Archive for October, 2011

When an e-reader is loaded with thousands of books, does it gain any weight?

Friday, October 28th, 2011


Here’s what the New York Times has to say about that.

In the mood for scary?

Thursday, October 27th, 2011


Looking for scary books for adults?  Here are a few that come to mind:

The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson

The Turn of the Screw by Henry James

The Shining by Steven King

Rosemary’s Baby by Ira Levin

The Road by Cormac McCarthy

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

Dracula by Bram Stoker

You can find all these at the SF Public Library.  Happy Halloween!

Julian Barnes wins Man Booker Prize

Saturday, October 22nd, 2011

Julian Barnes' The Sense of an Ending 

Julian Barnes was awarded the Man Booker Prize this week for The Sense of an Ending, his novel about a man who revisits his past in later life.

Barnes’ novel was selected from the following shortlist: 

Jamrach’s Menagerie by Carol Birch

The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt

Half Blood Blues by Esi Edwgyan

Pigeon English by Stephen Kelman

Snowdrops by A.D. Miller

To read about the kerfuffle that has developed about the awards this year, see Laura Miller’s Salon article here.

J. – Branches

A New York state of mind….

Friday, October 21st, 2011

    Just back from a week in New York City – recovering from the usual simultaneous exhilaration and exhaustion.  I was glad to visit  Occupy Wall Street demonstrations as well as the 9/11 Memorial a couple blocks away. 

Also enjoyed: Theater, good eats, Carnegie Hall, MOMA, the High Line, Chelsea Market, Lincoln Center, Times Square, the New York Public Library, bookstores, two Gutenberg Bibles, Willem de Kooning, Fluxus, and the Morgan Library & Museum - Phew!  The City has changed a lot – mostly for the better, I’d say – since I lived there during a gritty period some years ago.

Now that I’m in a New York state of mind, I’m looking to extend my visit through immersing myself in some good fiction set in the City.  Here are some recent titles I’m planning to take a look at (all are available at the Library):

New York Stories, a compilation edited by D.S. Tesdall (2011) of stories from some of the great New York writers – Edith Wharton, Bernard Malamud, Truman Capote, James Baldwin, Damon Runyon, Willa Cather (?), James Cheever, and others. 

This Beautiful Life by Helen Schulman (2011) is the story of a well-to-do Manhattan family in crisis, a situation precipitated by an internet-related event.

Zone One by Colson Whitehead (2011) is a “literate zombie novel” set in lower Manhattan.

Tabloid City by Pete Hamill (2011), former editor-in-chief of both The New York Post and the Daily News, puts New York in the starring role in this story of the decline /demise of newpapers disguised as the story of a double murder in Greenwich Village.

J – Branches

Science Is Fun

Sunday, October 9th, 2011

I never thought I’d be a fan of science books —until I read Mary Roach’s work and found myself laughing my head off. Apparently I am not alone. If you have yet to be introduced to her work, now is the time, since Packing For Mars has been selected to be this year’s One City One Book title.

I never thought rare science books would be an interest of mine either, but stumbling across Cosmographia in our Rare Book Room changed that too. Did you know that over 400 years ago, people were making “pop up” books, not for fun and amusement, but for scientific calculations?

Libraries are designed for making discoveries and are elegantly arranged for such first-encounters. I humbly realized I was not the first person to be intrigued with Petrus Apianus’s gem of a book when I wandered online upon the Museum of the History of Science in Oxford, England.  Their extensive research on Cosmographia is light-years beyond my own. Take a look.

Cosmgraphia, courtesy of The Museum of the History of Science, Oxford, England.

Now I seek out this science-stuff and must recommend that you visit the Huntington Library’s Beautiful Science exhibition either virtually or in person. You will be dazzled by the things you’d expect to see. But first-encounter discoveries are guaranteed as well. Be amazed by the fascinating life and work of Maria Sibylla Merian, a German woman who traveled to Suriname in 1699 to paint as many tropical insect species as possible—explore and enjoy.

Chrysalis : Maria Sibylla Merian and the secrets of metamorphosis by Kim Todd.

One more recent scientific find of mine is History & Special Collections at UCLA’s Louise M. Darling Biomedical Library.  They’ve created a wonderful online exhibit called Spices: Exotic Flavors & Medicines which you can savor here.

Courtesy of UCLA’s History & Special Collections at the Biomedical Library

Afterward, make a point of visiting the library this month and enjoy any of the fun, science-inspired events celebrating Mary Roach’s entertaining writings.

The Beekeeper’s Apprentice charms

Saturday, October 8th, 2011


 The Beekeeper’s Apprentice  by Laurie King 

I love to recommend this first of Laurie King’s books about Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes (there are now 11 entries in the series).  It was Laurie King’s great inspiration to put whip-smart, sassy 15-year-old beekeeper Mary Russell in the way of a retired beekeeper and former denizen of Scotland Yard by the name of Sherlock Holmes.  Their common interests — beekeeping, verbal sparring, and puzzle-solving — quickly draw them together, and the clever repartee, sleuthing, and crime-solving that results makes for a terrific read.  Also, I admit I loved the hints of frission and near-illicitness that results from the combination of age-difference and Mary’s feminist bent.

J – Branches

Mystery you love to recommend

Friday, October 7th, 2011

Blood on the dining-room floor by Gertrude Stein ; edited with an afterword by John Herbert Gill, 1982.

Gertrude Stein wrote a mystery? Yes, indeed–complete with a country house, servants, a hotel keeper, and more… This is a fun read if you get your mind in what I call poetry mode; suspend the need for linear story and let meaning enter your mind through a service door. This is necessary because the reading experience isn’t one of following a direct narrative, and has as much (or more) to do with writing and language as it does with story. Wordplay, rhythm, and even text printed sideways on the page make this a fun romp through the side yard of Stein’s mind. I suggest reading the novel itself before the Introduction, Afterword, or other notes and texts in the Dover Edition (the Berkeley, Calif. : Creative Arts Books, 1982, edition has only the Afterword and a bibliographical note). The supporting texts mention Stein’s writer’s block in 1933, Lizzie Borden, the Fall River murders of 1892, and other interesting material to help one construct a plot structure for the novel, but I enjoyed reading the hilarious play of language in the novel itself.

Submitted by Ms. Claire – Main Library

Mystery you love to recommend

Friday, October 7th, 2011

Heartstones by Ruth Rendell, 1987.

 A slim volume written in the first person voice of a darkly disturbed young woman. Obession tangles the lives of two sisters and someone dies…

You’ll be surprised at the answer to the question, “Who dunnit?” in this one!

Submitted by Ms. Claire – Main Library

Celebrate Suffrage:Two Amazing Women Artists

Thursday, October 6th, 2011

Ken Burns’s Prohibition and the library’s amazing centennial celebration of suffrage in California have been serendipitously scheduled.   I particularly enjoyed Trina Robbins’ talk about her book The Brinkley Girls: the best of Nell Brinkley’s cartoons from 1913-1940 last week. It is fascinating to see how these social and political movements are intertwined.  It is equally amazing to discover and learn about the work of women from long ago who were doing particularly spectacular things. Two women you need to read about are Maria Sibylla Merian (1647-1717) and Mary Granville Pendarves Delany (1700-1788.)

Merian was a naturalist and artist who grew up in a printing, painting and publishing family in Germany.  She traveled, at the age of 50, to Surinam to study and draw the natural world and, in particular, her beloved caterpillars and the process of metamorphosis which so fascinated her. In England, Delany, who associated with Handel, Hogarth and Jonathan Swift, had a long and sometimes difficult life but found happiness in her forties when she married Patrick Delany.  Her most important life’s work, however, did not begin until after Delany’s death, when she was 72, and began making a series of botanical paper collages.

It is inspiring to read about both of these women and their beautiful artwork. Makes me wonder how their lives would have been different had they lived and worked during more modern times.

View Merian’s artwork at the Huntington Library’s exhibit and read: Chrysalis : Maria Sibylla Merian and the secrets of metamorphosis by Kim Todd.

View Delany’s “mosaicks” at the British Museum’s exhibit and read: The Paper Garden : An Artist {Begins Her Life’s Work} At 72 by Molly Peacock.