Literary Links: The Supreme Court

Posted on Sunday, September 9, 2018 by cs

Supreme Court

With Justice Anthony Kennedy’s retirement, there has been much debate about the role of the Supreme Court of the United States in shaping American policy and whether the process of appointing new justices has become too politicized. Are these new characteristics of the court or have they always been a part of the equation? The Supreme Court was established in 1789 and first convened in 1790. It had no real home and little prestige during the first 10 years of its existence. Pivotal to the court’s growth of power and status was the appointment of Chief Justice John James Marshall in 1801. During his tenure, the court made several important rulings including Marbury v. Madison and McCulloch v. Maryland. In the decades since, the status and influence of the court has continued to grow.

The history of the court and how it became the influential entity it is today is explored in Richard J. Regan’s “A Constitutional History of the U.S. Supreme Court.” Regan’s factual approach offers a concise overview of the court’s history through biographies of justices and chapters on pivotal cases with highlights of concurring and dissenting opinions. Readers should gain a comprehensive understanding of the court’s history and its role in society.

Joel Richard Paul takes a more intimate approach to the court’s growth with his animated biography on one of the most influential justices, John Marshall. “Without Precedent: Chief Justice John Marshall and His Times” provides a comprehensive picture of Marshall’s life. Paul’s focus on Marshall’s career before his appointment to the court sets the foundation for the visionary role he assumed. The author describes Marshall’s life and decisions on the court within the social and cultural context of the time period. Although the book is over 500 pages, it is written in an approachable and straightforward manner.

Also fascinating is the complex and layered process required for a case to actually be heard by the Supreme Court. Richard Kluger’s iconic “Simple JusticeSimple Justice lays out the definitive history of the landmark case, Brown v. the Board of Education. With comprehensive clarity, Kluger illustrates the painstaking process of setting precedents, case by case, to finally culminate in the supreme legal challenge to current law. Kluger covers each step of the process within the psychosocial arena of race and culture that permeated each legal endeavor. Although this is nonfiction, it reads like a novel and has fascinating information about the parties involved with a particular focus on the work of Thurgood Marshall (the first African American Supreme Court Justice), Charles Houston and William Hastie.

For those who question the court’s ability to remain impartial, former assistant U.S. attorney James D. Zirin’s “Supremely Partisan” offers a wealth of information about its history and what he believes is the inherently partisan nature of the court. Zirin argues that the politicization of the court has made it a much sought after tool to turn ideology and personal beliefs into permanent law. It is written for the lay reader and provides a history of the court with many interesting stories about specific cases and court personalities.

Melvin I.Urofsky’s “Dissent and the Supreme Court: Its Role in the Court’s History and the Nation’s Constitutional Dialogue” is a timely presentation focusing on the power of dissent and its role in influencing U.S. domestic policy and constitutional dialogue. It is at once a history of the court and a fascinating look at the personalities of the justices and their dissenting opinions. Urofsky shows the importance of dissenting opinions and their effect as a catalyst in awakening and/or revitalizing social and political ideologies.

Court and the World

Erwin Chemerinsky enters the debate about the need to overhaul the Supreme Court in “The Case Against the Supreme Court.” Chemerinsky provides a scholarly argument against the historical and present day court. He outlines a history of what he perceives as missed opportunities and errors tied to current morality and politics. He argues that judicial decisions are inherently biased based on each justice’s personal and political leanings. He completes this book with suggested changes that would limit the effects of this bias and increase the functionality and objectivity of the court.

Finally, in “The Court and the World,” Justice Stephen G. Breyer emphasizes the need for an increased understanding of foreign law in our legal system. In a world made smaller and more connected by technology, as well as political and economic relationships, Breyer points out that the Supreme Court rulings are increasingly impacted by foreign law. The number of cases with foreign and international connections will continue to grow and our laws and Supreme Court justices must adapt.


Image credit: dog97209The Supreme Court of the United States Washington DC via Flickr (license)

Too Hot to Turn on the Oven!

Posted on Friday, July 27, 2018 by cs

Anyone receive one of those new electric pressure cookers for Christmas? Still haven’t tried it? Now might be the best time to give it a go. With the ability to sauté, steam, slow and pressure cook (among other functions), you can make almost anything without heating up the kitchen. The icing on the cake? Only having one pot to wash out when you are done.

I did receive one for Christmas, but it took me a few weeks to try it. I grew up hearing pressure cooker horror stories — lids flying off and putting holes in ceilings, serious burns and huge messes. Needless to say, I was a little intimidated. I tried my first recipe with the oversight of a nuclear scientist handling an extremely volatile substance. And all it took was one recipe to make me a believer. I took kidney beans from dry to thoroughly cooked in 30 minutes. Unbelievable! So as the summer heat forces a more pared-down style of meal preparation, I encourage you to check out some of the books below to begin your love affair with minimalist cooking and electric pressure cookers. Continue reading “Too Hot to Turn on the Oven!”

Need a Job? We Can Help!

Posted on Friday, July 20, 2018 by cs

Career Fair

Whether you are just beginning a job search or in the middle of one, DBRL has a multitude of resources to assist you.

Here are a few basic tips for job hunting:

  • Cologne, scented hand lotion and aftershave can be a major distraction in an interview situation. The prospective employer might be turned off by the scent and your chance of leaving a good impression is greatly diminished.
  • Taking the time to practice responding to possible questions can really help during the actual interview, particularly if you get nervous during these types of situations. There are a multitude of published resources in the library and online that can give you common interview questions and good responses.  Practicing out loud — even writing down questions and responses — will help you if you suddenly get the deer-in-the-headlights feeling.
  • Most interviews involve some type of question about your strengths and weaknesses as an employee. Make sure your responses are specific to that particular job and you have examples of experiences that highlight your strengths. When talking about a weakness, be sure to also include what steps you have taken to improve that particular skill set.
  • Many companies (even smaller ones) use digital databases to search for candidates. This means that a human resource department will run search queries based on specific keywords. If those words are not found, your resume will be tossed without being seen by anyone.
  • If an employer states that they want a team player, make sure your resume and cover letter highlight specific experiences that show this characteristic.Anything you claim in a cover letter or resume should be backed up by actual experience.

Continue reading “Need a Job? We Can Help!”

A Mystery By a Person of Color or LGBTQ+: Read Harder 2018

Posted on Wednesday, June 6, 2018 by cs

As I am writing this blog, sheets of rain are pouring down — the perfect time to talk about or read a mystery. Read Harder 2018 challenges you to read a mystery by a person of color and/or a LGTBQ author, and I have a few to recommend. We have a more extensive list in our catalog if none of these make you want to curl up under your covers with a cup of hot tea.

Land of Shadows book coverIf you like the mystery genre, but feel the stories are all starting to sound the same, try Rachel Howzell Hall’s “The Land of Shadows.” Hall begins this series about Detective Lou Norton, a female detective who is investigating the death of a 17-year-old girl in gritty South Los Angeles. The death of this girl strangely mirrors the disappearance of Norton’s teenage sister 25 years ago. The author really shines in the development of her characters and the community in which they live. With snappy dialogue, brisk pacing and just enough plot twists, this is a refreshing new voice in the police procedural. Continue reading “A Mystery By a Person of Color or LGBTQ+: Read Harder 2018”

YA and Middle Grade Book Series: Read Harder Challenge 2018

Posted on Friday, March 23, 2018 by cs

Everyone has a favorite type of book … it could be the genre, a certain style of writing, a particular setting or book theme. The Read Harder Challenge asks you to step out of your comfort zone (or as I like to call it — my rut) and try a different type of book. One of the challenges is to read the first book in a new-to-you young adult or juvenile series — a collection that I have never been drawn to, except for Harry Potter, of course! (Don’t ask me how many times I have read those books!) I have selected a few for you to try out. You can also look at the list in our catalog for other options.

Whether or not you are a fan of fantasy, Maggie Stiefvater’s first novel in the Raven Cycle series is sure to please. Raven Boys book coverOne of my struggles with fantasy is often the characters don’t seem believable. However, it was easy for me to connect with Stiefvater’s characters and the plot line in the first book of the series, “The Raven Boys.” Blue, the main character, comes from a family of clairvoyants with her only talent being that she can increase the gifts of others with her special energy. The story takes off when she meets Gansey and his group of friends who attend a private boy’s school in town. She is drawn to Gansey and his quest to find a specific ley line to the resting place of Glendower. It is rumored that if he wakes Glendower one wish will be granted. Also central to the story is Blue’s curse: if she kisses her true love he will die, which makes her attraction for Gansey fraught with tension. Continue reading “YA and Middle Grade Book Series: Read Harder Challenge 2018”

Literary Links: Great First Lines

Posted on Sunday, September 10, 2017 by cs

“Call me Ishmael.” The first sentence in Herman Melville’sMoby Dick” is considered one of the greatest opening lines for a novel. Other classics often cited for their great opening lines include “The Catcher in the Rye” by J.D. Salinger and Jane Austen’sPride and Prejudice.” So, what makes an opening line great? Stephen King reflected on this in a 2013 interview with Joe Fassler: “An opening line should invite the reader to begin the story. It should say: Listen. Come in here. You want to know about this.” Here are a few contemporary novels whose first lines manage to do just that.

Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry book cover“The letter that would change everything arrived on a Tuesday.” So begins the novel “The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry” by Rachel Joyce. Immediately, I found myself wondering what was in the letter, who wrote the letter and to whom it was written. I had to keep reading to find the answers to these questions. In this novel, the author examines the concepts of hope and redemption with a charming tale of a retired husband and father who takes a unique, impulsive and circuitous journey to fulfill a self-imposed quest to aid a dying woman. The story it captures is both poignant and humorous.

Jeanne Ray begins her novel, “Calling Invisible Women,” with “I first noticed I was missing on a Thursday.” This provocative sentence leads into a story about a wife and mother in her fifties who feels invisible to her family and the world around her. Her only worth seems to be in the services she provides — cooking dinner, doing the laundry and keeping the house clean. Imagine her surprise when she wakes up one Thursday to find herself physically invisible, but no one seems to notice. Ray uses a satirical voice to explore middle age, family dynamics and a woman’s role in modern society. Continue reading “Literary Links: Great First Lines”

Learning a New Language at Your Library

Posted on Wednesday, May 17, 2017 by cs

I recently decided to relearn the French language — not that I was incredibly fluent in the first place, but I had taken five years and could cobble together a conversation. However, that was almost 40 years ago. So I enrolled in an adult immersion class at a local school and tried the intermediate section. Although I was surprised at how much I understood (in context, or course), participating in a conversation was equivalent to me staring blankly into headlights. I was trying to call up the appropriate vocabulary words, the right verb conjugation and whether I should use the masculine or feminine version — all at the same time. It was quite a lot to ask my almost 60 year old brain to handle. After a few classes, I realized I was in over my head and decided to postpone until the beginners class started again in the fall. Yet, I didn’t want to let more time further obliterate what little French I still held on to.

French Playaway coverWhat could I do in the meantime? I decided it would be good to work on building my vocabulary and pronunciation skills. I had a long drive coming up, and so I found myself in the language section of our library. There I found shelves of books and audiovisual materials on languages ranging from French to Korean. I picked up what appeared to be some fairly basic vocabulary and speaking skill books with corresponding CDs. I also checked out some downloadable audiobooks to augment my limited grasp of the language. Armed with my audiobooks, I set out on my two hour drive. Continue reading “Learning a New Language at Your Library”

Knowledge at Your Fingertips: Encyclopedias Offered at Your Library

Posted on Friday, April 7, 2017 by cs

Last month, our book club read “The Prizewinner of Defiance, Ohio,” a memoir about a struggling family in the 1950s and a mother who enters contests to augment the family’s income. Our conversation about the book morphed into a discussion of what those times were like. It was a time when “housewives” were courted to submit jingles for popular products, when radio broadcasts and newspapers were still the main source of information about the world and traveling salesmen were regular visitors to households around America. Salesmen went door to door selling everything from “Fuller Brushes” to encyclopedias.

I didn’t anticipate how animated the discussion would become around our memories of using encyclopedias — for doing homework, looking at the sometimes exotic pictures and just the sense of pride over a family owning their own set. Encyclopedia sets were displayed proudly, and usually in a prominent place, in the home. I can remember how fascinating it was to turn each page and see information and beautiful pictures on a variety of subjects. It probably wasn’t that dissimilar to the feeling one has when accessing the internet for the first time and realizing you could instantly receive information on almost anything with the touch of your fingertips. Yet, the information on the internet can come from a variety of sources, some trusted, some not so much. Continue reading “Knowledge at Your Fingertips: Encyclopedias Offered at Your Library”

Job Searching Tips for Everyone

Posted on Wednesday, March 29, 2017 by cs

photo of newspaper- job searchingHaving lived in college towns for much of my adult life, I have come to recognize a feeling of anticipation during the spring semester. It seems to be connected to the reality of students graduating and moving on to the next phase of their lives. For some it is graduate school, for others perhaps travel, but for many (and to the relief of their parents) they are beginning to work on obtaining employment. There are newly retired individuals looking for part-time jobs to augment their income and stay involved in the community. Spring also seems to be a time to job hunt for a better salary or to increase job satisfaction. Continue reading “Job Searching Tips for Everyone”

Ghost Towns: Escaping Into the Past

Posted on Friday, February 17, 2017 by cs

photo of ghost townIf you have ever made the drive to St. Louis from Columbia, you might have noticed a house that has been deteriorating for at least the last 30 years. I have watched it over the years as I drive back and forth; each time it is a little more dilapidated. It used to have a porch. That is gone now. The roof, windows and door frame sag; vines and bushes have grown around and throughout the house. Yet, you can tell it was a good, solid house at one point. I hope that it had a time of being cherished and a place people lovingly called home. Continue reading “Ghost Towns: Escaping Into the Past”