Friends of Seattle Public Library Blog

The goings on of the Seattle Public Library.

Armchair Travels: What the Board is Reading July 14, 2010

The board members of the Friends of the Seattle Public Library seem to be doing a lot of armchair traveling these days, even if it’s exploring what it means to be an outsider here in America.  Here’s a sample of what they’re reading in case you’re looking for recommendations:

Tall Man : The Death of Doomadgee, by Chloe Hooper.  This true-crime story explores the death of an Australian Aborigine who was arrested for swearing at a white police officer and then died in jail within an hour.  While the book follows the manslaughter trial, Hooper also explores Aboriginal life and the long history of institutional racism in Australia.  Board member Connie found the story tragic, exhausting, and worth reading.  Critics have compared the novel favorably to Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood and Norman Mailer’s The Executioner’s Song.

 

 

Nomad’s Hotel : Travels in Time and Space, by Cees Nooteboom; translated from the Dutch by Ann Kelland.  Nooteboom is a Dutch novelist and travel writer, and this series of travel essays covers trips made from the 1970s through 2002.  The Booklist review notes that “descriptive travelogue ranks second to considerations of the destinations as repositories of the past. Whether in Venice, Isfahan, or Timbuktu, Nooteboom sees a place through its physical relics and literary associations. The traveler’s innate foreignness, however well informed before arrival in a new place, burgeons with significance for Nooteboom. A traveler arrives, sees, and departs, not likely to return.”

 

Gertrude Bell : Queen of the Desert, Shaper of Nations, by Georgina Howell.   Board member Mary enjoyed this biography of Gertrude Bell, an extraordinary woman who took the world by storm in the early 1900s.   The starred review in Booklist by Donna Seaman notes that “Born to British industrial wealth and civic prominence during the Victorian era, [Gertrude Bell] possessed boundless self-confidence, courage, and vitality. The first woman to earn top honors in history at Oxford, Bell was fluent in six languages, and became an intrepid traveler and celebrated mountaineer. Tragically unlucky in love, she romanced the world instead. Discovering her spiritual home in the Middle East, Bell transformed herself into a cartographer, archaeologist, writer, and photographer as she undertook perilous journeys to fabled desert outposts, commanding the respect of powerful Bedouin sheikhs. During World War I, Bell became the expert on Mesopotamia for British military intelligence, and a more crucial force in the forming of modern Iraq than that of her friend, T. E. Lawrence. From Cairo to Basra to Baghdad, Bell, against fierce adversity, devoted herself to justice.”

Digging to America, by Anne Tyler (e-book read by Blair Brown).  This novel follows two families who meet by chance at the airport to greet their newly adopted baby girls from Korea.  One family is very “American,” while the other family has more recent immigrant roots.  As the two families get to know each other, the Iranian-born narrator grandmother explores impressions of American, and what it means to try to fit in . . . . or not.  Board member Joan especially enjoyed listening to Blair Brown’s reading of the book, so the link above is to the Books on Tape version, which can be downloaded electronically.  It is of course also available in hardback and in large print.

 

 

 

 

Need Help With Your Homework? April 14, 2010

I’m always amazed by the many resources provided by The Seattle Public Library.  Latest example?  Click here for information on how to get help with your homework, whether you’re young or old. 

First, 11 of the branch libraries have Homework Help Centers, where volunteers help students on a drop in basis during the school year.  Contact these branch libraries for information about when Homework Help is scheduled:  Beacon Hill, Broadview, Columbia, Delridge, Douglass-Truth, International District/Chinatown, Lake City, NewHolly, Northgate, Rainier Beach, and South Park.

Second, you can also get free on-line help from live tutors in math, science, English and social studies seven days a week from 3 p.m. – 11 p.m.  This help is available both in English and en Español.  You will need a Library card and your PIN (personal identification number) in order to log onto the Tutor.com Web site

Third, if the tutors are busy or if you want to look at other resources, the Tutor.com Web site also includes a SkillsCenter Resource Library, with lots of different worksheets, tutorials, and study guides about different subjects.  I took a look at one of the writing tutorials and got some great tips on punctuation.

Now lest you think that homework help is only available to students in K-12 or in college, the Tutor.com Web site also has an on-line Adult Education and Career Center that covers topics like career help, going back to school, and citizenship issues.  There’s even a resume writing workshop video available! 

And once you’ve finished your homework and have some time to relax, consider borrowing one of these books recommended by Friends’ board members:

The True Story of Hansel and Gretel, by Louise Murphy. Board member Connie reports that this book is set in occupied Poland during World War II, and tells the story of a 12-year old Jewish girl and her brother who are sent into the woods to flee the Nazis, and how they are able to survive.  The novel provides an intimate look at Nazi-occupied Poland.  Note:  this is not a book for children.

  

A Walk in the Woods : Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail, by Bill Bryson.    This is a  non-fiction comedic account of two tenderfeet (well, since there were two hikers, I should probably say they had four very tender feet) who try to hike the Appalachian Trail without much preparation or training.    Several reviewers have noted that this is more than a travel memoir, as the trip served as a re-introduction to America for the author after living in England for 20 years.   Board member Joan enjoyed listening to the audio version of the book, so the link above is to the audio version.

Wolf Hall:  a Novel,  by Hilary Mantel.  Board member Liz ‘s take on this book:  “It won the Man Booker prize last year- deservedly so.  Wolf Hall tells the Henry VIII/Anne Boleyn story (yay season 4 of the Tudors started last night!) through Thomas Cromwell’s eyes.  Cromwell comes across as a surprisingly cool guy, Anne as a high maintenance lady, and Henry as his petulant self.  It’s well written and totally engaging. “

 

Need Help Keeping Track of What’s on Your “To Read” List? March 10, 2010

At the Columbia City Book Fest last October we met a woman who keeps a small book (like an address book) with a list of all the books on her “to read” list.  That way, she has her list ready when she wanders into a library branch or a book sale. 

I clip out book reviews and scribble down recommendations from friends, and then log onto the Seattle Public Library website to put those books on reserve.  Or if I’m in a rush I’ll email myself a reminder or create a note on my Blackberry.

Did you know that if you log into your account on the Library website you can create your own list of books you want to read or have read?  Click here if you want instructions on setting up and managing your list. 

And if you’re looking for suggestions on what to read, consider these book recommendations from members of the Friends’ Board.  You can click on the links below to get to the SPL site to reserve copies.

Spooner, by Pete Dexter.  Daniel Kraus’ review on Booklist Online  notes that “Dexter’s sprawling account of the life of Warren Spooner may be classified as fiction, but it incorporates plenty from the author’s own history. True, false, it doesn’t much matter—this gregarious curriculum vitae is just the ticket for those who like their comic realism served up with a side of Garpian absurdity. . . .  The emotional core, however, is Spooner’s relationship with his cautious yet luckless stepfather, Calmer. A once-promising ship commander whose botching of a sea burial began his slide toward mediocrity, Calmer is the steady path that forever eludes Spooner. But as both men grow older, their emotional fumbling toward each other becomes downright moving. A big, satisfying maybe-memoir.”

Justice:  What’s the Right Thing to Do?, by Michael Sandel.    Professor Michael Sandel teaches a popular course at Harvard about the every day moral decisions we face.  Although our board member hasn’t read Sandel’s book, she enjoyed watching the PBS DVD of some of Sandel’s actual classes at Harvard, in which he uses hypotheticals to help his students and (the viewer!) think critically about issues such as affirmative action, same-sex marriage, surrogate motherhood,  and how to determine how much a life is worth.  Watching students stake out and defend their positions and the logical consequences of those positions, is touching, maddening, and ultimately inspiring.

Read My Pins : Stories From a Diplomat’s Jewel Box, by Madeleine Albright, with Elaine Shocas, Vivienne Becker, and Bill Woodward.  Our board member enjoyed this memoir by Madeleine Albright, former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, who used her jewelry to make both personal and political statements.  “Before long, and without intending it, I found that jewelry had become part of my personal diplomatic arsenal. Former president George H. W. Bush had been known for saying “Read my lips.” I began urging colleagues and reporters to “Read my pins.” ” The book includes over 200 photos of pins from Albright’s collection, as well as many of the political figures and celebrities she met while wearing them.

Wicked Plants: The Weed that Killed Lincoln’s Mother and Other Botanical Atrocities, by Amy Stewart.     “They may look sweet and innocent, but anyone who has ever broken out in a rash after picking a hyacinth blossom or burst into violent sneezing after sniffing a chrysanthemum knows that often the most beautiful flowers can pack the nastiest punch. . . . . There are plants that can kill with a drop of nectar, paralyze with the brush of a petal. From bucolic woodland streams choked by invasive purple loosestrife to languid southern fields overrun by kudzu, some plants are just more trouble than they’re worth. Culling legend and citing science, Stewart’s fact-filled, A–Z compendium of nature’s worst offenders offers practical and tantalizing composite views of toxic, irritating, prickly, and all-around ill-mannered plants.”  –From Carol Haggas’ review on Booklist Online.

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, by Lisa See.  Here’s Kristin Huntley’s assessment from her Booklist Online review:  “Mystery writer See, author of The Interior (1999) and Dragon Bones (2003), takes readers to nineteenth-century China to explore a complex friendship between two women. Lily is the daughter of a farmer in Puwei Village, and Snow Flower is the daughter of a respectable family from Tongkou, and though the two girls have very different backgrounds, Madame Wang pairs the two as laotong, or “old sames,” a bond that will last them a lifetime. . . .  . Their friendship is cemented during their youth and then put to the test when the girls prepare for marriage and Lily discovers a startling secret about Snow Flower’s family. . . .  See’s writing is intricate and graceful, and her attention to detail never wavers, making for a lush, involving reading experience. This beautiful tale should have wide appeal.” 

Reviews from Booklist Online are excerpted with permission.

 

A Friend is Someone Who Likes You (and Who Volunteers at the Friends’ Book Sale!) March 1, 2010

One of my best-loved books from childhood is A Friend is Someone Who Likes You, by Joan Walsh Anglund.  What child could resist a book (a hardback book of my very own!) that had been inscribed “I bought this in London for a sweet little girl on her fifth birthday.  With love, Auntie Mae.”   That book has accompanied me back and forth across the country through many moves, and still sits on my bookshelf today.  It is a sweet reminder of how much I enjoyed reading books as a child, and of course of my Auntie Mae.

Fast forward more years than I’d like to think, and I’m now a Friend of the Seattle Public Library.  With the help of numerous volunteers, the Friends sponsor their famous twice-yearly Book Sales.  The next Book Sale is on April 16 – 18, 2010, and will be held at Magnuson Park, at the Hangar in Building #30, 7400 Sand Point Way NE, Seattle, 98115.  Free parking is available, and Metro bus routes 30, 74, and 75 will also get you there.

Over 200,000 items will be offered for sale, so there’s bound to be something for everyone!  Hardbacks, paperbacks and audio books in the regular section are $1.00, and videos, CDs, and DVDs are $1.00 per piece.  There is also a special room for better books and for rare/collectible books and sets, where prices are as marked.

Once again we need about 350 volunteers to help with all aspects of the sale, from set-up to clean-up.  Won’t you be a Friend, and sign up via the volunteer form on the Friends’ web site or by emailing book.sale@spl.org?  You can volunteer for one (or more!) of the shifts that run from Thursday, April 15 through Monday, April 19.  Volunteers receive a coupon for two regularly priced books of their choice, and can also receive Community Service credit.

Any questions?  See the Booksale FAQ on the Friends’ website, and feel free to contact the Book Sale office at 206.523.4053 or book.sale@spl.org.

 

Amy’s Story: “I Just Really Love Reading” February 22, 2010

We know children love libraries.  This year we’re asking kids to tell us why. Here, Amy says that when she goes to the library she gets SO many books she can hardly carry them!  I asked Children’s Librarian Amy LaVare, at the High Point branch library, what a pile of books that high might look like. For that, see the accompanying photo to Amy’s essay.
—————————————————————————————
Why I like the Seattle Public Library
By Amy Pottharst, age 7
 
I think reading is important because if you are bored it gives you something to do. I just really love reading. My favorite kinds of books are mysteries. Books are sometimes so suspenseful and I really love that.  I was 4 ½ when I started reading and my mom says she could barely keep up with me!  Sometimes in the summer we walk or ride bikes to the library to get some books and then we go to a nearby park or to the wading pool. When we go to the library I get SO many books I can barely carry them all!  
 
My younger brother Danny (4 years old) loves getting books too. He goes every week for story-time and was disappointed when there was no more story-time in February.  We usually sit side-by-side and read quietly together. He copies everything I do!
 
The library is great because we can check out books for my book group. We raised money for a group called Pennies for Peace.  We learned about this group from the book “Listen to the Wind” by Greg Mortenson.
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Would you like to become a friend of the Seattle Public Library?  Will you share your story about what the Library means to you?  Email us at advocacy@friendsofspl.org.
 

More Book Recommendations from the Friends’ Board October 16, 2009

With the advent of the rainy season, what a comfort to think of curling up by the fireplace with a drowsy cat and a good book.  Here are recommendations from the Friends’ October board meeting.  You can click on the links below to get to the SPL site to reserve a copy of these books.

emperor

Emperors of the Ice : a True Story of Disaster and Survival in the Antarctic, 1910-13, by Richard Farr. Farr’s debut novel has been named winner of the 2009 Scandiuzzi Children’s Book Award (part of the annual Washington State Books Awards) in the category of Books for Middle Grades and Young Adults (10-18 year old readers), although our board member believes it will appeal to adults as well.  This story of the ill-fated Antarctic journey led by Robert Scott to find the South Pole is told from the viewpoint of Apsley Cherry-Garrard:  “A bad navigator, inexperienced with dogs, blind as a bat, I was not the best man for the job, but I was the man available for the job.”

picture exhibition

Pictures at an Exhibition, by Sara Houghteling.  This novel, set in Paris, is about a Jewish family dealing with the Nazis’ looting of French art masterpieces during World War II, including the destruction of the family’s art gallery.  The son returns after the war to try to recover the family’s masterpieces and in the process learns about family secrets and the many losses caused by the war.

 

school ingredients

The School of Essential Ingredients, by Erica Bauermeister.  Our board member first heard about this book through the Phinney Neighborhood Association blog, and characterizes it as enjoyable escapist fiction, with wonderful descriptions of cooking.  The  characters in the novel all attend a weekly cooking class together, lead by a chef who doesn’t believe in using recipes.  We learn about what has motivated each student to attend, what they each wrestle with, and how their cooking and their lives are transformed by learning to listen to their senses.  Per the PNA blog entry, the author is a PNA member and volunteer instructor in the PNA  education program.

 

labor dayLabor Day, by Joyce Maynard.  According to Carol Haggas’ review in Booklist, “Stranger danger” is a concept unfamiliar to 13-year-old Henry, who befriends an injured man during one of his and his agoraphobic mother’s rare shopping excursions in town—with disastrous results for all. . . . Told from Henry’s point of view, Maynard’s inventive coming-of-age tale indelibly captures the anxiety and confusion inherent in adolescence, while the addition of a menacing element of suspense makes this emotionally fraught journey that much more harrowing.”  City Librarian Susan Hildreth confessed that this was the first book she’s read in a while that made her think “I wonder what Nancy Pearl thinks of this book?”  She checked in with Nancy, who hasn’t finished reading it yet, so stay tuned for Nancy’s verdict . . .  . or read it yourself and let us know what you think!

 

Summer Reading Program a Smashing Success! September 23, 2009

Well folks, the results are in, and all of you readers out there helped exceed every goal for The Seattle Public Library’s 2009 Summer Reading Program, both as to books read and number of readers:

Category Goal Actual
Books Read (overall) 125,000 156,361
No. of Readers (overall) 12,029 12,352
Books Read by Teens 2,018 4,898
No. of Teen Readers 734 871
Books Read by Adults 5,220 14,035
No. of Adult Readers 2,040 2,380
Books Read by Children 112,170 137,428
No. of Child Readers 8,505 9,101

Congratulations and thanks to all those who participated!   The Friends of the Seattle Public Library were pleased to join the other entities (The Seattle Public Library Foundation, Verizon Wireless, U.S. Bank, the Burke Museum, Parent Map and Sheraton Seattle Hotel) who sponsored this worthwhile program.  Check back in spring 2010 to see what the Library has planned for the 2010 Summer Reading Program.

And if you are looking for book recommendations for this fall, here are some suggestions from the Friends’ Board meeting in September.  You can click on the links below to get to the SPL site to reserve a copy of these books.

borkmann Borkmann’s Point:  An Inspector Van Veeteren Mystery, by Hakan Nesser.  This mystery won the Swedish Crime Writers’ Academy Prize for Best Novel in 1994.  The Inspector is an irascible and occasionally near intuitive character who is called on to solve a mystery in a small town.  The board member who recommended this believes that Borkmann’s point (that in every case a point is reached where enough information is available to solve the crime with “nothing more than some decent thinking”) applies equally to life and the conduct of board meetings.  Having said that, our board member admitted that he hadn’t been able to figure out who had done it until it was revealed at the end of the book.  Why not read this novel and see how long it takes you to figure it out?  Starred review by Booklist.

fieldwork Fieldwork: A Novel, by Mischa Berlinski.  Several board members enjoyed reading this novel with its multiple and overlapping story lines about a young anthropologist living in Thailand, a nomadic hill tribe, and the multigenerational missionary family seeking to convert the tribe members.  One member was entranced by the detailed descriptions of the fictional hill tribe and their rituals and culture, calling it a tour de force.

 

Start Reserving Books to Tide You Over During the Furlough August 13, 2009

A friendly reminder that that all branches of The Seattle Public Library will be closed Monday, Aug. 31 through Sunday, Sept. 6 due to citywide budget cuts.  The Library will also be closed on Monday, Sept. 7 for  the Labor Day holiday, so regular Library operations will resume on Tuesday, Sept. 8.  Click here for more information about the closure.

Here are suggestions from the Friends’ Board meeting in August in case you need books to read during the furlough.  You can click on the links below to get to the SPL site to reserve copies of these books.

Olive picture

Olive Kitteridge, by Elizabeth Strout.  This novel features 13 interconnected stories, elegantly and sparingly told, of life in rural Maine.  Olive Kitteridge is a retired schoolteacher who provides a common thread in all of the stories, and we see how her choices in life play out as she moves from middle age to old age.

disreputable historyThe Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks, by E. Lockhart.  Nancy Pearl recently recommended this young adult novel on a radio show, and I wasn’t able to write down the title while driving, so was delighted that another board member brought it in to our meeting.  Frankie attends a private boarding school and finds intrigue in infiltrating an all-male secret society called the Loyal Order of the Bassett Hounds.  Can our heroine turn the tables on her male high school classmates who underestimate her and the other girls at school?  Read it and find out!

the help

The Help, by Kathryn Stockett.   A college graduate and aspiring writer returns to her hometown of Jackson Mississippi in the 1960s and decides to write down the stories of the black women who provide the domestic “help” in many of the white households.  The three narrators must deal with the fears and repercussions (and sense of pride) that result from publishing stories that challenge the prevailing concepts of race, class, family and gender roles.

loving frank

Loving Frank, by Nancy Horan.  This historical novel explores the relationship of famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright and his mistress Mamah Borthwick Cheney, a scholar in her own right.  The board member who recommended this especially enjoyed the lively discussion held at one of the branch library book groups, and commented that “Librarians run the best book groups!”   For more information about upcoming book group meetings at various branches, click here.

 

Liberate Your Books! July 14, 2009

Booksale
Give us your tired, your poor, your huddled masses of books yearning to breathe free in the hands of a new reader! That’s right, folks, although the Fall Book Sale isn’t until September 25 – 27, the Friends accept book donations year-round (except for the 2-week period before and after each sale). We’re looking for the following:

 

 

 -Hardback and paperback books
-Audio books
-CDs and DVDs
-Computer software
-Sheet music
-Art prints and posters (framed or unframed)

Click here for more information about donating these materials.  You can get a charitable donation AND feel good about supporting the Library.

And if you are looking for something fun to read, consider the book recommendations below from the Friends’ Board meeting in July. You can click on the links below to get to the SPL site to reserve a copy of these books.

What Was Lost: A Novel, by Catherine O’Flynn. O’Flynn’s first novel opens with 10-year old Kate Meaney, who acts as a detective of possible criminal activities in her neighborhood. “Crime was out there. Undetected, unseen. She hoped she wouldn’t be too late.” Twenty years later, the novel traces the repercussions of Kate’s haunting disappearance on her friends and acquaintances. Received a starred review by Publisher’s Weekly.

Inside Inside, by James Lipton. James Lipton is the host of the TV-show Inside the Actor’s Studio, where he conducts in-depth (and often parodied) interviews with famous actors and directors. This autobiography includes excerpts from interviews with luminaries such as Meryl Streep, Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts and Steven Spielberg, but also traces Lipton’s career and insights.

Not Becoming My Mother: and Other Things She Taught Me Along the Way, by Ruth Reichl. “Irreverently immortalized as the klutzy cook who renounced edibility in favor of creativity, Reichl’s mother, and her quirky kitchen habits, provided frivolous fodder for Reichl’s previous culinary memoirs. But in this keenly felt retrospective, Reichl reveals another side of her mother, whose life seemed a shining example of what not to do.  .  .  .   Only upon discovering a hidden trove of diaries and letters after Miriam’s death was Reichl able to understand the full extent of her mother’s sacrifices. Candid and insightful, Reichl’s intensely personal and fiercely loving tribute acknowledges her mother as both the source and inspiration behind her success.” — Carol Haggas

Quoted book review excerpts are reprinted with permission from Booklist.

 

Kick Off Your Summer With a Good Read! June 8, 2009

145x110_logo Summer’s just about here (if the weather ever makes up its mind) and that means it’s time for the Seattle Public Library’s Summer Reading Program.  This Friends’ sponsored program is designed to help children learn, encourage reading for pleasure, provide chances for lifelong learning and nurture a sense of community.

Adults and teens are invited to keep track of and review the books they read this summer.  Children are encouraged to keep a reading log and get a sticker for each book they read.  Kids under 12 who read 10 books will receive prizes and be eligible for the city librarian’s Breakfast of Champions.

All told, the Library is offering over 750 programs throughout the city for all ages.  Check out the Library website or the Seattle Public Library Summer Reading Program page on Facebook for more information.

 

 
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