This book an uplifting true story about a two-person book club. Will Schwalbe and his mother, Mary Anne, have most of their club meetings in Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center while waiting for her cancer treatment. Mary Anne Schwalbe was an active woman: loving wife and mother, member of the Women’s Commission/International Rescue Committe, former Director of Admissions for Harvard/Radcliffe, Associate Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid, friend and mentor to many people around the world. She shares her love of the printed word with all three of her children, but she creates a special bond with the author during the hundreds of hours they spend in hospitals. “Throughout, they are constantly reminded of the power of books to comfort us, astonish us, teach us, and tell us what we need to do with our lives and in the world. Reading isn’t the opposite of doing; it’s the opposite of dying.” The reader will meet many interesting people and an eclectic collection of titles, including some childhood favorites. Although the outcome of this story is apparent from the start the story is not depressing. There is a lot of living packed into this book. I wish I had known this admirable woman and her family. The only negative is that I now have dozens of titles to add to my ‘to-read’ list, and unlike Mary Anne, I’m a slow reader. A complete list of all of the titles mentioned throughout the book is included at the end.
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Letters - words – fonts are everywhere you look in the modern world. Unless you live in isolation you probably see dozens of fonts each day. This title is an interesting look at fonts/typefaces – not just their history but also the way they affect the reader. “Typefaces are now 560 years old, but we barely knew their names until about twenty years ago, when the pull-down font menus on our first computers made us all the gods of type. Beginning in the early days of Gutenberg and ending with the most adventurous digital fonts, Garfield unravels our age-old obesession with the way our words look.” The author is passionate about the topic of type and describes many of the fonts with human characteristics. This title includes numerous illustrations of typefaces and ads. It even mentions ” The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog”, which is used as a display phrase for fonts, and the very popular YouTube video that it inspired. Although I was familiar with two terms applied to type – serif and sans serif- I never spent much time thinking about typefaces before readin this book. Now I’m much more aware of the look of the printed word. I had an immediate negative impression of the font used for the 2012 London Olympics, and I regularly check to see if the book I’m reading includes information about the typeface. Just My Type is an entertaining and enlightening read that should appeal to a wide audience.
This title is an examination of the way we eat and what it would take to eat well. The author works undercover as a laborer in the field of Central Valley, California, as a stock clerk in a Detroit area Walmart, and as an expediter in a Brooklyn Applebee’s. As she works for two months in each job she lives as her co-workers do on meager wages and with little access to affordable and healthy food. During her time in these jobs she comes ‘to think of the intrticate linkages from farm to plate not as a food system, but as a foodscape, a lush, living, breathing world through which our meals travel. Farmers and chefs are the most visible of its inhabitants, but farmworkers and produce managers and stock clerks and prep cooks live there, too – and they are no less important to our meals. At the human end of the food chain, eating is not just an agricultural act, but a profoundly social one as well.” p.234 I found this to be an eye-opening investigation of the American food system. It’s an informative look at the workers who have a hand in putting food on our plates. The narrative is entertaining to read but the author also includes numerous footnotes, almost 40 pages of endnotes, and a 23 page bibliography so the book is scholarly as well. If the topic of food and eating well is appealing you might also like Plenty: one man, one woman, and a raucous year of eating locally by Alisa Smith/J.B. Mackinnon and Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: a year of food life by Barbara Kingsolver.
As promised, here is a little follow up dish on the blind dates:
“Our date did not go well. We spoke different languages that made it difficult to understand one another. I would not recommend this date unless you like sci-fi.”- The City & the City – China Mieville 204.4487
“What a fantastic little book. I really picked a winner! If you live in New Jersey this is a must read about people, places, signs and wonder. Everybody knows somebody or something from our state. Good writing, too!”
- Fresh Jersey: stories from an altered state – Mike Kelly 115.7277
“If you ever had the desire for adventurous hiking for the entire summer with two young children, this book is a must read.” – Scraping Heaven – Cindy Ross 917.8
“In the spirit of a blind date – I went for fun, rippling muscles and romance! While not my normal genre by a long shot this was quite a fun romp. While you know the ending, the trip there has some unexpected turns, seduction and fun. My husband appreciates the way I address him (mimicking the book) but thankfully has refused to go shirtless in a leather vest.”- The Devil Wears Plaid – Teresa Medeiros F MED
“This book was a little young for me, I would recommend it to a teenager.”- What Boys Really Want by Pete Hautman YA HAU
“Easy reading, interesting plot. Love the main characters especially the Superintendent (Jury). This mystery had some twists and turns, lots of reference to famous movies and interesting characters both human and non-human. I got lucky in my pick as I love mysteries!!!!” - Black Cat – Martha Grimes F GRI
“Excellent discussion of religion and animals. My date was a great storyteller. I couldn’t put the book down. A definite page turner. I would go on another date anytime. I must read.” - The Life of Pi: a novel -Yann Martel F MAR
“Extremely interesting story. What a life Bob has had! Trooper, undercover agent, mob follower, NBA referee. He has done it all. We had a lovely time and I would try another blind date.”- Covert: my years infiltrating the mob – Bob Delaney 364.1
“Being a Twilight fan, I was a little disappointed by The Host. While the plot was intriguing, the meat of the book doesn’t come until close to the end.”
- The Host: a novel – Stephanie Meyer F MEY
“I found the experience to be so much fun. I loved choosing from all the beautiful wrapping and reading the little insight that when with it. The book was very unique as it told how one painting affected so many lives throughout time. I so recommend the book to someone who enjoys many different stories tied together with a common theme.”
- Girl in Hyacinth Blue – Vreeland, Susan F VRE
Thank you to everyone who dared to try a blind date during April 2012 @ your library!
My first experience reading Geraldine Brooks was Year of Wonders: a novel of the plague.This was Ms. Brooks first fiction writing and I was immediately impressed with her style. The author took an obscure historical fact and created a narrative with realistic characters, setting, etc. I was looking forward to reading more by the author and the next two books, March and People of the Book, did not disappoint me. Her latest novel is Caleb’s Crossing. This story begins in 1660 on Noepe, now known as Martha’s Vineyard. We meet the main characters, Caleb Cheeshateaumuck and Bethia Mayfield, the narrator of the story. Caleb is a member of the Wampanoag people and the first Native American to graduate from Harvard. Bethia is the daughter of a minister and longs for the kind of education that is only available to males. In 1661, both Bethia and Caleb, as well as others from Great Harbor (Edgartown), are in Cambridge receiving their various educations. At the end of a year the story leaps forward to 1715 back on the island and the intervening years are summarized. The details in Brooks’ books make them come alive. Although there is a lot of research behind each of her novels they are not academic in tone, but are entertaining to read. I’m looking forward to whatever topic she tackles next.
The author poses the question: “As we enjoy the Net’s bounties, are we sacrificing our ability to read and think deeply?” This book demonstrates how widespread use of the Internet is not only changing how we communicate, socialize, and search for information, among other uses, but is also physically changing our brains. “He explains how the printed book served to focus our attention, promoting deep and creative thought. In stark contrast, the Internet encourages the rapid, distracted sampling of small bits of information from many sources…. – and now the Net is remaking us in its own image. We are becoming ever more adept at scanning and skimming, but what we are losing is our capacity for concentration, contemplation, and reflection.” The book interweaves history, science and personal stories on an engaging and timely theme. There are pages of notes for each chapter which lead the reader to additional thought-provoking writings.
Carr says: “For some people, the very idea of reading a book as come to seem old-fashioned, maybe even a little silly – like sewing your own shirts or butchering your own meat.” While reading this I couldn’t help but think of my own modest use of the Internet and my reluctance to give up books. Although I may soon be in the minority, for now I’m content to straddle the worlds of technology and the printed word.
This extremely readable book tells the tales of many of country music’s legendary performers. Nicholas Davidoff visits the homes and studios that shaped the musicians, including the back roads of Virginia, Music Row in Nashville, and the western influence of Texas and Bakersfield, California. His portraits of the musicians are vivid and intimate – the result of hours of personal interviews. This is not just a factual series of profiles, but incudes the author’s opinions about the musicians and music. Davidoff does not have a lot of positive comments about many of the “hats” who are popular in country music today. The book concludes with notes about his sources, a general list of recommended books, and suggested listening.
Discovering Folk Music was published in early 2010, perfectly timed to supplement the West Deptford Free Public Library’s New Harmonies: Celebrating American Roots Music in spring 2011. Stephanie Ledgin’s latest work is written with a general audience in mind yet detailed and comprehensive enough in scope as to appeal to professional folklorists, songwriters, and season musicians.
The author introduces the reader to folk music by explaining its history and how” the music continues to sing.” to paraphrase Rich Bellamente, a West Deptford Free Public Library New Harmonies docent.
American folk music roots are derived from the many cultures that carried musical instruments to the shores of this country. Sounds of banjos, dulcimers, guitars, harmonicas, and accordions are easy to imagine while enjoying pages of artistic black and white photographs showcasing instruments, musicians and venues. Famous folk musicians are noted in the progression from early folk music to the family-friendly folk music often performed today throughout America, including America’s public libraries. The concluding sections of the book, More Folk: Selected Resources and Listening Space: A Folk Continuum are filled with useful follow up materials both off and online.
The decision to invite JibJab cofounders, Greg and Evan Spiradellis to pen the forward was a wise one. Consider the current insights included: “Music is an incredibly powerful art form. Folk art is typically associated with being accessible – anybody with ambition can pick up the tools he or she has at his or her disposal and create it. There is little, if any, polish, just raw creativity. Today, with computers, music creation software, and the Internet, production and distribution technology is accessible to everyone. The balance of power in media is shifting from the distributor to the creator. With that, there is no doubt that digital technology will lead to the creation and discovery of great folk art and folk music that might not otherwise have had a chance to find an audience; our work certainly wouldn’t have. Just imagine if Woody Guthrie had had the Internet to share his message and music directly with his audience.
I personally wonder if Woody Guthrie would have the same deep public appreciation for his work if the Internet was the primary medium to share his music. He may have been a viral hit on YouTube, though the staying power of music promoted and published online via itunes and other outlets is yet to be determined.
Ms. Ledgin’s insights regarding the power of song as related to participation ring true.
“The power of song – an expression heard a lot lately in connection with folk music’s patriarch of song, Pete Seeger. Through song, Pete has enthused, encouraged, soothed, rallied, and even ticked off a few people along the way during his 90 years of walking on this land. Toward the end of the biographical documentary, Pete Seeger: The Power of Song, Pete says, “Participation. That’s what’s going to save the human race.” The rainbow race – humanity. And through hundreds of songs throughout our lives, we are moved to participate in the various aspects of our lives – social, political, spiritual, or recreational. Pete has often stated that is more important when he is performing to get the audience singing – to hear them participate – to hear their voices rather than his alone.”
As the New Harmonies exhibit drew to a close Arlene Storer, another West Deptford Free Public Library docent shared that she attended Pete Seeger concerts and was indeed moved as were many. Below is a photograph of Arlene on New Harmonies exhibit docent duty in the library. She is on the far left by the banner.
Mr.Willowby’s Christmas Tree
by Robert E. Barry
I’ve always enjoyed the sharing aspect of this story – all creatures large and small getting a piece of the tree. I think even small children would enjoy the rhymes and illustrations.
Red Ranger Came Calling
by Berkeley Breathed
I love the quirky illustrations and the surprise ending. This is not a typical cheery Christmas story but one that could appeal to adults as well as a mature young reader.
Christmas on Jane Street
by Billy Romp with Wande Unbanske
This is a true story about a Vermont family that comes to New York City every Christmas to see Christmas trees in Greenwich Village. This is a very sweet story about the country coming to the city.
Where’s Little Bunny?
I liked it as a child. It’s about a little girl on an Easter Egg hunt who loses her bunny and rather than look for the eggs she looks for the bunny she loves and finds the golden egg which is prize to the bike of her dreams.
Lemony Snicket’s The Latke Who Couldn’t Stop Screaming
by Daniel Handler
Author Daniel Handler (Lemony Snicket) writes a funny and satirical story about an angry potato pancake who screams evn before he hits the hot oil. The story points out differences and similarities of the Christian-Judean holidays and how everyone just wants to be accepted in the world. A very cute and imaginative story for all ages.
A Christmas Carol
by Charles Dickens
I love the storyline of A Christmas Carol because it serves as a great reminder of what Christmas should be about – love and giving. I recommend this book to anyone of any age because the message is timeless and applicable to all!
by Jan Brett
Any title by this author is a win.
Much thanks to the many adults who Soaked Up Some Good Books while participating in the West Deptford Free Public Library Adult Summer Reading program this year.
Congratulations to WDFPL’s most widely read authors:
to our 2010 Booklover’s Bag summer reading prize winner!