Friday Reads: Encyclopedia of Nordic Crime Fiction

“Friday Reads” is a weekly blog written by reference librarian Faith Lee about great books, magazines, and the occasional reference work.    Topics may be new titles added to the library, selections from the Staff Picks shelf or about something she recently read.  Admittedly, there is a definite slant toward nonfiction, because, well, she’s a reference librarian and likes to learn new things.  Guest bloggers take a turn sometimes too.  No matter the source, good reads are featured here.

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Does this arctic cold turn your thoughts to Nordic lands like it does for me?  Do you wonder what it must be like to live there with long, frigid, dark winters?  One way to learn about a culture is to read its literature, “to ponder the profound social, political, economic and cultural issues they present,” states Mitzi M. Brunsdale in the introduction to Encyclopedia of Nordic Crime Fiction.

Well, if you have an interest in Nordic culture, reading its crime fiction is one sure-fire way to learn aspects of it that you won’t find in guide books or the recent New York Times bestseller, The Little Book of Hygge:  Danish secrets to happy living.   In the Encyclopedia of Nordic Crime Fiction, which is divided into five sections, one for each country: Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden, Brunsdale opens with an in-depth essay on cultural context for crime fiction in that locale, followed by a list of awards given since 1967. Those are followed by a parallel chronology of that country’s literature and world events. She then provides a biography of each contemporary author, a bibliography of their works, major awards and their web addresses.

So if you like Norwegian author Jo Nesbø you can read that in addition to being “king of Nordic crime writing,” he is also a soccer player, journalist, rock music singer, financial analyst, rock climber and children’s author. You can see a list of what he has written to date (13 novels from 1985 – 2013 published in 24 million copies, translated into forty-seven languages) and who his fellow Norwegian crime writers are (Anne Holt, Vidar Sundstøl and Kjell Ola Dahl, to name only three) and their works.  For the best in Norwegian crime fiction, check out the list “Dagbladet’s Twenty-Five Best Norwegian Crime Novels of All Time (2009) which includes the original title and translation information.  What is the #1 Norwegian crime novel you ask?  Elskede Poona, by Karin Fossum (tr. as The Indian Bride, 2007; also titled Calling Out for You.)

Whether you are an avid reader of Nordic crime and want to get more cultural context to deepen your understanding or you are just starting out and don’t know what to read first, the Encyclopedia of Nordic Crime is sure to provide fascinating guidance all along the way.  You can find this book in the reference room with call #809.3872 BRU, or ask a reference librarian.

Friday Reads: The Enlightened Mr. Parkinson

“Friday Reads” is a weekly blog written by reference librarian Faith Lee about great books, magazines, and the occasional reference work.    Topics may be new titles added to the library, selections from the Staff Picks shelf or about something she recently read.  Admittedly, there is a definite slant toward nonfiction, because, well, she’s a reference librarian and likes to learn new things.  Guest bloggers take a turn sometimes too.  No matter the source, good reads are featured here. 

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This week, Reference Librarian, Donna Burgess, takes a turn with this column and highlights a new biography of James Parkinson, the man for whom Parkinson’s disease was named 200 year ago.

The Enlightened Mr. Parkinson: the pioneering life of a forgotten surgeon and the mysterious disease that bears his nameThe title of this book drew me in immediately. My sister was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease when she was fifty years old, and each year she struggles with the onset of even more debilitating effects.

Written by Cherry Lewis, The Enlightened Mr. Parkinson delivers an appealing, often gruesome account of the life of a workaholic and highly respected surgeon-apothecary from a time long-ago.  In 1817, during the age of Enlightenment, he “defined this disease so precisely that we still diagnose Parkinson’s disease today by recognizing the symptoms he identified.”  Parkinson also helped Edward Jenner in inoculating Londoners against smallpox, being among the first to do so.

In addition to medicine, Parkinson had two other passions: politics and fossils, which were popular pastimes for upper crust Edwardians.  As a political radical, Parkinson was interrogated in the plot to assassinate King George III.  He became a founder of the Geological Society of London, and wrote a scientific paper on fossils, one of which, a Jurassic ammonite, was named for him: Parkinsonia parkonsoni.

A Kirkus review noted that The Enlightened Mr. Parkinson is “a fine biography of a colorful figure who lived in a turbulent era.” And Publisher’s Weekly stated, “Parkinson’s groundbreaking work, as Lewis notes, represented a ‘farsighted, questioning approach’ that ‘left us with a remarkable scientific and medical legacy’.” – Publishers Weekly

Look for this intriguing biography on the NEW nonfiction shelf, Call # 926.17 Parkinson.

Friday Reads: Across Many Mountains, a memoir

 

“Friday Reads” is a weekly blog written by reference librarian Faith Lee about great books, magazines, and the occasional reference work.    Topics may be new titles added to the library, selections from the Staff Picks shelf or about something she recently read.  Admittedly, there is a definite slant toward nonfiction, because, well, she’s a reference librarian and likes to learn new things.  Guest bloggers take a turn sometimes too.  No matter the source, good reads are featured here. 

 

This week, the Narrative Nonfiction Book Club had a thoughtful discussion about the memoir, Across Many Mountains by Yangzom Brauen.   All 15 people in attendance had a chance to share their thoughts, observations and revelations with a rapt audience.  It was wonderful to hear new attendees and veteran attendees build on each other’s comments and get spurred on to new thoughts they wouldn’t have come up reading this book alone.

So what was it that got the group in synch? Across Many Mountains, a memoir by Swiss-Tibetan actor, model, movie-maker and political activist, Yangzom Brauen, tells the story of three generations of Tibetan women: the author, her mother and her grandmother, a Buddhist nun.  It begins with the Chinese occupation of Tibet in the early 1950s, which forced the grandmother and her husband, a Buddhist monk, to flee to India with their two daughters, ages 6 and 2.  They trekked for a month over the Himalayas to India, where they subsisted in hand to mouth fashion for several years as refugees.  When the author’s mother was 16, she drew the attention of a young scholar of Buddhism who hailed from an important family in Switzerland.  He fell madly in love and would not give up his pursuit until he persuaded the young Sonam and her mother (the only family members still living) to move to Bern, Switzerland.  Sonam and Martin, the Swiss scholar, married, had two children (the author and her brother) and lived a comfortable life in Switzerland and then New York City, where the book leaves off, around 2008.

Through the vastly different lives of these three remarkable women we learn about Tibet, Tibetan Buddhism, the violent re-education the Chinese soldiers forced on the country, as well as how their experiences affected their lives.   We see how Buddhism gives the grandmother the inner strength to carry her through one trial after another with clarity of purpose, whereas, Sonam, who left Tibet when she was six had a desperate longing for a permanent home and always felt out of place.  The author, who was born in Switzerland and only visited Tibet, developed a deep love and commitment to preserving the Tibetan culture through her grandmother’s teachings.

All this was relayed in what one book club member described as a conversation with the reader.  We were gently told about all these events, rather than being shown.  So, it was a fascinating and easy read rather than a heart-wrenching tale of bloodshed, deprivation and oppression.

Next month we will discuss My Green Manifesto by David Gessner, which is about cleaning up the Charles River in Boston.  If you would like to join us, read the book and come to the discussion on Thursday, January 4 at 10:00 a.m. in the Hermann Foundation Meeting Room.  If you want a print copy of the book, you will need to order it from the Commonwealth catalog as all print copies from Cape Cod libraries are spoken for.  There are also two copies of the ebook in Overdrive in epub and Kindle formats.  If you need help getting a copy, please contact the reference department at 508-457-2555 x 6 or info@falmouthpubliclibrary.org.

Friday Reads: Christmas Knitting and Crocheting

“Friday Reads” is a weekly blog written by reference librarian Faith Lee about great books, magazines, and the occasional reference work.    Blogs may be about new titles added to the library, selections from the Staff Picks shelf or about something she recently read.  Admittedly, there is a definite slant toward nonfiction, because, well, she’s a reference librarian and likes to learn new things.  Guest bloggers take a turn sometimes too.  No matter the source, good reads are featured here. 

 

Knitters and crocheters, it’s time to get those needles, hooks and yarn out!  So many gifts to make, so little time.  Check out these books for some gift ideas and patterns.  Most projects are small, so you can make something for everyone on your list.

Scandinavia Christmas Stockings:  Classic Designs to Knit for the Holiday by Mette Handberg. This one has spent time on the Staff Picks shelf.  Proficient knitters will enjoy it, but beginners will probably get frustrated.  (See photo on the left.)

55 Christmas Balls to Knit:  Colorful Festive Ornaments, Tree Decorations, Centerpieces, Wreaths, Window Dressings by Arne and Carlos.  If you are not familiar with this duo – their designs are modernized traditional Scandinavian patterns and motifs.  Whimsy is the word.

Little Christmas Decorations to Knit and Crochet by Sue Stratford and Val Pierce.  At no more than 3” each, you can create enough ornaments to outfit a whole tree for a brand new look, or tie them onto gifts in lieu of a bow, or give one to each person you know or …  or …. .  Everyone needs a knitted figgy pudding, don’t they? (See photo on the right.)

Christmas Crochet for Hearth, Home and Tree:  stockings, ornaments, garlands and more by Edie Eckman.  These colorful and modern crochet projects will come together in a twinkle of Santa’s eye.  It is assumed the reader already knows how to crochet.

 

Currently, these books are on the mantelpiece across from the circulation desk, but they may not stick around long!

 

Merry Christmas Crafting!

Friday Reads: The Magician’s Assistant

 

“Friday Reads” is a weekly blog written by reference librarian Faith Lee about great books, magazines, and the occasional reference work.    Blogs may be about new titles added to the library, selections from the Staff Picks shelf or about something she recently read.  Admittedly, there is a definite slant toward nonfiction, because, well, she’s a reference librarian and likes to learn new things.  Guest bloggers take a turn sometimes too.  No matter the source, good reads are featured here. 

This blog written by Donna Burgess, Reference Librarian and co-leader of “Books on the Half-shell,”  the library’s monthly fiction book club.

 

Ann Patchett’s third novel, The Magician’s Assistant,  is a selection in the Falmouth Fiction book club, series, “Magic and Magicians.”

Set in Los Angeles, California and Alliance, Nebraska it is both a love story and an awakening. The magician’s assistant of the title is named Sabine. An assistant to the magician Parsifal for twenty years, Sabine was in love with him, even though he was gay, and as is announced in the opening sentences, “Parsifal is dead. That is the end of the story.”

Throughout their relationship Parsifal maintained that his family had all died in a car accident in Connecticut. So it came as a shock when Sabine learned that he had a family in Nebraska! His mother, Dot and her daughter, Bertie arrived in LA   through contact with Parsifal’s lawyer. They decided to meet Sabine.

Having spent too much time in bed grieving the loss of Parsifal, Sabine decides to give Dot and Bertie a tour of the LA, (“a city where there are no laws against pretending to be something you weren’t!”) She finally decides to accept Dot’s invitation to visit Alliance and learn about Parsifal’s past.  We learn that Parsifal’s given name is Guy, that there was a tragic event in his past that triggered his move away from Nebraska and his shutting out his past.

The contrast between the palm tree lined streets of L.A. and the windswept snow –clogged streets of Alliance heighten the contrast between the personalities of Dot’s family and Sabine.

Although there is little magic performed throughout the book, Sabine does manage to astonish Dot and her family by pulling an egg from her ear! Perhaps the magic is the relationships that develop between Sabine and Dot’s family.

The book sparked a lot of discussion in both the evening and morning book groups. One member stated at the beginning of the meeting she didn’t really care for the book. After listening to the discussion she realized how much there was to the story.

And that my readers, is what book clubs are all about.

 

 

 

 

Friday Reads: Magazines to Go!

 

“Friday Reads” is a weekly blog written by reference librarian Faith Lee about great books, magazines, and the occasional reference work.    Blogs may be about new titles added to the library, selections from the Staff Picks shelf or about something she recently read.  Admittedly, there is a definite slant toward nonfiction, because, well, she’s a reference librarian and likes to learn new things.  Guest bloggers take a turn sometimes too.  No matter the source, good reads are featured here. 

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I am going to make a couple assumptions here and I would love it if someone would write back to tell me I am wrong … I assume that you don’t know the library has Skeptical Inquirer: the magazine for science and reason.  It is one of a large collection of magazines we offer covering a wide variety of interests, which brings me to my second assumption.  I also assume you don’t know back issues of magazines can be checked out.

Was there a recipe, craft project or knitting pattern you want to try or an interesting article you want to peruse while sitting in your favorite spot?  Go for it!  You can bring home past issues of magazines for two weeks, just like books.  The current issues, which we put in plastic covers, stay in the library until they are replaced with newer ones.  For most magazines we keep one year’s worth of back issues underneath the display shelf (or behind, depending upon your point of view).

Our magazine collection probably has several titles you haven’t heard of, for instance:

Art Margins
scholarly articles about contemporary art, media, architecture & critical theory

The Christian Centurythinking critically, living faithfully
applies Christian thought to contemporary topics of interest, such as gun-ownership

Film Comment
filmmaking in the U.S. and abroad, published by Film Society of Lincoln Center

Modern Farmer
for today’s cutting-edge food producers and consumers:  farmers, chefs, home-cooks

Hockey News:  the international hockey weekly
all about North American conference teams with special issues such as “Season Opener” and “Yearbook”

Z Magazine
an independent political monthly magazine from Hull, Massachusetts, in its 30th year

And here I will include Skeptical Inquirer: the magazine for science and reason, which “focuses on what the scientific community knows about claims of the paranormal as opposed to media sensationalism.  The journal promotes scientific research, critical thinking and science education.”  (Magazines for Libraries, 2014, p. 613)

We have all the star titles you would expect to find as well.  Look for your favorite filed alphabetically.   Or, if you have a topic of interest, anything from art to the zodiac, just ask a reference librarian and we’ll see what we can find for you.

 

 

Friday Reads: Just Mercy

 

“Friday Reads” is a weekly blog written by reference librarian Faith Lee about great books, magazines, and the occasional reference work.    Blogs may be about new titles added to the library, selections from the Staff Picks shelf or about something she recently read.  Admittedly, there is a definite slant toward nonfiction, because, well, she’s a reference librarian and likes to learn new things.  Guest bloggers take a turn sometimes too.  No matter the source, good reads are featured here. 

 

This week the Narrative Nonfiction Book Club discussed Just Mercy:  a story of justice and redemption by Bryan Stevenson.  It is the second book in our six-month series devoted to social justice.  Each month we will read about a different aspect of social justice.  In Just Mercy, the topic was criminal justice.  But let me quote the author for a more in-depth description:

 

This book is about getting closer to mass incarceration and extreme punishment in America.  It is about how easily we condemn people in this country and the injustice we create when we allow fear, anger, and distance to shape the way we treat the most vulnerable among us.  It’s also about a dramatic period in our recent history, a period that indelibly marked the lives of millions of Americans – of all races, ages and sexes – and the American psyche as a whole. (p.14)

 

Stevenson’s personal narrative describes his first 30 years after Harvard Law School when he started the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI) in Montgomery, Alabama – a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing free legal counsel to prisoners wrongly accused of crimes.   Over that time the EJI grew from just two lawyers, Stevenson and a friend from Harvard, to over 40 attorneys who, together, tirelessly fight for racial justice and the fair treatment of children in prison, and against mass incarceration, and the death penalty.  Through his experiences we learn just how many ways minorities, the poor, the mentally ill and other vulnerable members of our society can be treated unfairly when they are in the wrong place at the wrong time and members of the judicial system want a quick conviction.  The results can be catastrophic: innocent people being imprisoned, put in solitary confinement and on death row or even executed.  Many suffer physical and sexual abuse from wardens and other inmates.  Their families and communities acutely feel the injustice as well.

Our large group had a thoughtful and moving discussion about Just Mercy.  Some of us found it very difficult to read because of all the unfairness and corruption Stevenson uncovers, but we all were glad that we read such an important account from one with a reliable and even voice.  Just Mercy is read in high school and college English classes across the country, including here at Falmouth High School.  You can learn more about the author and the book at eji.org.

Join us next month for Across Many Mountains by Yangzom Brauen, a memoir about racism and religious oppression in Tibet.

Friday Reads: Fun with Reference Books

 

“Friday Reads” is a weekly blog written by reference librarian Faith Lee about great books, magazines, and the occasional reference work.    Blogs may be about new titles added to the library, selections from the Staff Picks shelf or about something she recently read.  Admittedly, there is a definite slant toward nonfiction, because, well, she’s a reference librarian and likes to learn new things.  Guest bloggers take a turn sometimes too.  No matter the source, good reads are featured here. 

 

If you think reference books by definition are dry, academic type tomes with small print and fat bindings, give me a couple minutes here.  I’ll show you some fun ones.

We have the Oxford Dictionary of Humorous Quotations and in it I found these quotes: “If I were two-faced, would I be wearing this one?” Can you believe Abraham Lincoln said that?  And “Too much of a good thing is wonderful.” I can believe Mae West said that.  This little book is full of amusing quotes organized by subject, just the thing if you want to lighten up a presentation or impress your friends.

In Book Lust to Go:  Recommended Reading for Travelers, Vagabonds, and Dreamers, librarian Nancy Pearl recommends great armchair travel books, both fiction and non-fiction.   Many times, patrons have asked me to recommend books to read before they go on vacation, to help get them in the mood.   Going to Niagara Falls this fall?  Nancy has several suggestions, including The Falls, a novel by Joyce Carol Oates.

No doubt you’ve heard the phrase, “Seven Wonders of the World,” but fess up, can you actually name them?  If you hesitated, I recommend flipping through, What Are the Seven Wonders of the World? And 100 Other Great Cultural Lists Full Explicated.  Then you can ace trivia night at Liam Maguire’s this winter.

If you are the type to toss salt over your shoulder to ward of bad luck, you may be interested in Witches: an encyclopedia of paganism and magic.  In there, you’ll discover Alomancy is the term for your salty ways and that the term’s first meaning is an ancient practice of divination.  So, toss the salt to be safe this Halloween, then read the pattern of sprinkled grains to see what your future holds.

You have probably seen tattoos frequently, ranging from a single small flower to ones covering much of the body.   People from most cultures around the world have tattoos and they are popular in advertising in the U.S. now.  But, have you seen eyelids tattooed with open eyes or a balding person with a tattoo of a lawn mower at the hairline?  Read all about the many varieties of joke tattoos in Inked: Tattoos and Body Art Around the World.  Maybe it is just the inspiration you need to get a moustache tattooed to your index finger, so you can hold it under your nose when you’re feeling jaunty.

Are you a political junkie?  You may want to consult Hatchet Jobs and Hardball:  the Oxford Dictionary of American Political Slang to expand your vocabulary with some fun terms such as: bafflegab (confusing or unintelligible speech), Foggy Bottom (the U.S. Dept. of State, because it is located in the district by that name) or dope story (speculative or false information planted or leaked).   Each entry tells you where and when the terms were first used.  Dope Story, for example, was first used by the New York Times on January 3, 1929 when former governor Alfred E. Smith said, “When you get these reports that I’m going to take all kinds of jobs; that I’m going to be a baseball player on the Giants; why, I wish you wouldn’t come running up here to ask me about them because you’ll know there’s nothing to all these dope stories.”

I could go on, but hopefully you now know there is more variety to reference books than you may have first thought.  Yes, we have lots of encyclopedias, directories, gazetteers, catalogues and bibliographies.  Most of them will make you say, “Now that’s interesting!”  and some of them will even make you laugh.

Friday Reads: Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City

 

“Friday Reads” is a weekly blog written by reference librarian Faith Lee about great books, magazines, and the occasional reference work.    Blogs may be about new titles added to the library, selections from the Staff Picks shelf or about something she recently read.  Admittedly, there is a definite slant toward nonfiction, because, well, she’s a reference librarian and likes to learn new things.  Guest bloggers take a turn sometimes too.  No matter the source, good reads are featured here. 

 

We had a full house at the Narrative Nonfiction Book Club meeting this week, with some new or long absent faces mingling in with the full-timers.  Kicking off our new 6-month theme of Social Justice, we discussed Evicted:  Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond.

Evicted follows the lives of eight families in Milwaukee who subsist in squalid apartments, trailer parks, homeless shelters or on friends’ couches and struggle to buy enough food and medicine to sustain themselves.  Facing eviction several times over for not being able to pay the rent, these families are caught in a vicious cycle of homelessness and joblessness, compounded by mental and physical illnesses, low education, drug abuse, sexual abuse or other tough issues.   Thoroughly researched, brilliantly written, compelling and important, Evicted presents the view of both landlords and tenants in an unbiased manner.

It is a more statistic-filled and emotionally wrenching book than our usual fare, but being primarily narrative, it was an excellent book for us to learn from and discuss the many contributors to and ramifications of eviction and poverty.  Despite some hesitancy from some members to start the book, the group got deeply involved in it and brought great comments and questions to the table.   It is a wonderful book for discussing with others as it challenges preconceived notions and introduces details most of us not in poverty probably would not be aware of.

Next month, we will discuss Just Mercy:  a story of justice and redemption by Bryan Stevenson.  If you would like to join us, pick up a copy of the book at the reference desk and come to the discussion on Thursday, November 2, 2017 at 10 AM in the Hermann Foundation Meeting Room.  All comments and opinions are welcome.

 

Friday Reads: McTeague: a story of San Francisco by Frank Norris

“Friday Reads” is a weekly blog written by reference librarian Faith Lee about great books, magazines, and the occasional reference work.    Blogs may be about new titles added to the library, selections from the Staff Picks shelf or about something she recently read.  Admittedly, there is a definite slant toward nonfiction, because, well, she’s a reference librarian and likes to learn new things.  Guest bloggers take a turn sometimes too.  No matter the source, good reads are featured here. 

 

Way back when, before I was a librarian, when I lived in San Francisco, I read the novel, McTeague: a story of San Francisco by Frank Norris, published in 1902.  I just picked it up on a whim at a used book store because it was set in my town in the early 1900s and that was enough to interest me.  It was a slim thing with a painting of a slim, disheveled man on the cover.   I remember now that once I got to reading it, I was quickly hooked.  The characters were full and flawed, the setting so vivid I was there on that same street one hundred years ago, and the plot lead me where I least expected.  When asked to name my favorite book, McTeague was it for many years.   Now I have read so many great books, I can no longer answer that question.

But, I had forgotten about McTeague in recent years, … until today.  Today, I saw on our new nonfiction book shelf 100 Great American Novels You’ve (Probably) Never Read by Karl Bridges.   I scanned the table of contents to quiz myself.  How many had I read?  Uh-oh, how many had I even heard of?!  Please let me remind you here, I read a lot more nonfiction than fiction.  But when I saw McTeague on the list, I was thrilled.  It is a great American novel.  No doubt about it.  And if you haven’t read it, Karl Bridges and I recommend that you do.  Bridges describes Norris’ novel as being similar to Émile Zola’s realistic tone and style, but “distinctive in its American voice”.  Here’s his synopsis from the book:

“McTeague is a dentist of questionable background operating a small practice in San Francisco.  He has friends, a reasonable number of patients satisfied with his work, and generally, good prospects in the world.  He seems to prosper, both in his practice and in his marriage to the attractive Trina, who brings a reasonable dowry to the marriage.  As time goes on, however, the marriage and the practice collapse, victim to McTeague’s increasing alcoholism and lack of attention to his marriage, which reveal the horrible character flaws that the has been hiding.  Ultimately, his increasing desperation leads him to murder and to his pursuit by a relentless adversary across California and into the high Sierras, where events come to a thrilling and surprising conclusion.”

McTeague is one novel in the Library of America anthology, Novels and Essays by Frank Norris that I just put on the Staff Picks shelf.  Look carefully, it is that plain little clothbound book that resembles a red brick.  You can find “100 Great American Novels You’ve (Probably ) Never Read” by Karl Bridges on the new nonfiction shelf with the call number 028.9 BRI.  Take a look and see how many novels you’ve read.