Friday, December 30, 2011

Not To Be Overlooked

Here are two noteworthy pieces of fiction that you may have missed.  Both books present wonderful reading experiences and deserve your notice. 

Kevin Holohan's caustic and witty book, The Brothers' Lot, delivers a swift kick to the crumbling moral decay of Irish Catholic brotherhoods and church schools in this debut novel.  Holohan's story will leave you angered, but also bemused that there could be anything laughable about the corrupted world of the "Brothers of Godly Coercion for Boys of Meager Means."  Wielding his plot line like a terrible swift sword, Holohan insures that there will be retribution served against the Brothers for their many examples of child abuse.  In fact, the walls of their miserable school  do indeed come crashing down around their heads in a great scene of authorial wish fulfillment by this very promising Irish writer. 

American author and poet Denis Johnson's beautiful novella, Train Dreams, is an exceptional work capturing the sweep and depth of change in early 1900's America.  Writer Anthony Doerr's review notes that "Johnson is as skilled as ever at balancing menace against ecstasy, civilization against wilderness. His prose tiptoes a tightrope between peace and calamity, and beneath all of the novella’s best moments, Johnson runs twin strains of tenderness and the threat of violence." Denis Johnson's masterful writing condenses what could have been an epic story into a poetic, magical piece of short fiction.  This is literary fiction of a high caliber.
~Evelyn Fischel~

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Teddy Bears

The Teddy Bears are here at Bernardsville Library and ready to be dressed for holiday distribution by the Salvation Army. This year we are giving you a unique way to double your donation; purchase an outfit readymade by library volunteers, and the handknit or handcrocheted outfit can then be put on a bear of your choice for the children's holiday charity drive. The outfit's cost of $10 will benefit Bernardsville Library, and you won't need to go to a craft store. Simply pick out a beautiful handmade outfit - bathrobes, bikinis, sweaters, nightshirts - and dress a bear!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Rafa's Rock

Here's a very enjoyable new sports memoir entitled Rafa about the tennis champion Rafael Nadal. Co-authored with John Carlin who works for El Pais, the Spanish language newspaper, this is a well written book which clearly distinguishes Nadal's voice from Carlin's as chapters alternate between the two.  Nadal's opening chapter introduces us to the tennis player's state of mind, always a battleground against his own thoughts, as Nadal prepares to face off against Roger Federer in the 2008 Wimbledon final.  Nadal writes, "The feeling suits me; the cathedral hush of the Centre Court is good for my game.  Because what I battle hardest to do in a tennis match is to quiet the voices in my head, to shut everything out of my mind but the contest itself and concentrate every atom of my being on the point I am playing.  If I made a mistake on a previous point, forget it; should a thought of victory suggest itself, crush it."  

The epic battle, marked by rain delay, gathering darkness and five hours of play, resulted in Nadal's Wimbledon victory at the age of 22, fulfilling this young player's earliest ambition. Of course, Nadal has since attained many more championships and Grand Slams, and he discusses some of these matches as well.  The book is not merely a technical analysis of his play, but rather an interesting portrait of the determination and endurance required of any champion.  As we follow Rafa's story, we learn some of the physical and personal challenges he has had to face even as he has maintained a sterling reputation in the sports' world.  John Carlin's chapters fill us in on Nadal's family life and upbringing on Mallorca.  His strong family bond and the Mallorcan culture have clearly formed the bedrock that has kept Nadal so stable and focused, never allowing him to be self-centered. This champion always returns home to his family and to the island of Mallorca, where his victories are never celebrated because that is not their way.

~Evelyn Fischel~

Monday, October 24, 2011

Memoirs and Coffee Meets Tomorrow

Bernardsville Library book group, Memoirs and Coffee, will discuss The Kabul Beauty School: An American Woman Goes Behind the Veil at its next meeting on Tuesday, October 25th, at 10:30 a.m.  Memoirs and Coffee is the library's open-invitation book discussion group dedicated to reading memoirs.  Staff member Pat Kennedy-Grant is the coordinator for this group, which meets monthly in the Community Room.  New members are always welcomed.

Author Deborah Rodriguez went to Afghanistan in 2001 as a humanitarian aid volunteer, but soon doubted her ability to offer substantive skills.  Her training had been in hairdressing, yet Westerners and Afghan women swiftly sought her out once they learned this.  Before Taliban rule, Afghan women had experienced success running beauty salons, and now they hungered to reestablish themselves in the beauty business.  Rodriguez gathered sponsors who enabled her to found the Kabul Beauty School in 2003.

Friendships and stories shared among these women and the author reveal what some Afghan women must contend with in their culture.  Random House published this book in 2007 and offers these notes, "...within the small haven of the beauty school, the line between teacher and student quickly blurred as these vibrant women shared with Rodriguez their stories and their hearts: the newlywed who faked her virginity on her wedding night, the twelve-year old bride sold into marriage to pay her family's debts, the Taliban member's wife who pursued her training despite her husband's constant beatings."

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Breast Cancer Awareness Display

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and Bernardsville Library has marked the occasion with an extensive and interesting display of books on the topic. You'll find first-hand accounts from survivors, information on newer therapies, plus accounts from families and friends who have supported women through their diagnoses and treatment.  Novels as well as teen and children's books are also included in the display.  Please stop by the library rotunda to see what it's all about.

Monday, October 3, 2011

The Kind of Pop-Ups You Welcome

Robert Sabuda is a very talented man with a pair of scissors and an X-Acto knife!  Just ask your children; no doubt they have enjoyed looking at some of his beautiful, 3-D pop-up books. Bernardsville Library currently has 15 Sabuda books which are popular with parents as well as children.

In the October 1st edition of The Wall Street Journal there is an interesting article about how this paper artist ("illusionist" as he calls himself) transforms stories into 3-dimensional formats that will work consistently.  As Sabuda notes, the hardest part of his job is designing the pop-up to collapse back down properly.  If that doesn't happen, the paper construction will be further damaged with each closing of the book cover.

Perhaps the most surprising thing to learn from this article is that the pop-ups in every book have been individually handcut by 1,000 workers in Thailand!  The next time you're in the library, ask one of the children's librarians to show you our terrific collection of Sabuda pop-up books.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Hmm...The Help

Kathryn Stockett's first novel, The Help, has bloomed into a mega-hit regardless of criticism for its historical inaccuracies and racial insensitivity.  One blog in particular, "A Critical Review of the novel The Help," is just loaded with interesting critical commentary. Nonetheless, many readers seem to adore it for the dialogue and punchy characters inhabiting a story the author thought would never be published.  In fact, according to Stockett, the manuscript was rejected by 60 literary agents before hitting pay dirt in 2009.  Since that time, The Help has enjoyed a great run on the book club circuit, has been released as a major motion picture, and will now be discussed this Saturday by our book group, Saturday Samplers.  This Bernardsville Library book discussion group will meet on October 1st at 3:30 p.m. in the library.

Stockett states in a Daily Mail UK interview that the story came about from her memories of her own family's black maid, Demetrie.  Demetrie worked for the author's Mississippi family for 32 years, raising Kathryn and her siblings, and accompanying the family on vacations.  Still, Demetrie was never allowed to use the family's toilet, tub or dinnerware, and it never occurred to a young Stockett that this was unusual.  

In an NPR interview with Michele Norris, Kathryn Stockett states about her book, "It's fiction, but some of the facts and the settings and the backdrops - sure, that was Southern life.  Having a separate bathroom for the black domestic was just the way things were done.  Certainly, in my grandmother's time and when I was growing up, yeah, Demetrie's bathroom was on the side of the house.  It was a separate door.  Still, to this day, I've never been in that room."  Regardless, Stockett expresses her love for Demetrie and says, "Demetrie was treated like a queen, in my mind growing up, I should say." all depends on your perspective.    

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Banned Books Week

Celebrate the right to read; stop by our display of historically banned and challenged books to highlight the annual observation of Banned Books Week.  You might be surprised at what you see there.  Would you expect to see James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl among these books?  How about The Lorax by Dr. Seuss?  Banned or challenged books by Truman Capote, Isabel Allende, Ray Bradbury, John Irving and other authors are on display and available for check out.  You'll find these items, including examples from the Harry Potter series, showcased in the library rotunda.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Staff Picks to Pick Up

Stumped for a book to read and no time to browse?  Stop by the lobby display of Bernardsville Library Staff Picks loaded with items for all kinds of readers, including children.  There are many biographies, cookbooks, movies, music cds, audiobooks, fiction, nonfiction, and picture books from which to chose.  See what the staff recommends and share your suggestions, too.  It's one-stop shopping, library style!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

We Remember...

A selection of reading material on the topic of September 11 is currently on display in the nonfiction wing. Please browse and borrow.

Friday, September 9, 2011

September Library Book Groups To Meet

Bernardsville Library's two book groups will meet in September.  Saturday Samplers will discuss Elizabeth Cunningham's novel, The Passion of Mary Magdalen, this Saturday, September 10, at 3:30 p.m. in the library.

Memoirs and Coffee will discuss Townie: a memoir by Andre Dubus III on Tuesday, September 27 at 10:30 a.m.  Members of this book group are invited to read an additional novel or short story collection by the same author.  Copies of these September books are available at the circulation desk.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Queen of The British Collection

Bernardsville Public Library's renowned collection of British films and television series continues to attract a borrowing public looking for shows with that special British humor, flair, historical interest and literary depth.  Staff member Susan Popper, a fan of  British film, recognized the public's growing demand for these items five years ago and created a section among our videotapes and dvds devoted entirely to the British material.  She named it The British Collection, and the rest was history.

Our customers can't get enough of these great series and films, and we can rely on them to return week after week for more viewing material.  They especially appreciate the broad selection of PBS and BBC productions as well as independent movies and television shows.  And there is so much variety to chose from, even within a particular theme!  For instance, ecclesiatical humor and charm bless those who watch the Ballykissangel, Father Ted, and The Vicar of Dibley series.  Medicine is served up with wildly different bedside manners in Doc Martin, Doctor Finlay, and All Creatures Great and Small.

Contrast the older family saga, Poldark, with the newer Monarch of the Glen.  Criminal inspector series such as George Gently, Midsomer Murders, Prime Suspect, and Inspector Lynley, offer a modern counterpoint to the many classic Sherlock Holmes, Miss Marple and Poirot films in the collection.  Hyacinth Bucket carries on her silly class humor in Keeping Up Appearances while the main character in the BBC series Lovejoy hones his eye for antiques, lovely ladies and intrigue, all at the same time.

Espionage and military themes appear in the series, Reilly, the Ace of Spies, and Foyle's War, but we also offer a number of BBC military histories and documentaries.  For the literary crowd, movies based on the works of Dickens, Austen, Thackeray, Bronte, and other noted authors are popular choices.  And don't forget those old PBS chestnuts, such as Upstairs Downstairs and Brideshead Revisited, which still contend with the newer productions.

For more information on what's available in The British Collection, click on this link to our catalog.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

New "50 Book Challenge" Suggestions

Bernardsville Library "50 Book Challenge" for 2011 has reached the half-way mark, and participants recently shared some of their reading suggestions. 

Ape House by Sara Gruen is a standout among the 50 Book members.  One reader proclaimed Ape House to be the best book she's read this year and found it "astonishing, gripping, upsetting and triumphant."  She notes that the author "explores the colorful eccentricities of humans and animals through their interactions with each other, leaving us questioning which is the more humane."  Another book, Ransom, by Australian author David Malouf, was praised for its lyricism.  Ransom retells/reimagines the encounter between King Priam and Achilles in Homer's epic poem, "The Iliad."

Readers of suspense might find some of the following books enjoyable.  For instance, Olen Steinhauer's plot in The Tourist forces a retired  CIA agent back undercover despite his new career circumstances and family demands.  Daniel Silva's art-themed book, The Rembrandt Affair, was deemed "a page-turner with lots of great characters, imaginative plot and great prose."

Two Scandinavian mysteries were also noted: The Draining Lake by Arnaldur Indridason, and The Snowman by Jo Nesbo.  One reader states that in The Draining Lake, "a human skeleton surfaces in the bed of a lake near Reykjavik that's been mysteriously draining away, which set the stage for the present-day-to-cold-war back and forth mystery."  Another reader notes that while The Snowman "is a thriller with a deeply creepy serial killer," reading all those snowy winter scenes helped keep her cool during these sultry summer days.

For nonfiction readers, My Stroke of Insight by Jill Taylor was proposed as an interesting and dramatic book recounting the sudden onset of a massive stroke experienced by the author.  She describes in gripping detail what her symptoms felt like, noting just how quickly she became incapacitated, barely able to call for help.  Taylor, a neuroscientist, takes the reader through her convalescence, offering insights as to what helped her make such a good recovery.

Try some of these books for your summer reading.  There's still a month left!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Scientific and Literary Versions of Immortality

Memoirs and Coffee, one of Bernardsville Public Library's book groups, will discuss Rebecca Skloot's narrative nonfiction bestseller, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, at its next meeting, Tuesday, July 26, at 10:30 a.m. Pat Kennedy-Grant will lead the discussion which is open to the public. Please meet in the library Community Room.

Shown above in one of only a few extant photographs, Henrietta Lacks was a poor tobacco farmer who died in 1951 of a virulent form of cervical cancer after being treated at Johns Hopkins.  She left behind young children, a husband and many friends, but what her family did not know is that a biological legacy of hers was also left behind or, perhaps we should say, unwittingly taken from her.  That legacy is the untold number of HeLa cells (named after her) which were originally removed in a small biopsy by a Johns Hopkins doctor.

These cells were cultured and demonstrated to have a remarkable ability to self-generate in the laboratory. This virtually endless supply of cells still generated from her original culture have been applied by researchers around the world to advance the study of gene mapping, create the polio vaccine, develop chemotherapy and other medical breakthroughs.  While millions of dollars have passed hands because of the great demand for her cells, no money has ever been given to the family of Henrietta Lacks.  The troubled story of her family, particularly the children she left behind, and their struggle to grasp the magnitude of their loss is treated with sensitivity, honesty and also charm by the author.  The family's personal drama nicely balances out the scientific information which Rebecca Skloot presents in very readable fashion in this excellent book.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Cue the QR Code!

If you stare at this long enough, you might start seeing things! 

Instead, just know that this is Bernardsville Public Library's very own QR Code.  QR stands for Quick Response and signifies a way of barcoding which connects you to our Web site when you use your mobile device to read the code.  You might find our code printed on publicity newsletters, library brochures, advertisements and elsewhere.  It is a quick way for you to connect to us!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Keeping the Feast - Keeping the Marriage

Paula Butturini, author of Keeping the Feast: One Couple's Story of Love, Food, and Healing in Italy, will make an appearance at Bernardsville Public Library on Thursday, July 14, at 7 p.m. for a book signing.  Please come to this free program to meet the author and discuss her book.  Copies of Keeping the Feast will be made available at the library for purchase and signing by the author.

Keeping the Feast recounts the grave gunshot injury to her husband, New York Times bureau chief John Tagliabue, who had been covering the Romanian uprising in 1989.  Married just a short while, the couple shared a strong love of Italy, and so they settled in Rome while he recuperated.  The author describes her evolving ideas about her husband's process of recovery and how sharing daily food was a sustenance to both their bodies and their marriage.  The library has a copy of the book available for check out, as well.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Hmmm...Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother

Amy Chua's controversial biography, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, will be discussed on Tuesday, June 28th, at 10:30 a.m. by Bernardsville Library's book group, Memoirs and Coffee.

How do you think children should be reared - by nurturing or strict training?  See what the author believes and whether she was able to live up to her own standards for herself as a Chinese-American mother.  Attempting to raise her children in the Chinese way while living in a Western country just might be expected to cause some friction between mom and child, so find out how she and her family survived her childrearing philosophy.  The book discussion is open to the public; please feel welcome to attend if you have read the book or are interested in hearing more about it.

Monday, June 20, 2011

One World, Many Stories

Sign-ups begin today for Bernardsville Public Library's summer reading program for children, "One World, Many Stories."  Exciting activities have been planned all summer long for ages 2 1/2 through the high school years.  Our Summer Reading Club will enjoy a great kick-off at the "Wild Animals & Wallaby Tales" event scheduled for Saturday, June 25, at 1 p.m.  Don't miss it!

All activities and reading programs are free.  We encourage you to sign up your children and help them learn about a wonderful world of reading.  Simply call the library (908-766-0118) or register online through the Kids Stuff link on our Web site.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Seniors Day

Bernardsville Public Library will host its ninth annual Seniors Day event tomorrow, Friday, June 10th, at 10 a.m.  Seniors Day participants will enjoy a free continental breakfast, games, sing-alongs, and a musical program by Charlie Z, "From Bing to the King and a whole lotta Swing."  Charlie Z will bring back great memories of vintage hits from World War II and the 1950's with recordings by Bing Crosby, the Mills Brothers, Louis Armstrong, Glenn Miller and many other vocal and Big Band stars. Seniors who live in the area are invited to call the library to attend. 

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Library Group to Discuss Year of Wonders

Year of Wonders: a novel of the plague (2001) will be discussed this Saturday, June 4th, at the Saturday Samplers book group meeting to be held at 3:30 p.m.  Saturday Samplers is a Bernardsville Library open-invitation book group led by staff member Evelyn Fischel.  Please feel welcome to attend.

Geraldine Brooks, author of Year of Wonders, is a Pulitzer Prize-winning author and journalist.  Brooks grew up outside of Sydney, Australia, and resides there today with her family. She is a graduate of the University of Sydney and reported for a Sydney newspaper in the early part of her career. After attending a master's program at Columbia University, she also worked for The Wall Street Journal.

Her writing demonstrates a wide-ranging interest in historical and cultural topics of an international scope. Among her books are Nine Parts of Desire: the hidden world of Islamic women, the 2006 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel March, as well as People of the Book, a fictional piece based on the history of the Sarajevo Haggadah. The latest novel, Caleb's Crossing, has just been published to excellent reviews and concerns the interplay of cultures, Native American and English, during the American colonial period.

Year of Wonders: a novel of the plague earned high praise for Brooks from many quarters.  The book recounts in fiction a true and tragic period in English history centering on a real town which faced a virulent outbreak of the plague.  Approximately four-fifths of the populace of the small English town of Eyam died during this outbreak in 1666, but the townspeople are remembered to this day for the extraordinary sacrifice they collectively made under the leadership of their local rector.  Brooks employs a somber and lyrical tone along with a memorable narrator to do justice to this spellbinding story.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Summer Reading: Literary Novels Served Up With Werewolves And Robots

Better stockpile some silver bullets and wolfsbane; this summer could get hairy!

Supernatural fiction has elbowed its way to the forefront, but this year you'll find an even greater intermixing of genres such as science fiction or occult with literary fiction according to The Wall Street Journal article of today entitled "The Season of the Supernatural."  Novelists are taking a stab at writing crossover books which bridge literary fiction with the popular genres of fantasy and the supernatural.

Successful publications such as Justin Cronin's The Passage have encouraged writers to utilize vampires, werewolves and robots as devices in their new literary novels.  Well-known author Michael Chabon comments in this article on the similarity between writing a literary novel and writing science fiction, "Your job is exactly the same - to persuade the reader that it is all true. That's the same if you are writing about suburban New Jersey, as well as suburban Jupiter."

A number of new crossover fiction books are suggested for your summer reading in this interesting article. Perhaps Glen Duncan's upcoming book, The Last Werewolf, will grip you by the throat with heartfelt feeling  for the melancholy werewolf protagonist. And now that the recent interest in Doomsday predictions has surfaced, Tom Perrotta's book The Leftovers ought to take readers away, just as a Doomsday event described in the book has taken away a mass of people. Perrotta states, "I thought I could write a comic novel about the apocalypse, but I quickly realized it would be a book about grief."  Click on the link to read more.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Anorexia Starves the Family, Too

Brave Girl Eating: a family's struggle with anorexia by Harriet Brown will be discussed at the next meeting of Memoirs and Coffee, one of Bernardsville Public Library's monthly book groups.  The meeting will take place in the Community Room on Tuesday, May 24th, at 10:30 a.m..  This book group is open to the public; please feel free to attend.  The discussion will be led by staff member Pat Kennedy-Grant.

Harriet Brown is an assistant professor of magazine journalism at the S. I. Newhouse School of Public Communications and has contributed articles to Health, Redbook, The New York Times Magazine and to the Science section of The New York Times. She is the author of other books as well as a blog entitled "Feed Me!" which discusses eating disorders.  Brave Girl Eating chronicles her own family's efforts to help her teenage daughter combat anorexia nervosa.  

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Elephants and Crocs, as Seen by the Doc

Tales of an African Vet by Dr. Roy Aronson brings the reader up close and quite personal with the kinds of wild animals that tourists dream about but may never see on safari.  Each of the 19 stories chronicles an interesting medical case handled by this highly-skilled South African veterinarian.  Some of the cases
seemed hopeless at the time; others appeared almost impossible to treat.  How do you track and treat in the wild a lionness with entropion of the eyelid, a condition which could eventually blind her?   How safe is it to anesthetize a 2-ton rhinoceros? Can an elephant survive a plundered meal of 220 pounds of canned pickles and jars of jam, glass and all?  Who wouldn't want to know the answer to that one!

The intriguing medical crises of large and small wild animals are explained in this book with humility, good humor, and a loving dedication to the author's patients.  Yes, even a deadly Cape cobra which has killed a small pet dog (the dog went into the bushes after the snake and broke the snake's spine) is treated by the doctor with the same earnest hope of saving its life.  Although this story ended sadly for both animals, Dr. Aronson made the effort to find the wild snake, restrain it, perform an examination on it, mercifully euthanize it, and then safely desposit the snake's body out in the countryside.  He did this out of respect for life and nature's ways.

Each of these medical cases has broadened the author's knowledge of the animal kingdom and its precarious standing in a world ever encroached upon by man.  In turn, this African veterinarian has educated many game wardens, animal handlers, and the public about the unique and serious conditions that can affect these animals.  The issues of Apartheid, poaching, and the introduction of human disease into wildlife species are discussed in an  informative way that puts mankind on alert without harsh scolding. I thoroughly enjoyed these true and amazing stories demonstrating one very beneficial and vital way man can connect with the wildest of lifeforms.
~Evelyn Fischel~

Friday, May 13, 2011

Authors from the Indian Subcontintent Featured

Bernardsville Public Library is currently featuring a colorful display of books by authors from the Indian Subcontinent.  Please stop by this new display in the lobby to browse from these wonderful works of fiction. Authors included in the display hail from India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh.  The display offers an interesting variety of fiction including thrillers (Six Suspects), relational stories (Sister of My Heart and Secret Daughter), epic novels (The Moor's Last Sigh and A Suitable Boy), short stories (In the Convent of Little Flowers: stories), as well as contemporary, thought-provoking works (The Reluctant Fundamentalist.)  Let your eye be drawn to the gold and blue sari draping this book display and find yourself drawn into other worlds, other lives.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Rework Your Business Thinking

Thomas Alva Edison said, "Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration."  Rework, Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson's new book, supplies 271 pages of sheer inspiration to get you motivated about work and your career dreams. And the good news is that this is a very quick and easy book to read.  Rework is filled with bold illustrations and short, punchy topics of one or two pages each, such as "Long Lists Don't Get Done" and "Start at the Epicenter." After reading it, you might just feel the "can do" spirit to lift yourself out of your work or business rut. The last page does admonish you, however, that "Inspiration is Perishable."  As the authors note, "Inspiration is a magical thing, a productivity multiplier, a motivator, But it won't wait for you. Inspiration is a now thing. If it grabs you, grab it right back and put it to work."

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Life At A Snail's Pace

Elisabeth Tova Bailey's 2010 book, The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating, describes life truly lived at a snail's pace. Victim of a virulent virus which attacked her autonomic nervous system and caused mitochondrial disease, Elisabeth Tova Bailey faced a depressing prognosis of extreme fatigue and the inability to maintain adequate blood pressure in an upright position.  In short, she would have to live life reclining because her body was unable to function in an upright manner. Although she had periods of improvement, serious health reversals repeatedly sent her back to bed.  Dependent on caregivers and friends for her needs, she found that she had all the time in the world, but no capability to use it in the ways she would like.

Enter the snail.

One day a visiting friend brought her a small snail she had found in the woods, simply because it struck her fancy.  This friend deposited the snail in a pot of field violets which she placed on Bailey's bedside table.  The author quickly found herself mesmerized by the seeming poise and adaptability of this wild creature suddenly placed in an alien environment.  As she observed the snail's tentative exploration of its pot, Bailey fancifully noted, "Pondering its circumstances with a regal air, as if from the turret of a castle, it waved its tentacles this way and then that, as though responding to a distant melody."  So began the author's enchantment with the snail and her identification with its slow, but purposeful progress through each day.  She enjoyed its nocturnal activity, glad to have the presence of another living thing close by on sleepless nights.

On one such night she first heard the sound of the tiny snail eating a flower petal. With this, the snail captured both Elisabeth Tova Bailey and me. I couldn't wait to learn more about how the snail and the author might fare. In this short and endearing book, I learned much of fascinating interest about snails, their life cycles and languorous "love lives," their unique and paradoxical physical aspects. Interspersed throughout the story are wonderful excerpts from poets and scientists who have long appreciated this miniscule, but marvelous organism. Bailey aptly quotes the haiku of Kobayashi Issa here, "Climb Mount Fuji/ O Snail/ but slowly, slowly."  What insights the author gleaned from her coexistence with this fellow slow-mover enabled her to examine and accept her own state of being.  The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating tells her story and that of the snail with beautiful prose and fluid style.

~Evelyn Fischel~

Thursday, April 21, 2011

The Brains Are On The Move

Don't haven't lost your mind!  The "Mind: Your Brain" book display has picked up roots and moved into the library rotunda at Bernardsville Public Library for an extended stay.  It seems that the brain is one organ that everybody gives a second thought to, and many of the books in this display have captured people's interest.  You'll be able to find most of the selections that were featured in the earlier lobby display and there is now an original Bernardsville Library bookmark with reading suggestions for this topic as well. Be kind to your mind - give it some thought.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

April is Autism Awareness Month

"April is Autism Awareness Month," and Bernardsville Public Library has marked this observance with a special display.  Our Youth Services librarians have assembled a book display offering an informative collection of reading material. This display is located in the Parenting Corner at the entrance to the fiction wing.

There you will find resources for adults and children which may help to identify, understand, and manage the range of behavior involved with autistic and Asperger's disorders.  There are picture books for the very young as well as literature for teens and adults, along with medical and educational resources.  Please stop by for a look.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Have You Had Your "Date" Yet?

"Go on a Blind Date with a Book"  is an on-going display at Bernardsville Public Library celebrating National Library Week.   It is designed to entice you, just like the concept behind a blind date, to take a chance on a book you might have overlooked before.  The display features beautifully wrapped packages tied up with red bows- all mysterious, all with the potential to excite and please you.  These "packages" are new fiction and nonfiction books, but they are truly anonymous "suitors."  You won't know a book's title until you have checked one out, taken it home and pulled on that red ribbon.  If you don't like what you see, simply return the book.  If you are pleased with your "blind date," use the enclosed sheet to write a brief comment or review about it.  Go ahead and flirt; it can't hurt!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Library Book Group to Read The Good Soldiers

The Good Soldiers by Pulitizer Prize-winning reporter David Finkel tells the true and harrowing story of a U.S. battalion's deployment to an Iraqi town during the "surge."  The author was embedded for eight months with the 2-16 soldiers out of Fort Riley and recounts their experiences in the dusty, but dangerous town of Rustamiya, outside the relative safety of Baghdad's Green Zone.

David Finkel is a Washington Post writer and knows how to report what he sees.  What he saw in Iraq was the daily assault upon these good soldiers of boredom, outrage, hope, fear, substance abuse, despair and grave bodily injury. Finkel places quotes by President G.W. Bush at the beginning of each chapter to remind us of  the administration's mindset about the war's progress, letting these statements stand in contrast to what the soldiers actually experienced and endured.

Fiction author Geraldine Brooks comments that The Good Soldiers is "an incandescent and profoundly moving book: powerful, intense, enraging.  This may be the best book on war since the Iliad."  Bernardsville Public Library's book group, Memoirs & Coffee, will discuss The Good Soldiers next Tuesday, April 26th, at 10:30 a.m. in the Community Room.  Copies of the book are now available at the library. New members are welcome to attend.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

David Foster Wallace

The Pale King, an unfinished novel by the late, laureled American author David Foster Wallace, will be released in bookstores next week.  Because the premise of the story deals with the routine (or not) of work in an IRS center, the publisher set the release date to coincide with the normal deadline for tax filing, April 15th.  Well, there are always those creative types who know their way around deadlines, and in this case, both Amazon and Barnes & Noble are selling the book online at this very moment.  Bernardsville Public Library will have a copy of the book available after the release date.

Book News and More posted a piece about David Foster Wallace at the time of his suicide in 2008.  As is often the case, interest in this talented, but tormented writer increased posthumously.  Just today a very extensive and unusual article was posted online at The Awl entitled, "Inside David Foster Wallace's Self-Help Library."  Some of the self-help books Wallace heavily read and reread were highlighted here and interesting references were made to his mother, grammarian Sally Foster Wallace, as well.  These books are among the  collection of the author's papers at the University of Texas at Austin.

As this article states, "David Wallace was a person who dwelt in darkness either by nature or compulsion, or maybe even by mere habit, or maybe just because he'd been given the wrong medication. Depression is a very inward-turned and self-loathing thing: he trapped himself in this sort of interior abattoir.  But like all depressed persons, Wallace loathed himself in error.  He had a real value that others could see, but he could not." 

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Tom Rob Smith

London-born writer Tom Rob Smith just may be the go-to author for people who are ready to move on from Stieg Larsson's Millenium series. Smith's first book, Child 44, bears all the hallmarks of a great crime thriller - enduring suspense, characters who grow with the well-plotted storyline, and a relevant setting of historical authenticity, in this case, post-Stalinist Russia. His subsequent novel, The Secret Speech, and an upcoming publication, Agent 6, carry forward the story of Leo Stepanovich Demidov, former member of the MGB, as he and his family adapt to his new position in the Soviet State security system.

At the heart of Child 44 is the mystery behind a seemingly inexplicable and horrible series of child murders occurring across a wide area of the Soviet Union. A secretive, paranoid regime is unable to acknowledge that such crimes are possible, let alone that they may be connected. Innocent victims face torture, character assassination, gulags and misery, all so that the myth of a perfect political state might be perpetuated. Meanwhile the vicious child slaughters continue unabated.

One man, Leo Demidov, develops the conscience and courage to investigate these murders as crimes of a serial killer. As the author notes on his Web site, "How a crime is investigated is a very useful litmus test for larger forces within a society, the priorities and prejudices of that world. I guess with CHILD 44 I wanted to combine both those elements, the puzzle and the period in which this puzzle is unraveling." Although the novel's child murders are based on the true crimes of Ukrainian serial killer Andre Chikatilo, Tom Rob Smith fits them into his own web of cause and effect, and once again it is Leo Demidov who is at the center of it all.

Smith shares that he was always a reader, loved adventure stories and took them in whatever form they came - mythology, history, science fiction, television, drama or film. Perhaps the author's work as a storyliner for various British television shows following his graduation from Cambridge helped shape Child 44 into a story that would translate well cinematographically. Apparently Ridley Scott, director of "Alien" and "Blade Runner," thinks so too, as he has bought the rights to the book for a future film production.

~Evelyn Fischel~

The library book group Saturday Samplers will discuss Child 44 on April 2nd at 3:30 p.m. in the small meeting room.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Child 44

Bernardsville Library book group, Saturday Samplers, will be discussing Tom Rob Smith's exciting crime thriller Child 44 at its next meeting this Saturday, April 2, at 3:30 p.m.  Look here for a new posting coming shortly about the author and the book.

Saturday Samplers is an open-invitation book group which reads a varied selection of works, including nonfiction, fiction, short fiction and teen novels.  Library staff member Evelyn Fischel leads the group and writes a blog, Saturday Samplers, on which you can access more information about the group and its reading list.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Mind Your Brain

Mind your brain. Stop by the new book display "Mind: Your Brain" at Bernardsville Public Library to browse the latest information on the brain, the mind.  Find books on neuroscience, brain disease and disorder, brain health and associated literature.  Read what it's like to have a stroke in My Stroke of Insight, learn about bipolar and depressive conditions in The Unquiet Mind, key into what happens to your brain when you listen to music in the books This is Your Brain on Music and Musicophilia.  There are many other interesting selections, including The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat and Left Neglected. This display is located in the center area of the library.