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First 2014 Summer Reading Gift Card Winner Announced

June 17, 2014

TrophyCongratulations to Margaret M., a Columbia Public Library patron, for winning our first Adult Summer Reading prize drawing.  She is the recipient of a $25 Barnes & Noble gift card.

All it takes to be entered into our weekly drawings is to sign up for Adult Summer Reading. You can do this at any of our branch locations or Bookmobile stops or register online.  Also, don’t forget that submitting book reviews increases your chances of winning.  There are plenty of chances left to win this summer, so keep those reviews coming.

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The Gentleman Recommends: Donna Tartt

June 16, 2014

Book cover for The Goldfinch by Donna TarttDonna Tartt writes so well that the Pulitzer people were compelled to award their prize to her novel, “The Goldfinch.” An extra-impressive feat considering it’s an award so prestigious that some years the committee finds none among the billions of novels published every year worthy of their kiss of automatic bestseller-dom. But rather than stumble further into a tirade outlining my feud with this cabal of critical killjoys and their silent and invisible but no doubt existent and reciprocated animosity, I’ll add my voice to the chorus of praise bellowing about Donna Tartt, thereby giving you the gumption to read her work that a million glowing reviews and Stephen King and the Pulitzer couldn’t.

“The Goldfinch” is narrated by a boy who, due to a museum bombing, loses his mother and gains a painting. He loves the painting but is tremendously dissatisfied by the trade. The novel follows him and his grief-swaddled existence through time spent in New York and Las Vegas, and eventually, climactically, Amsterdam. I found it to be the sort of rollicking, stay-up-later-than-normal read usually associated with books featuring more than one explosion, or at least aliens or a pandemic or a comically massive red dog, rather than a coming-of-age tale suffused with grief and concerns about hiding a painting.

Book cover for The Secret History by Donna TarttLike “The Goldfinch,” her first novel, “The Secret History,” is a finger-exhausting page-turner despite featuring little of the fanfare that typically propels those sorts of books. It does have some murder (on the first page even), and a horrifying and ancient ritual, but it’s mostly about ramifications, and it gallops along with a pace that surpasses its plot points. Her second novel, “The Little Friend,” is probably also great (though its reviews are less enthusiastic), but I must wait my turn to read it, and anyway it’s nice to save a little Tartt for the decade-long (and worth it) wait for her next book.

There has been some backlash against “The Goldfinch,” which tends to happen when something is popular and good, by critics that prefer their fiction to be non-fictional and mostly concern the ennui of professorships or lake houses or small, conventional dogs and to have plots revolving around getting old or being unhappy or, in certain ambitious cases, both. They dislike Tartt’s novel in part because of its “absurd” premise, what with its terrorist attack and orphaned child, things that fortunately are unrealistic and unheard of occurrences in the real world, outside of such “fantastical literature.” Though clearly I’m of the opinion that this is a great novel, it’s not that I’m unwilling to hear words against it. Rather, I find it absurd to be angry about its success and to believe it’s a “book for children” and somehow believe that reading it, because of its supposedly fanciful nature, will kill the public’s interest in literature. Which of course makes sense because what the public wants most are ultra-realistic examinations, scrubbed of even a hint of escapism, on what it’s like to be alive.

Anyway, Donna Tartt crafts her books carefully and with a passion that pays off for the reader. A book per decade is a wonderful rate when they’re this good.

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Reader Review: Mom & Me & Mom

June 13, 2014

Editor’s note: Welcome to the first review by a library patron we are posting as part of this year’s Adult Summer Reading program. Want to submit reviews of your own? Sign up and get started today!
Book cover for Mom and Me and Mom by Maya AngelouMom & Me & Mom” is a telling of the relationships that Maya Angelou had with her paternal grandmother and mother, as well as her role as a mother to her son.  It is a very touching story of the ability of a mother and daughter pair to reconcile after an early abandonment and the lessons the two women were able to impart to one another. Maya Angelou also touches on how her relationship with her paternal grandmother shaped her as a woman and as a mother to her only son. I gave this book only four of five stars because if you have read some of Maya Angelou’s other autobiographical novels, many of the stories will be very familiar, even if the details don’t quite match up.

Three words that describe this book: insightful, heartwarming, motherhood

You might want to pick this book up if: You are looking for a deeper understanding of the woman Maya Angelou. This book also serves to give a new lens through which to view your own relationship with your mother and gives good anecdotes to inform how to be a powerful and influential mother.


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Bookmarks, Round Two: Lost and Found

June 11, 2014

I had so much fun creating my last post about odd and interesting bookmarks that I decided to do another one! This time, in addition to seeing what other people use as bookmarks, I turned to the found bookmarks box in the Columbia Public Library’s circulation department. Here is what I found.

I don’t know what this bookmark’s original use was, but it sure is adorable!


Eeee!!! So is this one!

Hand drawn bookmark

Navigating your future: an interactive journey to personal and academic success.

3 - Navigating Your Future

A vintage and well-loved bookmark.

Vintage bookmark

A tarot card, explaining the horseshoe spread.

Photo of a tarot card

Hot dog, I like this bookmark!Hot dog bookmark

Stephanie, in the CPL Circulation Department, pulled all of these sticky notes out of a used book that she bought.

Post-it notes left behind in a used book

Elf, of the CPL Children’s Team, loves her pompom bunny bookmark.

Bunny bookmark

Lauren, a CPL Librarian, uses this eco-friendly item as a bookmark.

Leaf used as a bookmark

If you enjoy seeing what people leave behind in books, then you will probably love the book “Forgotten Bookmarks” by Michael Popek. The author works at a family used bookstore by day, where he finds most of these treasures. If you’re not sold on this book, check out the author’s website to get an idea of what treasures he finds in old books.

Do you use something interesting as to keep your place in a book? Send us a picture of it!

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Classics for Everyone: Charles Darwin

June 9, 2014

Book cover for Darwin's Origin of SpeciesSince our Summer Reading program this year centers around a science theme, your classics maven has elected to focus on one of the most influential science texts in history – Charles Darwin’s “The Origin of Species.” First published in 1859, it made an immediate and lasting impact on society. In my mind, one thing that makes a book a classic is if it’s frequently referenced even by people who haven’t read it. Almost everyone knows about this book.

Charles Darwin was 22 years old when he boarded the HMS Beagle in 1831. He’d signed on to work as a naturalist during the ship’s exploration of South America and the Pacific Islands. In the Galapagos, he found animals that existed nowhere else on earth, including enormous tortoises. He became intrigued by the variations he found among the animals on different islands. On one island finches had beaks suited to breaking nuts, while on another, their beaks were formed for optimal berry picking. These observations planted the seeds for his theory of evolution by natural selection.

Darwin didn’t originate the idea of evolution, a concept that dates back at least as far as ancient Greece, but he was the first one to develop an explanation for how the process might work, and he supplied more evidence than anyone before. He spent more than two decades researching, gathering evidence and refining his ideas before finally publishing “The Origin of Species” at age 50. In his day, interest was growing in fossils and the extinction of species. His book tipped the balance for evolution in the scientific world from being a highly debated idea to a largely accepted one.

Outside of science, there has been more resistance to the idea of evolution. Only a few months after the book’s publication, the “Great Oxford Debate” took place, with hundreds of spectators arriving to witness the Bishop of Oxford exchange barbs with Thomas Henry Huxley, who defended Darwin and his theory. Then there was the Scopes Monkey Trial in 1925 in Tennessee, in which a teacher was tried for violating state law by teaching about evolution in the public schools. With the controversy continuing to the present day – within American culture at large, at least, if not within the scientific community – it’s probably a good idea for more people to read the actual book itself.

It’s worth the time, even if you’re pretty sure you already know what you need to. “The Origin of Species” is far from a compilation of dry, technical jargon. Darwin says, “We see beautiful adaptations everywhere and in every part of the organic world,” and he details many of them with exquisite descriptions of the natural world. His passages about the connectedness of all living creatures are downright inspirational. And his observation about what trouble will come to us humans if the bee population should decline is chillingly prescient.

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Best Audiobooks for Your Road Trip: 2014 Audie Winners

June 6, 2014

Cover art for Still Foolin' Em by Billy CrystalJust in time for your summer travels, the Audio Publishers Association (APA) has announced this year’s awards recognizing distinction in audiobooks and spoken word entertainment. Nothing makes the miles fly by like listening to a professional read an engrossing story, so check out one of these titles on CD or downloadable audio before you hit the road.

Audiobook of the Year: “Still Foolin’ ‘Em” by Billy Crystal; Read by Billy Crystal
The judges praised this work calling it “a seamless blend of single voice narration and live performances that does for the audiobook medium what Billy Crystal’s opening acts have done for the Oscars, which is to bring in a larger audience. From Mickey Mantle to Muhammad Ali, with the inside story on Meg Ryan’s infamous scene in ‘When Harry Met Sally’ thrown in for good measure, Crystal’s life story will have listeners hanging on every word.”

Distinguished Achievement in Production: “Pete Seeger: The Storm King” by Pete Seeger, edited by Jeff Haynes (read by Pete Seeger)
Publisher’s description: “The Storm king audio collection presents Pete Seeger’s spoken words as he recounts his most engaging stories, narratives and poems, set to new music created by over 70 musicians from traditions as diverse as African Music, Blues, Bluegrass, Celtic Music, Classical Guitar, Folk, Israeli Music, Jazz, Native American Music and Tuvan Throat Singing.”

Nonfiction: “David and Goliath” by Malcolm Gladwell (read by Malcolm Gladwell)
Publisher’s description: “Malcolm Gladwell, with his unparalleled ability to grasp connections others miss, uncovers the hidden rules that shape the balance between the weak and the mighty, the powerful and the dispossessed.” 

History: “Devil in the Grove” by Gilbert King (read by Peter Francis James)
Publisher’s description: “Chronicles a little-known court case in which Thurgood Marshall successfully saved a black citrus worker from the electric chair after the worker was accused of raping a white woman with three other black men.”

Fiction: “Doctor Sleep” by Stephen King (read by Will Patton)
Publisher’s description: “Stephen King returns to the characters and territory of one of his most popular novels ever, ‘The Shining,’ in this instantly riveting novel about the now middle-aged Dan Torrance (the boy protagonist of ‘The Shining’) and the very special 12-year-old girl he must save from a tribe of murderous paranormals.” 

Literary Fiction: “The Goldfinch” by Donna Tartt (read by David Pittu)
Publisher’s description: “A young boy in New York City, Theo Decker, miraculously survives an accident that takes the life of his mother. Alone and abandoned by his father, Theo is taken in by a friend’s family and struggles to make sense of his new life. In the years that follow, he becomes entranced by one of the few things that reminds him of his mother – a small, mysteriously captivating painting that ultimately draws Theo into the art underworld.”

See the full list of Audie winners at APA’s website.

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Art in the Park: Inspiration to Make Marks

June 4, 2014

Poster for 2014 Art in the Park festivalI grew up in Columbia, and one of the things I have fond memories of doing each year is going to Art in the Park with my mom. It became a little tradition of ours. We’d eat kettle corn and walk through the booths, ohing and ahing over each artist’s work.

I’m glad to be back in Columbia this year and able to resume the tradition. Columbia Art League’s 2014 Art in the Park will be held at Stephens Lake Park on Saturday the 7th and Sunday the 8th.  For information about everything from the artists to parking, visit the festival’s website.

As an artist, I always find myself inspired to create after visiting the festival. In preparation, I browsed the library’s collection of art books. DBRL has every kind of how-to book you can imagine. We’ve got books on woodwork, ceramics, painting, quilting, knitting, drawing and jewelry making. It’s a great collection and definitely one to look at if you’re in the mood to make something beautiful.

Here are some of my favorites within the collection.

Freehand” by Helen Birch

This book has a picture on every page and quick how-tos on techniques. Easy to read and fun to look at!

Paper to Petal” by Rebbeca Thuss

Book cover for Paper to Petal

Everything in this book is beautiful. The flowers are imaginative, colorful and realistic. They would look good in anyone’s house.

Animal Hats” by Venessa Mooncie

Book cover for Animal Hats

One word: Fun. These hats are crazy cool, and you won’t just find the generic cat hat here. There is a cow hat and an elephant hat, just to give you an idea of how creative these toppers get.

Simon Leach’s Pottery Handbook” by Simon Leach

Book cover for Simon Leach's Pottery Handbook

As a potter, I thought this book provided good information on throwing techniques and ways to apply them. It also comes with a DVD.

Silversmithing for Jewelry Makers” by Elizabeth Bone

Book cover for Silversmithing for Jewelry Makers

I am not a jeweler, and the techniques demonstrated in this book look difficult, but the final products are gorgeous.

Have fun, and go enjoy Art in the Park this weekend on Saturday the 7th and Sunday the 8th. Maybe I’ll see you there.

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Judging a Book by Its Cover: Science Coffee Table Books

June 2, 2014

Book cover for The Elements by Theodore GrayI generally follow the advice to never judge a book by its cover, but sometimes the cover is what attracts me to a book. When I was a child, I read the book “National Geographic Picture Atlas of Our Universe,“ by Roy A. Gallant, because there was a cool-looking spaceship on the cover. The book was about astronomy and physics, of course, but it also had mythological stories about each planet and about the universe as a whole. There were illustrations and charts that helped my puny mind begin to grasp the complex ideas of space and time. But what I most clearly remember about the book was the section in which the author imagined what characteristics life would have to survive the heat of Venus of the atmosphere of Jupiter.

My attraction to coffee table books continues through the present day. They are convenient to browse when you are waiting 15 minutes for the oven timer to sound but are equally suited to intensive investigation on the back porch with a cup of coffee. Here are some of my more recent favorites.

The Elements: A Visual Exploration of Every Known Atom in the Universe
by Theodore Gray
The author describes this book as containing “Everything you need to know. Nothing you don’t.” Gray lays out the requisite structural information for each element, but he also shows you what each element looks like. He also shares examples of how each element is used, both in nature and by humans. Learning about atomic weights and density might not seem immediately thrilling, but this book is fun enough to have inspired puzzles and posters.

Book cover for The Oldest Living Things in the World by Rachel SussmanThe Oldest Living Things in the World
by Rachel Sussman
This book is the culmination of 10 years of Sussman’s work. She traveled to every continent and even learned to scuba dive so she could photograph organisms that are all at least 2,000 years old. The pictures are exceptional, of course, but what distinguishes this book are the stories that Sussman shares about her process.

 The Definitive Visual GuideScience: The Definitive Visual Guide
edited by Adam Hart-Davis
If you can’t decide which scientific discipline you want to learn about, then this book is the place to start. It is organized chronologically and covers biology, medicine, astronomy, math, chemistry, life, the universe and everything. Parents (or anybody who likes awesome juvenile books) might recognize DK Publishing as the publisher of the Eyewitness book series. This science book has a similarly pleasing aesthetic, breaking down complicated ideas into simpler and manageable elements.

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