Wednesday, November 2, 2016

What You'll Find at This Week's Book Sale

It's been almost a year since our last sale. We weren't fortunate enough to benefit from a publisher's clearance again, but we have had plenty of donations - especially in children's books and non-fiction.

You can start your Christmas shopping early with our holiday-themed books and items. You'll find children's Christmas books, adult holiday-themed fiction, books on holiday crafts and cooking, some Christmas CD's, and even holiday Harlequin romances. Volunteers do their best to remove books that have been personalized, so many are suitable for gifting. These items are in the meeting room where you'll find this table.



The meeting room is where you'll find sorted fiction hardcovers and trade and mass market paperbacks. Fiction is sorted by genre - mystery, fantasy, historical fiction, Christian/Amish fiction, etc. - and then arranged in alphabetical order. We have a large selection of classics, 2015-16 books, and books by international writers. Fiction by really popular authors can often be found in boxes on the floor with each box limited to one writer and clearly labelled.

In the back room are children's books and non-fiction. Children's books have been cleaned and arranged by age appropriateness, picture books, chapter books, series, etc. You could pay $3 to $12 for a new children's book; you'll get them here - gently used - for $.50 each and many are gift quality.

Also in the back room, you'll find non-fiction for every interest: biography, history, art, philosophy, etc. One category that's larger than usual at this sale is poetry. There's also a nice selection of books on Jewish culture and religion. They're a donation from the library of a local rabbi/writer/scholar and his wife who was a scholar of Yiddish. Here's a sampling:




If you like really old books, you'll find three bays of vintage children and adult books. About two-thirds are ex-library, so they have library markings on them and some are rebound. Most are poetry and literature books from the 1800's.

Crafters will find a nice selection of quilting, papercrafts, and needlework patterns. Crafts, cookbooks, and books about diet and exercise and animals are on the stage with the DVD's and CD's.

We're also selling a 4-wheeled heavy duty steel utility cart that our computer department no longer needs. It was given to the volunteers to use for transporting books, but it's much too big and heavy for our purposes. It measures 24" by 36" with the shelves being 38" high. We're asking $100.


Our volunteers work hard all year, cleaning and sorting books. You'll rarely find one that's damaged or soiled. The sale is easy to shop because tables and shelves are clearly labelled. If you can't find something, ask one of the volunteers. We'll be wearing name tags.

We price to sell! We like to think of ourselves as the Dollar Book Sale because that's what you'll pay for most hardcovers, trade (quality) paperbacks, CD's, and DVD's. Small paperbacks and children's books are $.50. We have a limited number of VHS priced at $.25 each.

The public sale opens on Friday, November 4, at 10:00 am until 5:00 pm. Saturday hours are 9:00 am until 2:00 pm. Monday, November 7, is Half-Price Day from 2:00 to 7:00 pm. Tuesday, November 8, is $5 Bag Day from 2:00 to 7:00 pm - stop in after you vote! ShopRite has again donated plenty of brown grocery bags for you to fill.

The Library is located at 515 Church Street between N. 5th and 6th Streets. Metered street parking is usually available nearby if our lot is full. Please enter the sale from the Church Street entrance which is handicapped accessible.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Book Review - The Millennium Series, by Stieg Larsson

"The Lord of the Rings is often erroneously called a trilogy," Douglas A. Anderson once wrote, "when it is in fact a single novel." I feel the need to begin this review by clarifying a similar misconception about Stieg Larsson's works. Millennium is sometimes termed a trilogy, when it is actually a series of ten novels - only three of which were completed by the author. Stieg Larsson planned to write ten novels, but died of a heart attack just after delivering the manuscripts for the first three. Outlines and sketches exist for some of the later novels in the series, but Larsson had not completed any manuscripts.


 
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is a shocking, scatterbrained potpourri of a novel. I have never seen a book that cared so little about its own image. It is part cyber-punk hacker-thriller, part chronicle of a severely dysfunctional family, part Quixotic tale about the virtue of honest journalism, part scathing rebuke of the "rape culture" in modern society, part revenge story, and even part romance. And I don't think Stieg Larsson cared one bit about appealing to readers of any one of those genres. He wrote this novel because he was driven to write it. He once claimed that the inspiration for the Millennium trilogy came from when he witnessed a gang raping a girl. Larsson, fifteen years old at the time, watched the incident with horror, but did nothing to help the girl; the guilt stayed with him for years (some believe this story is actually fabricated). I believe that Larsson approached this novel not with a logical goal in mind, but in reflection upon a terrible, traumatic experience. The strength of his own passion, combined with a potent imagination and meticulous attention to detail, yielded a stunning story. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo shows much evil in the world, and implies even more.

The novel essentially has three separate plots that intersect here and there when they are in the mood. The first involves journalist Mikael Blomkvist, head of the magazine Millennium. He has recently been indicted on charges of libel, and all over Sweden his reputation is tarnished. The second involves Henrik Vanger, the aging CEO of a family corporation whose brother's granddaughter, Harriet, disappeared thirty-six years ago. Vanger distrusts many members of his family, and he is determined to find out what happened to his grand-niece before he dies. The third involves Lisbeth Salander, the eponymous "girl" who is probably hacking into your computer and writing a report on your life as you read this review. She is an introverted, reclusive young woman whose best friends live by code names, who carries a taser with her, and who trusts no one on earth.

Vanger hires Blomkvist to chronicle the family's history and search for what really happened to Harriet, promising Blomkvist a hefty salary and special information that could clear Blomkvist's name in the libel suit. When the job proves to be intriguing but overly complex, Blomkvist asks Vanger's lawyer to hire an assistant in the research, and the lawyer reveals that he once hired Lisbeth to do a background check on Blomkvist himself. Thus Blomkvist chooses Lisbeth to be his research assistant, and the two develop an unexpected relationship.

Blomkvist and Lisbeth do not meet until more than halfway through the novel. They are both prodigies, in a sense. Blomkvist is a prodigy with people, being able to communicate and connect with almost anyone. Lisbeth is a prodigy with data - she has a photographic memory, she can hack into any computer in five minutes, and when faced with an obstacle she always knows where to go in order to obtain the right tools to confront that obstacle. What she cannot do is chart her relationships with the different people in her life. In her mind, it is Lisbeth versus the world. Both see each other's weaknesses: Lisbeth thinks of Blomkvist as naive, and Blomkvist mentally diagnoses Lisbeth with Asperger's. Together, they chase a number of leads on the case of what happened to Harriet thirty-six years ago.

The dominant theme of the novel is, of course, misogyny. It depicts scenes of sexual abuse quite unsparingly, and constantly hints that we do not even know about most cases because the victims are simply powerless to report it. When Lisbeth is raped by her own welfare guardian, she does not go to the police because she knows it will be "his word against hers" - as he gleefully taunts her. A man reflects at one point, "Women disappear all the time. Nobody misses them." And that is the most palpable difference between Blomkvist and Lisbeth - probably no one would miss Lisbeth, but a lot of people would miss Blomkvist. The majority of this novel takes place in Mikael Blomkvist's world, which is a world of important people, of the affluent elite. People who make six-figure paychecks. People whose names are printed on products that ship halfway around the world. People who sit in meetings and decide the future of a company. This novel has little to say about the working-class citizen. Even Lisbeth, an outcast who cares nothing for her appearance, does not have a history of washing dishes or cooking fast food or going through the dumpsters for her clothing. Rather, she insists on buying expensive electronic equipment and splurging on new tattoos, earning her money by means of sophisticated hacking techniques that the common person would never understand. She is divided from Blomkvist, not in terms of wealth and education, but in terms of personal relationships. He has many relationships; she has none.

This book has no intention to recognize beauty in the world, even if it happens by accident sometimes. Though Blomkvist actually enjoys a lot of leisure and prosperity (his three-month prison sentence is described as if it were a paid vacation), his story is not half as poignant as Lisbeth's, and it is Lisbeth's that stays with us. She is a confused, angry, resourceful demon of a girl, perverted by a dark past that is not revealed to us yet. She detests those who prey on the weak, but does not quite know how to take care of herself - somewhat like a cross between Zorro, and Katharina from The Taming of the Shrew. If she had her own version of the Bat-Signal and I saw it in the sky one night, I think I would run for my life.



The Girl who Played with Fire takes place roughly a year after the events of the first novel. It has almost no connection to the Vanger family of the first novel. Instead it focuses more on Lisbeth herself. Three people are murdered, the police find Lisbeth's fingerprints on the gun, and in the course of the investigation we learn more and more about her dark past.

In theory, this sounds like an excellent follow-up to Dragon Tattoo. However, The Girl who Played with Fire opens up a can of worms and does not know what to do with its contents. To put it simply: it is a plodding, shapeless novel. The entire first section describes a long, decadent vacation that Lisbeth takes on a series of tropical islands, a vacation that has no relevance or connection to the rest of the story. Meanwhile at the Millennium magazine, Blomkvist and his editor, Erika Berger, begin to collaborate with a journalist named Dag Svensson and his girlfriend Mia Johansson on an article and eventually on a nonfiction book about illegal sex trade. As Dag and Mia finish up their research, they discover an obscure criminal figure named Zala and try to find out more about him. Suddenly Mikael Blomkvist comes to their apartment one night and finds that Dag and Mia have both been shot; a few days later, the police discover that Bjurman, Lisbeth's corrupt and sadistic legal guardian, has also been shot, probably with the same gun. When they find Lisbeth's fingerprints on the matching gun outside Dag's apartment, the police begin an all-out campaign to find Lisbeth, putting out "wanted" posters that portray her as everything from a prostitute to a lesbian Satanist.

Much of the novel dwells on a cat-and-mouse game between the police and Lisbeth, except in this case the mouse can watch the cat's every move on a computer, so we know that Lisbeth could probably elude the police for several decades. The arrogance, misogyny, and corruption within the police force does not help, either. It is a one-sided game, and it gets repetitive. Gradually Larsson switches the focus to an epic mystery that surrounds Lisbeth. It turns out that she is the focal point of a criminal conspiracy that involves the entire Swedish government, an illegal Russian defector who is a threat to national security, historical events that took place in several other countries, an untold number of past murders, a superhuman "giant" who is afraid of the dark, and half of the sex-trade activities that have gone on in the past twenty years. It is spellbinding but slightly implausible. By the end of the novel, everyone is desperately seeking Lisbeth, as if she is a sort of inverted "chosen one" - a missing piece in a gigantic puzzle that might fall down and crush everyone.

The story does a good job of building up my sympathy for Lisbeth. Her guardian, Nils Bjurman, was terrible to her, but now we see that Lisbeth's life was abominable long before she met him (although it turns out that he "knew" who she was ever since she was born, and his guardianship of her was planned from the start). The shadowy criminal Zala and the sadistic doctor Teleborian made her childhood a nightmare, and we finally understand why she never trusts the police or any figure of authority.

But overall, this book lacks the tight construction of the first. Lisbeth Salander was easily the strongest and most fascinating character in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, and I understand why the author chose to focus more directly on her in this sequel. Yet somehow, Larsson did not quite give her enough to do in this book; her character is like the kid who keeps waiting and waiting to go on at the talent show, and when it's finally her turn she gets stage fright and can't go through with her own act. At the end of the first book, Lisbeth steals three billion kronor (about $325 million in U.S. dollars) from a corrupt businessman, and so she is suddenly wealthy beyond her wildest dreams. Throughout the sequel, Larsson spends a lot of time describing all the fancy things Lisbeth buys: Ikea furniture, an apartment with enough rooms for twenty of her, coffeemakers, first-class hotel rooms, silverware. Why doesn't she use her resources to help people? Start her own magazine? Buy a building and create a homeless shelter? Attend the best college in the country and learn to be a social worker? If she cannot trust any authority figure, at least she could become something that others could look up to. But Lisbeth does none of these things. Her introversion is such a handicap that Larsson does not seem to know how to make her do anything on her own; things must happen to her.

Thus the dynamic nature of her character runs into a roadblock, namely, Larsson's passive treatment of her. I don't know if this was intentional - perhaps Larsson meant to demonstrate that people's mistreatment of her made it impossible for Lisbeth to have any creativity or positive initiative in life. I want to stress that I really did feel sorry for her. It's just that I expected her to do more than just evade police and find out about her own past and occasionally shock people with her taser. Is her indifference to the world a character flaw that she will eventually overcome? Are we supposed to feel responsible for this flaw - have we bred the outcasts of society to be sullen and listless?



The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest begins almost immediately after the events of the second novel. Lisbeth Salander is in critical condition, and an actual helicopter arrives to deliver her to a hospital. The criminal Zala is also in critical condition (after Lisbeth hit him with an axe...twice...), and they are both taken to the same hospital even though the police know that they were basically trying to kill each other. So the tensions flare when the two injured parties are placed two separate rooms, within about two hundred feet of each other. Meanwhile the giant henchman working for Zala has vanished.

For most of the novel, Lisbeth lies on a hospital bed recuperating from three separate gunshot wounds. In theory this does not sound very dramatic, but Larsson actually makes the most of it, and she proves to be a very intriguing patient - the kind of patient you might see in one of the better episodes of Grey's Anatomy, with Dr. Shepherd mentally comparing Lisbeth Salander to his coworker Meredith Grey.

But I stray. The third installment of Larsson's series is a dense kevlar-suit of a novel, stretched out yet compact, insanely intricate yet oddly stagnant. The action of the novel consists of the effort of three armies battling against one. The tireless reporters of Millennium magazine, the clever tricksters of Milton Security, and the courageous local police officers (on Lisbeth's side this time!), have all joined forces against a select few members of SIS (Swedish Internal Security) who have broken laws in the past and are now desperately trying to cover their tracks. It resembles a conspiracy novel, such as i.e. Grisham's The Pelican Brief; but here the conspiracy has already occurred, and we are just watching the aftermath of it and waiting for the crooks to get caught. The men of the SSA (Section for Special Analysis, a group within SIS) once granted sanctuary to the Russian defector Zala decades ago, and his horrible lifestyle and violent tendencies got him in trouble time after time; SSA was forced to cover up for his crimes.

I will confess that I simply could not follow the course of the story at times. In order to keep track of all the characters working for Millennium, Milton, the police, and SIS, you would probably have to fill up an entire notebook. As Lisbeth recovers, she is surprised to find that she has a number of friends who are ready to defend her in her upcoming trial. SIS has stacked the deck against her: they have influenced the prosecution into charging her with aggravated assault, possession of illegal weapons, unlawful threats, breaking and entering, theft of a vehicle; and, in general, the crime of being crazy. To slander Lisbeth's character, SIS depends upon Dr. Teleborian, who insists that Lisbeth is completely incapable of being a responsible citizen. For over four hundred pages the SIS and the allied forces compile evidence against each other, preparing for a trial that does not occur until the last quarter of the novel.

All of this centers around Lisbeth Salander. The girl who has stirred up a swarm of metaphorical hornets with her proverbial kick. Her code name is "Wasp," but other than that, this story has nothing whatsoever to do with insects. This is a story about a girl who was in the wrong place at the wrong time - a girl who got mixed up with a terrible man (Zala) through no fault of her own, and must dig herself out of all the trouble that is heaped upon her. The only crime she committed was fighting back, fighting for her survival. That is why she must face this conspiracy that is bent upon eradicating her from history.

At one point in the novel, Erika Berger begins working at a different journal called Svenska Morgon Posten - SMP for short. Berger argues with the other members of SMP: she says that the aim of a business should not be to make money, but to create the best possible product and let the consumers decide if that product is worth their money. When the others claim that this goes against the idea of capitalism, Berger insists that this is the very definition of capitalism: "Ownership implies responsibility...it's the market that decides whether you make a profit or take a loss." Now, at first I was tempted to see this whole subplot of Berger working at SMP as an erroneous digression from the main plot of the story, since it has almost no influence on Lisbeth Salander's situation. But I believe that Erika's argument, about progression versus profit, has been put here for a reason: it is exposing the same sort of hypocrisy that Lisbeth's plight is exposing. As Dr. Teleborian and his cohorts seek to exploit women, so the editors at Svenska Mogon Posten seek to exploit the middle class, claiming that some people's success is more important than other people's success. Larsson is raising a question here: can you earn the respect of others without taking away their own self-respect?

Again, my assessment waxes political, or didactic; I sound like I am preaching rather than reviewing. But as I mentioned before, Larsson's very intent seems to be didactic, a struggle to make people aware of how many disgraceful things happen in the world every day. It is not a question of precisely how much we can do, but, rather, a question of whether we are willing to take the first step in addressing a wrong. Most of The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets' Nest is about a group effort to bury the wrongs of the past, while the friends of Lisbeth Salander try to exhume those wrongs. The novel is fairly black-and-white, with obvious distinctions between the people Larsson hated and the people Larsson admired. Lisbeth is disconnected and dysfunctional like before, but I could see a slight change in her demeanor, a realization that she cannot survive if she does not trust a few people. Of course it ends in a vicious courtroom battle, in which the resourceful lawyer Annika (sister of Mikael Blomkvist) takes on the evil Dr. Teleborian. However, when Lisbeth watches this lawyer defend her so energetically, Lisbeth is forced to do something she hates: feel indebted to another person.


The symbols we see in the titles of these novels - dragon, fire, hornet - are not entirely the inventions of the author. The original Swedish titles of the novels are, translated literally, Men Who Hate Women, The Girl Who Played With Fire, and The Air Castle That Was Blown Up. The translator, Steven T. Murray (a.k.a. Reg Keeland), chose to change two of the titles, perhaps to make the series sound more unified.

Where was Larsson going with these strange ideas? Hatred, fire, air castle - the last one reminding us of Laputa, the flying castle from Gulliver's Travels - all of them are about intolerance. The anger we feel for those who are different from us, and the anger they feel in return when they are not accepted by us. Permeating through the stories is the benevolent Millennium magazine, determined to tell the truth about how people have been mistreated by society. We all crave equality; but there are different ideologies concerning how to achieve equality. Larsson was a die-hard leftist, and he believed reform was necessary to make sure people could live as equals.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Congratulations to the Winners in the Adult Summer Reading Program

This year's Adult Summer Reading Program - our 10th year - concluded with over 700 entries. Thank you to all the businesses that donated this year's excellent prizes. Here are the winners:

Amaryllis Tattoo ($50 gift card) - J. Burd
Capelli Salon ($20 gift certificate) - G. Coakley
Refurbished EAPL computer (2) - K. Bath and P. Serridge
EAPL Book Sale ($20 gift certificate) - B. Sceurman
Easton Main Street (five $20 gift cards) - M. McAteer, B. Rich, C. Brown, R. Hoffnagle, and T. Lenoir
Easton Public Market ($15 gift card + $15 Farmers' Market token) - K. Horn
Giant Food Store ($25 gift card) - D. Volpe
Magic Wok ($20 gift card) - S. Bergstresser
New Wok 'n' Roll (two $25 gift cards) - B. Elston and C. Horvath
Pizza d'Oro (two certificates for a large pizza) - M. Ahrweiler and C. Swavely
Redner's (three $10 gift cards) - E. Purcell, B. Jones, and C. Thomas
Rothrock Motors (one package of 2 free oil changes) - A. Telle
Sette Luna ($50 gift card) - J. Tielmann
Shop Rite (gift basket - $45 value) - C. Gray
Blue Sky at the State ($25 gift certificate) - B. Sacks
Stoke Coal Fire Pizza ($20 gift card) - S. Lewis
Wegmans (three $20 gift cards) - H. Mineo, A. Stevralia. and D. Fantasia
Weis Market ($20 gift card) - J. Herr



Thursday, August 18, 2016

Reblogged: Pass the Popcorn

Jennifer Haubner at Off The Shelf provides some suggestions for those of us who like to read the book before we see the movie.

Pass the Popcorn:10 Books to Read Before They Hit the Big Screen

By Julianna Haubner - Thursday, August 11, 2016

From children's classics to dramatic thrillers to inspiring biographies, books have always been source material for some of our greatest and most cherished films. Stories can live on the page and in our minds, but there's nothing quite like seeing them come to life before your eyes. Here are some of the titles we can't wait to see in theaters this year and beyond.


The Light Between Oceans

by M. L. Stedman

After years of struggling to start a family on an island off the coast of Australia , Tom and Isabel Sherbourne find a boat that has washed ashore carrying the body of a man and a living baby. Tom wants to report the missing child to authorities, but grief-stricken Isabel claims the child as their own. What follows is a heartbreaking realization about the effects our choices have on others. We can't wait to see Michael Fassbender and Alicia Vikander as Tom and Isabel. RELEASE  DATE: September 2, 1016




The Queen of Katwe

by Tim Crothers

One day in 2005, 9-year-old Ugandan Phiona Mutesi met a man who would change her life. Robert Katende, a war-refugee-turned­ missionary, had a dream to empower local children through the game of chess, and Phiona soon proved herself to be an undeniable talent. This remarkable true story follows her as she rises through the ranks and seeks to reach the highest levels of the game. Lupita Nyong'o and David Oyelowo star.
RELEASE DATE: September 2016.



Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children

by Ransom Riggs

After a horrific family tragedy, a young boy named Jacob is sent to a remote island off the coast of Wales, where he discovers the ruins of Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children. As he explores, he begins to realize that the past young residents of the home were not only strange, they may have been dangerous-and they might still be alive. We're thrilled that director Tim Burton is bringing this inventive tale to the big screen.
RELEASE DATE:  September 30, 2016




A Monster Calls

by Patrick Ness

This Carnegie Medal-winning children's novel is the latest fantasy adaptation to be translated from page to screen. Set in present-day England, it follows a young boy struggling to cope with his mother's terminal illness. He's visited each night be a monster (Liam Neeson) who tells him stories, with profound and escalating consequences . RELEASE DATE: October 21, 2016



Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk

by Ben Fountain

Part satire, part political commentary, Ben Fountain's debut has been called "CATCH-22 for the Iraq War." Coming to the big screen in an adaptation by Oscar-winning director Ang Lee, it follows a young man named Billy Lynn and the surviving members of his Bravo Squad as they are shuffled through a day's worth of events on their "Victory Tour" at the Texas Stadium. RELEASE DATE: November 11, 2016



Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

by Newt Scamander

Perhaps the most anticipated film of 2016, J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter backstory features the wizard Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) as he travels to 1920s New York. Everything is going swimmingly, until Scamander's suitcase-which contains a number of dangerous magical creatures and their habitats (indexed in his textbook FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEM)-pops open and the state of the non-magical world is threatened. RELEASE DATE: November 18, 2016




The Circle

by Dave Eggers

Mae Holland (played by Emma Watson) is an ambitious young woman hired by the Circle, the world's most powerful internet company, which is pioneering a new age of transparency. But as Mae moves deeper into the group culture, her enthusiasm is tested as she begins to face all-too-familiar questions of privacy, history, democracy, and human knowledge.
RELEASE DATE: TBD 2016




The Dark Tower I: The Gunslinger

by Stephen King

For almost a decade, Stephen King fans have been yearning to see this epic series on the big screen, and they'll finally get their wish with this adaptation, starring Idris Elba and Matthew McConaughey. It tells the story of the fallen land of Mid-World, through the eyes of a knight whose primary mission is to save his decaying world by reaching the titular tower that stands at the
intersection of time and space. This mix of horror, western, and sci-ti will be a must-see.  RELEASE  DATE: February 17, 2017




Ready Player One

by Ernest Cline

The year is 2044, and the world isn't a great place. So, when the multi-billionaire creator of a virtual world dies, he hides his entire fortune somewhere within his creation to spark the largest treasure hunt the world has ever known. Whoever gets to it first wins it all.  If you grew up playing video games, this one is for you, and we're sure the adaptation-directed by
Stephen Spielberg-will be worth the wait. RELEASE DATE: March 30, 2017





All the Bright Places

by Jennifer Niven

When Theodore Finch and Violet Markey meet on the ledge of the bell tower at school, it's unclear who saves the life of the other.  Violet, a popular cheerleader, and Theodore, an outsider obsessed with death, soon team up on a class project. As they grow closer, they teach each other how to be their best selves and confront life's challenges head on. Elle Fanning is set to star in this adaptation. RELEASE DATE: TBD 2017







Thursday, June 16, 2016

Palindrome Week!

This week is a Palindrome Week - that means that each date this week can be read the same way backwards and forwards. For instance, today is 6/16/16 - 61616.

6.12.16 (Sunday)
6.13.16 (Monday)
6.14.16 (Tuesday)
6.15.16 (Wednesday)
6.16.16 (Thursday)
6.17.16 (Friday)
6.18.16 (Saturday)

In the Dewey Decimal System, there are also palindromes. There are several legitimate Dewey Decimal Numbers that read the same backwards and forwards:

615.8516: Biblitherapy
976.679: Le Flore County, Oklahoma
331.4133: Women's Rights
363.7363: Management of Pollution in the Environment
621.3126: Energy Storage in Engineering

And of course,

331.890410263362014098133: labor-management bargaining and disputes in libraries devoted to local taxes, in ParaĆ­ba state, Brazil.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Books about Books...and Librarians!


David Wright, from LibraryReads.org, recommended his top favorite books about books...and librarians.  






Katarina Bivald's The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend
Broken Wheel, Iowa, has never seen anyone like Sara, who traveled all the way from Sweden just to meet her pen pal, Amy. When she arrives, however, she finds that Amy's funeral has just ended. Luckily, the townspeople are happy to look after their bewildered tourist--even if they don't understand her peculiar need for books. Marooned in a farm town that's almost beyond repair, Sara starts a bookstore in honor of her friend's memory. All she wants is to share the books she loves with the citizens of Broken Wheel and to convince them that reading is one of the great joys of life. But she makes some unconventional choices that could force a lot of secrets into the open and change things for everyone in town. Reminiscent of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, this is a warm, witty book about friendship, stories, and love.


Ian Caldwell's The Fifth Gospel
** Available in Large Print **
A lost gospel, a contentious relic, and a dying pope's final wish converge to send two brothers--both Vatican priests--on an intellectual quest to untangle Christianity's greatest historical mystery.









Elisabeth Egan's A Window Opens
From the beloved books editor at Glamour magazine comes a heartfelt and painfully funny debut about what happens when a wife and mother of three leaps at the chance to fulfill her professional destiny--only to learn every opportunity comes at a price. In A Window Opens, Elisabeth Egan brings us Alice Pearse, a compulsively honest, longing-to-have-it-all, sandwich generation heroine for our social-media-obsessed, lean in (or opt out) age. Like her fictional forebears Kate Reddy and Bridget Jones, Alice plays many roles (which she never refers to as "wearing many hats" and wishes you wouldn't, either). She is a mostly-happily married mother of three, an attentive daughter, an ambivalent dog-owner, a part-time editor, a loyal neighbor, and a Zen commuter. She is not: a cook, a craftswoman, a decorator, an active PTA member, a natural caretaker, or the breadwinner. But when her husband makes a radical career change, Alice is ready to lean in--and she knows exactly how lucky she is to land a job at Scroll, a hip young start-up which promises to be the future of reading, with its chain of chic literary lounges and dedication to beloved classics. The Holy Grail of working mothers--an intellectually satisfying job and a happy personal life--seems suddenly within reach. Despite the disapproval of her best friend, who owns the local bookstore, Alice is proud of her new "balancing act" (which is more like a three-ring circus) until her dad gets sick, her marriage flounders, her babysitter gets fed up, her kids start to grow up, and her work takes an unexpected turn. Fans of I Don't Know How She Does It, Where'd You Go Bernadette, and The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry will cheer as Alice realizes the question is not whether it's possible to have it all, but what does she--Alice Pearse--really want?

Nina George's A Little Paris Bookshop
There are books that are suitable for a million people, others for only a hundred. There are even remedies--I mean books--that were written for one person only...A book is both medic and medicine at once. It makes a diagnosis as well as offering therapy. Putting the right novels to the appropriate ailments: that's how I sell books." Monsieur Perdu calls himself a literary apothecary. From his floating bookstore in a barge on the Seine, he prescribes novels for the hardships of life. Using his intuitive feel for the exact book a reader needs, Perdu mends broken hearts and souls. The only person he can't seem to heal through literature is himself; he's still haunted by heartbreak after his great love disappeared. She left him with only a letter, which he has never opened. After Perdu is finally tempted to read the letter, he hauls anchor and departs on a mission to the south of France, hoping to make peace with his loss and discover the end of the story. Joined by a bestselling but blocked author and a lovelorn Italian chef, Perdu travels along the country's rivers, dispensing his wisdom and his books, showing that the literary world can take the human soul on a journey to heal itself. Internationally bestselling and filled with warmth and adventure, The Little Paris Bookshop is a love letter to books, meant for anyone who believes in the power of stories to shape people's lives.


Olivia Laing's A Trip to Echo Springs: On Writers and Drinking
Laing examines the link between creativity and alcohol through the work and lives of six of America's finest writers.










Jenn McKinlay's A Likely Story: A Library Lover's Mystery
Delivering books to the housebound residents of the Thumb Islands, just a short boat ride from the town of Briar Creek, library director Lindsey Norris has befriended two elderly brothers, Stewart and Peter Rosen. She enjoys visiting them in their treasure-filled, ramshackle Victorian on Star Island until she discovers that Peter has been killed and Stewart is missing. Now she's determined to solve a murder and find Stewart before he suffers his brother's fate.





Bradford Morrow's The Forgers
The rare book world is stunned when a reclusive collector, Adam Diehl, is found on the floor of his Montauk home: hands severed, surrounded by valuable inscribed books and original manuscripts that have been vandalized beyond repair. Adam's sister, Meghan, and her lover, Will-- a convicted if unrepentant literary forger-- struggle to come to terms with the seemingly incomprehensible murder. But when Will begins receiving threatening handwritten letters, seemingly penned by long-dead authors, but really from someone who knows secrets about Adam's death and Will's past, he understands his own life is also on the line--and attempts to forge a new beginning for himself and Meg. In The Forgers, Morrow reveals the passion that drives collectors to the razor-sharp edge of morality, brilliantly confronting the hubris and mortal danger of rewriting history with a fraudulent pen.

Erika Swyler's The Book of Speculation
** Available in Large Print **
Simon Watson, a young librarian on the verge of losing his job, lives alone on the Long Island Sound in his family home--a house, perched on the edge of a bluff, that is slowly crumbling toward the sea. His parents are long dead, his mother having drowned in the water his house overlooks. His younger sister, Enola, works for a traveling carnival reading tarot cards, and seldom calls. On a day in late June, Simon receives a mysterious package from an antiquarian bookseller. The book tells the story of Amos and Evangeline, doomed lovers who lived and worked in a traveling circus more than two hundred years ago. The paper crackles with age as Simon turns the yellowed pages filled with notes, sketches, and whimsical flourishes; and his best friend and fellow librarian, Alice, looks on in increasing alarm. Why does his grandmother's name, Verona Bonn, appear in this book? Why do so many women in his family drown on July 24? Could there possibly be some kind of curse on his family--and could Enola, who has suddenly turned up at home for the first time in six years, risk the same fate in just a few weeks? In order to save her--and perhaps himself--Simon must try urgently to decode his family history while moving on from the past. The Book of Speculation is Erika Swyler's gorgeous and moving debut, a wondrous novel about the power of books and family and magic.


Gabrielle Zevin's The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry
** Available in Large Print **
When his most prized possession, a rare collection of Poe poems, is stolen, bookstore owner A. J. Fikry begins isolating himself from his friends, family and associates before receiving a mysterious package that compels him to remake his life.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Book Review - Go Set a Watchman, by Harper Lee

I have just read Go Set a Watchman, the first novel that Harper Lee ever wrote. To Kill a Mockingbird functions as a sort of prequel to it, exploring its themes in greater depth; but this was Harper Lee's original sketch of Jean Louise "Scout" Finch and her father, the lawyer Atticus Finch.


Harper Lee has a very distinctive writing style; yet as I was reading, I had the feeling I'd read something similar from a different author. Then it hit me: James Baldwin. Whether either of them ever read the other, I do not know, but the resemblance between the two writing styles is striking: frank, wisecracking without resorting to cynicism, presenting history as a series of events that no one is really happy with and the most entertaining part of life is trading stories about why we don't like to do as we're told. Almost every conversation is a series of minor incongruities over one's ideas of how we ought to live our lives, spoken between characters who are trying earnestly to understand each other but know that in the end it's just not worth all the fuss. I have the feeling that, at some point in her life, Lee discovered to her immense disappointment that life is not half as tragic as some people make it out to be. Not a discovery I recommend making, if you are an author (since I think the tragedy is an excellent form of literature); but once you stumble upon this sort of conviction it does not go away easily.

Unlike To Kill a Mockingbird, this novel takes place within a very short space of time, approximately four days (with a few flashbacks, to earlier events). Scout (called "Jean Louise" for most of this novel, although Atticus still calls her Scout on occasion) is now twenty-six years old and has been living in New York for several years. She comes back to Maycomb County by train, anticipating a restful two-week stay with her friends and family, and instead finds that the town has changed greatly. Rest does not come easily.

The book is ambitious yet cautious; it tries to tackle a great number of issues and encompass an enormous scope, yet remarkably little happens in the entire story. Jean Louise spends time with her boyfriend, Hank, who has trained with her father Atticus to be a lawyer; she finds out that Calpurnia's grandson, Frank, accidentally ran over a man and Jean Louise is anxious over what sentence Frank will receive in court; she attends a tea party with women of her own age and finds that she has nothing in common with them; and, apart from a few passionate dialogues that erupt between Scout and the key male figures in her life, that is it. The novel hints at court cases, but none is witnessed or concluded; jibes at the NAACP and the SCOTUS, but a full history of their actions is never outlined; showers the reader with emotional sparks that result from a major turning point in Jean Louise's life, but barely examines where she came from or elucidates where she will be going. The novel is powerful, but disorganized.

Although it does not dabble in "sit-ins" or peaceful protests, Go Set a Watchman is a novel about the civil rights debates of the 1950s. Scout has been living in New York, an overwhelmingly metropolitan center of world communication, where people of all different races and religions and backgrounds have learned to tolerate (or ignore) one another in every context - in school, on subways, in public restrooms, in the office, etc. She returns to Maycomb and finds out, during a citizens' council meeting, that several prominent officials of the town are racists and treat the "Brown vs. Board" decision as an infringement upon their rights. What is far more horrifying is that Atticus, though unsympathetic to the racists' viewpoints, does not denounce them; Atticus sits calmly, and he quietly defends the black man whose crime is the subject of their debate. Disgusted, Jean Louis leaves the courthouse. Later she attends a tea party held by her Aunt Alexandra, and she hears young ladies sharing many of the same opinions, mostly parroting what their husbands say. The novel finally comes to a boil when Jean Louise confronts her father Atticus and scolds her for raising her to be "colorblind" when she should have been exposed to these racist opinions earlier in her life. Jean Louise discovers that her father is not a deity, but wholly human, and that he cannot simply elevate all people to the same level of intellect at which Jean Louise was bred to live. Though Atticus justifies all of his actions with reason, the image we had of him from To Kill a Mockingbird is shattered.

The title of the novel is derived from a passage in the book of Isaiah, one that tells people to "set a Watchman" who will stay at a city's gates and report what he sees. Jean Louise's Uncle Jack warns her that she must form her own conscience, her own set of beliefs, which can function as a frame of reference when she determines what is right and what is wrong in the world. In short, this is a sort of final nudge in a series of nudges toward womanhood in Jean Louise's life - one final illusion to be shattered before is capable of being her own woman in society. It is a microcosm of a coming-of-age story, one that begins at the very end (kind of like a cross between Jane Eyre and "The Cask of Amontillado," if Virginia Woolf had written it).

The shades of gray in the novel are unsettling, but the novel itself fails to form a coherent whole. There is no Boo Radley, no Tom Robinson, no character whose plight is so terrible that it distracts Jean Louise from her own personal doubts and drives her to transcend her internal struggles. The novel has many powerful moments, but if it had not been written by an author who is now famous, those powerful moments would not have been enough to merit widespread publication. Nonetheless, they were enough for me. Go Set a Watchman is an admirable first novel. It lacks the ingenuity of construction that a mature writer would possess, yet it is a stunning look at the conflict between different ideologies of 1950s America. Uncle Jack holds Jean Louise up to a mirror and says to her, "What do you see?...I see two people." He then adds, "What was incidental to the issue in our War Between the States is incidental to the issue in the war we're in now, and is incidental to the issue in your own private war." I don't claim to know precisely what he means, but my guess is that he refers to a struggle between the "New York" Jean Louise and the "Maycomb" Scout - a struggle between the desire to keep everyone living in harmony, and the assumption that harmony is already a natural occurrence between people. What is our natural state of mind? When we try to treat everyone as equals, do we actually want to make everyone equal, which then reflects an innate human dislike of those who are not already equal to us? To put it more simply - when we try to integrate the races, does that mean we really would prefer that the human race was all one color with no exceptions? Can human beings ever really live with diversity, and be genuinely happy? These are questions the novel does not answer. No definitive answers for these questions exist, of course, but some novels have produced at least a few tentative answers, i.e. Invisible Man, Huckleberry Finn. Go Set a Watchman leaves these questions unanswered, and I would have loved to see another part written - one where Jean Louise Finch, as a mature adult, confronts the world and finds out whether she is strong enough to make her ideas a reality. Alas, a trilogy that will never happen.