Friends! Romans! Readers!

Lend me your ears!

OK, maybe not that funny but I couldn’t resist. It’s time for a halfway check of the first month of the 2017 Online Reading Challenge – how are you doing with this month’s reading?

I have to admit, I haven’t found any books that really grab my interest. If you are a fan of ancient Rome you will find no shortage of books to read – mysteries, romances, fiction all abound in what is obviously a very popular historical time period. While many of these titles are well worth reading, none of them grabbed me, so I took a different route and watched a movie instead. (And that’s not cheating, remember – movies and non-fiction are allowed! Also, no such thing as Library Police.)

I picked a classic, where the city of Rome is as much of a star as the actors – Roman Holiday starring a luminescent Audrey Hepburn and ruggedly handsome Gregory Peck (and co-starring Eddie Albert, who I only remember from watching reruns of Green Acres!) Directed by William Wyler and with costumes by Edith Head, the movie is a call back to the golden age of Hollywood. It’s also the movie that made Hepburn a star and earned her an Academy Award at the age of 24.

Filmed entirely in Rome in 1953, the movie follows a young Princess Ann (Hepburn) who slips away from her gilded cage to have some fun before her royal duties completely take over her life. She meets up with American journalist Joe Bradley (Peck) who, realizing who she is, offers to show her around the city. He is, of course, hoping for an exclusive story but instead finds himself falling in love. Set against some of the most beautiful landmarks of Rome – the Spanish Steps, the Trevi Fountain and the Colosseum (both inside and out) – the couple (trailed by Joe’s friend Irving (Albert) who is taking pictures of the princess on the sly) enjoy an idyllic day including coffee at a sidewalk cafe, a wild Vespa ride through the twisting streets of the city and a dance party on a barge on the Tiber River. It has all the elements of a romantic comedy, set in one of the most romantic cities in the world.

Although I was surprised by the ending, I enjoyed this movie a lot. Despite the picture on the DVD case, the movie is in black and white and you really do feel like you’re stepping back in time. The stunts and lack of fancy CGI might have made it seem awkward and forced, but instead its charm and heart make it a joy to watch.

So tell me – what have you been reading (listening to, watching) this month?

Do You Hygge?

And no, that wasn’t a rude question! But what exactly is hygge and how does one participate?

The word hygge has been showing up on social media and blogs a lot lately. It’s a funny looking word to those of us unfamiliar with it, but it describes a concept that is common in the Nordic countries. A Danish/Norwegian word, hygge (pronounce “hoo-ga”) roughly translates as “a feeling of coziness” and includes connecting with friends and family in meaningful ways, finding pleasure in simple things and embracing the outdoors. Maybe because countries like Finland and Norway and Sweden endure long, cold winters and brief summers, the people living there have learned to find the beautiful in everything.

How to Hygge : the Nordic Secrets to a Happy Life by Signe Johansen is a lovely book that will inspire you to pare down, embrace nature and paint all of your furniture white. OK, maybe not the last one so much (although I’m tempted…), but the calm, harmonious atmosphere presented here is the stuff of dreams. So can Americans, with our loud, boisterous ways, find a way to hygge? It might not be for everyone, but How to Hygge will give you a reasonable chance to succeed.

A big chunk of the book is taken up with recipes and although I’m not much of a cook, most of them seem straightforward and simple with a strong emphasis on seafood and fish (to be expected from a part of the world so closely associated with the sea) Meals are healthy and emphasize fresh ingredients, but there are no calorie counts or grams of fat written out – the idea is to enjoy thoughtfully prepared, delicious food, especially with friends and there is no guilt in enjoying treats. There’s also a nice selection of drinks and cocktails and a section of muffins and cakes for “fika” – break time during the work day similar to English tea time or German “kaffe and kuchen” (a tradition I think we need to get started here in America – who’s with me?) There are also chapters on being physically active, preferably outdoors no matter what the weather (“there is no bad weather, only poor clothing choices”) and home design that is clean and simple and calm.

Surround yourself with beauty, with ease, with simplicity, with nature and with good food shared between family and friends. And candles. Lots and lots of candles. Sounds like a pretty good formula for a life well lived, doesn’t it?

If the idea of paring down and simplifying your life appeals to you (and it’s been a hot topic the past couple of years), you might want to take a look at some of these titles:

The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo and her follow-up title Spark Joy. These books have had their share of controversy caused by the extreme example of tidiness that is presented. Believers swear by how effective the program is; skeptics just want to take a nap on the couch.

The Curated Closet: a Simple System for Discovering your Personal Style and Building your Dream Wardrobe by Anuschka Rees. Inspired by the movement to build a capsule wardrobe (where you have a set number of clothes – usually 30-35 – to wear for the season), this book helps you save money and reduce stress (time for an extra cup of coffee in the morning when you don’t have to try on three outfits each morning. Or is that just me?!)

The Joy of Less: a Minimalist Guide to Declutter, Organize and Simplify by Francine Jay. The title says it all and you’ve probably heard it all before, but this book presents it beautifully with a clean, simple layout and lots of encouragement.

And if you really want to get into minimalism or are simply fascinated by the extremes that other people will go to – similar to watching the Ironman on tv (again, is that just me?!), I suggest watching YouTube videos by Light by Coco (who is Danish btw) and Jenny Mustard (who is Swedish). They both seem like really cool people and it’s always interesting to see what color eye shadow Jenny will wear next.

Go now people, and simplify. Skol!

 

Now Departing for: Rome

Hello and Welcome to the first month of the 2017 Online Reading Challenge!

This year we’re going to travel the world, “visiting” a new country or city each month, giving us a chance to experience a little of other cultures without the annoying airport security lines! Grab your passport (library card) and let’s take off!

Our first stop is Rome, a city that wears it’s ancient history proudly. Once the center of the known world, it remains a favorite for travelers and adventurers alike.

There is no shortage of books set in or about ancient Rome. Mystery lovers should take a look at the popular murder mysteries by Lindsey Davis or John Maddox Roberts. For fiction, try any of several titles by Colleen McCullough or Robert Harris.

If you’re looking for a travel guide, go to 914.563 where you’ll find information on Rome and Italy. For Roman history (and there’s lots of it!) look in 937.

There are lots of DVDs to try too – the HBO series Rome (caution: mature themes!) is spectacular or look for Gladiator or Ben Hur. I, Claudius, an older PBS series has minimal production values (in sharp contrast to modern films) but the acting and story lines are amazing and you’ll be hooked immediately.

For more contemporary setting, try Stuart Woods Foreign Affairs or The Imperfectionists by Tom Rachman. You might also check out the movie When in Rome, a romantic comedy. And there’s always Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code (and yes, I know it’s mostly set in the Vatican but I’m still counting it). Remember, there are no Library Police! If you would prefer to read something set in Italy, or only a bit in Rome, go for it; it still counts!

As for me, I’m going to start by watching Roman Holiday with Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck. I’ve never seen this movie and figure it’s high time I fixed that. I’m also going to see about reading a book set in Rome – I’ll let you know how that goes.

Now, what about you? What are you going to read (or watch or listen to) this month?

Ciao!

Welcome to 2017!

Hello Readers and welcome to the New Year! The library is Closed today, but the Info Cafe blog is here with a little refresh for the new year. We’re also looking forward to some new features for 2017 including:

  • More in-depth stories and reviews from our bloggers. We’re going to talk more about what we love to read about and share that with you. In addition, we’ll talk about topics such publishing trends, how to use to technology to benefit your reading choices, some photo essays and maybe one or two book related crafts!
  • Soon (within the next few days) you’ll be able to sign up for our Newsletter! About once a month we’ll send a few highlights from the blog, updates on the Online Reading Challenge and any bookish news we think you might enjoy (such as forthcoming books). The first newsletter will arrive in early February – watch the blog for an announcement when sign-ups open.
  • The Online Reading Challenge is back for 2017 and launches tomorrow (January 3rd). This year we’re going global, “visiting” different countries and cities around the world through the magic of books. Click on the “DPL Online Reading Challenge – 2017”  above for more information and a complete list of locations.

2017 already looks pretty promising, doesn’t it? Join us again tomorrow when we begin our Reading Challenge for the year!

P.S. Ever have trouble finding the blog? Try bookmarking it in your favorites or adding it to your favorite RSS reader!

Online Reading Challenge – Year End Wrap-Up

Hello Fellow Readers!

We’ve come to the end of another year and the end of the 2016 Online Reading Challenge. I hope you tried something new and found and enjoyed books you might not have otherwise. The main goal of our Reading Challenge is to have fun while expanding our horizons.

Did you read any Holiday themed books this month? I have to confess, I didn’t succeed this month. I tried a couple of titles, but found them dreadful (nothing really wrong with them, just not my cup of tea) and, with all of the other activities going on in December, I didn’t have a lot of time for leisurely reading (I did manage to read – and loved – A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman which I blogged about earlier this month, so it wasn’t a complete wash) Some months are like that though and now that the holidays are (nearly) over, I’m looking forward to lots more reading time.

Speaking of more time to read, have you seen the news about the 2017 Reading Challenge? We’re going to travel the world, reading about a different location each month. This time I encourage you to read any genre you’d like including non-fiction, and to watch movies or listen to music. It’s a chance to not only find great new authors and titles, but an opportunity to get a taste of a different culture. Bookmarks listing the lineup for the year will be available at each Davenport Library location beginning January 3rd and I’ll have updates on the blog each month with suggestions and ideas. Also beginning in January you’ll have a chance to sign up for a great new feature, the Info Cafe newsletter! Every few weeks we’ll send out a short newsletter that will highlight some of the most interesting recent blog posts and keep you updated on the Reading Challenge. Watch for more information next week!

Happy New Year from the bloggers at the Info Cafe! May your 2017 be filled with lots of great reading!

 

Favorite Books of 2016, Part 3

OK folks, here’s the last installment of our bloggers favorite reads in 2016.

As mentioned earlier, Stephanie cheated and sent me a list of nine favorite titles. I picked two that looked especially interesting. The first is Love Lies and Spies by Cindy Anstey. Stephanie says “This young adult book takes place in the 19th century, but what appealed to me was that the main character, Juliana Telford, is not your typical “bow to the men and let them control my life” type of person. She is determined to get her scientific research published and if that meant she has to suffer through the London season, she’ll suck it up, but not form any attachments. Enter in Spencer Northam, a spy for the War Office and a gentleman who stumbles into Juliana’s company. He is more worried about his first mission than he is about meeting ladies to find a wife. This book cracked me up and had me wondering how Juliana and Spencer’s relationship with each other and their surrounding family and friends would really turn out.” 

Stephanie’s second choice is The Worrier’s Guide to Life by Gemma Correll which she blogged about earlier this year. Stephanie found that this book really hit home with her and did it with a lot of humor. “I am a perpetual worrier. If there’s a thing happening around me, I’m worrying about it. Gemma Correll’s graphic novel gave me advice and information (most-to-all of it ridiculous and frustrating, but incredibly funny) on how to deal with the many situations that leave me up all night worrying. Check this out to laugh your way through any horrifying situation.” Both titles sound intriguing, don’t they?

Finally, my 2016 pick is News of the World by Paulette Jiles which I blogged about last month. A compelling story line, dramatic landscape and vivid characters made this a story that is hard to forget. I loved Captain Kidd, his hard won wisdom, his unwavering belief in sticking to his principals and his compassion. I also loved the emphasis on education and knowledge. The books is based on real people and I found this slice of relatively unknown Western history fascinating.

So there you have it – some really excellent books, verified by our own in-house experts! What about you? What book did you read this year that stood above the rest? Please share in the comments – everyone loves a good book recommendation!

Favorite Books of 2016, Part 2

Here are more favorite books from our bloggers!

Brenda’s favorite has a great title: The Joy of Leaving your Sh*t All Over the Place: the Art of Being Messy by Jennifer McCartney. Brenda comments: I found this a hilarious answer to Marie Kondo’s Spark Joy. I almost breathed a sigh of relief to know that there are others out there who fail at de-cluttering and still manage to do all right at this thing called life.”

Lynn has chosen the fiction book We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler. Lynn explains “Rosemary tells the story of how she was raised to consider a chimpanzee her sister till there were both 5 years old and how it affected herself and her brother for the rest of their lives. The book is dense with insights into animal and human behavior and the protocols of scientific studies. Fowler causes you to feel such empathy for Fern, the sister who was a chimpanzee, that you’ll never look at non-human primates the same way again.”

There’s one more best books installment, heading your way tomorrow!

Favorite Books of 2016, Part 1

Hello! It’s the end of the year and you know what that means – lots and lots of “best of” lists. you won’t be surprised to hear that here at the library we’re especially interested in the books and that we have a lot of passionate readers on staff with a wide range of interests. Here are the favorite books of 2016 for some of our blogging librarians – you’re sure to discover something new and intriguing!

Valerie cheated a bit and gave me two titles (that’s ok, Stephanie gave me nine titles!) but I admit it’s hard to choose just one. Valerie’s first choice is Sea Level Rise in Florida: Science, Impacts and Options by Albert Hine. Valerie comments: “This title is full of scientific information presented in easy to understand text. It is chock-a-clock full of maps, charts and diagrams that help you understand the rise and fall of ocean levels over the millennia, as well as in the shorter term.”

Her second choice also non-fiction, Atlas Obscura: an Explorer’s guide to the World’s Hidden Wonders by Joshua Foer. “The world is full of interesting places. This work strives to tell you about approximately 700 of them, some man-made, some natural wonders. Organized by regions of the world, summary maps pinpoint the location of these curiositieis. Hundreds of photographs help you imagine many of the locales.”

Our next blogging librarian, Bill, nominates NFL Confidential by Johnny Anonymous which he also blogged about earlier this year. “Johnny Anonymous’ unvarnished perspective of what goes on from week to week was pretty refreshing.”

Tune in tomorrow for more of our favorites in 2016!