cover for On My Own Two Feet by Amy PurdyIn honor of Summer Reading’s launch we are giving away two copies of Amy Purdy’s memoir, “On My Own Two Feet: From Losing My Legs to Learning the Dance of Life.” When Purdy was just 19, she contracted bacterial meningitis and was given less than a 2 percent chance of survival. What she believes to be a glimpse of the afterlife became the defining experience that put Purdy’s life on a new trajectory after her legs had to be amputated. She wouldn’t just beat meningitis and walk again; she would go on to create a life filled with bold adventures and big dreams, including competing in the Paralympic Games and on Dancing With the Stars. Enter to win a copy of this inspiring story of Purdy’s heroic journey.

Click here and enter to win!

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Super Summer Program Preview

May 29, 2015

This year’s Summer Reading program is all about heroes, both those that wear capes and those that are heroic everyday, from parents to paramedics, soldiers to scientists. Here’s a preview of just some of the programs coming in June. Mark your calendars!

Book cover for The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt KidFirst Wednesday Book Discussion – Fulton
Wednesday, June 3 › Noon-1 p.m.
Callaway County Public Library
In keeping with Summer Reading’s hero theme, bring your lunch and join us for a discussion of “The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid” by Bill Bryson. The author shares his memories of growing up in the 1950s, including his rich fantasy life as a superhero.

Finding Helen: Diary of a WWI Battlefield Nurse
Thursday, June 11 › 7-8:15 p.m.
Columbia Public Library, Friends Room
Finding Helen: The Letters, Photographs and Diary of a WWI Battlefield Nurse” brings to life the story of a diminutive American Red Cross nurse named Helen Bulovsky who served along the Flanders front during World War I. Helen sent home letters, photos, poems and a diary, “Behind the Trenches,” describing the 18 months she spent in France and Belgium. Copies of the book will be available for purchase and signing.

Book cover for Life During Wartime by Rudi KellerMid-Missouri’s Unsung Civil War Heroes & Villains
Tuesday, June 16 › 7-8:15 p.m.
Columbia Public Library, Friends Room
During the five years he has spent researching and writing his newspaper column “Life During Wartime,” journalist Rudi Keller has discovered many individuals whose stories have been forgotten or are remembered only as part of family lore. Hear about the unsung heroes and obscure villains he uncovered during his research into the daily lives of soldiers and civilians during the Civil War. Volumes one and two of “Life During Wartime” will be available for purchase and signing.

Center Aisle Cinema: “Superheroes”
Wednesday, June 17 › 6:30 p.m.
Columbia Public Library, Friends Room
We kick off our summer film series with the HBO documentary “Superheroes,” directed by Michael Barnett. Follow the zany escapades of Real Life Superheroes (RLSH), a national phenomenon of hundreds of real men and women who patrol city streets with the goal of deterring crime, and, if necessary, taking the law into their own hands. Adults and teens.

Visit our online program calendar to see all upcoming Adult Summer Reading programs!

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Humble Beginnings: Docs About Elementary Schools

May 27, 2015

to be and to have

The education of kids is an important part of our society as well as others. Check out these documentaries aimed towards an adult audience that highlight various elementary schools here in our own backyard as well as halfway around the world.

to be and to haveTo Be and To Have“ (2002)

In a small rural school in France, Georges Lopez is a remarkably devoted teacher responsible for nurturing a dozen children ages 3-11 in all their school subjects and life’s lessons. Mr. Lopez shows patience and respect for the children as we follow their story through a single school year.

eco schoolhouseEco School House“ (2010)

This documentary shows how Grant Elementary School in Columbia, Missouri worked hand-in-hand with the community and a renowned architect to build a more environmentally friendly satellite classroom. The administration also created a new curriculum around environmentalism.

i am a promiseI am a Promise“ (1993)

The Stanton Elementary School in North Philadelphia exists in an inner-city neighborhood where 90% of the students live below the poverty line. This award-winning documentary follows principle principal Deanna Burney as she sets about changing the atmosphere of the school.

a touch of greatnessA Touch of Greatness“ (2004)

This film focuses on Albert Cullum, an elementary school teacher in Rye, New York. Championing an unorthodox educational philosophy, Cullum regularly taught his elementary school children literary masterpieces, most notably the works of Shakespeare, Sophocles and Shaw.

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Top Ten Books Librarians Love: The June 2015 List

May 22, 2015

Let the summer reading begin! Some readers turn to lighter fare in June, wanting books with breezy plots they can finish in a long afternoon, fast-paced thrillers that make miles of travel fly by or fantasy novels into which they can escape. Others use hard-earned vacation time (I’m waving at you, teachers!) to dive into hefty works of literary fiction or narrative nonfiction. Whatever reading mood summer inspires, we’ve got a hot-off-the-presses recommendation for you from LibraryReads. Here are the top 10 titles publishing in June that librarians across the country love and recommend.

Book cover for Eight Hundred Grapes by Laura DaveEight Hundred Grapes” by Laura Dave

“Take your time and savor the family dynamics. Enjoy the romantic twists in this tale of a career-minded young woman circling back to her roots at a California winery. The appeal is broader than that of a romance since it delves into the complexities of various relationships — parent to parent, parents and children, even winery and owner. This is an excellent summer read!”
– Joan Hipp, Florham Park Public Library, Florham Park, NJ

Book cover for The Truth According to Us by Annie BarrowsThe Truth According to Us” by Annie Barrows

“It is 1938 in a rural West Virginia town and a young woman arrives to write the town’s history. Layla doesn’t really know what to expect from the town, and the town doesn’t know what to make of her. This is the heart of the South, the soul of small towns, where everyone looks out for you and knows your history. A sweet story tailor-made for fans of Billie Letts, Fannie Flagg, Pat Conroy and Harper Lee.”
– Kimberly McGee, Lake Travis Community Library, Austin, TX

Book cover for The Book of Speculation by Erika SwylerThe Book of Speculation” by Erica Swyler

“A roller coaster of a read! This is the story of a librarian from a splintered family with a tragic past who is gifted a mysterious book that leads him to dive deep into his family’s history, all while his present life seems to be falling to pieces around him. If you loved Morgenstern’s ‘The Night Circus’ or Kostova’s ‘The Historian,’ this is a book for you.”
– Amanda Monson, Bartow County Library System, Cartersville, GA

Book cover for The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina GeorgeThe Little Paris Bookshop” by Nina George

“Quirky and delightful, Nina George’s book focuses on Jean Perdu, owner of the Literary Apothecary, a floating bookshop. When a new tenant in his apartment building sets in motion events that force Jean to re-evaluate his past, he finds himself floating off down the rivers of France in search of lost love, new love and friends he didn’t know he needed.”
– Beth Mills, New Rochelle Public Library, New Rochelle, NY

And here’s the rest of June’s best with links to the library’s catalog so you can place your holds on these forthcoming books.

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Suspense in a Small Town: Karin Slaughter’s Grant County Series

May 20, 2015

Book cover for Triptych by Karin SlaughterAs a regular reader of the thriller genre, I was excited to finally give Karin Slaughter a try. I was familiar with her name — her novels are often bestsellers that fly off the shelves. I was immediately drawn to her strong writing. Slaughter’s style is dark and gritty. She’s not afraid to expose the dark side of her characters (even those that you’re rooting for)! Although many crime novels are set in more urban areas, Slaughter takes readers into small, Southern towns, where horrific crimes are bubbling just under the surface. And when they explode into visibility, it becomes clear that even idyllic small towns are not safe from the darker side of human nature.

Her most recent series (starting with the twist-filled thriller, “Triptych“) features Will Trent, a special agent for the Georgia Bureau of investigation. I learned that some of the characters who show up in the Will Trent stories were first featured in her “Grant County” series. I’m a bit of a stickler for reading things in order (gotta avoid spoilers!), so I set out to read the earlier series first.

The “Grant County” series features Dr. Sara Linton, town pediatrician and coroner, as well as her ex-husband (and chief-of-police) Jeffrey Tolliver. Sara and Jeffrey’s troubled relationship plays out over six books as they work together to solve several horrific crimes.Book cover for Blindsighted by Karin Slaughter The series also includes troubled officer Lena Adams. Lena is Jeffrey’s protogé, and the vicious murder of her twin sister Sybil opens this series in “Blindsighted.”  In the next two novels — “Kisscut” and “A Faint, Cold Fear” — the trio find themselves drawn into cases involving a family’s dark secrets and a series of suicides at the local college. A personal favorite of mine from the series is “Indelible,” which features an incredibly tense hostage situation. This book also provides a glimpse into the early days of Sara and Jeffrey’s relationship, as well as their involvement in the possible cover-up of a crime. In “Faithless,” Sara and Jeffrey look into a murder that may be connected to a local religious cult, while Lena struggles to maintain a grip on both her personal and professional lives. And, in “Beyond Reach,” the series’ final book, Sara and Jeffrey journey to Lena’s hometown after she is accused of murder, leading to repercussions none of them could have imagined.

Slaughter knows how to write a taut thriller, but she truly excels in developing complex characters and exploring their even more complex relationships. I found myself pulled into not only the story of how Sarah, Jeffrey and Lena solved the crimes, but also the drama in their ever-evolving relationships. The “Grant County” series is truly an engaging saga, with each novel building on the events of the previous one. And lucky for us readers, Slaughter gets better with each book.

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The Gentleman Recommends: Tania James

May 18, 2015

Book cover for The Tusk That Did the Damage by Tania JamesIt can be great fun to read about villains, whether it’s because they command an army of monkeys (Wicked Witch), or they’re a great cook (Hannibal Lector) or they make you feel better about your own ethical shortcomings (Martha Stewart). But when you often read about such indisputably inhuman monsters, it’s good to be reminded that not everybody that does bad things is evil, and sometimes they are elephants. “The Tusk That Did The Damage” reminds us of this. In this sad and lovely and sometimes scary little novel, the elephant known as “The Gravedigger” witnessed the murder of his mother and the removal of her tail, and, after an often horrific existence marked by cruelty, isolation and a stint in the entertainment industry, begins murdering people and covering their corpses with leaves. Hence his catchy nickname.

The Tusk That Did The Damage” rotates among three perspectives: the aforementioned homicidal elephant, a young woman working on a documentary about a veterinarian running a rescue center for elephants and the younger brother of a young elephant poacher. While each narrative is worthy of my esteemed recommendation, getting inside the head of a mad elephant is the highlight for me, and I’d gladly read any excised material should the publisher wish to reward me for the sales boost I’m currently providing.

Tania James has given us a novel that raises a lot of questions, like: Why is the world set up so that the poverty stricken often have little choice but to step outside the law if they want their children to have cool stuff like plentiful food and maybe a toy? Why are humans so quick to kill things because pretty stuff is attached to their victims? And why can’t mosquitoes carry around little sacks of ivory so we don’t have people murdering intelligent creatures so they can make really pretty pianos? (You would be like, “Ouch, it hurts to slap a sack of ivory,” but then you’d be like, “It’s cool though cause I’ll just run this conveniently packaged ivory down to my local ivorysmith and he’ll turn it into a fancy trinket and give me some folding cash and maybe I’ll buy a little ivory glove from him so it doesn’t hurt to kill mosquitoes.”) Maybe you’ll get to thinking about the poacher’s brother’s insight that his community is “neither poor enough nor princely enough to appear on Western screens.” I’m grateful to see it on Western pages.

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What to Read While You Wait for At the Water’s Edge by Sara Gruen

May 15, 2015

Book cover for At the Water's Edge by Sara GruenSara Gruen’s latest bestseller is “At the Water’s Edge.” After humiliating themselves and their families in the states, three spoiled, rich Americans — Maddie, her husband Hank and his best friend Ellis — arrive in Loch Ness during the middle of World War II in search of the famed monster. While Hank and Ellis spend their days drinking and hunting Nessy, Maddie is left alone to get a job, do chores and bond with the town folk who teach her the culture of the area. As the days turn into weeks, Maddie is transformed from “brat” into an independent young woman able to look at the truth about herself, her marriage and her family. If you find yourself waiting to read about Maddie, you might enjoy one of these other stories about personal change.

Book cover for I Still Dream About You by Fannie FlaggI Still Dream About You” by Fannie Flagg

From the outside, it looks like Maggie has it all. As a 60-something former Miss Alabama, beautiful, charming and a real estate agent at a local firm, Maggie thinks her life is a failure. This sure wasn’t the life she dreamed about as a child. Struggling with disappointment and ready to commit suicide, Maggie postpones her “date with doom” when she lets a friend talk her into going out for a one-night-only entertainment event. As she tries to reschedule her “date,” business and life further interrupt her plans. Maggie lands the listing of a historical mansion (beating out Babs, a rival realtor), finds a kilted skeleton in the attic, campaigns for the first black mayor and is involved in an auto accident, leading her to surprising discoveries and lessons in friendship.

Book cover for Skeletons at the Feast by Chris BohjalianSkeletons at the Feast” by Chris Bohjalian

This novel is based on a true life diary of a desperate escape from Germany during the fall of Hitler’s Third Reich. As the Russian army advances, the Nazis increase their violence on women and children to try to maintain the illusion of control. Anna, a Prussian aristocrat, her lover Callum, a Scottish POW, and Uri, a secret-filled escapee from an Auschwitz-bound train all journey across the iced-over Vistula River as the Reich falls. Tension is high between the lovers and this stranger as they flee from the war-ravaged cities.

Book cover for Flight Behavior by Barbara KingsolverFlight Behavior” by Barbara Kingsolver

Dellarobia is an unsophisticated, chain smoking, restless young mother, stuck on a sheep farm in rural Tennessee. She got married  at 17 instead of going to college, and now she feels unhappy and stuck, about to begin an affair with a telephone lineman to bring her back to life.  On her way to said fling, she is waylaid by a magnificent sight, a “lake of fire” created by millions of monarch butterflies in the pasture owned by her in-laws. This amazing phenomenon is a disruption of the butterflies’ normal migratory route. As scientists, media and tourists converge on this impoverished area of the country, Dellarobia is awakened to the realities of her poverty-stricken life. She is given the opportunity to work alongside the scientists, expanding her horizons. Now, she is faced with the choice of keeping the status quo or perhaps finding personal fulfillment.

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New DVD List: Boyhood & More

May 13, 2015

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

boyhoodBoyhood
Trailer / Website / Reviews
Shown at the True False Film Fest in 2014 and garnering an Oscar nomination for best picture, this film follows a boy named Mason who ages from 6 to 18 years old on screen. The film was shot intermittently over a 12-year period from May 2002 to October 2013, showing the growth of Mason and his older sister, Samantha, to adulthood.

actressActress
Trailer / Website / Reviews
Shown at the True False Film Fest in 2014, this film by Robert Greene (“Kati with an i“) follows actress Brandy Burre who gave up her career to start a family. When she decides to reclaim her life as an actor, the domestic world she’s carefully created crumbles around her. It’s a film about starring in the movie of your life.

nick caveNick Cave: 20,000 Days on Earth
Trailer / Website / Reviews
Shown at the True False Film Fest in 2014, this film follows a fictitious 24 hours in the life of musician and international cultural icon, Nick Cave. With startlingly frank insights and an intimate portrayal of the artistic process, the film examines what makes us who we are and celebrates the transformative power of the creative spirit.

happy valleyHappy Valley
Trailer / Website / Reviews
Shown at the True False Film Fest in 2014, this film by Amir Bar-Lev (“My Kid Could Paint That”) investigates the Penn State child molestation scandal, in which Penn State football coach Jerry Sandusky was accused of several accounts of child sexual abuse and head coach Joe Paterno and university administration were implicated in a coverup.

my winnipegMy Winnipeg
Trailer / Website / Reviews
Director Guy Maddin’s 2007 “docu-fantasia” is given a special re-release through the Criterion Collection. A work of memory and imagination focusing on the Canadian city of Winnipeg, Maddin’s film burrows into what the filmmaker calls “the heart of the heart” of the continent, conjuring a city populated by sleepwalkers and hockey aficionados.

Other notable releases:
Hannibal” – Season 1, Season 2 – Website / Reviews
Boss” – Season 1, Season 2Website / Reviews
Suits” – Season 1Website / Reviews
Babylon 5” – Season 1 – Website
Musketeers” – Season 1, Season 2 – Website / Reviews
Witches of East End” – Season 1Website / Reviews
The Sopranos” – Season 1, Season 2, Season 3, Season 4, Season 5 – Website / Review

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Ask the Author: An Interview with Steven Watts

May 12, 2015

Local author and professor Steven Watts be giving a talk at the Columbia Public Library this Thursday about his book “Self-Help Messiah.” The book documents the life and times of Dale Carnegie, author of “How to Win Friends and Influence People,” and the dynamic era in which he rose to fame. Here is an interview with the author for a sneak preview of the event.

DBRL: What inspired you to write this book?

SW: Over the last 20 years or so I have been writing biographies of major figures in the shaping of modern American culture, a group that included Walt Disney, Henry Ford and Hugh Hefner. In particular, I have been interested in exploring how a mainstream modern creed of consumerism, personality and self-fulfillment replaced an older Victorian standard of producerism, character and self-control. After completing the Hefner book, I was looking for a new subject when Dale Carnegie rose to the surface. I had taught about him for many years in a couple of my classes at MU, focusing on his popular advice literature in the twentieth century, and his ideas always had formulated vigorous debate, as some students loved him and others hated him. When I looked at the literature, I was surprised to see that no one had written a full-scale biography of this crucial figure in modern American life. So he seemed like a natural choice for my next project.

DBRL: As a library employee, I see “How to Win Friends and Influence People” circulate regularly, which surprises me considering that the book was written almost 80 years ago. Why do you think the book has stayed relevant for so long?

SW: How to Win Friends,” some historians have suggested, is one of the three or four best-selling non-fiction books in the entire sweep of American history and probably stands in the top dozen or so for books of all kinds. The figures I have seen support that contention. Its enormous popularity is no accident. Carnegie, with his anecdotal style and perky personality, supplied Americans with a compelling and easily digestible handbook on how to succeed in modern society. (What Horatio Alger was to the nineteenth century, Carnegie was to the twentieth.) His advice is brilliantly tailored to meet the demands and expectations of a modern bureaucratic society and a consumer culture, particularly for white-collar workers. Since that basic structure still stands in place in the United States, and indeed seems to be spreading inexorably around the world with globalization, the advice is still relevant. People respond to it viscerally, I think, and sense immediately that its principles can be applied effectively to their daily lives.

DBRL: How pivotal do you think Carnegie was? Do you think he was in the right place at the right time, and that someone else would have filled this cultural role had he not? Was this shift already on the verge of happening? Or do you think our culture would have looked much different today had he not published this book?

SW: This “what if” kind of question is always difficult for a historian to answer because we will never know what might have happened. We can only speculate, and my speculation is this. Famous people, I always tell my students, are usually individuals who stand in the right place at the right time with the right idea. It is partly a matter of context and circumstance and partly a matter of individual perception and talent. Carnegie is just such a figure. American culture was in the midst of large-scale change in the early twentieth century, so, yes, that process would probably have gone on and ended up in roughly the same place without Carnegie. At the same time, however, his efforts played an important role in formulating and systematizing vague notions of personality development, consumer striving and success that were floating around in the cultural atmosphere. He took what was nascent and made it concrete. So Carnegie does strike me as a pivotal figure whose unique talents help define and push forward a broad process of cultural change that has shaped our modern world. While it would have gone on without him, of course, I believe that he played a very important role in giving it the particular caste it has taken on.

DBRL: In her book “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in A World That Can’t Stop Talking,” Susan Cain pinpoints Dale Carnegie as one of the most influential people in America’s shift from a culture that values a person’s character to one that places more value on an individual’s personality. Do you agree with that assessment?

SW: I agree completely. In fact, this shift from “character,” with its stress on internalized moral qualities, to “personality,” with its stress on the projection of attractive images to others, is one of the main arguments in my book. It describes not only the broader shift in American culture that is first glimpsed in the 1890s before building much steam in subsequent decades, but also Carnegie himself, whose paeans to the power of personality are key to his success advice.

DBRL: Have you read any good books lately that you’d like to recommend to our readers?

SW: I do a lot of reading in non-fiction, as you might imagine, particularly in American history but also in ancient Roman history, which has been a kind of intellectual hobby of mine for many years now. In the former area, I would recommend Robert Dallek’sCamelot’s Court: Inside the Kennedy White House,” an interesting exploration of the key figures who surrounded JFK in the creation of the New Frontier in the early 1960s. In the latter area, I have just finished “The Death of Caesar: The Story of History’s Most Famous Assassination,” by Barry Strauss, which presents a colorful and insightful account of the murder of Julius Caesar and its role in the decline of the Roman Republic and the rise of the Roman Empire.

Don’t miss Steven Watt’s book talk at the Columbia Public Library from 7 – 8:15 p.m on Thursday, May 14. Copies of the book will be available for purchase and signing.

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Classics for Everyone: How to Win Friends and Influence People

May 11, 2015

Book cover for How to Win Friends and Influence PeopleBook cover for Self-Help Messiah by Dale Carnegie“You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.” So advised Dale Carnegie, the father of self-help in the United States. His book, “How to Win Friends and Influence People,” was first published in 1936 and still occasionally generates a waiting list here at the library. This is no small feat in an age when the Next Big Thing crops up approximately every 12 hours.

Carnegie’s life story is as American as it gets. He was a Missouri farm boy turned cultural phenomenon, arriving at that status via a series of sales jobs, stints teaching public speaking in night school, the launch of a leadership training franchise and eventually his best-selling book. He played a major role in the shaping of U.S. society as we know it today, some say for the better and some say for the worse. The truth is probably a mix of the two. Warren Buffet claims to have gained a lot from Carnegie’s teachings, but so does Charles Manson. It may be a case of appropriate versus inappropriate use of tools.

That’s what Carnegie aimed to provide – tools for social interaction. His initial target audience consisted of professionals who struggled with people skills. “How to Win Friends…”contains an agreeable mix of aphorism and anecdote. Along with bits of his own wisdom, the author includes quotes aplenty from other sources: Ralph Waldo Emerson, Buddha, Henry Ford and more.

The book is so entrenched in our cultural consciousness, it continues to inspire spin-offs for readers of all ages. Some contemporary variations are: “How to Win Friends and Influence People for Teen Girls,” “How to Win Friends and Influence People in the Digital Age” and a children’s book titled “How to Win Friends and Influence Creatures.”

If learning from the master is not enough and you also want to learn about the master, you’re in luck. Steve Watts has written a biography about Carnegie, “Self-Help Messiah,” and will be giving a talk on May 14 at the Columbia Public Library. The event will take place in the Friends Room from 7:00-8:15 p.m.

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Four Books for Your Mother’s Day

May 8, 2015

Book cover for Listen to Your MotherFlowers, breakfast in bed, finger-painted and glitter-encrusted masterpieces — if you are a mom, you may be the lucky recipient of one of these traditional Mother’s Day gifts. Here at the library, we are also fond of giving the gift of reading (naturally). Here are five books and their publisher’s descriptions that moms might enjoy.

Listen to Your Mother: What She Said Then, What We’re Saying Now
Irreverent, thought-provoking, hilarious and edgy: a collection of personal stories celebrating motherhood, featuring #1 New York Times bestselling authors Jenny Lawson and Jennifer Weiner, as well as many other notable writers. “Listen to Your Mother” explores why our mothers are important, taking readers on a journey through motherhood in all of its complexity, diversity and humor.

Bettyville” by George Hodgman
A witty, tender memoir of a son’s journey home to care for his irascible mother — a tale of secrets, silences and enduring love. When Hodgman leaves Manhattan for his hometown of Paris, Missouri, he finds himself — an unlikely caretaker and near-lethal cook — in a head-on collision with his aging mother, Betty, a woman of wit and will. Will George lure her into assisted living? When hell freezes over.

Book cover for Three Many Cooks by Pam AndersonThree Many Cooks: One Mom, Two Daughters: Their Shared Stories of Food, Faith & Family” by Pam Anderson
When the women behind the blog Three Many Cooks gather in the busiest room in the house, there are never too many cooks in the kitchen. Now cookbook author Anderson and her daughters Maggy Keet and Sharon Damelio blend compelling reflections and well-loved recipes into one funny, candid and irresistible book.

Postcards From Cookie: A Memoir of Motherhood, Miracles, and a Whole Lot of Mail” by Caroline Clark
Award-winning journalist and host of Black “Enterprise” Business Report Caroline Clarke’s moving memoir of her surprise discovery of her birth mother — Cookie Cole, the daughter of Nat King Cole — and the relationship that blossomed between them through the heartfelt messages they exchanged on hundreds of postcards.

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Summertime Cycling Tips

May 6, 2015

Big Book of CyclingAs the summer months come upon us, it is time to be active outdoors with the whole family! There are few sports that are more family friendly and all-encompassing than bicycling. With our great network of trails and fantastic cycling infrastructure, bicycling is a favorite pastime of many in Mid-Missouri, and from April through October, the trails and roads are crowded with cyclists of all ages. In celebration of National Bike Month (and also Bike, Walk & Wheel Week here in Columbia!), let’s showcase some of the great books the library owns that will keep you pedaling happily through the warm countryside.

First, let’s review safety. Almost two months ago I was taking a spin with some friends near McBaine, Missouri and had a spill on the bike. Although my bike wasn’t hurt too badly, I was pretty banged up. Most especially, my helmet was quite badly broken. The helmet most likely saved my life. For some great tips about bike safety, please see this book published by Bicycling magazine and Rodale Press,  “The Big Book of Bicycling.” The book includes a chapter on safe riding techniques and helmet selection. A great tip: “All helmets sold in the United States meet CPSC safety standards, so a $30 lid is equally as good as a $200 one.”

It’s also very important that kids learn early about bike safety. Confident cycling is one of the most important elements behind safety, and helping your kids ride with confidence will prevent many accidents from happening. The library has some great kids books about cycling, including “Safety on your Bicycle” for the very young readers in your family. With photographs and illustrations provided, including the proper way to put on a helmet, this book is a good starting point for kids. Pednet, Columbia’s homegrown cycling advocacy organization, also offers fantastic beginning bicycling courses for children.

Book cover for Effective CyclingOne of the great classics of all literature when it comes to everything about the bike is “Effective Cycling” by John Forester. The first edition came out in 1974, and there is now a seventh edition published, with a great deal of updated information. If you are a cycling commuter (especially if you are negotiating heavy traffic), a general enthusiast or a burgeoning bike mechanic, this is a fantastic handbook. Forester is an engineer, so the sections in the book on riding in traffic safely are technically superb. There is even a section about cycling with children, and in keeping with the thoroughness of the book, several pages devoted to building one’s own “tagalong” bike (Forester calls it the “kiddie-back tandem”), the design of which he helped refine in the 1970s. My wife and I use this device all the time to transport our daughter around town. He offers an important piece of advice: “Remember that the child who assists will not be working as hard as the parent who leads”  True indeed!

Cycling is in a renaissance right now. Not only is the sport more popular on a recreational level, but there is also a tremendous amount of active participation by several organizations in the community that have helped in changing the way bicycles are perceived. Pednet and GetAbout Columbia have done a great job making our streets and roads safer for cyclists here in Columbia — the infrastructure has become much more cycling friendly since I moved here in 1999. And how has the cycling renaissance that has caught on in many American cities changed the way we transport ourselves through work and recreation? See the book “Pedaling Revolution” by Jeff Mapes. Mapes says: “cycling advocates have been the sparkplug for a broad coalition pushing government at all levels to adopt ‘complete street’ policies . . . ”  Indeed this has been the case here in Columbia — we are certainly a good case study.

One of the great things about cycling is that it is a life-long sport. Nicole Cooke, the Olympic gold medalist in the cycling road race in 2008, recently wrote a comprehensive book titled “Cycle for Life: Bike & Body Health & Maintenance.”  The book is perfect not only for the serious recreational rider, but also for women cyclists who are just getting started in the sport.

A last bit of advice is . . . remember to have fun out there!  And, please, always wear a helmet when you ride.

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Ask the Author: An Interview With Svetlana Grobman

May 4, 2015

Book cover for The Education of a TraitorFor this edition of Ask the Author, I am excited to introduce the library’s very own Svetlana Grobman! If you’re a regular DBRL Next reader, you may have already heard about some of her travel adventures or teared up while reading her post about how libraries can change lives.

Grobman has just published her first full-length book, “The Education of a Traitor,” a memoir describing her experience as a Jewish child coming of age in Russia during the height of the Cold War. The book has been described as “An intimate look at a young woman’s struggle to find her own truth in a repressive society.”

DBRL: In “The Education of a Traitor” you tell of your fear and painful sense of isolation as a child. How much of this fear and pain do you think arose from the prejudice you felt growing up Jewish in an anti-Semitic country, and how much from a family life that might be considered dysfunctional by present-day American standards?

SG: The sense of isolation came from both sources, but it was the society that did most of the damage. As for my family, growing up I never thought about it as dysfunctional. Even now I believe that we were a very average family for that time and place. On the bright side, feeling lonely made me a voracious reader. :)

DBRL: So much of this memoir is vividly told, with compelling details of touch and smell and taste. Considering how many years have passed and how distant you are now, geographically, from your childhood in Russia, why do you think these sensory memories stayed with you?

SG: I think that children feel more acutely than adults, taste wise especially. That’s why children like bland food, and as we age, we need more and more spices. Also, nothing smells as good as it did when you were a child. For example, I planted a lilac tree in my American yard, but it just is not as fragrant as the lilacs from my childhood – or that’s how I feel. :) 

Another thing about children is that the sense of fairness is ingrained in their psyche. As adults, we no longer expect things to be always fair. We have seen so much unfairness in our lives that we no longer react to it as strongly as we used to. This is not the case with the children. To them, things that are “unfair” really traumatize them. On top of that, children have no power to change things. This by itself is enough to feed your worst memories.

Also, there is this about memory. As we age, things no longer come to us in chronological order. What we remember the most are the things that shocked or pleased us the most. The rest fades into the background.

DBRL: Your book relates the many ways schoolchildren and the public were indoctrinated to believe in Soviet superiority in all matters. When did you first begin to suspect this wasn’t true?

SG:  There’s one story in my book called “The Young Pioneer.” That story is one of the examples of brainwashing school children into believing that nothing is more important than their country and its morals – not even their families. That story stuck in my mind because that was the first time I, then 9 years old, realized this cannot be true, at least not to me. My family was more important to me than my country, although, at that time, I believed that the reason for that was my personal weakness.

Later, I began paying attention to the messages of our mass media, which were strikingly different from my everyday experiences. For example, our agriculture was “the best” in the world, but we had to import wheat and other products from abroad. Our textile industry was doing great, but the only clothes I saw in the stores were dowdy, etc. It happened slowly, but by the time I turned 13, I had no doubt that everything that the Soviet regime told us was a lie.

DBRL: Can you comment on your choice of title for your memoir?

SG: I’ve been called a traitor several times in my life. The first time, it was my school principal. He called me a traitor because I wanted to transfer to another school. Later on, when I finally decided to leave Russia, many people called me that: people at work, neighbors and especially Soviet officials. In this country, a person can decide to live anywhere she wants, but in Russia in those days, it was considered to be a treacherous act. So, this is the origin of my book title.

DBRL: Have you read any good books recently that you would like to recommend to our readers?

SG: I am a non-fiction reader by far. Just recently, I ‘discovered’ Beryl Markham’s “West With the Night,” which, apparently, impressed even Hemingway. When I read fiction, I mostly go for historical fiction, like “The Greater Journey” by David McCullough, “The Aviator’s Wife” by Melanie Benjamin, etc. However, I just recently read “A Man Called Ove” by Fredrik Backman, and I’d definitely recommend it.

Don’t miss Svetlana’s author talk on Thursday, May 7th at 7 p.m. in the Friends Room at the Columbia Public Library. There will be copies of her book available at the event for purchase and signing. You can also buy a physical copy or an ebook on Amazon. If you can’t make it to her talk on May 7th, be sure to visit her website to find out about her other events.

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While the Library Is Closed…

May 1, 2015

Photo of a sign reading open 24 hoursToday, May 1, the library is closed for staff training, and on Sunday, May 24 and Monday, May 25 we’ll be closed in observance of Memorial Day. While our buildings are closed and the bookmobiles are parked in the garage, don’t forget that the digital branch is always open. Below are just a few of the ways you can use the library this holiday or any day.

photo credit: Tallent Show via photopin cc

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A Poem in Your Pocket

April 29, 2015

Poem in Your Pocket Day logoApril 30, the final day of National Poetry Month, is Poem in Your Pocket Day. Unlike most novels, a poem fits neatly in a wallet or pocket and can be easily shared with a coworker, friend, family member, grocery clerk, barista or anyone else you encounter during your day. A few well-chosen words can shine like crystal or feel like sharp truth. Verse can lift you up and make you see your world with new eyes. Poems can make you laugh or weep. They can make you feel less alone.

Observe Poem in Your Pocket Day by choosing your favorite lines and carrying them with you to read and share. Or post them on your Facebook page. Tweet them 140 characters at a time (don’t forget the hashtag #pocketpoem). How you celebrate is up to you.

What? You DON’T HAVE a favorite poem? Well, your friendly neighborhood library can help you out with that.

You can go old school and romantic with Shakespeare’s Sonnet 18. “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?/ Thou art more lovely and more temperate.” You can celebrate nature with Mary Oliver. “I don’t know exactly what a prayer is./ I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,/ how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,/ which is what I have been doing all day.” Visit the surreal with Mark Strand. “There is no happiness like mine./ I have been eating poetry.”

Want more? Check out any of these poetry collections from DBRL:

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Top Ten Books Librarians Love: The May 2015 List

April 27, 2015

Library Reads Logo April showers bring May flowers and a whole crop of titles you are going to want to add to your holds list. New books from Jane Smiley, Naomi Novik, Kate Atkinson and the late Kent Haruf hit the shelves next month, and there is something here for every type of fiction reader. Whether you want a grown-up fairy tale or historical fiction, sci-fi or a thriller, this month’s list delivers. Here are the top 10 books publishing next month that librarians across the country love.

Book cover for Uprooted by Naomi NovikUprooted” by Naomi Novik
“A young girl is unexpectedly uprooted from her family and becomes involved in a centuries-old battle with The Wood, a malevolent entity that destroys anyone it touches. Fast-paced, with magic, mystery and romance, Novik’s stand-alone novel is a fairy tale for adults.” – Lucy Lockley, St. Charles City-County Library, St. Peters, MO

Book cover for A Court of Thorns and RosesA Court of Thorns and Roses” by Sarah J. Maas
“The human world is in peril. Feyre, a semi-literate girl, hunts for her family’s survival. After she kills an enormous wolf, a fierce fey shows up at her doorstep seeking retribution. Feyre is led to beautiful eternal springs, but the journey is not without danger. Maas masterfully pulls the reader into this new dark fantasy series which feels like a mix of fairy tales, from Beauty and the Beast to Tam Lin.” – Jessica C. Williams, Westlake Porter Public Library, Westlake, OH

Book cover for A God in Ruins by Kate AtkinsonA God in Ruins” by Kate Atkinson
“In ‘A God in Ruins,’ we become reacquainted with Teddy Todd, the beloved little brother of Ursula from Atkinson’s last book. As with ‘Life After Life,’ this novel skims back and forth in time, and we see the last half of the 20th century through Ted’s eyes and the eyes of his loved ones. At times funny and at others heartbreaking, Atkinson revels in the beauty and horror of life in all its messiness.” – Jennifer Dayton, Darien Library, Darien, CT

And here is the rest of the list with links to our catalog so you can place holds on these books hitting our shelves in May.

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All About Dance

April 24, 2015

Book cover for Mambo in Chinatown by Jean KwokA little while back three people recommended the same book to me over the span of about a month. These folks thought I’d enjoy the latest book by Jean Kwok, author of the previous bestseller “Girl in Translation.” In fact, I had picked up “Mambo in Chinatown” earlier and put it down as ‘not my type’ and so, after the first recommendation, I just said thanks, without comment. After the second recommendation, I had to share a laugh and explain what was going on, but after the third recommendation, which came via e-mail from a casual acquaintance, I decided I was supposed to read this book, my ‘type’ or not! The novel proved to be an entertaining look at ballroom dance, as well as the conflicts inherent in growing up the child of recent American immigrants.

Book cover for Astonish Me by Maggie ShipsteadEver since I took up ballroom dance as a pastime, I have been on the lookout for good books about dance. I recently found one that fit the bill for me. “Astonish Me” by Maggie Shipstead brings to life the story of Joan, an American woman who, in 1977, falls in love with a Soviet ballet dancer, Arslan Rusakov—who is a clearly a fictional version of Mikhail Baryshnikov. Told in time jumps and multiple points of view, this is a story of unrequited love played out in the highly political, passionate world of professional ballet. Written with complexity of character and an intriguing plot and an ending twist that may or may not come as a surprise, the book is highly readable for dancers and non-dancers alike.

Book cover for Dancer by Colum McCannThe world of ballet apparently offers a lot of fictional fodder. “Dancer” by Colum McCann is a colossal literary work that brings to life the extravagant world of Rudolf Nureyev, the Russian peasant whose genius propelled him to become an international ballet legend. Inspired by biographical facts, the story is told through a wide variety of voices, including Nureyev and his contemporaries, from the celebrated to the unknown. Beginning with Nureyev’s youth in Stalin-era Soviet Union and ending with his days of wild abandon in eighties’ New York, “Dancer” encapsulates the legendary artist in a way that captures his true essence, as well as his dazzling façade.

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