Monday, December 1, 2008

100 Notable Books of 2008

Have a little time to read?

Need to buy some Christmas gifts?

Follow the link below to discover outstanding fiction/nonfiction/poetry suggestions from the New York Times.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Neil Gaiman's "Anansi Boys"

From Publisher's Weekly:

""Fat Charlie" Nancy leads a life of comfortable workaholism in London, with a stressful agenting job he doesn't much like, and a pleasant fiancée, Rosie. When Charlie learns of the death of his estranged father in Florida, he attends the funeral and learns two facts that turn his well-ordered existence upside-down: that his father was a human form of Anansi, the African trickster god, and that he has a brother, Spider, who has inherited some of their father's godlike abilities. Spider comes to visit Charlie and gets him fired from his job, steals his fiancée, and is instrumental in having him arrested for embezzlement and suspected of murder. When Charlie resorts to magic to get rid of Spider, who's selfish and unthinking rather than evil, things begin to go very badly for just about everyone. Other characters...are expertly woven into Gaiman's rich myth, which plays off the African folk tales in which Anansi stars. But it's Gaiman's focus on Charlie and Charlie's attempts to return to normalcy that make the story so winning—along with gleeful, hurtling prose."
I've long loved Anansi stories. If you can suspend disbelief for a while, you'll be rewarded with a wonderful story. Charlie and Spider discover how intertwined their gifts are and how balanced their lives can be if they work together. It all starts with a song and it ends with a song.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln

Join the Friends of the High Library Book Club as they delve into Doris Kearns Goodwin's exploration of Lincoln's political genius. They meet on Wednesday, Sept. 24th at 7 pm in the Library Conference Room on the entrance level of the library.
Historian Goodwin took ten years to complete this work. She examines the leadership style of Lincoln as he worked with William H. Seward as secretary of state, Salmon P. Chase as secretary of the treasury and Edward Bates as attorney general. Each of these men were Lincoln's opponents for the Republican nomination in 1860. Lincoln turned personal and political competitors into allies for the sake of the greater good.

Come join the Friends and share your insights.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Heartbreaking book that will lift your soul and spirit...

Why did I survive? Immaculee Ilibagiza's soul-wrenching work about the 1992 Rwandan genocide is the author's answer to the question she asks herself and us throughout ... she was left to tell. And tell she does - in this heart-breaking, honest, naked, and portrait of a nightmare. Immaculee was one of seven Tutsis women hidden during the genocide in a small bathroom of a pastor's home. Time and again we come to realize that survival for these women was nothing short of a miracle. For Immaculee, her imprisonment within the bathroom cell only serves to empower her belief in God and the ultimate goodness and redemption of man. Her act of forgiveness when meeting face to face with the man who ordered her family to be butchered in the streets, is beyond words. Immaculee's closing words are haunting in their overpowering truth that the genocide which inflicted so much pain and suffering in Rwanda, was really a crime which inflicted suffering on us all. To read this book brings us much much closer to this truth and how we act against such crimes of humanity in the future.

"Is Google making us Stoopid?" by Nicholas Carr

"Is Google making us Stoopid? What the Internet is doing to our brains." by Nicholas Carr.
Atlantic Monthly. July/August 2008. 302:1 56-63.

  • Having trouble concentrating?

  • How's your memory?

  • Do you want only the main points?

  • Is your writing style more telegraphic than ever?

This fascinating article begins with the author's observation that his brain has changed over the past ten years. He compares his experiences with those of his colleagues, who anecdotally note that they have difficulty concentrating for extended periods of time and that the duration of comfortably reading has shrunk considerably. Although people read more today, particularly text messages and web pages, the amount of "deep reading" has declined.

Brains can be affected by technology. Carr notes that Nietzsche's writing changed as his vision failed and as he moved to writing with a typewriter. His writing became even terser. Analogously, clocks changed the way that people interacted with time. Instead of people deciding when to eat, sleep, and work using their bodily senses, clocks became the dominant technological way to organize personal activities.

The appearance of the printing press led to concerns about the undermining of religious authority, intellectual laziness and weakening minds, and the spread of sedition and dabauchery. In some people's minds, those predictions have come true. However, there are many benefits to the populace from the easy availability of the printed word.

I'm in a public service job where interruptions are constant. Add to that the break in focused work by email. An attention span which once could last for several hours has dwindled to several minutes. I worry that my problem solving abilities are deteriorating. My writing skills have declined immensely as has my vocabulary over the past few years. I'm hooked on young adult literature--I could say that it was related to the ages of my children, but is that true? My memory is only minimally better than that of my 80 year old aunt. I don't have to use my memory anymore, because I can look up whatever I need on Google!

What are your experiences?

What do you think of the Carr's analysis of the impact of Google on our brains?

From on-campus you can read the article here:

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Guests of the Sheik: An Ethnography of an Iraqi Village

Curious about the life of Muslim women in the 1950's in Iraq? Trained as a journalist, Elizabeth Warnock Fernea travels with her anthropologist husband to a conservative Shiite village of El Nahra. She involves herself in the daily lives of the village women. For a year and a half, she lives as the native women do, in purdah, veiled from head to foot.
Check it out at the High Library!
915.67 F364g

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Bill on Will ...

I'll make this brief as well ... I LOVE Bill Bryson! I will read anything this author puts out, and he has never failed to surprise and enlighten. I was pleasantly amused to find that Bill's latest book is on the Bard himself. Bryson is himself an ex-pat now living quietly in the England he so loving explored in Notes from a Small Island. Loving the UK as he does, it is no surprise that he turns his attention and pen to the life of William Shakespeare. This is a nice, neat addition to the Eminent Lives Series - and thankfully the Bryson wit, wisdom and tenacity for the facts are all here.

Admittedly, this is a very brief book as we know very little about Shakespeare, which it seems would best be spelled Shakspere if we were in keeping with what we do know of the man. Bryson gives us wonderful detail about Elizabethan London - a place of plague, pestilence and wonderful theatre! Bill does a magnificent job of countering the anti-Stratford arguements that Will in one man did not exist. It is great fun and I offer that this is the perfect book to read if you little time and wish to learn a great deal about a great man who we happen to know nearly nothing about!