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.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Can you see it?

There is no image as difficult to decipher and as laboriously studied as that of an fetal ultrasound. Every expectant parent, regardless of experience, peers intently at the screen trying to tell the difference between the hand, the leg and the backside. But this is the first fuzzy sight of your new child and you want so much to see something. Your Developing Baby: conception to birth is a wonderful resource for helping to understand ultrasound images, how they're used and what they mean. Written by two professors of radiology from Harvard Medical School (Drs. Peter M. Doubilet and Carol B. Benson), this book has hundreds of ultrasound images that are accompanied by extremely useful diagrams outlining what each blob and shadow means (sorry, but they all look like blobs and shadows to me). The book also illustrates how amniocentesis and chorionic villi sampling are done, how to tell the difference (in utero) between fraternal and identical twins, how triplets space themselves within the uterus, and what an ectopic pregnancy looks like. Most parents will enjoy seeing the pictures of babies at different stages of development, comparing these images to their own unborn child and imagining what their newest family member will look like. This is sure to be a must-read book for any expectant parent (or grandparent).

Friday, September 5, 2008

Travel: funny, enlightening, and a tad scary

Since I don't travel much (Seattle doesn't really count, now does it...) I always get a vicarious thrill from reading the travel accounts of others. As a genre, travel books can actually take on quite a wide variety of forms.
Funny: Having slogged away a few years in the islands of the Pacific (The Sex Lives of Cannibals and Getting Stoned With Savages), J. Maarten Troost now turns his bemused attention to the largest nation on Earth - China. Lost on Planet China: the strange and true story of on man's attempt to understand the world's most mystifying nation is another droll story of Troost's attempt to fit his modern American slacker soul into an entirely different culture.
Enlightening: Tony Horowitz is a Pulitzer-prize winning journalist and the author of the bestselling Blue Latitudes: boldly going where Captain Cook has gone before. Recently made aware of his (and most Americans') ignorance of North American exploration between Columbus and the Pilgrims, he decides to travel around the continent following the footsteps of 16th century Europeans. A Voyage Long and Strange: rediscovering the new world is a great example of literary nonfiction - you are completely entertained as you learn all sorts of new things.
A Tad Scary: An absolutely complete, all-encompassing, soup-to-nuts guide for anyone who is going to travel anywhere, Peter Greenberg's The Complete Travel Detective Bible is also a little frightening. No dab hand at domestic travel myself, I usually find the process uncomfortable but uneventful. After leafing through 600 pages of topics such as no-fly lists, medical evacuations, airline bankruptcy, and passport security, I feel like I never want to get on a plane again. That being said, this book is an amazing resource for travelers. Did you know that there are such things as pregnancy spas, frequent-flier miles for pets, and sleep concierges? If you're looking for pet-friendly hotels, DIY bike tours, visa requirements, or nudist travel opportunities, this is the book for you. Just bring your St. Christopher's medal along.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Free Music Downloads!

No, it's not Napster run amok. There's no LimeWire necessary. Instead, Ketchikan Public Library patrons now have access to over 670 albums through our wonderful ListenAlaska system. Choose from an array of blues, rock, folk, jazz, classical, children's, opera, pop, electronica, and choral music. Popular artists such as Hound Dog Taylor, Barenaked Ladies, Dar Williams, Buddy Guy and Laura Nyro can all be found in this new collection. Even better, you can discover some new and unknown talents and experiment with some different musical tastes, because this system is so easy to use and it is entirely free!
Each title comes with a playlist, a link to other albums by the artist, and an excerpt you can listen to 'on the fly' - so that you can try it out before you check it out. In addition to being able to listen to these albums on your computer, you can also transfer them to any OverDrive compatible device. Some of the selections can even be burned onto a CD or transferred to an iPod.
What's that - an iPod? Yes, indeedy....not only do we have free music available online, but we now offer over 400 audiobooks that are compatible with any portable music device including iPods!. Just look for the OverDrive mp3 format. (A couple of small caveats: you need to download the 3.0 version of the OverDrive media console in order to use the mp3 format - the link is available at the bottom of the left side menu. Another thing to consider is that the mp3 files are about twice the size of the traditional WMA files, which means they will take twice as long to download. This isn't a problem, just something to take into account when you schedule your downloading.) The world is once again your oyster, iPod users! Download and listen to audiobooks anytime of the day or night, from anywhere in the world. How's that for library service?

Wednesday, September 3, 2008


People are becoming more and more aware of their impact on the planet and the impact of modern living upon themselves. Health concerns about environmental toxins, lead-laden toys, and food safety share equal space in the newspaper with warnings about climate change, disappearing wilderness and swelling landfills. There are two new books on the shelf that help people apply their growing concern for the environment to those who are most endangered: our children.
Growing Up Green!: baby and child care is a guide to raising children in an environmentally responsible - and safe - way. Written by Deidre Imus and backed up by 18 medical experts (including popular health guru Dr. Mehmet Oz), this book tackles issues such as vaccine safety, what plastics to avoid, buying safe toys, eating properly during pregnancy, and shopping for 'green' school supplies. With so many concerns about phthalates, lead, mercury and bisphenol A, it's nice to have a guide that clearly explains what to look for and how to keep these chemicals out of your kids' lives. Imus also discusses ways to keep your kids fit and fed with healthy foods, how to get involved in local environmental issues, and how to keep your schools, playgrounds and yards safe for children.
I Love Dirt! 52 activities to help you & your kids discover the wonders of nature is a great way to get your family out of the house and into the world. Author Jennifer Ward offers a variety of fun and easy activities for young children. Each activity is designed to get your child (and you) to experience the plants and animals around you. Even something as simple as puddle jumping is an opportunity to get your child thinking about the natural world and how they fit in with everything else. This is also a wonderful way to get your family out into the fresh air for a little exercise. Take this book home and get many fun ideas for nurturing little adventurers.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Mature beauty

Every time you go to the grocery store, the magazines at the check-out stand promise to make you beautiful and alluring with simple style and makeup tips. Unfortunately, most of these tips (and the models) are aimed at women in their 20's. But as many a woman has sadly discovered, what looks good on a 24-year-old looks plain silly on someone who's 60 ("mutton dressed as lamb", as my great-grandmother would say).
That does not mean that middle-aged women can't look good and feel good about themselves. It just takes a different approach to hair, clothes and makeup: an approach designed to flatter your attributes and play down any less desirable features. With Staging Your Comeback: a complete beauty revival for women over 45, makeup artist Christopher Hitchens ("The Makeover Guy" - as seen on Oprah) shows you how to determine your personal image - classic, casual, romantic, etc. - and also how to figure out your body type. He then shows you how to take the body you have and project the woman you want to be, by skillful application of makeup, adventurous hairstyles, and careful choice of clothing. He finishes things off with 12 makeovers of women ages 48-69, and you wouldn't recognize the women after their transformation. This is an inspiring book for any woman who has looked in the mirror and thought "I don't feel as old as I look".