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The Library Buildings Are Closed, but Our Digital Branch Is Always Open

DBRL Next - December 24, 2015

December 24, 25, after noon on December 31 and all day January 1, our buildings are closed and the bookmobiles are parked in the garage, but the digital branch is always open. Below are just a few of the ways you can use the library this holiday or any day. All you need is an active DBRL library card.

Stream five hours of music a day using Freegal (including albums from mega-stars like Adele and Meghan Trainor). Download (and keep forever!) five songs a week.

Start tackling those New Year’s resolutions now and use Transparent Language Online to learn Spanish, German, Russian, Japanese, Turkish and so much more – from Afrikans to Zulu, you can learn a new language with this online resource from your library.

Get some gift cards for Christmas or Hanukkah? Research your purchases using the library’s online subscription to Consumer Reports.

Drowning in stuff? Use Hoopla to download and listen to Marie Kondo’s bestseller, “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.” (Listening to the audiobook will keep your hands free for clutter sorting.)

www.dbrl.org has so much for you to read, listen to, learn and explore, so check out the digital branch. Happy holidays!

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On the Street: Docs About Homelessness

DBRL Next - December 23, 2015

tent city usaHow would you live your life if you didn’t have a home? These documentaries explore various homeless populations and examine the challenges they face in everyday life.

DVD cover art for Dark DaysDark Days” (2000)

For years, a homeless community took root in a train tunnel beneath New York City, braving dangerous conditions and perpetual night. “Dark Days” explores the surprisingly domestic subterranean world, unearthing a way of life unimaginable to those above.

DVD cover art for Kamp KatrinaKamp Katrina” (2007)

Set in post-Katrina New Orleans, Louisiana, this film follows Ms. Pearl, who enthusiastically offers her backyard to the displaced, and ten people immediately move into “Kamp Katrina,” their self-made tent community. She ends up facing many challenges and playing many roles to meet the residents’ needs.

DVD cover art for Tent City USA

Tent City, U.S.A.” (2012)

Nearly 100 homeless individuals have come together to form Nashville’s Tent City. This film explores this community, which is self-sustained and self-governed. The camp has its own council, composed of eight camp residents who meet once a week to discuss residents’ issues.

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Suggested One Read: Our Kids

One Read - December 22, 2015

In January, our One Read reading panel will begin narrowing down the list of more than 100 books nominated for our community-wide reading program. In the meantime, we are highlighting just some of these suggested titles so you can see what other local readers are enjoying.

This year’s list of nominations contains a significantly greater number of nonfiction titles than in past years. Perhaps it is the political climate, with a presidential election looming. And the issues of racism, social justice and gun violence have dominated local news and discussion in the community. Economic disparity and education is another topic front-of-mind for mid-Missourians, and we received more than one nomination for “Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis” by Robert Putnam.

One nominator writes, “Growing socioeconomic inequality is the biggest problem facing our schools, our city and our country today. Putnam’s new book is engaging and compelling and hopefully will call us to action.”

See some of the other titles that have been nominated for One Read 2016.

The post Suggested One Read: Our Kids appeared first on One READ.

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Celebrate Short Fiction

Next Book Buzz - December 21, 2015

“The color of springtime is in the flowers; the color of winter is in the imagination.” – Terri Guillemets

Winter reading is vital to my well-being, a respite from what can feel like eternal night. I was happy to discover December 21, the shortest day of the year in the northern hemisphere, is Celebrate Short Fiction Day. If you’d like to join the festivities, I can give you a few book suggestions:

Book cover for Nothing Gold Can Stay by Ron RashNothing Gold Can Stay” by Ron Rash. This collection of stories centers around the people of Appalachia. “The Trusty” is the kind of tale that can haunt you long after you finish reading it. Set in Depression-era North Carolina, it follows the efforts of a prisoner to escape his chain gang by enlisting the help of a young farm wife who supplies water to the laborers. But all is not as it seems. “Cherokee,” a contemporary story of a young couple trying to win enough money at the casino to pay off their truck, had me holding my breath several times. Rash uses concrete words to explore spiritual and emotional depths, providing vivid mental images of the landscapes and people.

Book cover for The Real and the Unreal by Ursula Le GuinThe Real and the Unreal” is a collection of Ursula K. Le Guin stories in two volumes. The first book contains tales all set on earth, though often in fictional locales. One of them is even titled “Imaginary Countries.” It’s a story of children creating their own world, as children do. “The Direction of the Road” is narrated by an old tree, one that has witnessed the path of human progress, from travelers on horseback resting in its shade to the fatal crashes of speedsters in sports cars. The second volume presents Le Guin’s visions of other worlds. “The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas” is often assigned by high school teachers who want their students to ponder how much each of us is willing to allow another to suffer for our own gain.

Book cover for 100 Years of the Best American Short Stories100 Years of the Best American Short Stories.” Judging by the selections I’ve read, the title of this anthology isn’t hyperbole. Many excellent writers are represented here, from Edna Ferber to Lauren Groff. Seeing George Saunders’ “The Semplica-girl Diaries” – a satirical look at consumer culture as expressed in the competition of children’s birthday parties – listed in the table of contents was enough to prompt me to pick it up. This compilation provides a chance to revisit some old literary favorites and discover new ones.

Book cover for Flash Fiction InternationalFlash Fiction International.” If you’re really pressed for time, this collection is for you. Here are stories you can read in less than five minutes. Every continent is represented, with the exception of Antarctica. Some of the authors amaze me with their ability to portray a character’s entire life in under 1,000 words. Two of my favorite pieces, “Barnes” by Edmundo Paz Soldán and “Idolatry” by Sherman Alexie, are each only one page long. Both authors explore the human craving for recognition, but in different ways.

The post Celebrate Short Fiction appeared first on DBRL Next.

Categories: Book Buzz

Celebrate Short Fiction

DBRL Next - December 21, 2015

“The color of springtime is in the flowers; the color of winter is in the imagination.” – Terri Guillemets

Winter reading is vital to my well-being, a respite from what can feel like eternal night. I was happy to discover December 21, the shortest day of the year in the northern hemisphere, is Celebrate Short Fiction Day. If you’d like to join the festivities, I can give you a few book suggestions:

Book cover for Nothing Gold Can Stay by Ron RashNothing Gold Can Stay” by Ron Rash. This collection of stories centers around the people of Appalachia. “The Trusty” is the kind of tale that can haunt you long after you finish reading it. Set in Depression-era North Carolina, it follows the efforts of a prisoner to escape his chain gang by enlisting the help of a young farm wife who supplies water to the laborers. But all is not as it seems. “Cherokee,” a contemporary story of a young couple trying to win enough money at the casino to pay off their truck, had me holding my breath several times. Rash uses concrete words to explore spiritual and emotional depths, providing vivid mental images of the landscapes and people.

Book cover for The Real and the Unreal by Ursula Le GuinThe Real and the Unreal” is a collection of Ursula K. Le Guin stories in two volumes. The first book contains tales all set on earth, though often in fictional locales. One of them is even titled “Imaginary Countries.” It’s a story of children creating their own world, as children do. “The Direction of the Road” is narrated by an old tree, one that has witnessed the path of human progress, from travelers on horseback resting in its shade to the fatal crashes of speedsters in sports cars. The second volume presents Le Guin’s visions of other worlds. “The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas” is often assigned by high school teachers who want their students to ponder how much each of us is willing to allow another to suffer for our own gain.

Book cover for 100 Years of the Best American Short Stories100 Years of the Best American Short Stories.” Judging by the selections I’ve read, the title of this anthology isn’t hyperbole. Many excellent writers are represented here, from Edna Ferber to Lauren Groff. Seeing George Saunders’ “The Semplica-girl Diaries” – a satirical look at consumer culture as expressed in the competition of children’s birthday parties – listed in the table of contents was enough to prompt me to pick it up. This compilation provides a chance to revisit some old literary favorites and discover new ones.

Book cover for Flash Fiction InternationalFlash Fiction International.” If you’re really pressed for time, this collection is for you. Here are stories you can read in less than five minutes. Every continent is represented, with the exception of Antarctica. Some of the authors amaze me with their ability to portray a character’s entire life in under 1,000 words. Two of my favorite pieces, “Barnes” by Edmundo Paz Soldán and “Idolatry” by Sherman Alexie, are each only one page long. Both authors explore the human craving for recognition, but in different ways.

The post Celebrate Short Fiction appeared first on DBRL Next.

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High-spirited Winter Holiday Cheer

DBRL Next - December 18, 2015

Photo of Irish Coffee, used under a creative commons license via FlickrI’m not a big consumer of alcohol. It’s not that I don’t like beer and wine and other spirits; they just don’t agree with my fair-skinned, allergy-ridden constitution. So instead, I daydream about delicious drinks paired with tasty party foods or holiday meals, and then occasionally make an exception to my habit of avoiding alcohol. With the winter holidays on the verge, I’m about to make one of those exceptions. Eggnog!  I love it – all that luscious heavy cream, frothed with eggs, darkened with rum and/or bourbon (or brandy, depending on the recipe) and tinged with freshly grated nutmeg. Mmmmmm. Really, what’s not to love?!

My mother had a passion for entertaining at Christmas time, and eggnog was on her list of things to make. She would haul her giant crystal punch bowl out from the corner cupboard and fill it with her version of this ambrosial concoction (borrowed from the American Heritage Cookbook – see recipe below), ladling it into matching crystal mugs to serve to the eager crowd.

Book cover for Holiday CocktailsThe winter holidays are right before us, so there is plenty of potential for merry-making with friends and family.  Here at DBRL, we can help you create a menu of delicious winter warm-ups to serve. If you are planning on hosting parties or gatherings, be they large or small, use this handy list of holiday cocktail recipe books to help you scheme. Wishing you a festive winter holiday season – bottoms up!

Old Fashioned Eggnog (from: The American Heritage Cookbook)

12 eggs, separated
1 cup sugar
1 quart milk
2 cups bourbon
1 cup Jamaican rum
1 quart heavy cream, whipped
Nutmeg

Beat egg yolks slightly, add sugar, a little at a time, and continue beating until smooth.  Pour in milk, bourbon and Jamaican rum. Beat egg whites until they stand in peaks. Fold egg whites and whipped cream into yolk mixture, gently but thoroughly. Serve cold with freshly grated nutmeg on top. Serves 25-30.

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Suggested One Read: Dead Wake

One Read - December 17, 2015

Book cover for Dead Wake by Erik LarsonAn area reader has nominated Erik Larson’s “Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania” for One Read 2016. Larson is the author of a number of successful works of narrative nonfiction, including “The Devil in the White City” and “In the Garden of Beasts.”

Our nominator writes, “Larson weaves several stories into one. There is the real-life adventure story of submarines hunting ships and ships avoiding being sunk. It is a human interest story, as we get to know several passengers and crew, many of whom lost their lives. It is a political story. Wilson tried to keep America out of WWI, and Churchill and others urged the U.S. to enter the conflict. It makes the reader think about the complexity of war and what – if any – rules so-called civilized societies should follow in modern warfare. And it a story of class distinctions between the super-wealthy, the working classes and those in-between. ”

Check out the other One Read nominations we’ve highlighted this month.

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Better Know a Genre: Holiday Humor

Next Book Buzz - December 16, 2015

Stack of books by Thomas Galvez via FlickrWelcome to the latest entry in the sporadically occurring series Better Know a Genre. Like many people, I find the holiday season to be more stressful than festive. I have to cook, shop, wrap and plan the order in which I will see all the branches of family (which always means somebody feels disappointed). It doesn’t help my mood that there are about 30 minutes of sunlight in the winter. So, to help lift my spirits, I try to keep my pre-solstice reading light-hearted and funny. Humor is a genre that is both easily defined and broad. It can be fiction or nonfiction. It can run the spectrum from gentle to raunchy (brown chicken brown cow). What one person finds witty, another person can find offensive (that’s the title of my autobiography). Laughter can be intended or unintended, but to be included in the humor genre, the author must be actually attempting to amuse the readers of the work. Here are some funny titles to get through the month:

Book cover for Awkward Family Holiday PhotosWhen you can’t focus because of all the noise: Flip through “Awkward Family Holiday Photos” by Mike Bender. It is a collection of the most ridiculous family pictures taken during the holiday season, and it is spectacular.

When you want to inject some sci-fi into your celebration:A Very Klingon Khristmas,” by Paul Ruditis, is a heart-warming tale of the warrior race in the Star Trek Universe. It’s probably the only Christmas story that includes tribbles.

Book cover for Christmas at the New YorkerWhen you’ve been watching holiday cartoons on a loop and you need to feel like a grown-up:Christmas at the New Yorker: Stories, Poems, Humor, and Art” doesn’t only contain humor, but it’s sprinkled throughout this anthology. Also, John Cheever! Alice Munro! Vladimir Nabakov!

When you need your hands free to wrap, but you also need that holiday humor RIGHT NOW: Log in to your hoopla account and download “NPR Holiday Favorites.” David Sedaris is, of course, a master of the humorous essay (holiday and otherwise), but there are seasonal works by other great NPR contributors, too.

Happy Reading!

The post Better Know a Genre: Holiday Humor appeared first on DBRL Next.

Categories: Book Buzz

Better Know a Genre: Holiday Humor

DBRL Next - December 16, 2015

Stack of books by Thomas Galvez via FlickrWelcome to the latest entry in the sporadically occurring series Better Know a Genre. Like many people, I find the holiday season to be more stressful than festive. I have to cook, shop, wrap and plan the order in which I will see all the branches of family (which always means somebody feels disappointed). It doesn’t help my mood that there are about 30 minutes of sunlight in the winter. So, to help lift my spirits, I try to keep my pre-solstice reading light-hearted and funny. Humor is a genre that is both easily defined and broad. It can be fiction or nonfiction. It can run the spectrum from gentle to raunchy (brown chicken brown cow). What one person finds witty, another person can find offensive (that’s the title of my autobiography). Laughter can be intended or unintended, but to be included in the humor genre, the author must be actually attempting to amuse the readers of the work. Here are some funny titles to get through the month:

Book cover for Awkward Family Holiday PhotosWhen you can’t focus because of all the noise: Flip through “Awkward Family Holiday Photos” by Mike Bender. It is a collection of the most ridiculous family pictures taken during the holiday season, and it is spectacular.

When you want to inject some sci-fi into your celebration:A Very Klingon Khristmas,” by Paul Ruditis, is a heart-warming tale of the warrior race in the Star Trek Universe. It’s probably the only Christmas story that includes tribbles.

Book cover for Christmas at the New YorkerWhen you’ve been watching holiday cartoons on a loop and you need to feel like a grown-up:Christmas at the New Yorker: Stories, Poems, Humor, and Art” doesn’t only contain humor, but it’s sprinkled throughout this anthology. Also, John Cheever! Alice Munro! Vladimir Nabakov!

When you need your hands free to wrap, but you also need that holiday humor RIGHT NOW: Log in to your hoopla account and download “NPR Holiday Favorites.” David Sedaris is, of course, a master of the humorous essay (holiday and otherwise), but there are seasonal works by other great NPR contributors, too.

Happy Reading!

The post Better Know a Genre: Holiday Humor appeared first on DBRL Next.

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Suggested One Read: Cutting for Stone

One Read - December 15, 2015

Book cover for Cutting for StoneWe continue to highlight just some of the more than 100 books nominated for One Read 2016.

Cutting for Stone” by Abraham Verghese has been a favorite of book clubs since its publication in 2009. In the novel, twin brothers born from a secret love affair between an Indian nun and a British surgeon in Ethiopia come of age in a country on the brink of revolution, where their love for the same woman drives them apart.

Our nominator writes that book is “an epic story. . . with politics, mystery, love, family, ethics and medicine – this Ethiopian-born doctor tells a story that is close to his heart, opening the reader’s eyes to third-world lives and medical practices and the heroes who work miracles.”

See some of the other titles that have been nominated for One Read 2016.

The post Suggested One Read: Cutting for Stone appeared first on One READ.

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The Gentleman Recommends: Zachary Thomas Dodson

Next Book Buzz - December 14, 2015

Like most people, I find new books by reading library blogs, or visiting askjeeves.com and typing “please show me a good book,” or perusing the shelves at my local library until I find a book with a cover that seems sufficiently gravy resistant. Occasionally though, a human will recommend a book. Such is the case with this month’s recommendation: a colleague said “Bats of the Republic” sounded like one of the weird books I like. I tipped my hat, gave my monocle a friendly shake and asked Jeeves about this weird book. (I’m compelled to note that while I do often enjoy literary oddities, in general my tastes lean to the conventional, and I have the crystal decanter collection to prove it.) Jeeves obliged and showed me a picture of the author’s tremendous mustache (or perhaps the mustache’s tremendous author?). I swooned, such was my joy at finding a novel so presumably suited to my tastes. After a quick trip to the market for a crystal decanter or two, I eagerly set to reading the words birthed by such an inspiring swatch of follicles.

Bats of the Republic” is subtitled “an Illuminated Novel,” which, rather than meaning it is self-lit, perhaps by a series of small magic candles, means that it is fancy. This fanciness includes handwritten correspondence, maps, illustrations from a character’s burgeoning field guide and there being a book within the book (though that is not exactly accurate, but to explain it entirely, to make this sentence make some sense, would subtract from the book’s delights). “Bats of the Republic” is set in a future where most of society has crumbled,  steam has replaced electricity, and the freedom to live where you want if you can afford it is replaced by a government-mandated life cycle (young, single people live in Port Land, the elderly live in Chicago, gay people live in Atlanta, couples and crazy sheriffs live in Texas, etc). The novel opens with Zachary Thomas (the character, not the author after having shed the final third of his name) slashing a steam tube with his sabre in an effort to vent his emotions and some steam. Zachary finds a letter labeled “Do Not Open.” The letter goes missing. Someone or something is murdering people. It is illegal to possess a pencil or a document that hasn’t been carboned and entered into the vault. Laudanum is plentiful.

The book within a book is called “The Sisters Gray,” and it is the sort of 19th century novel of manners you would expect from a man with magnificently cultivated facial hair. Its pages are marked by a hole, which we eventually discover is the result of its having stopped a bullet on behalf of a character that exists within the world of “The Sisters Gray.” (Indeed, this may prove a most confounding reading experience.)

The stories within “Bats of the Republic” twist and meet in ways that may compel the reader to sit for a spell and think, their hands running idly over the nearly imperceptible imperfections in their newest decanter. A final bit of fancy: The book ends with a sealed envelope labeled “Do Not Open.” I did not abide, and neither should you. Here’s hoping the letter is always returned with the book. If you enjoy being confounded, my recommendation is to read the novel soon, before the letter is lost or ruined by gravy stains.

The post The Gentleman Recommends: Zachary Thomas Dodson appeared first on DBRL Next.

Categories: Book Buzz

The Gentleman Recommends: Zachary Thomas Dodson

DBRL Next - December 14, 2015

Like most people, I find new books by reading library blogs, or visiting askjeeves.com and typing “please show me a good book,” or perusing the shelves at my local library until I find a book with a cover that seems sufficiently gravy resistant. Occasionally though, a human will recommend a book. Such is the case with this month’s recommendation: a colleague said “Bats of the Republic” sounded like one of the weird books I like. I tipped my hat, gave my monocle a friendly shake and asked Jeeves about this weird book. (I’m compelled to note that while I do often enjoy literary oddities, in general my tastes lean to the conventional, and I have the crystal decanter collection to prove it.) Jeeves obliged and showed me a picture of the author’s tremendous mustache (or perhaps the mustache’s tremendous author?). I swooned, such was my joy at finding a novel so presumably suited to my tastes. After a quick trip to the market for a crystal decanter or two, I eagerly set to reading the words birthed by such an inspiring swatch of follicles.

Bats of the Republic” is subtitled “an Illuminated Novel,” which, rather than meaning it is self-lit, perhaps by a series of small magic candles, means that it is fancy. This fanciness includes handwritten correspondence, maps, illustrations from a character’s burgeoning field guide and there being a book within the book (though that is not exactly accurate, but to explain it entirely, to make this sentence make some sense, would subtract from the book’s delights). “Bats of the Republic” is set in a future where most of society has crumbled,  steam has replaced electricity, and the freedom to live where you want if you can afford it is replaced by a government-mandated life cycle (young, single people live in Port Land, the elderly live in Chicago, gay people live in Atlanta, couples and crazy sheriffs live in Texas, etc). The novel opens with Zachary Thomas (the character, not the author after having shed the final third of his name) slashing a steam tube with his sabre in an effort to vent his emotions and some steam. Zachary finds a letter labeled “Do Not Open.” The letter goes missing. Someone or something is murdering people. It is illegal to possess a pencil or a document that hasn’t been carboned and entered into the vault. Laudanum is plentiful.

The book within a book is called “The Sisters Gray,” and it is the sort of 19th century novel of manners you would expect from a man with magnificently cultivated facial hair. Its pages are marked by a hole, which we eventually discover is the result of its having stopped a bullet on behalf of a character that exists within the world of “The Sisters Gray.” (Indeed, this may prove a most confounding reading experience.)

The stories within “Bats of the Republic” twist and meet in ways that may compel the reader to sit for a spell and think, their hands running idly over the nearly imperceptible imperfections in their newest decanter. A final bit of fancy: The book ends with a sealed envelope labeled “Do Not Open.” I did not abide, and neither should you. Here’s hoping the letter is always returned with the book. If you enjoy being confounded, my recommendation is to read the novel soon, before the letter is lost or ruined by gravy stains.

The post The Gentleman Recommends: Zachary Thomas Dodson appeared first on DBRL Next.

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2016 March Madness Finalists Announced

DBRLTeen - December 14, 2015

2016 March Madness Teen Book TournamentA new season of book rivalries has begun. Beginning January 7, you may vote for your favorite titles from a pool of the 32 most popular teen books of the year. Your votes will narrow down the list to the 2016 Mid-Missouri teen book champion.

For added excitement, each round you vote, your name will be entered into a drawing for a chance to win cool prizes like free book sets or a Barnes & Noble gift  card. March Madness is open to all teens ages 12-18 who live in either Boone or Callaway County, Missouri.

How It Works:
  • Round 1: VOTE NOW through February 21 for the Sweet 16.
  • Round 2: Vote March 3-8 for the Elite 8.
  • Round 3: Vote March 10-15 for the Final 4.
  • Round 4: Vote March 17-22 for the final two contending titles.
  • Round 5: March 24-April 5 for the book tournament champion.
  • April 8: The champion is announced!

Each round that you vote, your name is entered into our prize drawing! Limit one ballot per person, per round.

March Madness Teen Book Tournament Finalists

Originally published at 2016 March Madness Finalists Announced.

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New DVD List: Better Call Saul & More

DBRL Next - December 11, 2015

better call saul s1Here is a new DVD list highlighting various titles recently added to the library’s collection.

DVD cover art for Better call saul Better Call Saul
Season 1
WebsiteReviews
A spinoff from the “Breaking Bad” television show, “Better Call Saul” takes place six years before the events of “Breaking Bad” and follows small-time lawyer Jimmy McGill and the circumstances that lead to his metamorphosis into criminal-minded lawyer Saul Goodman.

DVD cover art for documentary going clearGoing Clear” 

Trailer / Website / Reviews
Playing earlier this year at the True False Film Fest, this film profiles eight former members of the Church of Scientology – whose most prominent adherents include A-list Hollywood celebrities – shining a light on how the church cultivates true believers, detailing their experiences and what they are willing to do in the name of religion.

DVD cover art for nurse jackie television showNurse Jackie
Season 7
Website / Reviews
Nurse Jackie Peyton faces her biggest challenge yet as the whole truth about her addiction is seemingly out to everyone. The stakes have never been higher and the question is, can the world’s toughest nurse save herself?

DVD cover art for documentary film the only real gameThe Only Real Game
Trailer / Website / Reviews
The once princely state of Manipur, in volatile northeast India, has a surprising passion for America’s national pastime. Manipur entered the Indian Union under protest in 1949, triggering a corrosive separatist conflict. For decades baseball has delivered release from daily struggles and a dream for healing a wounded society.

Other notable releases:
Althea” –
Website / Reviews / Trailer
The Peaky Blinders” –
Series 1Website / Reviews
The New Rijksmuseum – Website / Reviews / Trailer
Doctor Who” 
 – Series 9, Part 1 – Website / Reviews

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Suggested One Read: Life on the Mississippi

One Read - December 10, 2015

Book cover for Life on the MississippiEvery year we get a handful of nominations of books widely considered classics: “1984” by George Orwell, “The Grapes of Wrath” by John Steinbeck or “Their Eyes Were Watching God” by Zora Neale Hurston, for example. This year is no different.

Mark Twain’s “Life on the Mississippi” combines history of the great river and the decline of the steamboat era with memoir-like tales of Twain’s life as a young man, before he became a writer. This book showcases Twain’s gift for descriptive prose, keen wit, talent for telling a tall tale and firm grasp of history, economics and politics. Our nominator says, “This sprawling collection of Twain’s memories from apprentice river boat pilot to his later river travels would be an appropriate One Read by perhaps our best known American author.”

Read about the other titles mid-Missouri readers nominated for One Read 2016.

The post Suggested One Read: Life on the Mississippi appeared first on One READ.

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Human Rights Day 2015

DBRL Next - December 9, 2015

Book cover for Where Do We Go From Here by Martin Luther King, Jr.In 1950, the UN General Assembly proclaimed December 10 Human Rights Day in order to highlight the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as “the common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations.” Now, I think that is a really great idea. Human rights – everyone should have them and they should be protected.

But what exactly is meant by “human rights”? In trying to answer that question I have learned that there are two types of rights: rights that are essential for a dignified and decent human existence, and rights which are essential for adequate development of human personality. Rights under the first category include the right to fulfillment of basic human needs like food, shelter, clothing, health and sanitation, and earning one’s livelihood. The second category of human rights includes the right to freedom of speech and expression, as well as cultural, religious and educational rights. Whew! I’m glad we’ve gotten that straight! I’m sure the book “The International Human Rights Movement: A History” could help explain the concept a lot more.

Book cover for Active HopeIt would be easy to get hung up on all the small stuff – and all the big stuff! There seems to be so much chaos and turmoil these days, both far away and close to home, and all affecting or having to do in one way or another with human rights. It feels as though the world is coming apart at the seams. But with this blog post, I wanted to focus on the positive because I feel like we could all just use a hug these days, even if it’s only a metaphorical or literary hug. So I went searching for books to give me a me a sense of hope in our communities, both local and global, and in our shared future.

The first book I found was the classic, “Where Do We Go From Here? Chaos or Community” by Martin Luther King, Jr.  I have had this book on my “to-read” list for a very long time, and perhaps it’s time to move it up because his “dream” is still far from reality. Perhaps one way of making that dream a reality would be through forgiveness, and the book “Triumph of the Heart: Forgiveness in an Unforgiving World” by Megan Feldman Bettencourt could help in that quest.

Book cover for Keeping Hope Alive by Doctor Hawa AbdiI also found many books about inspiring people in war torn areas, like the book “Keeping Hope Alive: One Woman, 90,000 Lives Changed.” This book tells the story of Dr. Hawa Abdi who has dedicated herself to helping people whose lives have been shattered by violence and poverty by turning her 1,300 acres of farmland into a camp just outside of Mogadishu. There is also the book “Mighty Be Our Powers: How Sisterhood, Prayer and Sex Changed a Nation at War” about Leymah Gbowee. This remarkable woman founded the Liberian Mass Action for Peace, “a coalition of Christian and Muslim women who sat in public protest, confronting Liberia’s ruthless president and rebel warlords, and even held a sex strike.”

Then there were books to give me hope for peace in the world. “Soup for Syria: Building Peace Through Food” sounds very promising. It actually reminds me of a book I read several years ago called “Peace Meals: Candy Wrapped Kalashnikovs and Other War Stories.” And I think we could all use more peace through good food.

But what can I do? Wendell Berry has always been an inspiration for me, and he has a new book called “Our Only World: Ten Essays,” which calls for “clear thinking” and “direct action.” There is also President Carter’s “A Call to Action: Women, Religion, Violence and Power.” Carter addresses the violence, patriarchy and abuse that can be found in religion without denying his own religion, which I deeply respect. And then there is “The Art of Waging Peace: A Strategic Approach to Improving Our Lives and the World,” which promises to show us “how we can become active citizens with the skills and strength to defeat injustice and end all war.” That’s a tall order, but I’m willing to give it a go!

Here are some more books (and some DVDs) for further reading.

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Staff Review: The Walled City by Ryan Graudin

DBRLTeen - December 9, 2015

The Walled City by Ryan GraudinWhy I Checked It Out: I’d never heard of this book before, and honestly, the cover isn’t overly compelling. It’s just black and red text that says “The Walled City.” But, then I opened the front cover and read, “730. That’s how many days I’ve been trapped. 18. That’s how many days I have left to find a way out,” and I was invested. Done. I had to read it.

What It’s About: The premise for this story is based upon a real place: Kowloon Walled City in Hong Kong. It is considered the densest human settlement on earth with 33,000 people living within the space of one city block. It was rife with prostitution, gambling and drug trafficking, and was eventually demolished in 1994. Obviously, the author has taken a few liberties, but her story isn’t too far from the truth.

The tale follows three teens. Dai, a drug trafficker, is hunting his own demons. Jin is a girl who pretends to be a boy in order to survive gang life. She is constantly in search of her sister, Mei Yee, who has been sold to a brothel. All three are seeking escape.

Okay, this book is dark–its pages are saturated with dark themes. This title is definitely for older teens. That being said though, this book is different than anything else I’ve read in 2015, and I found that refreshing.

What I Liked About It: I haven’t read a lot of books with alternating viewpoints, so that was another reason I was interested in “The Walled City.” Each character has a strong voice and I fell in love with their stories, cheering them on. There is a lot of action, and the writing style is set up with short abrupt sentences which help to pull you forward. The world touches on being fantastical by its otherworldly nature, but when you realize a place like this existed, it only makes you more intrigued.

Similar Titles: Of course because I read fantasy, I want to recommend fantasy titles, but I’ll try to mix it up. If you enjoy the sister connection, you might try “Atlantia” by Ally Condie. If you like the dark and gritty nature, look into “The Bodies We Wear” by Jeyn Roberts. And, if you like the fantasy, try “Salt and Storm” by Kendall Kulper.

Originally published at Staff Review: The Walled City by Ryan Graudin.

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Suggested One Read: Between the World and Me

One Read - December 8, 2015

Book cover for Between the World and MeWhile nominations for the 2016 One Read program are now closed, we are highlighting just some of the titles area readers think the community should read together. Next up is a book that received several nominations: the National Book Award-winner, “Between the World and Me” by Ta-Nehisi Coates.

Framed as an extended letter to his teen-aged son,  Coates describes in language both lyrical and powerful what it is like to inhabit a black body in this country. One nominator writes, “A thoughtful, well-written book/memoir about race in America by a writer for the Atlantic magazine. It could serve as a foundation for a community discussion on race relations – extremely topical, especially with current issues at MU and nationwide.”

Check out what others in your community are reading and enjoying!

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The Art of Letter Writing

Next Book Buzz - December 7, 2015

Photo of a letter and pen by Ryan BlandingMy brother Michael and I were born about 16 months apart and have always been very close. When we started our adventures away from home, in the early 1990s, we began a series of correspondence by letter that has continued to this day. Back in the early days, we wrote each other once or even twice a week. We continue to correspond by pen and paper, although less frequently than in our youth, as we still live half a continent apart. Considered a “lost art” by many, both of us uphold the art of letter writing as communication, solace and even therapy. The library has many books about letter writing, and what better time to celebrate than December 7 – National Letter Writing Day!

Book cover for If you Find This LetterFor the author Hannah Brencher, letter writing was found to be an elixir for melancholy, leading her to pen the book “If You Find This Letter: My Journey to Find Purpose through Hundreds of Letters to Strangers.”  The premise is especially captivating: Brencher started a website called “The World Needs More Letters” so that she might reach out beyond herself and connect with others, while attempting to recover from her bouts with serious depression. Thus began a campaign to spread love and well-wishes to strangers throughout the world. Brencher writes, after getting the project off the ground: “The stories kept coming. They keep coming very day. And with each one I read, there is less urgency to tie the thing up with a white bow or look for the happy ending.” You can find her website here: www.moreloveletters.com.

Uncertainty about engaging in this seemingly lost art might keep some people from writing. For encouragement, look no further than the book “The Art of the Personal Letter” by Margaret Shepherd. In chapters like “The Tools of the Trade,” Shepherd helps guide readers toward rewarding letter writing experiences. “Once you see how much easier it is to write with a roller-ball pen or marker, and how much better the script looks, you might be inspired to go one step further and explore the traditional look and feel of a fountain pen,” she writes. Included in the book are examples of real letters, samples of good penmanship and formats for “better document design.”

Book cover for The Love of LettersFor the Love of Letters: The Joy of Slow Communication,” written in 2012 by John O’Connell, is an exuberant celebration of the art. Using historical examples of the form from dozens of famous and not so famous Englishmen (O’Connell is British himself), he goes on to say, “letters shape and define lives. They also encapsulate them much more effectively than biography because they show rather than tell us what a person was like.”  O’Connell also takes a long look at the letters produced during wartime, and how these particular letters often were the “only way to stay in touch with fathers, sons and brothers who had been posted abroad.”

Speaking of war – please see “Conkrite’s War: His World War II Letters Home.” Compiled by Walter Conkrite IV and Maurice Isserman, the book is a collection of correspondence by the then obscure 23-year-old United Press wire service reporter. His grandson, Conkrite IV, says in the introduction to the book, “The effect that World War II had on my grandfather was profound – and provided the foundation for the rest of his illustrious career.” Attached as a reporter to the 8th Air Force, Cronkite’s letters are at times filled with loneliness and longing for his life in America. Cronkite writes in January of 1944: “My precious Betsy,  Here it is Betsymas Eve (referring to his wife’s upcoming birthday) and we are still apart and I am very lonely and unhappy. How much I would like to be with you on your birthday . . .” Interestingly, because of the sensitive nature of many of his assignments, most of his correspondence did not disclose his location or exact whereabouts.

Finally, one must not forget love letters. An especially touching volume, “The Love Letters of Elizabeth Barrett and Robert Browning,” is found on our shelves. Browning writes in an early epistle: “Your letter made me so happy, dear Miss Barrett, that I have kept quiet this while: is it too great a shame if I begin to want more good news of you, and to say so?” Their letters are filled with longing but also with practical concerns as they were written in secret, mainly because of her demonstrative and abusive father.  Elizabeth eventually married Browning and was subsequently disinherited.

Write a letter or two this month – to a loved one or even a stranger. You will feel better for it and help uphold this meaningful and very personal form of communication that has survived the centuries.

photo credit: Studio V2 via photopin (license)

The post The Art of Letter Writing appeared first on DBRL Next.

Categories: Book Buzz

The Art of Letter Writing

DBRL Next - December 7, 2015

Photo of a letter and pen by Ryan BlandingMy brother Michael and I were born about 16 months apart and have always been very close. When we started our adventures away from home, in the early 1990s, we began a series of correspondence by letter that has continued to this day. Back in the early days, we wrote each other once or even twice a week. We continue to correspond by pen and paper, although less frequently than in our youth, as we still live half a continent apart. Considered a “lost art” by many, both of us uphold the art of letter writing as communication, solace and even therapy. The library has many books about letter writing, and what better time to celebrate than December 7 – National Letter Writing Day!

Book cover for If you Find This LetterFor the author Hannah Brencher, letter writing was found to be an elixir for melancholy, leading her to pen the book “If You Find This Letter: My Journey to Find Purpose through Hundreds of Letters to Strangers.”  The premise is especially captivating: Brencher started a website called “The World Needs More Letters” so that she might reach out beyond herself and connect with others, while attempting to recover from her bouts with serious depression. Thus began a campaign to spread love and well-wishes to strangers throughout the world. Brencher writes, after getting the project off the ground: “The stories kept coming. They keep coming very day. And with each one I read, there is less urgency to tie the thing up with a white bow or look for the happy ending.” You can find her website here: www.moreloveletters.com.

Uncertainty about engaging in this seemingly lost art might keep some people from writing. For encouragement, look no further than the book “The Art of the Personal Letter” by Margaret Shepherd. In chapters like “The Tools of the Trade,” Shepherd helps guide readers toward rewarding letter writing experiences. “Once you see how much easier it is to write with a roller-ball pen or marker, and how much better the script looks, you might be inspired to go one step further and explore the traditional look and feel of a fountain pen,” she writes. Included in the book are examples of real letters, samples of good penmanship and formats for “better document design.”

Book cover for The Love of LettersFor the Love of Letters: The Joy of Slow Communication,” written in 2012 by John O’Connell, is an exuberant celebration of the art. Using historical examples of the form from dozens of famous and not so famous Englishmen (O’Connell is British himself), he goes on to say, “letters shape and define lives. They also encapsulate them much more effectively than biography because they show rather than tell us what a person was like.”  O’Connell also takes a long look at the letters produced during wartime, and how these particular letters often were the “only way to stay in touch with fathers, sons and brothers who had been posted abroad.”

Speaking of war – please see “Conkrite’s War: His World War II Letters Home.” Compiled by Walter Conkrite IV and Maurice Isserman, the book is a collection of correspondence by the then obscure 23-year-old United Press wire service reporter. His grandson, Conkrite IV, says in the introduction to the book, “The effect that World War II had on my grandfather was profound – and provided the foundation for the rest of his illustrious career.” Attached as a reporter to the 8th Air Force, Cronkite’s letters are at times filled with loneliness and longing for his life in America. Cronkite writes in January of 1944: “My precious Betsy,  Here it is Betsymas Eve (referring to his wife’s upcoming birthday) and we are still apart and I am very lonely and unhappy. How much I would like to be with you on your birthday . . .” Interestingly, because of the sensitive nature of many of his assignments, most of his correspondence did not disclose his location or exact whereabouts.

Finally, one must not forget love letters. An especially touching volume, “The Love Letters of Elizabeth Barrett and Robert Browning,” is found on our shelves. Browning writes in an early epistle: “Your letter made me so happy, dear Miss Barrett, that I have kept quiet this while: is it too great a shame if I begin to want more good news of you, and to say so?” Their letters are filled with longing but also with practical concerns as they were written in secret, mainly because of her demonstrative and abusive father.  Elizabeth eventually married Browning and was subsequently disinherited.

Write a letter or two this month – to a loved one or even a stranger. You will feel better for it and help uphold this meaningful and very personal form of communication that has survived the centuries.

photo credit: Studio V2 via photopin (license)

The post The Art of Letter Writing appeared first on DBRL Next.

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