Category Archives: Books & Reading

Friday Reads: The Strange Library by Haruki Murakami

https://pics.librarything.com/picsizes/fe/c5/fec559bdd73040d59712b726a77434f414f4141.jpgBecause Haruki Murakami’s birthday was yesterday, and because this is a library blog, this week I’ve chosen to write about The Strange Library by Haruki Murakami. While this is available as an audio book, I must recommend the Knopf print edition if you are able to read that instead. The book design is by Chip Kidd, and it’s lovely. The cover alone references the narrative in several creative ways, and the illustrations within the book are plentiful and thoughtful.

The art design struck me even more as a vehicle for the story, a vehicle almost approaching a translation of the story, because of a recent article about Murakami. If you’re interested in Murakami, you should read “The Murakami Effect” by Stephen Snyder, which appeared on Literary Hub on 01/04/2017. You may agree or disagree with the writer’s arguments (here’s a clue to its contents: the subtitle is “On the Homogenizing Dangers of Easily Translated Literature”), but reading a critique of the translation of Murakami’s work does give you an insight into how the author structures his works. Murakami does not write about complicated ideas as much as he juxtaposes unexpected, easily visualized entities and actions, which allow the reader to fill in the complicated ideas themselves, around those entities and actions. This happens to make him very easy to translate—or, he writes this way because it’s easy to translate, according to Snyder.

I have more of an appreciation for Murakami after reading the Lithub article, which may not have been the author’s intent. Snyder attempts to take some wind out of the literary sails of Murakami’s reputation, comparing him to other Japanese writers (like Minae Mizumura, whom you might want to learn more about) and finding him, in the end, pop.

But I like pop. Murakami is nuanced enough to be quality while being accessible. And letting the reader draw some conclusions is one of my favorite things that an author can do—I love this about Flannery O’Connor, for example. It is important, though, not to take Murakami’s work as any sort of object lesson about Japanese life, just as we can’t expect to learn all we need to know about the South from O’Connor. This is another point in Snyder’s article—how Americans see Murakami’s writing as synecdochical for all things Japanese, overwriting reality with a magic key they think they learned from some magical realist novels. Readers need to try to be smarter than that, and I think we can be.

The Strange Library is a quick read—for a less marketable author, this would have just been a short story in a magazine. So hipster grad students won’t be able to carry it around as long as they can carry around their copies of 1Q84… but it’s a good introduction to Murakami if you’ve been interested and yet haven’t taken the leap. And you know you want to read a book called The Strange Library. And yes, that’s all I’m going to tell you about the actual text.

Fun facts about Haruki Murakami: not related to writer Ryu Murakami (whom I recommend if you want something grittier) or artist Takashi Murakami (if you want something even more pop). And if there’s anything more precious, predictable, and yet still enjoyable, than a McSweeney’s humor piece about Haruki Murakami, I don’t know what it would be, so here that is.

Murakami, Haruki, and Ted Goossen. The Strange Library: 107. , 2014. Print.

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Governor Ricketts Proclaims 2017 One Book One Nebraska: Black Elk Speaks

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
January 11, 2017

FOR MORE INFORMATION:
Rod Wagner
402-471-4001
800-307-2665

Governor Ricketts Proclaims 2017 One Book One Nebraska: Black Elk Speaks

On Jan. 9, 2017 Governor Pete Ricketts signed a proclamation honoring 2017 One Book One Nebraska: Black Elk Speaks by John G. Neihardt. In this year people across Nebraska are encouraged to read this novel. The story of the Oglala Lakota visionary and healer Nicholas Black Elk (1863-1950) and his people, offers readers much more than a glimpse of a vanished time. Black Elk’s searing visions of the unity of Humanity and Earth, conveyed by John G. Neihardt, have made this book a classic that crosses multiple genres and generations. The 2017 One Book One Nebraska selection is among 150 books chosen to highlight the 150th year celebration of Nebraska’s statehood. Rod Wagner, Director of the Nebraska Library Commission, presented the governor with a copy of the book. “The John G. Neihardt Foundation and State Historic Site in Bancroft is honored to take part in sharing this story, as well as our heritage and history, together with Nebraskan readers and beyond,” said Amy Kucera, Executive Director at the John G. Neihardt State Historic Site. “This transcendent tale is a true gift – created from a remarkable past so we might better understand the present, it continues to inform and inspire the future as each generation takes its turn through the pages.”

Photos of the proclamation-signing ceremony are available online.

The One Book One Nebraska reading program is entering its thirteenth year and is sponsored by the Nebraska Center for the Book, Nebraska Library Commission, John G. Neihardt Foundation & Nebraska State Historical Society, University of Nebraska Press, Humanities Nebraska, and Nebraska libraries and regional library systems. It encourages Nebraskans across the state to read and discuss one book, chosen from books written by Nebraska authors or that have a Nebraska theme or setting. Libraries across Nebraska will join other literary and cultural organizations in planning book discussions, activities, and events to encourage Nebraskans to read and discuss this book. Support materials to assist with local reading/discussion activities are available on the 2017 One Book One Nebraska web page. Updates and activity listings will be posted there and on the NCB Facebook page.

The Nebraska Center for the Book is housed at the Nebraska Library Commission and brings together the state’s readers, writers, booksellers, librarians, publishers, printers, educators, and scholars to build the community of the book, supporting programs to celebrate and stimulate public interest in books, reading, and the written word. The Nebraska Center for the Book is supported by the Nebraska Library Commission.

As Nebraska’s state library agency, the Nebraska Library Commission is an advocate for the library and information needs of all Nebraskans. The mission of the Library Commission is statewide promotion, development, and coordination of library and information services-“bringing together people and information.”
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The most up-to-date news releases from the Nebraska Library Commission are always available on the Library Commission Website, http://nlc.nebraska.gov/publications/newsreleases.

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Nebraska Statehood Stamp

As part of the celebration of the 150th anniversary of Nebraska Statehood, the United States Postal Service will issue this stamp on March 1, 2017, in Lincoln. Known for agriculture, Nebraska (the Cornhusker State), became the 37th state on March 1, 1867. Nebraska photographer Michael Forsberg set up among prairie grasses on the riverbank between the small cities of Grand Island and Kearney to capture the image shown on the stamp. In the photograph, sandhill cranes fly low to scout for shelter from nighttime predators. This mid-migratory rest for half a million birds along the Platte River is unique to Nebraska. Forsberg captured this image as winter thawed into spring around the year 2000. USPS Art Director Derry Noyes designed the stamp using Forsberg’s existing photograph.

The 5-cent stamp commemorating the 100th anniversary of Nebraska statehood was first placed on sale at Lincoln, Nebraska, on July 29, 1967.

Julian K. Billings of Omaha, Nebraska, designed the stamp. An ear of yellow corn with its green husk is the background against which the artist placed a reddish-brown Hereford cow. Yellow and green were printed offset; brown was applied by the Giori press. It was issued in panes of fifty and was authorized for an initial printing of 120 million.

 

For those interested in other statehood stamps issued by the United States Postal Service, you can visit their website.

 

 

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What’s Up Doc? New State Agency Publications at the Nebraska Library Commission

New state agency publications have been received at the Nebraska Library Commission for December 2016.  Included are titles from the Nebraska Courts, the Nebraska Department of Economic Development, the Nebraska Legislature, and the Nebraska Public Employees Retirement System, to name a few.

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Friday Reads: Star Wars: Bloodline

I am a member of the original Star Wars trilogy generation. My parents took me and my sister to see Star Wars in the theater in 1977, before it was IV, before it had a subtitle.

Along with all fans, I was devastated by the sudden death of Carrie Fisher. Her portrayal of the strong, independent, powerful rebel, Princess Leia, was an inspiration to pre-teen me.

From their first encounter, when I saw Leia stand up to the hulking Darth Vader, I was hooked. So, when I heard that a new Star Wars book was coming out last year that focused on Leia, I had to have it. And I wasn’t disappointed.

Star Wars: Bloodline, by Claudia Gray, is part of the new series of novels that are being published in conjunction with the new films and TV shows.

When Disney purchased Lucasfilm in 2012, all of the Star Wars books and comics that had been previously written were declared non-canon by Disney, meaning that those stories were no longer the history of the Star Wars world. Instead, Disney is publishing new books that will bring the storytelling in the new movies into continuity with the older ones.

Bloodline takes place between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens. It is a fast-paced novel, full of espionage, planet jumping, and clandestine missions. Yes, the Rebellion defeated the Empire at the end of Return of the Jedi. But unfortunately, that did not bring peace to the galaxy. Politics and in-fighting is undermining the New Republic Senate, of which Leia is a member. But, her investigations into criminal activities related to the problems in the Senate lead her to determine that something much bigger is going on.

In addition to being an engrossing story about Senator Leia and her young team of followers as they track down this new threat to the Republic, Bloodline provides some important context for The Force Awakens and future films. It reveals the beginnings of the formation of the Resistance and the origins of the First Order.

And you’ll also discover where Leia earned the awesome title ‘Huttslayer’. Killing a crime lord with the chain keeping you his slave can earn you big points with certain parties.

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NCompass Live: Begin With Books: An Early Literacy Partnership

Join us for the first NCompass Live of 2017, ‘Begin With Books: An Early Literacy Partnership’, on Wednesday, Jan. 4, 10:00-11:00 am Central Time.

Lincoln City Libraries has worked with the City/County Health Department to encourage early literacy among the low income clients they serve by providing children with free books when they come for their immunization appointments. We also provide books for the clinic waiting room and adult volunteer readers on busy clinic mornings. Find out how to recreate this program in your community, using medical homes to teach young children and their parents about the importance of early literacy. Provider education, literacy handouts, and links back to the library will be discussed.

Presenter: Vicki Wood, Lincoln City Libraries.

Upcoming NCompass Live events:

  • Jan. 11 – Library Improvement Grants for 2017
  • Jan. 18 – #1lib1ref: a Citation as a Gateway into Librarianship on Wikipedia
  • Feb. 1 – EGAD! Bed Bugs in the Library?

For more information, to register for NCompass Live, or to listen to recordings of past events, go to the NCompass Live webpage.

NCompass Live is broadcast live every Wednesday from 10am – 11am Central Time. Convert to your time zone on the Official U.S. Time website. The show is presented online using the GoToWebinar online meeting service. Before you attend a session, please see the NLC Online Sessions webpage for detailed information about GoToWebinar, including system requirements, firewall permissions, and equipment requirements for computer speakers and microphones.

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Friday Reads: All Rise for the Honorable Perry T. Cook by Leslie Connor

Perry, age 11, was born and has lived all his life with his mother in the fictional Blue River Co-ed Correctional Facility in Surprise, Nebraska, thanks to the current warden pretending he isn’t there. Then the new district attorney, Tom VanLeer, living in a nearby town, discovers his existence and “rescues” him from his mother and friends by bringing him home and becoming his foster family with his wife and his step-daughter, Zoey.  Zoey is Perry’s best friend at school.

For his class project, Perry decides to write the story of several inmates, who are his friends, and who agree to be interviewed. Regret for what they, including Perry’s mother Jessica, had done and how they have changed and are working toward parole, staying positive as much as possible, all send a different message than one might expect from prisoners. There are a few negative people incarcerated there, and Perry keeps his distance from them.

District Attorney Tom VanLeer is certain his approach is the right one, even as he delays Jessica’s parole hearing, believing she is guilty of making her son suffer in prison. Zoey finds some of her stepfather’s viewpoints and habits condescending and irritating. She and Perry also find their new situation, as foster brother and sister, rather problematic.

Perry is a wonderful character, with a positive viewpoint and an understandable confusion about things he has never encountered before, such as how to make the bathtub become a shower. His upbringing in the correctional facility has prepared him to give others a chance, and to challenge Tom VanLeer on his misconceptions. Other characters are well-developed and offer additional viewpoints as to how things can go terribly wrong and hopefully be forgiven. A terrific choice for grades 5-8 as well as adults.

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NCompass Live: Best New Teen Books of 2016

Join us for next week’s NCompass Live, ‘Best New Teen Books of 2016’, on Wednesday, Dec. 28, 10:00-11:00 am Central Time.

Sally Snyder, Nebraska Library Commission’s Coordinator of Children and Young Adult Library Service, and Jill Annis, Librarian at Elkhorn (NE) Grandview Middle School, will give brief book talks on new titles that could be good additions to your library’s collection. Titles for middle and high school ages will be included.

Upcoming NCompass Live events:

  • Jan. 4 – Begin With Books: An Early Literacy Partnership
  • Jan. 11 – Library Improvement Grants for 2017
  • Jan. 18 – #1lib1ref: a Citation as a Gateway into Librarianship on Wikipedia
  • Feb. 1 – EGAD! Bed Bugs in the Library?

For more information, to register for NCompass Live, or to listen to recordings of past events, go to the NCompass Live webpage.

NCompass Live is broadcast live every Wednesday from 10am – 11am Central Time. Convert to your time zone on the Official U.S. Time website. The show is presented online using the GoToWebinar online meeting service. Before you attend a session, please see the NLC Online Sessions webpage for detailed information about GoToWebinar, including system requirements, firewall permissions, and equipment requirements for computer speakers and microphones.

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Friday Reads: The Fireman by Joe Hill

A fast-moving plague has set the world ablaze, quite literally. The “Dragonscale” spore marks its hosts with intricate tattoo-like patterns, which just happen to also cause them to spontaneously combust. Whole cities watch in terrors as their inhabitants burn to death, no cure in sight. To protect themselves, some citizens band together into “cremation squads” and hunt down those carrying the disease.

Before the local hospital ignited, Nurse Harper cared for the infected in her New Hampshire town. She and her husband Jakob made a pact to kill themselves if they ever caught the spore. Now Harper’s on the run from the cremation squads and Jakob, having discovered her own dragonscale markings… and her pregnancy.

This is the second book by Joe Hill I’ve read, the first being NOS4A2 (which I loved). It lived up to my expectations, and I will seek out more of his work. It wasn’t until I finished this book that I realized that Joe is the son of Stephen King, writing under a pseudonym so that his writing could stand on its own merit (which it does). If you’re in the mood for a fast-paced horror/thriller novel, this is it!

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Friday Reads – Alton Brown: EveryDayCook

EveryDayCook cover

Cold Brew Coffee! Fish Sticks and Custard! Midnight Mug Cake!

I’ve loved Alton Brown since watching his show Good Eats on Food Network (as well as Iron Chef America and Cutthroat Kitchen). His cookbooks are always fun to read as he offers commentary on the science behind the ingredients, humorous insight on why he likes a particular recipe, or some history of each dish.

These 101 recipes include his personal favorites or things he eats on a daily basis “from morning to late and night and everywhere in-between.” Recipes are arranged by the time of day: Breakfast, Coffee Break, Noon, Afternoon, Evening, Anytime, and Later. Recipes range from classics, such as meatloaf or peanut butter cookies, to new twists with EnchiLasagna (enchilada + lasagna).

Separate sections are included that focus on pantry basics and kitchen tools. He explains his methodology within these sections and throughout the different recipes which I thought was fascinating. One note to point out, if you don’t have a kitchen scale, is that he does use both cups and grams in different recipes. For the few specialized kitchen tools, he does offer explanations and alternatives which is always helpful.  If nothing else, check it out for the pictures (which were all taken on his iPhone). The food looks gorgeous.

Brown, A. (2016). Alton Brown: EveryDayCook. New York: Ballantine Books.

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NCompass Live: Best New Children’s Books of 2016

NCompass live small

Join us for next week’s NCompass Live, ‘Best New Children’s Books of 2016’, on Wednesday, Dec. 14, 10:00-11:00 am Central Time.

Sally Snyder, Nebraska Library Commission’s Coordinator of Children and Young Adult Library Service, will give brief book talks on new titles that could be good additions to your library’s collection. Titles for pre-school through elementary school will be included.

Upcoming NCompass Live events:

  • Dec. 21 – Under the Microscope: Science at the Library
  • Dec. 28 – Best New Teen Books of 2016
  • Jan. 4, 2017 – Begin With Books: An Early Literacy Partnership
  • Jan, 11, 2017 – Library Improvement Grants for 2017

For more information, to register for NCompass Live, or to listen to recordings of past events, go to the NCompass Live webpage.

NCompass Live is broadcast live every Wednesday from 10am – 11am Central Time. Convert to your time zone on the Official U.S. Time website. The show is presented online using the GoToWebinar online meeting service. Before you attend a session, please see the NLC Online Sessions webpage for detailed information about GoToWebinar, including system requirements, firewall permissions, and equipment requirements for computer speakers and microphones.

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Friday Reads; The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman

The Invisible Library

The Invisible Library

Irene is a librarian, a junior librarian of The Invisible Library, which spans alternative worlds and saves and secures copies of unique books. She answers to a senior librarian, much older & more experienced, and unable to leave the library to secure texts for the library. She’s not unique except that both her parents are librarians, as well. She isn’t 007. She knows she has a lot of experience to gain yet, and one of those experiences she needs to face is training an apprentice. And the time has finally come. Her first trainee is Kai, a tall, dark, beautiful young man of mystery. And their first mission together is nearly stolen by a competitor of Irene’s.

The world they enter is a clockwork world of 1890 era, but also infected with “chaos”, meaning that there are creatures of magic and legend at work here. The most chaotic of them all are the Fae, personified in Lord Silver, a diplomat. The book they were to take, has already been stolen, but it’s unclear who’s done the deed–a famous catburgler who may have killed the new owner, or a cult of clockwork engineers who are anti-magic (the deceased was a vampire.) The waters are further muddied by the “great detective”, who has a better relationship with the local police than S.H. And a particularly frightening rogue librarian that was once one of the library’s greatest librarians.

The characters are wonderful, Irene is someone you will want to read about–whether she’s running from granite gargoyles or escaping from cyborg crocodilians. And unlike 007, she’s often wondering why she can’t just have a nice screaming fit, oh yes, that’s right, she has to get herself out of this. Whatever this is.  Kai has his secret, which I won’t reveal, but he is young, and while handy to have around, he’s still learning. Irene and other librarians have the ability to use “the Language”, to open, close, manipulate objects, and to a certain limit, people. It’s a sort of World re-arranging type of magic, rather than the chaotic brand that the Fae use. Kai has his own talents.

The world building is excellent. Just when you think, oh, yes, I’ve seen this, something new happens, a mini zeppelin takes off from the roof of the British Museum, headed for the British Library.  Or at Lord Silver’s ball, when Irene’s just about to get information about the book they are after, her competition strolls in, wearing a stunning Worth gown, with an adoring pack of men. But you’ll have to read it yourself! I’m waiting for the sequel, The Masked City.

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Friday Reads: Lives of the Monster Dogs by Kirsten Bakis

livesmonsterdogsA Prussian mad scientist relocates to rural Canada, where he uses his mad science skills to create “monster dogs”. The dogs’ intelligence is boosted.  Instead of paws, they have prosthetic hands on their forelegs, and implanted voice boxes allow the dogs to speak.   They can also walk upright, although some need to use canes for support.  Despite these enhancements, the dogs are treated as virtual slaves in their isolated town—so isolated that it retains the scientist’s 19th-century Prussian culture—until the beasts finally revolt.  In 2008, the monster dogs arrive in Manhattan, wearing top hats and white ties.  Their new city welcomes them and things finally seem to be looking up for the dogs, but a new threat could endanger their entire existence.

If this synopsis sounds appealing, you should probably read this book.  The imaginative premise is definitely the best thing about it.  The blend of walking, talking dogs and their old-fashioned Germanic manners is very compelling, and at times this novel has an almost steampunk-like feel.  The author skillfully merges the fantastic and the antique, especially in elements like the dogs’ opera libretto, which tells the story of their Canadian uprising.

But there are a few slip-ups.  Some of the narration is handled by Cleo Pira, a young writer whom the dogs befriend.  Cleo is not an especially interesting character and her adoption by these fascinating dogs seems kind of Twilighty.  Sometimes she talks a lot about clothes instead of the talking, walking dogs that wear them.  Additionally, some of the plotting is overly loose and the ending seems a bit abrupt and unsatisfying.

But, for me, the monster dogs made up for it.  It’s a very audacious idea for a story and, even if everything doesn’t gel perfectly, this is certainly a memorable read.   This book was published almost twenty years ago and it is, to date, the author’s only novel.   It seems to have gone unnoticed, so here’s hoping that it eventually finds an audience that can appreciate its charms.

Bakis, K. (1997). Lives of the monster dogs: A novel. New York: Warner Books.

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What’s Up Doc? New Nebraska State Agency Publications Received at the Library Commission

Nebraska-150-logoNew Nebraska state agency publications have been received at the Nebraska Library Commission for November 2016.  Included are titles from the Nebraska Department of Agriculture, the Nebraska Department of Insurance, the Nebraska Department of Natural Resources, the Nebraska Secretary of State Elections Division, and the University of Nebraska Press, to name a few.

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NCompass Live: Reader of the Week

NCompass live small

Join us for next week’s NCompass Live, ‘Reader of the Week’, on Wednesday, Nov. 30, 10:00-11:00 am Central Time.

The session will describe the Morton-James Public Library’s Reader of the Week initiative, begun in January 2016. Partnering with their local newspaper, library staff provided content for a weekly feature touted “Reader of the Week.” The column included readers talking about what they read and why. The session will include commentary on how this feature has transformed their conversations with library users from mere transactions to engaged descriptions of what people are reading, and want to read.

Presenter: Denise Davis, Reference Librarian, Morton-James Public Library, Nebraska City, NE.

Upcoming NCompass Live events:

  • Dec. 7 – Technology Classes at Your Library
  • Dec. 14 – Best New Children’s Books of 2016
  • Dec. 21 – Under the Microscope: Science at the Library
  • Dec. 28 – Best New Teen Books of 2016
  • Jan. 4, 2017 – Begin With Books: An Early Literacy Partnership

For more information, to register for NCompass Live, or to listen to recordings of past events, go to the NCompass Live webpage.

NCompass Live is broadcast live every Wednesday from 10am – 11am Central Time. Convert to your time zone on the Official U.S. Time website. The show is presented online using the GoToWebinar online meeting service. Before you attend a session, please see the NLC Online Sessions webpage for detailed information about GoToWebinar, including system requirements, firewall permissions, and equipment requirements for computer speakers and microphones.

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Friday Reads: The Tenth Man: A Novel, by Graham Greene

22944771One advantage I have had over the years with the Nebraska Library Commission is that of being able to visit libraries all over the state – primarily public libraries, but a few other types as well. Often the public libraries have ongoing book sales of both weeded and donated books, usually on a shelf or sale table with suggested prices for paperback, hardbacks, or magazines, sometimes with statements such as, “Donation accepted.” On one fairly recent swing through the western part of the state to do a strategic planning workshop, I paused briefly at a book sale and purchased The Tenth Man, a short novel by Graham Greene.

Of course it was the author’s name that intrigued me, and the recollection of a film based on one of his novels, The Third Man, that caught my attention since I had never heard of a book by him entitled, The Tenth Man (and since the title so closely resembled the more well-known one). A summary of the novel itself is fairly easy and straightforward. The setting is a German prison camp during the World War II era in which political prisoners are forced to draw lots to determine which of every ten men will be executed – a “decimation” order that is apparently similar to what happened in Spain during its Fascist years.

This short novel (about 30,000 words) moves quickly, with the action and dialog quite spare, yet effective. The primary story concerns that of a wealthy attorney who is among the prisoners and who draws one of the marked papers indicating he will be executed (following orders of the prison masters who allow the prisoners themselves to determine who will be sacrificed). The crux of the story is that the attorney desperately offers all his wealth, his home and his land to any other prisoner who will take his place and be executed. He has a taker, and, being an attorney, knows how to put the proper papers together to bring this about to make the destitute man temporarily rich, at least until his death, with his family provided for.

The substitute is executed, and later, after the war has ended, the attorney returns to his former home, passing himself off with a different name and identify. He is, of course, penniless, but he is befriended by the executed prisoner’s sister and her crotchety mother, and is given caretaker-type work there since the family is in a somewhat precarious position. Yet another imposter – as it turns out, an unemployed actor — shows up, claiming to be the surviving attorney and ingratiating himself to the sister.

The story is fairly sparse, as I mentioned, but very well-written. What was most interesting to me, however, was not so much the novel itself, but more how it came about. According to the author, he wrote this novella sometime in 1944, based on an idea he had had in 1937. In 1983 Greene was contacted by an agent in America, telling him that The Tenth Man was being offered by the movie giant MGM for sale to an American publisher. Graham’s memory of the novel was so vague, that he thought he remembered writing a two-page summary of the story idea, not the 30,000 words it turned out to be. Apparently Greene had sold the rights to the novella to MGM under what he deemed a “slave contract” to ensure security for his family’s income.

Graham Greene himself worked for MI6, England’s spy agency. His travels for the agency took him all over the world, and he used many of the settings from his travels in his novels. The Tenth Man is not considered among Greene’s greatest work, but this author’s prolific career of writing novels, short stories, travel books, essays, plays and screen plays bears looking into. The Tenth Man is my introduction to an author I always meant to, but never had read, before this.

 

 

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Call for Speakers for the 2017 Big Talk From Small Libraries online conference

The Call for Speakers for Big Talk From Small Libraries 2017 is now open! This free one-day online conference is aimed at librarians from small libraries; the smaller the better. Small libraries of all types – public, academic, school, museum, special, etc. – are encouraged to submit a proposal.

Do you offer a service or program at your small library that other librarians might like to hear about? Have you implemented a new (or old) technology, hosted an event, partnered with others in your community, or just done something really cool? The Big Talk From Small Libraries online conference gives you the opportunity to share what you’ve done, while learning what your colleagues in other small libraries are doing. Here are some possible topics to get you thinking:

  • Unique Libraries
  • Special Collections
  • New buildings
  • Fundraising
  • Improved Workflows
  • Staff Development
  • Advocacy Efforts
  • Community Partnerships
  • That great thing you’re doing at your library!

For Big Talk From Small Libraries 2017, we’re looking for seven 50-minute presentations 7and five 10-minute “lightning round” presentations.

Big Talk From Small Libraries 2017 will be held on Friday, February 24, 2017 between 8:45 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. (CT) via the GoToWebinar online meeting service. Speakers will be able to present their programs from their own desktops. The schedule will accommodate speakers’ time-zones.

If you are interested in presenting, please submit your proposal by Friday, January 13, 2017. Speakers from libraries serving fewer than 10,000 people will be preferred, but presentations from libraries with larger service populations will be considered.

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Friday Reads: American Gods, by Neil Gaiman

american_godsAmerican Gods, by Neil Gaiman, is one of those books that my husband has always  insisted I read, but that I’ve put off reading until now.  Why am I reading it now?  Because the TV show, starring Gillian Anderson and Ian McShane (among others), is set to debut in 2017, and I wanted to know the story before I watch the show.

American Gods is the story of Shadow Moon.  Sentenced to three years in prison for robbery, Shadow did his time, quietly waiting for the magic day when he could return to Eagle Point, Indiana. All he wanted was to be with Laura, the wife he deeply loved, and start a new life. But just days before his release, Laura and Shadow’s best friend are killed in an accident. With his life in pieces and nothing to keep him tethered, Shadow accepts a job from a beguiling stranger he meets on the way home, an enigmatic man who calls himself Mr. Wednesday. A trickster and rogue, Wednesday seems to know more about Shadow than Shadow does himself.

Life as Wednesday’s bodyguard, driver, and errand boy is far more interesting and dangerous than Shadow ever imagined. It is a job that takes him on a dark and bizarre road trip and introduces him to a host of weird characters whose fates are somehow mysteriously intertwined with his own.

Along the way, Shadow will learn that the past never dies; that everyone, including his beloved Laura, harbors secrets; and that dreams, totems, legends, and myths are more real than we know. Ultimately, he will discover that beneath the placid surface of everyday life, a storm is brewing,  and that he is standing squarely in its path.

I listened to the 10th Anniversary full-cast audio version of American Gods, and was completely drawn in from the very beginning of the author’s introduction.  Neil Gaiman actually traveled the United States while writing this story, so that he could accurately describe Shadow’s road trip on paper.  Gaiman’s masterful descriptions and the actor’s performances brought this story completely to life, and I highly recommend both the book and the audio version.

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Grants Available for Community-Wide Reading Programs

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A Big Read is a month-long series of programs centered around one NEA Big Read title.  Programs should include a kickoff, a keynote, book discussions, and other artistic events to foster engagement with the selected title and encourage reading.

NEA Big Read is accepting applications from libraries to develop community-wide reading programs between September 2017 and June 2018.  13 new titles are available!

Organizations selected to participate in the NEA Big Read receive a grant, access to educational and promotional materials, and online training resources and opportunities.  Approximately 75 organizations from across the country will be selected.

Application deadline: January 26, 2017

Review the guidelines and application instructions, and discover all 28 titles available for selection at www.neabigread.org.

Not sure where to start?
visit neabigread.org/grantsfaq.php

Questions? Call Arts Midwest at 612-238-8010
or email neabigread@artsmidwest.org

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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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