Saturday, June 24, 2017

                          Random Word

Lily Tomlin: "Man invented language to satisfy his deep need to complain."

Nonplussed - non PLUSST/noun/1582. A state of utter perplexity in which one is unable to act further. Roget's Thesaurus of Words for Writers and Merriam Webster's Collegiate Dictionary

Synonyms: bewildered, perplexed, flummoxed, dazed, confounded. Roget's Super Thesaurus

>>He looked through the front windshield, then once more to make sure what he saw was really there, and sat back nonplussed. "You know," he said thoughtfully, "I don't think I've ever been this close to a live moose before."  from Winter at the Door by Sarah Graves<<

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Wednesday, June 21, 2017

                   Hot Summer Reading

"Summertime, and the reading is easy...well, maybe not easy, exactly, but July and August are hardly the months to start working your way through the works of Germanic philosophers." Michael Dirda, Washington Post book critic

Just in time for summer reading lists, two new books landed on my desk.

If you're looking for book ideas from an engaging well-read St. Louis, MO librarian, buy Check These Out: One Librarian's Catalog of the 200 Coolest, Best and Most Important Books You'll Ever Read by Gina Sheridan. This is not a typical readers' advisory book, Sheridan said. There are no lists of "if you like that author, you'll like this author." Instead, her own favorite books are categorized, e.g. Ch. 8 - Reel Good Books (books made into movies) Chocolat by Joanne Harris, The Children of Men by P.D. James, The Godfather by Mario Puzo and To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. Or, if you want to wade into the sad pool, look at the books suggested in Tales of Woe: The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein; Bee Season by Myla Goldberg; and Invisible Bridge by Julie Orringer.

My summer reading list, thanks to Sheridan, is filling up largely from Chapter 11 - Too Cool for School. I'll read The Awakening by Kate Chopin, a classic that has been on my to-read list for too long, The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers, and Johnny Got His Gun by Dalton Trumbo. Her description of Man's Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl and William Shakespeare's Twelfth Night sparked both interest and a question: will summer be long enough for my growing list? 

The second book filled with ideas is My Life with BOB: Flawed Heroine Keeps Book of Books, Plot Ensues" by Pamela Paul, editor of the New York Times Book Review. If her house caught on fire, forget passports or family letters, Paul would save BOB. BOB is a record of "everything I've read or didn't quite finish since the summer of 1988," Paul said. She added that BOB is better than a journal because it "contains things I wanted to remember: what I was reading when all that happened. If there's any book that tells my own story it's this one." 

I felt right at home reading Paul's explanation that "my life is engulfed in books." She writes that in her house, books are on the floor, on shelves, on tables and in tote bags. Cheers to you and your book-filled totes, Pamela Paul! I have also kept a book list for years, withholding only the occasional title that I was embarrassed to admit I'd read. In my mind, I jump ahead to a hopefully far-off day a sister, niece or cousin discovers my notebook and after skimming the list exclaims, "She read THAT?!" Usually the titles are thrillers that weren't or cheesy ghost- written Hollywood memoirs, or much too light on the plot fiction.

Let's make our own BOBs and Pamela Paul proud. This summer, read Franz Kafka's The Trial, Stephen King's 'Salem's Lot, Joseph Heller's Catch-22, Susan Faludi's Stiffed, Madeleine L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time and A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith. 

If we're lucky, summer reading will be celebrated with a cool breeze and a chair on a porch.

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Monday, June 5, 2017


"Personally I think that grammar is a way to attain beauty." >>Muriel Barbery, The Elegance of the Hedgehog

If you ever meet David Knopf, a Kansas City Star columnist, please use the word robust correctly. Knopf may not correct you, but he will almost certainly be inwardly cringing. The columnist, writing about overused expressions, recently took a stand against misusing the word robust.

Knopf has developed what he calls Acute Language Hypersensitivity. "With ALH at my disposal, I've become a lightning rod for words and phrases that we mainstream Americans adopt and repeat and repeat, all with an astounding lack of self-awareness," he wrote.

His belief is that robust is fine to use when describing marinara sauce, but not a suburban Philadelphia police department's robust plan to promote better relationships between officers and residents. Knopf's hypersensitivity doesn't stop with robust. He also takes issue with "reaching out" being used instead of asking for a favor. Knopf suggests we just say support or join forces with instead of overusing "having your back" or "standing with."

Joining robust on making Knopf crazy are "gaining traction," "on the ground," and "at the end of the day." Defending his irritability, he wrote, "I never said I was a nice person."

One of my own pet peeves is the cutesy use of the letter "k." I've driven past a preschool named Kids Kollege and a restaurant called Kountry Kitchen. Equally frustrating is the ongoing debate between plural and possessive. It's most definitely not Horse's for Sale. A friend of mine who is a retired high school English teacher maintains a polite demeanor while quietly squirming over the misuse of ironic, literally and nonplussed.

I remember two things from fourth grade. First, the entire class wept while listening to Mrs. Maupin read Lassie Come Home. Second, Mrs. Maupin's own pet peeve was the repetitious, "my brother, he went to the store" rather than "my brother went to the store." We were taught in no uncertain terms that the addition of "he" was incorrect, unnecessary, and maddening. 

I wonder if David Knopf had Mrs. Maupin as a teacher??

If any of these examples of misspelled words, incorrectly used words/phrases or optional punctuation make you shudder, you're not alone. And that led me to buy Word by Word by Kory Stamper. If I had a career do-over, I'd want Stamper, a lexicographer at Merriam-Webster, as my mentor. Stamper takes readers along for an engaging examination of evolving language, the Internet, verbal fatigue, and whether she is a professional lumper or splitter. (Look it up!) 

If you're looking for new fiction this month, watch for:

Seven Stones to Stand or Fall - Diana Gabaldon
Camino Island - John Grisham
Dangerous Minds - Janet Evanovich
The Silent Corner - Dean Koontz
The Child - Fiona Barton
The Force - Don Winslow
Ministry of Utmost Happiness - Arundhati Roy
Beven and Luthien - JRR Tolkien & Christopher Tolkien
Love Story - Karen Kingsbury
Do Not Become Alarmed - Maile Meloy
Once and For All - Sarah Dressen
The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O. - Neal Stephenson
Before We Were Yours - Lisa Wingate
The Switch - Joseph Finder

Get a head start with summer reading:
The Identicals - Elin Hilderbrand
Beach House for Rent - Mary Alice Monroe
Sunshine Sisters - Jane Green

New memoirs:
Roxane Gay - Hunger
John Prine - Beyond Words
Kevin Hart - I Can't Make This Up
Nina Riggs - The Bright Hour

New Nonfiction:
The World is Your Burger - David Michaels
Hue 1968 - Mark Bowden
If I Understood You... - Alan Alda

And for toddlers - Little Excavator by Anna Dewdney

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June is National Iced Tea Month, National Zoo & Aquarium Month, and Audiobook Appreciation Month.


3     - BookCon in New York City

4     - 100th anniversary of Pulitzer Prize

8     - George Orwell's 1984 published in 1949

16   - Birth of Katherine Graham, Washington Post, 1917

21   - First Day of Summer (Reading!)

23   - 1868...Luther Sholes patented his typewriter

26   - 1974...first bar code swiped. Trivia: where and what?

Answer: A pack of Wrigley's gum in Troy, Ohio

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Monday, May 1, 2017

                  Get Caught Reading

"The great thing is to always be reading but not to get bored - treat it not like work, more like a vice. Your book bill ought to be your biggest extravagance." >> C.S. Lewis

May is an ideal month for readers. Sponsored by the Association of American Publishers is Get Caught Reading, a "nationwide campaign to remind people of all ages how much fun it is to read," according to the AAP. Where do you plan to get caught reading this month and what will you be reading? Whatever your favorite genre is, there is a new book waiting on the shelf. 

Dreaming of summer and cooking? Read The Beach House Cookbook by Mary Kay Andrews. Dreaming of art and salads? Pick up the new book by blogger Julia Sherman - Salad for President. Recipes and artwork abound.

Do you enjoy a novel that makes your heart beat a little faster? Read Paula Hawkins' Into the Water or Dennis Lehane's Since We Fell,The Thirst by Jo Nesbo, Testimony by Scott Turow, Dragon Teeth by Michael Crichton and Full Wolf Moon by Lincoln Child. Looking for new general fiction? Read The Frozen Hours by Jeff Shaara, House of Names by Colm Toibin, Same Beach Next Year by Dorothea Benton Frank, The Baker's Secret by Stephen Kiernan, 16th Seduction by James Patterson, Against All Odds by Danielle Steel, Stephen King's Gwendy's Button Box, Come Sundown by Nora Roberts and The Girl Who Knew Too Much by Amanda Quick. Or do you prefer short story collections? Pick up Richard Russo's Trajectory: Stories or Haruki Kimurakami's Men Without Women. A new name in historical fiction is Amelia Gray. I'm looking forward to reading Gray's Isadora, which looks at the life of ballerina Isadora Duncan.

If you prefer nonfiction, there's a variety of topics...Astrophysics for People in a Hurry by Neil deGrasse Tyson, Entertainment Weekly's The Ultimate Guide to Wonder Woman, Apollo 8 by Jeffrey Kluger or The Awkward Thoughts of W. Kamau Bell by W. Kamau Bell. 

Another book I'm anxious to read is My Life with Bob: Flawed Heroine Keeps Book of Books, Plot Ensues by Pamela Paul. 

If you need some laughter, check out Theft by Finding by David Sedaris or Confessions of a Domestic Failure by Bonmi Laditan.

We're never too old to learn. Read Geek Girl Rising by Heather Cabot & Samantha Walravens, or Girling Up: How to be Strong, Smart and Spectacular by Mayim Bialik. 

Children of all ages will enjoy Dragons Love Tacos 2 by Rubin/Salmieri or Pete the Cat and the Cool Cat Boogie by James Dean. Rick Riordan fans will be happy to read Trials of Apollo Book Two.   

I'll get caught reading Ryan White's bio of Jimmy Buffett while out on my porch on a warm afternoon - Jimmy Buffett: A Good Life All the Way. Other new bios include Otis Redding by Jonathan Gould and Are You Anybody? by Jeffrey Tambor.

May is Get Caught Reading Month, Global Civility Awareness Month, National Bike Month, National Meditation Month, National Photo Month and Mystery Month.

                              May Literary Days

1      -Batman debuts in Detective comics, 1939
1-7   -Children's Book Week
5      -Cartoonists' Day
8-12  -National Etiquette Week
11     -Eat What You Want Day
14     -Lewis & Clark left St. Louis, 1804
16     -Biography Day
18     -International Museum Day
29     -100th anniversary of birth of President John Kennedy, author of Profiles in Courage.

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Monday, April 24, 2017

                Amy Krouse Rosenthal

"Long ago I was given the advice that it is better to say your good-byes early than to be the last to leave." >>Amy Krouse Rosenthal

Readers of all ages lost a champion on March 13. Amy Krouse Rosenthal (1965-2017) was a rare breed of writer, producing books packed full of wit and sharp intellect for both children and adults.

If you're a reader of the New York Times, you may think her name seems familiar. Amy wrote a Modern Love column just a month before she died. The essay, which was published March 3, is titled, "You May Want to Marry My Husband." She shared with us the reasons she quickly fell in love with a man named Jason. Arguably, the strongest sentence in the essay is simply, "I'm going to miss looking at that face of his."

Upon her diagnosis of ovarian cancer, Amy cancelled a number of planned trips and time spent in writers' residencies, causing her to remark in the New York Times' essay on the similarity of the words cancer and cancel.

For those of us not fortunate enough to have known her in person, we have her books to help us reflect, laugh, weep, and grow a little smarter.  

Her adult books are inventive and fun. One day in a bookstore, I came across her memoir Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life. I was immediately intrigued by the idea of telling a life story in the form of an encyclopedia. Years later, when I read she had published another memoir, this time in the format of a textbook, I immediately bought a copy of Textbook. This book was creatively interactive...Amy wanted to connect with her readers. One my favorite chapters is found in the science unit and is a "short, collective biography experiment (p. 158)." It could be an interesting and fascinating exercise at your next dinner party. 

After reading most of her books for little ones, I felt as if I knew her personally. When my second great-nephew was born last year, there was no doubt that one of his first gift books from me was going to be I Wish You More. In June, when his family moves to a different city, it will be another AKR book that accompanies him, That's Me Loving You

Take time to browse her picture books. In Sugar Cookies, One Smart Cookie, and Christmas Cookies, Amy shared a lesson about love with kids of all ages, defining what compromise, forgive and gracious really mean, using baking cookies as a guide. We can all explore the true meaning of friendship in Spoon and Chopsticks. Introduce yourself to Uni, a unicorn who enthusiastically believes that little girls are real (Uni the Unicorn). Have fun with wordles in I Scream Ice Scream. What are wordles? Amy defined them as "groups of words that sound exactly the same but mean different things." For example, reindeer and rain, dear. There's even homage paid to an often overused punctuation mark - Exclamation Mark. How would a day filled with yes feel? The book, Yes Day, promises it would be a day of pizza, ice cream and invented games. Rounding out her list of picture books: The Wonder Book; Plant a Kiss; Little Miss, Big Sis; Little Oink; and Duck! Rabbit!

Textbook ends with a collection of notes (offered with musical accompaniment), including this thought from Amy:

"Bye. I love you. Thank you. In a last-call, sincere farewell moment, those are the six words that would fall out of my mouth. I don't think I could even suppress it."

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Sunday, April 2, 2017

                       Happy in April

"To be of use in the world is the only way to be happy." Hans Christian Andersen

If you want to live a happy life, start packing your bags. In case you missed the news, the World Happiness Report declared Norway the world's happiest nation. The United States was listed at #14.

Also found in the top 10 countries known for happiness: Denmark (#2), Finland (#5), Netherlands (#6), Sweden (#10)The Happiness Report measures "subjective well-being, i.e. how happy people are and why, according to the BBC. The report has been published for the past five years during which the Nordic countries have consistently dominated the top spots, the BBC added.

Are these happy attitudes due to Ikea, lingonberries, Skagen watches and Camilla Lackberg's novels, or do these countries know something we don't? 

It may be the education systems, healthcare, gender equality, and gorgeous scenery. It could also be as simple as an afternoon spent having tea with a loved one while talking and laughing, if the Danish concept of Hygge (HOO-gah) is believed. At the heart of hygge is "an experience of belonging and a sense of connection" writes Louisa Thomsen Brits, author of  "The Book of Hygge."  Hygge can be found in a cup of soup, candlelight, handwritten notes, and pleasant aromas, said Brits, adding "and really comfortable pants." Danes believe in compromise, rituals, social awareness, and homes being places of solace, according to Brits.

If you're interested in learning more about hygge, check out Brits' "The Book of Hygge" or "The Little Book of Hygge" by Meik Wiking. Or book a flight to Copenhagen. 

New books to read in April:


David Balacci - The Fix
Donna Leon - Earthly Remains
John Sandford - Golden Prey
Lisa Scottoline - One Perfect Lie
Jeffrey Deaver - The Burial Hour
Mary Higgins Clark - All By Myself, Alone
Steve Berry - The Lost Order
Stuart Woods - Fast and Loose
Elizabeth Kostova - The Shadow Land

           Non fiction

Anne Lamott - Hallelujah Anyway
Mai Der Vang - Afterlands (poems)
Mary Gaitskill - Somebody With a Little Hammer (essays)
Sarah Gerard - Sunshine State (essays)
David Grann - Killers of the Flower Moon
Michael Wallis - The Best Land Under Heaven
Mayte Garcia - The Most Beautiful  

April is Black Women's History Month, Jazz Appreciation Month, Library Snapshot Month, Mathematics Awareness Month, National Card and Letter Writing Month, National Humor Month, National Poetry Month and School Library Month.

                                        April Days

3      -Boston Library anniversary, opened in 1854

4      -Birthday of Dorothea Dix, 1802, Conversations on Common Things

6      -National Fun at Work Day

9-15 -National Library Week

10    -Break Up of the Beatles, 1970

12    -National Drop Everything and Read Day
        -National Bookmobile Day

13    -Birthday of Samuel Beckett, 1906, Waiting for Godot

14    -Grapes of Wrath (John Steinbeck) published, 1939

17    -International Haiku Day

22    -Earth Day 

23    -First Public School (Boston Latin School) in U.S. opened, 1635. 
        -World Book Night

24    -Library of Congress anniversary, 1800

27    -Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day

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Sunday, March 12, 2017

                      21 cents

 America Needs Nasty Women - bumper sticker in Iowa

In 2017, women have marched, put on pink hats, worn white clothes, raised fists high in the air and let their views be known. And if anyone was still confused about the message, t shirts were worn to explain exactly what women are thinking. The shirts' slogans have been as simple as "Believe" or as poignant as "We the People." Other straightforward ideas - "She Persisted," "The Future is Female" or "A Woman's Place is in the Resistance." But the message on a shirt that has bothered me the most for the past weeks:

21 cents.

At the current rate, the American gender pay gap won't be closed until 2059, according to Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) writing in the Huffington Post. "Women today are paid just 79 cents for every dollar earned by a man," she said. "Women are often outearned by men with less education. Women with a graduate degree have median annual earnings that are $5000 less than those of men with a bachelor's degree." 

A warm thank you to the women who comfort us, feed us, tell us stories. Thank you to women who check our blood pressure, rotate our tires, and make us laugh. Thank you to our mothers, sisters and cousins. Thank you to our female journalists, teachers, writers, artists, social workers, accountants, engineers, athletes, pilots, doctors, nurses, singers, politicians and soldiers. Thank you to women working behind a counter, on roadways and in parks, and with heavy equipment. Thank you to women working two or three jobs, attending school, raising children.

21 cents.

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"She was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, she persisted." --Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) speaking about Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA)

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Celebrate Women's History Month (every month!) and read a book by or about some very outspoken women. 

Personal History - Katharine Graham

To Space and Back - Sally Ride

Madame Curie - Eve Curie

Victoria: The Queen - Julia Baird

The Feminine Mystique - Betty Friedan

My Own Words - Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Shrill - Lindy West

Twenty Years at Hull House - Jane Addams

Lucretia Mott Speaks - Lucretia Mott

A Midwife's Tale - Laurel Thatcher Ulrich

Cleopatra - Stacy Schiff

Madam Secretary - Madeleine Albright

Majesty of the Law - Sandra Day O'Connor

On Her Own Ground: The Life and Times of Madam C.J. Walker - A'Lelia Bundles

My Life on the Road - Gloria Steinem

Gender Gap - Bella Abzug

Bad Feminist - Roxane Gay

All in a Day's Work - Ida Tarbell

Hidden Figures - Margot Lee Shetterly

Women's Slave Narratives - Annie L. Burton

The Long Loneliness - Dorothy Day

Silent Spring - Rachel Carson

Dust Tracks on a Road - Zora Neale Hurston

The Widow Cliquot - Tilar J. Mazzeo

My Life, My Love, My Legacy - Coretta Scott King

America's Women: 400 Years of Dolls, Drudges, Helpmates and Heroines 
When Everything Changed : The Amazing Journey of American Women from 1960 to Present - both by Gail Collins

"And to all the little girls...never doubt that you are valuable and powerful and deserving of every chance and opportunity in the world to pursue and achieve your dreams." --Hillary Rodham Clinton, 2016

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