Thursday, December 16, 2010

Short Stories Have A New Collection Area

Bernardsville Library's short stories have been separated from the fiction shelves and now have their own collection area within the Fiction Wing.  They are attractively showcased there to make quick browsing possible for our patrons and are marked with special spine labels.  Short stories pack a punch, but don't drag out the punchline. As Polonius stated in Hamlet, "...brevity is the soul of wit..."

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Feather Your Nest....

with some nice holiday reading at Bernardsville Public Library.  We have three different displays of books bound to bring cheer to this season of the year.  In addition, a special array of holiday movies has been put on display for easier browsing as well.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Library Book Groups Meeting Next Week

There will be two opportunities next week to join in book discussions at Bernardsville Library. Both library book groups will be meeting to discuss their respective selections, and you are welcome to participate.

Memoirs and Coffee book group will be discussing Temple Grandin's memoir, Thinking in Pictures: and other reports from my life with autism.  Dr. Grandin is Professor of Animal Science at Colorado State University and is a noted advocate of improved lifestock handling.  She has designed numerous lifestock facilities around the world which are intended to reduce stress on animals and improve their productivity.  Dr. Grandin also has autism, and in Thinking in Pictures, she reveals what it is like to live with autusm and think in picutres rather than words. Her memoir will be discussed this Tuesday, November 30, at 10:30 a.m. in the library Community Room.

Saturday Samplers book group will discuss The Invisible Wall: a love story that broke barriers by Harry Bernstein on Saturday, December 4, at 3:30 p.m. in the Small Meeting Room.  Mr. Bernstein is a late-blooming author, having published this biography at the age of  96 in 2007.  He has subsequently written two more books.  The Invisible Wall recalls his youth in a Lancashire working class town where Jews and Christians lived on the same street, but separated themselves according to sides of the street.  The author paints a very bleak picture of his brutish father, oppressed mother, and struggling siblings, and yet he counterbalances this with a very touching love story that indeed broke barriers.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Madame X in Literature and X-Rays

As a follow-up to the Saturday Samplers book group discussion of  Strapless: John Singer Sargent and the Fall of Madame X by Deborah Davis, here are a few points of interest that we learned.
The original version of the painting, Portrait de Mme ***, which caused such a stir at the Paris Salon of 1884, was captured in only one black and white photograph, seen above. The pose of Madame Gautreau with her jeweled strap seductively slipping off her shoulder brought notoriety to a painting which was not well received for several other reasons. Both the artist and subject were duly shocked by the critical furor, and Sargent retreated to England while Madame Gautreau (Mme. X) spent the rest of her life trying to reclaim her former position in Parisian society. At some point, Sargent repainted the strap to fit her shoulder (see image below.) Still believing that it was his finest work, he later sold the painting to the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
By coincidence, two books published in 2003 (with similar book covers) addressed the compelling story behind this famous portrait. Strapless: John Singer Sargent and the Fall of Madame X used historical resources to describe Sargent's career and how it intersected with Mme. X in this one painting. While art historians know that there are many intriguing tales behind works of art, it takes a writer looking for a book subject to bring them to life for the general public. A second writer, Gioia Diliberto, chose to focus on Madame Gautreau, rather than the painting itself, in her publication, I am Madame X: a novel. This book is a highly imaginative, fictional account of an American woman born of French descent whose goal in life was to make a name for herself in belle époque France.

For interesting insights into how Sargent struggled with his composition of Madame X, repainting her profile at least eight times, please refer to the Saturday Samplers blog. There you will find a technical analysis done by the Metropolitan Museum of Art using X-radiography. You can see an X-ray image of the repainted strap as well.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

A Freudian Slip of the Strap?

Saturday Samplers, a Bernardsville Library book group, will discuss Strapless: John Singer Sargent and the Fall of Madame X by Deborah Davis on Saturday, November 6, at 3:30 p.m. in the library. 

Strapless tells the fascinating story behind John Singer Sargent's famous portrait of Mme. Gautreau. This life-size oil painting caused an absolute sensation at the Paris Salon of 1884.  Exhibited alongside hundreds of paintings by renowned and aspiring artists, Portrait de Mme ***, as Madame X  singularly attracted the disdain of both art critics and the Parisian public.

Why should this particular painting of a Belle Epoch socialite arouse such instantaneous revulsion and criticism?  After all, Mme. Gautreau was considered to be an exotically beautiful young woman known for her remarkable neckline and figure.  Why should John Singer Sargent's work be so reviled when he had successfully exhibited paintings at previous Salons? Could the artist's placement of her loose dress strap be enough to inflame the French or were there other factors behind their general disdain for what is now considered to be a masterpiece?  In Strapless, Sargent's career is examined in terms of the impact this portrait had on both the artist and the sitter, Madame X.
Review by Evelyn Fischel

Monday, October 25, 2010

Staff Pick: Anthony Doerr's Short Stories

If you are looking for highly inventive, finely executed writing,  give Anthony Doerr's books a try.  Doerr's first publication was a set of short stories, The Shell Collector, which came out to positive reviews in 2002.  Subsequent to that, he published the nonfiction work, Four Seasons in Rome, and a novel, About Grace. He continues to write for such magazines as McSweeney's, Orion, and Zoetrope: All-Story. and has just published a second collection of short fiction entitled Memory Wall: stories.  His writing has received numerous awards including the O. Henry Prize, the Rome Prize, and the New York Public Library Young Lions Fiction Award.

Both The Shell Collector and Memory Wall: stories contain imaginative stories with characters whose foibles, talents, and travails are brought to life in unusual, but convincing ways.  For instance, "The Hunter's Wife, " in The Shell Collector, describes a marriage falling apart as a wife discovers her very special ability to feel the blissful life experiences of those recently deceased.  She does this with animals and later with several people. This diviner of the dead forces her husband to touch her hand as she holds the leg of a doe he has just killed, creating a connection to the doe's receding life force. "Already the doe's vision was surging through her (wife's) body - fifty deer wading a sparkling brook, their bellies in the current, craning their necks to pull leaves from overhanging alders, light pouring around their bodies, a buck raising its antlered head like a king. A silver bead of water hung from its muzzle, caught the sun, and fell."

In Memory Wall: stories characters contend with their memories and what it means to lose memory or self-identification.  This theme is symbolized in the story, "Village 113," by the Chinese town whose inhabitants are forced to give up their homes, community, and way of life so that the area can be submerged for a dam.  The first story in the collection, "Memory Wall," uses science fiction to tell the wonderful human interest story of a young South African boy, Luvo, whose brain has been adapted to "read" the memories of an elderly woman with dementia. Luvo is as much a victim of memory loss as the woman.  "Luvo believes he is somewhere around fifteen years old.  He has very few memories of his own: none of his parents, no sense of who might have installed four ports in his skull and set him adrift among the ten thousand orphans of Cape Town. No memories of how or why."  But Luvo still has intelligence and free will, and what he chooses to do with them makes for a powerful and beautiful story.

Review by Evelyn Fischel

Thursday, October 14, 2010

She Would Have Preferred A Letter

Diana Athill starts Instead of a Letter with a reflection on her elderly grandmother's death, noting that this woman had created a family, "a world for us," but what of herself, asks the author, "a woman who had never had the chance, or had missed the chance, to create something like that?" So begins the author's memoir which was first published in 1962 and reissued in 2010.

Instead of a Letter recounts Diana Athill's youth, family life in the British countryside, and an ill-fated love affair begun at the age of 15 with an Oxford student and RAF member.  This passionate union was something momentous for young Diana. Apparently her lover felt otherwise because he left her with no explanation, marrying someone else before he died overseas.   Athill was unable to work through this tragedy, or at least to confront him about it. She writes, "The times when the pain was nearest to the physical - to that of a finger crushed in a door, or a tooth under a drill - were not those in which I thought 'He no longer loves me' but those in which I thought  'He will not even write to tell me that he no longer loves me.'

Memoirs and Coffee, a Bernardsville Public Library book group, will discuss this memoir on Tuesday, October 26th, at 10:30 a.m. The book group is open to new members and is facilitated by Pat Kennedy-Grant.  Please feel welcome to attend.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Bernardsville is a 5 Star-Rated Library

Bernardsville Public Library has just been accorded a Five Star rating by Library Journal .  Please refer to the Library Journal article for specifics about this rating and to see the very short list of  libraries nationwide that  earned five stars in our expenditure category, $400,000 to $999,999.  These ratings are based on data gathered in 2008 after the recession had started.  Bernardsville Public Library director, Karen Brodsky, is quoted in the article as noting that high usage levels were "partly because numerous people were using the library to find employment and to hone computer skills toward that effort."  The library's electronic databases, Career Center, free computer classes, and the many programs dedicated to helping job seekers all contributed to attracting a large number of visitors. In addition, we are fortunate to have a loyal community of library users who make a visit to Bernardsville Library part of their daily routine.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Interpreter of Maladies To Be Discussed

Bernardsville Library's book discussion group, Saturday Samplers, will meet Saturday, October 2 at 3:30 pm to discuss Interpreter of Maladies: Stories (1999) by Jhumpa Lahiri.

This debut collection of short stories published in 1999 won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 2000 as well as the PEN/Hemingway Award and several other writing prizes.  Jhumpa Lahiri has continued to make a literary name for herself with subsequent publications of The Namesake (2003) and Unaccustomed Earth (2008.) Read more about Jhumpa Lahiri on the Saturday Samplers blog.

Led by Readers’ Services Assistant, Evelyn Fischel, Saturday Samplers is a book discussion group dedicated to sampling various kinds of literature, including short stories, nonfiction, new and old novels, and even teen fiction. Its goal is to search out interesting, noteworthy, and sometimes overlooked books. Readers can find information about the group and authors at No sign-up is needed to join the discussion. 

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Bernardsville Library Observes "Banned Books Week"

Every year the American Library Association celebrates our freedom to read by observing Banned Books Week.  This year's observation takes place Sept. 25-Oct. 2, and Bernardsville Public Library is marking the occasion with a special book display featuring a large quantity of books which have been banned or challenged at one time by certain schools, governments, and organizations, both in America and around the world.  To read more about the history of banned books, please refer to the ALA's information sheets.  Our current book display is located in the lobby as you enter, and we welcome you to salvage these books from the trash cans in which they are displayed.  See which classics of literature have been relegated to the trashheap at one time or another.  Preserve your right to read: read!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Lust in the Library

Nancy Pearl's your girl if you should find yourself overcome with lust in the library...lust for books, that is.  Ms. Pearl is one of the preeminent readers' advisory librarians in the United States and the author of a book suggestion series which includes the titles Book Lust, More Book Lust, and Book Crush. She blogs, tweets and speaks her lust for books at gatherings all over the country and appears regularly on NPR's "Morning Edition" to discuss book topics.

Bernardsville Public Library is currently featuring a display of Nancy Pearl's suggested books as well as copies of her Book Lust series.  Nancy covers all the genres and picks books you might not have heard about.  We've made it easy for you; simply step right up and take an appealing book off the display.  

Don't forget that the library has a dedicated area just for book suggestions and book clubs known as Book Find
Book Find is located to the right as you enter the lobby and these books are marked by orange spine labels.  You'll find Nancy Pearl's books there as well as targeted reading guides and helpful resources for book groups.  In addition, our own librarians have made original bookmarks for different genres and topics. These colorful bookmarks are available at the circulation desk.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

From Russia With Love...To America

Bernardsville Public Library's book group, Memoirs and Coffee, will discuss Elena Gorokhova's book, A Mountain of Crumbs, at its next meeting on Tuesday, September 28th at 10:30 a.m.  Born in Russia in the second half of the 20th century, Elena recounts her family's life under Soviet rule. Nobel laureate J. M. Coetzee writes, "Elena Gorokhova conveys all the ugliness of daily life in Soviet Russia, as well as its humiliations, but is awake to its strangled, submerged poetry too." 

Elena's love of language and her affinity for English inspired her to leave her native land, marry an American, and eventually move to New Jersey where she now resides.  The opening lines of her memoir demonstrate the author's mastery of language and love of writing, "I wish my mother had come from Leningrad, from the world of Pushkin and the tsars, of granite embankments and lace ironwork, of pearly domes buttressing the low sky.  Leningrad's sophistication would have infected her the moment she drew her first breath, and all the curved facades and stately bridges, marinated for more than two centuries in the city's wet, salty air, would have left a permanent mark of refinement on her soul."

Memoirs and Coffee is an open invitation book group led by library staff member, Pat Kennedy-Grant.  New members are most welcome to attend, and copies of this book are available at the circulation desk.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Suggestions From Our Readers

One of the pleasures of working at the library's circulation desk is the opportunity to have great conversations with people.  As you would expect, we are often  asked for our recommendations, and we happily share interesting things we've read, listened to, or viewed.   In turn, we like to ask our patrons what they have enjoyed reading recently.  The four books pictured above have been mentioned as particular stand-outs among the new items in the library. Family dynamics in each of these stories lead the characters  to different consequences ranging from healing to disasterous.  Our readers said they couldn't put these books down. 

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

This Bo*k is a Ho*t

Prim readers are given fair warning to duck and cover!
The title of Justin Halpern's new book, Sh*t My Dad Says, well, it says it all.  Justin's dad says it over and over again, along with the F bomb in all its verb tenses,  so you get the idea of this short, pungent and funny memoir.

The book categorizes a lifetime of Sam Halpern's comments into brief chapters illustrating how he handled episodes in his son's life.  Chapters like Justin's cheating on a school science experiment, not wanting to share a bedroom with Grampa, and asking endless, stupid questions are all covered with a story and a series of pithy vulgarisms by dad.  For example, on the topic of young Justin asking dumb hypothetical questions, his dad responded, "No. There's no scenario where I'd eat a human being, so you can stop making them up and asking me, understood?  Jesus, is this how you spend your day, just coming up with this (expletive?)"  You might not expect that dad is actually a doctor of nuclear medicine, but Sam Halpern tells it like he sees it to his son, and it is often painfully funny and blunt.

It is interesting to note that what started out as Justin Halpern's daily Twitter feed about his father evolved into this, his first book.  In a similar fashion, books like Waiter Rant and A Homemade Life developed out of their authors' blogs.  This demonstrates to me that social media (blogging and tweeting) do not necessarily take readers away from books.   Rather, they seem to be providing publishers with a whole new treasure trove of material.
Review by Evelyn Fischel

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Don't Mangle Foreign Languages - Mango Them!

Bernardsville Public Library is pleased to offer another new, exciting service for our patrons and community.  Linking remotely through our Web site, you may now access Mango, an online language learning program designed to accelerate your language speaking skills.  Mango's unique methodology copies the way people learn when immersed in a foreign culture - through practical conversation. Native speakers model phrases and bits of conversation which participants repeat, learning to combine them into meaningful dialogue.  Before you know it, you will be communicating effectively in a foreign language.

Mango is fun, easy, and it works!  Best of all,  it's free to Bernardsville Library card holders through our Web site. Try Mango today or any time at your convenience. If you don't have a card, come into the library to see if you qualify for membership or consider the option of a reasonably-priced paid membership which grants full library privileges.  Mango and the world of communication await you at Bernardsville Public Library.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Get a Free Pass

As a new service for our patrons, Bernardsville Public Library is now offering museum passes which may be checked out for a four-day loan period.  This idea was developed by the library staff and funded by the Friends of Bernardsville Public Library.  These passes permit free entrance for a family as well as selected discounts.  We are currently offering a pass to each of the following:  the Morris Museum, Montclair Art Museum, Guggenheim Museum, and the American Museum of Natural History. Conditions apply, so please call or visit us for more information about this popular new library feature.  

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Michaele and Keiko Make a Splash at the Library

Bernardsville youth services librarian Michaele Casey and library volunteer Keiko Matsuura have done it again...yet another great display for the children's summer reading program!

This year's theme is "Make a Splash at Your Library" and the accompanying book display does just that.  Read more about this beautiful display by clicking here.

Keiko constructed the sea figures and young diver from paper, fabric and paint, and it took her very special imagination to assemble them all into a magical underwater scene.

Michaele borrowed a fabulous papier mache coral reef construction from the Bedwell School and made it the base of this floating world.  What a perfect match!  All  around the coral can be found interesting books for children to borrow.

The children have been very enthusiastic about the reading program at Bernardsville Public Library this summer, in part because of this gorgeous book display.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Staff Recommendation: Read One, Then The Other

I recently read two fascinating books which delve into the mysterious history of the Cape Ann settlement of Dogtown, now a part of Gloucester, Massachusetts.  The books are Dogtown: death and enchantment in a New England ghost town by Elyssa East and The Last Days of Dogtown by Anita Diamant.  Anita Diamant's  fictional account of the decline of this  impoverished settlement in the early 1800's uses historical characters in an imaginative and compelling way.  Elyssa East approaches the history of the same forlorn region from a modern departure point - the shocking murder there of a local woman in 1984.

East's 2009 narrative nonfiction book combines an investigation of this murder with parallel storylines involving art history detection and local intrigue.  The author initially intended to find the sources of inspiration for some of American artist Marsden Hartley's 1930's watercolors which featured the unusual topography of Dogtown, known for its boulders and strange rocky formations.  Thinking she might be able to see the actual locations which Hartley painted, she travelled to Gloucester, bought a map of Dogtown, and promptly got lost in its disorienting woods.  The area had long ago acquired a reputation for eerie happenings, a reputation  which was further  tarnished  by the savage and pointless murder of a young woman in these very woods.  Dogtown: death and enchantment in a New England ghost town will keep you engaged throughout, but it is regrettable that the author did not provide any prints of Hartley's Dogtown landscapes or any photos of the area.

Diamant's 2005 historical fiction book, The Last Days of Dogtown, fleshes together an interesting tale about the last survivors of the isolated and failing Dogtown Settlement at the beginning of the nineteenth century.   Only fragmentary records and oral histories remain of Dogtown's demise and of the people who inhabited this remote area of Cape Ann.  Many of  Dogtown's  inhabitants were shunned by Gloucester folk because they  clung to old ways and refused to move into town.  Some were suspected of  practicing witchcraft and prostitution.  Diamant expands the few historical vignettes about these people into a satisfying story of marginalized individuals living a desperate existence in a dying settlement. Some of these individuals are briefly mentioned in Elyssa East's book as well, but I was glad that Anita Diamant had given them fuller, though fictional  lives.  I do recommend both of these books.
 Review by Evelyn Fischel

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Patrons Have Been Reading...

Here's a sampling of some of the books our patrons have been reading this summer.  Among the contributors are several members of the library's 50 Book Challenge.

Adrienne writes: "I've tortured myself reading The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera.  It's part philosophical, part political (about the effect the events of 1968 had on people), and part emotional - a love story.  The first 100 pages were tough, but I kept going and actually wound up liking the book."  On a lighter note, Adrienne also reports, "I'm reading a very interesting book by Ruth Reichl, Garlic and Sapphires, about her early days as food critic for the NY Times.  Reichl disguises herself, and falls into character, to avoid recognition by the restaurant owners so she can enjoy a meal and write a review about the food and service as an ordinary person.  Her characters will make you laugh and her dining experiences will make you hungry."

Tish listened to Sherman Alexie's YA novel, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, and writes:  "I highly recommend the recording.  Alexie reads it himself, and his sing-songy Indian-accent delivery is like performance art.  Hilarious and heartbreaking.  I have also listened to two funny books on CD that I can recommend: I Feel Bad About My Neck by Nora Ephron, and Why My Third Husband Will Be a Dog by Lisa Scottoline.  Both are collections of short essays, and both had me weeping with laughter."

Carol relates that she has listened to An Echo in the Bone by Diana Gabaldon which was narrated by Davina Porter.  Carol says "Ms. Porter has narrated the entire Outlander Series of which this is the seventh book.  With her British accent and Scottish brogue Davina creates the perfect atmosphere for a love story which takes place in two different centuries.  I have truly enjoyed this series and was disappointed to hear I will not see the next book until 2013!!!"

Finally, Ronald shared a link to comments he made regarding Richard A. Clarke's new book, Cyber War.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Kids: Dip Into Some Great Summer Reading!

The first week of Bernardsville Public Library's summer reading program has started with a SPLASH!  In fact, that's the theme of the statewide reading program for children this summer - "Make a Splash at Your Library."

As you enter the library lobby, you will be immersed in a beautiful display created in part by library volunteer Keiko Matsuura and Youth Services librarian Michaele Casey with contributions as well from Bedwell School. This display depicts a fantastic underwater scene complete with coral, wondrous sea life and a startled diver.  Jellyfish, squid, a sea turtle and various fish appear to swim in mid-air as a young diver descends into the watery realm.  The diver is as surprised as you will be when you see just how gorgeous this underwater world is.   Books about sea life have been placed around the display by our Youth Services librarians, and children are encouraged to borrow these books.

Be sure to register your children for this program soon.  The sooner they get their feet wet, the sooner they will become great readers!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Recent Reading Choices from the 50 Book Challenge for 2010

Participants in Bernardsville Public Library's 50 Book Challenge have been busy reading a wide variety of books - both new and old, fiction and nonfiction. 

Certain titles keep cropping up such as Ian McEwan's Saturday, which was well received, and Gretchen Rubin's The Happiness Project, a book of self-help principles on the nature of happiness. Stieg Larsson's The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo elicited the most responses, some of them very positive, but a few quite negative.  Several readers thought the level of violence was unexpected and gratuitous, but others found the character, Lisbeth Salander, so intriguing that they could overlook other failings in the book. 

Audiobooks are permitted in the Challenge, too. Among these, An Echo in the Bone by Diana Gabaldon was highly recommended for both the story and the skill of the narrator, Davina Porter.  Another Challenge participant loved listening to The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie.

Less well-known, interesting books read by the Challenge participants include Yiyun Li's The Vagrants about China after the Cultural Revolution and The Wolves at the Door: The True Story of America's Greatest Female Spy by Judith Pearson.  This last book was said to be a very exciting read about female heroism in the diplomatic world.

While the 50 Book Challenge for 2010 is now half over, new members are welcome to join in the reading fun.  We invite book lovers to challenge themselves to their own personal reading goal. For more information, come into the library or visit our Web site to sign up.

Friday, May 14, 2010

More Staff Picks

Susan really liked Sarah's Key by Tatiana deRosnay. She states that the book "chronicles the 1942 Jewish roundup in Paris, a tragedy revisted by an American journalist married to a Frenchman whose family is in complete denial and wants to leave the entire matter in the past...well worth the read."

Felicia loves Amy Bloom's books, including her most recent, Where the God of Love Hangs Out.  Felicia said these short stories did not disappoint her and that the characters were memorable.

Gerry read Still Alice by Lisa Genova and found it to be a powerful, important book.  A fictional account of the day-to-day life of a renowned neuroscientist who is diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer's, Still Alice kept Gerry turning the page. She couldn't put it down.

Evelyn greatly enjoyed Mr. Vertigo by Paul Auster.  It's a highly imaginative, wild ride through the history of 20th century America featuring a young country boy trained to do a mind-boggling feat by Mr. Vertigo himself.  

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Earth Day Selections at Bernardsville Public Library

Today marks the 40th anniversary of Earth Day, a day set aside each April to take action on environmental causes or simply to reflect on the relationship of man to Earth and the consequences of human activity on the planet's ecosystems. 

Reading is one way to reflect on Earth Day 2010, and Bernardsville Public Library is stocked with many interesting and informative books on the subject.  For instance, there are brand new publications such as Jeff Goodell's 2010 book, How to Cool the Planet, which explores how we might "geoengineer" our way out of global warming.  The WorldWatch Institute's State of the World 2009 is another book addressing current environmental issues of concern.

For a contemplative approach to Earth Day, try the comprehensive anthology American Earth: environmental writing since Thoreau, edited by Bill McKibben in 2008.  Containing over 1000 pages of selections from American authors, this volume offers short works from such fiction writers as Annie Dillard,  Russell Baker, E. B. White, and Philip K. Dick as well as the words of the environmentalists/naturalists  John Muir, Henry David Thoreau, Rachel Carson and Paul Hawken, among others.  In the same vein, the 2008 publication Narnia and the Fields of Arbol: the environmental vision of C. S. Lewis by Matthew T. Dickerson examines the writings of C. S. Lewis for his views on man's stewardship of the environment.

There are also many wonderful Earth Day books for children at Bernardsville Public Library.  Even Dora the Explorer has her own book.  Available in the children's wing are numerous activity books with age-appropriate ideas to help your child celebrate this day.  A new book, Earth Heroes: champions of the wilderness, by Bruce Malnor is recommended reading to introduce your child to the life stories of great leaders in the environmental movement.  Ask our helpful librarians for further suggestions and enjoy the day!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Staff Picks

Here are some reading and listening ideas from a few of our staff members.  Look for another posting soon with suggestions from other staff members at Bernardsville Library.  Don't hesitate to ask us about these books.

Margaret enjoyed reading Dean Koontz's, A Big Little Life, a book about the author's first dog.  A dog owner herself, Margaret can recommend other good books about good pets.

Karen V. listened to an audiobook recording of The Piano Teacher by Janice Yee.  She just loved it and thought that it was a great World War II-era story set in Hong Kong.

Rosalie recommends the audiobook recording of Kathryn Stockett's blockbuster debut book, The Help.  She says she couldn't stop listening to it and thought it was a riveting story.

Linda enjoyed Anita Brookner's Strangers, saying that she really got to know the characters and what their day to day lives were like.  Brookner is one of Linda's favorite authors.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

50 Book Challenge to the Rescue

What do you do when adversity "takes you down" - at least for a while? In the case of this blogger with a nicely broken wrist, there's not much else to do but read, and so I have plunged single-handedly into Bernardsville Public Library's 50 Book Challenge for 2010.

As luck would have it, someone recommended a good book to me the very night before my accident, so when I returned from the E.R., I took up Immaculee Ilibagiza's memoir, Left To Tell, a tale of her great faith and survival during the Rwandan genocide. There's nothing like reading about harrowing and unimaginable suffering to put one's own whimperings into perspective.

Finding that misery really does love company, I rushed on to disaster stories next. How exciting was The Lost City Of Z, by David Grann, about a failed expedition to the Amazon which sought to locate a mythical archaeological site in the early part of the 20th century!

Why not read about a shipwreck next?! Being lost at sea had to be worse than nursing a broken bone, and, yes, it certainly was in Nathaniel Philbrick's, In the Heart of the Sea. This nonfiction book is based on accounts of two survivors of the whale ship Essex which was stove by a whale - yes, I learned a new word, too, (stove) -  in 1820.  Herman Melville also thought the original accounts of this shipwreck made for a good yarn since he used the Essex story as a framework for Moby Dick. One thing leads to another, it seems, so I, in turn, reread the atmospheric parts of Melville's Moby Dick.

By now it was time for some heartwarming animal stories. I recommend Making Rounds With Oscar by David Dosa for those who love cats and for those who are caregivers or relatives of Alzheimers patients. The physician author gives gentle, good advice that could help families to accept the slippery slope of this disease. He also recounts the story of the hospice cat, Oscar, who unfailingly appears at the bedsides of those patients about to die. For a lighter but equally touching animal story, I tried The Good Good Pig by Sy Montgomery. Who couldn't love a dear little runt of the litter, but who would guess the piglet would grow into a 750 pound hog with a gift for companionship? This was a very sweet tale within a curly tail.

It was then that I picked up Life of Pi by Yann Martel. How circular my reading had now become!  My earlier books about faith and suffering, shipwrecks, storytelling, and animals all came together in this one curious piece of fiction. 

I think those of you who participate in a dedicated reading routine such as the 50 Book Challenge will also find patterns emerging in your book choices and in the notions expressed by your authors. You, too, will delight in seeing how ideas and themes can be written and rewritten in so many wondrous and diverse ways.

~Evelyn  Fischel

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Stieg Larsson and the Millenium Series

Bernardsville Public Library finds the published works of Stieg Larsson to be wildly popular beginning with his first book, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.  In fact, Larsson's books are international sensations.  By one estimation of worldwide sales in 2008, Larsson ranked only second behind Kahled Hosseini (The Kite Runner.)  The library book group, Saturday Samplers, will discuss The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo at its meeting this Saturday, March 6th, 3:30 p.m., and I initially wrote the following author profile for them, but I think others might be interested in learning a bit about this once promising, but now deceased writer.

Swedish author Stieg Larsson poured a lifetime of causes and interests into the few pieces of fiction, collectively known as the Millenium series, which he wrote before his untimely death at the age of 50 in 2004. Issues such as feminism, fascism, corporate crime and the role of media in Sweden propelled his life as an activist and as a writer. These same issues fall front and center in his books.

Professionally, Larsson was a graphic designer for Tidningarnas Telegrambyra, a Swedish news agency, but he devoted much of his time to investigative journalism, political activism, ethics causes and (to throw a curveball here) the promotion of science fiction. A member of the Communist Workers League and editor of a Trotskyist journal, Fjarde internationalen, Stieg Larsson put his political beliefs into action by founding the Expo Foundation, a Swedish organization formed to counteract racist and extreme right-wing Swedish groups. He was the editor for this foundation’s magazine, entitled Expo, which is more than a coincidence as the character, Mikael Blomkvist, also publishes a magazine, Millenium, in Larsson’s books.

Karl Stig-Erland Larsson was born in the northern town of Skelleftea, Vasterbotten, Sweden in 1954, but changed the spelling of his name to Stieg as an adult. He was intimately familiar with the culture, landscape and “personality” of the north, having been raised in the country by his grandparents. This knowledge is apparent in his descriptions of the towns and countryside in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. As a young man he pursued interests in photography, and he enjoyed reading science fiction and mysteries.

His efforts to expose racism, neo-Nazism and extremist groups active in Sweden garnered him numerous death threats. For self-protection, he and Eva Gabrielsson, his partner of 32 years, sought to hide their personal information and address as much as possible, and this is why they never married because under Swedish law a married couple must publish their address. The fact that they were not married became a legal issue after Larsson died of a sudden, massive heart attack. Swedish law did not recognize Gabrielsson as his wife, and Larsson’s estate went to his father and brother, neither of whom were close to him nor had the intimate understanding of Larsson’s writings as did Eva Gabrielsson. The Guardian Observer just published an interesting interview with Gabrielsson which provides further insight into Larsson’s life and literary pursuits through Eva's eyes.

Stieg Larsson died having completed three books which he had hoped to turn into an exended series. Known as the Millenium series, they are The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Swedish title being Men Who Hate Women), The Girl Who Played with Fire, and finally The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest (Swedish title being The Aircastle that Blew Up.) The first book has been released in film form by Swedish and English companies and the next two books are to be turned into television productions. The poster for the Swedish film illustrated above gives you some sense of how the book's characters have been portrayed on film.