Archive for June, 2008

Prince of Asturias literary prize

Monday, June 30th, 2008

Canadian author Margaret Atwood has won Spain’s 2008 Prince of Asturias Award for Letters. Click here for information on The Prince of Asturias Foundation.

The Foundation website says of Margaret Atwood: “The leading figure in Canadian literature and one of the most outstanding voices of contemporary fiction, Margaret Atwood offers in her novels a politically committed, critical view of the world and contemporary society, while revealing extraordinary sensitivity in her copious poetical oeuvre, a genre which she cultivates with great skill.”

Margaret Atwood works available in the library:
Alias Grace
The Blind Assassin
Bluebeard’s Egg and Other Stories
Cat’s Eye
The Door
Good Bones and Simple Murders
The Handmaid’s Tale
Lady Oracle
Moral Disorder: Stories
Oryx and Crake
The Penelopiad
The Robber Bride

In Memoriam George Carlin

Monday, June 30th, 2008

Famed stand-up comedian George Carlin died earlier in the week. He was a counter-hero and creator of black comedy, which often deliberately crossed that invisible line of good taste.

On the news of George’s death many commentators rushed into print and onto the Web and the airwaves with obituaries and assessments of George’s work.

Why not check out some of his books and make your own assessment? These books of his are available at the Harford County Public Library:

When Will Jesus Bring the Pork Chops Find this book in our catalog
(also available as audio book and e-book)

Napalm & Silly Putty Find this book in our catalog

Brain Droppings Find this book in our catalog

Still Life with Elephant By Judy Reene Singer

Friday, June 27th, 2008

Well the summer is upon us and many of us are going to the beach. So here is a light beach read from the author Judy Reene Singer. This is her second novel after Horseplay. Still Life with Elephant is by turns humorous & sad.
Here’s what Publisher’s Weekly said of it.

From Publishers Weekly
Divorce is the elephant in the room for Singer’s second novel, following Horseplay. When social worker turned horse trainer Cornelia “Neelie” Sterling finds out her vet husband, Matt, is cheating on her, she throws him out, but can’t bear to make it legal. Faced with losing her house and barn, Neelie jumps aboard Matt’s mission to Zimbabwe to rescue two wounded elephants, thinking the transatlantic journey will convince him to recommit to the marriage. There, she finds behemoths in need of care—and the philanthropist who’s funding the trip. The secondaries lack texture, but Neelie’s misguided struggle rings true. (July)

This was the Abingdon book group selection for June. In general we found it entertaining. It was not as humorous as we had thought, but was quite poignant in places, with some reflections on the terrible treatment of elephants by poachers in Africa. The descriptions of Africa were very nicely done and helped the reader appreciate why Neelie would want to return there. The novel deals with her husband’s infidelity, horse training, elephant rescue, and the impact of a past tragedy on Neelie’s present life. The humor comes mainly from her inability to hear or comprehend a lot of what is said to her, causing many misunderstandings. Her husband tells her he is getting a collie to help with the lions – or so Neelie hears, but really he is getting a colleague to help with the clients. The colleague turns out to be the one who also helps him with his love life, and so the story begins.

See Ms. Singer’s website for her biography & other content.

One Maryland/One Book – Update

Wednesday, June 25th, 2008

The other day I posted Harford County Public Library’s news release about the library’s participation in the One Maryland/One Book program. Since the statewide announcement of the book to be read this fall, the title of which had been previously kept under wraps, HCPL has made a slight adjustment to its plans for the program.

Since the target audience for the selected book is adult readers, we will schedule another type of activity with the Boys & Girls Club. We will be working with several of our branches to coordinate adult book discussions of A Hope in the Unseen to take place in the fall.

The Secret Lives of the Kudzu Debutantes by Cathy Holton

Wednesday, June 25th, 2008

I just finished this book while I was on vacation and can recommend it for beach or poolside, particularly if you are somewhere in the South.
Following The Revenge of the Kudzu Debutants, this second installment in the lives of an independent group of women from Ithaca, Georgia, is the ideal fun beach read, “packed with authentic Southern flavor and characters as colorful as azaleas in full bloom,” according to the jacket notes. Nita, Lavone, and Eadie are fast friends from the time each was married to one of the three partners in the most prestigious law firm in town. Now the partnership and two of their marriages are dissolved, and the three friends are getting on with their lives, each having newly discovered her independence. As the book opens, however, each friend is facing anxieties and sadness. Nita is anxious about her impending marriage to a man thirteen years her junior, who makes some very risky financial decisions to prove himself to his new bride and her connections. Lavonne is lonely and longs for love despite her new slim figure and her business success. Eadie remains married to Trevor but feels neglected and indulges in an excess of alcohol and wild behavior, ignoring her own artistic gifts. At this most vulnerable time, Virginia Broadwell, grand dame of Ithaca and Nita’s ex-mother-in-law, sees her opportunity to exact her revenge on the three friends for their part in her own social and economic downfall in the wake of the scandal that ruined the law firm. Virginia hatches a devious plot, but hides secrets in her past that could prove her Achilles heel. Will the friends be able to pull together their wit, spirit, and gumption in order to derail Virginia’s scheme?
This is a fun read and it is also a very good picture of friendship among women. I thought the characters were very sympathetically and perceptively drawn, even the larger-than-life character of Virginia Broadwell. Her over-the-top persona provides a good bit of the comedy in the book, which is very funny in places. There is lots of sly observation of character and motive that makes people believable among all the characterizations. Perhaps the book makes you think how people can start to believe their own legends of themselves? Give the book a try and tell me what you think.

One Maryland/One Book Project – HCP Will Participate – Here’s How

Monday, June 9th, 2008

The Maryland Center for the Book is launching Maryland’s first-ever statewide community reading program. Various community organizations will partner with the Center for the Book and offer free programs in August, September or October 2008 related to the book A Hope in the Unseen: an American Odyssey from the Inner City to the Ivy League by Ron Suskind, its themes and topics.

The goal for the One Maryland/One Book Project is to bring diverse Marylanders together in a library, school, or community setting to generate conversations and share different perspectives on race by reading and discussing a common work of literature.

Harford County Public Library is partnering with the Boys & Girls Clubs of Harford County to bring a book-centered discussion to two of their locations – the Bel Air Unit and the Havre de Grace Unit. This will be followed up by a One Maryland/One Book Blog, where the teens can further their discussions, their readings and perhaps communicate with the author or Cedric Jennings.

HCPL will also sponsor a facilitated discussion open to the public at the Jarrettsville Branch on Saturday, October 18 at 2:00 pm. A staff member will be taking a course this summer to be trained as a professional facilitator to conduct these sessions.

On Saturday, June 14, at 11:00 am, The Maryland Center for the Book will launch One Maryland/One Book at the Enoch Pratt Central Library. Katie O’Malley, First Lady of Maryland Honorary Chairperson for the One Maryland/One Book Project, will host the celebration, and the subject of the book, Cedric Jennings, will be present as well.

Benjamin Franklin Awards and ForeWord’s Book of the Year

Thursday, June 5th, 2008

Announced in a ceremony on May 29: The Benjamin Franklin Awards for 2008. Given by The Independent Book Publishers’ Association and named in honor of America’s most cherished publisher/printer, the Benjamin Franklin Awards™ recognizes excellence in independent publishing.

Publications, grouped by genre are judged on editorial and design merit by top practitioners in each field. The winners are listed here.

ForeWord magazine has announced its 10th annual Book of the Year Awards. Some 210 winners were selected in a range of categories by booksellers and librarians. Click here for details.

Two other books won $1,500 Editor’s Choice Awards:
* Fiction: The Other Press for The Folded World by Amity Gaige
* Nonfiction: Gibbs Smith for Women of Courage: Intimate Stories from
Afghanistan by Katherine Kiviat and Scott Heidler

Choosing Civility: the Twenty-Five Rules of Considerate Conduct by P. M. Forni

Wednesday, June 4th, 2008

Find this book in our catalog.
Dr. Forni teaches civility and Italian literature at Johns Hopkins University and was the co-founder of the Johns Hopkins Civility Project (1997-2000). He now directs The Civility Initiative at Johns Hopkins. I was recommended Choosing Civility at a business and professional networking training and again at the Maryland Library Association annual conference, at which Dr. Forni was the keynote speaker. I am so glad I read this book!

I recommend Choosing Civility for business professionals and to all walks of life, to young and old, to people who already value civility, and to those who are suspicious of civility as something outdated, restrictive, elitist, or hypocritical. This book is of immense value to anyone who is interested in connecting effectively and happily with others.

In Choosing Civility Dr. Forni explains why this connection is essential to us all, though the book’s focus is America. Dr. Forni examines some social influences on current American manners, which are just one part of civility. Though American social interactions are perhaps more informal than those in Europe, Dr. Forni acknowledges a tradition in America of democracy which encourages a respect for others, one of the behaviors which fosters civility. Dr. Forni avoids broad labels; instead he focuses on behaviors. His book is a pleasure throughout and reads like a courteous conversation with a mentor.

Part One of the book explains what civility is and why it is essential to us all. Most important for a happy and successful life are our relationships with others. Civility ensures these relationships are positive and rewarding. Civility is not a sign of weakness, and is practiced by the self-confident, not the subservient. Civility is not out-dated, but has been transformed in the 21st century by an increased value placed by society on self-esteem. Self-esteem, however, is not self-centeredness. Civility is practiced by those who understand self-restraint, and stems from a genuine concern to treat others as one would like to be treated.

Part Two explains the twenty-five rules, most of which one feels one knows. There is no sense of boredom, however, nor a sense of complacency. The plentiful examples give food for thought and things to practice. Part Three explains why we as a society are rude and what we can do to at the personal level, taking responsibility to eradicate the causes of rudeness from our lives.

As Dr. Forni says:
“Just about the most important thing we do is interacting with other human beings. Shouldn’t improving the quality of this interaction be at the top of our agendas? Being civil in our every-day lives is a time-tested way to bring about such improvement. A better quality of human interaction makes for a better life – a saner, more meaningful, healthier, and happier life. It is that simple. It really is that simple. All we have to do is stop, think about it, and then act. The sooner the better.”

Cokie Roberts named “Living Legend”

Wednesday, June 4th, 2008

Congratulations to Cokie Roberts! On April 12th Roberts was honored as a “Living Legend” by the Library of Congress. This award is selected by the Library’s curators and subject specialists to honor artists, writers, activists, filmmakers, physicians, entertainers, sports figures, and public servants who have made significant contributions to America’s diverse cultural, scientific, and social heritage. This information is from a HarperCollins newsletter. Click here for more information.

Also honored: race car driver Mario Andretti, civil rights activist Julian Bond, musician Herbie Hancock, historian David McCullough, baseball player/manager Frank Robinson and TV newsman Bob Schieffer.

Ms. Roberts’ latest best seller is Ladies of Liberty: The Women Who Shaped Our Nation. Find this book in our catalog.

Summary from our catalog:
“In Ladies of Liberty, Cokie Roberts presents biographical portraits and behind-the-scenes vignettes chronicling women’s public roles and private responsibilities.” “Recounted and drawing on personal correspondence, private journals, and other primary sources – many of them previously unpublished – Roberts brings to life the extraordinary accomplishments of women who laid the groundwork for a better society. Almost every quotation here is written by a woman, to a woman, or about a woman. From first ladies to freethinkers, educators to explorers, this exceptional group includes Abigail Adams, Margaret Bayard Smith, Martha Jefferson, Dolley Madison, Elizabeth Monroe, Louisa Catherine Adams, Eliza Hamilton, Theodosia Burr, Rebecca Gratz, Louisa Livingston, Rosalie Calvert, Sacajawea, and others. Roberts gives these ladies of liberty the recognition they so greatly deserve.”

Historical True Crime

Wednesday, June 4th, 2008

On May 22 I blogged about The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher, a true crime story of a murder of a four-year-old child that happened in Wiltshire, England, in 1860 and which enthralled the popular press for over a year. Find this book in our catalog

This morning I saw a short article from Library Journal 6/2/08 by Neal Wyatt. Neal is a collection development and reader’s advisory librarian from Virginia. Neal was recommending other historical true crime stories for summer reading. They included:

The Forger’s Spell: A True Story of Vermeer, Nazis, and the Greatest Art Hoax of the Twentieth Century by Edward Dolnick Find this book in our catalog

The Monster of Florence by Douglas Preston with Mario Spezi Find this book in our catalog

The Baby Thief: The Untold Story of Georgia Tann, the Baby Seller Who Corrupted Adoption by Barbara Bisantz Raymond Find this book in our catalog