Question: Is the Movie Ever Better Than the Book?

Here’s the question – Have you ever thought that a movie was better than the book it was based on?

This question is a little unfair – comparing books and movies is like comparing apples and oranges. They are very different media with very different user experiences; a 2-3 hour movie cannot possible capture the nuance of emotion or inner dialogue that a book can. Nor can a book show you sweeping vistas in full color (especially if it’s a landscape you’ve never experienced)

Most people would claim, strongly, that the book was better and for the most part, I agree. That doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy many of the movies based on books – movies have their own kind of magic and can often enhance the overall experience.

But there are some exceptions. A quick internet search brings up several articles with “better than the book” lists including these from Buzzfeed,  Bustle,  Hollywood.com,  and Purewow

It’s interesting to note that while there are some differences, most of the lists tend to agree on several titles including Forrest Gump, The Godfather, The Notebook, Jaws, The Princess Bride, Fight Club and Jurassic Park. This is often due to the creativity and vision of the director, or to careful editing of the original source material. It’s also enlightening to note that most of the books that these movies were based on were not hugely popular successes on their own, but considered fair to middling.

As for movies that enhance the book without insulting it, I would include movies such as the Harry Potter series, the Lord of the Rings movies and Master and Commander. And as much as I love to read Jane Austen, some of the Jane Austen adaptations are some of my favorite movies of all (I especially love the Emma Thompson version of Sense and Sensibility and the PBS version of Emma) In all of these cases, the beautiful settings, costumes and music contribute to and expand well-loved stories. (Although I still prefer the book!)

What about you – have you ever thought the movie was better than the book? Or thought that the movie caught the spirit of the book especially well? Tell us what you think!

 

Online Reading Challenge – “Comment allez-vous?”*

Bon jour! We’re halfway through the April Reading Challenge – have you found a good book set in Paris yet? There is no lack of excellent books (and movies) set in Paris, but if you’re still searching, here are a more couple of ideas.

For non-fiction lovers, try Les Parisiennes by Anne Sebba which is about how the women of Paris survived the Nazi occupation during World War II. With few non-German men left in the city, it was the women who dealt with the Germans, making life or death decisions on a daily basis, just to survive. From collaborators to resistors, famous to ordinary, it’s a complex, fascinating story. Or try The Only Street in Paris by Elaine Sciolino who lives on Rue des Martyrs and shows you the charming, everyday world of Parisians away from the tourist sites.

Fiction readers should check out The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery just for the title alone but also because it’s a sharp look at the various lives of an elegant Parisian apartment building as observed by the concierge who is smarter and more sophisticated than anyone suspects. The Race for Paris by Meg Clayton is about three journalists who are following the American liberating forces in Normandy. If they can arrive in Paris before the Allies, they will have the scoop of their lives, but at what cost?

As for me, I’m finding the selection to be an embarrassment of riches – there are almost too many to choose from! However, my plan is to watch Coco Before Chanel starring Audrey Tautou (of Amelie fame) and to finish reading The Perfume Collector by Kathleen Tessaro but I’m also eyeing My Life in France by Julia Child. Obviously, I will be reading books about Paris long after April!

Now it’s your turn – what are you reading this month?

*”how are you?”

The Return of the Doctor

Hello Fellow Whovians!

I am happy to report that the long wait is over – Doctor Who returns to BBC America on Saturday April 15! Hooray! This will be Peter Capaldi’s last season as the Doctor and Steven Moffat’s last season as the main writer and showrunner, plus there’s a new companion this season. Lots of changes coming for our favorite Time Lord!

Of course, change is nothing new for Doctor Who – the show is brilliant at reinventing itself season after season, changing to keep up with current tastes yet remaining essentially at its core the story of the Doctor, a survivor and explorer of the Universe, zipping around in his time traveling TARDIS (it’s bigger on the inside!), chased by Daleks and Cybermen. And who is not opposed to stopping and helping various aliens and cultures (and time periods) on his journey, always with a faithful companion or two in tow. There’s a lot of humor in this series, but there’s also a lot of depth and heart.

Doctor Who has been a mainstay of British television since it premiered in 1963. When the original Doctor, William Hartnell became ill and could no longer work, the producers came up with the idea of having the character “regenerate”, allowing a new actor to take over. This turned out to be a brilliant move, keeping the series running almost continuously since then and allowing each actor to bring his own interpretation and personality to the show. The show slipped in popularity, ending in 1989 but was revived 2005. It’s been embraced by old and new fans and is now enjoying some of it’s greatest popularity.

Interested in jumping aboard this crazy train? (It’s tons of fun) The library has DVDs of all of the series including the originals. I recommend that you start with the “modern” series by watching a season when a new Doctor is introduced – the Ninth Doctor (series 1), the Tenth Doctor (series 2), the Eleventh Doctor (series 5) or the Twelfth Doctor (series 8). This way you are introduced to the “rules” of this series at the same time as the new Doctor, who is just as confused and bewildered as you are as he adjusts to his new body and gets back his memories. There are also the Christmas episodes (a British Christmas is listening to the Queen’s Speech in the morning and watching the Doctor Who Christmas Special in the evening!) and the excellent 50th anniversary special The Day of the Doctor.

The library also has novelizations, graphic novels and fan guides. It’s a fandom that just keeps giving!

So, here’s a question that can set off endless debates: who’s your favorite Doctor? I love Ten (played by David Tennant and most people’s favorite) but Eleven (Matt Smith) is my favorite. (Actually, the TARDIS is my absolute favorite character!) Who is your favorite doctor? Favorite episode? (“Vincent and the Doctor” maybe, or “Blink”?) Favorite villan? (Weeping Angels? The Silence?) Join the conversation!

Someday We’ll Go All the Way

A sure sign of spring – baseball is back! The national pastime has returned with (and I never thought I’d get to say this so I’m going to savor it) the defending World Series Champions Chicago Cubs (yeah, the thrill of saying that is never going to fade!), an early favorite to repeat.

Like any sports team that wins a championship, a new crop of books about the team soon pop up as publishers rush to take advantage of the excitement and interest. Most of the time – for 108 years actually – Cubs fans haven’t had a reason to look for books to relive a great season. All of that has changed now and books about the 2016 team and their epic World Series run are arriving. Here is a sampling:

Three titles that came out shortly after the World Series highlight the season. Won for the Ages by the Chicago Tribune only goes through the National League Championship Series; both 2016 World Series Champions from Major League Baseball and Believe It by the Chicago Sun Times include the World Series. All are packed with photos and stats and the ups and downs of 2016.

A Season for the Ages by Al Yello is more in-depth and looks at how the Cubs built a team that could break the drought. Just arrived is The Cubs Way by Tom Verducci which also looks at the winning Cub formula, concentrating especially on Theo Epstien (president of baseball operations) and Joe Maddon (manager) and the strategies they followed to create a team.

Coming soon is The Plan by David Kaplan, also about Epstein and Maddon’s baseball strategies (it’s safe to say that baseball managers everywhere are studying these ideas very carefully!), My Cubs: a Love Story by NPR’s Scott Simon and Teammate: My Life in Baseball, a biography by David Ross, one of the key Cub players, now retired (and on Dancing with the Stars!) It’s safe to say there’s plenty to read during rain delays and travel days!

The Cubs home opener is tonight; they’re going to raise the World Series banner (I still get chills saying that) and there’s sure to be lots of pomp and circumstance and happy tears (and maybe Bill Murray in the stands?) Someday has come and we went all the way – let’s do it again!

Bring Back Snail Mail!

 

April is National Letter Writing Month!

In this age of email and texting and snapchat – one more transitory than the next – the idea of sitting down and writing a letter – with a pen! and paper! – seems quaint and a waste of time. But think about how you feel when you receive a handwritten note, something physical that you can hold in your hand, evidence that someone cared enough to take a few moments and let you know they were thinking about you. There’s a need for the quick and ephemeral, but that doesn’t mean that we have to abandon something more permanent. And who doesn’t like to get something special in the mail, even if it’s just a “hello, how are you?”

Write_On, which began in 2014, is a campaign created “to promote joy, creativity, expression, and connection through hand-written correspondence”  and challenges you “to write 30 letters in 30 days during April…” Sounds like a good idea, doesn’t it?

You don’t have to write long, angsty letters – just a quick hello is fine. And you don’t need special stationary or cards. Write_On offers a starter “kit” but it’s completely optional.  Also, postcards are completely ok. And you don’t have to mail a card, you can always hand deliver!

Interested in trying but not sure where to start? Write_On has lots of encouragement and resources.

Don’t know who to write too? Chronicle Books has a great article about the importance of letter writing and a nice long list of people you might write to (Hint: notice “a librarian” is on the list and I love to get mail. You can write to me at Davenport Public Library, 321 Main St, Davenport, Iowa 52801)

I’m not going to commit myself to the full 30 days this year, but I am going to try to write a few more quick notes this month. It feels great to get letters, but it’s also pretty awesome to send them too!

 

 

Now Departing for: Paris

Bonjour!

April in Paris! We’re traveling to the City of Light this month in our Online Reading Challenge, a city of art and beauty (and fantastic croissants!) and a long, complex, fascinating history. Who could resist?

First, a confession: I love Paris. I’ve been three times in the past few years and plan to go again and again for many years. I love the museums and the architecture, the cafe culture (and the food!) and the history. I did not expect to fall so completely head-over-heels in love with this city on my first visit, but I did, almost from the first moment I emerged from the Metro station and glimpsed the top of the Eiffel Tower in the distance. Like any big city, Paris has serious issues to deal with and it is far from perfect, but that doesn’t take away from what’s right and beautiful about it either.

There are oodles of books set in Paris – almost too many. I’ve found that some/too many writers use a Paris backdrop as a shortcut to creating mood and atmosphere – everyone has heard about Paris (usually heavily romanticized) so there’s no need to create a world for their novel. I consider this cheating and rather poor writing and it never feels “true”. Another habit I’ve run across is name dropping, for example “she tied her Hermes scarf around her neck, picked up her Louis Vuitton bag and walked down the Champs Elysees to Laduree’s for a macaroon”.  Um, yeah. All of those are very French, but not very “real” – using name dropping and stereotypes is just lazy writing. On the other hand, there are some incredibly good books set in Paris. Here’s a few to get you started:

The Greater Journey by David McCullough tells the story of American artists, writers and doctors that went to Paris between 1830 and 1900 and how what learned and experienced and then brought back in turn greatly influenced American history. McCullough’s writing is as honey smooth as his voice (he’s narrated several of Ken Burn’s films) and the stories he tells are fascinating.

The Paris Wife by Paula McLain is historical fiction about Ernest Hemingway’s first wife Hadley and their life in Paris. This is the time period when Hemingway wrote The Sun Also Rises and developed friendships with other rising stars such as F. Scott Fitzgerald and Gertrude Stein. But the hard-drinking, fast-living lifestyle of Jazz-age Paris puts a strain on Ernest and Hadley’s marriage and threatens the happiness of their early romance.

Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins. Although this is a lighter, happier story, this book has a lot of depth that is a lot of fun to read. Anna is sent to Paris against her wishes for her final year of high school but it becomes a pivotal year in her life as she learns what she is capable of and gains independence and confidence. Paris is beautifully integrated as backdrop here.

A Family in Paris by Jane Paech. This is the true story of an Australian family that moves to Paris for the husband’s job. Their two girls are enrolled in the local school and Jane works to integrate herself into daily Parisian life. Fascinating insights into the lives and rituals of ordinary Parisians, the French educational system and the reality of Parisian bureaucracy. Lots of photos too.

Sarah’s Key by Titiana Rosnay is a novel that brings to light a rarely told, shameful chapter in Parisian history – the deportation of Jews from Paris during the Nazi occupation in 1942. Heartbreaking and often difficult to read, this story shows the suffering, the impossible decisions that had to be made and the guilt carried by the survivors. Long unacknowledged, there is now a memorial in Paris dedicated to the victims of the deportation.

Paris Letters by Janice Macleod. Another story of someone packing up and moving to Paris and finding her happily-ever-after. It’d be kind of annoying except that Janice worked really hard to make it happen and she’s pretty funny. The book also acts as motivation to work for what you want and to hold onto those dreams. Also, lovely hand drawn illustrations.

If you’d rather watch something this month you have nearly as many choices. Three of my favorites:

Hugo is breathtakingly beautiful and magical. That train wreck really did happen (in 1895) and that clock is based on the iconic clock at the Orsay Museum. The book the movie is based on, The Invention of Hugo Cabret won the 2008 Caldecott Award and is well worth reading too.

Midnight in Paris is Woody Allen’s love letter to Paris. I’m not always a Woody Allen fan but this movie is gorgeous and fun with just the right amount of fantastical. Paris never looked so beautiful.

Amelie. If you have not seen this, drop everything and find a copy immediately. It’s quirky and delightful and sweetly romantic and very funny. Filmed entirely on location in Paris, you see the “real” Paris beyond the tourist sites. Yes, it’s in French and yes you have to read subtitles – grow up! Read a movie! It is so worth it.

There are so many more books and movies about Paris from classics (Phantom of the Opera, Les Miserables, A Moveable Feast) to mysteries (Cara Black has a series set in Paris) to history (look in the 944 Dewey subject area) to cookbooks (David Lebovitz and Julia Child to name just two) that there is sure to be something that catches your eye. We’ll have displays at all three of our buildings too so stop in and get your ticket (er, book or movie!) to Paris!

Allons-y! (“let’s go!”)

Stay With Us!

The staff here at the Davenport Public Library have been working incredibly hard behind the scenes lately, frantically getting ready for some super exciting news! It’s coming together beautifully – better than we imagined! We are so excited and just can’t wait any longer for the big announcement, so today is the day:

The Davenport Library at Main is now a registered Airbnb host!

We will be welcoming guests from all over the world, helping them enjoy a unique and unforgettable experience in beautiful downtown Davenport! And you don’t have to be a traveler to book with us – locals can enjoy a staycation right here with us as well! As you might imagine, the Main library can accommodate quite a few people – think of the family reunions and wedding receptions you can host here!

Of course, it’s not a free-for-all – while we want you to enjoy your visit, there are some rules that need to followed, rules such as – no food in the library – only covered drinks – no alcohol – no sleeping – two hour limit on the computers – and, of course – please keep your voices down.

This gem is sure to book up fast – call the library today to reserve your stay with us!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Happy April Fool’s Day!

Now Arriving from: Japan

Hello Challenge Readers!

How was your reading this month? Did you find a great book (or movie) set in Japan that you really enjoyed? It’s such an interesting culture set against a beautiful and dramatic landscape that the possibilities for good reading are boundless.

I read The Dictionary of Mutual Understanding by Jackie Copleton which I blogged about earlier. I highly recommend this book – it’s not only a great story, it has a lot of information about the Japanese culture, much of which is unfamiliar to those of us raised in a Western European tradition.

I also watched the movie version of Memoirs of a Geisha. I loved the book (written by Arthur Golden) but had never seen the movie. I never expect a movie to be as good as the book (and they almost never are), but I had high hopes for it to be visually stunning (as I had imagined when I read the book) I was pretty disappointed – the movie concentrated on the personal interactions (which were petty and brutal) and very little on the history and background of the geisha which was a vital (and fascinating) part of the book. If you hadn’t read the book, there were large parts of the movie that you would have no idea what was going on, or why. Also, it wasn’t as beautiful as I think it could have been – the kimonos, the tea houses, the gardens – all of those were barely touched on. In addition, many of the scenes were filmed in the dark and/or rain making it very difficult to follow the action. And the ending was changed. So. Read the book (which is excellent) and skip the movie (in my opinion!)

Now it’s your turn – tell us what you read this month! Everyone loves a good recommendation!

Keeping Track

Hey Everyone!

Question for you: Do you keep a record of the books you read? If yes, how do you keep track – in a journal or notebook? In a spreadsheet or google doc? Or do you use an online service such as goodreads or LibraryThing? Or do you just live on the edge and hope you’ll remember?

When I was little I would keep track of titles on paper (and, of course, with reading logs from my local public library’s summer reading program), and I have taken a stab at keeping track every once in awhile since then, but mostly I’m pretty bad at doing this consistently. And, quite frankly, most of the lists I did keep were just that – lists, with no hint of what the book was about or if I liked it or not. Boy, I wish I had a list of everything I’ve read though – it’d be fun to see how my tastes changed and remember old favorites.

One way to keep track of your reading is with goodreads a free, online service. With goodreads you can list books that you’ve read or are in the midst of reading or would like to read someday. You can also see what your friends are reading and get recommendations based on titles you’ve read and liked. There’s a rating system and room to write your own review. One of the great things about it is that it isn’t just a list of titles, there is also a summary of what the book is about (as well as a picture of the book cover!) right at your fingertips, ready to jog your memory. There’s even a goodreads app for your phone so your list is always handy and easy to update.

If you’re already using goodreads, or if you join, be sure to request the Davenport Public Library as a friend (we’ll friend you right back!) AND – special bonus – our Online Reading Challenge now has a book club listing on goodreads! Join the “Read the World 2017” book group and you can list the books that you’ve read each month for the challenge, see what others are reading and talk about what you liked (or didn’t like!) in the forums. Hope to see you there!