Monday, January 25, 2010

Twelve: This Book is Overdue - Marilyn Johnson

Show me a computer expert who gives a damn, and I"ll show you a librarian - Patricia Wilson Berger, former ALA president

Marilyn Johnson became fascinated with librarians while researching her first book about obituaries. She learned about Frederick Kilgour creator of OCLC & WorldCat, Judith Krug who ran the Office for Intellectual Freedom and started Banned Books Week and Henriette Avrain who automated library records at the Library of Congress and created the structure of MARC records.

Marilyn takes the reader through many different adventures - from a catalog migration at the Westchester Public Libraries, to the interworkings of the NYPL, to a review of the library blogs to how four librarians stood up for their patrons against the Patriot Act.

As a librarian, it was interesting to see how an "outsider" viewed my profession and others within that profession. As a writer and lover of books, she fit a profile that uses and appreciates her local librarians. I started this book on the plane ride back from a library conference I attended in Boston. It was cool to read about some modern day librarians that I had just met or read about.

I'll leave you with a few quotes from the book that caught my eye.

This is the greatest and most fraught romance of modern society, the marriage between the IT staff and those who depend on them.
Imagine activists around the world, wired to each other and to the world's information resources, each capable of measuring the impact of drought or tracking the efficacy of a prenatal clinic.
As a rule, librarians cultivate a professionalism that projects sexual neutrality, which permits them to guard their trove of both innocent and risque books from a position of high-minded principle and also helps keep the stalkers at bay.

Eleven: Julie & Julia - Julie Powell

If I wanted to learn to cook, I just cook my way through Mastering the Art of French Cooking. - Julie Powell, August 25, 2002.
Julie Powell, a secretary at a government agency one night randomly picks up the ingredients for potage parmentier from Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking, or MtAoFC for short. After eating dinner, Julie makes the statement above to her husband and The Julie/Julia Project is started - she will attempt to cook through the MtAoFC and blog about her experience.

A few years later, Julie turned that blog into a bestselling book (and movie). She intertwines letters & memories of Paul Child with her own account of cooking Julia's recipes and how her family and friends reacted to her project. While cooking through chapters of egg recipes and crepe recipes, Julie and Eric - her husband - explore New York city to find marrowbones, fresh lobsters, and a whole duck.

Along the way, Julie almost calls it quits on day 221 due to some unexpected results on a cauliflower and watercress side dish. The next day she tried that recipe and the main dish recipe again and continued the project. Slowly her project gets more press. CBS follows her around for a segment. Amanda Hesser from the New York Times writes an article about her. With six days left to go, Julie appears on CNNfn with a cake covered in three different icings.

This book was not the first time I have read a book based on successful blog. I thought Julie's style was refreshingly honest - tell it as it was. I had the pleasure of hearing Julie talk two weeks ago at a library conference I attended in Boston. I'm anxious to read her latest book and rent the movie version of this book. I've also decided to make an effort to cook through the recipes I've pulled out of many magazines over the past couple of years.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Ten - Churchgoers

I didn't know quite what to expect with this book. The short description on the back of the cover did not tell me what direction it was going to go in.

The book takes place in a college town and focuses around the Campus Church building where both a traditional protestant congregation comes to worship as well as a more radical holy spirit lifting group rents space there as well. There is a push and pull between the leaders of the two groups regarding setup and cleanup of the main sanctuary.

Mitchell Chandler, a well-known professor at the University, gives a talk at the Campus Church about his groundbreaking work. His father Austin Chandler, the dean of one of the schools at the University, comes to Campus Church weekly for a SensesAlive! class. Randy & Lee Overmeyer lead the Spirit Arising parish at Campus Church after falling in love in Dallas many years ago. They are trying to raise money for a new sanctuary, but "the spirit" has left the parish and attendance has drifted. Vera and Walter are two retirees who are the last ones of their friends still living on their original street in town. Walter wants to move to the retirement home, but Vera wants to stay put.

Demons "invade" Mitchell's body and nearly cause him to lose his laboratory and his family. Randy & Lee help exorcise the demons out of his body and fill him with the Holy Spirit. Suddenly the parish of Spirit Arising is growing and the future is looking brighter. Vera and Walter decide that moving into the retirement home makes sense and begin preparations. Austin Chandler ends up tripping on the bleachers at a high school football game and passes away. Mitchell reconcils with his family and they begin to attend services together at the Campus Church.

I'm not sure what to think of this book. While its a good picture of a college town life and how different generations and view points interact together, I didn't quite follow the plot throughout the middle of the book. The brother of Mitchell was given two chapters within the book - but not until the last 50 pages. I didn't see why that character wasn't developed to the same level of detail as the others. Also when the "demons" invaded Mitchell's body - I didn't quite get what was happening to him. I expected the book to be more about church life and the interactions of the staff and parishners, but that angle was limited within this book.

Nine - The Shadow Year

***Full disclosure: This book was provided for free by Harper Collins ***

Long Island - 1960s - end of the summer - two brothers are getting ready for school to start again. One night they hear a woman scream so loud that night opens wide enough for "the shadow year" to slip in.

A prowler is said to be in the neighborhood. The boys, their sister Mary and their dog George investigate and track clues. They find a shoe print and save it in a shoebox for the police. Jim - the older of the two boys - has a replica of their town - which they call Botch Town - in their basement. He sets up a prowler figure within the neighborhood. As more sitings occur, the boys track the prowler's movement. Soon they come to realize that their "crazy" sister Mary is moving the figurines within Botch Town the same way as incidents are happening in real life.

As the school year continues, the boys keep investigating more and more strange events. They also investigate a man dressed in all white, who smokes a pipe and drives a white car. They call him "Mr. White." Mr. White follows the main character (whose name is never given!) around the town - very creepily. At one point, Mr. White attacks the main character in an alley, but is stopped by the boy's grandfather.

The boys befriend an older neighborhood boy - Ray - who has been following Mr. White around town to make sure this creepy guy doesn't hurt any other townsfolk. Mr. White is suspected of killing a young boy Charlie and an older neighborhood man Mr. Barzita. Eventually with the help of Ray - who turns out to be a ghost - the boys trap Mr. White in a courtyard that has no exits. The police come and arrest him and slowly and the shadow year disappears.

This book was kinda Stephen King like. The Mr. White character definite was described so well that I could feel his creepiness oozing out of the book. I was originally interested in this book due to a post on the Library Love Fest blog after the author won a World's Fantasy Award for the book. Definitely fantasy is not my first choice, but it was interesting to read the sequence of events from a sixth grade boy's point of view. The prose was easy to read and I finished this book in just two days.

Eight - The Man Who Loved Books Too Much

One of the perks of working at NPR is getting to peruse the give-away shelves around the building. This book was found on the give-away shelf by my colleague Beth and given to me.

I must admit that the premise of the book sounded really interesting. Book thief seems like a fascinating occupation to me. After reading this book, I realized that low-tech book thief is still very possible in this high-tech world. Although the main technique that John Gilkey used - taking credit card numbers from receipts - probably could not work today. But back in the late 90s - early '00s that technique worked - especially if you were setting up store credit cards with them.

Allison Hoover Bartlett decided to research book thief in more detail after a friend gave her a German plant book that was clearly stolen from a library. Allison's main guide through the book thief world is self proclaimed "bibliodick" Ken Sanders. Ken owns a rare book shop in Utah and was the volunteer security chair of the Antiquarian Booksellers' Association of America (ABAA). Ken and other rare book dealers share stories of thief - famous and infamous - with Allison (and the readers).

Allison interviews Gilkey in jail and out of jail about his methods and reasonings for wanting to steal books. Gilkey becomes "attached" to Allison and one time visits a rare book store with her that he once stole from. He brags openly about his book knowledge and other things in front of the owner - just daring him to throw them out. At one point Allison asked Gilkey if he was concerned about the reprecussions that might occur once the book came out. Gilkey just kept coming up with more and more ideas of how the book could end and what acts he would pull off to create a "special" ending.

The first 100 pages of the book are quite boring and I struggled to keep reading the tale. The second 100 pages went much quicker because they detailed the cat-and-mouse game that Sanders and Gilkey did before Gilkey was eventually caught.

Check out an interview with Ken Sanders and Allison Hoover Bartlett produced by Howard Berkes, NPR's rural correspondent.