2013Let DPL help you realize your reading goals in 2013! Whether you need books, recommendations, or just a quiet spot to devour the newest Stephanie Plum/Alex Cross novel, we can help.

Numeric resolutions: I will read X books in 2013.

  • Do you have 45 minutes a day? Count up your free time: lunch hour, breaks, waiting at the curb for your kids to get out of school, before bed, while your spouse does the dishes, while you’re on the treadmill. If you do, you could read 52 books in 2013. One book* per week = 39 pages (about 45 minutes) per day.
  • Only 15 minutes per day? Maths out to about 17 books for 2013. Not too shabby!
  • 20 minute drive to and from work? Not even counting all the other trips you make, you can listen to 21 books* this year (bonus: no more annoying radio ads).
  • Children’s books, audiobooks, graphic novels, comics, short stories, magazines, newspapers, and internet articles ABSOLUTELY. COUNT. You are more of a reader than you think; don’t sell yourself short!
Content resolutions: I will read more (insert genre) books in 2013.
  • Branching out into new content areas can be frustrating, but the librarians at DPL are here to help! We’ll cook up a list of books for you based on any criteria, and we offer 100% forgiveness for those who abandon books without finishing. Life is too precious to waste on finishing a book you don’t like.
  • Broadening your genre horizons is rewarding; more often than not, a single title will blend influences from many genres. I love fantasy, but some of my favorite fantasy titles are shelved in regular fiction or romance. If it sounds confusing, we’ll happily help you navigate.

Making your resolutions real

  • If you use a social reading log website (Good Reads, Librarything, and Shelfari, for example), you and your friends can share progress on whatever resolution you make. Nifty!
  • Use your library account online to keep track of saved title lists, saved searches, and even maintain a list of ALL the books you’ve ever checked out! (Note: for privacy and security purposes, only you can elect to maintain a reading list. It does not happen automatically and library staff cannot create the list for you.)
  • For old-fashioned paper lovers, get yourself a reading notebook: write down the titles you read and a little note about what you thought of the book. That way you won’t lose track of what you’ve read.
  • Resolve to share your love of books: Promise that you’ll read out loud to your kids or grandkids, bring a friend with you to the library, give copies of your favorite titles as gifts, or donate your pre-loved books to the Friends of DPL or another book charity. Books are best when they’re shared!

*For math purposes, a “book” is 275 pages or 8 hours of audio recording. Bonus points for reading something longer!

May is “Get Caught Reading” Month. How does one celebrate? Well, you could read, or take a picture of a friend or co-worker reading and post it on a bulletin board. (You can email bworthington@publishers.org to get the logo to make your own “celebrity” poster).

You can order an actual celebrity poster on www.getcaughtreading.org. Rob Lowe anyone? Supported by the Association of American Publishers, other celebs are Iowa’s own Shawn Johnson, Sebastian Junger and Emma Roberts.

Some schools and libraries are designating a spot for kids (and adults) to read for fun during the day. Can you think of a better way to take a break?

Don’t judge this wonderful book by its covers, which are egregious. Laura Kinsale’s Flowers from the Storm is, by a wide margin, the most intelligent and engaging romance I’ve ever read. It proves what romance readers have known for generations: a love story with a happy ending can be just as powerful and thoughtful as any other literary novel. The heroine, Maddy Timms, is a devout Quaker: she speaks in a thee-thou manner that other characters remark upon as often you inevitably will. It’s infuriating, it’s different, it’s overly pious and hard to understand. It marks Maddy as a person who lives apart, in a smaller and humbler world than her Anglican peers. Her religion is restrictive and judgmental, but it’s also warm and forgiving and kind – just like Maddy herself. Christian Langland is a standard romantic hero (a strapping, handsome, fabulously wealthy Duke who happens to be a well-known rake), until a neurological illness strikes out of nowhere, shattering his ability to communicate. Only Maddy recognizes that he is not incompetent, an idiot, a savage struck down by God for his immoral ways: he is a sick man. And she is led by God to restore him to health.

There are layers upon layers in this book. Christian is mad; Maddy is a Christian. Flowers and storms pop up in significant junctures throughout the story, bolstering the plot as well as reminding you of the central theme: there is always a way to find something beautiful, something wonderful, even in the darkest and most harrowing times. The point of view alternates between Christian and Maddy, and Ms. Kinsale does an absolutely phenomenal job of illustrating Christian’s rapid mental decline and slow recovery both from inside and outside his fuddled mind. She very rarely writes the same moment from both characters’ perspectives, so you only know what Christian can piece together or what Maddy has been present to see. The scenes inside the lunatic asylum in the immediate aftermath of Christian’s illness are heartwrenching, as we watch him struggle to make even the simplest thought understood by his doctors. Maddy is the first and only person to truly understand him, to know that his intelligence is as fierce as ever but his ability to speak and to understand has been compromised. As their love blossoms, Maddy struggles with her religious convictions and Christian struggles with his illness, his family, and his legal obligations. I’ve never been moved to root for a romance novel couple as I was for these two.

If you’re a romance reader and you’ve never read Flowers from the Storm, do so right away! You won’t regret it. Then, pass it on to a skeptical friend who thinks romances are cheap, tawdry, worthless, or sub-literary: I’ve never read a book more likely to change their mind.

I have always had a soft spot for retellings of fairy tales; growing up enthralled by animated Disney movies that did just that (Snow White! Sleeping Beauty! The Little Mermaid! Aladdin! Mulan!), I suppose it was inevitable. This sub-genre of fantasy has obvious appeal to kids and YAs as a convenient segue from Disney princesses to fiction and fantasy, but there is lots of adult appeal as well.

My favorite is Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier. In this romantic, atmospheric adventure, teenaged Sorcha faces down incredible odds with the lives of her six older brothers on the line. An evil stepmother has transformed them into swans, and Sorcha must spend years in magically induced silence weaving them shirts out of a prickly, punishing plant that bloodies and blisters her fingers. The fairy tale is Celtic and the book is beautiful, with as much historical and mythical appeal as romance.

 

 

A close second is The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly. In this deceptively mature tale, a young English boy slips into the world of fairy tales – but not everything is as his storybooks told it. There are some gruesome moments but it’s never unduly gory; teen readers as well as adults (and even mature tweens) should be comfortable with the scares. Connolly is a thriller writer by trade and that style is evident in The Book of Lost Things, which is tense and atmospheric. A chilling and very unique take on familiar fairy tale motifs.

 

Finally, if you love fairy tales and Disney princesses, don’t miss out on Robin McKinley. Her retold fairy tales have been popular with teens and adults for decades; Spindle’s End, her spin on Sleeping Beauty, involves a sleek magical realm that’s familiar without being at all boring. Princess Briar Rose (Rosie) is spirited away from the evil fairy Pernicia’s curse to be raised in secret as the daughter of a village fairy. Rosie’s ability to speak to animals and her perfect golden curls cling to her, the gifts of her fairy godmothers, despite her average looks and un-princess-like interest in blacksmithing and animals. In Beauty and Rose Daughter, two distinctly different but related books that retell the story of Beauty and the Beast, McKinley reinvents Belle and all the other familiar characters and fills in the missing details of the story.

Hearty praise for Bill Bryson isn’t new to the Info Cafe blog (both Lynn and Ann have gushed about him in the past), but he is new to me! The audiobook of At Home: A Short History of Private Life, read by the author, was the first Bryson book I’ve read, and one of the most entertaining nonfiction books I’ve ever encountered on any subject. Part of the appeal comes from the irresistible subject matter: Bryson deals with the everyday, but elevates it beyond the mundane into something fascinating. The greater part of the book’s success is Bryson himself – dry wit that had me laughing and quoting passages to friends, great writing that’s both intelligent and accessible, and (crucially) excellent narration.

No matter what you’re interested in, there is something for you in At Home: architecture, cooking, engineering, etymology, inventing, transportation, medicine, sanitation and hygiene, social history, entertainment, a dash of politics, and mostly, British and American history. If history isn’t your thing, don’t be intimidated – though much of the book deals with historical matters, it never feels stuffy or boring (with the possible, arguable exception of a lengthy chapter on British architecture that suffers from a lack of the visual aids present in the printed book). The comforts we’re accustomed to – bright lights, running water, soap, sturdy clothing, efficient laundry, regular bathing, doctors who wash their hands, and a reasonable expectation that rats will NOT nest inside your mattress even as you sleep above them – these things are all shockingly new.

I particularly recommend this to anyone who’s a fan of historical novels, from Jane Austen through Diana Gabaldon; once you learn about the privy fixtures and habits of cleanliness in the pre-modern era, your reading of Emma will never be the same!

Super-duper seal of approval: after hearing a snippet while riding in my car, my book-phobic husband insisted on taking it off my hands to listen himself!

From classic literature to modern popular fiction, some works of phenomenal popularity just don’t resonate with every reader. When I tried to read Anna Karenina, it was a 2004 selection of Oprah’s Book Club. The title enjoyed a surge in popularity as people revisited a classic “considered by some to be the greatest novel ever written…tale of love and adultery set against the backdrop of high society in Moscow and Saint Petersburg” (quoted from the back cover blurb of the Main Library’s copy). I was not impressed. After a justly famous opening line, the book bored me to death and I set it aside after only a couple dozen pages. It was boring, it was stilted, it was old and it was stuffy: above all, it was long! Most editions finish somewhere between 850 and 950 pages. If you are like me, intrigued by the novel but unimpressed by it, you might like to read these novels instead.

What Happened to Anna K. by Irina Reyn: This steamy novel re-imagines the plot of Anna Karenina in modern Queens. Much like Tolstoy’s Anna, the titular Anna K. seeks an escape from her lifeless marriage in a reckless affair with a dashing young author. This brisk, enchanting novel compares favorably to the original at 244 pages.

 

Dinner With Anna Karenina by Gloria Goldreich: This tender novel of friendship examines the lives of 6 modern women as their book club reads Anna Karenina. As they discuss the classic, they make individual and group journeys toward improving their own lives.

 

Android Karenina by Ben H. Winters and Leo Tolstoy: In this embroidered version, Winters adds to and alters the original text of Anna Karenina to include cyborgs, space travel, and robots, adding a distinctive and imaginative twist to the story.

 

If you want to give Anna Karenina a go, place a hold on it at any of the three Davenport libraries. If the going gets tough, online reading guides may help you get more out of the text.

Iconic movies  about Los Angeles are:

L.A. Confidential, based on the book by James Ellroy. 1950’s Southern California in all it’s noir glory. Three cops are drawn into a complicated web of crime involving prostitutes and plastic surgery. Heavy hitters like Kevin Spacey, Guy Pearce and Russell Crowe are fun to watch, even as the plot gets more and more challenging to follow.

The Playerbased on the book  by Michael Tolkin. In typical Robert Altman fashion, the film is jam-packed with movie actors playing themselves (over 65 of them). Part of the fun is spotting them as they pop up in the background. Tim Robbins is “the player”  – a movie executive who is in constant negotiations with screenwriters and actors.

L.A. Story, screenplay by Steve Martin. One of Sarah Jessica Parker’s breakthrough performances; she plays a bouncy, free-spirit named SanDeE*, who has a life-altering effect on weatherman Steve Martin. Like The Player, this is a satirical look at the L.A./Hollywood lifestyle, though more affectionate and celebratory.

Looking for a good mystery?  We’ve got you covered!

Besides having one of the best website names ever, Stop, You’re Killing Me! is the best place to go if you’re a fan of mystery, crime, suspense, thriller and spy novels. Indexing the works of over 3.500 authors, you’ll find lists of books set in specific locations, during historical time periods, by diversity (for instance, Native Americans or Gypsies or Disabled detectives), by job title (such as wedding planners or pet sitters) and genres (vampires anyone?) New titles are listed each month, including new Large Print and new Audio Books. And there are extensive lists of mystery book award nominees and winners.

This site is fairly minimal – no fancy graphics or distracting ads. Titles are linked to amazon.com for further information (and where you can find a picture of the book cover), but this is mostly a presentation of lists, brief descriptions and links. It’s up to you to uncover your next favorite mystery – and with these tools, it should be an open and shut case!

Here’s our next tip for help in finding your next great read!

EarlyWord is the place to go to keep up with the latest in book news – what’s moving up the bestseller lists, award nominees and winners, forthcoming books with buzz, what book is being made into a movie. The emphasis is on connecting libraries to the publishing world, so you’ll also find reports on books that are showing a lot of reserves at a cross-section of libraries across the country, but this blog is packed with interesting and helpful information for any book lover.

The co-founders of EarlyWord – Nora Rawlinson and Fred Ciporen – each have strong ties to both the publishing and library worlds, but the tone of this blog is far from stuffy or academic. There’s a lot of humor and opinions but no snobbishness. Frequent postings – often 2 to 3 a day – keep things lively and current. With the end of the year approaching there has been a lot of information on award winners and “best of the year” lists with links to reviews for the big winners.

There are also links galore to all things book-related – publisher catalogs, book awards of all kinds, lists of “best” books from various publications, best seller lists, coming soon and previews, movies based on books (both finished films and those in various stages of production) including links to trailers for these movies. The “Consumer Media, Book Coverage” section will point you to that book you heard about on NPR last night, or the author Jon Stewart talked to last week.

Count on EarlyWord to entertain and inform – and to steer you to some great new books.

Ever wonder how other readers find great books? What sources do they search, what fount of wisdom to they consult? Contrary to popular myth, librarians do not get to sit around all day and read (if only!!) We’re looking for our next great read, just like you. So we’re introducing a new series of blog posts that will help you find the books you want to read – books, magazines, blogs (other than our very own Info Cafe, of course) that will point you in the right direction. First up: a sure fire winner from everyone’s favorite famous librarian.

The third title in Nancy Pearl’s growing series of what to read (after Book Lust and More Book Lust) is the newly published Book Lust to Go: Recommended Reading for Travelers, Vagabonds and Dreamers. Whether you’re a globe-trotting enthusiast or prefer to dream about other lands, Book Lust to Go will satisfy your wanderlust (Nancy owns up to being a determined non-traveler herself) Using the same format as her earlier books, topics are arranged in short, pithy chapters, with brief descriptions of recommended titles plus a few choice quotes to entice you into picking up a title. Subjects range from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe, Texas to Tibet and include modes of transportation (hiking, walking, trains) and even a chapter cautioning on the hazards of travel (“It Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time”) Coverage is idiosyncratic, covering countries, cities (Berlin, LasVegas), regions (Chesapeake Bay, Appalachia, Cornwall) and states (Ohio, Nebraska, Wyoming but sadly, no Iowa) There are some curious omissions but Nancy points out that many travel subjects and titles may have already been covered in her earlier books. You certainly won’t lack for interesting and exciting travel reading with just this book whether you’re planning your next adventure, or planning to sit comfortably by the fire and read about the adventures of others.

Nancy is a regular contributor NPR Morning Edition (usually airing on Fridays) where she always has interesting book recommendations. You can also follow her via her blog at NancyPearl.com where she has in-depth descriptions of her recommended titles, links to her NPR segments and access to the Book Lust Shop where you can buy her titles or a librarian action figure – and who doesn’t need one of those?

Watch for more Book Watch entries in the weeks to come!