Did you ever wish you could visit the world created by a favorite author? Maybe to wander the streets and grab a pint in the local pub or to visit with a favorite character? I recently had the opportunity to do just that! Well, sort of.I recently went to the North American Discworld Con (or NADWCon. “Con” having nothing to do with the Thieves’ Guild http://wiki.lspace.org/mediawiki/index.php/Thieves'_Guild but rather being the abbreviation for convention). The NADWCon was a chance to spend a long weekend in a hotel with nearly 1000 others who adore author Terry Pratchett and the Discworld he created as much as I do.
Pratchett is one of my favorite authors because of the sometimes goofy and sometimes sly humor, the sheer variety of characters with distinct personalities, the layered way a reader gains knowledge and insight about the characters and the Discworld itself as they read more and more of the books and the (not-so-subtle at times) satire of our own world that occasionally makes you want to pause in your reading to reflect on the magnitude of the idea that a seemingly silly book is really putting across to you. Discworld books are most generically classified as humorous fantasy but they offer so much more than that simple description can convey. Author Brandon Sanderson wrote a great description of Pratchett’s appeal recently (click here to read it).
Attending a Con of any type really didn’t cross my mind before this opportunity came my way. Mostly because I thought of Trekkies at Star Trek conventions (which were some of the first gatherings of fans for pop culture reasons) or thought only of the CosPlay aspect (i.e., costuming yourself as a character) of Comic Cons in New York or San Diego. The NADWCon had plenty of costumed attendees (more on that later) and die-hard Discworld fans, however it also had a very welcoming feel and plenty of friendly people who made it easy to relax and enjoy the experience. During the Con, I got to present as part of two discussion panels and I attended many others including the Guild of Thieves Good Practice Session (first rule: Always Leave a Receipt) and How to Commit the Perfect Murder (as sponsored by the Assassins Guild). Sir Terry connected with fans through video calls during which audience members could ask questions. My favorite question came from a young girl who asked about “the thing on the shelf” visible (but not clearly identifiable) behind him. (It was a black full-face motorcycle helmet, which drew laughs and cheers from the crowd.) I spent my days going to so many different panels or talking to different people that I usually forgot to eat lunch!
And the costumes!There were ladies wearing beautiful hand-crafted Victorian style gowns and men in dapper suits of a bygone era representing the Lords and Ladies of Ankh-Morpork, city watch members in chain mail and bits of armor, dwarves (some taller than you might think), wizards and witches aplenty, Tiffany Aching with her frying pan and some Nac Mac Feegle, the Unseen University Librarian (ook!) and I believe I caught a glimpse of Death once or twice. I didn’t have the extra money to spend for the Gala Banquet but I gathered with others also not attending the banquet to form a slapdash paparazzi horde at the entry doors.
If you want to explore Discworld for yourself, here is a handy guide to help you get started. It will help you to know that this is not the kind of series you have to read in strict chronological order! The guide shows groupings, each group with its own “starter book.”
If you have already tackled all of Discworld, here are some other reading suggestions culled from one of the panels at NADWCon:
I had heard about a book with the intriguing title of “The End of Your Life Book Club”, which a friend told me sounds like the perfect book for a librarian. So I had to read it. It’s a memoir about a man and his mother, quite a memorable, well traveled woman, who was getting chemo treatments for her inoperable pancreatic cancer. As they wait each week for the treatment, they talk about what is most important to both of them: books. They have formed a little book club of their own. Each chapter is about a specific title and how it relates to their lives. Sometimes it’s depressing, sometimes it’s inspirational. But it is always interesting. As you are learning about that book, you are learning about their lives as well. I am sure you have read at least some of these well known books:
And if not, there are some good titles to choose from for your next book club, preferably not for the end of your life, however.
Speaking of book clubs (you may have read this article) there was a fascinating article in the Washington Post on June 28, 2013 written by Ron Charles, the Washington Post book critic: “A Book Critic’s Night on the Town” wherein he meets a woman on the metro who is reading a book he critiqued, and they strike up a conversation. He eventually attends their book club and is energized about the titles they discuss.
And if you are looking for books about books, you need go no further than Nancy Pearl who is the undisputed readers advisory library super star. She even has her own action figure which when you push the button on the back, her arm goes into the “shushing” mode! I am privileged to own such a figure and even more privileged to have it signed by her.
I just opened "Book Lust" and fell upon a chapter called “Epistolary Novels” (novels written in letter form, as in The Epistles) a particular favorite of mine, and I found a book that I’ve never read: "Ella Minnow Pea", a lippogrammatic epistolary fable, which means something written without using one or more letters of the alphabet! Even this world weary librarian is discovering new titles. Ms Pearl will do that to you.
And if you would like some more suggestions about book clubs click onto Reader's Cafe and slide down to "Tips for Book Discussions" most of which came from our Super Star Nancy Pearl.
Experts, such as Karl Alexander, Professor of Sociology at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, assert that children who don't read during the Summer can fall behind at school. This will impact the rest of their educational career. On the Reading is Fundamental website they call it "The Summer Slide" and say "Children who do not read over the summer will lose more than two months of reading achievement. Summer reading loss is cumulative. By the end of 6th grade children who lose reading skills over the summer will be 2 years behind their classmates." Excellent sites, such as RIF and Reading Rockets, provide links to research that backs up this statement, and provide resources, articles and information about summer reading and summer learning loss. Librarians on the Internet also offer advice for summer reading activities.
Your social network is a good source of summer reading ideas. If you are registered for Goodreads, you can swap ideas with your friends, and popular blogs like The Huffington Post are chiming in with their lists, as well. And we're good, we're very good--our libraries have those books, too.
The library isn't the only place to find summer reading clubs--bookstores, banks, grocery stores, cinemas, and restaurants have been known to have them. Maybe you can find one of those alternates around here.
Unless you think we've forgotten the grown-ups--we do have plenty of lists for them, too. Or you might check Salon for a hot summer reading list.
And to end, I thought I'd share with you adults Jimmy Fallon's guide to what not to read on the beach.
I love watching movies based on books I've read. Sometimes I love the movie because it captures the spirit of the book. Other times the way I imagined the movie in my head while reading the book was so much better. We reap so much from reading the original story the movie was based by engaging our limitless imaginations with the words of the author. So here are some highlights of books that are soon to be movies that you won't want to miss.
World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War by Max Brooks. For Zombie lovers and non-Zombie lovers alike. But even if you don't love zombies it is a FASCINATING read. It's a powerful "what if" story about how specific countries could possibly react if a contagion started spreading across the world. Told many years after the zombie war, the story is a collection of smaller stories told by survivors and collected by the narrator. This gives you a chance to see the war from many distinct and unique perspectives to get a total feel for what the world went through. You won't be able to put this book down.
Much Ado About Nothing by William Shakespeare. The play might as well be called Much Ado About Love and certainly shows how the course of true love never does run smoothly. This humorous story, with a dash of drama, centers on soldiers returning from war who fall in love, or are tricked into falling in love. My favorite line in the play is "I was born to speak all mirth and no matter." The war of words between Beatrice and Benedick makes them one of the best couples in literature!
Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card. Will this movie be the next big sci-fi movie since Star Trek: Into Darkness? I've read three books in this exciting series and can't wait to read the rest. This first book in the series introduces us to a young and lonely genius, Andrew "Ender" Wiggin, who attends battle school for young soldiers. The school's leaders hope that Ender will be "the one" to end Earth's war with an alien race called the Buggers. Ender is the huge draw in this story as he struggles between who he wants to be and what he must do.
Austenland by Shannon Hale. This book can be described in one word-FUN! Single New Yorker Jane is obsessed with all things Jane Austen, especially Mr. Darcy. When a rich relative dies and leaves Jane a ticket to a Regency era role playing resort in England she, of course, goes to rid herself of her Darcy obsession. Will she be able to kick the habit or will she find a Mr. Darcy of her own? Read and find out!
The month of May gives us multiple opportunities to honor and remember those who have valiantly served our country both at home and abroad. This Saturday (May 18) is Armed Forces Day and of course, the last Monday of the month (May 27) is Memorial Day. Please take a moment to check out the related displays of books and other materials at many of our branches. If you would like to commemorate your service or that of a loved one or friend, share your story in the Veterans’ Memory Book at your local branch.
Here are some reading ideas to get you in the mood:
No matter how chilly the weather feels, I know it is almost summer when our son returns from college and the authors return to the Gaithersburg Book Festival. On Saturday May 18, booklovers and authors will gather on the grounds of the Gaithersburg City Hall to to celebrate books, writers and literary excellence. In its forth year, the Festival features talks and book signings by authors, a story time tent, a coffee house with singers and poets/songwriters, and several panel discussions.
Download the one page Author Program Schedule, like the Festival on Facebook or follow them on Twitter, so you can plan your visit. It's a perfect time for kids,'teens and grown-ups to make a summer reading plan or to gather suggestions for a new or ongoing book group.To prepare for the Festival, look at the photos and videos from last year or read an entry from this year's short story contest for high school students.
One of the fun questions librarians love to get is when patrons need help remembering the title of a book. Sometimes it's a beloved picture book from their childhood. It might be a book they saw in a newspaper but they can't remember the title.
So here are some good places we look, and you can too, to pin down that elusive title.
Well we’re over a week into the New Year now, plenty of time to have given up already on those worthy Resolutions, most of which involve giving up something we really love or doing something we really dislike. So I have a proposal for a New Year Resolution that involves doing something you really love – reading, but with a twist. This year resolve to read a few books outside your usual reading comfort zone. It can be a surprisingly rewarding experience. One summer I was trapped in a house where the bookshelves held only one type of book – science fiction paperbacks. I had absolutely no interest in science fiction but, being a compulsive reader without access to a library at the time, I had no choice. I read through the entire collection of classics by Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, Joe Haldeman, Harlan Ellison, Larry Niven and more. That reading summer has stayed with me, enriching my appreciation of imagination and good writing. I can still get shivers just thinking about Harlan Ellison’s story I have no mouth and I must scream.
Librarians, of course, must read widely across the full spectrum of genres and subjects as part of our professional responsibility to be effective readers’ advisors. But since retiring I do find I’ve slipped back into my personal comfort zones of English fiction, mysteries, spy novels, and history. Hence my New Year resolution. So these are the topics I’m choosing to read about this year in between my favorites: Sports, Math, and Economics! I find that one good way to dip into an unfamiliar subject is to identify a book with at least some aspect that appeals to you. I find anthropology interesting so for Sports I plan to read Born to Run: a hidden tribe, superathletes, and the greatest race the world has never seen. Runner Christopher McDougall investigates the Tarahumara people of Copper Canyons in Mexico, whose running prowess is tested against America’s best extreme runners. Math was my least favorite subject in school – I got in trouble for reading a history book hidden under my desk during math class – but I became a fan of Nate Silver’s poll analysis blog during the election so I plan to dip into the scary topic of statistics with his new book The Signal and the Noise: why most predictions fail - but some don't. With so much national and global news these days requiring a grasp of economics, I would like to overcome the overwhelming feeling of boredom I get at the thought of reading about it. Humor is always a non-threatening entrée into a difficult subject, so I will tackle economics by reading Naked Economics: undressing the dismal science by Charles J. Wheelan. The reviews claim it won’t put me to sleep!
As for Science Fiction, I still read it on occasion. I am a devoted fan of Connie Willis because she mixes science fiction with history; Doomsday Book is outstanding historical fiction about the Black Death in medieval England as well as imaginative science fiction featuring time travel. The traveling historians visit Victorian times in To Say Nothing of the Dog, which is one of the funniest books I’ve ever read. I’ve just begun my science fiction reading for this year, The Black Opera: a novel of opera, volcanoes, and the mind of God by Mary Gentle. This tale of a clash between good and evil is set in an alternate nineteenth century Naples where sacred music has miraculous powers. The Inquisition hires a young librettist to write an opera that will counteract the destructive force of the Black Opera planned by a secret society with, of course, evil intentions. Music lovers and science fiction/fantasy fans may find common ground in this unusual novel.
What is your Reading Resolution for this year? Whatever genres or subjects you decide to tackle you can get help at your library. Browse the catalog, explore the stacks, check out the book lists at the Readers’ Café, or ask a librarian in person or by phone to recommend specific titles.
Winter is coming and some books are best read on a cold, blustery day or night. The Game of Thrones books that I have recently been devouring have their fair share of snow and ice scenes but I have always thought that any book by Charles Dickens is best read in the winter. There is something about the despair and struggle of his characters to a better life that makes me think of winter.
So here are some books that will make you cozy up to the fire place with something hot to drink.
Shackleton's Stowaway by Victoria McKernan. My feet were cold the entire time reading this book. The tragedies and triumphs of a stowaway aboard Shackleton's ship Endurance during his 1914 Antarctic expedition.
The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman. Accompanied by her daemon, Lyra Belacqua sets out to prevent her best friend and other kidnapped children from becoming the subject of gruesome experiments in the Far North.
Trapped by Michael Northrup. Seven high school students are stranded at their New England high school during a blizzard. Will they survive?
Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey. Alaska, 1920. A childless couple builds a child out of snow. The next day the snow child is gone and in its place they see a blonde-haired girl running through the woods. Who is she?
It was gratifying to see an article in last week’s Washington Post about how libraries have weathered bad times and are adapting to the digital future. So often in recent years, the stories in the press have been about libraries losing funds, closing, or becoming irrelevant. The first two were certainly true, but the last was often overblown and misinformed. Libraries like MCPL are still used heavily by the public, and also have made an effort to participate in social media, such as Facebook and Twitter, to transcend the library walls. Most public libraries now provide access to downloadables such as e-Books and music, as well as provide a plethora of databases which offer articles and books that can be read on-line in the library or at home. Library users can study for exams and learn languages on their home computer with interactive software, as well as kick back with a book downloaded to an electronic device. Increasingly public libraries, academic libraries, state libraries, and national libraries all have been making their unique resources available online. An example of this is The New York Public Library's Lionel Pincus and Princess Firyal Map Division, which, with the aid of a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), is busy transforming NYPL's historical paper map and atlas collections into a powerful digital resource. The Library of Congress, of course, has some amazing digital resources, as does The British Library.
During the cutbacks of recent years, I have often been heartened by the support for libraries that I have encountered on-line and in the press, and realize that there is an unyielding love for books that refuses to be denied. One lovely response to the closing of libraries is the guerilla movement of free mini libraries. Common sense dictates that these can’t really take the place of a well-run, government funded library, stocked with new materials by educated professionals, but the little boxes on poles that have popped up, made from repurposed mailboxes, doll houses, cranberry crates, and metal milk cartons, warm the heart. Want to see some or make your own? Visit the Little Free Library Website.
In England, a place hard hit by library closings, the iconic red telephone boxes once found all over the UK are being repurposed as libraries thanks to the effort of local communities and British Telecom.
Books can be put to use in other forms of art, too, however. In Melbourne, Australia, a massive river of 10,000 discarded books donated by public libraries and collected by the Salvation Army, was created last June for the Light in Winter festival. Each book held small lights within its pages, creating a beautiful effect. On the final night of the installation, visitors were encouraged to take the books home with them.
“The project was created by Brazilian artists Marcos Saboya and Gualter Pupo, in collaboration with production company Hungry Man. Inspired by the writer and educator JL Borges, the maze will form the shape of Borges’ unique fingerprint, covering over 500 square metres, with sections standing up to 2.5 metres high.”
Video by Christopher Jobson (Creative Commons permission)
Let’s hope that people will continue to treasure libraries, books, and freedom of information way into the future, or we may end up like this. How can we defend ourselves against the forces of evil without free access to shared cultural knowledge and the ability to interpret it?
Adults, allow me to introduce you to Young Adult Fiction. You may dismiss this section of the library as being beneath your adult tastes… but you will also be missing some great stuff! Young adult fiction is a booming category these days, especially with the recent blockbuster print and film successes of Twilight and The Hunger Games. Here are a few suggestions for testing the waters:
Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse. Young Billy Jo’s harsh life in dust bowl Oklahoma during the Depression is told in poetic form. Readers who liked Timothy Egan’s The Worst Hard Time should definitely seek this one out.
It is time for the Gaithersburg Book Festival! On Saturday May 19, booklovers and authors will gather on the grounds of the Gaithersburg City Hall to to celebrate books, writers and literary excellence. In its third year, the Festival features talks and book signings by authors, writing workshops, a coffee house with singers and poets/songwriters, a Children's Village and several panel discussions. One discussion, Separating Fact from Fiction, will include audience participation. Another will tackle the future of bookstores and books. Take a look at the festival program to decide how you want to spend your Festival Day. It's a perfect time for kids, 'teens and grown-ups to make a summer reading plan or to gather suggestions for a new or ongoing book group.
Most of us are crazy busy at this time of year (including me). We're trying to juggle work, family, shopping, holiday parties, the budget and so on. To help keep some perspective, it's worth trying to carve out a little time to appreciate some of the literary and cinematic classics that bring the season to life.
Read or watch the wonderful Charles Dicken's tale "A Christmas Carol", the story of miserly Scrooge and the three spirits that bring him to a new sense of the joy and wonder of the Christmas season. You can do a chapter a night as a family read aloud in the week preceding December 25th, or you can borrow one of the several film versions of the story that the library owns.
MCPL can offer anything from the 1951 Alastair Sim's version (which set the standard for screen portrayals of Scrooge) to an expanded BBC production that includes ensemble versions of Dickensian pub songs. My personal favorite stars George C Scott as a particularly curmudgeonly Scrooge. Or, there's always "The Muppet Christmas Carol" - Kermit makes a wonderful Bob Crachitt. If you have time after the holidays, and are looking for an interesting read for a cold January night, you can pick up "The Man Who Invented Christmas" by Les Standiford to find out more about Dickens and his beloved story.
Another appealing short read is Truman Capote's autobiographical novella "A Christmas Memory". This gentle story decribes the Christmas preparations of a young boy and his slightly eccentric, elderly cousin in the Depression era South.
Frank Capra's classic film "It's a Wonderful Life" seems to be on continuous television play during December, but if you need to schedule your own showing, the library can provide a copy. Remember, everytime you hear a bell.....
Another lovely family read aloud is Clement Moore's "The Night Before Christmas". The library has many wonderfully illustrated versions of the poem, ranging from the intricate and playful work of Jan Brett, to Tasha Tudor's warm and homey pictures of an elfin Santa, to one in the distinctive style of beloved children's author Tomie De Paola.
So pop some popcorn, make some warm drinks for both the adults and kids, and gather everyone around to make some great holiday memories. Enjoy!
Have you heard of Kirkus Reviews? The self-appointed "World's Toughest Book Critics" select the best Fiction, Nonfiction, Children's Literature, Teen Fiction, Indie Publications, and even Book Apps from the previous year. Kirkus's website is a treasure trove of exceptionally well-written book reviews and book lists.
Love audiobooks? Audible.com releases a yearly list of their editors' favorite audiobooks. Also, the Audio Publishers Association sponsors The Audies, a yearly award given to audiobooks in various categories like "Solo Narration," "Audio Drama," and "Humor."
Have a best of the year list to suggest? Share it in the comments section! Happy reading all the way into 2012.
A BOOK of Verses underneath the Bough, A Jug of Wine, a Loaf of Bread—and Thou Beside me singing in the Wilderness— O, Wilderness were Paradise enow!
Sounds like an invitation to a picnic to me!
What do we need for a picnic? Food, an outdoor place in which to eat, and good company! Amusements, activities and ants are extra.
Originally, a picnic was a communal meal to which everyone contributed... what we today would call a potluck. Try The Garden Entertaining Cookbook for inspiration and whip up a batch of Basmati Rice Salad with Fresh Peas, Corn and Chives (page 100) to go with anyone else's main dish.
Where shall we eat? Especially with children, a short trip to a new a different (but not too different) place is fun and exciting. There are lots of free picnic locations in local parks and many of them have sports or other amusements for the family.
Why don't you read Click, Clack, Quackity-Quack to the youngest children before you go? You can make a game of finding things from the book at your picnic destination. And if the neighborhood is devoid of blankets, ducks, eggs, goats and hens, you can always make your own alphabetical list of facinating objects sighted.
But what about that book of verse? Omar Khayyam is classic, but he doesn't suit every occasion. Choose Books and Authors from our Reading & Literature resources and you can zero in on just the kind of rhyme (or free verse) that touches you.
And if Omar is your cup of tea, you can always download the "Rubaiyat" to your e-reader from Project Gutenberg.
It seems as if I have one eye on the sky most afternoons now, as I try to finish whatever outdoor activity I have planned before the thunderstorms roll in for the evening. I’m signed up for Montgomery County’s Alert Montgomery service, which sends me text messages when there are severe weather watches or warnings posted for Montgomery County. Lately my phone buzzes each afternoon with one or two updates.
The level of dangerous weather across the country makes me wonder if the weather has really gotten worse lately, or if I just never noticed it when I was a kid. There are lots of conflicting viewpoints on this, too many to mention here, but it seems as though bad weather comes and goes in cycles.
Once again, the library offers a nice selection of interesting weather related books, and I’ve listed a few of them below. If you’re a Weather Channel junkie, these will be right up your Tornado Alley.
In "Extreme Weather" by Christopher Burt, you can check weather statistics and observations for the US going back to the late 1800s. The book is arranged by type of weather, such as Heat and Drought; Rain and Floods; Tornadoes; and so on. Lots of illustrations, historic photos and sidebars make it an interesting browsing choice for those interested in weather, and the statistical charts make it a good choice for those doing educational research on US weather.
I am outside fairly often during the summer months, often with a bunch of people and horses participating in some kind of competition. That eye I keep to the sky is backed up by listening for the distant rumble of thunder. More than once already this year we’ve put a hold on all activity when a lightning bolt is noticed off in the distance, and everyone moves to safety. According to "Out of the Blue: a History of Lightning" by John Freidman, the odds of being hit are only 1 in 750,000, but no one wants to risk even those pretty long odds. This book looks at man’s fascination with lightning from earliest civilizations up to today’s risk taking storm chasers, and profiles people like a park ranger who has survived an amazing seven lightning strikes!
Residents of various parts of the US, particularly Joplin and Tuscaloosa are beginning the rebuilding process after a series of vicious spring tornados leveled sections of their cities. Tornadoes even touched down in Maryland this spring. The book "F5" by Mark Levinelooks at a 16 hour period on April 3, 1974 in which 148 tornadoes, 6 of them classified as F5, ranged over thirteen states in the country’s heartland. The book, which reads in the style of a fast paced disaster novel, follows a cast of characters over the course of those hours, as their lives are suddenly changed forever.
The other main weather related issue impacting the US this year is flooding, and I can personally attest to this one. Our little creek, which has not flooded in the 14 years we’ve been here, was up and over it’s banks and in the bottom pasture this spring. I know this doesn’t compare to the destruction caused by all of the record flooding along the Mississippi and in the Dakotas, but it was a surprise to me!
An excellent book about one of the most well known floods in American history is The Johnstown Flood by David McCullough. McCullough’s book draws from a myriad of primary source material including tapes of conversations with survivors, court records, engineering reports and unpublished letters and diaries. The Johnstown flood struck on May 31st, 1889, as the dam holding back the waters of man made Lake Conemaugh failed after several days of heavy rain. Over 2000 people perished, and downtown Johnstown was destroyed. McClullough explores the culpability of the wealthy members of the club which owned the private lake, and follows the stories of families caught in the disaster. If you happen to be in Johnstown this summer on a road trip you can visit the flood museum.
Hopefuly you personally will never have to deal with a weather emergency as serious as the ones that are described in these books. But it’s always good to be prepared! A good place to start is this webpage on severe weather preparedness from NOAA’s Office of Climate, Water and Weather Services. There are video and pdf guides to Thunderstorms and Lightning, Tornadoes and Floods. Take a look and find out how you can protect yourself from extreme weather.
Old librarians don’t retire, they just go home to obsessively rearrange their spice racks in Dewey Decimal order. Or sit on the porch rocker waiting to be classified in that great big catalog in the sky, hopefully in 236.24, heaven, rather than 291.23, hell. Of course hell would suffice so long as it is furnished with plenty of books, though come to think of it maybe that’s the definition of hell, for librarians at least – a world without books.
Anyway, I’ll soon have plenty of time to spare on idle musings of this kind because, after 29 years of plying my trade as a librarian in Montgomery County, I am retiring at the end of this month. So I’ve actually been spending quite a bit of time in 646.79, the Dewey Decimal number for retirement, a topic well covered by the professional purveyors of advice and inspiration. If you are considering retirement soon, or even just dreaming about it, financial considerations come first, so check out the books on financial planning for retirement in 332.024. You Can Do It: The Boomer’s Guide to a Great Retirementby PBS financial expert Jonathan D. Pond is particularly helpful, and I found answers to many of my questions in Social Security, Medicare & Government Pensions: get the most out of your retirement & medical benefitsby J. L. Mathews. Planning to move to warmer climes or a quiet small town? America's Best Low-Tax Retirement Townsby Eve Evans includes detailed comparative tables of state and local taxes in towns across the country. If you are dreaming of foreign shores The Grown-Up's Guide to Running Away From Home: Making a New Life Abroad by Roseanne Knorr contains plenty of practical advice. On the web the AARP site is rich with information for the already retired and those hoping to join them. I know, I’ve been ignoring those mailed membership notices for years too, but maybe it’s time to face facts and take advantage of the many benefits AARP offers. The Social Security Administration also has a very helpful website including a benefit estimator and Medicare information.
Once you’ve made the big decision to retire, the question looms about how to fill all the free time you will suddenly have after years of 8 hour workdays. I must admit I’m getting just a bit irritated by all the people assuring me that I’ll be busier than ever. If I wanted to be busier than ever I’d keep on working! My idea is to slow down! But I know they are well meaning and are just trying to reassure me that I won’t turn into a batty old recluse at the stroke of midnight on June 30th. I will finally have more time to read! How else would a librarian spend extra time? After a lifetime of reading I still have some embarrassing gaps in my book list – Ulysses anyone? I won’t have any excuse now to avoid this Everest of literature, and I’ve printed out the Guardian’s list 1000 Novels Everyone Must Read to see what else I’ve missed. I’ll also be spending a lot of time interacting with my devices. They are so demanding! I have to get all my CDs into iTunes and finally get those shoeboxes full of photos scanned. Then there’s the neglected garden and somehow I’ll have to squeeze in time with my grandchildren. Yes, as I start to make my “to do” lists, maybe I really will be busier than ever. And if all else fails and I fall on hard times I have my sign all ready:
May is jam-packed with festivals and outdoor events for the whole family. The first full weekend in May is the Maryland Sheep and Wool festival in nearby Howard County. www.sheepandwool.org.
My husband calls this “The best free show in the state of Maryland”, and he doesn’t even particularly like sheep! Their web page gives you an idea of what's going on, but you may want to read Wool by Annabelle Dixon to the children before setting out. Or Judith MacKenzie's Intentional Spinner for an adult's eye view of the process.
Why don't you check out the Bethesda Fine Arts Festival on the following weekend? All kinds of art and fine crafts will be on display and for sale, as well as free entertainment. Does it make you want to try your hand at making art? Read David Sammiguel's Complete Guide...or try ArtStarts with your children.
For the third weekend, you don't need to go far. Gaithersburg is hosting its second annual Book Festival http://www.gaithersburgbookfestival.org/ with authors and activities for all. How about making a book of your own?
If you are an author in search of a publisher, the 808 location in our reference collections hold lots of ‘Writer’s Market’ –type guides. They will tell you how and where to find a publisher, editor or agent. But what about actually making your own book? Shades of Inkheart! Try McCarthy's Making Books by Hand .
Or, for a look into the actual mind (or brain) of a writer, examine Alice Flaherty’s The Midnight Disease for a look at the process of writing (or not) as viewed by a neurologist.
The last weekend in May is Memorial Day, of course. Since we have three days, why not go a bit farther afield? Chestertown, just across the Bay, commemorates and re-enacts a great moment in Maryland’s Colonial era – The Chester Town Tea Party. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chestertown_Tea_Party
Every year on this weekend Chestertown hosts thousands of visitors to stroll, eat, drink and cheer. There are races to view or enter (including a raft race!) crafts to buy and a re-enactment of a famous ‘tea party’ that may or may not have happened in 1774.
The budget picture for libraries has not brightened much in the thirteen weeks since I wrote the first part of my blog about bestsellers of the past century. MCPL has been able to order some more of our leased McExpress titles, which makes it more likely avid readers be able to snag a coveted title without waiting 3 months. The McExpress books are extra copies of bestsellers that MCPL rents to fill out the new collection – you borrow them just like the regular new books, and they go out for three weeks (no renewal). McExpress books can be identified by the bright red sticker on the spine that reads "B&T". You’ll find them in the new book section of any MCPL library.
The library still has a wealth of titles that you might have missed on their trip to the bestseller lists of the past decades, though, and we’ll finish up the century in this post.
The Sixties were a time of huge social change, which impacted the top bestsellers of that tumultuous decade. American attitudes toward sex were becoming more relaxed, and this is reflected in the some of the top selling books of that decade, which were decidedly more racy than the bestsellers of the first part of century. 1966’s top book was Jacqueline Susann’s "Valley of the Dolls", the story of three women’s drug and sex fueled show business careers. The decade ended with "Portnoy’s Complaint", Phillip Roths’ controversial (for the time) exploration of a young Jewish bachelor’s sexual desire and frustration – the bestselling novel of 1969.
One of the top books of the "Me Decade", as the Seventies are known, was Richard Bach’s "Jonathan Livingston Seagull". This is a slim little fable of a young seagull's quest for self perfection, and his ascendance to a higher seagull plane of existence after long study and work. This book topped the list in both 1972 and 1973 – read into that what you will. Contrast that title with these top titles of the rest of the decade – lengthy sagas all – Michener’s "Centennial" (1974) and "Chesapeake" (1977) and Leon Uris's "Trinity" (1976).
Stephen King first hit the yearly top ten in 1979, but the Eighties were his decade. He had at least one and sometimes two books make the top ten each year with the exception of 1988. In 1986 Tommyknockers was the number one bestseller, and in 1987 the novel that brought to life every small child’s clown nightmares, "It", hit the top. Tom Clancy also made the list for the first time this decade, and finished it out with the number ones for 1988 and 1989, respectively "Cardinal of the Kremlin" and "Clear and Present Danger".
Clancy and King were still hot authors during the 90’s but that decade’s bestseller lists belonged to legal thrillers from the pen of John Grisham. Grisham’s first appearance on the yearly top ten was in 1991, when The Firm reached # 7. He had the number two slot in ’92 and ’93, and then an amazing string of #1 bestsellers from 1994 to 1999. You can pick up pretty much any John Grisham title and be assured of a good read.
We’ll finish up with the 2000s. You might be thinking that this decade was all about a certain boy wizard and his various adventures against You Know Who, but Publisher’s Weekly does not include books in series in their yearly top ten. Or, possibly you were expecting star-crossed vampires and werewolves, but PW classed those as children’s books. (Ahem!) Once again, John Grisham came out on top several years in this decade, but the big hit was Dan Brown’s story of ecclesiastical skullduggery, cryptography and secret societies – "The Da Vinci Code". "The Da Vinci Code" was number 1 in 2003 and 2004, and slipped down to just number 2 in 2005.
Hopefully you've found something to enjoy in our wayback machine trip through the 20th century. If not, ask any of our friendly staff of librarians for a recommendation. We'll be glad to help!
“But papyrus scrolls feel so much better!” Such were the cries of lamentation heard across the ancient world as papyrus scrolls were replaced by that new-fangled Roman invention the codex, or book. “Why do I have to flip these – what are they called? pages? The scrolls ran so smoothly under my hand, they signified a seamless flow of knowledge, a noble tradition, now it’s all chopped up into scraps signifying nothing …” The Luddites’ fretful complaints drone on down the centuries, ever eloquent in bemoaning the end of civilization as we know it, while civilization as we aren’t quite used to it yet is busy being born. The invention of the printing press was the work of the devil according to these doomsayers, and maybe they were right because it did spread those dangerous things called ideas to the previously unlettered masses. They began thinking for themselves, founding new churches, having revolutions, writing novels that sent Victorian ladies into a swoon, and reading everything from the Bible and Shakespeare to tabloid gossip and vampire boyfriend sagas. Where will it all end? Not with a bang or a whimper apparently, but with a tweet.
The digital revolution is upon us and my grandchildren will grow up in the first fully digital generation. It is bringing out the Luddites once again; check out this cartoon, which at least adds humor to the traditional diatribe. Determined not to join the chorus of old fogies – even though that role is getting age appropriate for me – I bought an iPad and began exploring the world of children’s apps to share with my grandsons. Here is what I have discovered so far: like any other medium - books, films, music, you name it – the good, the bad, and the mediocre are all out there. Just as librarians select and recommend the best books for children, so we can help sort out the sheep from the goats when it comes to apps. If you’ve heard the horror stories about the Smurfs game and don’t want your child playing Angry Birds all day, here’s a sampling of the best apps for the very young tested on my own 1 and 3 year old grandchildren.
The Itsy Bitsy Spider. Children touch the spider to start the song and watch him climb the water spout, then touch other objects for entertaining actions – make water gush from the downspout, see a caterpillar change into a butterfly, and more. Beautiful graphics, and the singer sounds so much better than I do!
Fish School. Colorful fish and lively music teach letters, numbers, and colors with interactive games including matching and which one’s different? A low-key, fun way to learn.
FirstWords Animals. Perfect for children who know their letters and are ready to start recognizing words. Settings allow parents to choose the difficulty level – three or four letter words, matching the letters or filling in the blanks etc. Note: this bird is not angry and doesn't attack any pigs!
Popout! The Tale of Peter Rabbit. This interactive classic presents the original text and illustrations in pop-up form, with the advantage that the tabs don’t get torn by tiny fingers! Parents can turn the narration off so they can read to their child. Beginning readers get help with unfamiliar words: touch the screen to hear the word. Twittering birds, hopping bunnies, and gently falling leaves bring Beatrix Potter’s natural world to life. A beautiful app that shows the potential for digital books. The Washington Post Book World editors like Peter Rabbit too! They include it in this list of the best picture book apps in the Spring Children’s Book Review section.
I know my grandsons will be reading and learning in both print and digital formats in the future. Introducing them to the iPad hasn’t dampened their enthusiasm for books; it is just another way to enjoy stories together. Maybe when they grow old they will look back with nostalgia on that hopelessly old-fashioned device their grandmother shared with them. And maybe in that brave new world, as information is beamed directly into their brains, some people will cling to their electronic devices and predict the end of civilization, as so many generations have done before them.
One thing I’ve learned in three months with my iPad – Marshall McLuhan was wrong. The medium is not the message. The medium is just the device. Stories are forever.
After writing entries for this blog for over two years, I have learned to save links to possible sites of interest as I discover them. When blog time rolls around, I check my bookmarks and see if any themes emerge. Some things just don't fit anywhere, and this has left some oddments lingering in my files. Hey! Maybe that's a category in itself. So, just for fun, here are some sites I've come across in my travels through the Web and wanted to share.
That is actutally a good book compared to the one I'm now going to tell you about. Possibly the worst picture book ever written is Little Kettle-head by Helen Bannerman. Yes, the same Helen Bannerman who wrote and illustrated the controversial book Little Black Sambo. At least Little Black Sambo had a coherent plot--this one is plain weird. Little Kettle-head should be given to everyone who thinks they can write a children's book as an example of what not to do--not ever, ever. It is so creepy that one doesn't know where to start to enumerate its failings. I didn't know whether to laugh or cry. (Okay, I admit it--there were screams of laughter eminating from my office, once I was able to get my jaw off the floor. But I have a sick sense of humor.)
I think it's time to get back to the world of good books, now. Did you know that Tove Jansson of Moomintroll fame also illustrated The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien? Click on the first picture to enlarge it and use the arrows to move through the slideshow.
I've had many hamsters during my career as a children's librarian, and currently I have hermit crabs in my office (don't ask) but, early on this year, The Library of Congress had a hawk take up residence in the main reading room.
One thing no library I've worked in has had--zombies. But you never know these days. When confronted with a zombie outbreak is your library prepared? Here's a Zombie Emergency Prepardness Plan for libraries.
Libraries have expanded the scope of their collections greatly over the years from new media formats to items such as puzzles and tools. This, however, takes the cake, although I'm vaguely disgusted to talk of food in the same breath as introducing you to the largest collection of belly button lint in the world. All together now: EWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWW! Way to go Graham Barker for further eroding the reputation of librarians.
Speaking of food and too much time on your hands (that was implied by the above example, right?) some people are creating animated MRI's of fruit to produce living fractiles. Yeah, you heard me. Cool, huh? There's one at the beginning of this blog post. That's a watermelon, believe it or not.
From the innerverse to the outerverse: Do you want to explore the universe and not leave the house? Try Celestia a free space simulation. Whew! I needed a break.
There, we've gone from the ridiculous to the sublime; science fiction to real science. Aren't you glad?
I’m the six hundred and sixteenth person in the county waiting for the Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest; one hundred and seventy other YA readers are ahead of me for Mockingjay. So, what do I read now?
Read-alikes – that’s what we look for when we want something like…something we like!
You can always choose a work by the same author, a non-fiction book on the same subject – they’ll be at hand on the same shelf. But, having slogged through all of Lindsey Davis’ Marcus Didius Falco mysteries, where do I go? What’s like Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand?
Try our Books and Authors database or Novelist Plus to analyze your favorites and find other authors, titles or even different genres that hold the elements you find appealing.
Novelist Plus even has a friendly lavender button on the home page to tutor you in its use.
Try looking up an old favorite story and see what they have to suggest to you. Then, clicking on the book’s title or picture will bring you to the catalog entry, where you can place it on hold. Hopefully, you’ll be first in line!
Social Networking is hot, hot, hot these days. A highfalutin’ term for ‘communicating with like-minded folk’, social networking and reading go together like ham and eggs. (For vegans, like beans and rice!)
My favorite website for reading and social networking is Librarything. You can find a forum for any possible book or reading-related subject, and maybe even score a pre-pub book to review! And it's really cool to keep track of all the books you own.
If you are like me, and you have thousands of books you’ve read cluttering up your home, consider setting them free to please and enlighten someone else. You can track your book’s travels on bookcrossing.com. They’re even having their international convention in Washington, DC this year!
How about downloading a book to enjoy on your computer or another electronic device before the paper-and-ink copy can come your way? The Maryland Digital eLibrary or Netlibrary databases can give you access to ebooks or downloadable audiobooks. The PDF and Adobe EPUB books can be read on your Nook eReader or iPad, too.
In a few weeks it will be Valentine’s Day and it may seem early to talk about love, but I can’t help myself. The month of February is a special time in the library because it is Library Lovers’ Month. To celebrate the library has special events through out the system so please check our calendar of events.
The idea of writing a love poem or letter gives me a fuzzy feeling inside. Maybe you have a special someone in your life that you want to send a love poem or perhaps, it is to a library staff member, to tell them how much you love your library. Whatever your needs may be the library can help.
Don’t know how to write a love letter or where to start, try this step-by-step guide, How to Write Love Letters by Michelle Lovric. Need a little more inspiration in love, try The Book of Love edited by Diane Ackerman and Jeanne Macklin or The 50 Greatest Love Letters of All Time, edited by David Lowenherz.