Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Killer Stitch by Maggie Sefton

This is the fourth book in the Kelly Flynn knitting mystery series by Maggie Sefton. It definitely falls into that "cozy" mystery genre. As with the others, I did enjoy this one; however, maybe not quite as much. I felt a little cheated because the author barely introduces the killer until the last few pages of the book. I don't feel like the reader is given a fair chance to figure out who the real killer is. But, beyond that this book has everything that all the other books in the series do -- beautiful descriptions of Colorado (this time in winter), lots of yarn and knitting descriptions, and the characters that I've grown to care about. There is no doubt that there will be another book to follow according to the ending of this one. The murder investigation is tied up nicely at the end, but Kelly has just bought her dream home in the canyon, which seems to be haunted. Overall, this is a fun, quick read, especially if you enjoy knitting.

Happy Halloween

In the spirit of Halloween, take a few minutes and read a scary story or two. These are all available in the public domain and brought to you courtesy of defective yeti. Check them out.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Pfeiffer Student Book Club

The newly-formed Pfeiffer Student Book Club (we're still trying to decide on a more original name) will meet tomorrow at noon in the Reading Room of the G. A. Pfeiffer Library. We'll be discussing The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield. Students at the first meeting back in September chose this book, and I think it's a perfect choice for the October meeting since it's so close to Halloween. The book definitely falls into the Gothic literature genre. Check back here for a review following the meeting. But for now, I just wanted to remind everyone about tomorrow's meeting. All students, faculty, and staff of Pfeiffer are welcome to attend! We'd love to have you. Come and enjoy great conversation and good food!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Booker Prize Rant

I just came across this post over at Book Chase. Apparently, there are those who not only don't put much stock into awards, but think that they are evil. This is interesting. Check it out.

Man Booker Prize Announced

Anne Enright is the recipient of the 2007 Man Booker Prize for her book The Gathering. The annual award is given to an author from Britain, Ireland or The Commonwealth and includes a $102,000 stipend.

The other authors on the short list included Ian McEwan for On Chesil Beach, Lloyd Jones for Mr. Pip, Nicola Barker for Darkmans, Mohsin Hamid for Reluctant Fundamentalist, and Indra Sinha for Animal's People.

The problem with giving awards for anything (books, movies, TV shows, etc.) is that people do the choosing. We all have our own opinions regarding what makes something worthy of an award. We simply can't understand why everyone doesn't love the same things that we do. So, I do feel somewhat sorry for judges in this regard. No matter what choice is made, there will be some people who are unhappy. For this year's Man Booker Prize, it took the judges two and a half hours to make a decision, and according to the New York Times, Ms. Enright "wasn't everybody's first choice. She was "a choice with which all the judges were happy."

So, what does this mean? Does it mean that The Gathering is a far superior book to On Chesil Beach or Reluctant Fundamentalist? Or Hard Row by Margaret Maron (which happens to be the cozy mystery that I'm currently reading) for that matter? Of course not. It means that according to a particular group of people on a particular day, that particular book was chosen as deserving of merit. I haven't read The Gathering. In fact, I hadn't even heard of it until it won yesterday. I'm sure it's a fine piece of literature, and I may add this book to my ever-increasing to-be-read pile, but, not necessarily because it's an award winner. I'll seek out reviews and recommendations from other book blogs and from Library Thing before I make up my mind.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

2007 National Book Award Finalists

Finalists for the 2007 National Book Award were named yesterday. The winners will be announced in New York in November. After looking at the list of finalists, I am once again surprised at the number of books with which I'm not familiar. As an acquisitions librarian, reading book reviews is a major part of my job, and I normally feel like I'm pretty much on top of things -- until this list comes out each year. This brings up the question of the value of book awards and what they really mean to the average person. The answer is probably not all that much. Yes, as a librarian, I want to make sure that we have all the major award-winning books in our collection. However, that doesn't mean that I necessarily want to read all of them. As long as I'm making confessions, I read more fiction than nonfiction. Nevertheless, I was actually more familiar with the titles on the nonfiction list this year.

On a related note, NPR had a story today about bestseller lists. They make a similar point by saying that bestseller lists, such as the New York Times no longer carry the weight they once did. This probably has to do with the fact that people have access to book news and reviews today that they didn't have before Amazon and Google.

However you choose the books you want to read is fine, as long as you READ!

Fieldwork by Mischa Berlinski
Varieties of Distrubance by Lydia Davis
Then We Came to the End by Joshua Ferris
Tree of Smoke by Denis Johnson

Brother, I'm Dying by Edwidge Danticat
God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything by Christopher Hitchens
Unruly Americans and the Origins of the Constitution by Woody Holton
Ralph Ellison: A Biography by Arnold Rampersad
Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA by Tim Weiner

Magnetic North by Linda Gregerson
Time and Materials by Robert Haas
The House on Boulevard St. by David Kirby
Old Heart by Stanley Plumly
Messenger: New and Selected Poems 1976-2006 by Ellen Bryant Voigt

Young People's Literature
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
Skin Hunger: A Resurrection of Magic, Book One by Kathleen Duey
Touching Snow by M. Sindy Felin
The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick
Story of a Girl by Sara Zarr

Last year's winner for fiction was The Echo Maker by Richard Powers.

Nobel Prize in Literature

Doris Lessing has been awarded the 2007 Nobel Prize in Literature. She is a prolific author who is best known for The Golden Notebook, which was published in 1962. She lives in London and is still writing as she approaches her 88th birthday. Her award didn't come without some controversy. Outspoken literary critic, Harold Bloom, didn't agree with the committee's decision. He says, "Although Ms. Lessing at the beginning of her writing career had a few admirable qualities, I find her work for the past 15 years quite unreadable...fourth-rate science fiction." However, others feel that the criticism comes more from her past political beliefs than from her ability as a writer.

During the announcement of her award, the academy described her most famous work by saying, "The burgeoning feminist movement saw it [The Golden Notebook] as a pioneering work and it belongs to the handful of books that inform the 20th century view of the male-female relationship."

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Count Me In

O.K., I'm finally going to give in and just do it. For a while now, I've been reading and enjoying many of the book blogs out there. One of the things that became apparent pretty quickly is the fact that reading challenges abound. This was new to me, but believe me they're everywhere. The problem for someone like me is choosing between them. For anyone who still doesn't know what these are, I'll explain (however, I'm pretty sure I'm one of the last people to discover them). It's probably easier if I just give an example. One of the ones that I've decided to join is the Bibliography Challenge. In this challenge, participants choose three books about books or stories in which books figure prominently. Once you've chosen your books, you post a comment on the blog of the person who originated the challenge. In this case it is Historia. This just allows everyone to keep up with who is participating. After reading my books, I'll then post reviews here and post a comment with a link on the original blog. I think it'll be fun. I also think it'll be a way for me to start making a dent in my huge tbr (to-be-read) pile.

My tbr pile is currently growing at an astronomical rate. In fact, my husband is going to build me some custom bookshelves covering one whole wall of our dining room (thanks, honey). This is on top of the bookcases that I already have in every room of my house. Books are stacked double- and triple-deep on many of them. So, maybe I should join a couple more challenges?! Or maybe I should join a support group!

For the Bibliography Challenge, which runs from October to December 2007, I have chosen:

The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde
Ex-Libris by Ross King
The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Banned Books Display

Since I've been talking about our display, I thought I would post a couple of pictures. It's simple, but we've gotten quite a few people stopping by to take a look. One of my colleagues also gave out snacks as part of a "Taste of Banned Books" the last couple of days. She included oreos for And Tango Makes Three, muffins for In the Night Kitchen, and Hershey's kisses for The Chocolate War. The students liked it. Thanks, Cindy!

Photos by Jonathan

Get Your Head Out of the Sand

"People want to stick their heads in the sand." I overheard this comment from one of the members of the Class of 1957 as they toured the library this past weekend as part of the homecoming festivities. This one comment was worth the effort of putting up the display. I'm a firm believer in every person's right to free access to information. However, I have to admit that I was a little worried about our display of banned books. I just wasn't sure how some of our older alumni would react. It turns out that they were very interested in the issue. One book in particular caught their eye -- And Tango Makes Three. As I described in an earlier post, this is a children's book based on a true story about two male penguins who take turns sitting on an orphaned egg. I told them that book happened to be the book most often challenged or banned this year. After a few more minutes, they continued on their tour. It was as they headed upstairs that I overheard the comment about people sticking their head in the sand. Later on their way out of the building, several of them picked up bookmarks and copies of the banned books list. One of the women told me she was going to take one to her daughter who is a high school English teacher.

I don't really know what I expect when I put up the banned books display each year. I guess I just want people to understand that censorship is dangerous. It may not seem like a big deal if one book is removed from a library shelf or a school reading list. But, that's the way all civil liberties are eroded -- one small step at a time. So, it's time we get our heads out of the sand!