Friday, November 30, 2007

Lists for Book Lovers

I've written before about my love for all things books, including books about books. So, I thought I would share one book in particular that I enjoy perusing, the Literature Lover's Book of Lists: Serious Trivia for the Bibliophile by Judie L. H. Strouf. The book has all of the lists that you would normally expect in such a book: 'Books for All Ages', 'Genres for Every Taste', 'Poetry..Reflections of the Soul', 'Drama..Thereby Hangs a Tale', 'Themes..Under One Umbrella', and 'Literary Periods'. But by far my favorite part of the book is the section entitled 'Potpourri..Weird, Whimsical, and Worthwhile.' There are 22 different lists in this section, which range from the more mundane ('Book Terminology' and 'Library of Congress Classification') to the fascinating. For example, list number 172 is 'Anonymously Written Books and Current Values.' The books in this list were originally published without the author's name on the title page. And, as you can imagine, these books can be quite valuable if the author went on to become famous. Imagine finding Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen at a garage sale only to learn that it was a first edition without her name on the title page. Or what if your next thrift store find turned out to be the 1899 anonymous edition of The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde? I don't know about you but it certainly makes me want to look a little harder the next time I go to a yard sale. The only thing the book doesn't do is give exact values for all of the books. It simply groups them into four categories from lowest to highest value. However, it isn't hard to find that information. I usually look at Alibris or ABE to find out what particular editions of books are going for at the moment.

Another fascinating list in this section is 'Epitaphs of Authors.' Some of them I've heard before but others were new to me. I was surprised to find that the vast majority of the epitaphs had been written by the author. One of my favorites is by Dorothy Parker, well actually she has two!
1) Excuse my dust; and 2) If you can read this, you've come too close.

Another good one is by Hilaire Belloc, When I am dead, I hope it may be said: His sins were scarlet, but his books were read.

And finally, I'll just do one more -- the "EST" List (oldest, youngest, largest, smallest, etc.).

The oldest complete novel in the world, The Tale of Genji.

The smallest book, Old King Cole (pictured above)

The longest on the N. Y. Times best seller list, The Road Less Traveled by M. Scott Peck
(more than 300 weeks)

There is so much more in this book! I could keep going, but I guess I'll leave some of it in case you want to check this one out for yourself.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Catching Up

I had a really great extended weekend for the Thanksgiving holiday. I guess I really shouldn't have to say that I ate way too much, but I did. I spent time with family and friends. I know it sounds silly, but I love it when everyone is home. Everyone may be doing their own thing, we may not do anything special, but I just love it when everyone is home. I didn't really do much of anything productive. I should have cleaned my house. I should have finished the two books that I need to read for book club meetings. But, I did get my Christmas tree up and decorated. I love Christmas, but I really don't like decorating. If I were a wealthy woman, I would pay someone to decorate my home for Christmas. But, alas, I'm a librarian. Oh well, enough rambling. While catching up on reading my favorite book blogs, I came across a couple of things I wanted to share with you. You may have already seen it, but here it is just in case. Enjoy!

I found this at and thought it was pretty neat. I'm not sure how I feel about destroying books for the sake of art, but I'm just going to assume that these were library books that were being weeded and were already damaged beyond repair. :)

Then I saw this at the Shifted Lbrarian. I love board games so I think this might be fun. Although, I can't ever talk anyone in my family into playing a board game with me. I read Pillars of the Earth as an undergrad in a Medieval England course that I was taking as a history major. I absolutely fell in love with it. In fact, I loved it so much that I sought out other books by Ken Follett and was disappointed to find that he hadn't written anything else like it -- until now. He has now published the sequel, World Without End. I can't wait to read this one. Like the first it is a rather lengthy tome so I think it may be an "over the Christmas break" book.

Finally, the New York Times has put out their annual list of the year's best reading. I like to look at it and see how many I've read and which ones I may want to read. It's also a good place to get ideas for Christmas gifts, as well.

Look for reviews of a few books coming in the next little while. My reading has slowed down quite a bit while I'm frantically trying to finish knitting some Christmas gifts, but I've managed to finish a couple things.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Decline in Reading

I came across this yesterday at the The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) has done a follow-up study to their depressing 2004 report entitled "Reading at Risk." In the earlier report, less than half of Americans (over 18) read for pleasure. This new report sought to build a broader picture by including information on nonfiction reading, as well. The new report claims a link between poor reading scores among children and the decline in reading in this country. Not surprisingly, digital media is blamed for the decline in reading, especially among those under 18.

Statistics regarding the consequences follow. This is my favorite part of any report like this. I just think they're fun. Here are a couple of examples to tide you over until you can read through the entire 99-page report. ". . . nearly three-quarters of employers who were polled rated 'reading comprehension' as 'very important' for workers with two-year college degrees, and nearly 90 percent of employers said so for graduates of four-year colleges." Next, "the data showed that 7 percent of full-time workers who scored at levels deemed 'below basic' on reading tests earned $850 to $1,149 a week, the fourth-highest income bracket, while 20 percent of workers who had scored at reading levels deemed 'proficient' earned such wages." So, you have to be able to read well to get a good-paying job. Makes sense to me. I like to casually drop these quotes into conversations with my sons, one of whom is a sophomore in college and the other is a senior in high school. Yes, I am not above using scare tactics on my children. I think I've mentioned before that much to my chagrin neither of my children like to read.

Like its predecessor, the new report is not without its share of controversy. There are some who believe that the report exaggerates the problem. Some also believe that people may be doing more reading than is reported, such as reading material via the Internet.

Of course, I believe reading is important (I'm a librarian, for heaven's sake!), but I'm not sure if the situation is all that dire. Yes, I agree that people should spend more time reading. However, I disagree with a statement made by the chairman of the NEA, Mr. Dana Gioia, when he said, "we live in a society where the media does not recognize, celebrate or discuss reading." What? Reading groups and book clubs have grown in popularity over the last several years. I haven't done any type of research to support my claim, but I believe it none the less. There are countless online book discussion groups, and many of the social networking sites are devoted to book lovers (i. e. LibraryThing, GoodReads, and Shelfari). Two of the major television networks have book clubs on their morning show, and then of course there is Oprah. Love her or hate her, she has gotten people reading and talking about books. Reading and belonging to a book club has become somewhat fashionable these days.

I don't have a solution to the decline in reading scores. But, I do have some suggestions if anyone is interested. First, get rid of things that take the fun out of reading. Kids hate reading because they associate it with unpleasantness -- tests. Accelerate Reader (AR) and No Child Left Behind both focus on quantity and evaluation. Where's the fun in that? Let people see you reading. Talk about what you're reading. And for heaven's sake, if you're a parent, read to your child early and often. In addition, support programs that provide literacy training to adults, as well. That's my two cents on the matter!

Friday, November 16, 2007

2007 National Book Award Winners

I posted a list of the finalists for the 2007 National Book Awards earlier. The winners were announced this week. The website has interviews and a list of the awards going back to 1950.

Wake County Library Book Sale

The Wake County Public Library will have over 500,000 books for sale this weekend. If you want to pick up some things to read this weekend, check this out.

My Idea of Heaven

I contracted the plague and have been away for a couple of days. Thankfully, I've rejoined the land of the living. I have a lot of catching up to do reading and posting, but for now I wanted to share something I saw on Jen's blog. This is definitely my idea of heaven! Have a great weekend!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Last Interview of Norman Mailer

As most of you have heard by now, Norman Mailer passed away at the age of 84 on Saturday. I came across something interesting from the Scotsman. You can listen to the last interview Mailer did here.

Struggling with Ex Libris

I just knew I would love Ex Libris by Ross King. It has everything that I like in a book. It is set in 17th century London. The protagonist is a rare/used book dealer. There are parallel stories and a mystery or two. I have tried. I really have. But, I just can't get into it. I know it's crazy, but I almost feel guilty because I don't really like it. Don't get me wrong, it's not terrible. For me, the biggest problem is the fact that he interrupts the plot and the character development to give long, history lectures. I know some background information is necessary, and I actually love reading about history. But, this is just too much. I have actually caught myself skimming over whole paragraphs waiting to get back to the action. These interruptions have not allowed me to buy into this book. I don't really care about the characters, and I don't really care what happens.

This may not be fair because I haven't even finished it, yet. I'm about 2/3 of the way through it. Maybe it will get better. Maybe if I reread it, it will be better. Maybe if I read it later, it will be better. I will persevere until completion mainly because it is a book I'm reading for two different reading challenges, and because (darn it!) I really thought I would like it. Oh well, I'll let you know how it all ends up. I just thought I would share my frustrations. I'm sure I'm not the only person to have this type of reading experience. But, this is a first for me.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Running out of Reading?

In case you don't already have enough reading to do with all the reading challenges and the overflowing bookcases, here are a couple of book clubs you may want to check out. I saw both of these yesterday on Book Club Girl's blog.

This first one is somewhat different than most that I've encountered and may appeal to a different audience than traditional book clubs. Deadspin, a popular sports blog, has started a new book club that will focus solely on sports books. Their first selection is Running the Table: The Legend of Kid Delicious, the Last Great American Pool Hustler.

Diane Rehm discusses a new book each month on her radio program, The Diane Rehm Show. The selection for November's Reader's Review is Dave Eggers' book, What is the What. She'll discuss the book on her show on November 21. There is a reader's guide available on her website.

Book Clubs

I know I promised a review of The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield, but I have been putting it off. Here's why:

The Pfeiffer Student Book Club met for the first time back in September. I was a little apprehensive about it because I wondered just how many college students would be interested in a book club. So, of course I used bribery and offered free pizza! To my surprise, we had 12 people in attendance and about five more who indicated that they wanted to come but had class or other obligations. During that first meeting, there was a great deal of energy. The students chose a great book for the first read -- The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield. Everything went great!

Our second meeting was October 24 (the students decided to keep the meetings on the 4th Wednesday at noon), and one student showed up! I couldn't believe it. After waiting about 10 minutes for stragglers who never came, Cindy (a library staff member), the student and I ended up having a really good discussion about the book. The student had read the book in one sitting and loved it. After the initial disappointment, I decided that as long as one person showed up, I would keep doing it. Over the course of the next few days, several students came by or e-mailed to tell me that they hadn't come for one reason or another but that they read the book and was still interested in the book club. So, I have quit pouting, and here is a brief review.

The Thirteenth Tale fits nicely into the Gothic tradition and was a perfect choice for October. Miss Vida Winter is a reclusive author who has given numerous interviews throughout her career. However, she is not very forthcoming with personal information. In fact, she has given nineteen different accounts of her life. Now, Ms. Winter is dying and wants to tell her story. She chooses Margaret Lea, a young biographer and the daughter of a rare book dealer. She summons Margaret to her estate and begins by asking her if she wants to hear a ghost story. Margaret is soon drawn into the strange world of the Angelfield family complete with ghosts, spooky estates, tragic fires, murder and suicide. Ms. Winter and Margaret have a few things in common -- they are both twins, which plays a huge part in the story, and they both live in a world of books. As Ms. Winter weaves her ghost story, Margaret must face her own ghosts. The mystery comes together in the end in a very unexpected way. This book was a joy to read. The language is absolutely beautiful. She evokes the settings so vividly that you really are drawn into this world. It's hard to believe that it's a first novel.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Another Challenge

The 'idea' of reading challenges appeals to me; however, I haven't been very successful in the past with the ones I've participated in. I'm currently participating in the Bibliography Challenge and have also now joined the From the Stacks challenge. The only reason I've joined this latest one is because I can pretty much choose anything from the piles of books I already have waiting to be read. The idea for this one is pretty simple -- choose five books to read from your existing to-be-read pile. You can't purchase anything new for this one. The rules say you can also count books that you are reading for other challenges. So, I think I may actually be successful with this one. I have chosen the following books for this challenge:

The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde
Ex-Libris by Ross King
Shadow of the Wind by by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
A Good Yarn by Debbie Macomber
The Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver

But, I may change my mind and substitute (not sure if that's allowed) something else. That's another problem I have with reading challenges. I never know what I'll be in the mood for next. We'll see how it goes. I have also been participating in the 50 Book Challenge over at Library Thing. I'm currently at 36 books for the year, so I don't know if I'll make it to 50 by the end of December. But, as I've said before, I'll have fun trying.

Books, Books, and More Books

I'm a true bibliophile. I love everything about books. Of course, I love to read, but it's more than that. I also love books as objects. I decorate my home with them and surround myself with them. I'm not a book snob, though. I love all types of books -- old, new, literary, classic and popular fiction. I also love books about books and reading. I have both of Nancy Pearl's Book Lust books. I have the Complete Idiot's Guide to the Ultimate Reading List, the Literature Lover's Book of Lists, Genreflecting: A Guide to Reading Interests in Genre Fiction, Now Read This II: A Guide to Mainstream Fiction, and Reading Group Choices 2004 to 2008. I even have a copy of the Used Book Lover's Guide to the South Atlantic States because I hope to one day take a road trip and hit all the used book stores along the way. I envision doing this in the fall so I can enjoy the beautiful leaves, as well.

So, as you can imagine, it was a special treat when I came home from work and found a new book in the mail. I got home late after going to my book club meeting and found my Easton Press 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die. I spent the next hour looking through it and making a list of books to buy. I was happy to see that I had read quite a few on the list; however, I don't think I'll live long enough to read the rest and read all the others that I already have piled up all over my house. But, it's fun to think about, anyway. So, it's hard to be at work right now knowing the clock is ticking and I have reading to do!