Thursday, April 29, 2010

Nancy Drew: Octogenarian

Nancy Drew, the all-American sleuth, is eighty years old this month. It was in April, 1930, that Grosset & Dunlap published the very first Nancy Drew mystery, The Secret of the Old Clock. From the start, Nancy was unlike any other young woman in popular literature. Adventurous, autonomous, and supremely capable, Ms. Drew solved every mystery she encountered. The first thirty novels in the series (ghost-written by Mildred Benson, though all the novels bear the pseudonym Carolyn Keene) form the core of the Nancy Drew canon. These novels are quick, entertaining reads, wherein Nancy foils kidnapping plots, exposes forgeries, and thwarts swindlers generally. Each crisis is resolved with a predictably altruistic conclusion, generally benefiting orphans, widows, or similarly downtrodden residents of River Heights, U.S.A. While Nancy Drew will forever remain a teenager - living with her father and beloved house-keeper, racing her sporty car to the next clue - a generation of her readers have grown into confident, mature women. With a little help from Nancy.

Follow the jump for links to selected materials in the catalog.

Help yourself: You're a Horrible Person, but I Like You: The Believer Book of Advice

A book of advice you should never follow

A spin-off of the Believer magazine, this a book of comical advice from some of the hippest comedians around, including Zach Galifianakis (The Hangover), David Cross (Arrested Development, Mr. Show), Michael Ian Black and Michael Showalter (The State and Stella), Jim Gaffigan (Beyond the Pale), Michael Cera (Superbad, Arrested Development), Patton Oswalt (Werewolves and Lollipops, Ratatouille), Amy Sedaris (who is the namesake for the original Believer advice column Sedaratives) and more.

For those unfamiliar with the Believer, it's a hip literature magazine popular primarily among arty, literate 20s and 30s somethings. It has a wry sense of humor and features articles with titles like "What You Can't Learn Collecting Esoteric Books" (Feb. 2010) or "The Undead Travel" (Jan. 2010).  If any of this sounds awesome, this book will probably appeal to you.  Fans of alternative comedy will enjoy this book too.

Written in question/ answer format, each comedian gives advice to several (most likely made-up) questions from (probably fictional) readers.  As books written by several different authors go, the hilarity and quality of the answers varies among the comedians.  My favorites include Rob Coddry, Jim Gaffigan, Samantha Bee, Zach Galifianakis, Amy Sedaris, and most of all, Ed Helms.  This is a funny book to browse through and a relatively quick read.  I read the entire book, but the format is useful for readers to read and skip as they choose.  Fans of the magazines or the comedians will not be surprised to learn that there is some naughty language and off-kilter suggestions. While it can be less than brilliant in parts, the truly best entries make the book worth checking out.

Find it in the catalog.

Sample Question from the book after the jump:

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Recipe Tester: SoNo Baking Co. CookBook

Book: The SoNo Baking Company Cookbook by John Barricelli, 2010.

Initial Impressions:  I've always wondered about books from East Coast bakeries that are distributed worldwide.  Are people outside of the East Coast really familiar with these places?  But this book was endorsed by Martha Stewart and it looks gorgeous.  Recipes include savory and sweet and vary in skill level.  Almost every recipe is lushly photographed, so it's a good book to gawk at too.

Results:  I've tried several recipes so far, and each have turned out delicious.  Here are a few of the ones I have made:

Strawberry Thumbprint Corn Muffins (p. 28-9):
A basic corn muffin recipe with a twist.  These were pretty simple to make; the recipe only had six steps and followed logically.  They turned out pretty good, not too sweet.  Definitely better served hot. 

The Best Lemon Squares (p. 88-9):
I didn't exactly follow this recipe, which called for a 1/3 of a cup of wheat germ.  Who wants to buy a whole jar for a lousy third of a cup?  I just added 1/3 of a cup extra of flour to make up the difference.  These were probably the easiest lemon bars I've made.  They are tart and sweet, and the strawberries pair well with them.

Cheddar Chive Scones (p. 36):
I would make these again in a second!  The scones are very simple and quick to assemble (it took me about 10 minutes).  The cheddar flavor really stands out.  This is a really easy, delicious addition to dinner.

SoNo Cheesecake (p. 198-201):
You can't tell by my photograph, but this has a pistachio crust that looks green and very elegant in person.  The berries on top are raspberries.  I used frozen because they are out of season and very expensive right now.  Blackberries would be a good substitute too.  This is probably the most difficult item from the book that I've made, but even a novice baker like myself could handle it.  The directions are clear and easy to follow.  It takes more time than the other recipes, but it's definitely worth it.  This is a fantastic cheesecake recipe.  It is incredibly creamy and rich, the raspberries and pistachios are a delightful touch.  I'd make this again for a special occasion.

I also have tried the  Raspberry Linzer Bars (p.90-91) and Double Chocolate Chunk Cookies (p. 60), both of which received rave reviews from friends.  I was especially fond of the Linzer bars, though instead of hazelnuts (which the recipe called for), I used the more traditional almonds.  Overall this is an excellent cookbook to look at and use.  I highly recommend it!

Find it in the catalog.

Monday, April 26, 2010

The Irresistible Henry House

"He wondered if he had ever truly missed anyone, or ever would" (p. 242). Years after his childhood in a practice house, Henry still feels the effects of not having a mother. Henry is the product of a unique upbringing: given up by his mother to an orphanage in the mid 1940s, Henry House becomes a practice baby in a home economics class at Wilton College in Pennsylvania. Martha Gaines, the instructor at the college, is responsible for leading young women in how to care for the practice baby, who is always given a name beginning with the letter H. Usually the practice babies are returned to the orphanage when they are ready to be adopted, but Martha adopts Henry as her own and he takes her last name. I won't go into the reasons here because I don't want to give away plot points.

Growing up in the practice house Henry learns not to show favoritism towards any of his "mothers" and eventually starts to ask questions about his parents. As he gets older Henry develops a talent for drawing as well as a lingering resentment toward Martha and his upbringing. Martha, a widow without any living children of her own, wants nothing more than to be a mother to Henry and to love him. The book follows Henry up to his early twenties as he pursues women without difficulty but always seems to have problems committing to (or choosing) one person. Henry's job experiences are also quite fascinating to read about, especially if you're a Disney fan. His passion and skill for drawing lead him to jobs in Los Angeles animating Mary Poppins and The Jungle Book for Disney and London animating Yellow Submarine.

Author Lisa Grunwald got the idea for the book when she found a photo of a practice baby on Cornell University's website (the photo is included at the end of the book). I had no idea that real babies were used in classes teaching mothering skills. I put The Irresistible Henry House on hold from the library because of its intriguing premise, and once I picked the book up I could not pry myself away from the words on the page. The rhythm to Grunwald's writing and the sense of history given to her characters reminds me of John Irving's work, who is another writer I enjoy.

The Irresistible Henry House by Lisa Grunwald (2010), 412 pages.
Find it in the catalog!

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Cast the Book: The Underworld, U.S.A. Trilogy

James Ellroy's magnum opus is a series of novels collectively referred to as The Underworld, U.S.A. Trilogy. (An appellation borrowed from the 1961 Samuel Fuller film of the same name.) The trilogy is comprised of: American Tabloid, The Cold Six Thousand, and the magisterial concluding volume, Blood's A Rover. In a move that stimulated every particle of my geeky body, HBO has announced that the trilogy will be adapted into a miniseries. The series will be produced by Playtone, the production company headed by Tom Hanks. This is a virtual guarantee of quality, as Playtone was the force behind the acclaimed 2008 miniseries John Adams. The screenwriter on the John Adams series was Kirk Ellis, a man now faced with the Herculean task of adapting Ellroy's nearly 2,000 pages of densely written prose into a workable teleplay.

Casting will also be a challenge. In addition to the primary protagonists, there are a host of second and third tier characters. Several characters vital to the narrative are fictionalized historical figures, which should make casting that much more difficult. Fortunately for the producers at HBO, I've decided to go ahead and do some of the casting on my own. I'm sure my input will be appreciated.

Friday, April 23, 2010

822.33: Words, words, words all about and by Shakespeare

Today is William Shakespeare's birthday (and it also happens to be the day he died). Where in the stacks do the Shakespeare-obsessed readers hang out? Well, at Dewey Number 822.33, that's where! Here you will find books talking about Shakespeare's work in addition to his plays, which you can find under 822.33 SHA.

Here is a short list of Shakespeare-related books to check out:

A Complete Concordance or Verbal Index to Words, Phrases and Passages in the Dramatic Works of Shakespeare
with a supplementary concordance to the poems by John Bartlett (1967)
822.33 SHA
This dusty old volume is right up the alley of a quote nerd like me. The book is arranged by index term and then lists the excerpts containing that term along with the origination of the quote (play, act, scene or poem title).
Find it in the catalog!

Shakepeare's Language by Frank Kermode (2000)
822.33 KER
Kermode writes about the development of the language Shakespeare used in his plays.
Find it in the catalog!

A Theatergoer's Guide to Shakespeare: An Invaluable Companion to the Plots, Characters, Themes, and Enduring Questions of Shakespeare's Plays by Robert Thomas Fallon (2001)
822.33 FAL
This is a helpful book to consult if you're about to attend a production of a Shakespeare play and do not want to be sitting in your seat lost in translation.
Find it in the catalog!

Speak the Speech!: Shakespeare's Monologues Illuminated by Rhona Silverbush and Sami Plotkin (2002)
822.33 SIL
Actors will find this book extremely helpful. The beginning of the book has a chapter entitled  "What is This Stuff?" which explains iambic pentameter as well as things like dropping excess syllables. For each monologue the authors list the gender of the monologue's speaker, if the monologue is written in prose or blank verse, and the age range. In addition to the text of the monologue is a short paragraph concerning its background and an in-depth commentary providing further detail on how an actor could interact with the words. Notes at the bottom of the monologue pages explicate the terms and phrases.
Find it in the catalog!

A Year in the Life of William Shakespeare, 1599 by James Shapiro (2005)
822.33 SHA
Through this book we accompany Shakespeare as he works on Henry V, Julius Caesar, As You Like It, and Hamlet.
Find it in the catalog!

Shakespeare and Modern Culture by Marjorie Garber (2008)
822.33 GAR
Okay, maybe you are not a Shakespeare fan. You may say you hate Shakespeare and plays and poetry, but you probably make Shakespearean references quite often without even realizing this. One example: have you ever referred to someone as a Romeo? Garber's premise is that "Shakespeare makes modern culture and modern culture makes Shakespeare."
Find it in the catalog!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

791.43: The Dewey number for movie lovers

If you love movies and love reading about movies, you probably want to stop by the 791.43 section in the non-fiction section of the stacks. Beginning with this call number you will find books on actors (The Golden Girls of MGM), directors (Breaking In: How 20 Film Directors Got Their Start), screenplays (L.A. Confidential: The Screenplay), costumes (Dressed: A Century of Hollywood Costume Design), animation (Encyclopedia of Walt Disney's Animated Characters), film genres (The Noir Style), and more. Here are a few books that I recommend for a person who wants to expand his or her film-viewing repertoire.

American Film Institute Desk Reference
791.43 AME
This is a very handy and informative guide that is helpfully organized. One especially nice feature is the movie history organized by decade, where you can go to find movies of note in each decade. This book also includes notable films from countries around the world, notable films by genre, and a guide to people in film, highlighting important makeup artists and hairstylists, production designers and art directors, producers and businesspeople, directors, and actors. Another interesting category is historical and legendary figures on film, which lists the figure (such as Al Capone, Robin Hood, etc.) and the actor who played him/her in which movie.
Find it in the catalog!

The Great Movies and The Great Movies II by Roger Ebert
791.4375 EBE
In both books Ebert uses Derek Malcolm's definition of a great movie, which is "any movie he could not bear the thought of never seeing again." Ebert re-watched each film and revised his essays before including them in the books. I enjoy reading Ebert's film criticism because he is such a passionate fan of movies. I think these books are helpful tools to use if you are at a loss about what movie to watch next.
The Great Movies: Find it in the catalog!
The Great Movies II: Find it in the catalog!

"Have You Seen...?" A Personal Introduction to 1,000 Films by David Thomson
791.73 THO
This book is organized by the movie title. The index includes a chronology of the films. Other than that there is not an index including actor/director names. Each movie has a one page or shorter summary including some background information, plot overview, and author opinion. One negative to this book is that in certain cases Thomson gives away too many details about plot lines (Cinema Paradiso is one example).
Find it in the catalog!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

And yet more celebrate National Poetry Month

The Complete Poems of Hart Crane
One of the major American poets of the 20th Century, Crane's syntax and rhyme structure were innovative and sometimes consciously regressive, looking back to earlier verse traditions, even while addressing modernity itself. Here he describes the quintessentially modern art-form:

"I think of cinemas, panoramic sleights
With multitudes bent toward some flashing scene
Never disclosed, but hastened to again,
Foretold to other eyes on the same screen"
Find it in the catalog!

Twenty Poems - Pablo Neruda
This book is by no means a broad introduction to the prolific Chilean writer's oeuvre, but rather an introduction to particular aspects of his work. The twenty poems collected here are nearly all, in one way or another, about love and longing. Neruda's more topical, and sometimes explicitly socialist, poetry is essential reading. But there's something to be said for the deceptive simplicity and almost overwhelming awareness of the poems collected in this volume.

"...and the young wives who have been pregnant for thirty hours,
and the hoarse cats that cross my garden in the dark,
these, like a necklace of throbbing sexual oysters,
surround my solitary house,
like enemies set up against my soul,
like members of a conspiracy dressed in sleeping clothes
who give each other as passwords long and profound kisses."
Find it in the catalog!

The Collected Poems of Frank O'Hara
Playful, erudite, often surreal, O'Hara's poems almost never go where you expect them to go. His mind wanders from painters and paintings, to personal acquaintances he may or may not like, to Hollywood actors and actresses, to what's in the news on a given day. And everything he writes about - mundane or sublime - is made distinctive, even fascinating by the poet's description.

"Oh! kangaroos, sequins, chocolate sodas!
You really are beautiful! Pearls,
harmonicas, jujubes, aspirins! all
the stuff they've always talked about

still makes a poem a surprise!
These things are here with us everyday
even on beachheads and biers. They
do have meaning. They're strong as rocks."
Find it in the catalog!

Chicago Poems - Carl Sandburg
One of Sandburg's earliest books of poetry, and the source of Chicago's enduring nickname, "City of Big Shoulders." Written while working as a reporter for the Chicago Daily News, the poems collected in this slender volume are tender, powerful paeans to America's working class.

"I sat with a dynamiter at supper in a German saloon,
eating steak and onions.
And he laughed and told stories of his wife and children
and the cause of labor and the working class.
It was laughter of an unshakable man knowing life to be
a rich and red-blooded thing."
Find it in the catalog!

The Poems of Dylan Thomas
I've heard it said that poetry should be read aloud if it's to be fully appreciated. Along with Walt Whitman, Dylan Thomas is a poet whose work fairly demands vocal recitation. His poem "Fern Hill" is an evocative description of time's inevitable theft of childhood.

"Oh as I was young and easy in the mercy of his means,
Time held me green and dying
Though I sang in my chains like the sea."
Find it in the catalog!

Read/ Listen: Born Round: The Secret History of a Full Time Eater by Frank Bruni

The title comes from a phrase Frank Bruni's grandmother often used to say, " Born round, you don't die square."  Bruni had the enviable job of New York Times restaurant critic, but he has spent his entire life obsessing about food.  Readers expecting a foodie memoir similar to Tender at the Bone by Ruth Reichl (another NYT restaurant critic) will be surprised by this book.  Born Round is more about Bruni's Italian-American family and his struggles with his weight than describing incredible meals at the French Laundry or hobnobbing with celebrities.  Bruni's fraternal grandmother came from Southern Italy and used food as a way to demonstrate her love for her family.  For his father, food was about demonstrating his affluence and competing with his siblings.  His mother, a WASP who nonetheless became a skilled Italian cook, had a relationship with food that more complicated- she frequently dieted but spent days preparing lavish meals for her family.   Like his mother, Bruni has a difficult relationship with food, spending much of the book alternating between overindulging and depriving himself.  Readers who have struggled with eating disorders or yo-yo dieting will relate to Bruni troubles, including bouts of bulimia and abusing laxatives. 

I'm not a huge fan of diet memoirs: dieting is terrible enough on its own, who wants to read about someone else doing it?  However, Bruni's memoir is only in part about dieting, and it's relatable, moving, and hilarious. You really get to know Bruni's family and their quirks; for instance, his grandmother spray paints a phone gold and leaves it that way even though the paint rubs off on the hands of person using it.  Bruni's stories about his compulsive behavior, including delaying dates with guys for weeks so he can loose a few pounds first, are reminiscent of Dave Sedaris. This is an excellent memoir that touches on issues of culture and food.

Recommended for fans of: Dave Sedaris, Augusten Burroughs.

Read the book.
Find it in the catalog.

Listen to the book.
Find it in the catalog.

Monday, April 19, 2010

More poetry to celebrate National Poetry Month

101 Poems That Could Save Your Life: An Anthology of Emotional First Aid edited by Daisy Goodwin
821.008 ONE
What's getting you down? Relationship problems? Money? Stress? The poems in this collection may be able to improve your mood or provide you with some comfort. Chapters are organized by themes such as Monday Morning, Successfully Single, Bad Hair Day, When You Lose Your Pet, Career Crisis, Stressed Out, and Hangovers.
Find it in the catalog!

Birthday Poems: A Celebration edited by Jason Shinder
811.08 BIR
The passage of time, getting old, and nostalgia are a few of the themes commonly associated with birthdays. I think many of the poems in this collection also aim to capture moments in a person's life. Some poems are about turning a specific age ("I am 25" by Gregory Corso), while others are about the celebration of the day ("Birthday" by John Lennon and Paul McCartney).
Find it in the catalog!

Did you pay attention to poetry discussions in your high school English class? Or maybe you enjoyed learning poetry in school but have not had time to read much poetry since then. If you would like to check out a poetry collection with the best of the best, try either of these two books:

Good Poems selected and introduced by Garrison Keillor
811.008 KEL
What I like about this collection is that the poems are organized by subject and not author. Subjects included are music, sons and daughters, trips, yellow, and lovers.
Find it in the catalog!

The Best Poems of the English Language: From Chaucer Through Frost selected and with commentary by Harold Bloom
821.008 BES
This is a one-stop collection that includes well-known poems and poets. Start here and perhaps you will be motivated to pick up other works by Keats, Whitman, Rosetti....
Find it in the catalog!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

National Library Workers Day: Librarians in Fiction

In honor of National Library Workers Day I put together a short bibliography of fiction and mystery books that feature characters who are librarians:

The Librarian by Larry Beinhart
A political thriller featuring university librarian David Goldberg, who is cataloging the personal papers of a billionaire.
Find it in the catalog!

The Dewey Decimal System of Love by Josephine Carr
A forty-year-old librarian falls in love with the conductor of the Philadelphia Philharmonic.
Find it in the catalog!

Miss Zukas mysteries by Jo Dereske
Librarian Helma Zukas sleuths in Washington state.

Monday, April 12, 2010

National Library Week: Books by Librarians

Librarians may love books, but who knew that so many of them were successful authors! Is your favorite author a former librarian? Check out this list of books from famous ex-librarians:

A Universal History of Infamy by Jorge Luis Borges. 
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll.  
Absolutely Positively by Jayne Ann Krentz. 
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle.  
Ramona the Brave by Beverly Lewis.
Our Stealing Horses by Per Petterson.
The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman.  
The Accidental Tourist by Anne Tyler. 

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Everything's Gone Green: Books on Sustainable Living

Earth Day is coming up on April 22nd, so now is as good as time as ever to make your lifestyle more Eco-friendly. Whether you are contemplating switching to solar panels or if you should continue to throw your trash bags along the highway (hint: you shouldn't!), check out these titles to help you green up your routine: 

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Poet Billy Collins

The proofreaders are playing the ping-pong
game of proofreading,
glancing back and forth from page to page,
the chefs are dicing celery and potatoes,
and the poets are at their windows
because it is their job for which
they are paid nothing every Friday afternoon. (14-20)
-- "Monday" by Billy Collins, The Trouble with Poetry 
I have been a fan of the work of American poet Billy Collins (1941-) since I saw him read during Writer's Week at Fremd High School in 2001. I think his poems are funny and smart and share unique observations about everyday life. Many times when I read his poems I feel as though time slows down because he depicts moments and scenes so well. Collins was named U.S. Poet Laureate in 2001 and 2002. You can find his books of poetry in the stacks under 811.54 COL. I picked a few of my favorite poems to share:

Picnic, Lightning (1998)
The hilarious "I Chop Some Parsley While Listening to Art Blakey's Version of 'Three Blind Mice'" questions the origination of the mice's blindness and other particulars of the old nursery rhyme: "And how, in their tiny darkness, / could they possibly have run after a farmer's wife / or anyone else's wife for that matter?" (13-15).

I love reading "Aristotle" because of the imagery Collins uses to describe the beginning, middle, and end. The poem is divided into three stanzas and in each stanza Collins simply describes scenes or events associated with one of the three points in time. In the beginning "the profile of an animal is being smeared / on the wall of a cave, / and you have not yet learned to crawl" (16-18). In the middle "... the aria rises to a pitch, / a song of betrayal, salted with revenge" (41-42). And at the end we watch "the long nose of the photographed horse / touching the white electronic line" (55-56). I really recommend that you pick up a copy of Picnic, Lightning to read "Aristotle" in its entirety!

Sailing Alone Around the Room: New and Selected Poems (2001)
This collection includes poems from The Apple That Astonished Paris (1988), Questions About Angels (1991), The Art of Drowning (1995), and Picnic, Lightning (1998), in addition to new poems.

"Nostalgia," from Questions About Angels, uses humor to depict how people often wish they could return to days of the past: "Where has the summer of 1572 gone? Brocade and sonnet / marathons were the rage. We used to dress up in the flags / of rival baronies and conquer one another in cold rooms of stone" (8-10). The narrator also favorably remembers the 1340s, 1790s, and "the period between 1815 and 1821" (21). I am guilty of having this infatuation with nostalgia as well; sometimes it is hard to just live in the moment.

Check out more poetry by Billy Collins:
Nine Horses (2002)
The Trouble with Poetry: And Other Poems (2005)

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Nicholas Sparks movies: Who's going to die? (Spoilers Ahead!)

 Disclaimer: It goes without saying, you shouldn't read this post if you haven't seen the movie and knowing the deceased party will ruin it for you.  Also, you probably shouldn't read it if you think The Notebook is one the most romantic books/ movies ever.   

It's seems like in all of Nicholas Sparks's books (and the movies based off them), characters fall in love only to meet some sort of tragic end.  So why waste time watching the movie when you can just find out who dies?  Spare the sap, the movie is just going to make you cry anyway!  After the jump, read the break-down of who kicks the bucket: