Friday, June 27, 2008

Working at the ballpark

My husband just got back from a week in New York City, where he squeezed in 4 baseball games (he saw the grand-slam homer by Mariners pitcher Felix Hernandez), a tour of Yankee Stadium, a visit to the Mets hall of fame, and a trip to the site of the old Brooklyn Dodgers stadium. So it seemed appropriate to put our new book out on the shelves: Working at the Ballpark: the fascinating lives of baseball people - from peanut vendors and broadcasters to players and managers by Tom Jones. Jones did the ultimate baseball fan tour, traveling all over the country and speaking to people at dozens of different ballparks. The fifty interviews contained in this book drive home one message: people work at the ballpark because they truly love baseball. Whether they are major league baseball players or people with ordinary day jobs who moonlight at the stadium, they all reap the benefit of being closely involved with the national pasttime. In leafing through this book, it's fascinating to read about the supporting cast involved with a game: vendors, scalpers, batboys, media relations, scorekeepers, ushers, scouts, trainers, mascots, public-address announcers, sportswriters, travel arrangers, landscapers and camera operators. My favorite has to be Johnny Pesky, the 88-year-old "Instructor" for the Boston Red Sox. His job, from what I gather from his interview, is to be the reminder of Bosox history for the rest of the team. What better indication of the reverence people have towards baseball, than to pay someone to be a living legacy?

Thursday, June 26, 2008

And Yet More Audio!

As promised, more new audiobook titles:

The Host by Stephenie Meyer is a paranormal romance, but an especially imaginative and well-written one. This is the first adult novel from Meyer, who achieved fame with her beautiful young adult Twilight series.

The Front, by Patricia Cornwell, is a follow-up to At Risk, which introduced readers to a new cast of characters and a Massachusetts setting. State investigator Win Garano is caught between the District Attorney and a shadowy confederation of municipal police, and he's not sure who the real enemy is.

Unaccustomed Earth is a collection of short stories by Jhumpa Lahiri. Her lyrical stories have been featured on the NPR program Selected Shorts, and in this new collection she looks at the tense relationships and misunderstandings between first-generation Americans and their immigrant families.

The Last Lecture, by Randy Pausch, is one of the most inspirational things you will hear. Diagnosed with terminal cancer, computer science professor Pausch delivers a powerful lecture to his students - his last lecture - about achieving childhood dreams and making a difference in your world.

Beautiful Boy: a father's journey through his son's addiction, by David Sheff, is a heartbreaking story about a parent watching powerlessly as their child descends into drug abuse. This is a powerful story for anyone who has seen a family member struggle with addiction.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

New audiobooks

We have another flush of new audiobooks on the shelf (it's a lot more efficient for us to do large batches of these at once, if you were wondering why they don't just dribble out onto the new shelves like the books). These are audio versions of some of the most popular current fiction titles:

Nothing to Lose: a Jack Reacher novel. This 12th installment in Lee Child's popular mystery/thriller series has actually beaten our print copy out onto the shelf.

Change of Heart is the newest release by bestselling author Jodi Picoult, who was here at our library a few years ago (May 2004) to give a reading of her work.

Sundays at Tiffany's is a bit of a departure for James Patterson. Rather than being grisly thriller about serial killers, this is a tender romance co-written with Gabrielle Charbonnet.

Gentlemen of the Road: a tale of adventure, by Michael Chabon, is a fun and rollicking historical adventure. Alaskans may be familiar with his acclaimed novel set in Sitka: The Yiddish Policemen's Union.

The Third Angel is by Alice Hoffman, who manages to cross the gap between literary fiction and romance novel with her touching, interwoven stories of three women at critical moments in their lives.

Coming tomorrow.....even more audiobook titles!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Snips, snails and puppy dog tails

In the nature vs. nurture argument of parenting, I used to be a nurture girl. I refused to believe in inherent behavioral differences; boys behaved the way they did because of how adults treated them. Then I had a little destructive, noisy, wall-climbing, rule-breaking male imp of my own and I have become a firm adherent of the 'boys will be boys' defense. Thus, I find the information in our new book It's A Boy! understanding your son's development from birth to age 18, by Michael Thompson, Ph.D. particularly interesting. Thompson is a clinical psychologist who co-authored the bestselling book Raising Cain: protecting the emotional life of boys. In this new book, he goes through the stages of a boy's life, explaining the various social, cognitive, emotional and physical developments that they boy is undergoing. He also includes real-life examples of parents' thoughts and reactions during these stages. This book aims not only to help parents understand why their boys are behaving the way they do, but to reassure parents that this behavior is normal and healthy. He also offers some advice about how to cope with some of the more difficult stages in their child's life and the major changes to expect. To be perfectly honest, I didn't read any further than the toddler chapter (I like to fool myself into believing that things are just going to get easier from here), but the early sections in this book are very informative and flow along nicely. I even found myself chuckling as I recognized my son in the pages of this book. This is a nice, reassuring book that doesn't try to guilt parents, make them adopt radical parenting methods, or cause them to doubt their ability to raise happy, healthy boys.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

And the winner is...

I'm currently going through my annual task of reviewing our magazine selection, deciding which subscriptions should be cancelled and what new titles to add to the shelves. As part of the decision-making process, I go through and count how many times each issue of each magazine has been read and/or checked out (one of the reasons we ask people to leave magazines on the tables rather than reshelving them is because we keep count of this use). I've churned the numbers on the 109 magazines we subscribe to - not counting newspapers - and here are the big winners and losers:
1. Fine Homebuilding (8.4 checkouts per magazine)
2. National Geographic (6.5)
3. Backwoods Home (6.35)
4. Bead & Button (6.2)
5. Cottage Living (5.8)
6. Alaska Magazine (5.75)
7. Canoe & Kayak (5.5)
8. Popular Science (5.33)
9. Beadwork (5.15)
10. People Magazine (5.0)

109. Western Outdoors (.25)
108. Vandidades (.25)
107. US News & World Report (.33)
106. Field & Stream (.5)
105. E: the Environment Magazine (.5)
So there you go. Personally, I find it interesting that there are outdoorsy magazines at both ends of the list. Fish Alaska, Guns & Ammo and Outside all do pretty well, so perhaps Field & Stream is too generic? And why read Western Outdoors when you can read Alaska Magazine? Ah well, a riddle for the ages....

Saturday, June 21, 2008

21st Century Fibers

I've been to enough Wearable Art shows to know that there are a number of talented textile artists in this town. Not being a sewer myself (I can't even hem straight), I am always impressed at the things people can create with fabric. I'm also totally clueless about the types of fabrics available, so I was intrigued by our new book Textiles Today: a global survey of trends and traditions, by Chloë Colchester. Nanotechnology, medical textiles, thermoregulating fabrics, fibre optics, digital photography, architecture and computer chips are all involved in the millennia-old tradition of creating textiles. Like everything else in our age of burgeoning technology, the possibilities and applications seem endless. Colchester also looks at the growing popularity of fabric as an expression of artistic sentiment, communication, and handicraft. Fabric tile installations inspired by fish scales, the spread of knitting circles amongst the younger generation, the high demand for organic fabrics and natural dyes; all of these seem to balance out the high-tech textile industry (or perhaps are in response to it, much like the Arts and Crafts movement of a century ago). If you are an engineer - and kudos to you for hanging with me so far into this entry - then you will be very interested in the technological applications of modern textiles. If you are an artist, then you will be inspired by the new fabrics and techniques demonstrated in this beautifully illustrated book.

Friday, June 20, 2008

A Thousand Words

A picture may be worth a thousand words, but the images in our new book American Photobooth lead to a thousand questions. What prompted these people to slip into a photobooth to have their picture taken? What is their relationship with each other? Are they newlyweds or long-married? Are they always that happy, pugnacious or grim? Where did they have the photo taken? What happened to them in their lives?
This book, by photographer Näkki Goranin, starts with a history of the photobooth and its many incarnations, and then looks at the historical and cultural context of automatic self-photography. This is all very interesting, but the true beauty of this book is in the photos themselves: page after page of anonymous, caption-less portraits. The privacy of the photobooth and the lack of a human behind the camera seems to get people to open up, and these images are truly candid and intimate. There are couples young and old clinging to one another, kissing and smiling for the camera. There are groups of servicemen crammed into the booth, celebrating their short time on leave. There are people in work clothes (aprons, hats, uniforms) who apparently ducked into the booth on their lunch break. There's a wonderful photo of two young children with every hair in place, and you wonder if this was the only affordable way for their mother to send portraits to the rest of the family. There are also a shots of kids with much older relatives. Did Grandpa take his granddaughter to the state fair for the day, or to Coney Island?
These are wonderful pictures of people at a happy moment of their lives, inviting you in to share their good times. It's an irresistible invitation, and this book is sure to make you smile.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Congratulations Girdwood

Congratulations to the people of Girdwood! This community of 2,000, near the Alyeska ski resort, just opened a brand new library. The stone and timber building fits in perfectly with the setting, and it looks just like a lodge. At 9,100 ft² it will provide plenty of room for reading, relaxing, and enjoying the various services that libraries offer.
I could point out that it is 50% larger than the Ketchikan Public Library, even though the population of Girdwood is 6½ times smaller than Ketchikan, but if you know anything about our library here in Ketchikan, you know that we are already crammed to the gills. In fact, let me take the opportunity to drop a few statistics:
1. Ketchikan is the 4th-largest community in the state of Alaska
2. There are 16 communities in Alaska with bigger libraries than Ketchikan. Whoops! Forgot about Girdwood - make that 17 communities.
3. The circulation rate of the Ketchikan Public Library is twice the state average (12.23 items per person, per year. The circulation rate of the Los Angeles library is 3.97, Boston is 4.27, Phoenix is 8.71, and San Francisco is 9.11. Seattle beats us out with a rate of 13.01)
4. We are doing all of this brisk library business in a building that supplies the least amount of square feet per person (looking at the 30 largest communities in the state). We have less room per capita than Willow, Talkeetna, Tok, Craig, Barrow, Anchor Point, Sutton, Wrangell and 21 other towns.
How do we build a new library? With public support and public comment. You know who to call. (And if you don't, we can find that information for you. We're a library - that's what we do.)

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Southeast literary talent

Pound for pound, we have a pretty hefty allotment of artistic and creative talent here in Southeast Alaska, and we have a new book on the shelf that showcases some of that talent. Tidal Echoes: UAS literary & arts journal 2008 features Ketchikan authors, illustrators, photographers and poets Peter Bolling, Rebecca Bowlen, Judy Christensen, Elizabeth Flom, Dawn Rauwolf, and MJ Turek. The featured writer of the collection is Nora Marks Dauenhauer, a Tlingit writer from Juneau whose works have been widely anthologized and who has spent the last 30 years working with traditional folklore and culture. The featured artist, Ray Troll, is well known to everyone in Ketchikan.
The pieces in this book are diverse and wide-ranging:brief stanzas of poetry, watercolors, short stories, reminiscences, and beautiful photos. Some of the subject matter deals with life in Alaska, and the Southeast in particular, but many of the pieces have broader themes of love, family, hopefulness and dreams. A long, lingering browse through this book will leave the reader impressed with the visions of their Southeast neighbors.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Fish On!

It's probably not a good idea to try and write about cookbooks during lunch time, but our new seafood cookbook looks so delicious I couldn't resist. Rick Stein's Complete Seafood: a step-by-step reference with over 150 recipes and 550 photographs is exactly what it says it is - a complete reference. Winner of the James Beard Foundation's Cookbook of the Year award, this is a beautifully illustrated guide to cooking with all possible types of seafood. Stein is from England, and the featured fish lean heavily on the Atlantic, but there's no reason you can't substitute Pacific Halibut for flounder, Ling Cod for True Cod, and prawns for langoustines.
The chapter on techniques is especially valuable. Stein shows you how to escallop salmon, salt cod, stir-fry shellfish, make gravlax, saute fresh herring roe, make bisque, shuck oysters and tenderize octopus . He even shows you (in lovely step-by-step color photographs) how to prepare sea urchins.
The recipes are grouped by fish type, so if you find a delicious-sounding recipe that uses an unobtainable fish, it's easy to figure out what would be an acceptable substitute. In fact, Stein often suggests alternative fish at the end of the recipe. Can't get monkfish for "Roast stuffed monkfish with saffron, lemon, tomato and capers"? Try using thick loin fillets from a cod. This is a wonderful cookbook well-suited for people who are busily stuffing their freezers with the ocean's bounty this summer.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

A Whole New Era

Well, this summer has seen a big policy change here at the Public Library: we now offer free Internet access to anyone over 14, regardless of whether or not they are a library cardholder. This dramatic (well, dramatic to us. We don't get out much) sea change was made possible for two reasons.
1. Due to low demand for our 2 word processors, we converted one of these stations to an Internet station, raising the number of our Internet-access computers up to a whopping 6. (For our year-round population the industry standard would be 9 computers, and in the summer it would be 14, but we don't have the space for that).
2. Last week we installed a self-reservation system to control our Internet access. No more waiting in line at the front desk, no more clipboard sign-up, no more having to ask the staff to start your machine for you. Now you can walk right up to our reservation kiosk next to the front desk and make your own appointment. You can even arrange Internet access for a specific time to suit your schedule! This system also allows visitors to reserve time on a dedicated, 15-minute Guest Terminal.
If you need help using our new system, or if you have any computer-related questions, we are still ready and available to assist.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

New music

We've just put a bunch of new CDs on the shelf, and there are a couple of them that have made a particular splash amongst the critics and 'those in the know'.
Back to Black is the US debut of British singer/songwriter Amy Winehouse. If your sole familiarity with Ms. Winehouse is from seeing the covers of the supermarket tabloids, then you should give this album a chance. She has a truly amazing voice, and when I was listening to this album I kept thinking "What year is this?". The sound is pure Motown, although the lyrics are definitely 21st century. (There is actually a parental advisory label on this for explicit lyrics, but I've heard worse.) The songs are mostly about the tragic realities of relationships and affairs, and she doesn't pull any punches. With its retro sound and modern themes, this album would appeal to a broad range of ages.
Radiohead created quite the buzz last fall when they allowed fans to pay what they wanted to download the band's newest release In Rainbows, creating an album that was technically free of charge. Since everyone on the Internet has an opinion, and is not shy about sharing it, there was a flurry of comments about innovation, sabotaging the record industry, download quality and caving to pressure. That's all in the past now, and listeners can sit down with the CD and focus on what should really matter: the music itself. It has received very good reviews and fans of Radiohead will be happy with this latest effort from a solid alternative rock band.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

You can't go back to Constantinople

We have the latest installment in an enjoyable mystery series about John, Lord Chamberlain for the Byzantine Emperor Justinian (sounds intriguing, doesn't it?). The latest book - Seven for a Secret - involves John investigating the murder of a girl from a mosaic. The mosaic just happens to be in his private study, and the somber-eyed girl in the picture has been his silent confidante for many years. When he encounters her on his morning walk, and then finds her battered corpse the next day, he is driven to find out more about her identity and her killer. There is a hefty dose of palace intrigue, Byzantine politics and the squalor of daily life in a city that has just been ravaged by plague. If you have not tried this series, written by the husband and wife team of Mary Reed and Eric Mayer, then I suggest starting with the first book: One for Sorrow. Their latest book assumes that the reader is familiar with the characters, their histories and their relationships not only with one another but with Justinian and his sinister Empress Theodora. Seven for a Secret might be confusing for someone plunging into the series cold, but this is definitely a set of books worth reading. The setting is wonderful, the lead characters are interesting and there are always a fair number of twists and turns to the plot. The series has a feel similar to that of Steven Saylor's Roma Sub Rosa series with Gordianus the Finder. If you enjoyed those classical Roman mysteries, you will certainly enjoy John the Lord Chamberlain.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Seth Kantner

His first book - Ordinary Wolves - received rave reviews and has been mentioned as one of the finest works to ever come out of Alaska. Readers were captivated by his descriptions of Bush Alaska, descriptions that would only sound authentic coming from someone who actually lives there and understands the lifestyle. Seth Kantner has just come out with a memoir of his life in the Arctic, growing up amongst bitter cold, caribou, a close family, and miles of untouched wilderness. Rather than a boring litany of dates, places and 'milestones', Shopping for Porcupines is actually a series of reminiscences - stories of playing with other children, learning how to hunt, trap and fish, raising his own family on the tundra, and the people he has met along the way. What really makes this book wonderful are the photographs. The one that struck me most was an image of the author - about 6 years old, I think - peeling bark off spruce slabs. I think Kantner's childhood must have been very similar to young boys 150 years ago. You grew up helping out, being part of the workings of the family, and your contributions were valuable. Dangers of the Arctic aside, it seems a remarkably healthy way to grow up.
We are very excited to have Mr. Kantner return to Ketchikan (he was here in February to talk about Ordinary Wolves). He will be giving a talk at 6:30 pm on Monday, June 9th, and in addition to his wonderful stories there will be glorious photographs to see. Due to anticipated turnout, this presentation will actually be held at the Ted Ferry Civic Center, rather than our tiny library where we are too cramped for space to host this event. So be sure to mark the time and place on your calendar, and come hear this fascinating, authentically Alaskan author.

Friday, June 6, 2008


We have a couple of new books on the shelf for anyone planning to spice up their home with a little remodeling.
Affordable Remodel: how to get custom results on any budget is by Fernando Pagés Ruiz. A builder who is also a frequent contributor to the magazine Fine Homebuilding, Ruiz explains a variety of ways you can give your home some beautiful customized features without spending a huge amount of money. If you are a DIY kind of person, you can accomplish most of these projects yourself. He covers planning your remodel, removing existing features, doors & windows, trim, kitchens, baths and exteriors. Of particular interest in this time of high fuel prices, he also devotes an entire chapter to making your home more energy-efficient by replacing aging heating, cooling, plumbing, electrical and ducting systems. If you want to have a warmer, more efficient home this winter, now is the time to do your refit. And this is a great way to start.
A more narrowly focused book for remodelers is The Sourcebook of Decorative Stone: an illustrated identification guide by Monica T. Price. Showcasing page after page of beautiful marble, granite, quartz and slate, this book is not for someone who is doing a little DIY on the cheap. Nobody on a strict budget is going to be importing sheets of marble from Greece for their ballroom. But if you're thinking about a new vanity for the bathroom, or a kitchen countertop, or a little splash of accent color somewhere, this book is perfect. The pictures are gorgeous - who knew there were so many types of stone? - and the examples of how the stone has been used in various European sites (the author is a geologist for the Oxford University Museum of Natural History) are very inspiring.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Avant-garde reads

We have a couple of new books that fall on the edge of the spectrum, but if you are open to something a little different, you should give them a try.

Bandersnatch, edited by Paul Tremblay and Sean Wallace is a collection of 12 very, very odd stories. There are no strong plots or standard dialogues in this anthology. Instead, you get a series of musings and mental images, paragraphs that seem like poetry in prose form, and an overall tone of darkness and foreboding. Above all, these stories have a surrealistic feel to them, almost as if they were the literary equivalent of a Salvador Dali painting. This book probably won't appeal to everyone, but are worth the time for an adventuresome reader.

Students for a Democratic Society: a graphic history seems a little tame in comparison to Bandersnatch, but it does involve some revolutionary characters. Part memoir, part history, the bulk of this book was written by legendary comic artist Harvey Pekar and drawn by Gary Dumm. The contributions by former SDS members were edited by Paul Buhle, who was the founding editor of the SDS journal Radical America. You're obviously not going to get an objective, academic perspective on SDS activities from a book with these credentials, but it was an important part of American history, and since the under-30 group seems to gravitate easily towards graphic novels, its an enjoyable way to learn more about where their parents are coming from.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Off to college....

Graduation is over, and before you know it your son or daughter will be trying to squeeze all their belongings into two pieces of luggage as they prepare to head off to college. Charging up the cell phone and purchasing enough underwear to last them an entire month (no laundry!) is important, but we have a new book on the shelves that covers the really vital college preparations. Protect Yourself at College, by Thomas M. Kane, explains all the important parts of college life that can become dangerous: hazing, alcohol & drugs, dating, cyber crime, dorm life and Spring Break. The idea of their 18-year-old let loose in a strange town with a pocket full of money and no supervision can make any parent's hair turn white, and this book is not going to allay those fears. In fact, it might make parents really nervous about their child's college experience. But the information is very important, and your child should at least hear some of the tips in this book. They shouldn't be too concerned about people surreptitiously filming up their skirt at the mall (c'mon, how often does that happen?), but they should know to keep their dorm room door locked and to not accept beverages handed to them by strangers at a party. Reading this book will not prevent your kids from taking risks at school (they're immortal teenagers, remember?), but somewhere in the back of their memory will be a little voice saying "I don't think you should walk across campus at midnight by yourself".

A warning note about this book: it's tone is somewhat sensational and it reads like those fearmongering 'investigative reports' you see on local news. You don't want to scare the pants off your kids (or yourself), so take the narrative with a grain of salt.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

A different tour of Britain

Great Britain is a hugely popular tourist destination, and the place if full of 'must-see' sights, packaged tours, and twee little villages. A new DVD on our shelves shows you a different way of seeing Britain, a way that seems especially attractive to our little boating community. Britain's Gentle Highway: a canal adventure in England, Scotland & Wales allows the viewer to accompany Fran and Brooke Reidelberger - an American couple - as they travel around the country in an adorable little travel barge. About the size of a large RV, and sporting the same amenities (bathroom, shower, bed, kitchenette), these housebarges can be rented by travelers for the week or month. Providing transportation and lodging (and meals, if you want to cook), this seems like a lovely way of tooling around Britain. You are confined to where the canals are, but according to the short historical introduction of this DVD, there are hundreds of miles of canals to explore.
This DVD is a bit mediocre (you might even consider watching it with the mute button on - the narrator consistently mispronounced the word 'quay'), with a little too much footage of ducks and swans, but the scenery is wonderful and it presents a truly unique way of seeing England, Scotland and Wales. The best thing about this DVD are the locks. Not the locks on the case, but the canal locks. There seems to be an innumerable number of configurations and designs for locks, and the most spectacular is the Falkirk Wheel in Scotland (in fact, it was the picture of this 21st-century engineering marvel that made me sit down and watch the DVD in the first place). Whether you are planning a trip to Great Britain, or you just love boating and engineering, this DVD can be very informative. And clocking in at 90 minutes, it covers a lot of territory at a leisurely pace - much like the canal boats it celebrates.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Kid-friendly gardens

I have a two-foot deep hole in my garden - the product of many hours of labor - that my daughter solemnly assures me is the way she and her friends are going to get to China (I don't know who first suggested to digging to China, since I doubt any of her friends could find the place on a map, but there you have it). Apparently, if you would like to make your yard and garden kid-friendly, sometimes the solution can be something as simple as giving them a patch of dirt to dig.
This is the message of our new book A Child's Garden: 60 ideas to make any garden come alive for children, by Molly Dannenmaier. She presents examples from around the world of interesting things you can do with your yard. Some of these are fairly elaborate - constructing tiny waterfalls, building treehouses, installing slides on your deck - but some of the ideas are so simple and easy you wonder that they hadn't already occurred to you. A big box of pine cones, hidey-holes made by plants (honeysuckle would work well in this climate), child-height peepholes in fences, their own little garden patch to water, even a pile of gravel to play with. Dannenmaier groups her suggestions by theme: water, creatures, dirt, refuges, heights, movement, make-believe, nurture, and learning. The nicest thing about this book is that it points out how inherently creative children are, and how much they love to explore. Grownups have a tendency to forget how easily entertained kids can be. You don't need a backhoe and a construction crew to make your garden fun for kids - you just need to give them a little room to play.