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Weekly Shhhout-Out

Roaming librarians file dispatches from the world of information.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Listening To Books---While Commuting or Doing Chores at Home

Ever since I discovered recorded books many years ago, I started enjoying long drives and plane rides.  And at home, I don’t even mind cleaning!  Sometimes my favorite titles become films.  I also love good films, but good audiobooks beat films every time in my opinion.  Being a librarian, I just have to share this great listening experience with you.

All but the last one listed below are still available in CD format but a vast number of titles are now available in e-audiobook format for many types of mobile devices.  Here is how to check out e-audiobooks from the MCPL website.

First, the books that went to Hollywood. 

Tell No One by Harlan Coben.  The narrator Ed Sala is wonderful in building the suspense and carrying you deep into the gripping story. 

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen.   Read by two narrators, both good but I loved listening to John Randolph Jones who reads the part of 93-year-old Jacob.  

The Help by Kathryn Stockett.   Four narrators read the parts of different characters.  They are all good, especially the “help” narrators. 

The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo.   This 2004 Newbery Book Award winner is for ages 4 to 100+.  And having narrator Graeme Malcolm read to you is an unforgettable experience.

Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling.   Jim Dale supposedly did the voice of more than 200 charactors in the series.  I have no idea how he did it, but he did it very, very well, no doubt about it.

Next the books that may be on their way to Hollywood.

Prisoner of Birth

The Prisoner of Birth by Jeffrey Archer.   Roger Allam’s narration kept many of my friends sitting in the driveway unable to turn off the engine.  A true Driveway Moments kind of book.

Zeitoun by Dave Eggers.   Narrator Firdous Bamji pulls the listener right into the world of Syrian American community in New Orleans after the disaster of Katrina. 

Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society by Mary Ann Shaffer.   Perfectly chosen narrators make you feel as if you are watching a great play on  stage.


Lastly, a bonus!  I discovered a good audiobook to fall asleep on.

The Forsyte Saga by John Galsworthy.   It doesn’t matter where you start and where you stop.  It is so soothing that I found it better than wearing a white noise maker on a long airplane ride.  It put me right to sleep!


plum blossom in rain by Joy



Megumi L.



CATEGORIES: Megumi L. , Audiobooks
POSTED: 6:00:00 AM |

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

A Rave!

I was lucky enough to get my hands on an advance reading copy of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking by Susan Cain, and I'm going to do it. I'm absolutely going to rave about this book.


Equal parts pro-introvert manifesto and user's guide to the introverts in your life, this book speaks to the strengths of people who need ample time alone to recharge their batteries and be at their best. Cain describes introversion not as a social handicap to be overcome, but as a trait that, when accepted and tended to, can produce extraordinary artists, attuned leaders, and iconoclastic thinkers. She urges teachers and business leaders to rethink in-person group brainstorming sessions (people tend to come up with higher quality ideas on their own) and "clustered" desk arrangements that leave introverts at the mercy of their extroverted colleagues' energy sapping small talk.

Want to find out where you fall on the Introversion-Extroversion scale? Try Type Talk: The 16 Personality Types That Determine How We Live, Love, and Work by Otto Kroeger.

Type Talk

Happy reading!

Ann G. 

POSTED: 1:54:00 PM |

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

The World of Downton Abbey


Downton Abbey

The PBS Masterpiece Classic series Downton Abbey, now in its second season, is a surprise hit for public television. The drama about an aristocratic British family and their servants before and during the Great War is not just a hit with the usual suspects, the aging demographic that has followed Masterpiece Theater for decades, but also with young people. I know because my daughter and son-in-law are just as addicted as I am and tell me that many of their friends watch it too. People of all ages post updates on Facebook answering questions such as “Which Downton Abbey character are you?” I will leave it to the psychologists and political analysts to explain why so many people today are drawn to a tale about the 1% of a distant time and place, but strong storytelling, magnificent acting (Maggie Smith!), characters to both love and hate, and of course that big house and the sumptuous costumes all make for an irresistible television experience.

The best historical films and television series make us want to learn more, and what better place than the public library to get ideas on related reading. I’ve put my Readers’ Advisory cap on and here is a selection of books that illuminate the world of Downton Abbey.

The first season is set in the period just before World War I, a world that seems idyllic in retrospect because we know it will all soon be swept away. The best book I know that captures this moment is The Perfect Summer: England 1911, just before the storm by Juliet Nicholson. This readable popular history was a best seller in England and tells the story of that long, hot summer through the eyes of a variety of people from all social levels including a debutante, a trade unionist, a butler, Home Secretary Winston Churchill, and Queen Mary, wife of the just crowned King George V. Of course it was not perfect for everyone, and Nicholson balances the rosy picture with an account of the labor unrest caused by harsh working conditions and low wages.  The Shooting Party book coverIn fiction my favorite book set in this pre-war period is The Shooting Party by Isobel Colegate, published in 1980. Unfortunately MCPL only owns one copy now, but there is a film version available with James Mason in a magnificent performance as Sir Randolph Nettleby. The DVD includes a documentary about Knebworth House where it was filmed. The deceptively simple story of a shooting weekend at a country estate in 1913 is, in the words of the Spectator review, “a perfect metaphor for the passing of a way of life." You can easily imagine the upstairs and downstairs characters of Downton Abbey in attendance.

This season the residents of Downton Abbey see their lives changed by the Great War, both those who go to fight in the trenches and those who support them on the home front. The literature about World War I is vast, but I would like to highlight two recent nonfiction books that bring a fresh perspective. To End All Wars: a story of loyalty and rebellion 1914 - 1918 by Adam Hochschild covers the opponents of the war as well as those who fought it. Some families were bitterly divided. For instance, the Commander in Chief on the western front had a sister who was a leading pacifist campaigner. That book focuses on Britain, but a diverse assortment of ordinary people from different nations tell their own stories in Peter Englund’s The Beauty and the Sorrow: an intimate history of the First World War. In fiction Pat Barker’s outstanding Regeneration trilogy explores the war from the point of view of the shell-shocked and injured survivors, characters like the recuperating officers we meet when Downton Abbey becomes a clinic.  Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks is a modern classic and book group favorite. This epic tale of love and war, often compared to Dr. Zhivago, is the story of Stephen Wraysford, a young Englishman who finds himself fighting on the Western front in the same place where he experienced his first love affair years before. A BBC film version will be available in the U. S. later in 2012.

A main theme of Downton Abbey is the relationship between the upper class characters and their servants. One of the most interesting books I have read in recent years is an illuminating study of this topic focusing on Virginia Woolf and her servants. Mrs. Woolf book coverThough set in a later period than Downton Abbey, Mrs. Woolf and the Servants: an intimate history of domestic life in Bloomsbury by Alison Light captures the same unease that changing times brought to the traditional relationship of masters and servants. There is added irony in the fact that the Bloomsbury characters, who consider themselves feminists and cultural revolutionaries, cannot cope without their cooks and maids. I wonder what Virginia Woolf’s reaction would be if she knew that one day she would share equal billing with her cook.

Downton Abbey viewers probably all imagine ourselves upstairs in the great house, but, alas, I took the quiz and found out that I am actually a downstairs character! Never mind, I can still take a virtual tour of Highclere Castle, home to the Earl and Countess of Carnarvon, which plays the starring role in Downton Abbey.


Rita   Rita

POSTED: 12:02:00 AM |

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Moving Librarians

Now I've got your attention, let's examine more videos about libraries and librarians. There are many images out there.

Videos can celebrate library cards:


And videos show you what to do with one once you get it. A rapper can teach you about the Dewey Decimal System, and real life librarians are happy to sing to you about the wonders of the library catalog.


One is even able to take a library tour under the guise of a sports tournament. Here's an example of how not to organize a library, however.


 Would you like to be a librarian? Here's how the profession looked, once upon a time:


Hmmmm!  You know, a lot of that is still true--just insert modern technology. I don't think anyone ever had an interview like this, though.

Librarians are seen in many ways in The Media. I like this manga mash-up love song.


There's another good song on YouTube with the same title.

One can also find examples of how not to behave as a librarian, as in this British TV skit featuring a young Hugh Laurie (known over here for his role in House). Real librarians, of course, are totally against censorship.


Another example of how not to behave is in the video Library Thriller which, while it features music from one iconic eighties video, also references another in the attitude of the leggy, bunned librarians. I don't approve of their shushing and pointing to prohibitive signs--but I really wish I could wear those mile-high heels. I feel even more conflicted about Kickass Librarian--on the one hand, I would never talk to you, the library user, in such a manner; on the other hand, concerning privacy issues, mad librarian skilz, and tattoos--YAY!

With budget and staff cuts, and revolutionary changes in media and the way people seek information, some doom-sayers proclaim that libraries are on the way out.  But if we are unimportant, how come there are so many videos about us on the Web? Librarians are survivors. We will learn to give you what you want with less staff, and we will reinvent what we do to stay relevant to a new generation. We will not give up. We are here to stay.


AnnetteAnnette K.

CATEGORIES: Librarians , Libraries , Videos , Annette K.
POSTED: 11:30:00 AM |
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Last edited: 11/6/2007