Saturday, March 28, 2015

Celebrities Who Wanted to be Librarians

A couple weeks ago, I posted about LeBron James's support of literacy, and in November, I posted about Taylor Swift's support of literacy. Someone commented on my post about LeBron James and said that B.J. Novak of The Office also has connections to libraries, which leads me to today's post.

I was reading the link given in the comments of the LeBron James post and was delighted to learn that Novak wrote the children's book The Book With No Pictures. I haven't read the book yet, but I've had several colleagues recommend it to me. I had no idea it was written by a celebrity, because I don't watch The Office, and while I don't always like it when celebrities write books, for some reason, I'm thrilled that this one was written by a celebrity--maybe because I don't know anything about Novak.

What's even better about Novak is that once upon a time, he wanted to be a librarian. In the article "B.J. Novak Goes the Extra Mile for Libraries" (this is the link that was given in the comments of the LeBron James post), Novak was quoted as saying, "I was enthralled by the library in my elementary school, where anything could happen and where no one told you where your mind was supposed to be."

This is a completely different way of showing support for libraries. Novak hasn't donated money to libraries or other literacy efforts, but writing for kids and doing readings from his children's book at libraries is a great way to bring awareness to public libraries.

Since there's not much more to say about Novak and libraries than that, I thought I'd dig around to see if I could find other celebrities who support authors. I was delighted to find this list, from Public Library News. I was even more delighted to see Keith Richards of The Rolling Stones on the list. According to an article published by The Economist, Richards, like Novak, once aspired to become a librarian.

Am I the only one who is surprised (in a good way) about celebrities who wanted to be librarians at one point in their lives? Do you know of any other celebrities who have said they wanted to be librarians when they were younger? Let me know in the comments!

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Featured Author: Robin Hobb

Robin Hobb is one of the pseudonyms of epic fantasy author Margaret Astrid Lindholm Ogden. Born in California and raised in Alaska, Ogden, according to her publisher, "raised her family, ran a smallholding, delivered post to her remote community, all at the same time as writing stories and novels. She succeeded on all fronts, raising four children and becoming an internationally best-selling writer." She now lives in Tacoma, Washington.

Ogden started her career trying to write children's books, but later decided "...that there was a corollary to the famous 'Write what you know' advice. That was, 'Write what you love reading.'" A longtime fan of science fiction and fantasy, she decided to change direction. She had tremendous success writing fantasy novels  from 1983-1992 as Megan Lindholm, but when she decided to take an epic fantasy (sometimes called high fantasy) storyline, Ogden felt her new voice required a new name. As Robin Hobb, her books (beginning with Assassin's Apprentice in 1995) encompass several series, but all take place in the Realm of the Elderlings with the exception of the Forest Mage Trilogy.  There are links between the series, and at least two of them run concurrently.

The Farseer Trilogy
The story of FitzChivalry Farseer (Fitz), a trained assassin.

Royal Assassin [eBook]

Liveship Traders Trilogy

Ship of Magic [eBook + eAudio]

The Tawny Man Trilogy
The Tawny Man series continues the adventures of FitzChivalry Farseer from the author's Farseer Trilogy, fifteen years later.

Fool's Fate [eBook]

The Rain Wild Chronicles
Takes place years after The Liveship Traders Trilogy.

Dragon Keeper [eBook + eAudio]

The Fitz and the Fool Trilogy
The continuing adventures of Fitz, years later.

The Forest Mage Series
Also called the Soldier Son Trilogy.

Find stories written under her other pseudonym, Megan Lindholm, in the Dangerous Women anthology.

Readalikes: George R. R. Martin, Susanna Clarke, Philip Pullman, Patrick Rothfuss, J.R.R. Tolkien, J. K. Rowling.

Monday, March 23, 2015

What Makes a Place?: Reinventing the Atlas

An atlas also let me do a bunch of things I wanted to do. One was to provide a counter to the rush to online mapping with its hideous aesthetics, evanescent images, normalizing tendencies to show all places merely in terms of practical needs, and consumerism. There are all these restaurants and shops on Google Maps, without any indication of, say, where great women lived or endangered butterfly species live.
~Rebecca Solnit

Author, activist, and historian Rebecca Solnit, along with cartographers, designers, researchers, and teams of artists and writers, is putting out a series of city atlases though the University of California Press. The first two atlases explored San Francisco and New Orleans, and the third will focus on New York City. But, be warned - these are not your traditional atlases. Solnit's atlas places an emphasis on the cultural history of the city, and her rendering is admittedly "modest and deeply arbitrary". As Solnit explains "...a big part of my writing has been to try to describe and value those things that are not quantifiable, commodifiable, controllable: epiphanies, awareness, those beautiful moments when people come together as civil society, whether to pick up after a disaster or overthrow a disastrous regime, beauty itself, and the pleasures that don’t get named much."

In Solnit's atlases, maps, rather than just showing city streets and traditional cultural landmarks (museums, etc.), are a mashup of traditional maps, with varying takes on the topography of the city, and cultural history.  The "Cinema City" map in Infinite City: A San Francisco Atlas, for example, shows the reader locations important to Eadweard Muybridge (a photographer who helped create the earliest technology of moving pictures) and to Alfred Hitchcock and his film Vertigo; you can also find the locations of "1958 movie theaters, surviving" and "1958 movie theaters, gone".

Maps are matched with essays on the topic the map explores. Map 9 in Unfathomable City: A New Orleans Atlas is titled "Sugar Heaven and Sugar Hell: Pleasures and Brutalities of a Commodity" - New Orleans is famous for sweet treats such as pralines and beignets. The map shows antebellum sites (e.g. where Jesuit missionaries raised sugar cane in the 1700s), plantation borders, postbellum sites (e.g,. Domino Sugar's Chalmette Refinery), and dialysis centers. The accompanying essay is called "No Sweetness Is Light"; in it, Shirley Thompson talks about "the New Orleans sugar map" and how the craving for sweetness exists alongside the more famous tastes of the city, like fish and hot pepper. It's a brief, often personal essay, touching on diabetes, sugar processing, and slavery.

Both atlases are a pleasure to browse. The maps are coloful and clearly rendered, and there are also some photos and illustrations scattered throughout the book  - many vintage, but some from the past few years. You may not be ready to take a tour of San Francisco or New Orleans after you read these atlases, but we think you will have a good sense of place, and a feel for what lies beneath the city's veneer.

You can find both Solnit's atlases in the ABC Library catalog:

The book offers this description of itself on the title page: "Of principal landmarks and treasures of the region, including butterfly species, queer sites, murders, coffee, water, power, contingent identities, social types, libraries, early-morning bars, the lost labor landscape of 1960, and the monumental Monterey cypresses of San Francisco; of indigenous place names, women environmentalists, toxins, food sites, right-wing organizations, World War II shipyards, Zen Buddhist centers, salmon migration, and musical histories of the Bay Area; with details of cultural geographies of the Mission District, the Fillmore's culture wars and metamorphoses, the racial discourses of United Nations Plaza, the South of Market world that redevelopment devoured, and other significant phenomena, vanished and extant."

Maps include: Green Women: Open Spaces and Their Champions; Truth to Power: Race and Justice in the City's Heart; Poison/Palate: The Bay Area  in Your Body; Tribes of San Francisco: Their Comings and Goings; The World in a Cup: Coffee Economics and Ecologies.

co-authored with Rebecca Snedeker

Potential readers take note, this book is: "Being an atlas in twenty-two maps and nearly that many essays about the city that is at the bottom of the Mississippi drainage of the interior of the North American continent and at the top of the Gulf of Mexico and at the center of the American unconscious, the small mortal city that is the immortal wellspring of much popular music around the world, a city not quite three hundred years old, half of that an era of slavery, all of that an era of striving for freedom; of segregation and mixing; of crime and corruption in secret and of the confident collective celebration in the streets that is their opposite; of wildlife flying over and oil pipelines cutting through; of complicated stories, not all of them black and white;of various heroines, some heroes; of unfinished tasks and interesting possibilities; a city resting on the pillowy softness of river-delivered muck, mud, and sometimes the hard ground of disputed memory; to say nothing of crawfish boils and the sweet loud sounds of brass bands." 

Maps include: Oil and Water: Extracting Petroleum, Exterminating Nature; ¡Bananas!; Snakes and Ladders: What Rose Up, What Fell Down During Hurricane Katrina; The Line-up: Live Oak Corridors and Carnival Parade Routes.

Do these atlases inspire you, as Rebecca Solnit suggests, to "pay close enough attention and move daringly enough through the city [so you] encounter difference, mystery, the unexpected, the tender and desperate little moments of strangers passing by, [and] come to know the rhythms and rites of the city and some of its secrets, and know, too, that there are more secrets than anyone can ever know" in your own town?

Friday, March 20, 2015

Life After the End of the World

...[W]e take, admittedly, rather morbid pleasure in presenting a new selection of the best of...postoil, postgrid, post-financial collapse, postpandemic tales by exceptional fiction writers."
~Donna Seaman, "Read-alikes: Life After the Apocalypse"

Writers have a lot of ideas about how the world will be coming to an end. Epidemic? Terrorist plot? The rise of the machines? Nuclear war? However civilization will collapse, the question remains - what will come next? How will humanity survive? Here are a list of books, some new, some old, that take us into the author's vision of the imagined cataclysm, and what life will be like afterwards.

World Made By Hand by James Howard Kunstler

After the Apocalypse: Stories by Maureen F. McHugh

Ashes of the Earth: A Mystery of Post-Apocalyptic America by Eliot Pattison

The Dog Stars by Peter Heller

The Flame Alphabet by Ben Marcus

Half the Kingdom by Lore Segal

Maddaddam by Margaret Atwood

On Such a Full Sea by Chang-rae Lee

Salvation City by Sigrid Nunez   [eBook]

Snowpiercer: Volume 1, The Escape by Jacques Lob

Always Coming Home by Ursula K. LeGuin

The Parable of the Sower by Octavia E. Butler

Alas, Babylon by Pat Frank

A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller, Jr.   

Wastelands: Stories of the Apocalypse edited by John Joseph Adams

There are 179 titles listed in the ABC Library catalog under the subject "End of the world - Fiction". With the current popularity of dystopias, especially in Young Adult fiction, would you expect anything less?


A Practical Fiction List for Surviving After the Apocalypse [Flashlight Worthy]

How to survive the apocalypse [Guardian]

10 Facts About Life After the Apocalypse [Listverse]

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

New & Novel: Purr-tagonists

From Puss in Boots to Krazy Kat, the Cheshire Cat to The Cat in the cult British TV show Red Dwarf (if you're not familiar, he's a Felis Sapiens which evolved from a domestic housecat), felines demonstrating agency have been around for quite some time. Cats in literature have quite a pedigree, particularly in mysteries - some of the most well-known include:

  • Lillian Jackson Braun wrote a couple dozen The Cat Who books, starring reporter named Jim Qwilleran and his Siamese cats, Kao K'o-Kung (Koko for short) and Yum-Yum
  • Rita Mae Brown has co-authored a mystery series with her cat, Sneaky Pie Brown (the mysteries also feature a cat named Mrs. Murphy)
  • stray cat...who has a talent for detection" 
  • Carole Nelson Douglas writes the Midnight Louie mystery books, where chapters alternate between the voice of Midnight Louie, a slightly overweight black cat, and his human "roommate"
  • Shirley Rousseau Murphy's cat P.I., Joe Grey, has his own website, which describes him as "the sharpest feline sleuth on the mystery scene--one cool cat, a clawed and formidable enemy of crime"
  • Sofie Kelly writes about a librarian who solves mysteries with the aid of her cats with magic powers
  • the Dixie Hemingway mysteries feature a sleuth who is a former sheriff, now professional cat-sitter 

How do you feel about anthropomorphized pets in novels? We confess to a tendency to avoid them, having been irrevocably scarred by exposure in our youth to the sad end of the animals in Sounder and Old Yeller, but books about animals running the show seem to be quite popular.  In fact, there are two (very different) brand-spanking-new books with cat protagonists:

Cat Out of Hell by Lynne Truss

For people who both love and hate cats comes the tale of Alec Charlesworth, a librarian who finds himself suddenly alone: he's lost his job, his beloved wife has just died, and to top it all off, his sister has disappeared. Overcome by grief, he stands in his sister's kitchen staring at the only witness to whats happened to her - her cat, Roger. Who then speaks to him. It takes a while for Alec to realize hes not gone mad from grief, that the cat is actually speaking . . . and that much of what we fear about cats is true. They do think they're smarter than humans, for one thing. And, well, it seems they are! Whats more, they do have nine lives. Or at least this one does. Roger's older than Methuselah, and his unblinking stare comes from the fact that he's seen it all. And he's got a tale to tell, a tale of shocking local history and dark forces that may link not only the death of Alec's wife, but also several other local deaths. But will the cat help Alec, or is he one of the dark forces?

Mort(e) by Robert Repino

The war with no name has begun, with human extinction as its goal. The instigator of this war is the Colony, a race of intelligent ants who, for thousands of years, have been silently building an army that would forever eradicate the destructive, oppressive humans. Under the Colony's watchful eye, this utopia will be free of the humans' penchant for violence, exploitation and religious superstition. The final step in the Colony's war effort is transforming the surface animals into high-functioning two-legged beings who rise up to kill their masters. Former housecat turned war hero, Mort(e) is famous for taking on the most dangerous missions and fighting the dreaded human bio-weapon EMSAH. But the true motivation behind his recklessness is his ongoing search for a pre-transformation frienda dog named Sheba. When he receives a mysterious message from the dwindling human resistance claiming Sheba is alive, he begins a journey that will take him from the remaining human strongholds to the heart of the Colony, where he will discover the source of EMSAH and the ultimate fate of all of earth's creatures.  Sound intriguing?  For more fiction with cat protagonists, check out the library catalog.
We recommend, just for fun, The Meowmorphosis - a parody of Kafka which sees "Gregor Samsa, a seemingly typical man...transformed into a cat"; or, if you prefer something more serious, check out Takashi Hiraide's The Guest Cat, which NPR called "illuminating and achingly poetic". If you're more of a dog person...well, we're sure there's books about dogs too.

*descriptions are taken from the library catalog unless otherwise noted

Saturday, March 14, 2015

LeBron James and Reading

As an NBA fan, it's impossible for me not to know who LeBron James is. I remember when he left Cleveland to play for Miami, and how angry it made everyone, and I remember when he left Miami to return to Cleveland--not that it happened all that long ago.

The reason I mention remembering it is because I remember how upset people were about his leaving Cleveland. Fans were so upset that they burned his Cleveland jersey. A lot of people were disappointed that James would leave a place that had supported him as much as Cleveland (and surrounding areas) had--James is from Akron, Ohio. At the time, I didn't have much of an opinion on LeBron, except that I thought he was a bit too egotistical.

But then, I heard about his efforts to support literacy. Before we get to that, check out this video about James' reading habits. It's pretty awesome.

So, what exactly has LeBron James done for literacy? As it turns out, a lot.
In 2014, The LeBron James Family Foundation funded an e-library program for Akron Public Schools, through the Wheels for Education program. As it turns out, James adopts a new third grade class every year; the Wheels for Education program provides those classes with various literacy tools.

It might seem small that his focus is on Ohio schools, and that it's limited to third grade classes, but even by doing that, LeBron can reach so many people and provide them with tools they need to build their literacy skills. That's not to mention the video posted above, which has been seen by many, and is a great example of LeBron James modeling good reading habits.

I have to say, it's really hard to dislike a guy who loves reading and supports literacy in the way LeBron James does. I give him major kudos for the work he's done and continues to do.

If you know of any other celebrities who have a heavy focus on supporting literacy, let me know in the comments--I may just turn this into a small series of posts.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

3/14/15 is Pi-est of Pi Days!

by Fiona Shields
Every March 14, we celebrate the day where mathematics and round food intersect -- π (Pi) Day! Pi, the ratio of a circle's circumference to its diameter, has drawn many admirers for its infinite, non-repeating digits as an irrational and transcendental number. It's been calculated to the ten trillionth digit, and math enthusiasts and students all around the world challenge themselves to memorize pi 100 (or 67890) places past the decimal point!

Since pi begins with 3.14159, it only makes sense that March 14 (3/14) has been nationally recognized as Pi Day. This year has special significance as it will occur on 3/14/15, or the first six digits of pi!

This mathematical constant also has the happy coincidence of having a homophone that's one of our favorite round baked goods -- pie. This is how we like to observe Pi Day (and also Alfred Einstein's birthday), but we encourage you to eat or enjoy anything circular in shape!

To celebrate Pi Day to the pi-est, have a slice of pie on 3/14/15 at 9:26 am/pm and check out one of our materials related to pi, pie, or mathematics:

All About Pi:
[Pi]: A Biography of the World's Most Mysterious Number by Alfred S. Posamentier & Ingmar Lehmann

All About Pie:
Mrs. Rowe's Little Book of Southern Pies by Mollie Cox Bryan
The Hoosier Mama Book of Pie by Paula Haney
Desserts from the famous Loveless Cafe by Alisa Huntsman
Easy as Vegan Pie by Hannah Kaminsky
First Prize Pies by Allison Kave
Pie School: Lessons in Fruit, Flour, and Butter by Kate Lebo
Pies and Tarts by Kristina Petersen Migoya
The Southern Pie Book by Jan Moon
Vegan Pie in the Sky by Isa Chandra Moskowitz & Terry Hope Romero

Mathematics and Numbers:
The Joy of Mathematics Parts 1 & 2 (DVD) by Arthur T. Benjamin
The Queen of the Sciences: A History of Mathematics (DVD) by David M. Bressoud
Zero to Infinity: A History of Numbers Parts 1 & 2 (DVD) by Edward B. Burger
The Number Sense: How the Mind Creates Mathematics by Stanislas Dehaene
Math in Minutes by Paul Glendinning
Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid by Douglas Hofstadter
The Man Who Knew Infinity by Robert Kanigel
A History of Mathematics by Uta C. Merzbach and Carl B. Boyer
Things to Make and Do in the Fourth Dimension by Matt Parker
Cosmic Numbers: The Numbers That Define Our Universe by James D. Stein
Math Girls by Hiroshi Yuki