“I have come to the conclusion that life in the Antarctic Regions can be very pleasant” – Robert Falcon Scott.
December 14th marks the 102nd anniversary of one of the greatest milestones in all of polar exploration; on that day in 1911, Roald Amundsen and his fast and small team of Norwegian adventurers and sled-dogs reached the geographic South Pole. Beating Brit Robert Scott and his men (who, doomed from the beginning, used archaic methods such as man-hauling and ponies to transport supplies over the ice), Amundsen won the pole for Norway because of his speed, experience on cross-country skis and command of sled dogs.
Scott, however, left us with a formidable legacy—picture his men bitterly weeping when coming across the Norwegian flag at 90 degrees South. And to his credit, Scott did not give up on his horrific journey to the South Pole. New photographs from Scott’s expedition and journey have only recently emerged, and you can see many of these spectacular images in the book “The Lost photographs of Captain Scott: unseen photographs from the Legendary Antarctic Expedition” by D.M. Wilson.
On the ice simultaneously with Scott and Amundsen was Douglas Mawson’s obscure Australasian Antarctic Expedition (AAE) of 1911-1914. David Robert’s “Alone on the Ice” recounts this expedition. AAE’s base was in a place called Cape Denison, which had the unenviable distinction of being at one of the windiest points on earth. Gusts off the Antarctic ice sheet created unreal conditions at Cape Denison. The landscape was one of unceasing white-outs, and daily wind speeds sometimes reached 120 miles per hour. The Australasian Antarctic expedition was unusual, also, for the following fact: “Mawson was completely uninterested in reaching the South Pole. What mattered to the man instead—and what drove the vast ambitions of the AAE—was the urge to explore land that had never before been seen by human eyes, and to bring back from the Southern continent the best science that men in the field might be capable of.” 12 months after landing, Mawson barely survived a three man reconnaissance mission onto King George V Land. That he lived to tell his story is a paean to the human will to survive.
If you would like to read about some of the modern-day explorers, adventures and scientists found in the Southern continent, please see: “Antarctica: an Intimate Portrait of a Mysterious Continent,” by Gabrielle Walker. Contemporary Antarctic bases are staffed by a wacky crew of misfits, men and women alike, who, during the Antarctic winter, party like it’s, well, like it’s 2014. Amidst intense deprivation, incredible hard work and even winter psychosis, scientists and laborers on the Southern continent still soldier on and seem to maintain a healthy sense of humor. And as Walker points out, it is all for a very noble cause: “Antarctica turns out to be a fantastic place to do science; over the years it has yielded extraordinary insights into our world.”
Indeed, 2011-2013 was the 100th anniversary of the first wave of scientific exploration of Antarctica from a large assortment of teams from across the globe. Science (or at least nationalistic ambitions in the name of science) were the main reasons these teams were there. Chris Turney, in his book “1912, The Year the World Discovered Antarctica,“ discusses the five different expeditions that came across the continent during that eventful year: Scott’s British expedition, Amundsen from Norway, Nobu Shirase and his Japanese contingent, a German expedition, and finally Mawson’s attempt. “By 1912 five national teams, representing the old and new worlds, were diligently venturing beyond the edge of the known world . . . Their discoveries not only enthralled the world: they changed our understanding of the planet.”
Back to Amundsen. Stephen R. Bowen’s “The Last Viking: The Life of Roald Amundsen,” sketches his tumultuous but successful early career as an explorer, which was book-ended by a tragic end; death on a perilous and ill-advised aircraft rescue mission to the Arctic in 1928. Amundsen never truly enjoyed the spoils of victory: “There was actually a time when British schoolchildren were taught that Scott the Briton was the first person to reach the South Pole, and that Amundsen had cheated in ‘the great race.’ Amundsen’s legacy certainly raised questions about our knowledge of the past.”
Please check out these books (and many more!) if you would like to learn more about Antarctica and the people who have braved this magnificent and unforgiving continent.
“The two women were alone in the London flat.” The opening sentence of Doris Lessing’s “The Golden Notebook” let readers know this novel would be something different from much of the literature that preceded its 1962 publication. Here is a story showing women as they see themselves and each other, rather than filtered through the lens of male perspective.
When the British author passed away last month, her best-known book gained renewed attention. “The Golden Notebook” broke new ground with the way it focused on its female protagonists, and also in its structure. Before Margaret Atwood’s “The Blind Assassin” and David Mitchell’s “Cloud Atlas,” Lessing showed how a story-within-a-story motif could work in contemporary literature.
Her book contains a story, “Free Women,” that follows the lives of author Anna Wulf and her best friend, Molly Jacobs, both single mothers approaching mid-life. Interweaved with this narrative are sections from Anna’s various notebooks, each reflecting a different area of her life. The yellow one contains her novel-in-progress, or perhaps novel-in-stasis would be more accurate, as Anna suffers from writer’s block. The black notebook chronicles her thoughts about the time she spent living in Southern Rhodesia in her early twenties, prior to World War II. In the appropriately-colored red notebook she reflects on her involvement with the Communist Party. And she uses the blue one for her personal diary, a recording of day-to-day events. Finally, there’s the golden notebook, in which she tries to piece together her sanity by piecing together the contents of all of the other notebooks into an integrated whole.
“The Golden Notebook” isn’t action-packed. It’s short on car chases and long on conversations between the characters, often frank discussions about the intimate details of their lives. If this sounds uninteresting, I suggest watching the movie “My Dinner With Andre” to see how riveting a couple of hours of conversation can be. Then pick up Lessing’s book and get to know Anna Wulf. Her central struggle is one most of us can relate to, even if we aren’t authors or single parents or members of the Communist Party in the 1950s. The real struggle is how to live authentically, how to bridge the divide between ideals and actions while meeting the practical demands of everyday life.
Editor’s note: This review was submitted by a library patron during the 2013 Adult Summer Reading program. We will continue to periodically share some of these reviews throughout the year. Thanks to all who participated!
I finally can say I’ve read my first Agatha Christie mystery. From what I understand, “And Then There Were None” is a great one with which to start. The book moves very quickly and never has a dull moment. The first chapter or two requires a bit of perseverance as there are 10 characters to quickly get to know and keep straight. The basic premise of the book is that 10 people are invited to an island and left alone as one by one they are murdered. (Or commit suicide?) It quickly becomes clear that one in the group is indeed the murderer. Try as I might, I was not able to determine who the murderer was as I read the book. It is an extremely creative plot and one I’ve never encountered. Now, I’m tempted to read the book again, this time in search for clues given as the story progresses. The underlying themes of the book are guilt for one’s past crimes and the execution of justice. I’m glad I read it and look forward to my next Christie book. I’ve heard “Murder on the Orient Express” is another one worth the time.
Three words or phrases that describe this book: suspenseful, thought-provoking, page-turner.
You might want to pick this book up if: You love a fast-paced mystery that isn’t easily solved while reading.
For twenty-five years, my American in-laws lived in the state of Washington, in a small town that looked like the town of Twin Peaks from David Lynch’s TV series – minus the waterfalls. I visited them there only once, six months after we got married, for, soon after that, they moved to Columbia to live with us. Unfortunately, I didn’t see much of the state during my first visit – a week before our departure, my husband began exhibiting symptoms of what I first thought to be the flu (and so did his doctor), but what later was diagnosed as mononucleosis. For those who don’t know much about mono, it is often called the kissing disease, because you can get it by kissing someone with mono (this, I sincerely hope, was not the case with my husband), although it’s entirely possible to catch if through coughing or sneezing.
In any case, by the time we got to the Twin Cities, my husband was feverish, had trouble holding food down (hard to handle in an airport :(), and had a killer headache. Not realizing what was happening, we continued our journey, with my husband feeling worse by the minute. When our plane finally landed in Seattle, it was clear that sightseeing in Seattle was no longer an option, so my father-in-law, who met us there, took us directly to Port Angeles. There I, still a new bride, spent a week worrying about the possibility of becoming a new widow, and my husband – who was so debilitated that he could not get up for meals – discussed with his father, a retired professor of physiology with an MD degree, how to calm me down.
Since then, the desire to visit Seattle stayed with me for years, so when we decided to visit Mt. Rainier National Park (see my previous post), I made sure that Seattle would not be missed either.
To get our bearings, we decided to make the Seattle Space Needle a “pivotal” point of our exploration – not only because the view was supposed to be great (which it was!), but also because I have a weakness for tall structures. Wherever I go, I make sure to climb every observation tower, for something about being high above ground deepens my breathing, raises me above my every-day problems and lets my imagination fly unencumbered.
For a while, we enjoyed the view of the city and its spectacular surroundings: Puget Sound, Lake Washington and other smaller lakes and rivers. Then we headed for a structure next to the Needle: Chihuly Garden And Glass Exhibition Hall.
Those of you who visited Dale Chihuly’s exhibit in the St. Louis Botanical Garden know how unusual his work is. And yet, Alice in Wonderland couldn’t have been more struck with what she saw than I was while exploring the rooms filled with glowing whimsical figures, flowers and other objects that didn’t seem to have any relation to the real world but that looked as beautiful as a dream (read my full report on the Chihuly Garden And Glass Exhibition Hall later).
On the other side of the Needle, we saw another unusual structure: Experience Music Project (designed by Frank Gehry), where one can visit the Jimi Hendrix room, play guitars, drums, and keyboards, experience what it’s like to be on stage and enjoy science-fiction exhibits dedicated to blockbuster sci-fi movies. Having done that, we got on the Central Link light rail and returned to our hotel.
Our next morning started at Starbucks. The number of Starbucks stores in Seattle is truly amazing. (This makes sense since the first Starbucks in the world opened here in 1971!) Then we looked for a city tour. If you want to take a Seattle bus tour, I recommend a Daffy Duck Tour (a six-wheel-drive amphibious truck is a must if you have kids with you). Not only will it take you around town and entertain you along the way (in our bus, the driver kept changing wigs, hats, and dramatized characters), but it will also plunge into Lake Union and give you an overview of the Portage Bay waterfront, including the boat house filmed in “Sleepless in Seattle.”
Whatever else you do afterwards, don’t forget to visit Pike Place Market, famous for its hustle and bustle, abundance of products and fish throwing – when somebody buys a fish, one fishmonger throws it from the front of the stall to the back, where another fishmonger wraps it up and, if you desire, packs it on dry ice, so you can take it with you on the plane home. Also, take the time to stroll along the waterfront – past a Ferris wheel, tourists, street musicians, eateries and ferries, arriving and departing – and in the evening, relax in one of the waterfront restaurants and watch the sun dive into the Puget Sound.
I could go on and on, but the size of this post doesn’t allow for a long description. Besides, there are guidebooks in the library that will help you plan your Seattle vacation much better. I’ll finish my post with a few tips:
Weather is an issue. As they say in Seattle, “The rain in Spain stays largely in Seattle,” so schedule your visit during summer months – July and August are your best bet.
Don’t buy tickets for the Space Needle, but have a leisurely lunch instead at a revolving restaurant atop the tower (make a reservation before leaving home). It does cost more, but you’ll enjoy the view much more, too.
On the other hand, if money is tight, instead of a boat ride, take a ferry across Puget Sound to Bainbridge Island.
No matter what the season, bring a jacket and an umbrella :).
All photographs used courtesy of the author.
This December library staff members are taking their book-recommending expertise to Facebook to provide personalized reading recommendations. On Friday, December 6, starting at 9:00 a.m., visit the library’s Facebook page. There you will see a post inviting you to let us know about two or three books or authors you’ve enjoyed. Post a comment naming those books, and we’ll suggest your next read.
Here are a few of the other great programs coming up this month. See our full listing of events for adults in our online program guide.
Monday, December 2 › 6:30-7:30 p.m.
Columbia Public Library, Friends Room
Comet ISON promises to be a spectacular sight in the early part of December. Val Germann from the Central Missouri Astronomical Association will tell us more about comets and when and how to best see them.
Pillows of Hope: Your Story of Hope for the New Year
Tuesday, December 3 › 6:30-8 p.m.
Callaway County Public Library (Fulton), Friends Room
The Fulton State Hospital “Pillows of Hope” project provides an opportunity for adults to depict what they are hoping for and what gives them hope. Come discover more about the project with Peggy Reed-Lohmeyer, then illustrate your own pillowcase reflecting hope for the holidays and the new year. Please register by calling (573) 642-7261.
Writing Your Past Into Fiction
Saturday, December 7, 2013 › 10:30 a.m.-Noon
Columbia Public Library, Virginia G. Young Room
Author Carolyn Mulford explains how to draw on personal history to reveal the truth without reporting facts. This journalist and novelist used memories and research to write “The Feedsack Dress,” chosen by the Missouri Center for the Book as the state’s Great Read at the 2009 National Book Festival, as well as her most recent book “Show Me the Murder.” Please register by calling 573-443-3161.
Surf the Web Safely
Monday, December 9, 2013 › 6:30-8:30 p.m.
Callaway County Public Library (Fulton), Friends Room
Fearful of phishing? Skeptical about security? Puzzled by passwords? Soured by spam? Learn how to safeguard your online information. A representative from Socket will share information and answer your questions.
Make Your Life “Pinteresting”
Monday, December 9, 2013 › 7-8 p.m.
Columbia Public Library, Training Center
Looking for ideas on organizing and decorating your home, planning an event, changing your hairstyle, doing a new craft or cooking a certain dish? For a visual prompt to inspire you, Pinterest and other social media sites are great resources. Learn how to use their virtual pinboards, smart lists, social-bookmarking and more. Basic Internet skills required. A Pinterest account recommended. Please register by calling 573-443-3161.
How Much Is That Doggie in the Window?
Tuesday, December 10, 2013 › 7-8 p.m.
Columbia Public Library, Virginia G. Young Room
Are you thinking of adding a pet to your family over the holiday season? Or maybe surprising someone with a a puppy or kitten? “Be Your Pet’s Best Friend: Choose Wisely, Care Deeply, and Plan Carefully” by well-known dog rescuer Barbara Levy covers all the issues to consider before you become a pet owner.
Thursday, December 12, 2013 › 6:30-8 p.m.
Callaway County Public Library (Fulton), Friends Room
Drop in to ask questions about researching your family history.
The post December Program Preview: Get Personalized Reading Recommendations Via Facebook appeared first on DBRL Next.
For me, Thanksgiving has always meant dinner with family and friends. When my husband was in the military, we couldn’t always visit our parents for the Thanksgiving feast, but we always spent it with other people either at our house or theirs. There is something comforting about sharing a meal and connecting with the other people gathered at the table, not just at the holidays but at any time of year.
In “Dinner With the Smileys” by Sarah Smiley, a military wife invited numerous people to take the place of her husband at the dinner table while he was deployed for a year. She invited different people each week and documented these dinners with photos and stories. She started out carefully planning everything but eventually realized mealtime didn’t have to be formal or elaborate. She and her children gained friendships, support and awareness of new concepts, activities and ideas from these experiences. The people who attended the dinners not only experienced a good meal but benefited from good company and conversation. A wonderful community support system was built.
I could relate to the dinner where Sarah’s oldest son was looking forward to asking questions and having a debate with one of their guests who had certain political views. He was excited about carrying on an adult conversation. Fortunately, his questions were welcomed by the adult, and both sides benefited from the conversation. When my sons were younger, they looked forward to being able to join in the adult conversations at Sunday dinners at my parents’ home. They enjoyed the talk while we ate, but they were so proud when they were old enough to contribute their thoughts to the discussions that took place after the children left the table to go play and the adults continued to sit at the table. They learned about current events and what their parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles thought about different subjects. Sharing thoughts around the dinner table was fun as well as informative.
Get ideas for strengthening your own family’s ties through talk by picking up “Dinner With the Smileys” or one of these other books that discuss the importance of dinnertime conversation.
- “The Family Dinner” by Laurie David
- “The Secrets of Happy Families” by Bruce Feiler
- “Slow Family Living” by Bernadette Noll
- “French Kids Eat Everything” by Karen Le Billon
For more information about Sarah Smiley and her family, visit the website www.sarahsmiley.com
The post Bringing Back the Family Dinner: Books to Inspire Home Cooks and Conversation appeared first on DBRL Next.
When it comes to movies inspired by books, I tend to be something of a purist. I always try to read the book first, but considering the sheer volume of movies that are coming out this year based on books…well…I might have to pick and choose. Here are some of the titles to look for in the next few weeks!
Today, November 27th, “Philomena” opens nationwide. It is the true story, written by Martin Sixsmith, of an Irishwoman who became pregnant as a teenager in Ireland in 1952. After she was sent to a convent, the nuns took her baby and sold him, like thousands of others, to America for adoption. Fifty years later, Philomena decides to find him.
If you want something with a little more bang (and by bang, I mean explosions) for your buck, try “Homefront,” also opening on November 27th. Based on the novel by Chuck Logan, this film follows Nina, Phil and their daughter, Kit, after they relocate to New Mexico. The family is soon in harm’s way when a spat between Kit and a boy at her new school escalates into a vicious scenario of lawlessness and provocation.
“Inside Llewyn Davis” opens on December 6th. It is based on the book “The Mayor of MacDougal Street” by Dave Van Ronk. Van Ronk was one of the founding figures of the 1960s folk revival and offers a unique first-hand account by a major player in the social and musical history of the ’50s and ’60s. It features encounters with Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Joni Mitchell, Woody Guthrie, Mississippi John Hurt and Odetta.
You can also check out the soundtrack featuring artists like Oscar Issac, Mumford and Sons, Bob Dylan and The Punch Brothers.
The highlight of my December will definitely be when the second movie based on “The Hobbit” by J.R.R. Tolkien comes out on the 13th. In “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug,” Bilbo Baggins continues on his journey with the Wizard Gandalf and thirteen Dwarves, led by Thorin Oakenshield on an epic quest to reclaim the lost Dwarf Kingdom of Erebor.
On December 25th, the movie based on Jordan Belfort’s “The Wolf of Wall Street” opens. Belfort, who founded one of the first chop shop brokerage firms in 1987, was banned from the securities business for life by 1994, and he later went to jail for fraud and money-laundering. His book covers his success and how he and other insiders made large profits while public investors usually lost.
“Lone Survivor,” based on Markus Luttrell’s book of the same name, comes out nationwide on January 10th. Luttrell, The leader of a team of U.S. Navy SEALs sent to northern Afghanistan to capture a well-known al Qaeda leader, chronicles the events of the battle that killed his teammates and offers insight into the training of this elite group of warriors.
What book-inspired film are you most looking forward to? Let us know in the comments!
I love lists, and I love books, so I adore this time of year. Get ready to add lots of titles to your to-be-read pile, because the web is already awash with “best of 2013″ book lists. The picks are a bit all over the board, with not a whole lot of overlap among the lists so far. Here’s a handful of the books appearing on more than one list (and descriptions from their publishers), as well as links to the full lists themselves. Happy reading!
“A Constellation of Vital Phenomena” by Anthony Marra
In a rural village in Chechnya, failed doctor Akhmed harbors the traumatized 8-year-old daughter of a father abducted by Russian forces and treats a series of wounded rebels and refugees while exploring the shared past that binds him to the child.
“The Good Lord Bird” by James McBride
Fleeing his violent master at the side of abolitionist John Brown at the height of the slavery debate in mid-nineteenth-century Kansas Territory, Henry pretends to be a girl to hide his identity throughout the raid on Harpers Ferry in 1859. This historical fiction just won a National Book Award.
“The Bleeding Edge” by Thomas Pynchon
New York City, 2001. Fraud investigator Maxine Tarnow starts looking into the finances of a computer-security firm and its billionaire geek CEO and discovers there’s no shortage of swindlers looking to grab a piece of what’s left of the tech bubble.
“Tenth of December” by George Saunders
A collection of stories which includes “Home,” a wryly whimsical account of a soldier’s return from war; “Victory lap,” a tale about an inventive abduction attempt; and the title story, in which a suicidal cancer patient saves the life of a young misfit. See our own Gentleman’s recommendation of this short story collection.
“Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief” by Lawrence Wright
Based on more than two hundred personal interviews with both current and former Scientologists – both famous and less well known – and years of archival research, Lawrence Wright uses his extraordinary investigative skills to uncover the inner workings of the Church of Scientology: its origins in the imagination of science-fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard; its struggles to find acceptance as a legitimate (and legally acknowledged) religion; its vast, secret campaign to infiltrate the U.S. government; its vindictive treatment of critics; its phenomenal wealth; and its dramatic efforts to grow and prevail after the death of Hubbard.
And now, the lists:
- Amazon.com’s Editor’s Picks for 2013 – Find titles for teens, children and adults, as well as their top picks in categories from art and photography to sports and outdoors.
- Kirkus Reviews: Best Books of 2013 - includes not only fiction and nonfiction for adults, but also lists books for kids and teens.
- Best Books 2013: Top Ten from Library Journal – Keeping it simple, the magazine’s editors provide a top 10 list that includes adult fiction (six titles) and nonfiction (four titles).
- Publisher’s Weekly: Best Books of 2013 - lists for everything from fiction and comics to a category called “lifestyle” (think cookbooks and parenting). Kids’ books are also represented.
What do you think was the best book of 2013? Let us know in the comments!