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Better Know a Genre: Narrative Nonfiction (Summer of Science Edition)

DBRL Next - July 7, 2014

Stacks of books by Thomas GalvezI always knew there were fiction and nonfiction books, but I did not know there were so many genres (and subgenres) beyond that until I started working at a library. Science fiction, slipstream, steampunk, graphic novels, anime, gentle fiction, poetry, memoirs – I could go on and on. And this categorization isn’t limited to books. There are music and film genres as well. So in a much less funny, but perhaps just as informative, homage to Stephen Colbert’s series “Better Know a District,” I will explore these classifications in a monthly blog series we’re calling “Better Know a Genre.”

The first genre I will tackle is a rather broad one: narrative, or creative, nonfiction. If a nonfiction book is described as “reading like fiction,” then it probably belongs to this genre. Narrative nonfiction gives the reader factual information in a storytelling format instead of presenting the information straightforwardly, such as in a cookbook or instruction manual. Authors employ the craft of fiction – such as dialogue, vivid descriptions and characterization – to make nonfiction tales into page turners.

In a public library, much of the collection consists of narrative or creative nonfiction, so chances are you have already read a book from this genre. If you haven’t, then celebrate our Summer of Science by checking out one of these fantastic narrative nonfiction books from our collection.

Book cover for The Immmortal Life of Henrietta LacksThe Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” by Rebecca Skloot
One of the most-acclaimed science books of recent years, this title was also our 2011 One Read selection. Skloot investigates how the cells taken from a woman in the 1950s have contributed to many medical advancements in the decades since. Skloot inserts herself into the story, so the book is as much about the process of writing as it is about medical ethics.

Book cover for The Poisoner's HandbookThe Poisoner’s Handbook: Murder and the Birth of Forensic Medicine in Jazz Age New York” by Deborah Blum
I don’t think it’s possible to top NPR’s Glen Weldon’s description of this book:
“Who knew that New York City experienced a surge in murders by poison during the 1910s and ’20s? Blum takes that odd historical footnote and produces a book of exhaustively researched science writing that reads like science fiction, complete with suspense, mystery and foolhardy guys in lab coats tipping test tubes of mysterious chemicals into their own mouths.”

Book cover for Packing for MarsPacking for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void” by Mary Roach
Roach is excellent at reducing complex ideas into manageable chunks of exposition, which alone is a valuable asset. But her books stand out because she combines that talent with a rich sense of humor and a willingness to use herself as a guinea pig. Roach takes on the subject of space travel in this outing – an examination of the lengths humans must take to attempt survival out of the earth’s atmosphere.

photo credit: ToGa Wanderings via photopin cc

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Fourth Summer Reading Gift Card Winner Announced

DBRL Next - July 7, 2014

TrophyCongratulations to Linda from Fulton for winning our fourth Adult Summer Reading prize drawing of the summer.  She is the recipient of a $25 Well Read Books 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.  We are half way through our prize drawings, so keep those reviews coming.

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Books for Dudes – Superhero Science

DBRLTeen - July 4, 2014

Radiation. Genetic modification. Mutation. These words are often found in science textbooks. They are also frequently found in comic books and graphic novels! While the stories are often fantastical, the characters themselves owe much of their origins and adventures to science, often reflecting cutting-edge science at the time of publication.

DaredevilDaredevil: Vol 1, by Mark Waid,” is a great starting point for the title character. Hit by a radioactive substance as a child, Matt Murdock lost his site but increased his remaining senses to the point where he has radar vision. Mark Waid deftly describes how his remaining senses function, and the art does a good job of demonstrating his powers. (The cover showing different shapes made of sounds is ingenious.)

The “Hulk: Season 1” graphic novel is a great one-shot introduction to the character, and shows how Bruce Banner was turned into the Incredible Hulk during a gamma bomb ground zero test. While Bruce Banner is a man of science, the Hulk is a hero/monster of destruction. Like many characters, radiation is a big factor due to the nuclear threat of the 1960s when many comic heroes debuted.

Batman Science of Batmobiles and BatcyclesBatman Science Books are new to the library! Whether you want to learn the science behind Batman’s utility belt or how his batmobile and batcycle are engineered, these books are for you! You can even find secrets about his costume! Hopefully his rogue’s gallery won’t be reading these books anytime soon…

Fantastic Four: Season 1” graphic novel is another great origin story. See how the Fantastic Four got their powers during a space expedition and why Mr. Fantastic is smartest person in the Marvel universe.

How fast is lightning? Just ask Flash! Police scientist Barry Allen was thrown into chemicals during a lightning explosion, and the world’s fastest speedster was created. There are lots of great Flash graphic novels, but I might start with “The Flash: Volume 1, Move Forward.” Like many superheroes, Flash died and came back (with a pretty respectable gap in-between). To see how he came back to the land of the living, pick up “The Flash: The Rebirth.”

Spider-man origin storyPeter Parker was bitten by a radioactive spider (or sometimes referred to as “genetically-modified spider in more modern comics), and Spider-man was born! There are a ton of excellent graphic novels to choose from…”Spider-man: Season One” is a good origin story, “Spider-man: Blue” is a good character-driven story (especially if you watched 2014′s “Amazing Spider-man 2″ movie), and “Ultimate Spider-man: Volume 1, Power and Responsibility” is the start of a series setting Spider-man’s origin in modern times.

Dark Phoenix SagaMutants are comics’ big exploration of race, prejudice, and discrimination. (Again, X-Men debuted in the 1960s, when race was a much bigger issue.) Sometimes celebrated but more often feared, the X-Men are known by all. There are a LOT of mutants to keep track of, but my library picks are “X-Men: Season One” (obligatory origin story), “X-Men: the Dark Phoenix Saga” (still one of the best X-Men stories after over 30 years), “X-Men: Days of Future Past” (especially if you’re a fan of the 2014 movie), and “Astonishing X-Men: Vol. 1, Gifted” (written by Buffy and Firefly creator Joss Whedon!).

There are tons more science-centric characters out there, such as Atom, Iron Man, Swamp Thing, and many others. Science can be pretty fantastic – whether in real life or in the comics! Enjoy!

Originally published at Books for Dudes – Superhero Science.

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What’s New in Genealogy? DNA and More!

DBRL Next - July 3, 2014

Book cover for Trace Your Roots with DNAIf you are a family historian and wondering what’s going on around Missouri related to genealogy, then consider yourself  lucky. Here are just some of the events happening here in the heart of the country, providing opportunities to learn some new tools, techniques and how-tos.

In Columbia, at 7 p.m. on the first Thursday of each month, is the meeting of the Genealogical Society of Central Missouri. Be sure to check their website to see what topics will be discussed.  There’s always an interesting program at this gathering.

The Columbia Public Library will be hosting a special guest at 7 p.m. on Thursday, July 31 in the Friends room.  The Presenter is Kathleen Brandt, a professional genealogical researcher and lecturer from the Kansas City area.  She will be talking about one of the hottest topics in genealogy – DNA.  Her wit and charm will delight you while you get answers to questions about the test options, how accurate tests are and – the big question – how much testing costs!  This event is free and open to the public.

Starting the very next day is the Missouri State Genealogical Association’s annual conference being held at the Stoney Creek Inn off Providence Road in Columbia. The main speaker for this event is none other than D. Joshua Taylor, a nationally known speaker on the use of technology in genealogy research.  Both D. Joshua Taylor and Kathleen Brandt are professional  researchers who worked on the family histories of some celebrities featured on “Who Do You Think You Are?”  This popular show returns this summer, airing on TLC starting July 23.

The Ozarks Genealogical Society, based in Springfield, Missouri, will be hosting their annual conference September 12 and 13.  Their guest speaker will be none other than Mark Lowe out of Tennessee.  He, too, is a great speaker on genealogical topics – especially migration patterns out of the coastal states into Tennessee and Kentucky and then on into Missouri.

Think about planning to attend one of these events!  It just might help you make your family tree grow. How much more luck do you need?

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Reader Review: Written in My Own Heart’s Blood

DBRL Next - July 3, 2014

Book cover for Written in My Own Heart's BloodWritten in My Own Heart’s Blood” is the eighth installment in Diana Gabaldon’s epic Outlander series. It continues the stories of Claire, a WWII nurse transported mysteriously back in time, her beloved husband Jamie, their daughter Brianna and her husband Roger, as well as the myriad characters readers of Gabaldon’s series have come to know and love. Currently, the series is set in Revolutionary America. The last novel left several open story lines, and readers have rabidly awaited the coming of this novel in order to tie up those horrifyingly loose ends. This novel not only answers the questions left by the last book in the series, but it also advances the story nicely in almost all the open story lines.

I loved this book, mostly because I couldn’t have borne it if it had been bad (and the author is pretty much incapable of writing anything bad). After waiting FOUR LONG YEARS for the book, I inhaled it in 36 hours (and then was left with a terrible book hangover and a dull, aching disappointment that it will be at least another four years before the next one will be written and released).

Three words that describe this book: anxiously-awaited, mammoth, riveting

You might want to pick this book up if:

  • You like really historically accurate fiction.
  • You have read the Outlander series.
  • You like books with tie-ins to movies and TV (The original novel is being turned in to a television series by STARZ and will debut in August).
  • You like books that will draw you in and make you feel as if you’re in another world.
  • Your family won’t mind you putting absolutely everything off while you read.

-Justine

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Reminder for Summer Reading Finishers

DBRLTeen - July 3, 2014

KindleAs part of the Teen Summer Reading Challenge, we have asked area young adults to read for 20 hours, share three book reviews and complete seven fun library-related activities. Beginning Monday, July 7, you can bring your completed punch card to any of our three library branches or bookmobile stops and claim your free book. We will have a wide selection of juvenile and young adult titles for to choose from.

Best of all, if you finish, your name will also be entered into a drawing for a free black and white Kindle eReader! This program is ongoing through August 2, so there is still a month of good reading time left.

Originally published at Reminder for Summer Reading Finishers.

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Life Is not Still

Next Book Buzz - July 2, 2014

Book cover for Still Life With Bread CrumbsI must admit, I’ve never read Anna Quindlen before. I knew that she is a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist and bestselling author, but I never got excited enough to pick up one of her books - until I came across Quindlen’s last: “Still Life With Bread Crumbs.” I didn’t have much time for reading then, but, once I started, I couldn’t stop reading. For one thing, the book was well written. For another, it felt true to life (most of the time, anyway :) ). In other words, the problems of its protagonist, a used-to-be-famous photographer, were something a woman of my age could relate to: aging, caring for feeble parents, a nasty ex-husband and (amazingly!) money trouble.

How often do you read about these subjects and not about depraved murderers, horrible abuse, amnesiacs and such? (By the way, I have never met anybody suffering from the amnesia that is so prevalent in books and movies. Have you?) The money thing, especially, blew my mind. I am used to books where the best way of healing women’s troubles is traveling to exotic places or, at least, to Paris. Which always leaves me with a question: how do people afford such travels? Don’t get me wrong. I have been to Paris, but I spent some time (a lot of time, actually) finding a budget place to stay and tickets I could afford.

Anyway, Quindlen’s heroine had ordinary problems, like many of us do. She was broke, increasingly lonely, and she had lost confidence in herself. It wasn’t a mid-life crisis, either. She was already 60 years old - not at the age when changing one’s life is easy. I know, this doesn’t sound like light summer reading, but Quindlen navigates the rough waters with a gentle but experienced hand, and, in the end, delivers her heroine to a new – and much happier – place. It’s not a quick journey, but it is brightened by the author’s eloquent style, understanding of grace and frailty in everyday life, and a little romance (who can object to that? :) ). All in all, “Still Life With Bread Crumbs” is a very satisfying book that proves that as long as we are alive, life is not still.

The post Life Is not Still appeared first on DBRL Next.

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Life Is not Still

DBRL Next - July 2, 2014

Book cover for Still Life With Bread CrumbsI must admit, I’ve never read Anna Quindlen before. I knew that she is a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist and bestselling author, but I never got excited enough to pick up one of her books - until I came across Quindlen’s last: “Still Life With Bread Crumbs.” I didn’t have much time for reading then, but, once I started, I couldn’t stop reading. For one thing, the book was well written. For another, it felt true to life (most of the time, anyway :) ). In other words, the problems of its protagonist, a used-to-be-famous photographer, were something a woman of my age could relate to: aging, caring for feeble parents, a nasty ex-husband and (amazingly!) money trouble.

How often do you read about these subjects and not about depraved murderers, horrible abuse, amnesiacs and such? (By the way, I have never met anybody suffering from the amnesia that is so prevalent in books and movies. Have you?) The money thing, especially, blew my mind. I am used to books where the best way of healing women’s troubles is traveling to exotic places or, at least, to Paris. Which always leaves me with a question: how do people afford such travels? Don’t get me wrong. I have been to Paris, but I spent some time (a lot of time, actually) finding a budget place to stay and tickets I could afford.

Anyway, Quindlen’s heroine had ordinary problems, like many of us do. She was broke, increasingly lonely, and she had lost confidence in herself. It wasn’t a mid-life crisis, either. She was already 60 years old - not at the age when changing one’s life is easy. I know, this doesn’t sound like light summer reading, but Quindlen navigates the rough waters with a gentle but experienced hand, and, in the end, delivers her heroine to a new – and much happier – place. It’s not a quick journey, but it is brightened by the author’s eloquent style, understanding of grace and frailty in everyday life, and a little romance (who can object to that? :) ). All in all, “Still Life With Bread Crumbs” is a very satisfying book that proves that as long as we are alive, life is not still.

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Reader Review: The Traveler’s Gift

DBRL Next - July 1, 2014

Book cover for The Traveler's Gift by Andy AndrewsThe Traveler’s Gift” is about seven personal qualities worth cultivating to be successful in life and also influence the world around you. David Ponder, an executive who lost his job, insurance, etc., feels lost and useless. After a car accident, David goes on an epic journey, visiting historical figures who give him seven decisions for living that changed his way of thinking. From Anne Frank to King Solomon, Columbus to Harry S.Truman, each person interacts with David and offers wisdom that is relevant to today’s living.

Three words that describe this book: insightful, educational, entertaining

You might want to pick this book up if: You want an easy read, packed with insights to improve daily living. This was a great read-aloud as my dear husband and I drove across the country. This book gives specific instructions on how to incorporate the seven decisions into daily life. A good read!

-Lynn

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2015 Truman Award Nominees

Teen Book Buzz - June 23, 2014

2015 Truman Banner
The Truman Readers Award honors a book that is selected by Missouri junior high students. Even though this award is administered by the Missouri Association of School Librarians (MASL), it is the responsibility of Missouri teens to choose the actual winner. This year’s finalists were announced last December and voting will take place in March 2015. As summer kicks into high gear, consider bringing along one of these titles to enjoy poolside.

Shadow and Bone” by Leigh Bardugo
Orphaned by the Border Wars, Alina Starkov is taken to become the protege of the mysterious Darkling, who trains her to join the magical elete in the beliief that she is the Sun Summoner, who can destroy the monsters of the Fold.

The Raft” by S.A. Bodeen
Robie lives with her family on the Midway Atoll, a group of islands in the Pacific. Returning from a visit to her aunt in Hawaii, her plane hits nasty weather and goes down. Max, the only other survivor, pulls her onto a raft, then the real terror begins. How long can they survive?

Unstoppable” by Tim Green
If anyone understands the phrase “tough luck,” it’s Harrison. As a foster kid in a cruel home, he knows his dream of one day playing for the NFL is long shot. Then his luck seems to change. With new foster parents, he quickly becomes a star running back on the junior high school team. Even so, good luck can’t last forever.

One for the Murphys” by Lynda Mullaly Hunt
After a heartbreaking betrayal, Carley is sent to live with a foster family and struggles with opening herself up to their love.

Elemental” by Antony John
In a dystopian colony of the United States where everyone is born with the powers of water, wind, earth or fire, 16-year-old Thomas is the first and only child born without an element. He seems powerless, but is he?

Insignia” by S.J. Kincaid
Tom, a 14-year-old genius at virtual reality games, is recruited by the U.S. military to begin training at the Pentagon Spire as a combatant in World War III, controlling the mechanized drones that do the actual fighting off-planet.

See You at Harry’s” by Jo Knowles
Twelve-year-old Fern feels invisible in her family, where grumpy 18-year-old Sarah is working at the family restaurant, 14-year-old Holden is struggling with school bullies and his emerging homosexuality, and adorable three-year-old Charlie is always the center of attention. When tragedy strikes, the fragile bond holding the family together is stretched almost to the breaking point.

Ungifted” by Gordon Korman
Due to an administrative mix-up, troublemaker Donovan Curtis is sent to the Academy of Scholastic Distinction, a special program for gifted and talented students, after pulling a major prank in middle school.

Cinder” by Marissa Meyer
As plague ravages the overcrowded Earth, Cinder, a gifted cyborg mechanic, becomes involved with handsome Prince Kai and must uncover secrets about her past in order to protect the world in this futuristic take on the Cinderella story.

The False Prince” by Jennifer A. Nielsen
In the country of Carthya, a devious nobleman engages four orphans in a brutal competition to find an impersonator for the king’s long-missing son and avoid civil war.

Dead City” by James Ponti
Seventh-grader Molly has always been an outsider, even at New York City’s elite Metropolitan Institute of Science and Technology, but that changes when she is recruited to join the Omegas, a secret group that polices and protects zombies.

Curveball: The Year I Lost My Grip” by Jordan Sonnenblick
After an injury ends star pitcher Peter Friedman’s athletic dreams, he concentrates on photography which leads him to a girlfriend, new fame as a high school sports photographer, and a deeper relationship with his beloved grandfather.

Originally published at 2015 Truman Award Nominees.

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