Tuesday, August 30, 2011

What do your books say?

In reading Sara Gran's excellent new novel Claire DeWitt and the City of the Dead, I began thinking of the clues people provide about themselves in their purchases and possessions. Some of them are obvious, the clothes one wears or the car one drives. Others can only be noted in the confines of a home - the music and art, even the food in the cabinet. Many of these clues we read and process subconsciously, part of what makes us functioning humans.

Clare DeWitt, in attempting to solve the Case of the Green Parrot, looks first for the clues we hide - those in the medicine cabinet, the safe, and under the bed - dismissing them as things the subject thinks are important. The real importance lies in those things we ignore the significance of. Of course, books are most telling to me, though you can't just limit yourself to the titles on the shelf. Those, of course, are what the subject thinks are important. Dig a little deeper and open those books, view the cracks in the spines, and the yellowing of the pages. Is that Nobel prize winner virtually untouched? Are there scribbles in the margins? Which page does the cookbook automatically fall open to? Which books are by the sofa or shoved under the bed? How are the books arranged on the shelf? Perhaps only a librarian would care or see the patterns there. Books have a lot to say, more than just the words on the page, if only we look for it. And browsing a bookshelf is a lot more acceptable behavior when visiting a person's house than rummaging in the medicine cabinet or the sock drawer.

When you are a heavy library user, you deprive your guests of this font of information about both your reading habits and your inner self. You, of course can check out your reading history in your ABC libraries account, though no one else can see it. However, most library users have their own book collections at home, so all is not lost. So, how much could an average person learn about you from your books? Even better, how much could a librarian learn about you?

Friday, August 26, 2011

A Evening with George R.R. Martin-Author of the Song of Ice and Fire Series

Lecture and book signing
Saturday, September 3rd
KiMo Theatre, 7:30 pm

Who would have thought that a youngster born in Bayonne, New Jersey in 1948 would go on to become the author of some of the best-loved books of fantasy?  George R. R. Martin began writing early in life and sold his first story in 1970 to Galaxy Magazine. The story, "The Hero", was subsequently published in the February 1971 issue.  He went on to earn a B.S and M.S. in Journalism from Northwestern University and became an instructor at Clarke College in Dubuque, Iowa for a few years before heading out to Hollywood.  George became a story editor for the reworked Twilight Zone series in 1986 and then went on to have three different positions with the CBS series Beauty and the Beast, including producer and co-producer.  His first novel Dying of the Light was a Hugo award nominee in 1978. The first novel in the highly popular Wild Cards series, which Martin edits & has contributed to, was published in 1987.  But it is the bestselling series A Song of Ice and Fire that has endeared him to many fans of high fantasy fiction. The first novel in the series, A Game of Thrones, was published in 1996 and the latest, A Dance with Dragons, is certain to be at the top of the bestseller lists, thanks in part to the recent television adaptation by HBO of the first novel, starring Sean Bean as Eddard Stark.  The HBO series has now received 13 Emmy nominations and been picked up for a second season.

Not too shabby for a hard-working writer who probably never thought that 2011 would bring more accolades and more readers to a body of work treasured by many fans around the world!   Don't miss your chance to see and hear George when he will have a benefit show for the Friends for the Public Library at the KiMo Theatre on Saturday, September 3rd, with a lecture and book signing at 7:30 pm, and a VIP reception and reserved seating at 6:30 pm.  For more information and to buy tickets, follow this link to KiMoTickets.com.

The library is fortunate to have quite a few of his works! Here are a few to tweak your interest:

Windhaven  A story of young girl, Maris, who wants nothing more than to have wings and fly. Co-written with Lisa Tuttle.

Fevre Dream  Vampires, need I say more?

The Science-Fiction Weight Loss Book  Stories by some of the great science fiction writers about weight, diet and obesity, edited by Martin, Isaac Asimov and Martin Greenberg.

Nightflyers  A collection of stories of group of people heading out into space looking for a mythical race called the Volcryn.

Wild Cards, Vol. 1  An anthology collection with several volumes dealing with the aftermath of the Wild Cards virus unleashed in the 1940's where part of the population become superheroes and others become mutants.  It's a great series, having read several volumes myself and several of the authors reside here in New Mexico.  Highly recommended!

Hunter's Run  A gritty sci-fi collection of adventure among the stars, edited by Martin, Daniel Abraham and Gardner Dozois. 

Songs of the Dying Earth: Stories in Honor of Jack Vance  These stories honor the late Jack Vance and his Dying Earth Series, featuring such authors as Neil Gaiman, Walter Jon Williams, Kage Baker, and Glen Cook.  George also has a story in it!

Warriors and Warriors 3   If you love stories about warriors and war, these anthologies edited by Martin and Dozois will be equally appealing.  A lot of familiar authors are published here, such as Diana Gabaldon, Naomi Novik, Steven Saylor, Joe Haldeman, David Weber, S.M. Stirling, Carrie Vaughn, Lawrence Block, Joe Morrell and James Rollins.

The Hedge Knight  A graphic novel adapted from a story set in the magical world of Martin's popular Song of Ice and Fire novels.

A couple of notable titles not in the library catalog:

Armageddon Rag(1983)  Horror story about a rock band and the dark side of rock and roll. The story's crescendo is a concert called "West Mesa", an Albuquerque version of Woodstock.

Tuf Voyaging(1986)  Collection of short stories about Haviland Tuf, a space trader who acquires an ancient warship and becomes an ecological engineer.

Also, George will be attending this year's Bubonicon being held on August 26th-28th, 2011 at the Sheraton Albuquerque Airport Hotel. George will be doing a one hour presentation with John Picacio at 12 pm Saturday and on Sunday he will be interviewing Ohio author Stephen Leigh at 11 pm.

Run, don't walk, to the KiMo to rub elbows with this legendary sci-fi and fantasy author!

Some links you may enjoy:

George R.R. Martin bibliography

Not a Blog

Musings (includes speeches)

Wild Cards website

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Up Series

I recently rediscovered the Up Series, a longitudinal study that began in 1964. "The original concept was to interview 14 children from diverse backgrounds from all over England, asking them about their lives and their dreams for the future. Every seven years, renowned director Michael Apted, a researcher for Seven Up, has been back to talk to them, examining the progression of their lives," the website explains. The premise of the film was taken from the Jesuit motto "Give me a child until he is seven and I will give you the man", which is based on a quotation by Francis Xavier. There have been similar documentaries made around the world, including in Australia, Japan, & South Africa.

The fourteen children are: John, Charles, & Andrew, chosen from the same pre-preparatory school in the wealthy London suburb; Suzy, another child from a wealthy background; Jackie, Lynn, & Sue, friends from the same primary school in a working class neighbourhood; Tony, from London's East End; Paul & Symon, both at a charity-based boarding school; Nick, raised on a farm in the Yorkshire Dales; Neil & Peter, from the same middle-class Liverpool suburban school; & Bruce, attending a prestigious boarding school, but already an idealist concerned with poverty and racial discrimination. By the time 42 Up rolls around, there are only 11 regular participants, as John, Peter, & Charles have basically bowed out of the series. Suzy said she would not participate after 49 Up.

Wikipedia explains, "Because the show was not originally intended to become a repeating series, no long-term contract was signed with the participants. The interviews since Seven Up! have been voluntary, although the participants have been paid an unknown sum for their appearance in each film, as well as equal parts of any prize the film may win, says [director Michael] Apted. Each subject is filmed in about two days, and the interview itself takes more than six hours."

The first installment, Seven Up!, made me a little uncomfortable with its voiceover declaring that we were seeing future "shop stewards" as well as future success stories-the implication being that the working class kids or the kids who were from the charity home would be more likely to be the future shop stewards.  Still, it makes a nice introduction to the kids, & Seven Up!, like its sequel Seven Plus 7, clock in at just under an hour each. Starting with 21 Up, the films get longer.

The ABC Libraries catalog features 42 Up, the sixth movie, on VHS, & 49 Up, the seventh movie, on DVD. Also in the catalog you'll find a book called 42 Up, which has pictures & quotes from all the movies by the 11 continuing participants.  

Filming for the next installment in the series, 56 Up, is expected in late 2011 or early 2012! You can watch the trailer for the last installment, 49 Up, on PBS' POV webpage.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Britpop: True Confessions of a Fangirl

In the early 1990s, Nirvana & Pearl Jam dominated the American music scene & all anybody ever talked about was Seattle & grunge.  I missed that scene.  Instead, Anglophile that I am, I was head over heels with the music coming out of England-Britpop, from Blur & Oasis to Elastica & Sleeper.

It was with this musical history in mind that I picked up Britpop!: Cool Britannia and the Spectacular Demise of English Rock by  British journalist John Harris. It's a fascinating study of the scene, when "UK rock rediscovered its confidence, tapping back into the spirit of The Beatles and Stones" [from the book's blurb], including plenty of snarky anecdotes & tales of squabbles & feuds amongst its major players. Watch the author talking about Britpop on YouTube-a 4 part series-to get a feel for what the book has to say:

Here is a list of some Britpop-related music that you can find in the library catalog (including influences from the '80s, shoegaze, & the Madchester scene):

Music from Glastonbury: The Film

Years of Refusal, Morrissey

Hatful of Hollow, The Queen is Dead, & the Sound of, The Smiths

Be Here Now, Oasis

Demon Days & Plastic Beach, Gorillaz (musical project created in 1998 by Damon Albarn of Blur and Jamie Hewlett)

The Best of  Joy Division

The Complete Stone Roses

We are the Night, The Chemical Brothers

Blue Lines, Mezzanine, & 100th Window, Massive Attack

Loveless, My Bloody Valentine

Spooky, Lush

Black Holes & Revelations & The Resistance, Muse

OK Computer, Kid A, In Rainbows & King of Limbs, Radiohead

We don't have any Elastica albums in the library catalog (Justine Frischmann is no longer making music), so enjoy this video of one of their best tunes:

If you are a music fan, make sure you check out the New Music LibGuide! There you can see, by genre, all the music that the library system has acquired in 2011.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Unusual Things You Can Check Out At The Library

Most people think of books when they think of a library, but you would be surprised to know that libraries also circulate non-traditional items. These days most libraries offer non-book items such as ebooks, databases, music records and CDs, films on DVDs and video tapes, laptops and tablets, however, some libraries go beyond these typical offerings.

At the Yale University Lillian Goldman Law Library, patrons can check out a dog named Monty. This cute cuddly therapy dog is available for 30 minute intervals.

Residents of Berkeley, California can check out tools from the Tool Lending Library. Available items include ladders, cement mixers, power saws, and drill presses.

For patrons with green thumbs, residents in Richmond, California can enjoy visiting the Richmond Grows Seed Lending Library. Patrons can bring in and borrow seeds from the library.

The Toronto Public Library hosts a human library program where patrons can check out human books to learn about diverse life stories. Other human libraries events can be located at the humanlibrary.org.

Finally at our very own Albuquerque / Bernalillo County Libraries, energy conscious patrons can check out a Kill A Watt energy measuring device that will help users determine which devices are using too much energy.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Unconventional Conventions

Photo by Donna
Due to the myriad of film and television productions that have been produced and filmed here in New Mexico, an interesting advantage has started to creep into the local comic book and sci-fi scene! Albuquerque has been lucky enough to have had three conventions this year catering to fans of comics, science fiction, manga, anime and horror. 

The Albuquerque Comic-Con held this past January had over 10,000 fans descend on the HIlton Hotel, the Comic Expo presented at the convention center also had huge crowds, and the Sci-Fi Expo had over 5,000 fans purchase tickets to mingle with some of their favorite stars.  Celebrities that attended some of these events were Ray Park (X-Men, Star Wars: Episode 1), Daniel Logan (Star Wars: The Clone Wars), Dean Stockwell (Compulsion, Quantum Leap), Sean Patrick Flanery (30 Days Until I'm Famous), Norman Reedus (Boondock Saints), Walter Koenig (Star Trek), Edward Furlong (American History X), Charisma Carpenter (The Expendables), Dean Haglund (The X-Files), Jeremy Bulloch (Star Wars: Episode 3, The Revenge of the Sith), Richard Hatch (Battlestar Galactica), Jim Kelly (Enter the Dragon),  and Peter Mayhew (Star Wars: Episode IV, A New Hope), amongst a host of others. 

On August 26th-28th, the local literary convention, Bubonicon will have a variety of guests from the science fiction genre, many of whom live here in New Mexico.  Some of the authors attending include George R.R. Martin, Ben Bova, Diana Gabaldon, Jane Lindskold, John Jos. Miller, and Melinda Snodgrass, among others. 

If you are a fan of comics, sci-fi, manga, anime or gaming, the library has a variety of books and movies to check out to help you prepare for the next Albuquerque Comic-Con which is to be held at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in January 2012. 

Some titles you might find interesting include:

Darth Maul: Shadow Hunter by Michael Reaves

Star Wars, Episode 1: The Phantom Menace by Terry Brooks

Star Wars, Episode 2:, Attack of the Clones by R. A. Salvatore

Star Wars, The Clone Wars, Character Encyclopedia

Star Wars: The Clone Wars (DVD)

Star Wars: Episode I, The Phantom Menace,  (DVD)

The X-Files: I Want to Believe (DVD)

The Nit-Pickers Guide for X-Philes by Phil Farrand

A Game of Thrones: A Song of Fire and Ice, Book 1 by George R.R. Martin

Mars by Ben Bova

Voyager by Diana Gabaldon

Thirteen Orphans by Jane Lindskold

Wild Cards, Vol. 1

The Edge of Reason by Melinda Snodgrass

The Very Large Array: New Mexico Science Fiction and Fantasy

Reading Comics: How Graphic Novels Work and What they Mean by Douglas Wolk

A Career Guide to Your Job in Hell edited by Robert E. Vardeman and Scott S. Phillips

Unsafe on Any Screen: Cinematic Sleaze and Cheese by Scott S. Phillips

Fans of Dean Stockwell who missed him at the Sci Fi Expo might want to stop by the Albuquerque Film Festival, which runs August 18-21!  The Quantum Leap star will be making another Albuquerque appearance this weekend to receive the 2011 AFF Dennis Lee Hopper Award. Also, Michael Madsen, who appeared in Frank Miller's Sin City, will also be on hand-he's won the 2011 AFF Maverick Award.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Armchair Travel

Another summer almost over & I've missed out on all the fun. I've traveled no farther afield than Santa Fe & never made it to Salsa Under the Stars or any of the other events I had planned.  The only way for me to recoup is to let others do the traveling for me! Here are some of my favorite literary adventurers, & some I've been considering:

If you're recovering from all your beach reading this summer, never fear.  You can still travel the stars at Bubonicon or around the globe at a Destination Dinner at the Biopark. & the Local IQ has suggested "50 Things to Do Before the Sun Sets on Summer"!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Down & Out in Paris & London by George Orwell

Then the question arises, Why are beggars despised?-for they are despised, universally. I believe it is for the simple reason that they fail to earn a decent living.  In practice nobody cares whether work is useful or useless, productive or parasitic; the sole thing demanded is that it shall be profitable.  In all the modern talk about energy, efficiency, social service & the rest of it, what meaning is there except "Get money, get it legally, & get a lot of it"? Money has become the grand test of virtue.
~George Orwell

In 1928, George Orwell (the pen name of Eric Blair) moved to Paris, joining the cavalcade of artists & writers attracted to the City of  Light during its Luminous Years.  By 1929, he had returned to England, & in 1933 he wrote a semi-autobiographical account of his life during this period called Down & Out in Paris & London.  It was his first book.

The novel is split into two sections, based on geography.  In Paris he works in restaurant & hotel kitchens, primarily as a "plongeur" (dishwasher).  In London, he finds himself living the life of a tramp when the job he expected to find waiting for him is not yet available. Both sections are written in the first person & read like a memoir, but there has been some debate as to the factuality of Orwell's account.

But no matter.  Even in this first book, Orwell's prose is entertaining, his pictures of the kitchens of 1920s Paris vivid enough to put you off your next restaurant visit; his tales of "screevers" (sidewalk chalk artists) more harrowing than Dick Van Dyke's attempt at a Cockney accent in Mary Poppins; & descriptions of various shelters, dormitories, & "spikes" will make you grateful to be able to take a bath without sharing water with 20 or more filthy men. 

If you enjoy reading about working in restaurants & hotels, try also:

Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly by Anthony Bourdain

Waiting: True Confessions of a Waitress by Debra Ginsberg

Hotel Bemelmans by Ludwig Bemelmens

Saturday, August 13, 2011


Perhaps lists of book award winners and nominees intimidate you. Certainly, some of those literary works are less enjoyable and more, well, literary than you bargained for. There are a few in my reading past that I definitely don't understand the appeal, critically or otherwise. (Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, I'm looking at you.) However, prize lists can be a great place to discover an author outside of your normal reading habits. They can be gold mines for first-time or foreign authors, many of whom won't show up at your local big-box book store.

I recently read Jamrach's Menagerie by Carol Birch, which is on the Man Booker prize long list and the Orange prize long list. Carol Birch is not a first time author, but is a British novelist (one of the requirements for both prizes). Written in a deceptively simple style, the story drew me right in. The story has been compared to both Dickens and Melville's work, neither author being on my favorites list, though I think that the similarities are mainly superficial. It reminds me, and others as well, of Yann Martel's Life of Pi, with rather dreamy interludes, though at the end you are not left to muse about the nature of reality. Instead, the nature of friendship and sanity are examined, leaving the reader with both a sense of melancholy and relief. I won't say more about it, though I highly recommend it, with one caveat: squeamish readers need not apply.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

A New Light on Tiffany: Clara Driscoll and the Tiffany Girls

"Louis Comfort Tiffany was one of the most recognized designers of his time in decorative arts, especially in stained glass. However, some lamps, windows and other decorative objects which were originally thought to be designed by Tiffany himself, are now recognized as designed and executed by a special group of women who worked for Tiffany at the turn of the 20th century. The “Tiffany Girls”, as they were called, worked for Louis Comfort Tiffany in the Women’s Glass Cutting Department of Tiffany Studios along with their department head, Ohio-born designer Clara Driscoll (1861-1944)."
~from the museum website

I recently checked out the A New Light on Tiffany display at the Albuquerque Museum & it was such a treat that I wanted to recommend the experience to everyone! I had seen Tiffany creations before, but I had never heard about the Tiffany Girls. There are many lovely Tiffany pieces to see in this exhibit, as well as a presentation of what Clara Driscoll's life might have been like-you can see a bicycle of the style she might have ridden, & even listen to a recording of one of her favorite singers. I especially liked, at the end, the representation of what a Tiffany Girl's lodging might have looked like-including some daunting looking boots!

Of course, the sad thing about the exhibit is to see so many pieces labeled "probably" created by Clara Driscoll. Apparently, the only way we know which items were created by her is from reading her letters, which, thankfully, someone held on to! Also, I discovered that you were only allowed to work for Tiffany if you were unmarried-once you married, you were expected to abandon your employment, which seems unfair for a designer of Clara Driscoll's talent.

You can still enjoy the exhibit at the Albuquerque Museum, featuring 70 Tiffany lamps, windows, mosaics, enamels and ceramics, as well as pages of newly discovered documents written by designer Clara Driscoll, until August 21st! You can buy your tickets online, but if you want to take advantage of the New Mexico resident discount, wait to get your tickets at the museum.

There is a still a considerable hold list on Susan Vreeland's Clara & Mr. Tiffany, a fictionalized account of their relationship, but the library catalog has several histories of Tiffany & Company & books about Louis Comfort Tiffany that you can check out while you're waiting! Please note that Clara & Mr. Tiffany is also available from our digital library, both as an eBook & downloadable audiobook.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

"The poem will be like you"

A piece of writing, photocopied, cut up, & the pieces arranged together on a page in different ways.

To make a dadaist poem. Take a newspaper. Take a pair of scissors.  Choose an article as long as you are planning to make your poem. Cut out the article.  Then cut out each of the words that make this article and put them in a bag. Shake it gently. Then take out the scraps one after the other in the order in which they left the bag. Copy conscientiously. The poem will be like you. 
~Tristan Tzara, Dada Manifesto on Feeble Love and Bitter Love

Before there was Magnetic Poetry, there was Dada Poetry, which was created using the method quoted above.  Also the Beats' Cut-Ups. William Burroughs & Brion Gysin used to type out sections by Shakespeare & Rimbaud, cut them up into phrases, &  "create refreshing new poems from the same words".* Burroughs said, "Cut the word lines & you will hear [the poets'] voices. Cut-ups often come through as code messages with special meaning for the cutter." Gysin's explanation of the process was even more mystical. "we began to find out a whole lot of things about the real nature of words & writing.  What are words & what are they doing? ...Painters & writers of the kind I respect want to be heroes, challenging fate in their lives & in their art. ...if you want to challenge & change fate...cut up words, make them a new world." Burroughs & Gysin's cut-ups used a method similar to Dada, but instead of picking the phrases out of a bag they carefully rearranged the cut-up phrases on the page in whatever order they wished.

I thought it would be a fun experiment to use Dada & Beat techniques to transform a couple of poems.  One is a poem of my own, & the other is a poem called "The Red Poppy" by Louise Glück.

Windows: A Dada Poem

their Look
monster in can’t
as over mocking
supposed open
as the back night jumped
darkness littering the night
Ssshh juncture shut
eating we armistice
between mockery this close
between my waste leers am
has me asleep
make skeptical your snaps and
ghosts awkward already we’ve
in fish sullen arms
am close door heart alone
house each
appetites faces tender who the
of carnage all Hold years
blood made other until unlock me
fall heat be least the long the the
us this all of of the i I noise at
with I We of to eyes at
and bad my up or the and

The Red Poppy Revisited: A Cut Up Poem

brothers and sisters, were you like me
before you were shattered.
permit yourselves who would never
to open once, and open you do.
Because in truth; they not having the way open again?
The fire called the sun, like the fire of my own heart, is
because I am human? Did you govern me.
Oh my I have those I am speaking now for him, I have a mind.
I speak great thing showing him his presence.
oh, glory be, what could such a lord in heaven
once, long ago, if not a heart?

If you don't want to go through the whole process, consider using the Dada Poetry Generator--you just have to copy & paste a block of text into the generator.

To read more about Dadaism or the Beat Generation, try a subject search in the library catalog.  For tips about writing poetry, visit our Poetry LibGuide. Or try the Guardian's poetry workshop!

*all Beat quotes are from The Beat Hotel: Ginsberg, Burrough, & Corso in Paris, 1957-1963 by Barry Miles

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Back to School

It's that time of year...the first day of school for Albuquerque Public Schools is August 16th!  (The APS website has a list of school supplies for grades K-5.)  For the University of New Mexico, the fall semester begins on August 22nd; for Central New Mexico Community College, August 29th.

ABC Libraries do not feature textbooks in our catalog, but that doesn't mean we don't have resources for students, parents, & lifelong learners!  The Core Knowledge System is very popular-from What Your Kindergartner Needs to Know: Preparing Your Child for a Lifetime of Learning to What Your Sixth Grader Needs to Know: Fundamentals of a Good Sixth-Grade Education, & other related titles.  You'll find test prep guides in the catalog-SAT, GED, ACT, GRE, ASVAB. NCLEX, TOEFL.  Got a kid who you'd like to see reading more? We have guides to all sorts of recommended reads, from More Books Kids Will Sit Still For: A Read-Aloud Guide to Gotcha For Guys!: Nonfiction Books to Get Boys Excited About Reading. (Adults, consider checking out 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die if you need reading suggestions! I love those "1001" books.)  Does your teen need math help?  Former child star Danica McKellar's books get top marks.

Also available from the ABC Libraries website (you just need to have your library card at the ready to log in) are several LibGuides for you to peruse from the comfort of your own home, 24-7!  Check out the Test Preparation LibGuide & connect to the Learning Express database.  Need to find an award-winning book for your student? Try Book Awards-Books for Kids or Book Awards-Books for Teens. Need a biography in a hurry? Our Biography eResources can be cited like a book.  There are all kinds of LibGuides!  Science Project Help...Learning a Language...Poetry...browse the A-Z guide & check them all out!

Here are some other recommended websites:

Back to School from USA.gov

FAFSA (Federal Student Aid)

Back to School Tips from the American Academy of Pediatrics

Back to School Resources from FamilyEducation.com

Outstanding Books for the College Bound from Young Adult Library Services Association

Plan for College from CollegeBoard.com

College Success from CollegeBoard.com

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Making the List: A Cultural History of the American Bestseller 1900-1999

As we look at the bestsellers of the past hundred years, decade by decade, we will, perhaps, get a sense of just what it is that makes Americans buy a book in large quantities, of that elusive & mysterious mix of elements & appeal that makes a book, fiction or nonfiction, a bestseller.
~Michael Korda

Sometimes we come across a book during our work day that just is too good not to share. A book that you might not be looking for, but once you find it, it's vastly entertaining to browse through. Such a book is Michael Korda's Making the List.

What the author has done is take the annual bestseller lists of The Bookman & Publishers Weekly & used them to look "at the twentieth-century American cultural landscape through the prism of its popular reading". (Did you know that "within the trade, the Publishers Weekly list has long been regarded by some a more accurate than the [New York] Times, & it is certainly more venerable"?) The book features a chapter for each decade with an introduction to the events & issues of the period, followed by a list each year's bestsellers. Some decades also have extra lists, like the "War Books" between 1917-18; the earliest lists are for fiction only.

A cursory glance through the earliest lists shows that the library system does not own many bestsellers from the earliest decades (although authors such as H.G. Wells, Edna Ferber, John Galsworthy, Edith Wharton & Zane Grey make an appearance or two), but by the 1930s the names get more & more familiar & you can find more of these vintage bestsellers in the library catalog. We've made a list of a few formerly famous titles you may have forgotten!


1914 Penrod by Booth Tarkington
1915 The Lone Star Ranger by Zane Grey
1917 Mr Britling Sees It Through by H.G. Wells
1926 Gentlemen Prefer Blondes by Anita Loos
1931 A White Bird Flying by Bess Streeter Aldrich
1941 Saratoga Trunk by Edna Ferber
1954 No Time for Sergeants by Mac Hyman
1954 This Rough Magic by Mary Stewart


1912 The Montessori Method by Maria Montessori
1925 When We Were Very Young by A.A. Milne
1932 The Story of My Life by Clarence Darrow
1940 I Married Adventure by Osa Johnson
1942 Cross Creek by Marjorie Kinnan Rawligs
1950 Kon-Tiki by Thor Heyerdahl
1962 Travels with Charley by John Steinbeck

Also, bestsellers throughout the 20th century have been adapted for film! One of the earliest adaptations I found on the lists & in the catalog was Kitty Foyle-so you can read the book & watch the movie!

Michael Korda says: "The bestseller list is therefore neither as predictable nor as dominating as its critics make it out to be. Plenty of really strange books get onto the list & stay there for a long time, & as much as booksellers may pay attention to the list, they still fill their stores with books that aren't on it." Do you agree?

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Ramadan Mubarak! (Ramadan's Blessings To You)

"O People! The month of Allah (Ramadan) has come with its mercies, blessings and forgiveness. Allah has decreed this month the best of all months. The days of this month are the best among the days and the nights are the best among the nights and the hours during Ramadan are the best among the hours. This is a month in which you have been invited by Him (to fast and pray). Allah has honoured you in it. In every breath you take is a reward of Allah, your sleep is worship, your good deeds are accepted and your invocations are answered." ~words of the Prophet

Ramadan began yesterday, at the sighting of the new moon, for Muslims around the world. This is a month of fasting during daylight hours for all Muslims past the age of puberty (unless there are extenuating circumstances such as illness,pregnancy, or traveling).

The library catalog features several titles about Ramadan, primarily aimed at teaching children & teens about the holiday.

Helpful links:

Ramadan Mubarak (video)

An Idiot's Guide to Ramadan

Understanding Ramadan

How Does Ramadan Work? (video)

Ramadan Etiquette: A Guide to Your Muslim Neighbor's Holy Month

President Obama issues statement on Ramadan

American Ramadan Road Trip