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Three Ways to Celebrate Audiobook Month

June 10, 2016

June is audiobook month, as well as the unofficial start of summer travel season. Spice up that long road trip with some good storytelling with a little help from your library!

1. Check out a 2016 Audie Award winner!

Audiobook cover for The Girl on the TrainNamed audiobook of the year, “The Girl on the Train” by Paula Hawkins (narrated by Clare Corbett) was last year’s “Gone Girl.” In this psychological thriller, a woman becomes emotionally entangled in a murder investigation because of something she witnesses on her daily commute. Or try the fiction winner, “The Nightingale” by Kristin Hannah (audiobook narrated by Polly Stone), which follows French sisters Viann and Isabelle as they resist German occupiers during WWII, each in her own way. If nonfiction is more your speed, pick up the winner in history/biography, “A Man on the Moon: The Voyages of the Apollo Astronauts” by Andrew Chaikin (narrated by Bronson Pinchot).

2. Entertain kids with audiobooks in the car.

Audiobook cover for Circus MirandusIf you have little ones in the backseat, check out some family-friendly audiobooks. “Circus Mirandus” by Cassie Beasley is reminiscent of Peter Pan and follows Micah Tuttle who, when he realizes that his grandfather’s stories of an enchanted circus are true, sets out to find the mysterious circus — and to use its magic to save his grandfather’s life. In Chris Grabenstein’s puzzle-filled “Escape From Mr. Lemoncello’s Library,” 12-year-old Kyle gets to stay overnight in the new town library, designed by his hero, the famous gamemaker Luigi Lemoncello.

3. Suggest an audiobook selection for your book club. 

Hoopla is a service available from your library that allows you to stream and download audiobooks (as well as eBooks, comics, movies and television shows). Sign up for an account (this quick start guide shows you how), download the app and borrow up to 10 items per month. Everyone in your book club can borrow the same book on Hoopla – there’s no limit to how many people can borrow an item at once! Try Ben Fountain’s “Billy Lynn’s Long Haftime Walk,” Neil Gaiman’s “The Ocean at the End of the Lane” or “Daring Greatly” by Brené Brown.

Whether you are a long-time fan of audiobooks or new to listening to books, take advantage of your library’s large collection of downloadable audiobooks, books on CD and playaways. Give a book a listen this summer!

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Feasts From Your Farmers’ Market

May 9, 2016

Book cover for Cooking from the Farmers' MarketI am not an impulse shopper when it comes to clothes or everyday groceries. I’m a disciplined gal, sticking to my list. However, when it comes to farmers’ markets, I cannot resist the jewel-toned eggplants, the deep green and curling kale leaves, the delicate mushrooms. Many times a summer I find myself with a counter full of fruits and vegetables without a clue as to how to integrate them into my week’s meal planning.

We are lucky to have a number of farmers’ markets in Boone and Callaway Counties (see our local produce subject guide for details). If you, like me, want to make sure your locally sourced veggies don’t wind up rotting in your crisper drawer, check out some of these cookbooks for delicious inspiration.

Williams-Sonoma’s “Cooking From the Farmers’ Market” includes not only recipes but also helpful tips for picking the freshest produce and best ways to prepare various fruits and vegetables. The pictures are gorgeous, and there are three recipes provided for each ingredient highlighted. Many of the recipes are simple with minimal ingredient lists — when the produce is fresh, you can let that sun-ripened flavor be the star of the show. I can’t wait to try baked eggs with spinach and cream or sugar snap pea risotto!

Book cover for Cooking Your Local ProduceGreta Hardin, author of “Cooking your Local Produce,” says that the question that inspired her writing of the book was, “What do I do with rainbow chard?” (Sounds like me and my kale.) Chapter headings are so appealingly simple — leaves, shoots, flowers, roots, etc. — and the recipes themselves not at all intimidating. Suggested preparations are simple, and Hardin offers up variations if you want to experiment further with a particular ingredient.

In Season,” edited by Rob Patronite and Robin Raisfeld, takes the seasons of the year as its organizing principle. The recipes here are quite a bit fancier, as they are contributed by some of the country’s finest chefs and restaurants. For instance, you can impress dinner guests in winter with a celery root and citrus salad, and you can class up a summer potluck by bringing a dessert of baked squash blossoms with ricotta and honey.

Using local produce and eating what’s in season is a fantastic way to try new foods or discover new preparations for old favorites. Bon appétit!

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Big Data and “Choose Privacy Week”

May 6, 2016

Choose Privacy Week logoImagine this:  you are a citizen of a Democracy where individual rights and privacy are supposedly its most sacred principle, and yet 24/7 you may be tracked by the government, corporations and even the city in which you live. You constantly wear or use devices that send out signals and information transmitted to millions of different data-gathering entities. A future such as this, predicted by the likes of George Orwell and Aldous Huxley, may have seemed very frightening little more than 20 years ago. Such a future, however, is in the here and now.

Libraries are one of the bulwarks of democracy, and they remain one of the few places in the modern world where your privacy is strictly maintained. Choose Privacy Week is a culmination of all that we do as librarians — providing an incredibly wide variety of information and computing resources while at the same time protecting your utmost privacy. In its eighth year and hosted by the American Library Association, Choose Privacy Week is cosponsored by the ACLU, the Society of American Archivists, the Freedom to Read Foundation and many other nonprofit agencies. 

Book cover for Dragnet NationAfter the Snowden affair in 2013, a veritable explosion of books about the topic of privacy hit the shelves, and we have many here at the library. Julia Angwin, in “Dragnet Nation,” abandoned many of the social media outlets that we trust and love, such as Facebook, all for the sake of privacy. However, cleansing her name from online information brokers was far more difficult: “Removing my information from commercial data brokers was a different kind of trust exercise: the kind of trust you place in a mob enforcer.” Angwin goes further than most, installing encryption programs on her phones and other devices. In conclusion she argues that “We didn’t shut down the industrial economy to stop pollution. We simply asked polluters to be more accountable to their actions. We just need to make the data handlers let us see what they have about us and be accountable for any hardships caused by their use of our data.”

Book cover for Privacy in the Modern AgePrivacy in the Modern Age: The Search for Solutions” is an excellent anthology that is rare: the book looks for solutions and answers to many of the tricky issues surrounding an online presence, as opposed to indulging in some of the rising hysteria. In his chapter “The Surveillance Society and Transparent You,” IBM computer scientist Jeff Jonas writes: “A surveillance society is inevitable and irreversible. More interestingly, I believe a surveillance society will prove to be irresistible.”  Jonas argues that this is because the convenience of a robust online life is far more acceptable to people when weighed against the limitations of privacy rights. 

Privacy in The Age of Big Data” by Theresa M. Payton and Theodore Claypoole offers this caveat: “You may not realize it, but you are connected to the Internet all day, and the cyberazzi are with you every digital step of the way.” The book delves into some of the ways that we can erase some of our digital footprints, by following some basic checklists and tools for ensuring privacy. (For instance, did you know that disabling Java on your computer and only using it when necessary keeps one much safer?  Java is often hit hard by hackers.)

Book cover for After SnowdenEdward Snowden’s revelations were a game changer. Whether you agree with him or not (and some experts found many of his revelations very damaging to American security), all United States citizens are now aware that they may be monitored by the government at any time. Another anthology with numerous authors, “After Snowden: Privacy, Secrecy, and Security in the Information Age,” examines the aftermath. As Thomas Blanton, Director of the National Security Archive, points out in his chapter near the end of the book: “The fallout from the Snowden leaks revealed that top officials had lied not only to Congress but also to the wiretap court, to the Supreme Court, and to each other” about the data intrusions.

Finally, please see the Choose Privacy Week website for lots of great multimedia content and even a short documentary entitled: “Vanishing Liberties: The Rise of State Surveillance in the Digital Age.”

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Summer Program Preview: Walking Book Club

May 4, 2016

Book cover for Grandma Gatewood's WalkRead. Walk. Talk! This year’s Summer Reading theme — for adults as well as kids and teens — is “On Your Mark, Get Set, Read!” We’re organizing programs about fitness and wellness, as well as meeting challenges of all kinds, mental and physical.

As part of Summer Reading, we’ll be hosting a walking book club at the Columbia Public Library on the second Wednesday of the month throughout the summer. This club combines three necessities for a healthy brain: mental, physical and social activity. Participants will take a 30-minute walk, leaving from the library, followed by a book discussion. Here are the book selections and meeting times.  All sessions will start in the Friends Room. Mark your calendars now!

Wednesday, June 8 › 6:30-8 p.m.
June’s selection is “Grandma Gatewood’s Walk: The Inspiring Story of the Woman Who Saved the Appalachian Trail” by Ben Montgomery. Not only did this mother of 11 and grandmother of 23 hike the Appalachian Trail solo once (the first woman to ever do so), she did it three times. Conducting interviews with those who knew Gatewood and drawing on her diaries and correspondence, journalist Ben Montgomery shines a welcome light on the amazing Emma Gatewood’s life in this delightful book, exploring why she did what she did and looking at her efforts to bring public attention to the poorly maintained 2,050 mile trail. At this kick-off meeting, Annette Triplett of PedNet will give a brief talk about that organization’s programs and the benefits of walking. 

Book cover for Find a Way by Diana NyadWednesday, July 13 › 6:30-8 p.m.
July’s selection is the inspiring “Find a Way” by Diana Nyad. On September 2, 2013, at the age of 64, Diana Nyad emerged onto the shores of Key West after completing a 110 mile, 53 hour, record-breaking swim through shark-infested waters from Cuba to Florida. Her memoir shows why, at 64, she was able to achieve what she couldn’t at 30 and how her repeated failures contributed to her success. A copy of “Missouri State Parks and Historic Sites” will be given away at this meeting!

Book cover for Bill Warrington's Last ChanceWednesday, August 10› 6:30-8 p.m.
Join us for a discussion of  the novel “Bill Warrington’s Last Chance” by James King. Bill Warrington is a retired salesman, a widower and a recently diagnosed Alzheimer’s sufferer. His relationships with his children are fraught — one son is a wanderer, the other estranged; his daughter is a single mother struggling to raise a stubborn 14-year-old, April. But Bill has vowed to repair these relationships by kidnapping April, driving to California, and leaving clues intended to force his children to overcome mutual distrust and work together.

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Wildflower Enchantment

May 2, 2016

Spicebush Swallowtail and Aphrodite Fritillary, photo by Sasha Vasko via FlickrA Charm for Spring Flowers

Who sees the first marsh marigold
Shall count more wealth than hands can hold.
Who bends a knee where violets grow
A hundred secret things shall know.
Who finds hepatica’s dim blue
Shall have his dearest wish come true.
Who spies on lady-slippers fair
Shall keep a heart as light as air.
But whosoever toucheth not
One petal, sets no root in pot,
He shall be blessed of earth and sky,
Till under them he, too, shall lie.

~Rachel Field

Columbine, open and closedOh, the magical charm of wildflowers, especially the earliest ones, which rise up through the woodland leaf litter to sing, when winter is gone. If you’ve spent any time in the woods hunting down or chancing upon these fleeting beauties (in our local area, bloodroot, wake robin, Dutchman’s breeches, etc.), you know how bewitching they can be. I was 15 years old when I found and identified wild columbine flowers. We were on a spring road trip, my mother and I, headed to Georgia via Skyline Drive to visit my grandmother, when we stopped for a break. I wandered off for a short walk and found columbine growing on a sunny hillside. The blossoms, with their complex structure formed in bright red and yellow, were stunningly beautiful and unlike any flower I had ever seen before. They most certainly cast a spell on me, propelling me on a lifelong quest to find and identify more wildflowers. It is a sweet and happy hobby.

The first week of May is National Wildflower Week, and what a worthy group to showcase and celebrate. In case you didn’t know, native wildflowers are plant species that were growing in specific regions before humans came in and added foreign plants from other countries to the vegetation mix. Besides the obvious beauty wildflowers offer (which may be a human-centric feature) wildflowers are beneficial to all living things and serve many vital and practical roles in the planet’s ecosystems.

Photo of a trout lilyFirst of all, wildflowers attract and support pollinators of all kinds (bees, wasps, butterflies, etc.), which are absolutely key to generating food supplies, for humans and other creatures alike. They provide habitat for myriad smaller critters and also prevent soil erosion. Wildflowers work very hard to keep the whole show of life running. To give you an example, consider the trout lily. This precious woodland beauty grows in colonies of deeply rooted systems of corms that help stabilize the forest floor, and their blossoms provide an early food source to pollinators that farmers depend on for pollination of late spring crops. To read more and understand the complex interrelationships between this flower and other life on earth, read the chapter “Trout Lily” in “The Secrets of Wildflowers: A Delightful Feast of Little-known Facts, Folklore, and History by Jack Sanders. There are many equally fascinating essays in this book on a huge bouquet of other wildflowers.

If you’d like to meet some local wildflowers face to face, there is ample opportunity to make this happen. Right here in town you can take hikes along the MKT trail or in Rock Bridge State Park (RBSP). If you’d like to explore with a group of people, you can avail yourself of the wildflower walks, led by an expert, along RBSP trails. The guide will help you identify the flowers and fill you in on folklore about the ones you find. If you want to venture a little further afield, there is the magical wonderland, Prairie Garden Trust, in New Bloomfield, MO; you need to call them to arrange a visit. To make the most of your venture out, plan to take a wildflower identification guide with you. There are many decent ones, but my favorite is “Missouri Wildflowers: A Field Guide to the Wildflowers of Missouri” by Edgar Denison.

Since native plants have adapted over eons to local growing conditions, they are better able to thrive in their original territory. This means, in their natural ranges (or zones), they are easier to establish, need less water and fertilizer, and are more resistant to indigenous pests and diseases. The upshot of all of this is they require less money, physical effort and natural resources to grow and maintain. Since wildflowers of all kinds are endangered due to habitat destruction, competition from invasive species and modern farming practices (heavy use of pesticides, herbicides and fungicides), growing wildflowers is a very concrete way to help restore and maintain the healthy ecosystems we need to sustain all life on earth. So, one of the best ways to celebrate National Wildflower Week is to grow native wildflowers.  If you are looking for sources for wildflowers, local farmers’ markets are often good places to find them. You can also search the Internet for “Missouri wildflowers” to find other suppliers. Wishing you lots of spellbinding wildflower cheer!

Photo credits:

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Celebrating – and Mourning – Prince

April 28, 2016

 The B SidesI have vivid memories of sitting by my boom box listening to American Top 40 on the radio, my finger poised over the record button, so I could capture Prince’s “Let’s Go Crazy” on cassette tape. This legendary’s musician’s work was the soundtrack of my adolescence, and I was among the many shocked and saddened by his sudden death on April 21.

If you feel moved to revisit Prince’s music, the library has not only physical CDs for checkout, but also more than 15 albums you can stream or download from Hoopla. If you are new to this service, visit the library’s website for more information. You can be singing along to “Purple Rain” in no time if you have a library card.

 Inside the Music and the MasksIf you want to read more about the complicated person Prince was and his enormous impact on music and popular culture, check out “Prince: Inside the Music and the Masks” by Ronin Ro. This is an authoritative portrait that documents his rise from an unknown musician to a Rock and Roll Hall of Famer, offering insight into his role in confronting labels and fostering other young talents.

Let’s Go Crazy: Prince and the Making of Purple Rain” by Alan Light celebrates the thirtieth anniversary of Prince’s most popular album and provides delicious insights into the making of the movie and music that launched Prince to superstardom. This enjoyable read not only illuminates Prince’s early career but also the context in which he created and the transformations happening in pop music and entertainment at the time.

Finally, if you need to rock away some of your sorrow, seek out the recording of Prince’s 2007 Super Bowl halftime show, arguably one of the best there has ever been.

RIP, Prince. You and your music will be missed.

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The Last of Us: Docs Featuring Endangered Species

April 27, 2016
the chances of the world changing

the chances of the world changing

Bringing endangered species back from the brink has long been a concern of scientists and conservationists. Check out these documentaries that not only explore several endangered species, but also explore some of the people interested in preserving them.

the chances of the world changing

The Chances of the World Changing” (2006)

An artist abandons his life’s work to build an ark filled with hundreds of endangered animals. But his growing “ark” and preservation efforts are threatening to exhaust him, both mentally and financially. A story about time, death, art, love and turtles.

ghost birdGhost Bird” (2009)

Set in a murky swamp full of birders, scientists and reporters, this thrilling eco-noir investigates the strange but true story of a small town in Arkansas overrun by a nation of birders all in search of the Holy Grail with wings, the ivory-billed woodpecker.

racing extinction

Racing Extinction” (2016)

Academy Award-winning filmmakers expose the forces that are leading our planet to its next mass extinction, potentially resulting in the loss of half of all species. This film reveals how creatures that have survived for millions of years may be wiped from Earth in our lifetime.

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Top Ten Books Librarians Love: The May 2016 List

April 25, 2016

Library Reads LogoSupernatural thrillers, compelling historical fiction and a boatload of mysteries? Summer reading must be coming! Enjoy this month’s LibraryReads list of books publishing next month that librarians across the country recommend.

Britt-Marie Was Here” by Fredrik Backman
“Britt-Marie is a woman who is used to her life being organized. But when she leaves her cheating spouse and takes a temporary job as caretaker of the recreation center in the tiny town of Borg, her life changes in unpredictable ways. With its wonderful cast of oddball characters and sly sense of humor, this novel is sure to capture readers’ hearts. Highly recommended.” – Vicki Nesting, St. Charles Parish Library, Destrehan, LA

Book cover for The Fireman by Joe HillThe Fireman” by Joe Hill
“’The Fireman’ is a novel that will keep you up reading all night. No one really knows where the deadly Dragonscale spore originated but many theories abound. The most likely is that as the planet heats up, the spore is released into the atmosphere. Harper Willowes is a young, pregnant nurse who risks her own health to tend to others.This is her story and I loved it! This is one of the most creative takes on apocalyptic literature that I have read, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Highly recommended for all Hill and King fans.” – Mary Vernau, Tyler Public Library, Tyler, TX

Everyone Brave Is Forgiven” by Chris Cleave
“Set during World War II and loosely based on the author’s own grandparents, this was a strikingly honest look at the changes that war creates on a country’s landscape and its people. These changes were so strongly shown by the progressive style of this novel. Bit by bit, we are privy to each character’s transformation. What a great tribute to what they endured. War gives birth to many endings, also to many beginnings. Bittersweet.” – Lori Elliott, Kershaw County Library, SC

Here’s the rest of the list for your holds-placing pleasure:

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What You Don’t Know About Earth Day

April 22, 2016

earth-day-vector-01Many here in Missouri don’t know, but I used to be an environmental microbiologist in another lifetime. It seems so long ago! Consequently, I am always very excited when Earth Day approaches. I usually try to read new environmental books as soon as they hit the shelves, but they seem to come faster and faster these days. One that slipped by me is “The Genius of Earth Day: How a 1970 Teach-In Unexpectedly Made the First Green Generation” by Adam Rome, published in 2013, so I picked it up this year to get me in the spirit. There’s so much I didn’t know!

Rome reports that before the first Earth Day in 1970, there was not an official environmental movement. Climate change was not yet a popularly known concept (scientists already knew but they were being cautious). The environment was actually considered “women’s work” as a part of housekeeping and was championed primarily by housewives and groups like the League of Women Voters. Other groups, like the Sierra Club and The National Audubon Society, came at the environment from a different perspective — conservation for the purposes of outdoor recreation. There were individual groups in different cities working on issues like smog and different polluted sites. Rome writes, “Earth Day did not just mobilize activists to demonstrate the growing power of their cause. In several ways, Earth Day helped to create the movement. Earth Day gave environmental activism a name. Earth Day also convinced many Americans that pollution, sprawl, nuclear fallout, pesticide use, wilderness preservation, waste disposal, and population growth were not separate issues.”

Book cover for Silent SpringEvents of the late 1960s made the time right for a cohesive movement to form. The war in Vietnam was raging on with all of the environmental destruction that went with it. Rachel Carson’s iconic book “Silent Spring” came out in 1962 and sent shock waves. The Civil Rights movement was heating up, many facets of which involved environmental issues. But the idea of Earth Day grew out of the interest and passion of Senator Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin. Nelson decided to bring the environment, overall, to the public’s attention with a “teach in.” He wisely decided to not go with a top-down approach and began involving different groups on campuses and in various cities. From there, it exploded. From the very first Earth Day, there was not just one event, but somewhere between 12,000-13,000 events! Although many colleges were included in some of the initial planning, it wasn’t long before high schools and elementary schools began to request information and ask to be included. Some of the most successful events (not all of them were successful) were in New York, Cleveland, Miami, Birmingham and Salina. Yes, you read that correctly.  Salina, Kansas.

I find it incredible that Earth Day has become so huge, so expected, considering where it began. Columbia’s Earth Day celebration is this weekend, Sunday, April 24. (The event will be moved to May 1 if it’s raining – but the weather looks clear so far!) I love that it’s in Peace Park. On a related note, you can pick up a free tree seedling from the Missouri Department of Conservation for Arbor Day on Saturday, April 23, if you stop by the Columbia Public library from 10 a.m.- 12:30 p.m. or the Callaway County Public Library in Fulton from 9 a.m.- noon.

As usual, I have made a list of all my favorite environmental books (and a couple of DVDs) from the last several years.  Happy Earth Day!!!!

Image credit: Designed by Freepik

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400 Years Gone, Shakespeare Continues to Inspire

April 20, 2016

 Verily, A New Hope“Friends, rebels, starfighters, lend me your ears.” Thus speaketh Luke Skywalker during a rousing oratory in “William Shakespeare’s Star Wars.”

400 years after his death, on April 23, 1616, William Shakespeare continues to inspire new generations of writers. Arguably, everyone writing in English has been influenced by him, as he added so many new words and expressions to the language. Many authors have penned books in direct homage to his work.

Ian Doescher, for instance, has rendered the first six “Star Wars” movies into stories written in Shakespearean style. Iambic pentameter has never been more exciting. Action sequences are narrated by a chorus. Just as in the movies, many of the best lines go to C-3PO. “Fear has put its grip into my wires,” the droid laments. Each volume is a quick read and faithful to the related film’s plot.

Book cover for A Thousand Acres by Jane SmileyA Thousand Acres” by Jane Smiley, is a late twentieth-century retelling of “King Lear.” Smiley’s tale is set on an Iowa farm, where Larry Cook has decided to divide his estate among his three daughters. The story is told from the point of view of Cook’s oldest daughter, Ginny. Unlike Lear’s oldest, Ginny is a sympathetic, mostly non-treacherous character (with the exception of one notable episode.) But much like Lear, Larry seems to be losing his mind, perhaps to dementia, perhaps to long-held guilt. “A Thousand Acres” won multiple awards, including the 1992 Pulitzer Prize.

Any guesses as to which Shakespeare play inspired Matt Haig’s 2007 novel, “The Dead Father’s Club”? 11-year-old Phillip’s father recently died in a car accident. Or was it murder, as his dad’s ghost claims? Phillip is tasked with the job of exacting revenge against his uncle, who appears to be making moves on both Philip’s mom and the family business, a pub called the Castle and Falcon. Sounds a lot like “Hamlet” to me. Except contemporary, funny and — if possible — even more tragic in some ways.

Book cover for The Dream of Perpetual Motion by Dexter PalmerIn “The Dream of Perpetual Motion,” Dexter C. Palmer presents a steampunk version of “The Tempest.” Like Ferdinand in Shakespeare’s play, Harry Winslow finds himself stranded with a character named Miranda. But instead of a desert island, the setting is a perpetually orbiting zeppelin. The zeppelin has been designed by Miranda’s father, Prospero Taligent, who mirrors Shakespeare’s Prospero in his possession of abilities beyond the ordinary, creating mechanical beasts and people to do his bidding.

Shouldst thou further wish to pursue literature inspired by the Bard of Avon, look to the reading list contained in yon catalog.

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The Gentleman Recommends: John Wray

April 18, 2016

Book cover for The Lost Time Accidents by John WrayJohn Wray’s latest awesome novel, “The Lost Time Accidents,” begins with its narrator declaring that he has been “excused from time.” Most readers will assume that he is waiting on a tardy chauffeur or a pizza delivery, but this statement is quickly clarified: Waldy Tolliver is literally outside of time. It’s 8:47 and he’s stuck in his aunt’s apartment, a shrine to the act of hoarding. Towers of newspapers threaten to crush careless occupants, and there are rooms divided into smaller rooms via walls of books with openings only large enough to barely crawl through. But this is more than a book about a man with a lot of a lack of time on his hands being stuck in a super cool house. It’s about his family, and their obsession with time, and the Holocaust, and a fairy that visits one half of a profoundly eccentric set of twins, and physics, and pickles, and the narrator’s doomed love affair with Mrs. Haven, and his father’s prolific career as a science fiction writer, and the powerful cult that his science fiction inadvertently spawned, and whether time is a sphere and other stuff too.

(While reviews for this novel are positive, some downright glowing, there are also a few that, while admiring Wray’s ambition and skill, don’t love its length (roughly 500 pages), nonlinear structure and tendency to meander. This gentleman enjoys a good meandering, though, and Wray’s meanderings are spectacular. Without them we wouldn’t get several hilarious summaries of Waldy’s father’s science fiction or the section written in the voice of Joan Didion. Besides, Wray’s genius needs the space to unfurl. The fellow writes sentences like someone that loves doing so and also owns a top-notch brain.)

The family’s obsession with time began with Waldy’s great-grandfather, Ottokar, an amateur physicist and proprietor of a thriving pickling business. He’d figured out the nature of time just prior to being killed by an automobile. His sons, amateur physicists and heirs to a thriving pickling business, search for clues to Ottokar’s discovery, but he’s left behind little more than some ambiguous and absolutely absurdly alliterative notes. (“FOOLS FROM FUTURE’S FETID FIEFDOMS FOLLOW FREELY IN MY FOOTSTEPS” — this reader thought maybe his sons should have thought about that a little longer.)

Ottokar’s sons, Kaspar and Waldemar, take very different paths. Waldemar becomes an anti-Semite (it doesn’t help that Albert Einstein, forever referred to by the family only as “the patent clerk,” gathered the glory he felt was meant for their father) and just generally insane and evil. He eventually becomes known as “The Black Timekeeper” for his time travel-related experimentation on prisoners during the Holocaust. Waldemar believes time is a sphere, and that with enough willpower, one can transcend it. He vanishes just prior to the destruction of his concentration camp.

Kaspar’s path is loaded with love and heartbreak, continent swapping, fatherhood and eventually a lucrative career as a watchmaker. He raises a set of eccentric twins, who cultivate their own obsession with time, encouraged by the fairy that visits one of them every so often. Those twin girls raise Kaspar’s next child, Orson. Orson loves writing science fiction, and though it tends to the erotic because that’s what sells, he’s pleased to be free of his family’s obsession with time. So of course, one of his novels becomes the text that inspires a time-obsessed cult. Orson’s son, our narrator, is compelled to write the story of his family, in part to free himself from his evil uncle’s shadow. Then he gets “excused from time” and has all the time to write he could ever want. So he uses it to write a family history in the form of a very long letter to a Mrs. Haven. He begins by informing her that he has been excused from time.

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The Magic of Adult Coloring and Doodling

April 15, 2016
Photo of adult coloring page by Maxime De Ruyck

Photo of adult coloring page by Maxime De RuyckWho among us couldn’t use a little more calm in our lives? With the release and spectacular success of Johanna Basford’s “Secret Garden,” the adult coloring book craze has taken off. And they are EVERYWHERE! There have even been TED Talks on the benefits of coloring and doodling.

Of course, art therapy has been touted by professionals for decades, but the trend has really exploded over the last several years. And, while it may not really be “magic,” coloring is kind of magical. According to Psychology Today, doodling and coloring help with self-soothing, problem solving, memory retention and concentration. Doodlers aren’t just daydreaming! According to the book “Doodle Revolution” by Sunni Brown, doodling can even help us to think differently.

My kids got me an adult coloring book last year for Mother’s Day, and I love it! I have to admit that I prefer coloring books with nature, city scenes and gardens over the geometric designs. But don’t discount the designs! They can have a entrancing effect. I also have to be careful to not get designs that are too tight and intricate. I just don’t have that much skill. But coloring and doodling are things that you don’t have to have skill to enjoy.

And now you can enjoy coloring at the library. Our libraries in Ashland and Fulton offer a Coloring for Adults program that lets you relax and socialize with all materials provided. You might also want to check out our collection of Zentangle books for relaxation through doodling, drawing and coloring. Zentangles are a more structured form of doodling using lines, curves and dots on 3.5-inch squares of paper or card stock.

Here’s to a calming and productive spring!

photo credit: Photomarathon: Patterns via photopin (license)

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New DVD List: Killing Them Safely & More

April 13, 2016

killing them safely image

Here is a new DVD list highlighting various titles recently added to the library’s collection.

killing them safelyKilling Them Safely
Trailer / Website / Reviews
Shown at the Missouri Theatre last year, this documentary directed by Columbia filmmaker Nick Berardini examines Taser International, the company responsible for the worldwide sale of Tasers to law enforcement, and explores whether the device’s safety record is at odds with its reputation as a nonlethal tool for the police.

dream killerDream/Killer
Trailer / Website / Reviews
Playing at Ragtag Cinema earlier this year, this documentary examines events that happened in Columbia, Missouri. In 2005, a resident named Ryan Ferguson was controversially convicted of murder and sentenced to 40 years in prison. The film is told through the eyes of Ryan’s father, whose persistent amateur sleuthing saved his son from a lifetime in prison.

off the menu asian americaOff the Menu: Asian America
Trailer / Website / Reviews
The latest from Columbia-native director Grace Lee (American Revolutionary), this film grapples with how family, tradition, faith and geography shape our relationship to food. A road trip into the kitchens, factories, temples and farms of Asian Pacific America that explores how our relationship to food reflects our evolving community.

shes beautiful when shes angryShe’s Beautiful When She’s Angry

Trailer / Website / Reviews
Playing at Ragtag Cinema last year, this film is a provocative, rousing and often humorous account of the birth of the modern women’s liberation movement in the late 1960s through to its contemporary manifestations, direct from the women who lived it. The film dramatizes the movement in its exhilarating, quarrelsome, sometimes heart-wrenching glory.

game of thrones 5Game of Thrones
Season 5
Website / Reviews
This season begins with a power vacuum that protagonists across Westeros and Essos look to fill. This season features some of the most explosive scenes yet, as the promise that “Winter is Coming” becomes more ominous than ever before.

Other notable releases:
Medium Cool” –   Website / Reviews / Trailer
Manhattan – Season 2 – Website / Reviews
Peaky BlindersSeason 2 – Website / Reviews
The FallSeason 2 – Website / Reviews
The AmericansSeason 1 – Website / Reviews
The BridgeSeason 1 – Website / Reviews
Night Will FallWebsite / Reviews / Trailer
Steve Jobs: Man in the MachineWebsite / Reviews / Trailer
Becoming Bulletproof – Website / Reviews / Trailer

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National Volunteer Week: April 10-16

April 11, 2016

Book cover for Everyone Helps, Everyone WinsVolunteer: a person who willingly does work without getting paid to do it.

Where I came from (Moscow, Russia), we never volunteered, at least not in the American way. The thing was that we didn’t have to – authorities “volunteered” us when and where they desired. The “without getting paid” part (see definition above) worked the same way as it does in America. As for the willingness, nobody ever cared to ask.

The most common cases of Russian “volunteering” during my time there included sending citizens to express their fake enthusiasm at state parades and sending city dwellers to collective farms to help with harvesting. I still remember spending long weeks (even months) picking cabbages and potatoes, hours away from my home in Moscow – living in military-style barracks, wearing oversized black rain boots and ugly telogreikas (black, shapeless quilted jackets) and drinking vodka – the only entertainment available in the provinces.

I also remember “voluntarily” greeting foreign dignitaries, including Gerald Ford, who visited Russia (then The Soviet Union) in November 1974. My whole college was positioned along Moscow’s wide Leninsky Prospect (Lenin’s Avenue) for about two hours, bored and cold, waiting for the black limousines and leather-clad motorcyclists to drive quickly past us, while we waved at them and smiled forced smiles under the command of our superiors.

Book cover for The Volunteer BookThis is not to say that nobody in Russia would take to the streets voluntarily. There were a few – some protesting against the injustice of the regime and some trying to force the authorities to allow them to leave the country. Yet they were called “dissidents,” and the country had appropriate places for them – mostly the state prisons. All in all, “altruism” was not a common word in our vocabulary – “mandate” was.

Of course, I haven’t been in the country of my birth for a very long time, and things are different there now. These days Russia, too, has volunteers. One example is Russian soldiers – sorry, I meant to say “volunteers” – who fought against the Ukrainian Army in 2014-15 (in Ukrainian territory, mind you). Unlike my days of digging in the mud in Russian potato/cabbage/carrots/ etc. fields, those guys weren’t wearing telograikas and rain boots, but military style clothing. They were better equipped, too. Instead of sacks for gathering veggies, they carried automatic rifles, drove tanks and used Russian-made rockets. Yet small differences aside, it’s clear that volunteering has finally made its way to Russia. In fact, some Russian volunteers are fighting in Syria right now.

Coming to America in 1990 was disorienting for me in a number of ways – mentally, linguistically and culturally. One of things that amazed me was this American “volunteering streak.” I remember asking people, “Do you mean that nobody forces (or pays) volunteers to travel to different states to help victims of natural disasters or to support a cause?! That some people would spend their time and money to feed the poor or organize and attend fundraisers?” And when I heard, “yes,” I just shook my head in disbelief.

I’m not saying everybody in this country is an altruist. Of course not. I am saying, though, that I know many people here who have done – and will do again – all of the above and more. And let me tell you, volunteering is contagious. These days, I am volunteering, too. I’ve participated in a number of fundraisers, and I’ve donated things to my congregation and my library. It’s not much, but it’s a beginning. For I finally understood that John Donne’s famous quote is not just poetic. It is a truth of the human condition:

“No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend’s or of thine own were: any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bells tolls; it tolls for thee.”

 
 
P.S. By the way, Unbound Book Festival is just around the corner. Would you like to volunteer? 🙂

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