Library Closed for President’s Day

The Davenport Library will be closed on Monday February 20th in observance of President’s Day. All three buildings will reopen on Tuesday with their regular hours – 9am to 5:30pm at Main and Eastern, noon to 8pm at Fairmount.

Be sure to enjoy some cherry pie (for George Washington who could not lie about chopping down the cherry tree) or Lincoln Log Cake (for Abraham Lincoln, who grew up in a log cabin) and have a fun, safe holiday!

Don’t know what a Lincoln Log Cake is? Check out this recipe from Taste of Home. They’re delicious!

To Capture What We Cannot Keep by Beatrice Colin

To Capture What We Cannot Keep by Beatrice Colin is, on one hand, a love story between two people from very different circumstances and the obstacles they must overcome, but it is also a story about change, in the world and in ourselves as symbolized by the building of the Eiffel Tower.

Caitriona Wallace is a young Scottish widow, tasked with chaperoning two wealthy young adults on their Grand Tour of Europe. By chance Cait meets Emile Nouguier, one of the designers of the Eiffel Tower, while in Paris. They connect almost immediately, but the friendship seems doomed to end before it begins since Cait and her charges must return to Scotland in a few days. When, several months later Cait is given the opportunity to return to Paris, she seizes it immediately and she and Emile are able to resume their friendship which soon leads to something more.

Of course, it’s not smooth sailing. Emile is from a wealthy family and is expected to marry well. In addition, the demands of his career and the expectations of his family trap him into a role almost as much as Cait’s societal limitations (poor, widowed, female). Times are changing though, as symbolized by the building of the great Tower – not everyone likes it (in fact, most Parisians hated the Eiffel Tower when it was first built), but life and society cannot remain stagnant.

I very much enjoyed this novel for several reasons –  it’s historical setting of the world on the cusp of great change, the story of two people falling in love, the city of Paris in the belle epoch era, and the behind-the-scenes descriptions of the building of the Eiffel Tower.

Built for the 1889 World’s Fair, the Eiffel Tower is a marvel of engineering brilliance. The original plans called for it to be torn down after 20 years, but it was a huge success with the public and soon proved it’s worth as a communications tower and was allowed to remain. It’s now a designated historical site and one of the most recognizable symbols in the world. I’ve been to Paris several times and have visited the Tower each time. There are two things about it that strike you  – it’s much bigger than you imagined, and, especially up close, it’s much more beautiful than you expected. Building codes instituted in the 1970s insure that the Eiffel Tower remains a prominent feature of the Paris skyline, unhindered by modern skyscrapers (the codes also protect the many other historic buildings in Paris, but it’s the Tower that most obviously benefits)

You can read more about Beatrice Colin and her research and writing process for this novel in an interview she did with Bonjour Paris.

Halfway Home from Seattle

Hello Readers!

How is your Seattle reading going? Have you found any gems? If you’re still looking, here are a few more recommendations.

The Boys in the Boat by Daniel Brown. I’ve recommended this book many times and have yet to hear from anyone that was disappointed. At its most basic, it’s the true story about the young men who represented the US in rowing in the 1936 Berlin Olympics, but there’s so much more. The majority of these athletes came from difficult backgrounds made worse by the Great Depression and worked hard not only to stay on the team, but to stay in school. The bulk of the story takes place at the University of Washington in Seattle and gives you a feel for 1930s Seattle and the great shifts that were beginning in its economy and outlook. Also, the book is can’t-put-down good.

The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein. This book is one of my all-time favorites. It’s funny and heartbreaking and beautiful. Told from the point-of-view of the family dog Enzo, it follows the story of Danny Swift as he works to become a professional auto racer. Along the way Denny falls in love, marries and has a daughter. After his wife dies, Denny must fight for his daughter. Through it all, Enzo, who wishes for opposable thumbs and the ability to speak, is Denny’s silent, loyal supporter. To be honest, Seattle does not have a starring role in this book, but Garth Stein lives in Seattle which gives the setting real authenticity.

Or go grunge, put on a flannel shirt and listen to some Kurt Cobain and Nirvana. (Did I get that right? The grunge movement completely missed me) Try Montage of Heck or Nevermind. Or try a documentary about the grunge movement such as Soaked in Bleach. Remember, you don’t have to read a book – watching a movie or listening to music also count (um, so long as it has something to do with Seattle!)

I’m still reading Where’d You Go Bernadette by Maria Semple and so far, I’m loving it. It took me several pages to catch onto the rhythm of the writing – it’s told through a combination of texts, emails, letters and narrative – and figure out the cast of characters, but I caught on soon enough. I’m loving Bernadette’s snarky remarks and her brand of crazy (although I suspect there’s more going on) So far, it’s been a great read.

Now, over to you – what are reading/watching/listening to this month?

Bibliophilia

Bibliophilia, by N. John Hall, is an epistolary novel and, even though the correspondence is via email, it could just as well be letters that arrive by mail . Larry Dickerson develops relationships with Christie’s auction house staff, academics and other book experts as he educates himself about the art of book collecting. His enthusiasm is contagious; he isn’t afraid of appearing naïve or uneducated. He asks the questions that the reader would ask, and the answers he receives are a mixture of the personal and the professional.

Some of their respect and interest may be due to the fact that Larry is newly rich, having sold his great-great grandfather’s correspondence with some noted Victorian authors for  $400,000 – a portion of which he  plans to invest in collecting rare books. Larry always tries to tie his collecting to something he has an interest in, so he begins with Victorians such as Dickens, Thackeray, and Trollope. Along the way, he learns about  printing and publishing history – in both the U.S. and England, condition, inscriptions and book jackets – all of which affect the value of  books, whether they are first editions or not.

Soon, his correspondence leads him to New Yorker writers and cartoonists; he begins to collect J.D. Salinger, Roth, Updike, James Thurber, Dorothy Parker, and others. It’s fun to get a quick overview of these authors, as well as famed New Yorker editors Harold Ross and William Shawn.

There is a subplot about fraud in the world of rare books – an entertaining way to learn about the underbelly of unscrupulous book dealers. Bibliophilia is an interesting mix of a sort of superficial, middlebrow learning and literary enthusiasm.

 

 

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Fowler

For me, this was an ideal book-on-cd. We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves  by Karen Fowler was an optimum balance between fascinating exposition – about animal behavior, the ethics of scientific theory and experiments – in and out of the lab, and novelistic appeal. Rosemary, the narrator, is an interesting mix of reliable (she addresses the reader and seems to be candid) but also unreliable (memories are faulty especially when critical parts of the story take place in early childhood).

I love to be lectured to, not in the you’ve-done-something-wrong sense, but in the academic sense, where you are given information in a logical and well-thought-out way. I learned a lot about psychology, and  primate and human behavior, as well as memory.

Sometimes this was difficult to listen to – Fowler does an amazing job of showing us our ability to minimize the pain of confusion of animals. The human and animal characters in this story are not abstractions; they are unique and complicated beings, and their pain is our pain. The humans behave in ways that are understandable but not always very likeable.

It’s also a mystery. Early in the book, Rosemary says that she’s lost two siblings. Little by little, she reveals who went missing and why. Even the title is a bit of a mystery, and there’s an a-ha! moment when you realize it’s significance. There’s so much to think about, and to talk about; I’m dying to discuss!

Octavia Butler’s Kindred


I’m blown away by the sheer density and complexity of this novel for a number of reasons, but I’d have to say Butler’s technique of “layering” is so expertly done as to require multiple readings in order to unpack the story.  In other words, reading Kindred is like cutting into an onion and peeling back layer upon layer to reveal the deep meaning within. One of the more surface-level layers is simply that Butler–the first black, female author to write a science-fiction novel–has written a book about a black, female writer who is, in essence, writing, or rather, –re-writing–history and her future.

By definition, “kindred” means to be “connected” or “related to” and maybe most obviously would connote family relationships and ties. Yet, the first mentioning of the word is a departure from that obvious definition and appears early in the book on page 57 when the main protagonist, Dana, describes her white husband, Kevin: “He was like me–a kindred spirit crazy enough to keep on trying.” The statement is both double-entendre and a foreshadowing of things to come: you must be tenacious enough to pursue the life of a writer, bold enough to disrupt the status quo, and crazy enough to keep on trying.

Dana likens the job market in 1976 Los Angeles to a “slave market”, a clear juxtaposition to the literal slave market where Dana and Kevin are mysteriously transported via time-travel. Here, in the 19th century antebellum south, Dana confronts her familial past where American slavery and the promise of freedom are as inextricably linked as black & white identities.  Will Dana’s time-travels allow her to change the course of history and influence Rufus, son of a slave owner & blood-relative of her great great grandmother, whom she is called upon to save time and again? How will Rufus and Dana embody or challenge the systems of institutionalized racism they were born into? It is absolutely remarkable how Butler masterfully stacks layer upon layer to build characters as complex and enmeshed as our troubled and not-so-distant history of slavery and racism in the United States.

Thematically, Kindred is incredibly dense and complex, but I’ll focus on the theme of “performance” or “acting one’s part” that permeates the entire novel.  In several scenes, characters must “perform” their respective “roles” unless they want to suffer the consequences of falling out of line. Time-travel itself is a brilliant way to point out how racism is a construct and not the natural order.  Should we really require the passing of time in order to recognize and challenge systems of power & oppression?

When Dana brings Kevin to the plantation with her on her second journey back through time and space (she merely has to be physically holding onto him in order to transport him with her), she assumes the role of his slave as a matter of survival.  Kevin, of course reluctant to perform his assigned role as her “owner” accepts the painful challenge in order to protect his beloved wife. That Dana even needs protecting in this way brilliantly exposes and lays bare additional gender and sexuality constructs, another way Butler will craft a specific narrative in order to question it with a critical eye. But maybe one of the not-so-obvious questions is: Who, exactly, is assigning these roles, and why, and to whose benefit?  If we ourselves do not choose the role we are expected to play or act out, what are the implications when we are complicit in carrying out the performance? If refusal to play your role could get you killed (although Dana points out that “some fates are worse than death”),what is the best method for positively effecting change? Some characters in Kindred play their parts–worn down over time and physically beaten down–while others refuse to act: one standout character, Alice, asks “Am I a slave?” and ultimately attempts to break free.

Kindred is the kind of book that will stay with you, I am of sure. The complexity and depth of characters will challenge you to step outside of your comfort zone and do something that great books make you do: contemplate, sympathize, connect. I had some powerful emotional responses while reading this book which is exactly why I would recommend it to anyone who is interested in what it means to be human.

Joyland by Stephen King

Recently, I went on a road trip and I wanted to listen to an audiobook during the long drive. My travelling companion brought Stephen King’s Joyland. I was not thrilled. I have not read a Stephen King book for quite awhile and I imagined that I was going to listen to another book about some weird creepy monsters. As you might guess, books about monsters are not the books that I typically read anymore. So, as I put the CD in the car, I told myself to give it a chance. Maybe I would enjoy this book.

I’m glad that I gave it a chance.

Joyland is not a book about weird creepy monsters. Our narrator, Devin Jones, tells us the story of the summer when he was 21 years old. The year was 1973. Devin was a college student at the University of New Hampshire. While he was looking through the help wanted section, he saw a listing for an amusement park in North Carolina. The park was called Joyland. Devin’s girlfriend encourages him to apply for the job, telling him that it will be an adventure. So Devin takes the bus down to Joyland to apply for the job. One carny, Lane Hardy, has worked at Joyland for years. He gives Devin pointers on where to eat and tells him about a boardinghouse he can live at during the summer. Lane lets Devin ride the Carolina Spin (the Ferris Wheel). Devin enjoys the view of the beach and the ocean. He knows that he wants to work at Joyland. When Devin goes to the boardinghouse, his new landlady tells him about a ghost story at the amusement park. A few years earlier, a young woman named Linda Gray was murdered in the Funhouse of Fear. Some people claim that they saw her ghost while they were on the ride.

When Devin comes back to North Carolina for the summer, he meets the other boarders at the house. Tom and Erin are also college students working at Joyland for the summer. The trio quickly become friends and they work on the same team at the park. Devin’s girlfriend breaks up with him and he is heartbroken. Devin drops a lot of weight and the staff at the park become concerned about him. Lane Hardy tells Devin that he needs to eat. Devin finds that Lane is a helpful guy and the two have many positive interactions. Lane may be carny and Devin a greenie, but it is clear that Lane likes the kid.

One day, Devin, Erin and Tom have the day off. They decide to go to Joyland to check out the Funhouse of Fear and see if they spot the ghost of Linda Gray. Devin and Erin have a good time on the ride but Tom does not. He reveals that he saw Linda Gray and refuses to speak about it. Devin asks Erin to research Linda Gray when she goes back to college. Devin decides to stay at Joyland and mend his broken heart. Erin comes back to visit Devin in October. She reveals that there were other murders at other amusement parks. She finds pictures of Linda Gray and her killer at Joyland. Something about the pictures bothers Devin but he cannot figure out what is troubling him.

After the amusement park is closed for the summer, Devin meets a woman and her son. They live in a large house on the beach. At first, the woman, Annie, is distant even though Mike tries to engage Devin. One day, Annie and Mike are struggling to fly a kite. Devin offers to help and is able to get the kite in the air. Mike is overjoyed and Annie warms up to Devin. They develop a friendship. Devin quickly figures out that Mike has some psychic abilities when Mike is able to answer Devin’s unspoken questions. The fortune teller at Joyland had told Devin that he would meet a kid with the Sight. This ability proves to be useful to Devin.

Joyland was not the typical Stephen King horror story. If you were a fan of Stephen King’s novella, “The Body” in the book Different Seasons, you will like Joyland. If you do not remember the story, “The Body”, then you might remember the movie that it was based on, Stand By Me. Joyland is full of mystery and suspense and the tone is nostalgic. The audiobook narrator, Michael Kelly, has a great voice to listen. I highly recommend listening to this one.

Book Crafts – Book Folding

Hi! Welcome to Book Crafts where we explore book-related crafts. Sometimes we’ll use an old book (NOT a library book!) and sometimes we’ll try our hand at making our own tiny books and journals.

(If you’re uncomfortable with reworking an old book into something new, you might want to skip this series! I prefer to think of it as extending the life of the book and giving it a new purpose while still celebrating the written word. And, it’s fun.)

Today we’re going to try Book Folding. This is where you take an old book, fold some of the pages in a prescribed pattern to create an image or word with the pages. OK, that sounds kind of convoluted. Here’s a picture of our finished craft:

This heart is a very simple pattern (and quick to complete). If you do a Google or Pinterest search you will find oodles of these designs, many of them extremely intricate and complicated, but we’re going to go with beginner level. Here are the materials you’ll need:

A book (duh), a ruler with centimeter markings and a pencil (you don’t need to use a fancy pencil like this, but isn’t it pretty?). A bone folder (a piece of hard plastic with a smooth edge used in bookbinding and other crafts) comes in handy but isn’t required.

Be choosy when picking a book. It needs to be sturdy enough to stand on it’s own and slim enough to make the folded section stand out. Take a look at the three books in the picture. The red one is very pretty with a lovely, speckled design on the page edges, but it’s a little heavy and lists to one side. The blue one would have worked well, but I decided to use the lavender one because of the color of the page edges. Hint: I found all three of these books at the Friends bookstore!

Now that you have your materials, it’s time for some math. Only a little math, I promise!

The heart uses 40 pages. To find the page to start on, divide the number of pages in the book by 2, then subtract by 20. This will put the center of the heart at the center of the book. Example: for a 300 page book, divide by 2 which equals 150. Subtract 20 which equals 130, thus start folding on page 130. My book is 268 pages; divided by 2 equals 144, minus 20 equals 124. Easy!

Open your book to the page number that you’ve just calculated. Lay the book down vertically with the page numbers on your right and the first part of the book closest to you. Confession here: I actually started folding my pages on page 125 because page 124 fell on the lower of the two pages. You will be folding the pages that are on the top part of your book layout.

Now take your ruler and lay it along the edge of the top page with the start of the ruler on the left. Use your pencil to mark the two values for Page 1 on the list (the list is at the end of this post) in centimeters. You can see the two tiny pencil marks I made here.

Fold the sides of the page along the lines you’ve marked. Keep the folds as close to 90 degrees as possible. This is where a bone folder comes in handy to make a smooth, even fold, but you can also use the side of your thumb.

Turn to the next page and continue folding each of the 40 pages as indicated on the list. Each page will have marks in different places which creates the design. Here I’ve folded the first four pages of the pattern. Try to be as accurate as possible with your marks as this will make the design clearer. I also found it helpful to print off the list and mark off each page as I completed them – it’s easy to lose your place if you don’t!

This is a fun, relaxing craft (really, it is!), a great project while watching tv or listening to an audio book. I would love to hear if anyone tried this craft and how it turned out! Send us a photo on Instagram to @davpublib and use the hashtag #davenportlibrarybookcrafts.

And here’s your chart:

 

 

 

The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon

The Sun is Also a Star continues my journey back into young adult fiction. I used to exclusively read only young adult fiction, but about five years ago, I decided that I needed to read outside my comfort area (and to read books with people my own age in them). Starting to read in a new area can be daunting, so I recommend looking at award-winning book lists and even articles with lists of books on different subjects. That is how I stumbled upon The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon.

Nicola Yoon had already been on my radar because of her book, Everything, Everything, but I had never actually read it. When I found an article that was talking up The Sun is Also a Star, I decided to give it a go and try to see what everyone was getting so excited about. (I was also slightly obsessed with making things using yarn when I saw this book cover, so I figured I needed to read it!)

The Sun is Also a Star takes place all in one day. Natasha is a girl who loves everything that is based in facts. She adores science and has a list of facts for almost any situation. She lives with her parents and her younger brother in a one bedroom apartment. Natasha’s life had been going along perfectly until one day when her father makes a mistake and ruins everything for the whole family. Her life could implode around her. Daniel is a boy who never messes up and is therefore seen as the good son at home and the good student at school. After his older brother messes up in college, the pressure on Daniel to be perfect becomes even higher.

When the two meet, Daniel finds himself questioning what his parents have always told him and just how he lives his life. He is a poet and a dreamer, but must live up to his parents’ high expectations. Daniel must find a way to be around Natasha more than he probably should. Natasha is more hesitant than Daniel and finds his exuberance about their “relationship” daunting and more than a little off-putting. Daniel feels that there is something magical and extraordinary between them, if only he could get Natasha to feel the same way. Daniel reaches out into the universe to try to convince Natasha that their futures can change, but he has trouble believing he can change himself.

This book, while taking place in one day, shines through a series of flashbacks into each character’s life. Minor characters that Natasha and Daniel come in contact with have their own sections within the book as well. The tiny snapshots into daily life show the effect a short interaction with a complete stranger can have on both your life and the other person’s. The ending left me wondering what had really happened between the two. Long after I finished reading this book, I found myself thinking a lot about fate, how even the smallest and inconsequential of our actions can greatly impact our lives and the lives of others, and how our attitudes and thoughts can influence our futures as well. The Sun is Also a Star had more of an impact on me than I thought it would. I’m glad I decided to pick it up and give it a try.

Fake News – What It Is and How to Evaluate It

There is a lot of talk in the U.S. and around the world right now about fake news. What, exactly, is fake news? Generally, fake news is information that is wholly or partially made up, but designed to look like an authentic news report and to attract lots of attention – often resulting in advertising revenue. It often appeals to the strong emotions of its targeted audience.

Oxford Dictionary acknowledged its influence by announcing the 2016 word of the year: post-truth, an adjective, defined as “relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.

I think we should all exercise caution especially when dealing with those stories that do cause an emotional reaction. That doesn’t necessarily mean it is fake news (just because you don’t like the message doesn’t mean it is fake news) but it can be a red flag that the story merits double-checking with additional sources. Seek those not related to the first source where you encountered it.

Here are some websites that you can use to evaluate news sources:

The Media Bias/Fact Check news website has a search bar on its main page where you can type in the name of a news source and retrieve a scale that attempts to qualify how far to the left or right that news source typically leans. They maintain a list of questionable sources. The website also has a list of what is generally accepted to be the least biased news sources, which you can find here. MBFC explains their methodology and acknowledges that no evaluation is 100% without bias. Check out the list – you may learn about a new source that you will want to make a habit of checking on a regular basis. I’ll admit the ads are bothersome, but it is how they pay to keep the site running.

FactCheck.org is one source you can use to double-check information. Facebook recently announced that it is partnering with this source to help identify and flag fake news circulated on its platform. FactCheck.org is a project of the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania. According to their website, their mission is “to reduce the level of deception and confusion in U.S. politics…Our goal is to apply the best practices of both journalism and scholarship, and to increase public knowledge and understanding.” This site is primarily focused on U.S. politics. During election years, they will report on the accuracy of what is aired on political TV ads and in debates, speeches, interviews and news releases.

Another source to verify political information is Politifact.com, self-described as “an independent, nonpartisan news organization… not beholden to any government, political party or corporate interest.” They have a long history, which you can read about here. The system of evaluation they use is called the Truth-o-meter, which ranges from “Truth” on one end to “Pants on Fire” on the other. They have a newsletter to which you can subscribe if you wish to receive information updates on the latest fact-checks. They are also partnering with Facebook to help flag fake news when it is shared.

For information that covers a broader array than politics, Snopes.com can be helpful. I like the search option at the top of the page where you can easily type in any keywords and retrieve information on rumors and urban legends. It began in 1995 and has become a well-known online source for debunking falsehoods or verifying facts with evidence.

As an information professional, I encourage people to take some time to verify information sources before accepting them as completely true. When presented with information in any form, take care to ask yourself these questions:

 

  • Who wrote/originally said this? Is the author clearly identified? What else has the author written and has it been disputed in any way?
  • What is this? Is it a presentation of facts? An opinion piece? An advertisement?
  • When was it written? Is there new information available that could shed more light on or take the place of this information?
  • Where was the information gleaned? Was the person reporting it actually a witness to the events reported? Is there data/photos to back it up and are the sources cited? Are there quotes from others in the know and are they relevant to the topic being reported?
  • Why did the author write this? Is it designed to entertain, to influence my purchases or affect my decisions in a certain way?

 

We at the library want to help you build awareness about information and what it is designed to do. Not all information is presented to simply inform. Much of the information we are deluged with on a daily basis is designed to influence. That is not necessarily bad, but we all need to be aware of how information influences us. Likewise, we need to acknowledge our own personal biases and be honest and gracious with ourselves and others that they exist.

I invite you to learn more about this topic by attending a panel discussion about fake news, hosted at the Eastern Avenue branch library on Monday, Feb. 6th at 6:30 pm. The event is free of charge and refreshments will be provided. Please come with questions for our panelists, which include representatives from local television, print and radio news sources as well as writers and educators in the field of journalism. Visit our webpage for more details.

 

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