Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Music for the New Year

Life is so much more interesting with a soundtrack, and I have some suggestions for the weeks ahead. To make things easier, I've put them into two groups, depending on whether you're a 'glass half-full' or 'glass half-empty' kind of person:
The half-empty folk: what other choice is there except the blues?
  • Skin Deep by the legendary Buddy Guy
  • Keep it Simple from Van Morrison
  • Two Men With the Blues features Willie Nelson and Wynton Marsalis
  • Where the Light Is by John Mayer
The half-full folk: peppy tunes and fun lyrics to keep you happy
  • Everything to Everyone from the Barenaked Ladies
  • Tropical Brainstorm from Kirsty MacColl
  • One Thousand & One Nights by Said Mrad (a real toe-tapper)
  • Gold: ABBA's greatest hits (cheesy but infectious)
Do you have any suggestions of great library CDs to ring in the New Year? Post your ideas and share your musical tastes with the rest of us. A Happy and Safe New Year to everyone....

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Ya know, I didn't move to Alaska to deal with a bunch of snow!

Well, it's been an interesting few days. The library closed down at 3 pm on Saturday, and we have just reopened this morning. We will be closing at 5 pm today (possibly earlier if the snow keeps up). Due to the heavy snowfall and poor road conditions, we will be using FINE FREE CHECK-IN for the rest of the week. So if you are snowbound and cannot get your books and videos into the drop box here at the library or at the A&P Grocery store, don't worry about it. We don't want anyone risking life and limb for the sake of an overdue DVD.
In fact, as much as we love to have people come to the library, if you don't have to come downtown, we would really prefer that you stay safe and avoid the trip. Our parking lot has not been plowed and there is a fair amount of snow in the lot, so be forewarned. This would be the perfect opportunity to take advantage of our free downloadable audiobooks from ListenAlaska
Thanks for your understanding, and keep your fingers crossed for a break in the weather.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Well, the weather outside is frightful

The snow is coming down in buckets, and we have not seen hide nor hair of a snowplow, so the library will be closing at 3 pm today so that the staff and patrons can get home before dark. We're sorry for any inconvenience...stay safe!

Nyuk nyuk nyuk

I must have a hidden Y chromosome somewhere, because I think the Three Stooges are a hoot. Highbrow critics might look down on those of us who giggle when we watch somebody getting hit in the back of the head with a plank, but hey - lighten up!
Of course, the secret is watching the right Stooges. If it ain't got Curly, it ain't worth watching (sorry, Shemp). Fortunately, we have a new Stooges collection from their early years that features the Original Three: Curly, Larry and Moe. Here are the first 19 shorts from the Stooges' work with Columbia Pictures, from 1934-1936, including their first film Woman Haters. This debut was done entirely in verse, which gets old fast, but the next film - Punch Drunks - shows the Stooges honing their craft. By the time you get to Hoi Polloi, there's nothing but laughs.
Whether you would consider this 'family fare' is up to you. I know many parents are concerned about their children watching too much violence, and the last thing you want is little Timmy practicing a Moe Howard eye poke on the kid next door. But by the same token, this is the type of slapstick humor that The Greatest Generation grew up on and they seem to handle themselves pretty well. So even if The Three Stooges Collection doesn't seem appropriate for your 8-year-old kids, I bet their Grandpa would enjoy it.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Dear Santa

Dear Santa, I have been a very good librarian this year. I have conscientiously weeded the collection, and purchased wonderful new materials for a variety of interests and needs. Because I've been so good, I have a long wish list.
For Christmas, I would like publishers to stop issuing library-unfriendly packaging. That means no more video cases made entirely of biodegradable cardboard which will melt like a lozenge as soon as a patron drops it in the wet parking lot (Massage Practice for Infants). It means no more CDs which don't have their title and/or artist anywhere on the disc, forcing poor librarians to write the title in teeny tiny letters on the clear plastic center of the disc (Where the Fins Meet the Frets). It means no more books with separate inserts that are vitally necessary for understanding the plot of the story but will get hopelessly lost by the time the third patron takes the book home (The Rose Labyrinth). And it means no more multi-disc DVDs that come in elaborately constructed cases that unfold to something the size of a dining room table, and with a flimsy plastic window, to boot! (The Ten Commandments 50th Anniversary Collection). Don't even get me started on spiral-bound books whose pages tear out more easily than the checks in my checkbook.
If you bring me my wish for Christmas, Santa, I promise not to shush teenage patrons, to wake sleeping patrons more soothingly, and to smile politely if a tourist asks me what I do here all winter long. Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Girl's best friend

What is it with little girls and horses? Imagine my surprise when my daughter, whose sole experience with horses are the ones pulling sodden tourists around in the summer, added a request for "a real hors" to her Christmas list for Santa. (She's already begun building a stable).
So if you have a little girl in your life, you might consider bringing home Horse Breeds: 65 popular horse, pony & draft horse breeds by Daniel and Samantha Johnson. It's a compact little book filled with gorgeous pictures of horses jumping, galloping, pulling carts, playing polo, racing and grazing. This book is also a really nice introduction to different types of horses popular today, with descriptions of their best attributes. The authors discuss temperament, strength, breeding history, and physical characteristics, giving the reader a nice overview. Thumbing through the book, I was drawn to the dark Percheron horses:
"Its movement is also influenced by its Arabian heritage, as the Percheron
exhibits a longer stride than many of the other draft breeds. Percherons
have historically been used for farm work, as war horses, and as driving
animals. The Percheron originated in France and is named for the Le Perche

So if you're picking out a horse to leave under your daughter's Christmas tree this year, take a gander at this lovely book. Or better yet, bring it home for her to read.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Beautiful fairy tales

I recently brought home a brand-new animated DVD from the library called Princes and Princesses to share with my daughter. The premise of the movie is simple: an art teacher and his two students conjure up (with the help of a magic robot) costumes and scenery to act out various fairy tales. There are six tales in all, ranging from European tales of enchantment and bravery to a Japanese morality play to an Egyptian fable about betrayal. What makes this film truly magical is the animation. All the stories are told using silhouettes, and the details in the scenery and costumes is amazing. Feathers, willows, filigrees and lace are all beautifully recreated in what appears to be cut-out black paper (I freely admit I have no idea how they did the animation). The workmanship is so fine, and the images are so beautiful, that no matter how old you are you will be captivated by the look of this film. The plots to the stories are all very mild, which is not always the case with fairy tales. In the one futuristic story, the lonely & bitter princess uses a destructor ray to eliminate the 'princes' vying for her love, but you never actually see anyone being vaporized.
One word of warning, however. This film was made in France, and is subtitled in English, so if you watch this with your children you will have to read it aloud to them the first time. Once they have the gist of the plot, they may not need the narration to follow the story the next time they watch it. If you enjoy reading out loud to your kids, this will be a fun challenge. If you're not comfortable reading out loud (and many people aren't), then this film might not be a good fit, especially since some of the subtitles are a bit bizarre (I suspect the subtitles were produced by a computer with voice-recognition software, because some of the errors are totally from left-field).
But whatever your comfort level with narrating the film, this is a gorgeous piece of art.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

What goes on there all week?

I just got back from my annual 'prepare for the holidays' vacation. I don't actually go anywhere, I just take a week off from work to buy & wrap gifts, write cards, bake cookies and decorate my house (personally, I find it eliminates stress much better than waiting until the day before Christmas to start your vacation - it's too late to do anything by then!).
So when I got back to my desk, I found my New Books cart overflowing with a variety of things that were ready to be put out on the shelf. And since it's easy to lose track of just how many new books, videos, CDs and audiobooks we make available over time, I thought I would give you a snapshot idea of what a typical week's output looks like:
  • 24 new nonfiction books

  • 19 audiobooks

  • 18 documentary & nonfiction films

  • 15 feature films

  • 12 new novels

  • 11 music CDs

  • 1 graphic novel (and a partridge in a pear tree....)
I'm here all the time, so our new materials seem to go on the shelves in a steady rate to me. But if you are like most people, you probably come down to the library once a week (Library Day) and find a heap of new things on the shelf. So now you know just how many new things there are - and if something doesn't grab your attention, just give it a day or two...something great is bound to come along.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Radio Theatre From the BBC

In my ever-fanatical quest to turn people on to audiobooks, I have had a few people tell me that they've given the format a try but that they just don't like having people read out loud to them. In true 'never-say-die' fashion, I would like to showcase a special type of audiobook: full cast dramatizations.
Think of these as television that you can't see. For each of our new BBC audiobooks, talented British actors with those wonderfully plummy voices take on some of the most popular authors from the U.K. Some of these actors include Michael Hordern, Susannah Harker and Michael Williams. The stories are all classic works of fiction that are suitable listening for almost all ages (the preschooler crowd really won't be interested). Think of them as some background entertainment for when you're wrapping gifts and frosting cookies.

  • The 4:50 From Paddington by Agatha Christie

  • Barnaby Rudge by Charles Dickens

  • Maigret and the Minister by Georges Simenon

  • The Mayor of Casterbridge by Thomas Hardy

  • Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens

  • Nemesis by Agatha Christie

  • Portrait of a Lady by Henry James

  • Right Ho, Jeeves by P.G. Wodehouse

  • A Study in Scarlet by Arthur Conan Doyle

  • The Valley of Fear by Arthur Conan Doyle

There are more on the way, so keep checking our shelves!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Hobbies, sports & crafts database

We are test-driving a new database here at the public library, and we would love to have some public input about this great new resource. If you are already a patron of our online car repair and small engine repair databases, then this one is very similar but with a completely different focus: hobbies, crafts and sports.
This online database contains magazine and newspaper articles, book excerpts, patterns, photos, even videos on a wide range of recreational topics, from fishing to fabric painting, caving to card games, knitting to knives. With almost 150 different craft & hobby topics to choose from, you can look for embroidery patterns, hints on fly-tying, advice on cake decorating and glass working, and recipes for beer brewing.
Simply go to our website and click on the pair of gold scissors in the middle of the page. Once you're in the database, you can either browse by topic or search for something specific. You can even look through their selection of Kids' crafts and Christmas crafts. This is a 30-day trial, and we are eager to hear what our patrons think of this new service. Once you've had time to poke around, please email us and tell us what you think....

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Terry Pratchett's Discworld

I will be totally upfront about this: I have never read a Terry Pratchett novel. A member of our library staff is a huge fan, however, and she has given her seal of approval to two new videos in our collection. These DVDs are animated versions of two of Pratchett's popular fantasy novels, Soul Music and The Wyrd Sisters. These British productions (author Pratchett is also British) feature somewhat cartoony animation, and I'm afraid I can't comment as to the authenticity of the adaptation. But these films made our staff fan chuckle, and since the popularity of the Discworld series is due to the spot-on parody of the Fantasy genre, I imagine that if the film makes you laugh it is a successful adaptation.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Creativity knows no bounds

The concept behind one of our new books is quite intriguing, and when you think about it, seems to make a lot of sense. The Writer's Brush: paintings, drawings and sculpture by writers is a fascinating book on many different levels. Donald Friedman has collected the visual work of almost 200 famous writers, from Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (born 1749) to Jonathan Lethem (born 1964). Alongside the color photos of the art, Friedman includes a short biography of the artist/writer and an explanation of how their lives intersected with that of visual art. In some cases, these creative minds were formally trained in painting and sculpture and drifted into writing later in their lives. Dorothy Dunnet went to the Edinburgh College of Art and had a career as a painter before she began writing historical novels.
Other writers showed a natural aptitude for expressing themselves in paint. Edmund Lear, the most famous creator of limericks, was a self-taught artist who supported himself and his sister with his landscape and zoological paintings, while Thomas Hardy's artistic skills led him to be an apprentice to an architect. Other writers in this collection are expressive without being artistically gifted. Mark Twain and Dylan Thomas produced lighthearted doodles, while Marcel Proust's sketches are crude but numerous. These creative writers felt compelled to express themselves on paper, albeit without words.
In many cases, this book helps to illuminate the inner thoughts and feelings of the writer (Edgar Allen Poe's sensitive portrait of his beloved wife) or highlights their sense of humor (John Updike's college cartoons) or shows them in a relaxed, meditiative frame of mind (Xinghian Gao). Whether you're a fan of literature or visual art, this is a very interesting book and it makes you think about the creative process.

Thursday, December 4, 2008


No matter how busy you are, no matter how mediocre a cook you may be, there is something about Christmas that brings out the baker in all of us. Innumerable gatherings, treats for coworkers, class parties and clamoring children are all excuses for us to dig out the apron and get covered with flour and molasses. In order to inspire you on to great and glorious things, we have quite a few Christmas cookie books on the shelf for you to choose from.
Rose's Christmas Cookies by Rose Levy Beranbaum is the most comprehensive of the bunch, with a whopping 60 different cookie recipes to drool over. Special treats for gift giving, ornament-worthy cookies, fun recipes for kids and dinner party gems are some of the themes in this book. The recipes are presented in both standard measure and weight amounts and give instructions for using either a food processor (for us lazy folk) or an electric mixer (for the more traditional). [If you're the type of cook who makes cookies using nothing but a wooden spoon, you probably don't even need recipes!]
Christmas Cookies: 50 recipes to treasure for the holiday season is by Lisa Zwirn. Her cookie recipes are grouped by method (drop, rolled, hand-shaped, bar, etc.) which is nice if you are particularly adverse to certain types of cookie manufacturing. Personally, I loath making rolled cookies and will probably just skip over that entire chapter. The recipes are all simple and easy to follow, but only about a third of the recipes are accompanied by photos. Call me unimaginative, but I can't get fired up about making a cookie without a glossy color photo spurring me on to glory.
Christmas cookies, candies & cakes comes from the people at Woman's Day. If you're used to seeing the beautiful photos of cakes and sweets on the cover of this magazine (right next to the headline about losing 10 lbs in 2 weeks on their amazing thyroid diet), then you know the kind of gorgeous treats to expect. The sugar cookies are more elaborately decorated than most people have time for, but the peppermint cream puff ring is to die for. The bars in this book strike a nice balance between layers of ingredients (raspberry schnitten has jam, roasted hazelnuts and chocolate) and the ease of throwing it all into a pan to bake.
The Christmas table: recipes and crafts to create your own holiday tradition by Diane Morgan is your one-stop-resource for all things edible at Christmas. Pre-prandial beverages and appetizers, side dishes and main courses for your holiday party, food gifts, Christmas breakfast, cookie exchange parties, holiday decor and flashy desserts are all covered here. There is even a helpful chapter on what to do with all the darned leftovers. If you need inspiration for your upcoming dinner party, this is the book to grab.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008


With the recent closure of the Blockbuster store here in Ketchikan, our video options have narrowed somewhat. Many people - my mother included - seem to be turning to Netflix to supply their movie watching needs. Before you direct your browser to your Netflix account, however, I ask that you give the library catalog a try. In the last month, there have been half a dozen times I have heard people mention videos that they ordered, only to think to myself "Well, we have that at the library". John Adams, Edward the King, The 3:10 to Yuma....we have all of those movies available for free at the library.
We won't drop them off in your mailbox, like Netflix, but you can browse our selection online and place holds on the titles you want. We will pull them off the shelf for you and have them waiting at the front desk for you to pick up. You can even come down and wander around our shelves to see what looks good. Best of all, you don't have to wait for them to arrive in the mail.
We have over 4,000 films just in the Adult library alone, and our collection includes both DVD (1,200) and VHS (2,855) formats. Rather than relying on the blockbuster films that are available for rent, our collection features lots of classics, critically-acclaimed movies, foreign films, documentaries, BBC & PBS productions and how-to videos. Whether it's a silent film featuring Rudolph Valentino, an Academy-award winning documentary or a family-friendly show like All Creatures Great & Small, there is something on our shelf that will interest anyone. Just give us a chance...

Saturday, November 29, 2008


You can't be a major recording artist these days without putting out some kind of Christmas album (James Taylor, Sarah McLachlan, Brian Setzer, Clay Aiken, Don Ho, etc. etc.). And while these modern takes on traditional holiday songs can be fun, there is something about hearing the really traditional Christmas music that brings the holiday spirit bubbling up.
For the last 60 years, the Choir of King's College, Cambridge has been bringing that Christmas feeling to the British audience over the radio (and, since 1954, via television as well). We now have a DVD of the concert that was performed in 2000. The choir performs beautiful popular carols such as "O Little Town of Bethlehem", "Silent Night", "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" and "Hark the Herald Angels Sing". There are also some popular British carols and some much older Christmas carols sung in Latin.
Carols From King's actually features the entire liturgical service, including the Biblical readings. However, there is a 'Carols Only' option which allows viewers to play just the musical portions of the service. Another bonus feature of this disc is the original 1954 concert. The visuals aren't exactly riveting, but this is a wonderful video to have playing in the background while you wrap presents, bake cookies and decorate your Christmas tree. With almost 30 traditional carols, you can enjoy the beautiful sounds of the holiday with your family.

Friday, November 28, 2008

New library update

The campaign to build a new library has been in the news quite a lot lately, and we have received a few questions from people who are wondering where exactly the project stands and what still needs to be done.
Based on public comment and input from the ad-hoc library building committee, the City has designated the Edmonds Street hill (where the old Main School used to be located) as the site of a future library building. This site was selected because:
  • The City already owns the land, thus saving $500,00 - $1 million in land acquisition costs
  • It is equally accessible to borough residents living both north and south of town
  • It can be reached from the 3rd avenue bypass, which means that patrons can avoid Tongass Ave traffic in the busy summer months
  • It can be added to the borough bus route
  • It contributes greatly to the sense of Ketchikan's downtown community identity
  • There are fabulous views of the water and mountains that will be a huge asset to the library's Reading Room
Based on a recommendation from the Mayor-appointed Library Building Committee, both the City and Borough have agreed to a library size of 23,850 sq. ft. With our current collection size, number of computers and number of reading seats, national standards indicate the library building should be 20,378 sq. ft. The additional 3,500 sq ft. in the new library plans will accommodate more seating, space for library programs and community groups, and additional Internet access for the public. The architects (Bettisworth North [Fairbanks] and Welsh Whiteley [Ketchikan]) have begun creating conceptual floor plans and allocating collection and use areas.
As for funding, during the upcoming legislative session the Alaska State Legislature will be looking at funding a program which was established last year (Senate Bill 119) which provides matching funds for the construction of new public libraries. If this program receives full funding, Ketchikan would be eligible to 50% of the cost of our new library paid for by the state. We are already in communication with the Rasmuson Foundation about our project, and the Foraker Group is working with the City to help us accomplish our funding goals.

So What Can You Do to Help?

Talk, talk, talk! Write to your legislators and tell them how important it is to fund the matching grant program (A.S. 14.56.355 - Library Construction and Major Expansion Matching Grant Program). Call up your Borough Assembly members and your City Council members and let them know what you think. Talk to your friends and neighbors and convince them that this new library project will benefit every single person in this community, because the public library is a free service for all. If you need contact information for your representatives, just go to our website.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Friends, Romans, countrymen...lend me your eyes

Shakespeare wrote plays with really juicy plots, especially his tragedies, so it seems a shame that younger readers (teens, not preschoolers) are turned off by the arcane language. Once you get past the iambic pentameter and words like 'wouldst', you end up with gripping tales of lust, treachery, revenge, corruption, greed, madness and ambition. What teenage wouldn't like that?
So we have some new books on the shelf that take some of Shakespeare's greatest tragedies - Hamlet, Macbeth, Julius Caesar - and put them in a format that is more appealing to young adults: Manga. Writer Adam Sexton has worked with a variety of illustrators to adapt these plays to the shorter manga format. They have done this in the time-honored tradition of dropping various lines and scenes (Lawrence Olivier's filmed version of Hamlet took an entire hour out of the 4-hour play). However, they have left the setting and the original language intact. The illustrations follow the manga form, and blood is liberally splattered over the pages during the duels and murders that spice up the storyline.
These are great books for any manga fan who wants to branch out beyond Peach Girl, Shakespeare aficionados who enjoy creative adaptations of the Bard, or high school students who need to read the plays for school but who keep falling asleep over their textbooks. These books are even better than Cliffs notes!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Watcha wearing?

You don't have to be a fashion plate to enjoy looking at photos of haute couture, either for the composition and beauty of the photography or for the colorful, elaborate construction of the designers. Since some of the best fashion images have appeared in the pages of Vogue, it seems that a book that showcases the history of that magazine would also be a feast for the eyes.
Vogue Fashion: over 100 years of style by decade and designer, in association with Vogue takes readers through hobble skirts, cloche hats, bias cut skirts, wasp waists, bell bottoms, power suits and heroin chic. Author Linda Watson explains changes in the culturally and economic atmosphere of the West (Europe & America), and how those changes influenced fashion designers. The designers, in turn, pushed the limits of what was socially acceptable and caused behaviors and expectations to change. No one thinks much of seeing a lady's calf now, but in 1909 only actresses and showgirls - and not very reputable ones at that - flashed their legs at men.
The book is almost 400 pages long, but the dimensions are small (15cm x 21cm) so it's not an exhaustive guide to fashion history. The Designers section is nice, because it includes some older and lesser-known artists and fashion houses that have all been influential in their own way. The pages are lavishly sprinkled with color photos and black-and-white sketches (mostly from Vogue, of course) that illustrate the changing waves of fashion and the evolving ideal of feminine beauty. We can snicker at the Pierre Cardin spacesuit-inspired tunics and jumpsuits, but who knows what current fashion staple will be considered appalling in 40 years?

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Natural History

A moderate science geek, I love to go visiting natural history and science museums when I travel down South. From the towering American Museum of Natural History in New York City to the Sciencenter in Ithaca (Bill Nye the Science Guy - a Cornell alum - did the message on their answering machine), you can always find something interesting. But what goes on behind the scenes? Who puts together all those dioramas, who pins those butterflies, who polishes those gems, who assembles the bones. How do museums collect all those specimens and why?

Dry Storeroom No. 1: the secret life of the natural history museum answers those questions. Written by Richard Fortey, who was the senior paleontologist at the Natural History Museum in London, this book takes readers into the collections and storerooms of that museum, where the specimens conjure up images of intrepid scientific explorers going into rainforests on the trail of exotic plants, into deserts in a hunt for fossils, and into jungles searching for rare animals. Fortey also briefly touches on the politics of maintaining a first-class museum devoted to displaying the diversity and beauty of the world around us. Most of all, Fortey explains that far from being a dusty depository of bones, skins and rocks, a natural history museum is a working laboratory of scientific exploration and discovery. This fascinating book is also a backstage tour and a history of one of the premiere science museums in the world, and wonderful reading for anyone who is interested in how things operate.

Friday, November 21, 2008

For P.D. James fans

One of the legendary names in British crime fiction is P.D. James, whose first novel - Cover Her Face (1962) - introduced readers to the poet and Scotland Yard detective Adam Dalgliesh. Her 14th novel featuring the introspective and restrained sleuth is due out this month, and we have it on order in both print and audio format.
To tide you over until the book arrives, we have a wonderful substitute: film adaptations of nine Dalgliesh novels (starring Roy Marsden). These films cover the first volumes from James' series, from Cover Her Face to Original Sin. More recently, Martin Shaw has been portraying Dalgliesh on film. Like any adaptation that takes a fictional character and makes them real, the portrayal either fits with your mental image of the character or not, but you can't argue that Marsden's acting is anything other than solid. These British productions are very well done, with lots of dreary, oppressive location shots and talented supporting casts.
If you're a fan of mysteries or British television, you will really enjoy all of these great films.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

What is a trillion, anyway?

It seems that Americans are starting to suffer from number fatigue. We have become accustomed to hearing astronomically high numbers batted around in the news, but if your net worth isn't $50 million dollars, or if you're not used to getting $3 million dollar bonuses, it's a little hard to translate what a number like 700 billion actually means.
Author Rob Simpson felt the same way when he heard that the U.S. government had spent 1 TRILLION dollars fighting the war in Iraq. In answer to the question "Why aren't taxpayers more outraged at the money spent on the war?", he decided to take that 1 trillion dollar figure and translate it into something more concrete. What We Could Have Done With the Money: 50 ways to spend the trillion dollars we've spent in Iraq is not a scholarly tome and I don't Simpson is really arguing that throwing a trillion dollars at a problem is a fast and easy way to fix it, but the suggestions in this somewhat tongue-in-cheek book definitely get you thinking.
We could build 6,667 miles of monorail, or pay for 1.9 million more teachers for our schools, or provide housing for over 10 million homeless families. We could pay off every credit card and gas card in America and still have $230 million left over. My favorite example? We could cover every highway in America with gold for only a third of that trillion dollars.
Feeling outraged yet?

Wednesday, November 19, 2008


A couple of new books on the shelf look at the struggle with alcoholism from different perspectives.
The Alcoholic is the graphic novel debut of acclaimed writer Jonathan Ames. His main character - acclaimed mystery writer Jonathan A. - recounts his long slide into alcoholism and drug abuse. The crisp line drawings of Dean Haspiel add a starkness to the story of a confused young man who initially uses alcohol as entertainment, but then turns to the bottle to compensate for losses in his life. A nicely written account that doesn't shy away from the degrading details of alcoholism, but still conveys the essential humanity of the character.
The Drunkard: a hard-drinking life is Neil Steinberg's account of his hard climb out of the depths of alcoholism. A popular columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times, Steinberg had become increasingly reliant on alcohol to get through his days and his wife had become increasingly unhappy with his drinking. And then one night, in a fit of rage, he hits her. Sentenced to mandatory rehab, he finally realizes that he must choose between his family and the bottle. Drunkard follows his first year of sobriety and his self-evaluation of his inner demons.
These books might not be the most lighthearted fare you'll pick up this year, but they're both gripping stories of people in pain.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Dull Essentials

The gardening section of the library features some of the prettiest, most eye-catching books in our collection. Our newest gardening book, however, has not a single photograph or splash of color. The Informed Gardener by Linda Chalker-Scott contains over 200 pages of black-and-white text, but the information within that text makes this one of our most valuable books of gardening advice. A horticulturist and associate professor at Washington State University, Chalker-Scott has taken on a couple dozen of the most widely-held gardening 'myths' and explained how things really work.
She argues against staking newly planted trees, against gardening with native plants without regard for how their native environment has been changed by development and against using wound dressings on newly pruned trees. Go ahead and disturb the root ball when you plant trees, don't add nutrients to your soil without testing it first, and don't rely on landscape fabrics to keep your weed population tamped down. Each chapter is brief and succinct, with a description of the myth, an explanation of what is really happening, and a short summary that tells you what you should be doing. Best of all, she backs everything up with references and article citations at the end of each chapter (in case you want to learn more about polyacrylamide hydrogels).
This is a really valuable book for anyone who is interested into moving into more serious gardening and landscaping and needs some concrete advice.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Architects of chaos

The Middle East, by anyone's definition, is a troubled region and scholars, analysts and politicians have spent a great deal of time in the last few decades trying to figure out where it all went wrong. Authors Karl E. Meyer and Shareen Blair Brysac don't necessarily point fingers of blame in their new book Kingmakers: the invention of the modern Middle East, but they do introduce readers to the British and American players who created the Middle East as we now know it.
Spanning the decades from British colonial dominance in the Victorian Era to the redistribution of political boundaries after World War I and ending with America's current war in Iraq, Kingmakers provides very insightful biographies of the handful of men and women who have had an extraordinary impact on world politics. Many of these personalities are military figures - T.E. Lawrence, Sir Mark Sykes and Lieutenant-General Sir John Bagot Glubb (there's a mouthful). Others are politicians and government officials (i.e. spies) - Paul Wolfowitz, Kermit Roosevelt Jr. and Harry St. John Bridger Philby. There are even a couple of influential women whose analysis and writings greatly influenced public and political perceptions back in England (Gertrude Bell and Flora Shaw, Lady Lugard).
It's a rich mix of personalities and motivations and the authors provide enough background information on these important characters that you can get an idea of what influenced their words and actions. This is very enjoyable reading for anyone who is interested in modern history or politics.

Friday, November 14, 2008

A Dewey tour of new videos

570 - Biology & Life Sciences. Proteus: a nineteenth-century vision is a story of Ernst Haeckel, who managed to blend science and art in an inspiring way by painting delicate portraits of radiolarians - single celled sea creatures. In a time before electron microscopes, his artwork brought the beauty of tiny life to people's attention.
630 - Agriculture. The Grange Fair: an American tradition takes viewers into a gentler, more bucolic world where people show off their skills at canning, sewing, shearing, gardening and raising livestock. A grange fair, being a smaller version of a county fair, is always a good place for rural neighbors to catch up with their friends and relax. A video equivalent of Charlotte's Web.
710 - Landscaping & Area Planning. The Art & Practice of Gardening: England, Ireland & America. If you have the least interest in gardens you will devour these tours of famous gardens and interviews with expert gardeners. Along the way, you can garner valuable advice on roses, structural elements, small gardens, use of color, elemental design and using a nursery supplier.
740 - Drawing & Decorative Arts. Drawing Lessons for Beginners: drawing nature will cover such topics as atmospheric perspective (useful for sketching mountains), careful attention to details (for realistic depiction), drawing trees and composing the elements of your drawings. Very helpful advice from artist Donna Hugh.
910 - Geography & Travel. Ganges: how the majestic Ganges has shaped the landscape, wildlife and culture of India is a beautiful look at a legendary river. A 2 1/2 hour BBC production, this film contains stunning images and takes a close look at the wildlife that share the resource with one of the most densely populated countries in the world.
940 - European History. Battle Ground: South Pacific focuses on actions in the Philippines, New Guinea and the Solomon Islands during World War II. Under the command of Gen. Douglas MacArthur, allied forces (mostly American and Australian) fought grisly battles at Manila, Corregidor, Maffin Bay and Rabaul. A great film series for military history buffs and anyone interested in the battle for the Philippines.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Listening to history

A really good book on history is very much like a really good novel - complex characters, a flowing narrative, exciting plot developments and an underlying message about society and humanity. So if you like to listen to novels on audio, you might think about listening to some history on audio as well:
1434: the year a magnificent Chinese fleet sailed to Italy and ignited the Renaissance is by Gavin Menzies, the same author who brought you 1421: the year China discovered America. In this new book, Menzies recounts the visit of a Chinese fleet to the Italian port of Tuscany in 1434. He postulates that it was this contact, and the willingness of the Chinese to share their knowledge of geography, engineering, printing, astronomy, architecture, mathematics and art that sparked an interest in science and learning that eventually led to the Renaissance (and we all know what that led to...). This audiobook is narrated by Simon Vance, who has done a wonderful job narrating the Patrick O'Brian books on ListenAlaska.
All Hands Down: the true story of the Soviet attack on the USS Scorpion by Kenneth Sewell and Jerome Preisler. This is a timely addition to the collection, since we not only just celebrated Veteran's Day, but this tragic event occurred 40 years ago this year. A revenge attack for the supposed sinking of a Soviet submarine off the coast of Hawaii (the cause of the sinking is still a mystery), the attack on the USS Scorpion cost the lives of 99 crew. Occurring at the height of the Cold War, while we were deep in the Vietnam War, the events of the sinking were kept quiet. The authors have used recently declassified Soviet and American military files, as well as hours of interviews, to piece together their story.
The Candy Bombers: the untold story of the Berlin Airlift and America's finest hour is by Andrei Cherny and narrated by Jonathan Davis. This book recounts the events leading to the blockade of West Berlin, and the dramatic airlift of food and fuel that kept the residents of West Berlin warm and fed and - more importantly - full of hope. This dramatic demonstration of America's military strength, material wealth, and determination to block further Soviet movement into Western Europe took place 60 years ago. This book is a nice reminder of that heroic effort.
The Training Ground: Grant, Lee, Sherman and Davis in the Mexican War 1846-1848 is by Martin Dugard. The Mexican War doesn't get a lot of attention nowadays, but it was the first U.S. war waged on foreign soil (our incursions into Canada during the War of 1812 apparently don't really count). It was also the dress rehearsal for the Civil War, and many of the big names on both the Union and Confederate side got their start during the Mexican War. Oh yeah, and we also doubled the size of the United States. There are plenty of good reasons to listen to this fascinating account of a neglected part of American history.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

CDs of local interest

We have some fascinating new CDs from the people at Smithsonian Folkways that will be of particular interest to our local patrons. These archive recordings come from the Smithsonian museum in the nation's capitol, and they represent some wonderful attempts to record and preserve global culture.
Haida: Indian music of the Pacific Northwest is a 2-disc set containing over 24 different songs, including a paddle song, a lullaby, a celebration song and a potlatch welcome dance. There are a couple of interviews on the disc as well. Recorded in the 1970's, the collection features 2 Tsimshian songs that were known to the Haida elders who contributed to the recording. Best of all, the CD comes with a very informative booklet in which all of the songs - music and lyrics - are transcribed and any associated history of the song is included. Transcripts of the interviews are also included.
A Cry From the Earth: music of the North American Indians is another set of historic cultural recordings, many of which come from early in the 20th century (there is even one recording that was made in 1894!). There are 6 songs on this disc from the Northwest Coast and Eskimo tribes, and the accompanying booklet provides a nice description of each track, as well as some anthropological information.
The Southeast Alaska folk tradition has quite a variety of traditional and contemporary folk music (this recording was originally released in 1981, so take that 'contemporary' with a grain of salt). Tlingit, Tsimshian, Russian and English songs are all here - from a Tsimshian blanket dance song to a ballad about Russian-Tlingit relations to Joe Juneau's ramblin' blues. The booklet that comes with the CD is a little difficult to read, since it has been reproduced from a badly scanned document, but the information is invaluable once you decipher it.
A Philippine Christmas is both geographically and temporally significant for our patrons, since the Christmas season is galloping down upon us. Featuring Bayanihan - the Philippine National Folk Dance Company - the songs and carols on this disc are sung primarily in Tagalog, although there are a few songs in Cebuano and Ilocano. We have been unable to find an original release date for this album (the Smithsonian doesn't know either), but looking at the album cover I would date this somewhere in the early 1970's.
We always like adding unique little items to the shelves, and we hope that many people are interested in these music selections that you won't necessarily find on Napster.

Friday, November 7, 2008

And the winner is....

For those of you who have been on the edge of your seat waiting to learn the will of the underage voters of Ketchikan, here are the election results for Kids Pick the President:

Barack Obama: 148 votes (43.9%)
John McCain: 146 votes (43.3%)

There were also 43 different write-in candidates, including Ralph Nader (7 votes), Bob Barr (3 votes), and Elmer Fudd (1 vote). There were also 6 question ballots, where the young voter filled in more than one box or suggested a write-in candidate and filled in a box. Sorry, guy, ya gotta choose either your Mom or Obama - you can't pick both.
The youth of Ketchikan took this vote very seriously, and with a total of 354 votes cast (only slightly less than the total participation of Summer Reading Club) it goes to show that the future of our country is in good hands...

Thursday, November 6, 2008

I really am sorry

There's an unwritten rule in my house that the Christmas stuff stays under wraps until after Thanksgiving. So I would like to apologize to all of those die-hard defenders of holiday boundaries when I announce that we have brought our Christmas craft magazines and holiday music CDs out of storage.
Perched on the large table in the lobby is a music carousel with 137 CDs featuring music for Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa. From the Brian Setzer Orchestra to Norway's Silver Boy Choir to Zamfir, we have a little bit of everything. The craft magazines also span a range of interests. There are holiday themes for decorating, cooking and gift wrapping, as well as traditional hobbies such as knitting, cross stitch, papercraft, scrapbooking, painting, quilting and woodworking. If you enjoy tole painting, scroll saw design or ornamenting with rubber stamps, we have the Christmas patterns you need for inspiration.
What's next, you ask? Well, starting this weekend, look for all our fun, fluffy Christmas-themed novels to come out of storage. Mystery writers such as Anne Perry and Mary Higgins Clark have made of point of writing a new book every holiday (Christmas Grace is this year's offering from Anne Perry. We have it on order in both book and CD format, if you would like to place it on hold). In addition, chick-lit and romance novelists love setting their books during the holiday season, so we have lots of Christmas romances to dust off as well.
It's all part of our constant effort to bring our patrons what they want - and yes, we have already had multiple requests for the Christmas crafts and CDs.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

"Never mind manoeuvres, always go at them" -- Admiral Nelson

Living on an island, as we do, you can pretty much be assured that books about nautical topics will be a hit on the bookshelves. For those of you interested in the glory days of naval warfare, when ships of the line tore apart each other's sails with cannonballs and desparate manoeuvres depended on the vagaries of the wind, we've got a couple of fascinating books.
The War For All the Oceans: from Nelson at the Nile to Napoleon at Waterloo, by Roy and Leslie Adkins, looks at that thrilling period of early 19th-century naval warfare. The Battles of the Nile and of Copenhagen, the siege of Acre, privateers, blockades and invasion fleets are all the fodder for discussion in this book. Plenty of diagrams, maps, images and suggested reading make this a nice resource for anyone who would like to know more about the subject. This book would be especially appealing to fans of Patrick O'Brian, Alexander Kent or C.S. Forester - since all of those series are played out against the backdrop of historic naval engagements.
If By Sea: the forging of the American Nave from the Revolution to the War of 1812 is by George C. Daughan. While the Adkins' book looked at the early 19th-century from the British point of view, Daughan takes an American approach, looking at how the young bankrupt country managed to put together the beginnings of a navy. While not as large or powerful as the mammoth British fleet, the American ships were new, fast, well-built and daringly commanded. Victories against British blockading ships during the War of 1812, and the Americans' campaign against the Barbary pirates at Tripoli not only gave the American Navy a feared reputation, it also encouraged the fledgling government to commit to a deep-water fleet for the protection of America' s shores and interests. Daughan does a nice job of looking at battles - both on the sea and in Congress - that led to the development of the U.S. Navy.

Monday, November 3, 2008


This doesn't have any direct bearing on the library, but it is an important issue (and the Kids Pick the President campaign - which is the brainchild of Vera in the Annex - has encouraged almost 300 kids to come into the library and cast their vote for President).
I'm not only going to urge you to get out and vote tomorrow, I'm also going to urge you to bring your kids and grandkids. As everyone knows, children learn by example. What better example could you set than by taking them into the polls with you as you exercise your right and responsibility to choose your elected representatives? I've dragged my daughter in with me to every primary, local and state election for the past 7 years and she has gone from seeing Election Day as just an opportunity to pick up a pretty sticker ("I've Voted") and a cookie to being the day when you get to pick who's in charge (we haven't tried to explain the Electoral College to her yet).
Make this Election Day a family day, and show your kids that this is something important - something that is part of being an adult. (And be sure to thank the poll volunteers for all those yummy cookies!)

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Grab-n-go Audio

This morning we unveiled a brand new collection that we hope will appeal to a broad range of people: Playaway audiobooks. These lightweight, easy-to-use audiobooks are designed for listeners of all ages. They won't get tangled, like cassette tapes. They won't get scratched, like CDs, you don't have to switch sides or insert new disks. You don't have to worry about software compatibility or download speeds. It's the easiest way in the world to listen to a good book.
I don't use audiobooks because I don't have a cassette player. Don't worry - these Playaways are actually book and player in one. Run by one AAA battery (which comes included), all you need to listen is a pair of headphones. The Playaway features a standard audio jack which will fit almost all listening equipment.
I don't have headphones. We have earbuds available for purchase at the front desk for $1.
I prefer cassette audio because I don't lose my place in the story when I turn off the player. The Playaway has a bookmarking feature that automatically resumes the story where you left off. No fast-forwarding through the file, no waiting until the end of a track to turn off your player.
I don't use digital audiobooks because I don't have Internet access to download the files. These Playaway audiobooks are preloaded - all you have to do to start enjoying the story is plug in your headphones and press the power button.
I don't use audiobooks because I hate having to learn new technology. These Playaways are easier to use than your VCR (and there's no clock to set!). The power button turns the player on and off, you can control the volume with the arrow buttons, and that's all you need to do. No software, no complicated instructions, no jargon.
We're very excited about the possibilities for this new collection, which was purchased with money from the Alaska State Legislature. Thank you, Rep. Kyle Johansen, for making this new service possible!

Friday, October 31, 2008

St. Paul, Minnesota

I love it when we get little coincidences happening in the library, and today is a fun one; what are the chances that we would have two books by St. Paul writers appearing on our shelf on the same day? Both books are set in the state of Minnesota, but you couldn't get two more different stories.
Liberty is by Minnesota's most famous son - Garrison Keillor. Set in his lovely fictional town of Lake Wobegon, Liberty is a story of small town politics, rivalries, scandals and personalities. But in typical Keillor fashion, the rivalries are funny, the scandals are tame and the personalities are larger than life. Keillor's work (his books, his audio recordings and his radio show) are hugely popular amongst our library patrons, and I think it's because his Lake Wobegon is oh-so-similar to Ketchikan. Listening to his 'news from Lake Wobegon' segment on A Prairie Home Companion, there have been many times that I have substituted in Ketchikan residents for the characters in his narrative, and I'm sure I'm not the only one who does this.
Red Knife, by William Kent Krueger, presents a completely different picture of Minnesota. This dark mystery features private investigator Corcoran O'Connor, and the story revolves around racism and a nasty gang war that erupts after the death of a meth addict, who just happens to be the daughter of a powerful local businessman. Kruger presents the nasty underside of small town life: drug abuse, vigilante justice, corrupt officials and long-held racial tensions. You may not want to run out and book a vacation in the Land of 1,000 Lakes after reading this, but it sure is a gripping story.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Adorably practical gifts

Every once in a while, we get a craft book that makes me wish I had just an iota of crafting skills. Pretty Little Pincushions, edited by Susan Brill, contains page after page of cute little pincushions that would make perfect gifts for coworkers, friends, neighbors, teachers and anyone else to whom you would like to say "I was thinking of you".
Elegant silk fruit, corsage flowers that sit handily on the wrist, lavender-filled sachets and cute little figurines offer a variety of creative ideas. The patterns also incorporate the use of 'found' objects in the home: old shirt cuffs, canning jar lids, cast-off buttons, bottlecaps and old mittens and sweaters. The book begins with a brief overview of the tools you will need (not many), the different types of fabrics, stuffings and weighting materials you can use, and hints for dealing with curved seams, stuffing tiny pockets and trimming loose threads.
The design ideas range in difficulty from simple pillows to colorful little cushions embellished with tiny felt flowers and hand embroidery. The styles vary, also, so if your gift recipient isn't a 'cutesy flowers and animals' kind of person, then try the Bacon & Eggs set of cushions, the voodoo dolls, or the little bottlecap cushions topped with a giant embroidered eye. This is a very fun book full of creative ideas for holiday gift-giving.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Upcoming author visit

We have another fabulous author who will be visiting the public library in November for a reading and discussion of his work, so I wanted to give everyone advance notice so that they have time to read his latest book.
Brad Matsen has just published Titanic's Last Secrets: the further adventures of shadow divers. This book follows the adventures of professional divers John Chatterton and Richie Kohler as they explore the wreck of the Titanic, looking for evidence to answer the question: 'Why did the Titanic sink so quickly?' Repeated dives, searches of archives, consultation with marine forensic specialists and investigative work by Matsen comes together to present the reader with a gripping story of the history of the Titanic's construction, the flawed engineering that led to the catastrophe, and the cover-up that ensued. Chatterton and Kohler faced skeptics, dangerous diving conditions and the drawn guns of the Greek police in their quest for answers.
Matsen is also the author of Descent: the heroic discovery of the abyss and Fishing Up North: stories of luck and loss in Alaskan waters. He has co-authored a few books - both for adults and children - with Ketchikan artist Ray Troll (Planet ocean : a story of life, the sea, and dancing to the fossil record and Ray Troll's shocking fish tales : fish, romance, and death in pictures are in the adult library).
Matsen will be at the Ketchikan Public Library on Saturday, Nov. 22nd at 6:30 pm. Be sure to put this on your calendar, as it promises to be a fascinating talk about the most famous maritime disaster in history.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Billy Budd

Three decades before he enchanted audiences with his performance as a hormone-popping drag queen in Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, Terence Stamp made his debut playing a quite different character: Billy Budd. Stamp's rugged good lucks and an undercurrent of working-class brute strength (he was one of the 'angry young men' of the British film industry in the 1960's) made him as instant star in England. He turns in a very nuanced performance in this film adaptation of Herman Melville's tragic story.
Billy Budd is a young, simplistic sailor in the British Navy at the start of the Napoleonic War. The ship's master-at-arms takes an unaccountable dislike to Billy and makes his life a misery, as the crew looks on and even the Captain seems powerless to intervene. When Budd finally strikes back against his tormentor, the Captain is forced to try him for murder. A complicated story with a compelling underlying theme of good vs. evil, and wonderful performances by Robert Ryan as the cruel officer and Peter Ustinov as the helpless Captain all work together to make this a film well worth watching. Ustinov also produced, directed and wrote the screenplay.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

A few new films

Foreign films, comedies, historical dramas and thrillers have found their way onto the New Video shelf lately.
Savages is a critically-acclaimed drama about dysfunctional siblings dealing with their father's struggle with Alzheimer's. As painful as the subject is, writer Tamara Jenkins has managed to infuse quite a bit of wry humor into the story. The performances of Laura Linney and Philip Seymour Hoffman make this a very moving film.
The Other Boleyn Girl is one of those lush period dramas where the costumes and sets are so beautiful that it's hard to focus on the story (based on Phillipa Gregory's popular novel): Anne and her sister Mary try to further the fortunes and ambitions of their family by attracting the lusty attention of King Henry. Natalie Portman and Scarlet Johansson are nicely cast as the seductive and beautiful Boleyn sisters.
Marathon Man is a classic thriller starring Dustin Hoffman, Roy Scheider and Laurence Olivier. Olivier's performance as an aging fugitive Nazi will have you rethinking your next trip to the dentist.
The Willow Tree is a lovely film from Iranian director Majid Majidi (Children of Heaven and The Color of Paradise). A successful man - blind since birth - finds the basis of his happy life shaken after a miraculous surgery restores his vision. This film is full of gorgeous images, which underscore the message of the story.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

A variety of graphic novels...

We have four new graphic novels on the shelf (in the wooden Graphic Novels bookcases, not the New Books section) that represent a wide range of styles.
Fall of Cthulhu: the fugue is my favorite. Written by Alan Michael Nelson and drawn by Jean Dzialowski, this book is a horror story dealing with otherworldly demons and nightmare cults. I don't ordinarily read this type of fiction (I don't like being frightened), but the depiction of The Dreamlands - a creepy alternate dimension - were so compelling I ended up reading the entire book.
Hunter's Moon is my least favorite. Since it was written by James L. White, who also wrote the screenplay for the film Ray, you would expect good things. Unfortunately, it's your standard Hollywood action movie; an African-American stockbrocker and his son are on a camping trip when rural bigots kidnap the boy for ransom. Local white law enforcement officials don't believe him and he's forced to rescue the boy himself. Think The Fugitive meets Deliverance, with Denzel Washington as the star. Boring artwork doesn't do anything to redeem this book.
Hall of Best Knowledge is an intriguing book by Ray Fenwick. Written in the tone of voice of a Victorian Englishman, each page is constructed as a brief 'lesson' wherein the author imparts a piece of his genius knowledge in relation to a particular topic (see, verbosity is contagious!). The illustrations are a complete gallery of graphic design, and the 'lessons' can be very funny. A boon to calligraphy students, as well as graphic novel fans.
Bottomless Belly Button is a look at a dysfunctional family at a seminal moment in their lives. The three Looney siblings are called to their parents' beach house and told that their mother and father are ending their 40-year marriage. Artist Dash Shaw uses a cartoon style that brings the reader smoothly through the story of each person's reaction to the divorce.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Graphically novel

Lynda Barry is an extremely influential cartoonist and author whose work, while commercially successful, has managed to stay in the realm of independent, non-mainstream commentary. Best known for her weekly comic strip Ernie Pook's Comeek, Barry has a gift for looking at the realities and contradictions of life - especially through the eyes of children and adolescents. A graduate of Evergreen State College, she herself teaches workshops on creative thought and writing. The ideas, techniques and processes she goes through in her workshops are distilled into a unique form in her new book: What It Is.
Part graphic novel, part collage, part workbook, What It Is leads the reader into examining their own thoughts and ideas. How do you look at things? What is your authentic voice? How do you get your imagination out of your head and onto a page? Whether you are an artist, a writer, or just a fan of graphic novels, you will be fascinated with this tour through the brain of an extremely inventive person. It's a little like being able to examine Barry's notebooks, go through her purse and read the Post-It notes on her refrigerator. Required reading for anyone trying to get their creative juices flowing.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Planning ahead

As we settle down into fall, the true gardeners amongst us know that now is one of the most active times of the gardening year: it's time to clean up and prepare for the next growing season. And since this autumn hasn't been too bad so far, there's no reason to not grab a few of our new gardening books and hit the dirt.
Time-saving Gardener: tips and essential tasks, season by season by Carolyn Hutchinson. According to the book, this is the month you should be planting bulbs, tidying up your rock garden, pruning roses, dividing and transplanting perennials, patching your lawn and building new landscape design elements (which is where the next two books come in handy...)
Trellises & Arbors: over 35 step-by-step projects you can build is a Sunset design guide. Using a wide variety of materials (wire, wood, branches, copper, bamboo, even rebar) you can create some beautiful trellises in time for next year's nasturtiums, clematis and honeysuckle. Build a formal arbor with bench seating underneath, or a more rustic version from those alders you've been meaning to clear out.
Once you've got a beautiful little arbor built, you need an inviting path to go under it. Walks, Walls & Patio Floors: build with brick, stone, pavers, concrete, tile and more is another Sunset book. This book contains a lot of helpful information on proper preparation and design, including layout, grading, drainage and fill. From a simple stepping-stone path through the grass to an elegant brick patio, there is plenty of inspiration here. The chapter on walls is particularly useful here, where so many people rely on retaining walls and terraced slopes in their garden.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The Man Booker prize

The annual Man Booker prize - which goes to the best contemporary fiction author from the British Commonwealth and Ireland - has been awarded to debut Indian novelist Aravind Aviga for his book The White Tiger. Other favorites that were in the running for this highly prestigious award include The Secret Scripture by Irish author Sebastian Barry, A Sea of Poppies by Indian writer Amitav Ghosh, and A Fraction of the Whole by Australian author Steve Toltz.
All of these books are in our catalog, and you can place a hold on them from your computer: First City Libraries catalog.
According to Booker panelist Michael Portillo,

"The novel undertakes the extraordinarily difficult task of gaining and
holding the reader's sympathy for a thoroughgoing villain. The book gains from
dealing with pressing social issues and significant global developments with
astonishing humour."

If you would like to watch a video interview with Aviga, you can go to the Man Booker Prize website (there are also interviews with Steve Toltz and Salman Rushdie, whose latest book The Enchantress of Florence was passed over for the short list).

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Classic books = Classic movies

We have some new DVDs on the shelf that are film adaptations of classic works of literature:
A Raisin in the Sun (1961) is the film version of Lorraine Hansberry's acclaimed play (she wrote the screenplay for this, as well). Starring the Oscar-winning actor Sidney Poitier and Ruby Dee, this film focuses on an African-American family that must rely on each other to withstand prejudice after the matriarch buys a house in an all-white neighborhood. This is also a story about the struggle of a man who sees his dreams of a better life slipping away from him. As always, Poitier's acting is superb.
The Good Earth (1936) is based on the Pearl S. Buck novel about a couple whose arranged marriage blossoms into mutual love and admiration as they struggle for survival in poor, rural China. The lead characters are played by Caucasian, rather than Asian, actors (Paul Muni and Luise Rainer), but that was typical for Hollywood. (This persisted on for decades - think of Marlon Brando's horrible stereotype of the Japanese in Teahouse of the August Moon). Beautiful footage from China, a tender storyline and Rainer's subtle performance - which won her a second Academy Award - all help make this film into a nice adaptation of Buck's classic tale.
Captain Blood (1935) is based on Rafael Sabatini's 1922 swashbuckler novel, which the UAS library has available for checkout. Not having ever read the book, I can't tell you if it's really a classic, but the film catapulted Errol Flynn to fame and has been the quintessential pirate film ever since. The dramatic action sequences are leavened with a romance with the beautiful Olivia de Havilland.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

A different perspective on global hotspots

When you only hear about a country in one type of context, it's easy to forget about the other facets of that nation. The words 'Iran' and 'nuclear' often appear in the same sentence, but what about Iran's early history as the center of the Persian empire? How many of us are aware that Afghanistan, which has suffered decades of destruction, was once home to ancient nomadic tribe whose rulers dripped with gold?
A History of Iran by Michael Axworthy, looks at Iran's evolution from Persian capital to Turkish conquest, it's reassertion of control, the influence of Westernized leaders, and its recent anti-Western revolution. Axworthy looks at the various cultural and political movements and the effect that these changes have had on the group psyche and identity of the Iranian people. It's very difficult to understand, assess or appreciate someone if you don't know their background and history. Since Iran is obviously going to play a prominent role in American foreign policy in the coming decades, it seems an auspicious time to get to know the Iranian people better.
In 1979, just before the Soviets invaded Afghanistan, archaeologists working in the Northern Plains of Afghanistan discovered a treasure trove: tombs of nomadic Bactrian nobles, containing thousands of pieces of carefully worked gold. Hurriedly hidden away during the conflict, the Bactrian Horde (as it has come to be known) has been kept safe from invading armies, tribal brigands and the Taliban for three decades. It has now resurfaced and the National Museum in Kabul has allowed the artifacts to tour the United States (the exhibit - organized by the National Geographic Society and the National Gallery of Art - will be at the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco from Oct. 24 - Jan. 25). Afghanistan: hidden treasures from the National Museum, Kabul is the official companion guide to the exhibition. Edited by Fredrik Hiebert and Pierre Cambon, this fascinating book contains page after page of beautiful artwork: statues, bowls, earrings, carvings, medallions and furniture. These pieces reflect the influence of Greek, Persian and Indian incursions into the area of Afghanistan. A beautiful book and a very interesting story...

Friday, October 10, 2008


There is something inherently cool about being able to take a flat sheet of paper and transform it into a 3-D object: a bunny, a crane, a rocket ship, etc. But once you've made this really cool thing, what do you do with it? What are the practical applications of origami? Well, let me tell you...
Napkin Origami: 25 creative and fun ideas for napkin folding, edited by Brian Sawyer, is full of fun ideas for dressing up the place settings on your table. I'm not sure most of us have the time to go into this every time we sit down to eat, but if you're hosting a dinner party, celebrating a birthday or holiday, or throwing a shower (bridal or baby), then the ideas in this book are a nice, easy way to decorate for the event. You can use either paper or cloth napkins, and the designs come in various levels of difficulty. Make a pirate ship for a kid's birthday party, a bunny for an Easter brunch, or a paper rose for a special dinner for two. You can even whip together a bread basket.
Minigami: mini origami projects for cards, gifts and decorations, by Gay Merrill Gross, shows you how to incorporate little origami touches into other projects. Flowers, stars, animals, and pockets can be used to decorate packages, scrapbook pages and letters. You could even make these into little brooches and earrings! (They don't show you how to do that in this book, but I thought it was a good idea. Try The Best of Making Jewelry by Jo Moody for tips on how to finish your origami off as pins, barrettes and bracelets.) My favorite design was for the little tiny Santa Claus - it uses only 2 pieces of paper and is 'low intermediate' on the skill level. It's perfect for the upcoming holidays. The nicest thing about this book is the Picture Index in the back, which allows you to easily browse for designs.
So have fun, and get busy folding!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

And I thought being a librarian was exciting...

Would you like a job where you get to travel to exotic destinations, hobnob with movie stars and drive really fast cars? Do you mind the possibility of being crushed, incinerated, impaled, dismembered or made really, really filthy? Then welcome to the exciting world of the Hollywood stunt performer.
The Full Burn: one the set, at the bar, behind the wheel and over the edge with Hollywood stuntmen, by Kevin Conley, takes you behind the scenes of an extremely dangerous profession. This is a very interesting book, because not only do you get to see the technical magic that occurs to make a stunt work - breakaway glass, fire retardant gel, airbags, spring boards and cables - but Conley also shows you why these people do this work. Most of the stuntmen he talks to didn't start out planning to work in Hollywood; they were originally race car drivers, athletes, police officers, soldiers and commandos. These are people who apparently have a high tolerance for pain, an uncanny ability to stay calm in stressful situations, and a good eye for detail. A 5-second stunt (or 'gag', as it's called in the profession) can take weeks of planning and rehearsal to make sure that everything is going to work correctly - not just because car chases and explosions are expensive to film, but because the cost of a mistake can literally be someone's life. For anyone interested in movies, this is a great look at how those adrenalin-pumped scenes actually get made and a brief glimpse into what makes stunt performers tick.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Arizona Senator runs for President

We have a new book about the political career, Presidential campaign and personal history of a famous Arizona Senator. Nope, not that one. Our new book is about Barry Goldwater, who became a political lightning rod during the 1964 Presidential campaign. Pure Goldwater, by John W. Dean and Barry M. Goldwater, Jr., isn't so much an analysis or interpretation of Goldwater's actions and motivations. Instead, it is a collection of journal entries, speeches, letters and editorials whose selection attempts to present Goldwater in his own words. The authors do add notes to the various entries, notes that often place the entry in a historical context or provide additional background related to the text. Since I don't know very much about Goldwater (mea culpa), I found these notes just as informative as his own words. Some of the other tidbits I gleaned from this book:
Goldwater designed clothing - including "antsy pants" (page 6).
He sat in the Oval Office and gave President Nixon a tongue-lashing for being too isolated (pg 240).
He had a lifelong antipathy to Bill Moyers based on Moyers' aggressive tactics during the 1964 campaign (pg 141).
After retiring from politics, he spoke out publicly in favor of gay rights, endorsed a Democrat for an Arizona state congressional seat, and called on the media to be nicer to President Bill Clinton. An Arizona maverick, indeed.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Thank you very, very, very much

The Friends of the Ketchikan Public Library held their annual book sale this last weekend, and it was a huge success! They raised over $5,200 in sales, $170 in memberships and more than $100 in donations for the New Library Building Fund. The library would like to send out a few thank-yous:
  • Teresa Chenhall, for coordinating this year's sale
  • The volunteers who transported, sorted and sold books
  • The TAG members, who cleaned up all the unwanted books after the sale
  • Dan & Sue Greer, who have come to the library on a weekly basis for the past year sorting, boxing and transporting all the donations we've received
  • Debbie Gravel, for her eye-catching publicity posters
  • The staff of the Plaza Mall
  • All the community members who have donated their much-loved books, CDs, videos and audiobooks for the sale. Without your generous donations, there wouldn't be a book sale.
With the money they raise during the year, the Friends provide financial support for:
  • Born-to-Read program
  • Teen Advisory Group
  • ListenAlaska free audio download service
  • Summer Reading Club
  • Author visits
  • Kids Pick the President voting drive
  • Preschool Christmas Party
  • Haunted Ghost Town Halloween night

Thanks again to's great to have such good Friends!

Saturday, October 4, 2008

The Community Novel

Would you like to be an author? Perhaps you don't feel you have enough creative juices for a 300-page book, but what about a paragraph or two? Well, here's your chance.
October 12th - 18th is national Teen Read Week, during which schools and libraries plan special events to try to get teenagers excited about reading. It's a tough demographic nut to crack, so we thought we would approach it in a slightly different way: we're going to get teens to think about reading by having them - and the rest of Ketchikan - do some writing.
Here's the setup: Thomas Alistair, Jared Mason and Enid Isabella are three teens hanging out in a laundromat in Generaltown, WA. Now you can have them do whatever you want (you do not need to be a teen to participate in this community project). They can leave the laundromat, leave the state, grow up, fall in love, fold clothes...the sky's the limit. The only thing we ask is that you keep it PG-rated (no gore, serious violence or profanity. And please, no deaths - it will just cause merry havoc with the overall narrative).
Turn your paragraph in to us by October 11th (you can drop it off at the front desk, slip it into the mail - 629 Dock St., Ketchikan AK, 99901 - or email it to us at The members of the Teen Advisory Group will then thread the paragraphs together in as coherent an order as possible, and there will be A Reading Of The Novel at the UAS Campus library on October 17th at 7:00 pm. Even if writing isn't your bag, please feel free to come up to the campus library and hear what your neighbors have created - it promises to be loads of fun.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Who do you believe?

It's bad enough when you receive the thrice-forwarded email warning you of the health risks of _________ (fill in the blank). But what media outlet does not have a regular feature that 'exposes' these risks or advocates specific ways to stay healthy, lose weight, avoid cancer and increase your life span? Under a constant barrage of advice that is often contradictory (Are carbs good or bad? Does chocolate make me fat, or does it prevent cancer? How much water should I be drinking, and from what kind of container?), the average American consumer can be excused for feeling a little confused. What we need is a book that looks at all the claims and helps us ferret out the truth.
The Healthy Skeptic: cutting through the HYPE about your health is written by Robert J. Davis, a nationally-known health journalist who also teaches at Emory University's Rollins School of Public Health. He looks at some of the major health topics being reported today - nutrition, supplements, environmental chemicals, medical testing, and sunscreen - and points out what facts are actually supported by research. More importantly, he also focuses on the people who are crafting these dire warnings: the news media, celebrities, consumer advocates, commercial groups and health organizations. He points out that some of these entities are not above inflating claims and misleading the public in order to push forward their agenda (or make a buck). If you're confused about what you should and should not be doing to safeguard the health of you and your family, you should read this helpful book.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Dude Lit

As you may know, we have a selection of pamphlets by the front desk that offer reading suggestions. One of the themes is 'Chick Lit' - light, humorous novels featuring (usually) urban single women between the ages of 25 and 40 with plots that highlight romance, careers and friendships. (I know there are many exceptions and subgenres here, but this is a short and sweet definition). A library visitor remarked that she was offended by the use of the word 'chick' and the absence of any equivalent list for men.
So I started poking around, trying to come up with titles that would fit the male version of Chick Lit (which is actually a Library of Congress-sanctioned subject heading). Based on my personal experience, books that are popular with male readers include history, science fiction and noir thrillers. However, I wouldn't consider those books as humorous beach reading. We do have two new books that might possibly fit my new burgeoning 'Dude Lit' reading list:
Go-Go Girls of the Apocalypse, by Victor Gischler, is funny post-apocalyptic fiction (if such a thing exists). An insurance salesman hiding out in the hills of Tennessee escapes annihilation, only to find that future of civilization is being protected by a chain of strip clubs. A weird roadtrip, oddball characters and a thundering showdown between rival factions all keep the plot bouncing along. Full of cartoon violence and sardonic humor, this is not for the 'gentle read' crowd.
Stalking the Vampire: a fable of tonight, by Mike Resnick, is actually the second book in the John Justin Mallory series (following Stalking the Unicorn). A detective mystery set in an alternate Manhattan populated by vampires, dragons and goblins - not that outlandish a concept - Stalking blends humor, pulp fiction, and supernatural beings. For fans of Mickey Spillane and Terry Pratchett.
I plan on keeping my eyes open in the future for more of these potential candidates for the 'Dude Lit' reading list.

Adventures in the Wild

The writing of scientific papers is a precise art and produces material that is highly informative, sometimes quite controversial, but is rarely funny. And yet many scientists have a creative side that makes them wonderful storytellers. Adventures in the Wild: tales from biologists of the natural state, edited by Joy Trauth and Aldemaro Romero, presents the human side of science. Reading these brief accounts is like sitting at the campus pub with your favorite professor: there are a few funny mishaps, some hair-raising encounters, some ingenious approaches to the problems that crop up during field work, and some great insight into what it's really like to be a field biologist. Richard Grippo shares a wonderful story of trying to outrun a pod of hunting orcas while sharing a skiff with an excited labrador retriever. Staria Vanderpool shares the frustration of trying to identify a plant for a curious member of the public - over the phone. My favorite piece is "Sir David Attenborough visits Arkansas", by Stanley Trauth. Basically an account of his brush with fame - when Sir David came to film a segment of mating salamanders - Trauth perfectly captures the absolute thrill of working with an absolute legend. (You may have to be a true science geek to get the appeal of this story). But if you have any interest at all in science, you will enjoy these 'behind-the-scenes" essays, and come to appreciate the multi-faceted life of a biologist.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Politics, politics, politics

I don't want to flog everyone to death with political themes, but we do only elect Presidents once every 4 years.....There are actually a few things I wanted to mention.
1. If you are not currently registered to vote, or if you need to make changes to your voter registration, or if you need to request an absentee ballot, you can come down here to the library. The deadline for voter registration is this weekend. Technically, your application must be postmarked by Sunday. If you would like to register here at the library, though, you must come in by Saturday at 5 pm, so that we can get it to the downtown post office before it closes.
2. The Children's library is going to be conducting their own election during the month of October. Only children under the age of 18 will be allowed to vote, and there will be a display of presidential biographies and election-themed books for the children to look over as well. I am really looking forward to seeing what the results of this election will be, and I have steadfastly resolved not to foist my political preferences onto my daughter (she's already told me who she's going to vote for).
3. In case you missed the comment from Thursday's post, Daniel in Juneau has put together a list of books that cover some of the meaty topics facing the next President. Check out the list here - Daniel's Presidential Reading List - and feel free to share your own list by posting it here to the KPL blog. You can do further reading on presidential politics by following the press coverage of the campaigns. The library carries Newsweek, Time, US News and World Report and The Economist, as well as Harpers, Atlantic Monthly, and The New Yorker.
Whatever you do, get out and vote!!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Presidential qualifications

According to this morning's news, there might possibly still be some sort of presidential debate tomorrow between Barack Obama and John McCain, and it's a good time to think about what sort of education and awareness you feel is necessary to be a good president. Foreign policy, economics, national security, physics....
Physics? Absolutely, according to Richard A. Muller, a physics professor at UC-Berkeley and the author of our new book Physics for Future Presidents: the science behind the headlines. Muller tackles some of the most pressing issues in American life and politics, debunks some common myths and explains the science in a way that is easy to comprehend. Under the major headings of Terrorism, Energy, Nukes, Space, and Global Warming, he discusses things such as suitcase bombs, biofuels, nuclear waste, electric cars and spy satellites. In one chapter of particular local interest, he discusses the effect of global climate change on the Alaskan permafrost layer. Buckling roads, sinking houses and beetle infestations are concrete problems that Alaskans are dealing with right now. Even more intriguing, he suggests possible solutions based on probable cause.
The book is actually based on a course that he teaches at Berkeley for non-science majors, so the topics and explanations have been 'road tested' on hundreds of undergrads. Physics for Future Presidents not only explains the issues that we need to know as informed Americans, but it also highlights the importance of science in everyday life (something to think about if you have a reluctant science student at home - have them read this book and maybe they'll be a little more enthusiastic about their class).

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Here comes the bride...

Summer is usually the high season for weddings, but since people in Ketchikan don't seem to be wrapped quite so tight about having "The Perfect Wedding", invitations trickle out throughout the year. If you're planning your own upcoming wedding, we have a whole range of resources that will help you with all those decisions: gowns, cake, flowers, party favors, bridal showers, honeymoons, vows and music.
Our latest CD - The Knot Collection of Ceremony & Wedding Music - has compiled a selection of beautiful classical music for every stage of the ceremony. You could play a lovely Haydn serenade while your guests are arriving, an excerpt from Handel's Water Music during the processional, a nice interlude from Puccini, and a rousing allegro from Vivaldi as the wedding party leaves. There are many other options on this disc. My personal favorite is the suggestion to play the Hallelujah Chorus from Handel's Messiah during the recessional (is it the couple themselves or the parents that are so thankful that the marriage has finally taken place?)
In addition to this new arrival, we have other CDs of wedding music, as well as books, videos and magazines available for checkout. To make things easier for the busy bride, we've compiled a list of resources (organized by subject). This pamphlet is available at the front desk, and we are always happy to help you find what you need. Congratulations and best wishes!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

You're paying for what??

You may remember a few years ago that there was a business downtown that sold air. Supposedly it was special air infused with healthy, aromatherapeutic properties, but it was still air. I myself buy bags of dirt every spring to add to my feeble garden. But the most ubiquitous of all elemental purchases has to be bottled water (and by 'elemental', I mean 'one of the 4 elements', not 'necessary'). According to the latest book on our shelves, sales of bottled water in the United States currently surpass every other drink except soda - in a country with the financial and technological means to provide clean drinking water to everyone.
Bottlemania: how water went on sale and why we bought it, by Elizabeth Royte, looks at the Developed World's weird obsession with bottled water. From the mineral springs of Evian - an actual town in France - to the Coca Cola product Dasani, Royte looks at the marketing behind bottled water and it's staggering rise in popularity. She also tackles such issues as the environmental impact of manufacturing and disposing of plastic bottles, the safety of municipal water supplies, water rights and the depletion of aquifers. A blend of environmental reporting, consumer analysis and corporate exposé, Bottlemania is an interesting read for anyone who has ever plunked down $2 for a bottle of tap water.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Books 4 Sale

I often talk about the serendipitous nature of our New Books shelf - you never know what little gems you're going to find over there. Our Sale Cart is very similar. Some of the books are discarded from our collection, and some of them are donations from the community. The titles, subjects and formats run the gamut, and everything is very reasonably priced. Some of the books we currently have are a guide to repairing VCRs, a test prep book for the SAT, The 6th Target by James Patterson, The Forsythe Saga by John Galsworthy, and a 30-day guide to lowering your cholesterol. In the past, we have had audiobooks on CD and cassette, brand-new DVDs, classic old VHS films, craft magazines and travel guides. There is a sale cart in the Children's library as well, and this is a wonderful place to look for kids' videos, picture books, magazines and novels.
Hardback books, videos and CDs are $1, paperbacks are .50, and magazines are .25. With prices like that, how could you not come down to see what might be available? The nicest thing about the sale carts are that the selection is always changing - we might discard a stack of books, someone might drop off a huge load of videos, the options are always open. So please stop by and take a look.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Author Visit is Tonight!!

In case you haven't seen the beautiful display in our entry (thanks to the staff of the Children's Library for creating the colorful posters), I would like to remind everyone that we are having an author talk and booksigning tonight at 6:30 pm. Romance novelist Susan Wiggs will be reading selections from some of her bestselling books and discussing her craft in the Annex, and Parnassus Books will be there with an assortment of her titles for sale. This is another wonderful opportunity to hear a nationally-known successful author talk about her motivations, creative process, and future plans.
The posters advertising Susan's visit have drawn the attention of tourists as well as locals, and we have heard more than one cruise ship passenger bemoan the fact that they will not be able to meet Susan and have her autograph a book or two for themselves. Not so for our lucky local residents! Please come down to the library this evening and meet the woman who has been keeping you entertained with her lovely stories of love and relationships.
(And just in case you were concerned about this morning's fog bank, I can report that Ms. Wiggs' plane did arrive and she is currently exploring the various attractions that Ketchikan has to offer.)

Saturday, September 13, 2008


Landscape and wildlife photography can be quite beautiful, but there is something about portraits that capture your attention. Perhaps it's the ability to stare into someone's eyes without causing offense, or perhaps you're searching for the flicker of soul. One of our newest books looks at the history of portrait photography, while another focuses on one of the masters of the art.
The Theatre of the Face: portrait photography since 1900 is by Max Kozloff. Beginning with the carefully arranged group portraits popular at the turn of the 19th century and ending with the artistic interpretation and digital manipulation of the present, Kozloff takes the reader through the various styles and uses of portraiture. Social commentary, historical record, artistic expression and sly humor are capable of coming off these images. Mostly black-and-white, the lines and shadows dry the viewer into the lives of the subject. Not simply a gallery of images, Theatre also includes an in-depth analysis of the form and its history.
Richard Avedon is a renowned photographer whose work with models Veruschka, Twiggy, Suzy Parker and Dovima set the standard for fashion photography in the 1950's and 60's. At the same time, his portraits of influential politicians and artists are stark and uncompromising. Crisp black and white images, without the distraction of background, are his hallmark. In Richard Avedon photographs: 1946-2004, you can examine some of his most powerful pieces. This is a companion volume to an exhibit of his work at the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, and it makes me wish I was able to go see the exhibit in person (it will be in San Francisco starting October 2009, in case you're interested).

Friday, September 12, 2008

Delicious Books

With colder weather and shorter days, people always seem to start spending a little more time in the kitchen. Our cookbook section takes a hit, as people turn to comfort food and spicy dishes to get them through the long, dark winter.
Gourmet Indian in Minutes: over 140 inspirational recipes is a quick and easy way to introduce your family to the complex palate of Indian cooking. Short ingredient lists and fast-cook techniques allow you to put a full meal on the table in half an hour, and the ingredients - including the spices - are all readily available here in Ketchikan. Bombay-born author Monisha Bharadwaj presents a full range of recipes, from appetizers to dessert.
If you like your food with a bit of tang to it, try Gourmet Thai in Minutes: over 120 inspirational recipes, by Vatcharin Bhumichitr. Thanks to the rise in popularity of Thai cooking, most of the ingredients in this book can be found in town. Fish sauce, cilantro and lime juice are frequently used to create that distinctive Thai zing, and the recipes are all quick to prepare.
Union Oyster House Cookbook: recipes and history from America's oldest restaurant is the book to use if you want traditional New England seafood. Lobster salad, baked scrod (think small codfish), clam chowder (white, of course) and seafood pie are all presented here. There's even a recipe for codfish mashed potatoes - a staple of my mother's childhood. A few New England side dishes (baked beans, cornbread, oyster stuffing) and hearty desserts (apple pie, Indian pudding, gingerbread) complete the menu. Don't go looking for salads here - the only greens in a traditional New England seafood dinner is the sprig of parsley next to the giant cup of melted butter. Yum!!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Everyday heroes

Tomorrow is the 7th anniversary of 9/11, and ordinarily we put out a small display of our books and videos that memorialize the victims of the attack. This year, however, I thought I would point out some other books in the collection that are pertinent to the day.
Rescue Men by Charles Kenney chronicles the life of a firefighting family. Kenney's grandfather joined the Boston Fire Department in 1932 (like all good Irish boys) and responded to the devastating Cocoanut (sic) Grove nightclub fire of 1942. His father also joined the department and was seriously injured in the line of duty. His brother, a firefighter-paramedic on Cape Cod, worked at Ground Zero in the aftermath of 9/11. Kenney writes an enthralling account of what it means to be a firefighter, and the effects of the job on the family.
Population 485: meeting your neighbors one siren at a time is at the other end of the spectrum. Rather than serving in the huge Boston Fire Department, author Michael Perry is a volunteer firefighter in New Auburn, Wisconsin. A widespread collection of dairy farms and rural homes, New Auburn is one of those places where everybody knows everybody else's business. Being a firefighter/EMT in a situation like that gives you heightened access to people's private lives, and Perry's stories are fascinating from both the professional and the small-town perspective.
Blue Blood by Edward Conlon is the memoir of a 4th-generation New York City police officer. A Harvard-educated detective whose "Cop Diary" columns have appeared in The New Yorker, Conlon writes with great skill and a thorough inside knowledge about life in a big city police department. Muggings, murder, drug deals, corruption and organized crime ripple through the pages of this book.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

New books - Old authors

Some of the most popular authors in our collection have recently come out with new novels, so be sure to grab them fast before they get snatched up by another fan.
Medical thriller master Robin Cook has just released his 28th book: Foreign Body. A 4th-year medical student is stunned to learn that not only did her beloved grandmother travel to India for a necessary - and expensive in America - surgery, but that the grandmother died as a result. As the student travels to India to try and find out what happened, she gets caught up in a sinister conspiracy and the murky world of medical tourism.
Jeffrey Deaver brings back his popular couple - Lincoln Rhyme and Amelia Sachs - for another investigative thriller in The Broken Window. When his cousin is arrested for rape and murder, with seemingly ironclad evidence against him, Rhyme begins to uncover a crooked use of identity theft. When the secretive master criminal behind these crimes and false trails realizes that Rhyme and Sachs are closing in, "the hunters become the hunted".
Luanne Rice returns to Hubbard's Point - the setting for Beach Girls - to bring readers a story of an unsolved murder and the broken people who were left behind. The murder of teenage Charle Rosslare may have faded from most people's memory in Hubbard's Point, but his musician mother is still unable to play and his girlfriend is still determined to find out what happened - with the help of his mother's old boyfriend.
Jeff Shaara follows up his popular novel of World War II (The Rising Tide) with a story of D-Day. The Steel Wave is the second in his WWII trilogy, and Shaara is one of the foremost historical fiction authors writing today. If you haven't read his Civil War series - starting with Gods and Generals - you should really give it a try. This is a great choice for anyone who enjoys military history.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

In honor of those who have fallen

In 2006, The Rocky Mountain News reporter Jim Sheeler won the Pulitzer Prize for Feature Writing, and he has created an amazingly powerful new book from that reporting. When Colorado lost it's first soldier in Iraq, Sheeler began documenting the stories of the soldiers who died, the families they left behind, and the Marines whose task and honor it is to bring the grim news home. In Final Salute: a story of unfinished lives, Sheeler brings the reader along with Marine Major Steve Beck as approaches the front door of homes in Colorado, Wyoming, Nevada and South Dakota bearing the news that their son has died.
This is one of the most uncomfortable books I have ever read, and one that is impossible to get through in one sitting. The best you can do is read a few pages, put it down to think, and come back later. There is no analysis here - no political agenda - no defense or denunciation of our presence in Iraq. This is about the families, the friends and the fellow soldiers who are left behind.
This is a painful, horrible, essential book.