Author Archives: Lisa Kelly

Friday Reads: My Italian Bulldozer by Alexander McCall Smith

Alexander McCall Smith is on a short list of my favorite authors. I adore his #1 Ladies Detective Agency, 44 Scotland Street, and Corduroy Mansions series, and when I visited Edinburgh a few years ago I made sure to visit 43 Scotland Street (there is no 44) and the Cumberland Bar just around the corner. I was delighted to be in the world of Bertie and all the adults he endures.  Smith writes some standalone books too, and for me those have been hit and miss. My Italian Bulldozer is not part of a series and would be a wonderful way to introduce yourself to this author if you haven’t already made his acquaintance.

The title alone promises humor in a picturesque setting. Paul Stuart is a food and wine writer and his girlfriend of four years has just left him for her personal trainer. Paul’s editor, Gloria, sends him to Italy for personal respite and time to work on his next book featuring Tuscan cuisine. As a result of a rental car snafu, and a short bout in jail, he ends up borrowing a bulldozer. This slows him down considerably but it soon becomes apparent how handy a bulldozer can be in certain situations! The cast of characters he encounters are the true talent of Smith’s writing: the woman whose car is upended; the man who needs assistance digging a ditch; and anonymous townspeople who “borrow” the bulldozer from its public parking space. This small community is one that keeps track of everything and everyone and Paul quickly becomes a part of the comings and goings.

After rescuing the young American college professor in the upended car, there is chemistry between the two writers. Enter the ex-girlfriend, who shows up to apologize in person, with Gloria, the editor, arriving close behind. The events that follow may be predictable but I was more than pleased with the ending. I began thinking that I need to plan to a trip to Italy and wonder if these idyllic adventures really can happen in rural parts of the country as they have in so many of my favorite movies and books. This is a quick read and one that would be perfect to take on vacation, not terribly taxing and satisfying for all the senses.

Smith, Alexander McCall. My Italian Bulldozer. Pantheon; First American edition. edition, 2017

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The Harry Potter Series is 20 Years Old

It’s been 20 years since the British publisher Bloomsbury released J.K. Rowling’s debut novel. It’s unfathomable to recall that the initial print run was only 500 copies, contrasted with the more than 450 million copies sold after the series was complete. Rowling tweeted the following to mark the occasion:

The impact of the arrival of Harry, Ron, and Hermione into our lives not to mention on book publishing trends has been profound. The long duration of Rowling’s books on the New York Times Bestseller list caused the split into adult and children’s titles because of the need for ‘more room’ for other authors.  Despite this new sorting, readers of all ages waited in bookstore lines at midnight for their copies, Amazon promised home deliveries on publication dates, and many families had to purchase multiple copies because sharing would have been difficult. The impending arrival of the ‘next’ book in the series was the closest thing I felt to the Christmas Eve giddiness of my childhood. Twenty years later, we have a wildly successful film franchise, Oscar nominated soundtracks composed by John Williams,  a new film series called Fantastic Beasts, a Harry Potter Theme Park, video games, and a website devoted for fans called Pottermore. To mark this happy occasion, we asked how Nebraska Library Commission staff started reading the Harry Potter books and what Hogwarts House they would belong to according to the sorting hat. Here are our responses:

“It’s not exactly exciting, but my mom checked it out from the North Platte library around the time it came out. It was sitting on the table, I was bored, and I picked it up.” – Holli Duggan, Continuing Education Coordinator – Slytherin

“I apparently had been living under a rock and did not find out about Harry Potter until after the third movie had come out. After I watched that, my friends basically threw the book at my head. By the time I turned the last page of Sorcerer’s Stone I was hooked.” – Amanda Sweet, Reader Services Advisor -Gryffindor

“My mother wanted to review the book for age appropriateness before she would gift it to my younger cousin.  This was shortly after the third book had been released and the hype over the book series had come to a rolling boil.” – Anna Walter, Reader Services Advisor – Slytherin

“My daughter started reading them in 4th grade, and loved them so much I started listening to them on CD.” – Mary Sauers, Government Services Librarian -Hufflepuff

“I didn’t read Harry Potter until I started working in a library; the first book came out as I was finishing high school and I didn’t have time to read much fiction during college, so it wasn’t really on my radar until much later.  I picked up the audio version, narrated by Jim Dale, to listen to while I worked on a home renovation project several years ago, and was instantly hooked.  I listed to all 7 books back-to-back. That was the most fun I’ve ever had refinishing woodwork!” – Aimee Owen, Information Services Librarian – Gryffindor

“I came to Harry Potter by way of a co-worker who was reading the books to her kids. She loaned me the first two in the series and I bought the third and took it on vacation with me. I was transported. Rowling’s characters, setting, language, and story got me through one of the most difficult times in my life. Escaping to Hogwarts was literally a lifesaver. Then I discovered Jim Dale’s amazing narration and my family moved holidays to coincide with movie release dates. In every format, I am grateful for Jo Rowling and Harry Potter.”  Lisa Kelly, Information Services Director – Ravenclaw

“I read the first Harry Potter book as part of a six-person book review event that happened twice a year live via satellite and recorded on videotapes – it was sponsored by the Library Commission.  I was rapidly reading lots of books and I remember my comments about Harry being “it’s a fun fantasy…kids will like it…magic is popular with this age group…” – a rather bland endorsement.  When the second title was released it was in another reviewer’s batch so I couldn’t read it until after the live review session.  By then the third book had just been released.  I took my car during my lunch break and drove directly to the book store and bought my copy of book three, starting to read it that evening.  For some reason, I didn’t get hooked until book 2, but I have been an enthusiastic fan ever since.”  Sally Snyder, Coordinator Children & YA Library Services – Hufflepuff

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Friday Reads: “Hero of the Empire: The Boer War, a Daring Escape, and the Making of Winston Churchill” by Candice Millard

Candice Millard, author of River of Doubt (2005) and Destiny of the Republic (2011), is one of my favorite nonfiction authors. Her latest book, Hero of the Empire, is about Winston Churchill and, like many previous biographies of the famous Prime Minister, it focuses on a specific period in his life—his participation in the Boer War (1899–1902) instead of on its entirety. Examples of other focused explorations include last year’s Masterpiece Theater premier, Churchill’s Secret. This drama is set during Churchill’s second term as Prime Minister, when the 78-year-old leader (played by Michael Gambon) struggled, with the help of his wife, to conceal a debilitating stroke and an incapacity to govern. The popular Netflix miniseries The Crown cast 6’4” actor John Lithgow for its version of 5’6” Churchill during the early reign of Queen Elizabeth, revealing the private relationship between a PM and  a young Sovereign. Yet another biography is a 2010 documentary entitled Walking with Destiny, in which historian John Lukacs explains that “Churchill may not have won the War in 1940, but without him, the War most certainly would have been lost.”

In Hero of the Empire: The Boer War, a Daring Escape, and the Making of Winston Churchill, Millard describes the bravado of a young man who both wants and needs to go to war in hopes of gaining medals and fame as capital for his future political career. Churchill agrees to be a war correspondent in South Africa’s Boer War, where the British were both overconfident and under prepared.  When the train Churchill is traveling in is ambushed and derailed by Boer troops, Churchill calmly rallied British troops under enemy fire to clear the track and let the engine get away with the wounded. Most of the remaining British, along with Churchill, were captured. This was the first time in his young life he was not in control of his own destiny. It is his spectacular escape, with the help of several kind strangers along the way that helps him to become a hero who rejoins the British troops both as an officer and a war correspondent.  In a 2003 PBS Documentary entitled Churchill, this entire story is recounted in one sentence.

With my interest in Churchill piqued by Millard’s book, and inspired to learn more, I ran across this intriguing quote from Pamela Plowden, the woman he was in love with before he married his beloved wife Clementine and with whom he maintained a lifelong friendship. She described Winston this way:  “When you first meet Winston, you see all his faults. You spend the rest of your life discovering his virtues.”  This is where I find myself in the last pages of Millard’s text – having been introduced to a multitude of his shortcomings but also seeing glimmers of his many redemptive qualities. Certainly his charisma and masterful public speaking skills are shown throughout his life and his place in history is one to be both reckoned and respected.

What makes Millard one of my favorite authors is her ability to create a cinematic and fascinating description of events that ordinarily might not compel me and dialog that is on par with some of my favorite screen writers. One of her Amazon reviewers pleads for this text to be turned into a movie. As Hollywood frequently adapts books for cinematic creations, I would imagine Millard’s titles will most certainly be adapted and yet another actor will be cast to play this iconic man of history.

Millard, Candice. Hero of the Empire: The Boer War, a Daring Escape, and the Making of Winston Churchill. New York: Doubleday, 2016

 

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Friday Reads: Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf

At the 2017 Screen Actors Guild Awards, Viola Davis said the following upon accepting her award for Outstanding Performance by a Female for the movie Fences: “What August (Wilson) did so beautifully is he honored the average man …and sometimes we don’t have to shake the world and move the world and create anything that is going to be in the history book. The fact that we breathed and lived a life … means that we have a story and it deserves to be told.”  I think writers who choose ordinary subjects can tell amazing stories. I think this is Kent Haruf’s talent–to tell everyman’s story, the story of those people we all know and recognize, who live next door if not in our own home.

Our Souls at Night was Haruf’s last novel before his death in 2014, and it takes place in the fictional town of Holt, Colorado, a small town created for three of his other novels. Addie Moore and Louis Waters have both lost their partners and have lived a long time in Holt knowing of each other rather than being well acquainted. One day, Addie pays a visit to Lois and asks: “I’m wondering if you would consider coming to my house sometimes to sleep with me … I mean we’re both alone. We’ve been by ourselves for too long. For years. I’m lonely. I think you might be too. I wonder if you could sleep in the night with me. And talk … I’m not talking about sex, I’m talking about getting through the night … the nights are the worst don’t you think?” And this is where their story begins as this invitation turns into many evening conversations and the revelations of life, regrets, and love lost. It confirms how grief needs to be shared with others especially those for whom the loss is similar. When two people form a bond, onlookers will have opinions and often, not so quietly. I could relate to the gossipy town conversations that made me forever choose to live in a city with a population of at least 100,000 or more.

This is a spare read with uncomplicated and honest characters. There is a cadence to Haruf’s books – small town living and the daily minutia that are both familiar and regular. The conversations are ones you’ve had yourself. Spending time in Holt is downshifting to rural America; slowing down and looking people in the eye when you walk past them on the street.

A movie adapted from this book will be released sometime this year, starring Robert Redford and Jane Fonda, who first appeared together in 1967’s Barefoot in the Park. This will be quite a contrast.

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Celebrating Romance and Love in the Library

Recently the Library Commission purchased the following DVD: Love Between the Covers.

“Romance fiction is the behemoth of the publishing industry; it outsells mystery, sci-fi, and fantasy combined. Yet no filmmaker has ever taken an honest look at the global community romance writers and readers have built – until now. This funny and inspiring look into a billion-dollar industry turns up trailblazers who’ve found fortunes and fulfillment in romance, who are on the front lines of a revolutionary power shift in publishing. Creating online empires and inventing new markets are authors like pioneer of African American romance Beverly Jenkins, Shakespeare professor and romance rockstar Eloisa James, surgeon and lesbian romance legend Len Barot, and the incomparable Nora Roberts. For three years, we follow the lives of five published romance authors and one unpublished newbie as they build their businesses, find and lose loved ones, cope with upheaval, and earn a living doing what they love. In the process, we discover a global storytelling sisterhood. Love Between the Covers takes us into one of the few spaces where strong female characters are always center stage, where justice prevails in every book, and the broad spectrum of desires of women from all backgrounds are not feared, but explored unapologetically.” — amazon.com

Please feel free to contact us to borrow this DVD.  In the spirit of celebrating romance, here are some lists of librarian romances that I think are worth highlighting – happy love in the library!

30 Tales of Librarians in Love
http://www.booklistreader.com/2016/09/01/romance/30-tales-of-librarians-in-love/

Bookshelf Babes and Hardcover Heroes: Favorite Librarians in Romance
http://www.heroesandheartbreakers.com/blogs/2012/09/bookshelf-babes-and-hardcover-heroes-favorite-librarians-in-romance

Librarian Romance:
http://wendythesuperlibrarian.blogspot.com/p/librarians-in-romance-novels.html

Love in the Library – Reader Roundup with Amy Alessio
http://romanceuniversity.org/2014/02/22/love-in-the-library-reader-roundup-with-amy-alessio/

A Mega-List of Lovely, Lusty Librarian Romance
http://www.booklistreader.com/2016/09/30/romance/a-mega-list-of-lovely-lusty-librarian-romance/

Romance Books about Librarians and Archivists:
http://www.goodreads.com/list/show/31771.Romance_Books_about_Librarians_and_Archivists

 

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NE 150 Book Display

“The Nebraska 150 Book Selection Committee chose 150 notable Nebraska books to highlight for the Nebraska 150 Celebration.  These books represent the best literature produced from Nebraska during the past 150 years.  The books highlight the varied cultures, diverse experiences and the shared history of Nebraskans.”
http://nebraska150books.org/nebraska-books/ne-150-sesquicentennial-book-list.html

The Library Commission owns many titles from the 150 list and has displayed them in our reception area. They will be featured throughout 2017 as Nebraska celebrates its Sesquicentennial. Come take a look and check them out!

 

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The Pulitzer Prize Turns 100

As this famous award celebrates its Centennial year, here is some information about its beginning:

“The Pulitzer Prize was the brainchild of Hungarian-American newspaper magnate Joseph Pulitzer, who bequeathed several million dollars to Columbia University to administer the award. In 1917, Columbia University trustees ushered in the start of what is now considered one of the most prestigious national honors.

The Pulitzer Prize board receives more than 2,400 submissions annually. From this vast pool, Pulitzer judges select just 14 prize winners in the field of journalism, five total prize winners in letters, and one prize winner each in drama and music. The category winners are honored each spring at Columbia University’s New York City campus.”
http://www.pulitzer.org/event/100-years-pulitzers-celebrating-our-humanity

The Nebraska Library Commission Book Club Collection has 24 Pulitzer winning titles in the collection, something from almost every decade.  Here they are below listed by their award year. Perhaps it’s time for your group to select one of these titles to celebrate this important literary anniversary? Click on the title below to initiate a request.

1921 Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton, 24 copies
1923 One of Ours by Willa Cather, 9 copies
1932 The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck, 4 copies, (also 1 Large-Print copy)
1940 The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck, 18 copies
1947 All the King’s Men by Robert Penn Warren, 20 copies
1949 Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller, 17 copies
1953 The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway, 17 copies
1961 To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, 23 copies, (also 1 Video (DVD) copy)
1972 Angle of Repose by Wallace Stegner, 21 copies
1983 The Color Purple by Alice Walker, 14 copies
1988 Beloved by Toni Morrison, 15 copies
1992 A Thousand Acres by Jane Smiley, 9 copies
1994 The Shipping News by Annie Proulx, 7 copies
1997 Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt, 13 copies, (also 2 Large-Print copies)
1999 The Hours by Michael Cunningham, 19 copies
2002 Empire Falls by Richard Russo, 13 copies, (also 1 Audio Cassette copy)
2004 The Known World by Edward P. Jones, 8 copies
2005 Gilead by Maryilynne Robinson, 17 copies
2006 March by Geraldine Brooks, 9 copies, (also 1 Audio CD copy)
2007 The Road by Cormac McCarthy, 18 copies
2009 Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout, 6 copies
2010 Tinkers by Paul Harding, 3 copies
2014 The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt, 4 copies
2015 All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr 15 copies
2015 The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History by Elizabeth Kolbert, 1 copy

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Friday Reads: The All-Girl Filling Station’s Last Reunion by Fannie Flagg

allgirlfillingstationslastreunionI grew up knowing Fannie Flagg from the ‘70s game show Match Game. Knowing of my love for books and movies, my Southern Uncle took me to visit Juliette, Georgia the actual film location of Fried Green Tomatoes (based on the book of the same name by Fannie Flagg) where a Whistle Stop Café actually exists and operates.  I have thought of Fannie as a comedic personality but having read nearly all of her books, she has a knack for balancing humor with poignant story lines and creating very memorable, sometimes outrageous characters and plots.

Fannie weaves two stories from different families together in this novel. In the first chapter we are introduced to Mrs. Earle Pool Jr., better known to her friends and family as Sookie. Sookie is happily married with four children and a loving husband but unfortunately is burdened with an extraordinarily difficult, high-maintenance mother named Lenore, all living in Alabama in 2005. We are taken back to 1909 Pulaski, Wisconsin and the Jurdabralinsky family. The patriarch, Stanislaw Ludic Jurdabralinsky, emigrated from Poland and he struggles to make a new home for his wife and children by opening a Filling Station that operates with roller skating daughters during WWII. Meanwhile back in 2005, Sookie receives a mysterious registered letter from the Texas Board of Health that puts her identity and her mostly quiet life into a tailspin. The collision of the two stories makes for a delightful read, ending with a twist upon a twist.

The great takeaway of this book for me was learning about the daughters from the Jurdabralinsky family who served in World War II as Women Airforce Service Pilots – WASP for short.

“During the existence of the WASP— 38 women lost their lives while serving their country.  Their bodies were sent home in poorly crafted pine boxes.  Their burial was at the expense of their families or classmates. In fact, there were no gold stars allowed in their parents’ windows; and because they were not considered military, no American flags were allowed on their coffins.  In 1944, General Arnold made a personal request to Congress to militarize the WASP, and it was denied.  Then, on December 7, 1944, in a speech to the last graduating class of WASP, General Arnold said, “You and more than 900 of your sisters have shown you can fly wingtip to wingtip with your brothers. I salute you … We of the Army Air Force are proud of you. We will never forget our debt to you.” With victory in WWII almost certain, on December 20, 1944, the WASP were quietly and unceremoniously disbanded.  What is amazing is that there were no honors, no benefits, and very few “thank you’s”.  In fact, just as they had paid their own way to enter training, they had to pay their own way back home after their honorable service to the military.  The WASP military records were immediately sealed, stamped “classified” or “secret”, and filed away in Government archives, unavailable to the historians who wrote the history of WWII or the scholars who compiled the history text books used today, with many of the records not declassified until the 1980s.” taken from: http://www.birdaviationmuseum.com/WASPS.html

This year I read books by Gloria Steinem and Ruth Bader Ginsberg – both advocates for women’s rights; and while Fannie Flagg writes another kind of book, this title fit in nicely and was a great selection for my book club with many things to discuss. If you enjoy audio books, please consider listening to this book as Fannie Flagg is the narrator. I think you’ll enjoy her comic southern accent and stereotypical Wisconsin accent both of which made me laugh many times.

 

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Celebrate National Book Club Month by sharing your book club collection!

October is National Reading Group Month so I am inviting you to mark the occasion by sharing your book club kits on our Book Club Wiki. Nebraska Book Clubs are very active and eagerly work to locate multiple copies of their selections each month.  For the libraries that chose to share, this requires paying postage or arranging delivery of the books when they are requested. If you have a book club collection and would be willing to share with others in the state we can provide the password to you and we’ve included instructions on the book club wiki page to assist you . If you would prefer, we can list your books for you! If you are ready to get rid of any books club selections, we’d be happy to add them to our collection. We are grateful for the libraries that share their book club kits and have gifted extra copies to us; you have helped to grow our collection to well over 1,100 titles for all levels of readers. If you are interested and would like to request the password, please contact us at 800/307-2665 or nlc.ask@nebraska.gov

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Friday Reads: My Kitchen Year: 136 Recipes That Saved My Life by Ruth Reichl

ruthI first read Ruth Reichl (pronounced RYE-shil) when I selected the book Tender at the Bone: Growing Up at the Table for my book group several years ago. I knew Reichl had been a food critic, but wasn’t aware of her connection to Gourmet magazine until I heard of its demise in 2009. Reichl was the editor of Gourmet when it came to the tragic end of its 69 year run. This book recounts her grief in the aftermath, during the days and months as she moved beyond job loss.

Some of us turn to food for emotional reasons and Ruth returned to her kitchen as her way of healing, pairing food with personal events, and an honest and very personal dialog of working through change.  I agree with a statement in her introduction: “…recipes are conversations, not lectures.”  It registered with me because I’ve usually considered recipes more like guidelines as I negotiate the ingredients and their amounts.

For those who love cookbooks, photos are an absolute must. In this book, the pictures are informal and homey, supporting the intimacy of her diary format. She begins each daily entry with a tweet to her very active twitter followers who also serve as part of her support.  If you prefer the audio edition, Ruth narrates and she is an author who is genuinely meant to read her own material. You might think that listening to someone read 136 recipes would be a bit banal but Ruth is a genuine story teller and her throaty alto voice is as much of a comfort as the recipes she prepares. As Ruth says: “…I finally understand why cooking means so much to me. In a world filled with no, it is my yes.”

Not your ordinary cookbook – it’s like spending time with someone who likes food just as much as you – at the market, in the kitchen or at the table. Ruth chronicles four seasons of food and recovery in the kitchen, transforming from broken to hopeful. I’ve read other books of hers, but this one particularly stands out for me. It also makes a terrific gift for the food lover in your life.

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It’s our Aluminum Anniversary!

Several years ago, shortly after attending Lincoln City Libraries’ annual book sale, my colleague, Allana Novotny, said to me – do you think it would be a good idea to have multiple copies of books we could lend to libraries for their book groups?  That was ten years ago and not only have we not looked back, now we struggle to make room for our ever growing Book Club Collection of over 1,200 titles and nearly 12,000 physical volumes.  Each month we average a circulation of over 1,000 volumes   (including regular and large print books, audiobooks, and DVDs) from this collection to libraries around the state.

Looking back, there are many people to whom we owe thanks for helping make this service such a success:

  • First and foremost – to Vern Buis, our Computer Services Director, who helped create and design a very user-friendly database and webpage http://nlc.nebraska.gov/Ref/Bookclub/,with auto-fill request forms, special search capabilities by holiday, Nebraska themes, and most recently the Nebraska 150 book list celebrating the state’s sesquicentennial.
  • To Devra Dragos who created a special template for entering records in our catalog so we can reserve and check out book kits when they are requested by a library.
  • To the many librarians and patrons who have donated books to our collection – many directly from their book group after reading and discussing that title.
  • To all the shoppers at book sales, thrift shops, and used book stores, who have purchased (and many times delivered) books for our collection.
  • Last but not least – thank you to the libraries and schools who use our collection and tell us how helpful it is to their community.

I’m pleased that we support book clubs throughout the state and have heard wonderful stories of your gatherings. To continue assisting you, we have provided NCompass Live sessions on how to select titles and lead discussions with your book group.

Because of the great success of the book groups, we very nearly wear out Mary Geibel, who works with you all to make and confirm reservations, sometimes for many months in advance. She sends out books and checks them in with email confirmations and conducts an annual inventory each summer to make sure everything is correct as advertised on our webpage.

If anyone had told me in library school that I’d spend a significant amount of time on book clubs and a special collection just for serving groups in the state, I’m quite certain I wouldn’t have believed it. Growing and cultivating this service has been one of the most satisfying accomplishments of my years at the Library Commission. Happy Anniversary.

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Friday Reads: Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, by Irin Carmon and Shana Knizhnik

ruthThis book came to my attention after I listened to Debra Winger read My Life on the Road by Gloria Steinem. The death of Justice Antonin Scalia precipitated selecting this title from my queue since Ginsburg and Scalia were known to have been fast friends despite their ideological differences. I am ashamed to confess how wholly unaware I was of the tremendous gender inequity around me as a younger woman.  Like watching episodes of Mad Men it is an all too visceral reminder of just how far we’ve come and how much we’ve yet to accomplish.

One reviewer wrote “her appointment to the Court by Bill Clinton will be seen as one of his greatest accomplishments” and I’m inclined to agree. Her quiet and pragmatic work on issues of equity and equality have made the world a little better and a little freer. Her uncanny ability to know which cases were ready to go forward and those that were not is helpful to think about as I examine current issues being debated in state legislative houses.

Learning about RBG’s marriage was a revelation of both envy and delight. I’ve always admired those kinds of partnerships and this book made me appreciate Marty as much as Ruth. Supporting Ruth and her career was his proudest accomplishment. It reminded me of Paul and Julia Child’s marriage.

The life of Ruth Bader Ginsburg is one worth knowing and one easily presented in this quick read. I don’t believe this book is meant to be a definitive biography of RBG but it is a tremendous introduction.

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Happy 100th Birthday Beverly Cleary!

ramonaWhile we are celebrating National Library Week, we can also celebrate an author many of us have cherished – Beverly Cleary – who turns 100 tomorrow. My neighbor sent me the following article from the New York Times and I was delighted to learn how she got started writing and also to learn that she was a librarian! One of Cleary’s quotes from the article is worth sharing: “As a child, I very much objected to books that tried to teach me something … I just wanted to read for pleasure, and I did. But if a book tried to teach me, I returned it to the library.”

If you would like to check out copies of Cleary’s books for your book group, here are the titles we own: The Mouse and the Motorcycle (8 copies); Ramona and Her Father (5 copies); and Ramona and her Mother (5 copies). As the article indicates, Ramona is her favorite character but isn’t directly modeled on her. “I was a well-behaved girl,” she said, “but I often thought like Ramona.” Happy Birthday Beverly, we are grateful for the wonderful characters you gave us.

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Librarian of Congress Nominee Announced

Today, President Barack Obama announced his intent to nominate Carla D. Hayden as Librarian of Congress. Meet President Obama’s Nominee for Librarian of Congress

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Friday Reads: A is for Alibi by Sue Grafton

Oa is for alibine year for Christmas I asked everyone to give me a copy of their favorite book; just one book and hopefully an explanation of why it held that honor. This was well over 20 years ago and my college roommate gave me a copy of A is for Alibi by Sue Grafton. One of the many librarian stereotypes is that we love mysteries so I’d avoided this genre but I read it and I liked it. Sue’s books saved me on a dreadful flight when I was sick and a horrible vacation and the fictional character Kinsey Millhone became a good friend. She’s a low-maintenance, hard-driving, common sense kind of woman whose luck in love has sometimes been similar to my own. If you are a series reader and have yet to read Sue’s books, the book club collection may be just the ticket. The order could not be any easier to understand: A is for Alibi; B is for Burglar; C is for Corpse and on and on through the most recent release X. In the series, Henry Pitts plays Kinsey’s friend and landlord and is a favorite character of mine with the runner up being Rosie who runs the local restaurant and bar where Kinsey often has dinner or meets clients. You may want to know that Sue has adamantly said no to ever selling her rights to turn this series into a movie which actually pleases me because the characters will always stay in my mind, tidy as you please with no alterations from Hollywood. Here is a list of the titles so you can make your reservation.

 

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National Book Award Finalists

Here is the list of fiction, non fiction, poetry, and young people’s literature nominations for the National Book Award revealed this morning. Winners in each category will receive a bronze sculpture and a purse of $10,000, at a ceremony in New York City on Nov. 18.

http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2015/10/14/448053224/finalists-unveiled-for-this-years-national-book-awards

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Celebrate National Reading Group Month!

October is National Reading Group Month and to celebrate I wanted to investigate what makes a group endure. I located plenty of information on starting a group, selecting titles, and leading a discussion but very little on how to keep it going through the years. My book group celebrates its anniversary in the fall so as we are wrapping up our 13th year, I interviewed them and posed the question, what makes you keep coming? The answers not surprisingly resemble the qualities of any other long-lasting and good relationship:

  • I keep coming because of the people and the chemistry of the group.
  • The discussions are rich and varied.
  • The group is respectful and agrees that completing and actually discussing the book is an important part of our gathering.
  • The frequency of the group (six times a year) keeps me coming because my personal reading isn’t always being interrupted.
  • The group is intimate because we’ve created trust which allows us to share things we otherwise might keep to ourselves.
  • The discussion can really turn around my opinion of a book. Sometimes it seems we have each read a different book with the same title!
  • I like the way the group selects titles (everyone takes a turn); it provides a variety of reading and makes each one of us take the roll of selecting very seriously.

The takeaway is, now that you’ve created a book group, how are you gauging their dynamics? Reading a book takes precious time and discussing it is an additional level of commitment.  Perhaps taking time to ask about your book group’s assessment might be worthwhile to iron out any kinks and keep it running satisfactorily for all.

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Focus on Nebraska authors: Jonis Agee

Omaha native Jonis Agee grew up in Nebraska and Missouri so they are often the settings for her novels. The New York Times Book Review called her “a gifted poet of that dark lushness in the heart of the American landscape.”  She is a Professor of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and teaches creative writing and twentieth-century fiction. She earned her BA at the University of Iowa and her MA and PhD from the State University of New York at Binghamton.

Jonis has been awarded two Nebraska Book Awards for The Weight of Dreams and Acts of Love on Indigo Road and three of her books — Strange Angels, Bend This Heart, and Sweet Eyes — were named Notable Books of the Year by The New York Times. She is the co-writer, with her husband Brent Spencer, of the screenplays Full Throttle, Baghdad Rules and Everlasting.  Together they live on a small acreage north of Omaha in Ponca Hills. Of her five novels four are included in our book club collection:  The River Wife, Strange Angels, Sweet Eyes, and Weight of Dreams. In each she creates a strong sense of Midwestern place alongside compelling family dramas laced with grit. Please consider selecting one of Agee’s titles for your next book club selection.

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Tracking fees have now been eliminated

Beginning June 1, 2015, Library Mail and Media mail packages sent through the U.S. Postal Service can be tracked for free, as the $1.05 per item tracking fee is being eliminated. All you need to do is ensure a barcoded USPS tracking label is affixed to your mailpiece. Delivery information can be obtained at www.usps.com (using the search box) or call toll-free 1-800-222-1811. Tracking labels can be ordered online at no charge in packs of 50 at this link.

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Focus on Nebraska authors: Stephanie Kallos

I became aware of Stephanie Kallos, an author with a Nebraska connection, when I served on the committee to help select One Book One Lincoln in 2006. Her first novel, Broken for You had been nominated and I was struck by the artful way Kallos spun multiple themes of brokenness, both overwhelming and subtle, together into one plot. The selection committee ranked it in the top 5 five of all the nominations and I successfully recommended it to a few of my friends after I finished.

Stephanie grew up in Lincoln and now resides in Seattle with her husband, two sons, a Labrador and two tabby cats and is currently working on her third novel.  Broken for You was published in 2004 and was chosen by Sue Monk Kidd as a "Today Show" book club selection and received the Washington State and PNBA Book Awards. Her second novel, Sing Them Home, was published in 2009 and was selected as a January ’09 IndieNext title.

We own both of Kallos' titles in our book club collection so consider selecting this Nebraska author for your next book club read.

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