Monday, January 31, 2011

Library Vandalism Redux

Remember a few months ago when I posted about someone vandalizing our local library with condiments? The case is back in the news. The woman arrested back in October recently plead guilty to dumping maple syrup, corn syrup, ketchup, and mayonnaise into the book drop. The official charge she plead to is misdemeanor malicious injury to property. The brief article stated that the vandalism was her retaliation for being banned from the library in 2007.

I think dumping condiments into the book drop is a very sad thing. It probably resulted in several thousand dollars worth of damage. I also know that the book drops she targeted have extra padding, which I imagine was a huge pain to clean. The library staff may have been inconvenienced but it is tax dollars that pay for the library. Any books or cds that have been replaced plus any other costs come out of the public library fund. Those funds won't be available to buy new books or cds because they were spent on replacements. So, the general public is the unwitting victim of the vandalism this woman committed. It just saddens me.

I am wondering how, exactly, a person gets kicked out of the library. Anyone who can fill me in on the possible reasons, I would love to hear them.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Quote by Horace Mann

"A house without books is like a room without windows. No man has a right to bring up his children without surrounding them with books, if he has the means to buy them. It is a wrong to his family. Children learn to read by being in the presence of books. The love of knowledge comes with reading and grows upon it. And the love of knowledge, in a young mind, is almost always a warrant against the inferior excitement of passions and vices."
--Horace Mann

I like this quote a lot. I realized not too long ago that the presence of books is part of what makes a house feel welcoming to me. Without books, it doesn't seem like a home. I also believe that having books in the home is so important for children. It is better for them if it is just a part of their life. If a child grows up in a reading house, they will read.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

A New Challenge

I found an intriguing list online, title 40 Modern Nonfiction Books Everyone Should Read. I have decided to take the challenge and read at least ten of these books. I have read a few of them already, so I will choose ten books I haven't read and begin. After reading ten from the list, I will evaluate whether to continue reading the author's suggested nonfiction books.

I am excited about this new challenge. I will review a selection of the books I read from the list.

Monday, January 24, 2011


Emma Donoghue has written an intriguing, gut wrenching book. It is told from the viewpoint of Jack, a smart five year old boy whose entire world measures eleven feet by eleven feet. His mother is his main companion, and they are occasionally visited by a man he knows as "Old Nick". "Old Nick" brings them things from the the world outside, but Jack always has to stay in the wardrobe when he visits.

Because this book is told from Jack's viewpoint, Donoghue is able to address the difficult subject of abduction and captivity in a unique way. This book is an intriguing look at the world and the relationships between people.

I recommend this book to adult readers. It is a truly gripping story.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Quote by Ray Bradbury

"You don't have to burn books to destroy a culture. Just get people to stop reading them."
--Ray Bradbury

I love this quote because it is by Ray Bradbury, a man who wrote an entire book about a culture destroyed by burning books. But he makes a good point. All you have to do to destroy a culture is get people to stop reading books. I know many people who do not read, and it saddens me. I think there is so much we can learn and understand about people, values, truth, love, justice, and more when we read. Those who are not reading are missing something out on something vital, something better.

Begin where you are today. Pick a book that challenges you, and read it.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Servant of a Dark God

John Brown has created a unique fantasy world, and populated it with interesting characters. Much of the book is written from the perspective of Talen, a smart youth who is caught up in the swirl of dangerous events. This book is fantasy done right. It has many of the classic fantasy elements, but presents a new, complex way of looking at things. Characters are not clearly good or evil, and their motivations are multi-layered just as people in reality.

I have read this book twice in the last few months, because I enjoyed it immensely. The only let down is that the sequel isn't out yet. If you enjoy fantasy, especially when it is well-crafted, read this book.

You can read the first chapter of this amazing book at the author's website here.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Hitler's Private Library

This is a book about Hitler's books. It begins with a brief discussion about how examining the book collection left behind will reveal much about its owner. The author, Timothy W. Ryback, then goes on to talk about some of the books Hitler left behind, including how well used they appear and markings left in the margin. The book is about the books of Hitler, when they came into his life, and how they influenced his thoughts.

A few things stood out to me about this book. First, some of the books that Hitler seemed to read were the typical classical books that many of us have heard of or read: Shakespeare, Don Quixote, Robinson Crusoe, Uncle Tom's Cabin, and Gulliver's Travels, for example. He spent hours reading each night, and would then discuss his readings in the morning. These are not things that immediately signal a troubled mind.

But he also had a vast collection of war books, as well as many Anti-Semitic books. His markings in these books show him to be greatly taken with the ideas and philosophies. It seems that he missed many of the messages in the fiction books, while believing whole-heartedly the nonfiction vitriol. Perhaps he was a man who did not see the truth in fiction?

This book gave a me different perspective of this man who affected the lives of so many. A deeper perspective, which did not improve my opinion of him but did shed some light on his decisions.

If you are interested, this book was an intriguing read. It is for those looking for greater clarity about how Hitler thought. It may also be for those interested in books and personal libraries.

Monday, January 10, 2011

The Fourth Turning

Occasionally, I will read a book that changes how I see everything. This was the case with this book by Strauss and Howe. It is about the circular nature of history. This book was originally published in 1997, and many of the things the authors projected have happened. The authors outline different generational patterns, and how these generations have historically created specific types of events. History repeats itself. Most people give this phrase only lip service, but Strauss and Howe outline specific events through history that follow the generational pattern. Why does this matter? Because if history repeats itself we can know what to prepare for and some of the things we can expect.

If you are ready for a larger perspective of history and the times we are living in today, read The Fourth Turning. Be ready to dig deep and learn a lot. This book is worth it.

Friday, January 7, 2011

The Rest of Her Life

When I was in high school, an older female student accidentally hit another girl who was walking near the school. The younger girl died. This, essentially, is the plot of the book The Rest of Her Life. It is told from the viewpoint of the mother of the older girl. I found it to be a poignant, complex read. I did not have true objectivity for this book, because it mirrored a real event for me. The characters choices, emotions, and experiences rang true for me. It is a thoughtful book that begs the question, "What would you do?"

If you enjoy books with interesting characters in hard situations, you should read this book. If you like to read Jodi Picoult, this is a book for you. This book kept me up late, because I wanted to keep reading.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Evaluating a Potential Book Group

I have had great experiences with book groups, as well as some experiences that were not so great. There are many benefits from a book group experience, and I think that most people can find a group they enjoy. Finding an established book group can be easy, but discovering if it is a good match for you may not be as easy.

Here are a few ideas for evaluating a potential book group. Realize that every group has a different focus and style. Some groups focus much more on the social aspect of the group. They are about the meeting, not the reading. I was once in a group like this, and I enjoyed it well enough for a while. However, discussions began to be derailed because a couple people would not finish the book and would insist that we not discuss the endings at the group. You may be fine with this policy, but it was quite frustrating for me.

Some groups are directed by one person. Others are a shared responsibility. I have been in good groups with both styles. Some groups are held at libraries or book stores, while others are held in the homes of members. I know of a few groups that meet at restaurants. There are pros and cons for all locations, but these are much less important than the camaraderie and discussion.

Pay attention to how the group interacts with one another. The social aspect of the group will determine many other factors, including whether a group will last. Are the discussions intense? That is fine as long as there is an underlying current of respect. In fact, it is probably a mark of a good group if the members do not shy away from difficult subjects. I have been in one book group that discussions were continually shut down by one member of the group who had a particularly condescending way of disagreeing.

Book selection and discussion are the two largest factors you should evaluate when looking at a book group. Some groups do not have a stated book list, but allow members to make suggestions. Although these groups could be considered eclectic, they tend to read mainly contemporary fiction. Some groups have a more formal book list to ensure a greater variety of books. It may be possible to know a year or more in advance what books will be read. Some groups have a genre that they read, such as mysteries or science fiction or religious books. Taking a look at a book list for the next few months can give you a real feel for whether a book group would work for you.

The discussions when the group gets together are the main part of the book group experience. Some groups discuss literary techniques, the author's life, and plot structure. Other groups discuss only the themes from the book. Some groups discuss how the book relates to their own lives, and how the book changed them. Your own preference should be the deciding factor on whether you join a particular book group or not. Discussions are best when all members have a common goal, and respect for each other.

When you join a book group, you should select it carefully. It can be a great experience if it is a good match for you.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Books Finished December 2010

Flight of Shadows by Sigmund Brouwer
Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
Heat Wave by Richard Castle
Leadership Education: The Phases of Learning by Oliver and Rachel DeMille
Midwives by Chris Bohjalian
Naked Heat by Richard Castle
Sarah by Orson Scott Card
Scarlett by Alexandra Ripley
Tethered by Amy Mackinnon
The Fourth Turning by William Strauss and Neil Howe
The Good Mother by Sue Miller
The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin
The Law of Similars by Chris Bohjalian
The Promised Messiah by Bruce R. McConkie
The Year of Living Biblically by A.J. Jacobs
Tom's Midnight Garden by Philippa Pearce

*These are books that I have finished reading. This list does not include books that I have skimmed. The list does not include picture books that I have read to my children, nor does it show all the other reading I have done. These books were finished in this month, but some may have taken considerable time to read, bit by bit.