Sunday, December 30, 2007

Quick note

Due to a bereavement in the family, I will not be posting for the rest of the week. Thank you.

City of Light

For anyone who wants to know what the big deal is about Paris, I recommend Sandrine's Paris: a cultural history of the world's most romantic city. Author Sandrine Voillet - a native Parisian - explains why so many people over the centuries have been driven to visit Paris. This is a lovely coffee-table book, with beautiful pictures and an entertaining text. She doesn't tell you where to stay or eat, or what the best shopping district is, or what the 'must see' sights are in this tourist hotspot. Instead, she describes the ups and downs of French history and culture, and how those cycles always emanate from Paris. She also points out some of the ways in which these cultural changes have rippled beyond the borders of France to affect Western civilization as a whole. One of the nicest things about this book is that it includes a fair amount of information about modern Paris, including architecture, fashion, cinema and historical events. The Folies Bergère was not the last exciting thing to have happened in Paris, but many books focus on the city's elegant past rather than its vibrant present. Sandrine will show you what it is about this city that so fascinates the armchair traveler and captivates the visitor, and make you long to walk its lively boulevards.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

China's Sacred Sites

My aunt went to China about 20 years ago, and the photos and stories that she brought back fascinated me and instilled in me a strong desire to see that beautiful country. Books like China's Sacred Sites, by Nan Shunxun and Beverly Foit-Albert augment that desire. Just from the law of averages any area as large as China is bound to have a fair amount of lovely spots, but the Chinese seem to have an aptitude for combining amazing architecture with breathtaking natural settings. This book presents page after page of valleys, cliffs, caves, mountains and rivers, with each location graced with a beautifully ornamented temple, some of which are over 1,000 years old. The descriptions of the more elaborate complexes include floor plans and section maps so that the reader can truly appreciate the way the building has been adapted to the setting (often a vertical one). The authors also include a nice summary of the history and architectural high-points of each temple and a map showing its location in China (for those of us whose Chinese geography is a little shaky). The back of the book has a helpful glossary and timeline, a bibliography for further reading, and a map of China showing the location of all the sites in the book. Apparently, Shaanxi and Guizhou provinces are the places to go to see amazing temples. Now, where did I put that passport?

Friday, December 28, 2007

Brutally funny

You have to have a certain sense of humor to enjoy our newest book from the red-hot publisher Hard Case Crime. Think of a book loaded with strong language, gratuitous sex and graphic violence. Now ratchet it up a notch, and you will have Slide, by Ken Bruen and Jason Starr. The fact that everything is just slightly over the top, and the cast of characters are all such complete losers, is what makes this book so darkly funny. The basic plot thread is a standard double- and triple-crossing drug deal, and each chapter is told from the point of view of one of the characters. Some of the plot elements in each chapter overlap, and it's interesting to see the different perspectives of each person involved. The characters themselves are wonderful: narcissistic and delusional, they have a completely whacked idea of their own importance and their own level of success. These people are perennial optimists, even if that sense of optimism is usually chemically-induced. The book is set in New York and Dublin, and Bruen brings the Irish brooding while Starr supplies the American gang violence. The body count is reminiscent of Hamlet, but the plot twists are more like a Coen brothers movie. Not for the squeamish, the sensitive or the literal, this book would be great for fans of Elmore Leonard and Quentin Tarantino.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Books for book lovers

If you are a true bibliophile, there are three new books on the shelves that you might enjoy:
Books on Fire: the destruction of libraries throughout history by Lucien X. Polastron chronicles the sad fate of libraries destroyed by man and nature. He begins with the Sumerian library at Nineveh, which was razed in 612 B.C. and then goes on to circle the globe and travel through time. Sadly, many of the libraries and collections he eulogizes were lost in the 20th century to wars, dictators and cultural upheaval. He concludes with an examination of the movement to digitize books and the supposed goal of a 'paperless society'.
After you have gotten depressed by reading about the destruction of books, then try Classics for Pleasure by Michael Dirda. This is not the scary reading list you received in Honors English class, but instead is a collection of essays extolling the virtues of almost 90 novelists and poets whose work has had a profound impact on society, culture and avaricious readers. If you are familiar with the writers on Dirda's list, you will be able to carry on witty dinner conversation at any table. (Everyone's goal in life, I'm sure)
For fans of nonfiction, we have The New Kings of Nonfiction edited by Ira Glass, host of This American Life on NPR. Nonfiction has moved beyond how-to manuals and dreary textbooks into a type of reality-based storytelling, and Glass includes some masters of the genre: Malcolm Gladwell, Chuck Klosterman, Dan Savage and Susan Orlean. The subjects of these essays and articles are wide-ranging, but they all share a compelling narrative and a gift for engaging the reader and getting to the bigger picture. There's a reason our nonfiction shelves are heavily used, and it's because of writers like those featured in this book.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Dreaming of gardening

We're in the depths of winter and we all woke this morning to a dusting of snow on the ground, but it is actually the perfect time to begin thinking about your garden. If you don't have your garden plans in place by that first sunny week in May, then you will lose precious growing time trying to figure things out. We have two new books that will help kick-start some ideas.
Container Gardening: through the seasons, by Jim Keeling, is a great resource for anyone trying to have a garden on their porch, deck, parking platform, dock, or boggy yard. This is not your typical container garden book. Author Keeling founded Whichford Pottery in England about 30 years ago, so half of this book is about the design, creation and care of pots for your garden. No Wal-Mart plastic pots or boring terra-cotta pots here! The photos are beautiful, and follow the cluttered English cottage garden aesthetic. He has lots of good suggestions for how to pick containers, what to put in them, how to arrange them, how to winter them, and how to use them to create a lovely space year-round.
Fallscaping: extending your garden season into autumn, by Nancy Ondra and Stephanie Cohen is another book that has an unusual perspective on gardening. Fall in Ketchikan usually means sodden, rotting plants. But why not scatter some plants throughout your garden that will actually look good in fall and distract the eye from the pathetic petunias and straggly nasturtiums? Move past the ubiquitous decorative cabbage and install some unique characters into your design scheme. This book is also packed with maintenance, winterizing and design tips.

Sunday, December 23, 2007


There are three new books on the shelf that are inherently interesting for different reasons.

Berlin: the Twenties by Rainer Metzger and Christian Brandstatter. The city of Berlin developed a wicked, wicked reputation between the wars, and the hundreds of photos in this book give you a glimpse into that daring, desperate time. America likes to think we coined the idea of the 'Roaring Twenties', but we were pretty buttoned-down in comparison to Berlin.

Supercapitalism: the transformation of business, democracy and everyday life is a new book by Robert B. Reich, who was the Secretary of Labor during the Clinton administration and is now a professor of public policy at UC Berkeley. Books about economics usually make my eyes glaze over, but every time I've heard Reich talk (TV and radio, never in person, alas) he always has the most interesting ideas. This book is sure to be full of more such unique ideas and perspectives.

Bill Bryson has written a new book about Shakespeare, and although the Bard has been analyzed to death, I am willing to sit down and read a shopping list if it's been written by Bill Bryson. Shakespeare: the world as stage is a clever, flowing biography of one of the greatest writers of all time (please, no letters from Francis Bacon fans).

The library will be closed on Monday and Tuesday, so I'll take this opportunity to wish you and yours a wonderful holiday.....I'll talk to you again on the 26th.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Armed America

Looking for a nice, controversial topic to throw out at the dinner table this holiday? How about gun ownership? Regardless of which 'side' they're on, people are rarely indifferent about the subject. If you would like to get a broad overview of the average American gun owner, you could look at a new book Armed America: portraits of gun owners in their homes. This is not a scientific sampling of gun owners; there are plenty of people who own guns but might not feel comfortable having their picture published holding one. But photographer Kyle Cassidy spent two years criss-crossing the United States looking for gun owners willing to pose with their weapons and answer the question "Why do you own a gun?". The answers are very interesting. Some guns are family mementos, others are collectors items. Some are for hunting or target practice, while others are kept as a matter of principle. Many, many people in this book keep them for self-defense: either against their neighbors or against the government. Another interesting aspect of the book is the backdrop of each picture - generally the living room. It's a snapshot glimpse into someone else's life, and it becomes so easy to try and look for clues to their personality hidden in the books on their shelves, the art on their walls, even the type of pets they keep. This is a very voyeuristic book and you can't help but wonder if the subjects are happy with the persona they project, or are even aware of interesting look at America as a whole, and not just gun owners.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Teen fashion

It's hard to find a group more fashion-conscious than teenagers, and the odd thing about current trends is that the rattier and grungier the clothing, the more expensive it seems to be. So what is a financially strapped teen to do? Well, they could check out two of our new books: Generation T: 108 ways to transform a T-shirt by Megan Nicolay and Subversive Seamster by the Stitch Lounge Girls (Melissa Alvarado, Hope Meng and Melissa Rannels). Nicolay is a designer and seamstress in Brooklyn, New York, while the Stitch Lounge Girls are home-based in San Francisco. The first book modifies tees - usually printed ones - in a variety of ways to create an urban, post-punk look (think Gwen Stefani). Nicolay also shows you how to transform tees into skirts, scarves, leggings, pillows, bikinis and seat cushions. Subversive Seamster has a broader range of starting materials and will show you how to take any thrift store find and change it into something totally different. A pair of checked men's slacks? Presto, it's a halter top with the fly revealing a tiny bit of cleavage. Bedspreads become vests, wool coats become skirts, and sweaters become mittens. And each piece has that requisite sloppy look that is so coveted by today's young people (wow, I must be galloping up on middle age!). A warning note to parents and grandparents: it's a fine line between cool and embarrassing, so if you try to make these fashions for your young relatives be sure you get their input on whether or not your project really is 'hip'.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Book love

Every once in a while we have someone come in with a tattered book, asking if we will mend it for them. No fancy first editions, no collected works of Shakespeare signed by the author. The books people bring in are far more valuable than that: gifts from beloved grandparents, Bibles handed down through family generations, the first book they ever purchased. For those people who are trying to preserve a piece of themselves, we have a new book that will help you: The Care and Feeding of Books Old and New: a simple repair manual for book lovers. Authors Margot Rosenberg and Bern Marcowitz own a bookstore in New York City, and they share easy techniques for maintaining and repairing the special books in your life. The nice thing about this book is that they use easily obtained supplies and simple to follow procedures. You don't need to be a trained archivist to renovate your personal library. This excellent guide covers such common problems as page tears, stinky books, dog-eared pages, wet books and loose pages. It also discusses routine cleaning, creating the proper environment for your books, and how to put together your own little repair kit. This is a must-read for anyone who loves their books (just don't dog-ear the pages!).

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

The Voice of the Poet

There is something especially intriguing about hearing a poet read their own works. It's like hearing a giant of the silent film era; sometimes they have a thin, reedy voice that is at odds with their powerful persona, and sometimes their voice seems to be a natural extension of their character. With poets, there is the added interest of hearing how they envision the pace of their narrative and the words they choose to emphasize. Poetry is meant to be spoken out loud, and we have a new series of audiobooks which showcases some of America's most famous poets reading their own works. You can hear the voices of W.H. Auden, Robert Frost, Allen Ginsberg, Langston Hughes and Sylvia Plath, and all of these discs contain never-before released recordings. We also have a disc entitled American Wits, which includes Dorothy Parker, Ogden Nash and Phyllis McGinley. Anyone who enjoys listening to Garrison Keillor's Writers Almanac or the radio program Selected Shorts on KRBD will love these sets. Since each set comes with a text of the poems, a bibliography and a commentary by J.D. McClatchy, editor of the Yale Review, they are a must for any student of poetry and a wonderful classroom aid. Listen and enjoy.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

I'm baaaack!

Rather than wasting your vacation time on the actual holidays, I heartily recommend using it beforehand, so you can get everything done. And, in fact, I still have my Christmas cards to write and my tree to put up, so I shudder to think what state I would be in if I hadn't just spent 9 days running errands. It's nice to be back, tho.
If you are traveling for the holidays, perhaps you might want to take along one of our newest books: The Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook: travel by Joshua Piven and David Borgenicht. Interested in adventure travel? There are instructions for how to control a runaway camel, jump from a moving train and ram a barricade. Intrigued by an exotic locale you have heard mentioned in the news? Learn how to pass a bribe, survive a riot, and navigate a minefield. Looking to become one with nature? Learn how to cross a piranha-infested river, survive a tsunami, and build a shelter in the snow. (Well, you don't have to leave town to use that skill this week). You might be thinking 'Ha, ha, what a useless book', but the authors did actually contact experts in these fields to ask their advice and suggestions. The chance you will ever use this information might be slim, but at least it's quality stuff. And you never know when you will need to foil a UFO abduction. So there.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Vacation Time!

Hi...thanks for sticking with me so far. I'm going to be taking a short vacation to try and get my life in order before the holidays (Ha!). I'll be back and posting again on the 18th of December.

Do you hear what I hear?

We just put over a dozen new audiobooks on the shelf today, so I thought I would highlight some of the most popular authors and hottest titles:
  • A Lick of Frost by Laurell K. Hamilton. Another steamy blend of thriller and fantasy novel.
  • The Almost Moon by Alice Sebold. By the author of the bestselling novel The Lovely Bones
  • Giving by Bill Clinton. The active ex-president puts forth his ideas for how everyone can help their neighbors
  • Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. We can't keep this memoir of self-discovery on the shelf. Here's your chance to snatch it up in audio format
  • Book of the Dead by Patricia Cornwell. A new Kay Scarpetta mystery!
  • The Choice by Nicholas Sparks. This author is also very popular with young adults, who like his gentle romances and teary themes
  • The Bone Garden by Tess Gerritsen. Flicking back between present-day Massachusetts and 1830's Boston, this novel is sure to keep you on the edge of your seat.

We have lots of audio options for you this month, and audiobooks are a perfect way to pass the time while you bake cookies, wrap presents, and hang up Christmas lights.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Sliced Bread

We have a new resource available to our patrons that is the best thing since you-know-what. It is an online database of repair manuals for a wide variety of small engines:
  • Outboard motors
  • Chainsaws
  • Snowmobiles
  • ATVs
  • Weed whackers
  • Motorcycles
  • Generators
  • Lawnmowers
  • Diesel engines
So if you're trying to get the skiff ready for a little weekend fishing, or if your generator just went kaput, you can find the technical information you need 24 hours a day: no worries about the manual being checked out, no having to wait for the library to open, no having to drive into town. The link is on our website: Just scroll down the page to see the icon. It is next to another fabulous database - Auto Repair Reference Center - which is provided by the Alaska State Library. With these two databases, you can repair anything. The repair website does have database recognition, but if you can't access the site, just call us for the passwords: 225-3331. Good luck, and happy wrenching!

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Nostalgic but bad

The holiday season is all about memories - some good and some bad - and this seems to be the one time of year when people are feverishly busy trying to recreate their childhood (how else could you explain the sudden popularity of aluminum trees?). Something that brings up warm fuzzies to you might just look like schlocky garbage to someone else, but that's life. So we have added a new DVD for the holidays that has little if any artistic merit, but is sure to conjure up waves of nostalgia in anyone who was born after 1965. Christmas Television Favorites sucks you in with "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" - one of the best cartoons you can find - and then piles on 4 cheesy stop-action animation specials done by Rankin and Bass: "The Year Without a Santa Claus", "Rudolph's Shiny New Year", "Rudolph and Frosty's Christmas in July" and "Nestor, the Long-Eared Christmas Donkey" (I have never even heard of that last one). The set is then topped off with two cartoon specials: "Frosty's Winter Wonderland" and "'Twas the Night Before Christmas". It may have been 35 years since you've seen some of these productions, but they will definitely take you back to your childhood, back to those crazy days before cable television and VCRs when you gladly lapped up whatever the big 3 networks had to offer. Ah, memories.....

Tuesday, December 4, 2007


We have a couple of new books in our art section that have been cataloged into that section rather hesitantly, not because we questioned their artistic merit but because they are equally powerful in other contexts.
Burning Man: art in the desert by A. Leo Nash chronicles the more amazing installation art pieces that have appeared at this annual festival over the years. The photographs are all in grainy black and white, which not only highlights the details of the pieces but also fits in well with the desert environment. But this isn't just art. There are people here: in the photos, working on the crews, sitting in the audience, relaxing in the campsites. This makes Burning Man more than just a gallery collection of installation art (which is the shelf section where we ended up placing it); this book is also a photographic journey through time that depicts a unique subculture. In the text, Nash alludes to the Mad Max films as an inspiration for the Burning Man festival. Throw in Salvador Dali, and you've got a good idea of what you'll find in this book: unreal beauty and true free spirits.
Collect Raindrops: the seasons gathered is an interesting book by Nikki McClure. Two-tone prints created from papercuts, the beautiful images in this collection are idyllic and peaceful. These are pictures of friendship, cooperation, nature, contentment and hard work (the good kind, like weeding a garden or building a shed). Accompanying each image is a single word or phrase that invests the piece with more meaning. The designs in this book are reminiscent of the graphic design of the Arts & Crafts movement, which is why we placed it in with our art poster section. It could just as easily be with the poetry, environmentalism, or graphic novel books. Art as collective conscience.

Monday, December 3, 2007

A reasonable effort

How many times have you resolved to change your diet, eat healthier and lose some weight? And how many times did you give up in frustration after a couple of weeks of eating tasteless food and yearning after your favorite dishes? Let's be honest - cutting out a few calories is better than not cutting out anything at all. So if you could find a cookbook that would show you how to shave a few calories off of yummy dishes like macaroni and cheese, brownies, and french toast, wouldn't that be a blessing? Well, here you go: The Complete Light Kitchen by Rose Reisman will help you whittle down your daily intake without making you feel like you're on bread and water rations. Chicken and Eggplant Parmesan for only 312 calories a serving? Bake, don't fry, and use skinless chicken breasts and part-skim mozzarella. Make a pesto cream sauce with low-fat sour cream, use cocoa, oil and yogurt to replace the butter and chocolate in brownies, and egg whites in your omelets. Nothing earth-shattering, but it's nice to have someone spell it all out for you. Each recipe has a nutritional analysis, so you can see how much fat, protein, sodium, cholesterol and fiber is involved. Instead of choosing a radical diet for your New Year's resolution, try easing yourself into healthy eating with this book.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

An eye-opener

Our new book Earth Then and Now: amazing images of our changing world by Fred Pearce is many things. It is a graphic representation of the effects of climate change. Pearce presents 'then and now' photos of receding glaciers, melting ice caps and shrinking lakes. It is a sobering documentation of the result of industrialization and urbanization. There are photos of urban sprawl taking over forests, towering skyscrapers replacing two-story houses, and dry riverbeds downstream from dams. It is testimony to regrowth and healing as photos of rebuilt and restored towns replace the bomb debris left over from World War II. One particularly sad photo is the gouged fields of the Somme. Green grass has grown over the mud and trenches of the first World War, but you can still see the impact that was left. The photographic evidence of Mother Nature's ability to wipe us off the map is very chilling (earthquakes, landslides and floods), but there's always hope for mankind. Pages 74-75 show the ability of civilization to change, as Mexico City shrugs off its notorious smog after 20 years of clean-up efforts. Mostly, though, this book is hugely depressing. It's one thing to hear about our negative effect on the environment, its another to look at big color pictures of our destructiveness

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Valerie Plame Wilson

I heard former CIA agent Valerie Plame Wilson on the NPR program "Fresh Air", and I was mesmerized. Like everyone else, I had followed the story of her 'outing', the subsequent investigations and the trial of Vice-Presidential Chief of Staff I. Lewis 'Scooter' Libby. It was interesting, but when it was all over I moved on, with no intention of giving it much more thought. But Mrs. Wilson's new book - Fair Game: my life as a spy, my betrayal by the White House - has reopened the topic for discussion, and in her publicity interviews for the book she comes across as matter-of-fact about the damage that was done to her career and her life without sounding angry or bitter. She was composed and erudite, with a certain sense of humor, and I was very impressed.
I found her book interesting for two reasons totally unrelated to the scandal surrounding the disclosure of her identity. The first reason was that the CIA deleted large sections of her manuscript prior to publishing (like any CIA employee, she signed a confidentiality agreement). The publisher - Simon & Schuster - felt that the editing went beyond the bounds of national security so they not only left in the big black boxes that replaced the censored text, they had reporter Laura Rozen write an afterword that uses publicly available information to basically fill in the CIA-deleted text. Therefore, the CIA comes across as looking totally idiotic.
The second reason I found this book intriguing was that smack in the middle of the book was a chapter describing the premature birth of her twins (now 7) and her struggles with postpartum depression (PPD). The difficulties she encountered getting anyone, including her husband, to appreciate the severity of her problem are clearly laid out. Treatment and time eventually cured her depression, and she went on to volunteer at a support group for new mothers with PPD, and she includes a list of resources in the back of the book for anyone suffering from this problem. This chapter is a very powerful episode of humanity in the midst of a CIA memoir that is full of dates, facts and quotes.
It will be interesting to see what path Valerie Plame Wilson follows from here. I'm sure it will be a successful one.

Friday, November 30, 2007

A Guest Reviewer

This is the first time I've ceded the floor to a guest reviewer, but I liked the review so much I felt compelled to share. The book in question in Alaskana; or, Alaska in Descriptive and Legendary Poems by Prof. Bushrod W. James. The review (the reviewer is unnamed) appeared in the Nov. 18, 1892 issue of the journal Science:

"If Professor James had not had the unfortunate idea that he is a poet, he would have written a book of considerable interest, as he has visited various localities in Alaska and read read several works about that country. As it is, he gives us 360 solid pages of verses in the meter of "Hiawatha", with "some slight improvements," as the announcement of the publishers modestly puts it....And are there people who will read 360 pages of such? If so, human nature has certain qualities of patience or kindliness for which we did not give it sufficient credit."


But be assured, we have this book if you have the patience and kindliness to read it.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

It ain't sexy

We have a new item on the shelves that might not be the most exciting thing we've ever gotten, but if you're a commercial fisherman it might well be the most useful. Financial Statements and Business Calculations for Commercial Fishermen & Alaska Fish Business Plan is a CD-ROM produced by the Alaska Sea Grant Marine Advisory Program. The CD contains spreadsheet templates for both MAC and PC users that will allow them to create asset/liability statements, income statements, and cash flow statements. This disk also has worksheets for calculating the cost of crew, fuel and lubricants, permits and IFQs and vessel and equipment needs. On a positive note, it can also help you keep track of revenue! For PC users there is also a tool that will help you create a Fish Business Plan. You can be the canniest seaman and luckiest fisherman in the world and still come up against a brick wall when it comes to the accounting side of things. This CD is designed to make things easier for you in the office so that you can spend more of your time and energy on the water. And what better time to organize your accounts than over the slow season (unless you're participating in a winter fishery, of course.....). We would like to thank the Alaska Sea Grant Marine Advisory Program for donating this handy item to our library.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Vita Romana

Some time periods and civilizations are more interesting than others, and I personally think the Romans were an incredibly interesting group of people. And since people continue to create books, movies and TV series set in Roman times, I feel I'm not alone. We have a new book that looks at the various aspects of living in the Roman Empire. Roman Life: 100 B.C. to A.D. 200 by John R. Clarke focuses on the heyday of the Empire, when things were really exciting (from Spartacus to Mark Anthony to Nero). He breaks the book into general themes - work, bathing, taverns, religion, death, dinner parties - and then in each section he provides the information in a variety of ways. There are beautiful photos of statues, mosaics and ruins. There are also digital reconstructions of what rooms and buildings really looked like (based on the pieces that have survived to present day). But one of the most intriguing things Clarke has done is to include little novellas about Romans going about their daily business. For instance, the chapter about Shows focuses on Marcus Holconius Rufus - high counselor of Pompeii - who has financed a theater performance for the entire city. As Rufus goes through all the ceremonies and events of the big holiday, the reader learns how theaters worked: who paid for them, how they were set up, what they looked like and what was performed. Both instructive and entertaining, this book is perfect for anyone who would like to know more about Roman life without hacking their way through dry, footnoted text. It also includes a glossary, a bibliography for further reading, and an interactive CD-ROM that lets users choose an identity (slave, guest, client, etc.) and wander around the House of Vettii in Pompeii. Very fun.


How does this sound?: a world cruise with 74 ports of call.
Actually, it sounds totally exhausting. But what if you could visit these ports from the comfort of your own home (and your own Norwalk-free bathroom?). Well, with our new Ultimate Cruise Collection DVD, you can view tropical beaches, Mayan temples, majestic glaciers and historic European cities. Get the inside scoop on six different cruise itineraries: Alaska, Hawaii/Tahiti, Mexico, the Eastern Caribbean, the Western Caribbean and Northern Europe. Each disc will also give you the top 10 attractions of each region, as well as special trips below the warm blue-green waters of the Caribbean and the icy stretches of Alaskan glaciers. Heck, you can even visit "densely forested Ketchikan, with its colorful, mysterious totem poles created by early natives". Well, O.K. it's not Encyclopaedia Brittanica. But you can spend over 6 hours gazing longingly at warm water, sandy beaches and tropical paradise. Crank up the heat, sprinkle some kitty litter on the floor (closest thing we have to sand), drink something out of a coconut and dream yourself to a warmer clime.

Monday, November 26, 2007

A good excuse for traveling

San Francisco is one of my favorite cities because of its nice blend of cosmopolitan ennui, leftist idealism and strong neighborhood character. And Lonely Planet is my favorite guidebook publisher because their books don't advocate staying at the YMCA (at my age? Please!) or a $400-a-night hotel. They manage to provide info for slightly adventurous, yet comfort-loving travelers who don't have an unlimited amount of money to spend but don't want to take a bus tour with a dozen octogenarians. So what better book than Lonely Planet's San Francisco Encounter?
Small enough to fit in your coat pocket or purse, this guide boasts a handy pull-out street map with index, a section of 'must-see' highlights, an event calendar for the year and some handy itineraries for your particular length of stay. But best of all, the author (Alison Bing) goes through every neighborhood in San Francisco and gives you a summary of its history and feel as well as the best places to see, shop and eat. Each entry includes hours of operation, bus route numbers and trolley car lines (where appropriate). There is even a BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) map inside the back cover. Everything you could need in the smallest of packages: a real jewel of a travel guide.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

World War I

World War I ended 89 years ago this month, and there are a mere handful of veterans left from that period. So much senseless death needs to be remembered and a new video series we have here at the library is a perfect way to learn more about a war that was so horrible people were sure it could never happen again. The First World War is a 10-part series based on the book by Professor Hew Strachan, which is available through the Schoenbar library. This British film is produced and directed by Jonathan Lewis, who has made dozens of historical documentaries. Although told from the British viewpoint, it also includes footage from Eastern Europe that was previously unavailable to filmmakers during the Communist Era. Strachan and Lewis take the viewer on a detailed tour through the political and military events that occurred during that terrible 4-year period, and the scenes of carnage and destruction are truly moving. The packaging of this critically-acclaimed production also includes helpful maps of the various theaters of combat, and a nice booklet that summarizes each episode. This is a completely riveting series about an historical event that had global repercussions, and a must-see film for anyone remotely interested in history and world events.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Bizarre Buildings

Not every building is entirely practical, and not everyone judges the worth of a building by whether or not it has too many corners. In Bizarre Buildings authors Paul Cattermole and Ian Westwell explore some of the most architecturally daring and visually stunning buildings in the world. The authors have taken the word 'bizarre' to heart, and rather than include ornate and grandiose examples of period architecture (Angkor Wat, Chartres cathedral, the Breakers, the Guggenheim) they have focused on buildings where the design completely overpowers the function of the structure itself. Most of their examples are modern architecture, but they do include some older examples: an 18th-century pineapple dome in England, Mad King Ludwig's castle, and the work of Antonio Gaudi. Some of the other architects are well-known modern designers like I.M. Pei, Frank Gehry, and Buckminster Fuller, while other buildings are one-hit wonders (in fact, the authors don't even include the architect's name with some of the examples). Sweeping curves, giant domes, chunky blocks, walls of glass and hovering saucers dot the pages of this book. The photographs are beautiful, and if you ever wanted to take an architectural tour of the world (the bizarre world, of course), this is the book for you.

Friday, November 23, 2007

The Art of Ill Will

There are few things that can pack as strong a punch as a really good political cartoon. A simple drawing and a short caption can puncture egos, expose scandals, inflame public opinion, and affect elections. They are also a wonderful barometer of the mood of the country. One of our new books - The Art of Ill Will: the story of American political cartoons by Donald Dewey - is a fun way to learn more about the political history of the United States. Ranging from the Boston Massacre to the Patriot Act, the cartoons in this box satirize and memorialize some of the biggest historical events and political scandals of our nation. The cartoons range from the very funny to the very somber (check out Bill Mauldin's reaction to JFK's assassination on page 107).
The book begins with a lengthy introduction, and the cartoons are broken into general subject heading (Presidents - Wars & Foreign Relations - Ethnic, Racial and Religious Issues - Local and Domestic Politics - Business & Labor) and then each heading presents the cartoons in chronological order. I have a quibble with the indexing, however. The index only covers the text, not the actual cartoons, so if you are looking for a specific cartoonist you are out of luck. In addition, the table of contents only lists the subject headings, not the cartoons. Again, finding a specific illustration is very difficult. Other than that, however, this is a very interesting book. It would be a wonderful resource for teachers trying to convey the mood of a period to their students.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Holiday novels

The Christmas season gets its official start on Friday (despite what some pushy retail organizations say), so in order to get in the Christmas mood, stop by the library and grab one of our holiday-themed novels. We have a display up by the catalog terminals, and we have also added a few to the New Book shelves this week:

Cat Deck the Halls: a Joe Grey mystery by Sheila Rousseau Murphy. Joe Grey is a feline detective. Take that as either a selling point or a warning, depending on your taste.

Where Angels Go by Debbie Macomber. More gentle, feel-good stories involving the angels Mercy, Goodness and Shirley.

Finding Father Christmas by Robin Jones Gunn. A young San Francisco woman goes searching for her father in England. There's always something appealing about spending Christmas in England (unless you're Bob Cratchit).

Angela and the Baby Jesus by Frank McCourt. Once you get past the fact that the sweet little girl in this story grows up to be not-so-great mother in Angela's Ashes, this is a very beautiful tale that is perfect to share with your kids.

These are just some of the many mysteries, romances, thrillers and gentle reads we have on the shelf that use the wonderful emotional ups and downs of the holiday season as a backdrop.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Good times

Nothing brings kids closer to their parents than the opportunity to make fun of their childhood. Most of the time, this is restricted to wedding photos (nice beehive, Mom) and old yearbooks (cool plaid suit, Dad). But why not give your kids the chance to make fun of your entire generation? Sit down with the family and watch Chalkdust Memories: classic classroom films. Over 3 hours of some of the most vital information you ever learned in school is on this DVD. Relive the hilarity of the Cold War with such classics as "Survival Under Atomic Attack" (1951), "Red Nightmare" (1962) and everyone's favorite - "Duck and Cover" (1951). Parents of young drivers will enjoy sharing the important lessons in "Tomorrow's Drivers" (1954) and "Smith System of No-Accident Driving" (1956). Wow, even the title is exciting! The melodramatic anti-drug films from the late sixties will certainly inspire some interesting family conversations, but for pure giggle-inducing fun, you should watch the 'relationship' films you remember from Health and Hygiene Class (the fact that they couldn't even call it 'Sex-Ed' will give your kids a hint about the tone of the films). There is something comforting in realizing that your parents were just as concerned about sex, drugs and fiery car crashes as you are with your kids. The world may have changed, but there are some things about parenting that will always stay the same.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Three new mysteries

Mysteries are one of the most popular types of books in the library, and people often follow the exploits of a particular detective or police official. But sometimes it's good to try something new.

The Art Thief is the debut novel of Noah Charney, the founding director of the Association for Research into Crimes against Art (ARCA). His richly detailed novel about three simultaneous art thefts - in Rome, Paris and London - and the common threads that connect these crimes will please anyone interested in complex plots and beautiful settings.

Noble Lies, by Charles Benoit, involves a Desert Storm vet working as a bouncer in Thailand. He takes on a job helping an American woman find her missing brother (the 2004 tsunami is a background character in the novel), but runs afoul of some Thai gangsters. What follows is fast-paced action and lots of plot twists.

Set in the colorful community of Provincetown, Massachusetts, High Season starts with the discovery of a murdered TV evangelist (decked out in a dress and wig) and escalates into a series of murders that has the entire Cape on edge. Local readers will enjoy this Jon Loomis mystery set in a seaside tourist town a little like Ketchikan (well, not much like Ketchikan. But there's boats. And tourists. And seafood.)

Sunday, November 18, 2007

We are amused

Having been Queen of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, etc., etc. for over 55 years now, Elizabeth II is one of the most recognizable figures in the world today. And lately she has been taking on more of a pop culture status, as her personal life seems fair game for artistic license. English novelist and Beyond the Fringe alum Alan Bennett has used the Queen as the protagonist for his new novel: The Uncommon Reader. In this book, Elizabeth ducks into a bookmobile (or 'mobile library' as they are called in the UK) following her irritating corgis. On impulse, she checks out a book, and her life is transformed by the joy of reading. As her reading tastes flourish, she begins to look at her life - and life in general - differently, to the consternation of her staff and the government. Bennett manages to put in a lot of sly humor about the monarchy, British institutions, and the growing attitude that readers are 'elitist'. Despite the less-than-flattering premise of the book (that until the bookmobile incident, she never read), the Queen comes off as a rather endearing character with a good heart and a quick wit. I don't know if Bennett has close knowledge of the Queen, or if he is just reflecting the ingrained British attitude towards the sovereign, but he appears quite fond of Her Majesty. As for the ending of the book....well, what a jaw-dropper.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

The Real Master and Commander

Fans of Patrick O'Brian will probably know that the purposeful hero of his books - 'Lucky' Jack Aubrey - was closely based on a real naval hero and adventurer. Cochrane: the real master and commander by David Cordingly details the meteoric rise - and sharp downfall - of one of the British Navy's most colorful characters. His exploits during the Napoleonic Wars caused the Emperor himself to nickname him "the sea wolf". He was handsome, very cunning about naval matters, and phenomenally successful. Until it came to business matters. In 1814, an acquaintance of Cochrane's started a rumour of Napoleon's death and he, Cochrane, and 4 others were found later to have made a vast sum of money selling stocks while the rumour was flying. A one-year prison sentence was devastating to Cochrane's naval career (see The Reverse of the Medal for the Jack Aubrey version).
Cordingly writes an account of Cochrane that is just as interesting as the novels of C.S. Forester and Patrick O'Brian. The fact that these exploits were real just adds to the excitement. The book flows well, there are lots of illustrations of the prominent names of the time - Lord St. Vincent, Admiral Lord Keith, General Bernardo O'Higgins - and nice appendix. Cordingly includes a glossary, a diagram of the frigate Imperieuse, and a thorough bibliography, as well as footnotes and index. For true lovers of naval history, this is a great book.

Friday, November 16, 2007

A classic film

Ah, where has all the romance gone? Modern movies about relationships seem to fall into the categories of schmaltzy (While You Were Sleeping) or harsh (Closer). If you want a truly romantic movie, then I suggest a classic tear-jerker that's just been put on our shelves: Now, Voyager. This fabulous film stars Bette Davis, a fabulous actress, and Paul Henreid, who is best known for playing Victor Laslo in Casablanca.
On paper, the story line sounds terrible: Davis is a repressed spinster dominated by her mother. She seeks help from a kindly psychiatrist (Claude Rains, another Casablanca alum) and emerges a new woman - one of the first 'makeover' films. She goes on a cruise and falls in love with an unhappily married Henreid. [This was back when ocean cruises were the height of luxury and sophistication, rather than being all about the food buffet]. Their paths continue to cross, and their love never dies, but there is no happy ending here. What saves this plot from being a sappy mess is the stellar acting of Davis, Henreid and Rains. Davis emerges as a strong, sympathetic character who channels her love into helping Henreid's disturbed daughter. Henreid's performance is also wonderful. And when Henreid lights two cigarettes at once, and offers one to Davis, you will see just how much modern romance flicks miss the mark.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Ho ho ho

Like a force-9 gale, Christmas is bearing down upon us, and it's never too early to get ready. (Well, wrapping your gifts in August is a little intense, but to each his own). So, to help everyone get in that holly-jolly mood, we have dragged all the Christmas stuff out of storage. As you enter the library, you will see our large selection of holiday CDs and craft magazines on display. We have 170 Christmas albums in our collection, from carols and hymns to Don Ho and Zamfir (the master of the pan flute). I defy anyone to resist as wide-ranging a collection as that. We also have a huge number of craft magazines - both general and craft-specific - that you can choose from: cross-stitch, paper craft, cooking, knitting, woodworking, painting, card making, etc. When you stop off to browse the display, feel free to pick up one of our brochures highlighting some of our Christmas Craft books. If it can be gilded, wrapped, painted, sequined, laminated, engraved, woven or folded we have a craft guide that will show you how to do it.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

New Home Wish List

If you or someone you know is thinking about building a new house, or renovating an existing home, then we have a new book that is a fabulous resource: Architectural Inspiration: styles, details & sources by Richard Skinulis and Peter Christopher. Whether you are just starting the building process and are still in the conceptual phase, or if you are picking out knobs for the kitchen cabinets, this book is a cornucopia of ideas and possibilities. Beautiful color photography and instructive, well-written text make this book a pleasure to read. Each chapter covers a different aspect of the house and gives you a broad overview of popular styles and historical trends, and also presents a photo gallery of designs: weathervanes, brickwork, bathtubs, ceiling panels, fireplaces, and decorative moldings. The authors even explain the relative merits of different types of light bulbs and exhaust hoods. You can see what appeals to you and what styles are available on the market. If you are remotely interested in interior design, then looking through the pages of this book will be like a 6-year-old with a toy catalog; you'll want one of everything. Even if you are just planning your dream house, this is still a fun book to read. A word of warning, though: the items and ideas that are presented are not cheap. If your idea of home design is buying whatever's on sale, then this book won't be of much use to you. But you could always look for more economical look-alikes, build your own, or pick one or two features (tile, lighting, moldings) on which to splurge. There's a world of possibilities out there.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Videos for Veterans' Day

Housekeeping note -
The library will be closed on Sunday the 11th (which is actually Veterans' Day) and Monday the 12th (which is the observed holiday). We'll see you again on Tuesday.
The end of World War I - the war to end all wars - came about on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, and we now use that day to honor all the men and women who have served in the armed forces of the United States. As you celebrate Veterans' Day this year, consider watching some of our new films about the military:
Navy Seals: the untold stories. This 2-volume set covers heart-stopping covert operations in Vietnam, Panama, Bosnia and Columbia.
The War Tapes is comprised entirely of footage captured by three men serving with the Army in Iraq: Sergeant Steve Pink, Sergeant Zack Bazzi and Specialist Mike Moriarty. See what the war is like from the perspective of these soldiers.
The War is another epic documentary from Ken Burns (see my posting from September 27 about the accompanying book)
Off to War: from rural Arkansas to Iraq is a ten-part series that follows 57 members of the Arkansas National Guard as they leave friends, family and their familiar lives and get deployed to Iraq.
Silent Wings: American glider pilots of WWII is sure to please aviation fans as well as those interested in military history.
Of course, these are just the new films. We have dozens of other documentaries and feature films that use the military experience as their theme; just search the "Film Subject" option of our catalog using the word 'war'.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Heavy hitters on audio

We have some new audiobooks on the shelves that feature bestselling authors:

J.A. Jance's latest J.P. Beaumont novel may have gotten mixed reviews, but fans of the series will still enjoy the experiences of this Seattle-based detective. In Justice Denied - the 18th novel in the series - Beaumont works on 3 cases simultaneously and continues his relationship with his girlfriend Mel Soames.

Early in his career, Stephen King wrote under the pen name of Richard Bachman, and one of his early novels has just been published this year. Blaze is the nickname of a physically powerful man whose horrific childhood has left him mentally retarded. Befriended and influenced by one of King's trademark evil characters, Blaze pursues a plot to kidnap a baby for ransom. King manages to make Blaze a sympathetic character, and this is a powerful book.

Play Dirty is another tale of sex and suspense from popular author Sandra Brown. This one deals with a disgraced ex-NFL player, an impotent millionaire looking for someone to impregnate his wife, and an unsolved murder.

Kingdom Come: the final victory is the conclusion to the hugely popular Left Behind series by Time LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins. It's taken 12 years, but readers can finally find out what happens as the Millennium ends and the final battle between good and evil begins.

Thursday, November 8, 2007


Function + Form = Design. We have a new book on the shelves that not only celebrates that idea, it epitomizes it. Design: intelligence made visible by Stephen Bayley and Terence Conran is an encyclopedia of design: industrial, graphic, fashion and commercial. From the 18th century potter Josiah Wedgwood to the iPhone, this book encapsulates centuries of creativity into an easy-to-use alphabetical format. This is a nice research tool for anyone who is interested in art or design, and it begins with a brief (60 pages) overview of the history of design. Each entry is nicely cross-referenced, with underlined terms found elsewhere in the book. Not just practical, though, this gorgeous book also includes hundreds of beautiful color photos of teapots, chairs, dresses, buildings, logos, vehicles and flatware, as well as Fiat cars, Olivetti typewriters, Chanel dresses, and Braun appliances. Learn who designed the London double-decker buses, the paper clip, and the carousel slide projector. Not everything we use has to be utilitarian and ugly, and it's very inspiring to read about people who spend their lives trying to incorporate beauty and style into everyday objects. Some might be more successful at it than others, but you gotta admire the effort.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Two by two

The way our ordering system works, new items trickle in over a period of months and I usually have a pretty eclectic mix of materials on my 'new' cart. Sometimes, however, recurring themes seem to pop up. Here are a few of the themes for this week:

Clean up your boat! Boat Cosmetics Made Simple: how to improve and maintain a boat's appearance by Sherri Board and Get Rid of Boat Odors: a boat owner's guide to marine sanitation systems and other sources of aggravation and odor by Peggie Hall. I could draw attention to the fact that these are both written by women, but I won't bother.

Kids and the Internet How to Protect Your Children on the Internet: a road map for parents and teachers by Gregory Smith and Logged On and Tuned Out: a nontechie's guide to parenting a tech-savvy generation by Vicki Courtney. Paying attention to what your kids are doing is always the first step.

The problem with this country is...fill in the blank. Nanny State: how food fascists, teetotaling do-gooders, priggish moralists and other boneheaded bureaucrats are turning America into a nation of children by David Harsanyi and Overtreated: why too much medicine is making us sicker and poorer by Shannon Brownlee

Learning Disabilities The K&W Guide to Colleges for Students with Learning Disabilities by Marybeth Kravets and Imy F. Wax and Dyslexia: how to survive and succeed at work by Dr. Sylvia Moody. Learning disabilities aren't just an issue for public schools.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007


There are two things I love to do in my library job: suggest books that people might like (this is called "Reader's Advisory" in the biz) and find themes in the collection (check out the Pathfinders page on our website to see what I mean). We have a new book that not only does both these things, but it does them with movies! Every whim, every subject, every situational need can be fulfilled with an offering from the silver screen, and Flickipedia: perfect films for every occasion, holiday, mood, ordeal and whim lists your options. Selected by Michael Atkinson and Laurel Shifrin, the lists in this book are necessarily subjective (Reader's Advisory is an art, not a science) and sometimes it can be difficult to determine their overall criteria for selection - how could you not include Lawrence of Arabia in your "Summer" section? - but as an overall viewer's aid this book is fantastic. The headings include 'Holidays' (26 of them), 'Seasons' (including March Madness), 'The Time of Their Lives' (for all your momentous life events, including dating), 'Altered States' (heartbreak, party time, etc.), 'World Traveler' and 'Flashbacks'. In addition to being a great list of movies, this book is also a good memory prompt. You may not find the perfect movie for your situation, but their lists will probably make you think of one you saw a million years ago. It might even spur you to make your own special lists ('Movies to watch after the kids go to bed', 'Tourist Season'). And don't forget, you can search our catalog for "Movie Title Keyword" and "Movie Subject Keyword". Have fun!

Monday, November 5, 2007


Few names conjure up the idea of exotic isolation like Timbuktu. Perched on the edge of the Sahara, it was a flourishing center of trade between north and west Africa. Gold, ivory, salt and slaves were traded and much wealth was accumulated in the city, which was then used to found libraries, mosques and schools. But what of the famous city now? Marq de Villiers and Sheila Hirtle take readers into the deserts of Africa to meet the modern residents in Timbuktu: the Sahara's fabled city of gold. Using historic documents and interviews with current residents and scholars, the authors present a biography of a city that is a thousand years old. The history of Timbuktu is also the history of Islam, European colonization, African Independence and globalization. This book is a nice mix of history, anthropology and travel, and the interviews with the local people are just fascinating. They accept their almost mythical status in the world's mind just as they accept the difficulties inherent in living on the edge of the Sahara. 'Yes, we are unique, and yes, we understand why you are fascinated with us'. As an Alaskan, I can really sympathize with that point of view.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Beautiful music

I rarely find myself on the cutting edge of music (or anywhere in its remote vicinity), so it's nice to be able to recommend a CD that may be flying under the radar. Land of Sea is a wonderful acoustical folky album by the duo Chris and Thomas. Since I don't usually listen to folk music or acoustic music, my recommendation is a testament to how beautiful this album is. The guitar work is very light and precise, with a nice melody to each song. Chris and Thomas - no last names, please - have voices that harmonize together quite well. Not Simon and Garfunkel, perhaps, but who is? These guys are definitely songwriters, and their lyrics are interesting and a tad melancholy. Unfortunately, they did not include the lyrics in the packaging for this album, so you have to listen closely. But considering how lovely (dare I say 'delicate'?) each song is, it is pure pleasure to put this album on the stereo, slip the headphones over your ears and melt away into the music. This is their first album, and I hope we hear more from this talented duo.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Attention Gipetto

My son turned 1 recently, so I can testify to the difficulty of finding toys that aren't made in China. Regardless of the brand name or the price tag, the toys on the store shelves all seem to have come from a country that has figured largely in the news lately (along with the word 'recall'). Overprotective or not, there is going to be a huge demand this Christmas for toys with a safer provenance. If you are a woodworker, this is the year for you. And we have just the book for you: Traditional Wooden Toys: their history and how to make them, by Cyril Hobbins. This is not a book for the beginning band saw user. The phrase "how to make them" is used in the loosest possible way. There are no patterns, no dimensions, no step-by-step instructions. This is a book for people who are comfortable creating on the fly.
This book is fabulous, however, when it comes to giving ideas and inspirations. He presents drawings of almost 100 toys, along with a little bit of history and a brief explanation of how to put them together (again, no dimensions). He covers animated, climbing, balancing and spinning toys. He discusses flying toys, wheeled toys, and ones powered by rubber bands. There are dolls, tanks, shuttlecocks, whistles, rattles, skittles, marble bridges and optical toys. There are toys from the 1800's and World War II. There is a toy for every age group in here, and (speaking as a parent) none of them require batteries, have flashing lights or - with the exception of the whistles and rattles - make noise! The toys in this book are wonderful. They will delight parents, intrigue children, and will stay in the toybox long after some cheap plastic toy has been broken and discarded. These are heirloom toys.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Come fly with me....

Since Alaska has more licensed pilots per capita than any other state in the country, I am sure that there will be some people who are interested in one of our newest books: 50 Aircraft That Changed the World by Ron Dick and Dan Patterson. This book is filled with beautiful color photos of the most famous names in aviation. Some of the featured planes are flashy - Messerschmits, Spitfires and the X-15 - while other planes are sturdy workhorses. The De Havilland Beaver is the first plane that comes to mind, of course. The LearJet, Boeing airliners and Cessnas are also here. The entries are in chronological order, and each plane gets a lovely history that includes design features, technical attributes, highlights of its use, and recollections of pilots who have flown them. This book is a loving tribute to aeronautics and the engineering of flight. Even someone as ignorant of aircraft as I am can enjoy reading about the evolution of flight and the way that planes have changed history through wars, globalization, feminism and politics. Pretty impressive stuff for a chunk of machinery.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

I got rhythm

We have some new music on the shelves, and amongst the selection are three very different CDs that share one quality: they are real toe-tappers.
The Very Best of the Andrews Sisters contains 40 of their most popular songs, including "Pennsylvania 6-5000", "Rum and Coca-Cola" and "Don't Sit Under the Apple Tree". Backed by a lively big-band sound, the songs of the Andrews Sisters became the soundtrack to World War II. Peppy and optimistic, most of the tracks on this album are perfect for dancing around the house. There are also some beautiful ballads here that show off the quality of their voices.
Bhangra Beatz is another great dance album. This one has a much more modern beat, though, as it fuses traditional Indian harvest music with a techno beat to give it a real club feel. You won't be able to sing along, like you can with the Andrews Sisters, unless you want to learn the songs phonetically (hey, it worked for ABBA, right?).
Agarrese! is by the Chicago-based band Grupo Montez de Durango. Nine members strong, this group fuses merengue and quebradita music to form pasito duranguense. This is lively music with an emphasis on the horn section. The vocals have a bit of a longing, melancholy sound to them, but the rhythm of the album is irresistible. Their cover of the drippy 1974 hit "Seasons in the Sun" - here retitled "Etapas de mi Vida" is very arresting (and a definite improvement on the original).
November is such a bummer month anyway, why not spice it up a little with some toe-tapping, hip-shaking music?

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Back to normal

The Open House last night went very well. We had about 40 people show up to tour the library, nibble cookies, find out more about possible sites for a new library building, and share their ideas. I would like to extend a special thank-you to Council Members Sam Bergeron, Jason Harris and Marty West and Mayor Bob Weinstein for coming to the event. The staff enjoyed meeting them, and there were some lively discussions in the foyer.
Last night was also the Halloween party for the Teen Advisory Group. At one point during the evening I overheard one of the TAG members trying to explain the concept of 'hippies' to a Kayhi exchange student. Believe it or not, the 'Summer of Love' was 40 years ago (which would make it seem like ancient history to someone who is 15). By a wonderful coincidence, we have a new DVD all about those weird, tumultuous times. Summer of Love is an American Experience production (so you know it is good) that looks at both sides of the culture clash: worried parents and frustrated community leaders, as well as disaffected students and teens looking for a new experience. You can't help but wonder how many of those adventurous youth are now worried mainly about their mortgages, cholesterol, hair loss and Social Security benefits. Have they finally turned into their parents?

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Open House

Well, we are gearing up for our big Open House this evening. We are inviting everyone to come down to the library from 5:30 to 8 pm to tour the building, learn more about the collection and meet the staff. And just to make it more exciting, we will have games to play and prizes to win. The Friends of the Library will be hosting this event, and they will be providing coffee and desserts for everyone to enjoy. The staff and the Friends will be available to answer any questions you might have about the library, the services that we can provide to you, and the campaign to build a new library for Ketchikan. The City Council will be discussing site selection possibilities this Thursday at 7 pm, so this is a good time to learn more. In fact, the Friends of the Library have invited all the City Council members, as well as the Mayor, to come down to the library this evening. If you are unable to attend the Thursday City Council meeting, this would be a good opportunity to voice your opinions about a new Ketchikan library. We look forward to seeing everyone....we'll save some cookies for you!

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Yarn Bee Time!

I actually meant to post this yesterday, but I got totally distracted by the whole cookbook brouhaha.
Today is our first yarn bee! We are inviting anyone with an interest in knitting and/or crochet to come down to the library this afternoon to meet fellow enthusiasts, nibble some yummy cookies, and take a gander at the knitting and crochet resources that the library has to offer. We are hoping to make this a monthly event over the winter, if there is an interest. Each month we would make new books and videos available to those of you who love to craft with yarn, and the gathering would give everyone a chance to socialize and spend a nice, relaxing afternoon in out of the rain. Please join us!

Saturday, October 27, 2007

A controversy

When I posted my blog this morning, little did I know that I was wading into a raging controversy: accusations of plagiarism! Apparently, the Jessica Seinfeld cookbook that I raved about is being compared with another cookbook that appeared earlier this year: The Sneaky Chef, by Missy Chase Lapine. I am not even going to begin to get into whether or not the two cookbooks are similar (especially since I have never seen Lapine's book), but I will post a link to a Slate article that goes into the issue in more depth:

The part I find most embarrassing is that all the blogs and commentators seem to feel that the whole idea of sneaking pureed vegetables into your kid's food is unoriginal. The consensus seems to be "So what? Doesn't everybody know this trick?". Well, not this clueless parent. So legal issues aside, if you have been grinding veggies for years, then you can just ignore me. But if - like me - this grinding concept has left you gobsmacked, then I stand by my earlier posting.

Read the book.

An exceptional book

I am breaking two of my self-imposed blog rules here:
1. I am writing about a book from the Children's Annex collection (I don't make the purchase decisions on those books) and
2. I am writing about a book that is already on hold, so you will not be able to check this out immediately (I usually put my blog books on display at the front desk)
BUT: this book is so great I am going to get an extra copy for the Adult library. Deceptively Delicious: simple secrets to get your kids eating good food is by Jessica Seinfeld (yes, the wife of the Seinfeld). And she has come up with a cookbook full of recipes for frustrated parents. It includes breakfast, lunch and dinner entrees as well as desserts and snacks. What's the catch? Well, in every single recipe - from the deviled eggs to the pancakes to the grilled cheese sandwiches - you sneak pureed vegetables into the recipe! So you get deviled eggs with cauliflower puree, pancakes with beet puree, and grilled cheese sandwiches with squash puree. The kids eat healthy vegetables, and you don't have to turn the dinner table into World War III every night. As a parent whose child won't even eat dill because it is green, I think this is the best idea since sliced bread. And because I am not a huge fan of vegetables myself, this is a great way for me to eat more nutritionally without having to gag down entire mouthfuls of cauliflower (a particular dislike). Her advice is to make the puree ahead of time - steaming the vegetables in an automatic rice cooker and grinding them up in a food processor - and storing them in the freezer. Even if you are making boxed macaroni and cheese, it will take you all of five minutes (the noodles need to cook anyway) to thaw out some yellow squash puree and throw it in with the finished product. You don't need a lot of extra time, you can buy the vegetables when they are on sale, and your family will never know the carrots are in their food. How sneaky - and cool - is that! This book is absolutely my pick of the month. And don't worry that it is checked out. You can place it on hold by going to our catalog (the link is on the sidebar at the right of this post). Mangia!!

Friday, October 26, 2007

Patience of Job

If you read A.J. Jacobs' new book - The Year of Living Biblically: one man's humble quest to follow the Bible as literally as possible - you will come to an inevitable conclusion. His wife is one patient woman. Jacobs (editor at large for Esquire) decides to spend 365 days following the commandments and proscriptions in the Bible to the letter. We're not just talking about observing the Sabbath and not swearing. He stopped shaking people's hands because he didn't know if they were 'unclean' (Exodus 23:1 and Leviticus 15:19). He stopped wearing colored clothing (Ecclesiastes 9:8) and stopped shaving (Leviticus 19:27). He wouldn't make Play-Doh animals for his little boy or take pictures at his mother-in-law's birthday (Exodus 20:4). The fact that his wife didn't violate the sixth commandment during this experimental year is a testament to her love and fortitude.
This book is not only funny, it is actually quite instructive. For each Biblical verse or commandment that Jacobs follows, he describes his difficulties in adhering to it's direction in a 21st century-world, and he also gives a little history of how the rule came about and its interpretations over the years. One thing his experiment does point out is the effects that centuries of translation have had on our understanding of the text. For instance, the Karaite sect of Judaism avoid eating eggs because they feel the list of taboo birds in Leviticus 11 has never been properly translated (they're not sure which birds are really on the list, so they avoid all eggs to be safe). This is a very interesting book, and Jacobs manages to be humorous without being irreverent. A nice, fun read.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

New music

We have a little flush of new music out on the shelf, so I am selecting a small group of CDs to mention today. I've tried to pick out a little something for everyone here:
Forever Cool is another one of those weird 'duets with the dead' CDs, this time featuring the resurrected voice of suave Dean Martin. Thanks to the wonders of space-age technology, he performs duets of some of his classic recordings with Chris Botti, Joss Stone, Martina McBride, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy (a match made in heaven), and Kevin Spacey. Kevin Spacey? Yeah, I thought that was odd, too, but I didn't watch his tribute movie to Bobby Darin (Beyond the Sea).
Public Cowboy #1: a centennial salute to the music of Gene Autry is performed by my favorite contemporary cowboys - Riders in the Sky. More than wise-cracking NPR stars, the Riders in the Sky are loving custodians of cowboy music (and the cowboy way), and they have tenderly recorded 16 Gene Autry classics. This is actually a re-issue of their 1996 tribute album with 4 additional tracks, but hey: it's never too late for fun music.
Toots and the Maytals have released a new album called Light Your Light, and they continue their 40-year tradition of blending fabulous reggae, ska and blues sounds. The album features a guest appearance by Bonnie Raitt and some fabulous interpretations of Otis Redding and Ray Charles hits ("Pain in my heart" and "I gotta woman").
Last year we bought the DVD, this time we got the soundtrack. Jesus Christ Superstar has some truly memorable songs, and this particular album features the original Broadway cast. I'm not a fan of Andrew Lloyd Webber, but I think he and Tim Rice did a fantastic job with this rock opera. Be sure to remember this CD when Easter rolls around - you can check it out with the soundtrack to Easter Parade (Judy Garland and Fred Astaire). There's a nice contrast.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Two pleas in a pod:

Sorry, I couldn't resist that one.
I am making two pleas for assistance today:
We are missing a few Ketchikan High School yearbooks from our collection (stolen - go figure!), so if you have a yearbook from one of the following years - 1960, 1963, 1987, 1988, 1994, 1997 and 2005 - and would be willing to donate it to the library, we would be very appreciative.
Secondly, the Friends of the Library are participants in the A&P Grocery store's '1% for charity' program. With this program, the Friends collect grocery receipts from A&P and the store then donates 1% of the total sales back to the Friends. You may have seen the little collection box on top of the blue Book Drop in the A&P lobby. This has been a very lucrative program for the Friends - and by extension, us here at the library - and we need some assistance from a helpful volunteer. The receipts need to be put into bundles of 25 and the total sales on the bottom of each receipt added up. So if anyone would be willing to come in for 1/2 an hour once a week, or for a little longer once a month, or different volunteers on different weeks.....if you would be willing to help, please call (225-3331) or stop by. We love our volunteers!!!

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

A video smattering

We have some new nonfiction DVDs here at the library this week, so I thought I would take a minute to highlight a few.
Adoption Explained: International is a good overview of the considerations and process behind adoption children from a foreign country. In addition to explaining some of the steps in the adoption process, this DVD also looks at the emotional and societal facets of adopting internationally. A number of international adoption experts have contributed to this film, and it would be a valuable resource for anyone planning to embrace a foreign child into their family.
Dancing in the Light: six dances by African-American choreographers is a wonderful film that presents some of the best modern dance of the 20th century. Performed by a variety of contemporary dance companies, the pieces in this video include Pearl Primus' 1943 interpretation of 'Strange Fruit', a 1959 dance choreographed by Donald McKayle ('Rainbow 'Round My Shoulder') and an excerpt from Bill T. Jones' piece 'D-Man in the Waters'.
If you were intrigued by the story behind the box-office hit 300, but turned off by the heavy gore and funky special effects, you should watch Last Stand of the 300: the legendary battle of Thermopylae. This History Channel production is a much less gory, less explicit re-enactment of the famous battle where 300 Spartans held off the Persian military long enough for Athens to prepare itself for a naval battle in which they would defeat the Persians (the Battle of Salamis). As all of the Spartan soldiers die (hope that wasn't a spoiler), it's not a feel-good story. But it is definitely a fascinating point in history and a testament to the determination of those 300 Spartans.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Alaskan author success

Alaska is a small enough state that when any Alaskan does well on the national (or world) stage, we all feel a bit of paternalistic pride. Andromeda Romano-Lax is a travel writer who lives in Anchorage. We have a couple of her books here on the shelves (Walking Southeast Alaska, and Alaska: true stories). She has just released her first novel, and it is gathering a great deal of praise. Publisher's Weekly calls it "a tough debut to beat", Booklist says it is a "riveting historical page-turner", and it has been called an "impressive and richly atmospheric debut" by the New York Times.
Set in Spain at the beginning of the 20th century, The Spanish Bow follows the spiritual, political and romantic maturing of a young man named Feliu. Inheriting his father's cello bow, he discovers a deep love of music. His career as a musician takes him to the Spanish court, and eventually leads him to encounter the beautiful violinist Aviva. Caught up in the political upheavals of the time, he must choose between the paths of fascism, communism and monarchy. Famous characters and events make cameo appearances throughout the book, and in the end Feliu seems to have lived through a couple of lifetimes. Beautifully written, this is the book to be reading this fall.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

A knowledge gap

Military history is a very popular subject in our library - especially 20th century American military history. So it shouldn't be surprising to find out that we have over 20 books about World War I, over 50 books about the Vietnam war, and a whopping 225 books about World War II. What should be very surprising is that we have only 2 - yes, 2 - books about the Korean war. For some reason, this is not a popular topic with authors. However, we have just put out what might well become the definitive book on the Korean War.
The Coldest Winter: America and the Korean War is by the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist David Halberstam. Completed just days before his untimely death in a car accident, The Coldest Winter covers military strategy, international diplomacy, Washington politics, battlefield accounts and two strong willed characters: President Harry S. Truman and General Douglas MacArthur. The book is extremely well researched, with plenty of maps and endnotes. For anyone who is well-versed in the events of the period or in military tactics in general, this book will be a welcome addition. For anyone who is unfamiliar with the details of the Korean War, Halberstam is such a good writer that the entire story will grip you and keep you interested until the end. And, in fact, there is no real end to this story. There is no peace treaty, no 'winners' and 'losers', no closure. The demilitarized zone still exists, there is still conflict between the two halves of the peninsula, and America is still closely involved - even to the extent of having troops stationed at the border. The consequences of the Korean War are still being felt today, and The Coldest Winter is a great way to learn more.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

A new one for BBC fans

I say 'new' - it's new to us. Originally produced in 1987, Porterhouse Blue is an over-the-top satire of the prestigious British university system. Based on a novel by Tom Sharpe, the film is set at an august British university (a barely-disguised version of Oxford) and involves the efforts of a progressively-minded new master, played by Ian Richardson. The turbulent 1960's are in full swing outside the gates of the school, but inside the gates time stands still. Students seem to spend most of their time drinking, carousing, and being pompous twits, and their academic success is predicated on their lineage, not their intelligence. Richardson's attempts to introduce reforms into the financially-troubled school are met with resistance from faculty and staff, particularly the head porter (David Jason), who has managed to compile an impressive inside knowledge of the students and faculty in his 45-year tenure. A subplot involving a randy graduate student and his housekeeper manages to inject a bit of 'Benny Hill' humor into the story, as all the plot threads come together into a big, explosive (literally) ending.
This isn't exactly high art, but if you like British humor you will enjoy the story, and you can't go wrong with two talented actors like Ian Richardson (House of Cards) and David Jason (Darling Buds of May). The setting is beautiful, the characters are archetypal upper-class Brits, and it's a nice change from reality TV.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Our raison d'être

For some reason, there has been an increasing amount of discussion about the future role of libraries (these discussions aren't taking place down at the local bar, of course, but they're out there somewhere). People with an eye to the future seem to feel that with the exploding growth of the Internet, libraries are becoming unnecessary. Want a good book? Download it. Want to watch a documentary? Download it. Looking for information about your illness/garden/retirement plan/marriage/hotel options? Google it. These proponents of the digital future (remember the promise of the paperless society?) forget one thing: the importance of human contact and compassionate assistance.
Here is a lovely quote from David Tyckoson -

"Librarians rarely save lives, but we shape lives on a daily basis. Through the process of interacting with the librarian, members of the community - and the community itself - grow and evolve. By communicating with a teenager today, the librarian may be keeping that child out of jail tomorrow. By working with the unemployed today, we may be getting them back into the workplace tomorrow. By working with new immigrants today, we may be helping to develop the community leaders of tomorrow."
from “Reference at its Core: the Reference Interview.” Reference and User Services Quarterly 41 (Fall 2003): 49-51.

just some food for thought..........

Thursday, October 18, 2007

32 new reasons to come to the library

It's 'hunker down with a book while the rain pounds against the windows' season here in Ketchikan again, and we have thirty-two (yes, 32) new novels that went out onto the shelves yesterday. Brevity is the soul of wit, so I won't go into long descriptions of each book. Suffice to say that you can choose from:

an Arapaho mystery (The Girl With Braided Hair)
a Christian/Asian-American/Chick lit novel (Sushi for one?)
a comedic story of migrant workers in Britain (Strawberry Fields)
small-town politics (Hartsburg, USA)
or a police thriller set in a futuristic colony world (Kop).

You could also enjoy new novels from such popular authors as:
Ken Bruen (Ammunition)
Rosalind Laker (Brilliance)
Phillip Roth (Exit Ghost)
and Olen Steinhauer (Victory Square).

There's a little something for everyone this week, so enjoy!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

If only it was that easy...

We all seem to go through life hoping beyond hope that there is a simple, painless solution to all of life's difficulties. Eat less and exercise more? Surely there's just a pill I could take to lose weight. Does your house look like a bomb went off in it? Mine does, and I love the fantasy that there is some easy way to organize all the clutter. Perhaps the answer lies in one of our two new books on organization: The Organized Life: secrets of an expert organizer by Stephanie Denton and Easy Home Organizer: 15-minute step-by-step solutions, by Vicki Payne. In both of these books, the authors promise that a clutter-free life is easy to obtain and easy to maintain. You just need a plan, a checklist, and about $10,000 worth of boxes, baskets, jars, containers and totes (and about half an acre of closet space). Payne is a big proponent of labeling and slide-out shelving. She also has a project idea where you use fabric and upholstery braid to convert a plain cardboard magazine holder into an attractive cardboard magazine holder. (Frankly, if I had that kind of spare time my house wouldn't look like a dump). Denton takes more of a 'hints from Heloise' approach. The book has very few photos, but page after page of suggestions and tips for creating a more controlled life. She is all about efficiency. One fabulous tip: choose a gift theme at Christmas - her example is 'books' - and that way you only have to go to one or two stores to do your Christmas shopping. (An overabundance of shopping destinations is a serious issue in Southeast Alaska. Don't let it get you down this year). So go ahead and check out both books and see which organizational style works best for you. And when you get your house all organized, you can come do mine.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Band of Sisters

The Iraq War, which has been going on for 52 months - longer than American involvement in World War II - has seen a dramatic change in the role of women in the military. Female military personnel are flying, patrolling and fighting in combat zones and the importance of their presence is increasing. Band of Sisters: American women at war in Iraq, by Kirsten Holmstedt, relates the experiences of 12 women who have been deployed to Iraq. She has interviewed both enlisted and officers, and members of four branches of the service: Army, Navy, Air Force and the Marines. Each story is different and each person is unique, but the underlying thread is the determination of these women to do their duty, to serve their country, and to protect their fellow soldiers and sailors. According to Holmstedt, over 155,000 women have deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan, with over 430 casualties and 70 deaths. In addition to undertaking the same duties and making the same sacrifices as their male comrades, these women have been instrumental in establishing community relations and maintaining security in a region where men and women do not mingle. The women in this book have been shot down, blown up, and shot people themselves. Their stories are gripping and emotional, and this book is a powerful read.

Monday, October 15, 2007

It's all part of the service

One of the most important things that a library can do is provide access to things you might not ordinarily find or purchase for yourself. It might be a cutting-edge novel, or an unusual piece of music, or a frivolous magazine. Beautiful picture books for adults (coffee-table books) are some of the most enjoyable things to select. We have a lovely new one on the shelves: Art of the Classical World in the Metropolitan Museum of Art: Greece, Cyprus, Etruria, Rome. Five members of the museum's Department of Greek and Roman Art collaborated on this book (Carlos Picon, Jan Mertens, Sean Hemingway, Christopher Lightfoot and Elizabeth Milleker), while Richard De Puma contributed his expertise on Etruscan art.
The book has page after page of beautiful photos of statuary, frescoes, jewelry, pottery, coins, vessels, and architectural elements. The sections are broken up into geographical and chronological units, with a brief introduction before each section. The photos are well-selected to provide as much detail as possible. Each photo is numbered, with the descriptive information (including maps!) in the last part of the book. On the one hand, it makes a fabulous book for browsing. It is so easy to pore over each page, focusing on the visual information contained in the photo without any text distractions. On the other hand, it's inconvenient to be flipping back and forth between the photo and text sections. You might even be tempted to forgo the textual explanations all together, in which case you would lose a lot of the information. So I guess that my point is that this is a great browse, an awkward read, and a beautiful book.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Ultimate quick meals

The whole 'meals-in-minutes' concept is very big in these hectic times of working parents, over-scheduled children, and rising obesity rates. How to feed the family quickly without resorting to the drive-thru window? How do you provide healthier meals for your family? Well, you can kill two birds with one stone by using Ani Phyo's new cookbook: Ani's Raw Food Kitchen: easy, delectable living foods recipes. A word of warning here - these recipes are for vegan, raw food. That's right, no cooking (dehydrating in your oven is O.K., though). And she provides the recipes for making your own meat and cheese substitutes from various nuts and seeds.
I know in my heart of hearts that I will never make the foods in this book, and that I could never embrace a vegan diet, let alone a raw food diet (or maybe I could do the raw food, but not the vegan. Who knows?). But I will say that this book makes me want to try. It is an inspiring book because it all sounds like such a great idea: a diet full of grains, fruits, nuts and vegetables that you haven't boiled/steamed/fried into nutrient oblivion. Phyo is trim, vibrant and healthy-looking, and she makes it all seem so easy. I'm also totally enamored with the idea of tossing a few fresh vegetables and condiments together and Presto! you have dinner. Most of the ingredients in her recipes are available here in town, although the freshness will be dramatically different than what Phyo (a Southern Californian) is used to . She's a good motivator and a great role model for healthy, ecologically responsible living. If you are already a vegan or vegetarian, then you will really like this book. And if you're still eating Big Macs, perhaps you could start to sneak one or two of her recipes into your weekly menu (lunches might be best, people seem to be more flexible about what they eat for lunch). Maybe some day I'll try one of her recipes.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Thoughts on teaching

We're approaching midterms (both high school and college), so it seems a good time to roll out three new books that focus on education in America.
The Last Word: the best commentary and controversy in American education is a collection of opinion pieces about educational techniques, goals and trends. These short pieces originally appeared in Education Week, which is the staple periodical of the teaching profession. The essays are arranged by subject, not chronologically, so it makes it easy to read about a particular topic of interest.
Letters to a Young Teacher, by Jonathan Kozol, is a book of advice and support for anyone who is beginning their teaching career. Kozol addresses many of the important, and sometimes controversial, aspects of being an educator. Some of his most thoughtful points come in response to questions from a first-year teacher who invited him into her Boston classroom. This book will provide valuable insight for new teachers. For experienced teachers, it will be a reminder of why they choose this particular career path and will make them think about their views on education.
Dr. Rudy Crew is a superintendent with experience in New York City, Boston, Tacoma and Sacramento. Currently the superintendent of the Miami-Dade County system, he has co-authored a book about how to re-energize American schools. Only Connect: the way to save our schools is a call for all the stakeholders in American education - parents, business leaders, legislators, and administrators - to help students and teachers thrive in a supportive, high-quality educational environment.
It pays to remember that children become workers, voters, taxpayers and leaders. Someone else's 9-year-old may not have much impact on your life now, but in 30 years that child will be making the decisions that shape your world.

Friday, October 12, 2007

The art of books

Remember the good old days, when a book was a piece of beauty in and of itself? Nope, me neither. My entire life has been dominated by large publishing houses pushing out poorly-bound books with cardboard covers and dime-a-dozen book jackets. But open up Miniature Books: 4,000 years of tiny treasures by Anne Bromer and Julian Edison, and see what an art reading used to be. Each item in this absolutely fascinating book is no taller than three inches. Books hidden in corks, walnuts and lockets. Books bound in enamel, silver, and mother-of-pearl. Hand-written, hand-painted, hand-marbled, hand-tooled. Handy books. Books of scripture, political propaganda, and erotica. Every single page of this wonderful book is full of things I would hock my eye teeth to get hold of. The text flows nicely and will give you many 'Oh wow!' moments. Artists will appreciate the usefulness of the art, and readers will appreciate the beauty of the words. This book is highly recommended and guaranteed to send you scurrying off to eBay to start your own collection of miniature books.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Indigenous Cuisine

Usually, when I read yummy cookbooks, I am accustomed to finding a whole bunch of ingredients that I can't get here. So what a nice change to read a cookbook where everyone else in the country might have to special-order the ingredients, but I can get them easily. Where People Feast: an indigenous people's cookbook by Dolly and Annie Watts is full of recipes from the famous Liliget Feast House in Vancouver, Canada. The authors - from the Gitk'san nation of British Columbia - include gastronomic staples like crème frâche and crab mousse. But they also include rare recipes for things like Fireweed Tea, Stir-fried Herring Spawn on Kelp, Lemon Smoked Ooligan, and Venison Meatballs. They have a nice index in the back of their book where recipes are listed by ingredient. For instance, there are 6 recipes listed that use ooligan, and 4 that use huckleberries. They have some really interesting descriptions of traditional ways of cooking and smoking, as well as explanations of how to prepare little treats like salmon berry shoots and pine sap. The recipes are all very easy to follow, and the preparation is simple. It just goes to show you that you don't need 14 hours and a certificate from the Cordon Bleu to prepare a delicious meal, especially if you're using fresh local ingredients (and how often do you get to do that?)

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Another Success!

The annual Friends of the Library booksale was a resounding success! We made just under $5,200. We also raised a lot of attention about the new library building project. There were a couple of posterboards up with maps and information about the 9 proposed sites for the new building, as well as brochures with the same information. If you would like to see the posters, or pick up a brochure, please stop by the library.
We would like to thank everyone who donated books and everyone who bought books. We would especially like to thank everyone who helped make the sale happen: lugging boxes of books from the storage units to the mall, sorting thousands of books onto the right tables, staffing the cash table and answering questions, and dragging all the leftover books out to the recycle bins.
I would like to make a special note of the Teen Advisory Group. The TAG is a relatively new part of the library family (they began in June of this year), so this was their first time helping out with the book sale. We had about a dozen teens show up on Sunday afternoon to box up all the unwanted stuff, they hauled it all downstairs, and they picked up all the leftover trash. They were a great help, and we really appreciate their efforts.
Thanks again, everyone!

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Campaign 2008

Carl Bernstein's new biography of Hilary Rodham Clinton - A Woman in Charge - has just been put on our shelves, and it made my thoughts turn (unwillingly) to the presidential race. The actual election is 13 months away, and most people outside the Beltway might not be prepared to think about the 2008 presidential election quite yet. But if you have a high pain threshold and would like to delve in now, we have some books that would be good research tools.
Writing a book about character and leadership seems to be an inevitable part of running for office, a little like appearing on David Letterman. And while these books are carefully crafted, written and vetted to make sure the candidate appears in a positive light, you can sometimes get a sense of the person behind the message. At the very least, you can get a sense of how they would like to be seen. So try the writings of the four biggest names on the campaign trail at this point:
Living History by Hilary Rodham Clinton
Leadership by Rudy Giuliani
Why Courage Matters by John McCain
Audacity of Hope by Barack Obama
(Just so you know, the books were listed alphabetically by author not according to poll standings: the difference between a librarian and a reporter. Another interesting point - 'Rodham' gets flagged by the spellchecker, while 'Giuliani' does not. There's a factoid waiting for a conspiracy theorist).

Monday, October 8, 2007

Once upon a quinceañera

September 15 - October 15 is Hispanic Heritage Month (you may have noticed our book display that was out the last couple of weeks). So it seems only appropriate to wind up the month by talking about a new book on our shelves: Once Upon a Quinceañera: coming of age in the USA, by Julia Alvarez. Alvarez is a very popular novelist, and we have 5 of her 6 novels here on the shelves (one of them is in our Banned Books display - very cool!). She describes all of the excitement, stress, emotion and meaning that is involved in a quinceañera celebration. Think 'wedding', and then picture the bride (the center of all this attention) as a 15-year-old. That's a pretty moody, emotionally fraught age to begin with, but to add the drama of a massive celebration involving hundreds of family and friends, catered dinners, expensive ballgowns and lavish entertainment and you can see why it is such an important part of any Latina upbringing. Alvarez spent a year attending various quince celebrations and she brings the reader into the world of a young girl on the verge of womanhood. Interspersed with these details are descriptions of Latino culture in general and what it is like to grow up as a Latina in the United States. It can be a little disconcerting as Alvarez flips back and forth between the quince celebrations she is describing and her memories of her own quince and upbringing, but the book is very interesting. Teen girls might find this book especially attractive, as it shows the teen experience through a slightly different filter.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Cluck Cluck

Ordinarily, when I think of poultry country, I think of Arkansas, not Alaska. But I can name three people off the top of my head who are currently raising chickens here in town (and I mean, within the city limits - goodness knows how many chicken ranchers there are out in the 'country'). So if you are interested in raising chickens, you might like to take a look at Keeping Chickens: the essential guide to enjoying and getting the best from chickens by Jeremy Hobson and Celia Lewis. Their book will walk you through the things you need to consider before you get your chickens, how to decide what breed would be best for you, and how to set up your chicken housing. (One thing to consider is predators. Bald eagles and bears may not be a concern in Arkansas but they certainly are here.). What do you need to feed your birds? Well, it depends on the type of bird (layer, breeder, or meat bird) and their stage of life. Don't forget about grit and vitamins! Learn about the health and hygiene of birds (we're not just talking about sex-ed) and how the whole laying process works. The authors will also discuss killing and cleaning your bird. They describe how to pluck the bird, but a local grower has advised me that it's a lot faster and cleaner to just skin it. Besides, chicken skin's high in cholesterol. Apparently, the whole chicken-raising process can be quite rewarding and less hassle than you might think. It's easier than trying to raise a herd of cows on your lawn, anyway.