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Tag Archives: good reads

Cool Feature on our Website

I LOVE the feature in the “Books Movies and More!” part of our website that allows you to look at award winners and bestsellers, and then go directly to our library catalog to see if an item’s checked in or available for a hold request.

For me, it’s all about the Notable Books list from the American Library Association. We’ve got that list divided by fiction and nonfiction.

I’m just underway on “Await Your Reply” by Dan Chaon. There’s a Nebraska setting within the novel, which intrigues me. I’ll keep you posted….

And in the meantime, keep our website in mind for your next idea for a Good Book to Read!

Yes, Another Notable Book–“The Anthologist” by Nicholson Baker

What a great Presidents’ Day!  I read a whole book.

The Anthologist” by Nicholson Baker is my first fiction title from this year’s American Library Association Notable Books list. I had to set aside for the moment that I didn’t think much of Baker’s earlier writing about the practices of libraries as they weed their collections.

This is my first Baker novel, and I enjoyed it immensely. It’s the story of Paul Chowder, a poet and poetry anthologist. As the story opens, Chowder’s experiencing writer’s block regarding an introduction to an anthology he’s chosen of poems that rhyme. The woman he loves has just moved out. He’s in debt. Frankly, he’s pathetic.

In one of my favorite scenes, Chowder joins his neighbors in a game of badminton. He isn’t especially good. His dog (Smacko–an all-time great dog name) keeps running after the shuttlecock and leaving it dripping with saliva. When Chowder bends over to pick it up, he gets a nosebleed. Nobody is especially sad when he decides to go back home. Pathetic. Perfectly pathetic, in that nothing is over the top but he’s just unappealing.

The novel is written largely as stream-of-conscious, Chowder reflecting on the rhyme and rhythm of poetry, of the writing of poetry, of his relationship to other poets, and of the teaching of poetry. Really, not all that much actually happens, but plenty is happening internally.

Yes, Nebraska’s own Ted Kooser is mentioned a few times.

I had to let go of the idea that this book would move quickly and directly in a particular direction. Instead, I just slowed down and enjoyed Chowder. I find language fascinating, and didn’t mind his reflections. I loved his lines of thought about babies finding words, about the ladder of poets, about rests in the poems. I was a little startled at the end to see how things wrapped up, but even so, appreciated the hopeful note. I was sorry to realize that I’d reached the end.

So I’m going to recommend this one to those who enjoy a clever well-written story, and to every word geek I know…and I’m happy to say that know a few!

A Notable Book–The Lost City of Z

My second book in a year about explorers in the Amazon!

I picked up “The Lost City of Z” by David Grann because it’s on this year’s American Library Association Notable Books List. As you may know, each year I read most of the books on this annual list, and then make presentations on them. DO contact me if you’d be interested in such a presentation for your group.

Just last year, I read, “River of Doubt” about Theodore Roosevelt’s trek down a river in the Amazon basin early in the 20th century. It was a finalist for the One Book One Lincoln program.

Truth to tell, I chose this one for no other reason than because it happened to be checked in. But I’m glad that I made time for it. What it has in common with other Notables is that it’s a fine book that seems not to have received a lot of attention.

David Grann writes for The New Yorker. He became intrigued with the story of British explorer, Percy Fawcett, who disappeared in the Amazon rainforest in 1925. Fawcett was looking for “Z,” the ruins of a great civilization. Grann alternates chapters with what he learns of Fawcett’s story, with his own story of researching and then becoming obsessed by Fawcett. Eventually, Grann also sets out to see what he can learn of the lost Fawcett expedition.

He tells the story well. Fawcett becomes an interesting character, well placed in his time and people. My hunch is that people who say they don’t like history would like it told this way. Grann’s insertion of himself as the author into the story also works well. It’s easy for me to understand that a reporter would become wrapped up in a story.

What is it about exploring? What was it about the 19th and early 20th centuries that made Europeans want to explore the world? Why do people seek out such hardship? What is it about people who disappear? What is it about thinking that YOU might be the one who finally figures things out?

I’d recommend this to people who find the questions above intriguing, to those who enjoy a nonfictional history story told well, and to people interested in the Amazon.

“Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us.”

Today and yesterday, I met with the people who supervise classified staff at Lincoln City Libraries. They came from all of our locations, including the Bookmobile. There’s something about these mixed-up groups that creates good energy.

Among our discussion points: motivation. I asked group members to review the Gallup Q12 information available via our very own library books and the Internet, or to learn about “Drive” by Daniel H. Pink via reading the book, or taking a look at his website and other information.

I find both of these sources optimistic. From time to time, I’ve heard library people bemoan our lack of money to use for motivational rewards–and I’ve probably bemoaned that, too. What I found positive in the information in both of these sources is that money isn’t that much of a motivator, when it comes right down to it.

But having a purpose IS motivating, it’s intrinsically rewarding. That’s apparent both from what we’ve learned from Gallup, and what Pink describes. Especially in tight budget times, connecting strongly to our purpose is key. The library is a place where staff hold some pretty disparate points of view about the best ways to serve our community. But where there’s usually fundamental agreement is that the Library Is a Good Thing. We’re united about serving our customers well, and being part of an institution that springs from one of the very best ideas–the importance of educated citizens in a democracy.

“Bellwether”

Just before the holidays, I enjoyed reading the novel, “Bellwether” by Connie Willis. This was published in 1996; I came across a recommendation for it in Library Journal’s “Dusty Books” blog dated December 8. In the blog, it was described as ” adorable, smart, Gen X chick lit.”

In 1998, Connie Willis also wrote, “To Say Nothing of the Dog,” which was so highly recommended to me by a friend that she gave me a copy of it…and it didn’t work for me. I just couldn’t get into the time travel element, even though it had some cleverly hilarious scenes.

“Bellwether” takes place in a ’90s think tank where Sandra Foster studies fads. Aspects of the story are like a time travel…going back to when fancy coffee was just taking off. Of course, Sandra has her antennae out for anything that may be an incipient fad.  She begins collaborating with another researcher, using sheep. And in the process, they learn the importance of a bellwether. Of course, Sandy and her fellow researcher fall in love, and even win a big though mysterious prize.

This isn’t a science fiction book, though that’s what Connie Willis typically writes. It is a workplace story, complete with crazy corporate campaign and crazy-making colleagues.

I read this book through to the end, and at certain points, I wasn’t sure why. I told my husband several times that I was waiting for the real story to start. Even so, I found Sandra intriguing, and will recommend this book to those who like sassy  heroines and clever writing.