Monday, May 24, 2010

Cute Author Alert: Mac Barnett

Mac Barnett: In fact, almost all my ideas for books have come to me while traveling. The others occur to me while taking showers.
Adam Rex: Now he's got a hundred children's librarians picturing him in the shower. Le travail bien fait, Mac Barnett

Mac Barnett is a children's book author and strongman-for-hire.  He is also a director of 826 LA, a non-profit organization that helps support and improve children's and teenagers' writing skills. 826 LA has a sense of humor and whimsy about itself not usually associated with after-school programs, including their store called the Echo Park Time Travel Mart (a convenience store for time travelers, motto: "Whenever you are, we're already then") and allowing Sam Rockwell the opportunity to tute children.  He participated in the Guys Read series started by author Jon Scieszka, which promotes reading and literacy to boys, you can read more about the program here and here (and see more pictures of Mac and fellow cute author Adam Rex). Just when I thought Mac couldn't get any dreamier, it turns out he's a fan of librarians too:

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Chicago Craft Beer Week: Cool Beer Websites

This week is Chicago Craft Beer Week, so now is as good a time as ever to go out and have a cold one.  Here are some websites to help you decide what to drink, where to drink it, and even how to describe what you're drinking so you can impress your friends. 

This website has beer news and information as well as an online community dedicated to beer.  Some features (including searching) require you to register with this site; registration is free, however. The Best of BA lists the highest rated beers on the site.  Beer 101 is a "ready reference" section for beer; you find out about different styles of beer, how to pour beer, how to taste beer, what glass to use for what beer, and more.  Beerfly is a great place to locate places to drink and buy beer when you're on vacation.  

Site Tip: One good way to work around registration is to type the name of the beer manufacturer  and the style (ex. Miller's Genuine Draft, Founder's Double Trouble, Goose Island's Sofie) into a search engine like Google , usually the Beer Advocate profile of the beer will be in the first two hits (example here).

Rate Beer:  
You've probably seen Rate Beer ratings if you've ever shopped at Binny's.  This is another site similar to Beer Advocate where you can review beers.  Rate Beer has a lot of contributors from Denmark, which has one of the hottest craft beer scenes right now.  This is a good place to find out about all the up and coming Scandinavian brews; two of the most widely distributed in this country (besides macrobrew Carlsberg) include Mikkeller and Nøgne Ø.

This is my favorite beer magazine and the online website is jammed pack with features.  Beer Talk has experts like Garrett Oliver of Brooklyn Brewery discuss and rate beer.  Don't know what to drink next? Check out the Beer of The Week or the Buyer's Guide for Beer Lovers.  If you want to try new and different types of beer, check out stylistically speaking.  If you still want to read more, check out their blogs Bradford on Beer and Beer Soup. This is probably the best sight for people who really want to learn about beer, its history, how it's made, and how to appreciate it. 

Library budget cuts: Who you gonna call?

Improv Everywhere comedy troupe as Ghostbusters at the New York Public Library:

Like many libraries around the country, the New York Public Library is facing budget cuts; potentially $37 million may be cut. NYPL hopes that this video will draw attention to its Don't Close the Book campaign.

Help to save funding for Illinois libraries

Friday, May 14, 2010

Bill Murray reads poetry

The ever-amazing Bill Murray reads poetry (including Emily Dickinson and Lorine Niedecker) to the construction workers building the new Poets House in NYC.  Poets House is a national poetry library and literacy center where poets and poetry fans can go to read, write, and enjoy poetry. 

Source: Shelf Life (Entertainment Weekly).

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Chicago Craft Beer Week: May 17-23

Illinois Craft Brewers Guild is hosting the first ever Chicago Craft Beer Week starting on May 17.  There will be a slew of beer-related events around the Chicagoland area, which you can read about here.  Three local events include a Brewmaster's Dinner at Emmet's in Palatine on May 18th, a Big Sky Beer Dinner at Durty Nellie's (also in Palatine) on May 20th, and an Anchor Brewing Company tasting at Elgin Public House on May 21st (I'm a fan of their Liberty pale ale and Steam beer).  Events are designed to highlight local and lesser-known breweries including Goose Island, Metropolitan, Half Acre, and more.  In honor of Craft Beer Week, here is a selected list of books about beer and home-brewing.

Beer history and tasting:

Tasting Beer by Randy Mosher.
Call No.: 641.23 MOS
I've talked about this book at length before, but it's an excellent guide for learning to appreciate beer's different styles, complex flavors, and history. Highly recommended.
Find it in the catalog!

Ambitious Brew: The Story of American Beer by Maureen Ogle.  
Call No.: 663.42 OGL
Beer wasn't always a favorite drink of Americans.  This books tells the story of how German immigrant brewers, like Frederick Pabst and Aldophus Busch, convinced Americans to embrace this traditionally European beverage.  Ogle also looks at Prohibition and later the rise of craft breweries.
Find it in the catalog! 

Breweries of Wisconsin by Jerry Apps.
Call No.: 338.7663 APP
Wisconsin is almost as well known for producing beer as it is is cheese.  Several of the big-name brewing companies- Miller, Leinenkugel, and hipster favorite Pabst- were founded there.  This book looks at the history of Wisconsin breweries, including lesser known companies like Point, Huber, and the awesome Madison-based Capital Brewery.  This book is a little dated, New Glarus Brewing Company, which now is as ubiquitous as Bud in the state, only gets a mention to stay that the company closed after prohibition.  Still it's an interesting history.
Find it in the catalog!  

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Cute Author Alert: Christa Faust

Deadly cute, that is. Christa Faust is the first and only woman to have been published by Hard Case Crime, the noir-centric publishing house known for it's gloriously pulpy book-covers and abiding love of vintage crime. In addition to reprinting mid-Twentieth Century works by Donald Westlake and Mickey Spillane, they publish original crime stories by contemporary authors, and Faust's 2008 novel Money Shot is easily one of the best. Money Shot is a tightly paced thriller with a believably tough protagonist, former adult actress Angel Dare. (This will undoubtedly be made into a movie at some point, and I hope it's adapted by a director who will take the source material seriously. Quentin Tarantino may seem like the obvious choice; there's even a scene in the book that echoes the patented Tarantino trunk shot. But, I'd much rather see a less overtly stylized adaptation. Maybe David Gordon Green?) Faust sharpened her teeth on movie novelizations of such cinematic masterworks as Final Destination 3 and, yes, Snakes on a Plane. She has several other original works to her credit, including a bizarre fantasy set in the world of lucha libre, and the operatic saga Triads (co-written with Poppy Z. Brite). Her website is entertaining and informative, but her LiveJournal is, dare I say, endearing. She writes intelligently about 1940s B-movies starring Lawrence Tierney and Ann Savage, but isn't above posting pictures of vintage shoes and expressing justifiable outrage at people who use their cellphones in movie theaters. I wonder if these cellphone malefactors would so eagerly engage in that breach of etiquette if they knew that this modern day Claire Trevor was the offended party. We can expect a new Angel Dare novel February 11, 2011.

Full Disclosure: The sad truth is that this blog entry began as a paean to crime novelist Megan E. Abbott, an author whose work I follow with great interest. Abbott's five published novels are beautifully detailed works of historical fiction, with a focus on strong female protagonists. Her latest novel, the Edgar Award-winning Bury Me Deep, is a fictionalized account of the life and crimes of Winnie Ruth Judd, the so-called "Trunk Murderess." Abbott's empathetic treatment of Ms. Judd and the voice she ascribes to her are breathtaking. Plus, she wears glasses. The "spectacle factor" would ordinarily clinch the deal and guarantee her a place on the Cute Author Alert. However, the preliminary Google search that can make or break an aspiring Cute Author provided us with some unsettling information. Megan Abbott is married! Blogging about the allure of married authors would surely set an unhealthy precedent here at the Readers Block. So, advantage Faust. It may be impolite to openly declare her the default recipient of this most coveted award, but I'm not unduly concerned. I think it's safe to assume that the authors in question are wholly ignorant of this blog and the cabal of librarians who run it.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Cute Author Alert: Adam Rex

Not only is Adam Rex attractive, but he's talented too!  He is an illustrator and author of several children's books including Frankenstein Makes a Sandwich, Psst!, and the True Meaning of Smekday. Adam has a quirky sense of humor that stands out in all of his books, whether he is portraying the Phantom of the Opera being tortured by annoying earworms like "the Girl from Impanema" or naming the lead character in Smekday Gratuity (nickname: Tip).  Even the book trailer for Smekday is funny. it's a training video from the Boovs (aliens that invade Earth in the novel) featuring a stick-wielding Boov whacking knowledge into a human.  His blog is a lot of fun too; it has original artwork and anecdotes.

Check out a book written and illustrated by him:

Frankenstein Takes the Cake.
The True Meaning of Smekday.
Frankenstein Makes a Sandwich.

Check out a book illustrated by him:

Guess Again! Written by Mac Barnett.
Billy Twitters and His Blue Whale Problem. Written by Mac Barnett.
Lucy Rose: Busy Like You Can't Believe. Written by Katy Kelly.
Ste-e-e-e-eamboat a-comin'! Written by Jill Esbaum
Lucky Rose: Here's the Thing About Me. Written by Katy Kelly.
The Dirty Cowboy. Written by Amy Timberlake.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Good Mail Day

Good Mail Day: A Primer for Making Eye-Popping Postal Art
by Jennie Hinchcliff and Carolee Gilligan Wheeler
Find it in the catalog!

"Read me the letter, baby, do not leave out the words."
-- Pete Yorn, "Strange Condition"

Letters. Cards. Postcards. Correspondence. I love mail. I obsess over creating cards and writing letters. I love surprising friends and family with mail and I love looking in the mailbox and finding something hand-addressed to me. This does not happen too often lately, as people prefer to use email, Facebook, or even texting over "snail mail." Well, I consider snail mail to be awesome mail! Read the book Good Mail Day and you too will see the awesome possibilities of what you can send someone in the mail. Don't use the excuse that you're too busy to write letters. Even a short, handwritten note or postcard sent to someone in the mail will most likely totally brighten his or her day.

Not only will this book motivate you to write a letter, but it will also motivate you to recycle everyday items (even trash) while making something creative at the same time. According to Hinchcliff and Wheeler the First Commandment of Mail Art is "Thou shalt not feel the need for fancy-pants supplies and equipment." The authors provide many colorful examples of hand illustrated envelopes and mail art and share creative ideas like making a "transit map" on a plane or bus trip or gathering materials from a walk around the block to create mail art. Included in the book is an envelope template you can copy and then trace to create your own envelopes.

Click below to see a few examples of what I was inspired to make:

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Mommy Memoirs: Funny Books about Motherhood

Mother's Day is coming up this Sunday.  In honor of the holiday, we are highlighting humorous memoirs about being a mom.  Mothers will surely relate to some of the books on the list, while others can get a better understanding of what mothers go through and have some laughs as well.

It Sucked and Then I Cried: How I Had a Baby, a Breakdown, and a Much Needed Margarita by Heather B. Armstrong
Call no.: 306.8743 ARM
A popular blogger's irreverent look at pregnancy, parenting and postpartum depression.  
Find it in the catalog!

Bad Mother: A Chronicle of Maternal Crimes, Minor Calamities, and Occasional Moments of Grace  by Ayelet Waldman.
Call no.: 306.8743 WAL
This book of 18 essays tackles the pressures and anxieties of modern day mothers.  Peppered with anecdotes from her own life, Waldman encourages mothers to give themselves a break. 
Find it in the catalog!

Dirty Little Secrets from Otherwise Perfect Moms by Trisha Ashworth.
Call no.: 306.8743 ASH
Based of interviews with hundreds of mothers, this book is sort of like PostSecret for moms.
Find it in the catalog!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Taking pop culture Inventory

Inventory: 16 Films Featuring Manic Pixie Dream Girls, 10 Great Songs Nearly Ruined by Saxophone, and 100 More Obsessively Specific Pop-Culture Lists by the writers of the A.V. Club

Pop culture lover? Fanatically devoted to the preparation of lists? Reader of the A.V. Club? Then this is the book for you! Compiled by writers of the A.V. Club, this book gives you lists with unique slants. Nothing boring here like Top Ten Comedies, Dramas, etc. Instead you get lists with titles like "The Movies Don't Want You, Tony Danza: 28-Plus Films That Failed to Make Movie Stars out of TV Stars." The book also features guest lists from celebrities including Andrew W.K., Amy Sedaris, Tom Lennon, Zach Galifianakis, "Weird Al" Yankovic, Patton Oswalt, Paul Thomas Anderson, and more.

Some of my favorite lists featured in the book:
  • "None of These Excuse My Super Sweet 16: 22 Shows That Prove MTV Actually Brought Some Good into the World"
  • "Stick Around for the Ghost Monkey: 22 Movies with Post-Credit Surprises"
  • "Quick, Man! Cling Tenaciously to my Buttocks!: 21 Children's TV Shows That Found Adult Audiences"
  • "Chicken Salad Between the Knees: 16 Film and TV Characters Who Know Exactly What They'd Like to Eat"
As if the lists weren't enough fun on their own to read, at the top of each page are things in A.V. Club Heaven, while the bottom of each page lists things in A.V. Club Hell. Some A.V. Club Heaven / Hell examples:
This is definitely an entertaining and interesting book to read to see different ways of organizing music, TV, and movies. The lists will provide you with hours and hours of awesome pop culture-related reading.

Inventory: Find it in the catalog!

Monday, May 3, 2010

Easy Rider: Books on Bicycling

May is National Bike Month, so now is a good time to get out your bicycle and go for a ride.  If your bike has been sitting in storage all winter, you will want to tune it up and make sure it's in top cycling condition.  More seasoned bicyclists might consider going on a bike tour.  Here are some books to inspire you to hit the road:

Bicycle Diaries by David Byrne. 
Call no.: 796.64 BYR
Former Talking Heads front man, avid biker and all-around cool guy, David Byrne writes this travelogue of his adventures biking around the world.  Byrne also designed a series of bike racks on display around New York City, see them here.
Find it in the catalog!

The Bicycling Guide to Complete Bicycle Maintenance and Repair for Road and Mountain Bikes by Todd Downs.
Call no.: 629.2877 DOW
Save costs by fixing your bike yourself.  Even if your bike is in good condition, the maintenance tips will help your bike last longer and stay out of the shop.  For real bike geeks, there is information on building your dream bike. 
Find it in the catalog!

Bicycling Magazine's Guide to Bike Touring: Everything You Need to Know to Travel Anywhere on a Bike by Doug Donaldson. 
Call no.: 764.64 DON
Plan your own biking adventure with this book.  Find out about choosing the right destination for your trip, choosing the proper bike and equipment, tips on riding safely just about anywhere, and the top ten dream biking destinations.
Find it in the catalog!