Saturday, May 28, 2016

Why Your Twenties Matter


Once more I find myself writing about a book that is targeted toward a specific audience, but anyone with an interest in psychology or "the twenties" will find the book enthralling.  Because it is so well written, and the author's conversations with her clients so resonant, it is a quick read.

The Defining Decade: Why Your Twenties Matter and How to Make the Most of Them Now by Meg Jay has enchanted me. When I first saw the title, I opened it and devoured the inside cover.  I had to read the rest of it!  With hardly any time left in my twenties, though, I fretted will this book tell me I've done it all wrong? have I set myself up for a lifetime of failure and struggle?  Journeying through the aspects of life that Jay dissects as they apply to twentysomethings - among them: love, work, the brain, and the body - has turned out to be much like going through actual therapy with a counselor. The message is sobering, yet empowering: time in our twenties is both easy to waste and precious, but each of us can chart the course of our thirties and beyond by making informed choices right away. 

Much of The Defining Decade consists of conversations between Jay and her twentysomething clients, who I found very easy to like and relate to.  The frustration they express echoes my own sentiment: if my twenties are supposed to be the best years of my life, why have they been so hard?!  Well, Jay has demystified that question.  The twenties are supposed to be hard because they are the crucible in which our futures are forged.  Using her own years of experience counseling twentysomethings, and plenty of research, Jay lays out a road map of sorts that makes the twenties much more manageable.  She offers lots of practical advice, including: challenge yourself with your career choices, don't shy away from commitments, and consider the facts about fertility that our culture all but denies. 

Like I said, this book is an enlightening read for anybody, but obviously for those in their twenties (the earlier the better!), and especially for mentors of twentysomethings.  Part of the difficulty of being in our twenties is that not only do we generally not know the best ways to navigate them, but many of our parents and mentors don't have the knowledge to guide us effectively through the unique challenges we face in our twenties in the 2010s either.  I will admit that before picking up The Defining Decade, I didn't even realize that my twenties were an especially formative time.  Oh yes, I knew I was making tons of big, stressful choices, but doesn't that go on throughout life?  (Jay answers that question as well, for anyone also in the dark - I know I'm not the only one!) 

As for me, I wish I had discovered this book when it was written in 2012 - I would have felt so much better about how difficult things in my life seemed!  I would have realized that the solutions to my twentysomething problems were not so complex after all; that what happened in my past is not as important as the choices that I make now; and that those choices can help my future more than digging up any trauma that might lie in my past.

I'll finish with this quote from the introduction, which pretty well sums up The Defining Decade:

 . . . twentysomethings are like airplanes, planes just leaving New York City bound for somewhere west.  Right after takeoff, a slight change in course is the difference between landing in either Seattle or San Diego.  But once a plane is nearly in San Diego, only a big detour will redirect it to the northwest.  

Likewise, in the twentysomething years, even a small shift can radically change where we end up in our thirties and beyond.  The twenties are an up-in-the-air and turbulent time, but if we can figure out how to navigate, even a little bit at a time, we can get further, faster, than at any other stage in life.  It is a pivotal time when the things we do - and the things we don't do - will have an enormous effect across years and even generations to come.  

So let's get going.  The time is now.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Election Reads

Concerned citizens and voters looking to better inform themselves on the structural mechanisms and personality dramas that define political campaigns may want to spend some time over the next couple of months away from the television and the blogosphere, and inside the pages of political campaign classics. They are books that, because of their depth of insight, quality of prose, and enduring relevance, offer an education far beyond what typically passes for analysis and commentary during the political Super Bowl.
~David Masciotra, "What 10 Books to Read for the Election Season: Cicero, Vidal, and More"

It's election season! Presidential candidates are on the campaign trail and the New Mexico primary election is coming soon. Here at abcreads we remain non-partisan in the face of relentless polling and trolling, but we have compiled a list of political reads pertinent to a presidential election year which might interest those who are politically savvy and might just teach the rest of us "something about the real-life business of political horse racing".* We're not sure all the books listed below qualify as "political campaign classics", but you can use "Campaign Tips from Cicero" to judge their merits for yourself!

Non-Fiction

Game Change: Obama and the Clintons, McCain and Palin, and the Race of a Lifetime by John Heilemann and Mark Halperin

A Magnificent Catastrophe: The Tumultuous Election of 1800 - America's First Presidential Campaign by Edward J. Larson

1920: The Year of the Six Presidents by David Pietrusza

Fear and Loathing: On the Campaign Trail '72 by Hunter S. Thompson   

The Outrageous Barriers to Democracy in America by John R. MacArthur

The Year of Indecision, 1946: A Tour Through the Crucible of Harry Truman's America by Kenneth Weisbrode 

Fraud of the Century: Rutherford B. Hayes, Samuel Tilden, and the Stolen Election of 1876 by Roy Morris, Jr 

The Fight to Vote by Michael Waldman

Adams vs. Jefferson: The Tumultuous Election of 1800 by John Ferling

Let the People Rule : Theodore Roosevelt and the Birth of the Presidential Primary by Geoffrey Cowan

Running From Office: Why Young Americans Are Turned Off to Politics by Jennifer L. Lawless and Richard L. Fox 

Love & War: Twenty Years, Three Presidents, Two Daughters and One Louisiana Home by James Carville and Mary Matalin 

1960 - LBJ vs. JFK vs. Nixon: The Epic Campaign That Forged Three Presidencies by David Pietrusza 

Up, Simba!: 7 Days on the Trail of an Anticandidate by David Foster Wallace [eBook]

Fiction

Washington, D.C. by Gore Vidal

Hartsburg, USA by David Mizner   

All the King's Men by Robert Penn Warren

Primary Colors: A Novel of Politics by Anonymous

Echo House by Ward Just

Election by Tom Perrotta    

The Innocent Have Nothing to Fear by Stuart Stevens 

Our Lady of Greenwich Village by Dermot McEvoy 

A Time to Run by Barbara Boxer with Mary-Rose Hayes 

Talk by Michael Smerconish
 

Links

Political Books: 5 of the Best Books About Elections [Entertainment Cheat Sheet]

Political Books: What Campaign Novels Can Teach Us [HuffPost]*

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Featured Author: Maggie Gee

Maggie Gee is a British author who has written 11 novels.1 short story collection, and a memoir. In 1983, she made Granta's Best of Young British Novelists list, a group which included Martin Amis, Pat Barker, Julian Barnes, William Boyd, and Rose Tremain; in 2004 she became the first female chair of the Royal Society of Literature; in 2012 she was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) for services to literature. Her daughter is the writer Rosa Rankin-Gee.

Maggie Gee's fiction has touched on world wars, ecological catastrophe, dystopia, satire, and racism, but "her books are always funny as well as serious." She has been a judge for many prizes, including the Man Booker, and has herself been on the short list for the Bailey's Women's Prize for Fiction and the International Dublin Literary Award (both for The White Family). She teaches creative writing at Bath Spa University, where she shares an office with fellow professor and author Fay Weldon. [Wikipedia] Her research interests include evolutionary biology and the visual arts.

You can watch a video her at Meet the Author UK, discussing her short story collection, and see a picture of her study in the Guardian's "Writers' Rooms" series. She is not the Maggie Gee who was a Chinese-American aviator during WWII, though a literary festival once made that mistake.


The Blue [eBook] 
The people in The Blue, Maggie Gee’s first collection of short stories, try and often fail to understand the world, freeing themselves by small acts of courage, love or folly. A journalist decides to convert an evangelist in mid-air; a solicitor gives up his day job to help young artists; a Middle Eastern woman shocks her children as she walks through the heat towards the sea; a man, in a moment of madness, cuts down his neighbour’s tree. These subtle fables of everyday life are set against an intricate global backdrop where life is harder for outsiders. Exquisitely written and aerated by comedy, they show human beings who struggle to live good lives. 

My Driver [eBook]
Vanessa Henman, a plucky but accident-prone white writer, flies from London to Uganda for an African writers' conference. She also means to visit her former cleaner, Ugandan Mary Tendo, now the successful Executive Housekeeper of Kampala's up-market Sheraton Hotel. But Mary has her own agenda: her son Jamil is missing, and she has secretly summoned Vanessa's beloved ex-husband Trevor, a plumber, to her home village to build a new well. Vanessa sets off alone on safari to distant Bwindi Impenetrable Forest to see the mountain gorillas. But she quarrels with her driver and a bloody war closes in. 

The White Family [eBook]
Alfred White, a London park keeper, rules his home with a mixture of ferocity and tenderness that has estranged his three children. But family ties are strong, and when Alfred collapses on duty one day, they rush to be with him. His daughter's partner, Elroy, a black social worker, is brought face to face with Alfred's younger son Dirk, who hates and fears all black people, and the scene is set for violence, forcing Alfred's wife May to choose between justice and kinship. This groundbreaking novel takes on the taboo subject of racial hatred as it looks at love, hatred, sex, comedy and death.  

My Cleaner [eBook]
Ugandan Mary Tendo worked for many years in the white middle-class Henman household in London, cleaning for Vanessa and looking after her only child, Justin. More than ten years after Mary has left, Justin – now twenty-two – is too depressed to get out of bed. To his mother's surprise, he asks for Mary. When Mary responds to Vanessa's cry for help and returns from Uganda to look after Justin, the balance of power in the house shifts dramatically. Both women's lives change irrevocably as tensions build towards a climax on a snowbound motorway.  

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Young Adult Releases: June and July


Looking for something good to read this summer? There are plenty of options! Here is a list of young adult books coming out in June and July. These are not comprehensive lists, as there are far too many books to make such a list.

June releases

The Leaving by Tara Altebrando
The Long Game by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
The King Slayer by Virginia Boecker
Tumbling by Caela Carter
With Malice by Eileen Cook
Into the River by Ted Dawe
The Darkest Lie by Pintip Dunn
Julia Vanishes by Catherine Egan
Lotus and Thorn by Sara W. Etienne
The Loose Ends List by Carrie Firestone
Zero Line Chronicles by James Frey
We Were Never Here by Jennifer Gilmore
My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand
Cure for the Common Universe by Christian McKay Heidicker
Empire of Dust by Eleanor Herman
The End by Charlie Higson
How it Feels to Fly by Kathryn Holmes
The Flip Side by Shawn Johnson
Mirror in the Sky by Aditi Khorana
The Museum of Heartbreak by Meg Leder
You Know Me Well by David Levithan and Nina LaCour
How it Ends by Catherine Lo
True Letters from a Fictional Life by Kenneth Logan
Goldfish by Nat Luurtsema
A Season for Fireflies by Amanda Maizel
Never Missing, Never Found by Amanda Panitch
The Darkest Magic by Morgan Rhodes
Rocks Fall, Everyone Dies by Lindsay Ribar
Before We Go Extinct by Karen Rivers
Escape from Asylum by Madeleine Roux
How to Disappear by Ann Redisch Stampler
One Paris Summer by Denise Grover Swank
The Geek's Guide to Unrequited Love by Sarvenaz Tash
American Girls by Alison Umminger
The Cresswell Plot by Eliza Wass
And I Darken by Kiersten White

July releases

The Memory Book by Laura Avery
Girl in the Shadows by Gwenda Bond
Mirage by Tracy Clark
Chasing Stars by Helen Douglas
The Shadow Hour by Melissa Grey
The Killer in Me by Margot Harrison
Black River Falls by Jeff Hirsch
The Devil's Banshee by Donna Hosie
Flying by Carrie Jones
Defending Taylor by Miranda Kenneally
Learning to Swear in America by Katie Kennedy
The Lost & Found by Katrina Leno
Secrets, Lies, and Scandals by Amanda K. Morgan
Rampage by John Sandford
Rebellion by J.A. Souders
Little Black Dresses, Little White Lies by Laura Stampler
Autumn's Wish by Bella Thorne
The Exorcism of Sofia Flores by Danielle Vega

Stay tuned--on June 4, we'll have a post announcing this year's Summer Reading Program, along with ideas for how you can read more this summer.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

New and Novel: Women in Science

Last year saw the publication of The Only Woman in the Room: Why Science Is Still a Boys' Club. Author Eileen Pollack wanted to be an astrophysicist in the 1970s, but gave up her dream, despite being one of the first two women to earn a Bachelor of Science degree in physics at Yale, because she was unable to overcome the isolation, stereotyping, and gender discrimination the still faces women today who seek academic success in science and math. We hope this climate will change for women, with the White House espousing STEM for female students and events such as Sweden's Tekla Festival, where "girls between 11 and 18 years will get a chance to spend a full day discovering and experimenting with different kinds of technology...[offering] girls firsthand experience of the ways they can use technology, and a chance to meet female role models in a variety of fields."

If you are someone whose knowledge of women's contributions to science and math begins and ends with Marie Curie (we were!), why not check out one of these new titles and find out more about female achievements in these fields?

Lab Girl by Hope Jahren
An illuminating debut memoir of a woman in science; a moving portrait of a longtime friendship; and a stunningly fresh look at plants that will forever change how you see the natural world Acclaimed scientist Hope Jahren has built three laboratories in which shes studied trees, flowers, seeds, and soil. Her first book is a revelatory treatise on plant lifebut it is also so much more. Lab Girl is a book about work, love, and the mountains that can be moved when those two things come together. It is told through Jahrens remarkable stories: about her childhood in rural Minnesota with an uncompromising mother and a father who encouraged hours of play in his classrooms labs; about how she found a sanctuary in science, and learned to perform lab work done “with both the heart and the hands”; and about the inevitable disappointments, but also the triumphs and exhilarating discoveries, of scientific work

Rise of the Rocket Girls: The Women Who Propelled Us, from Missiles to the Moon to Mars by Nathalia Holt
The riveting true story of the women who launched America into space. In the 1940s and 50s, when the newly minted Jet Propulsion Laboratory needed quick-thinking mathematicians to calculate velocities and plot trajectories, they didn't turn to male graduates. Rather, they recruited an elite group of young women who, with only pencil, paper, and mathematical prowess, transformed rocket design, helped bring about the first American satellites, and made the exploration of the solar system possible. For the first time, Rise of the Rocket Girls tells the stories of these women--known as "human computers"--who broke the boundaries of both gender and science.


Rocket Girl: The Story of Mary Sherman Morgan, America's First Female Rocket Scientist by George D. Morgan
Blending a fascinating personal history with dramatic historical events, this book brings long-overdue attention to a brilliant woman whose work proved essential for America's early space program. This is the extraordinary true story of America's first female rocket scientist. Told by her son, it describes Mary Sherman Morgan's crucial contribution to launching America's first satellite and the author's labyrinthine journey to uncover his mother's lost legacy--one buried deep under a lifetime of secrets political, technological, and personal. 

The Debs of Bletchley Park And Other Stories by Michael Smith 
At the peak of Bletchley's success, a total of twelve thousand people worked there of whom nine thousand were women. Their roles ranged from some of the leading codebreakers, cracking German messages that others could not break, through the debutantes who chauffeured the codebreakers to and from work, to women like Baroness Trumpington who were employed as filing clerks, to the mass of girls from ordinary working families who operated machines or listed endless streams of figures, largely unaware of the major impact their work was having on the war. The Debs of Bletchley Park and Other Stories tells the stories of these women, how they came to be there, the lives they gave up to do 'their bit' for the war effort, and the part they played in the vital work of 'Station X'.  

The Girls of Atomic City: The Untold Story of the Women Who Helped Win World War II by Denise Kiernan
In this book the author traces the story of the unsung World War II workers in Oak Ridge, Tennessee through interviews with dozens of surviving women and other Oak Ridge residents. This is the story of the young women of Oak Ridge, Tennessee, who unwittingly played a crucial role in one of the most significant moments in U.S. history.

Headstrong: 52 Women Who Changed Science--And the World by Rachel Swaby
Covering Nobel Prize winners and major innovators, as well as lesser-known but hugely significant scientists who influence our every day, Rachel Swaby's ... profiles span centuries of courageous thinkers and illustrate how each one's ideas developed, from their first moment of scientific engagement through the research and discovery for which they're best known.

Links

Association for Women in Mathematics

Association for Women in Science

Why Are There Still So Few Women In Science? [New York Times]

Women Were Key to WWII Code-Breaking at Bletchley Park [Smithsonian]
 

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

The Brilliant Brontës: Brontë Fanfic

Anne Brontë (1820-1849), Emily Brontë (Thornton, 1818 - Haworth, 1848) and Charlotte Brontë (Thornton, 1816 - Haworth, 1855), English writers, Oil on canvas by Patrick Branwell Brontë (1817-1848), ca 1834. Photograph. Encyclopædia Britannica ImageQuest. Web. 19 Dec 2015.

Fanfiction is very popular these days - "If you love something, write a fanfic about it," an article from Entertainment Weekly enthused recently (actually about Beyoncé's new album). So, it's no surprise that there have been many stories inspired by the Brontës, online and in print. (Not quite as many novels as those inspired by Jane Austen, but a healthy amount.) Perhaps it doesn't hurt that there are so few books written by the Brontë sisters - one by Emily, two by Anne, and only three published by Charlotte in her lifetime (The Professor, written before Jane Eyre, was rejected by several publishing houses and only published posthumously) - and that many people (myself included) find their short lives endlessly fascinating, so there is a lot left to the imagination.

I read two books inspired by the Brontës for this post: The Brontë Project: A Novel of Passion, Desire, and Good PR by Jennifer Vandever and The Madwoman Upstairs by Catherine Lowell. Both are fictionalized accounts of Brontë studies in academia. In both books, the protagonists are in crisis, but for different reasons. In The Brontë Project, Sara Frost is a junior scholar at a New York University; in The Madwoman Upstairs, Samantha Whipple, who happens to be the last remaining descendant of the Brontës, has just matriculated at Oxford. Sara's story begins when Claire, a Princess Diana expert, comes to campus and sends Sara's life spinning out of control with one comment at a cocktail party. In Samantha's case, she's come to university following the death of her father, a famous writer and Brontë scholar whose  untimely death has caused her to turn her back on literature and her famous heritage. Instead of wholeheartedly pursuing her studies, she finds herself the subject of articles in the school newspaper which she describes as "verbal vomit"; entangled with her father's nemesis; and receiving mysterious copies of Brontë novels, annotated in her father's handwriting.

Both novels have a wry sense of humor. In The Brontë Project, we find that

[Sara's] parents, both therapists, tried to snap her out of it. "Now, how could Cathy and Heathcliff resolve this problem by communicating their feelings before it leads to a fatality? What about the ending disturbs you? How could you change that? Could Heathcliff have worn a warmer coat? How about Cathy paying more attention to her health?" 

In The Madwoman Upstairs, Samantha has a drily sarcastic voice when narrating her own foibles, tending to tongue-in-cheek descriptions: "We entered a vast, bottomless silence. I scrambled for better conversation topics. This would all have been far less stressful in the movie version of our lives. The long silences would have been edited out."

Both novels are unafraid to discuss literary history and theory. In The Madwoman Upstairs, during Samantha's sessions with her tutor (and remembered discussions with her father), many theories are tossed into the mix, from how to discuss literature (authorial intent versus textual analysis) to the possibility that Catherine and Heathcliff are actually half-siblings to accusations that Charlotte Brontë stole Anne's story when she wrote Jane Eyre. The Brontë Project has its own theories, including one that connects the sisters to Princess Diana:

"Obviously, emotional states, even telepathy, were elevated to a place of prime significance in the works of all the Brontës," she said. "There is a kind of psychological intensity that was particularly disturbing and exciting to audiences of that time and today as well, I think. What's more, even though their works were dismissed as 'unladylike', they did focus a lot of literary attention on those aspects that have been stereotypically associated with the feminine - intuition, emotions, affairs of the heart - and made them central, and, in fact, the elements that defined a life more acutely than the day-to-day reality that existed on the surface... Likewise, I think Diana called a lot of attention to these same things - in today's parlance, self-esteem, bulimia, whatever. She was really continuing the tradition that the Brontës pioneered of accepting and using her emotional life as the point of engagement with the rest of the world."

Despite discussions of literary theory, both books are entertaining reads, though I preferred the more lively The Madwoman UpstairsThe Brontë Project lost the plot a bit in Part Two, though I did enjoy the way it employed quotes by Charlotte Brontë as chapter headings, perhaps to help readers to see the connections between "the mythology of romance [and] the reality of modern love," as the book blurb claims.

Would you like to try some Brontë fanfic for yourself? We've compiled a list of some other fictions inspired by the Brontës in the library catalog, whether you'd prefer to read fanfic based on their lives, their works, or beyond.

Lives of the Brontës

Becoming Jane Eyre by Sheila Kohler 

Emily's Ghost: A Novel of the Brontë Sisters by Denise Giardina 

The Secret Adventures of Charlotte Brontë by Laura Joh Rowland 

Romancing Miss Brontë by Juliet Gael  [eAudioBook]

The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Brontë by Syrie James [eBook]
 
Based on the Books

Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys 

The Lost Child by Caryl Phillips 

Jane Slayre: The Literary Classic - With a Blood-Sucking Twist by Charlotte Brontë and Sherri Browning Erwin [eAudioBook] 

Jane Eyrotica by Charlotte Brontë and Karena Rose 

Emma Brown by Clare Boyland and Charlotte Brontë 

Sequels

Mrs Rochester by Hilary Bailey [eBook]

Jane Eyre's Daughter by Elizabeth Newark [eBook] 


 Miscellaneous 

The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde 
 

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Subject Guides

Our library website features 129 eResources and databases with 24/7 access, free with your valid library card - just click on "Research" at the top of the page for a dropdown menu! These include Auto Repair Center, BrainFuse Help Now, Consumer Reports, Encyclopedia of World Biography, lynda.com, NoveList Plus, Pronunciator, and more. These are all great resources for students and lifelong learners. But did you know the website also features subject guides created by the staff of The Public Library ABQ-Bernco? Some of them you might have seen, if you've ever looked for New on DVD or New Music CDs. But the range of staff-created subject guides goes deeper than media - there are guides about New Mexico, Science Project Help, DIY, and more.

You can peruse the 31 subjects covered by our guides very easily! First, click on "Subject Guides" in the dropdown menu.



Then you can select your subject of choice from another dropdown menu.



Unsurprisingly, we have many choices under the subject "Books and Literature"! Some guides are strictly informational, like the Center for the Book; many link to catalog for easy hold placing, such as Monster Mashups; Booklists for Adults and Teens has printables; the Books & Literature guide shows events, book recommendations, and links to NYT Bestseller lists.


Each subject has two views, so you can easily switch back and forth between staff-created Subject Guides...



...and eResources and databases! Just click on the headings to switch back and forth.


We hope this short tutorial will encourage you to explore the library website and check out all of our online resources! Do you already use some guides or eResources? Let us know in the comments!