Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Worst, Craziest and Most Humorous Titles of 2008

Here are my nominees for "The Worst Titles of 2008", collected over the past 12 months as I scoured dozens of book review journals. I make no claims about the contents of these books as I haven't read any of them!

Come On Shore and We Will Kill and Eat You All by Christina Thompson. (an exploration of the conflicts between Westerners and the Maori of New Zealand.)

Big, Bad and Barbaric by Jaid Black (a paperback romance)

Keep Your Mouth Shut and Wear Beige by Kathleen Gilles Seidel (humorous novel with instructions for the mother-of-the-groom!)

Hairdos of the Mildly Depressed by Doug Crandell. (2 southern brothers: one balding; one mildly brain-damaged. Think Augusten Burroughs.)

Succubus in the City, and its sequel, Succubus Takes Manhattan by Nina Harper. (Doing Satan's bidding in NYC!)

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Burrows (actually a very popular title here but I can never remember it exactly!)

Why We Suck by Denis Leary (also very popular but I truly detest the word "suck" and think it should never be used in a title!)

Please feel free to post you own nominees too!

The Leper

In 1918, Marine Captain John Severson led the battered remnants of his company deeper into a gloomy German forest, desperately seeking a way past enemy lines; instead he led his men straight into a forgotten Leper colony. After the war he accomplishes his dream of becoming a school teacher. It is a perfect year for him; he loves teaching, enjoys being home in Minnesota, and falls in love with a beautiful young woman who agrees to marry him. All his plans are torn asunder with the first leprous lesion which brings the health board chasing after him. The next years are spent in a hellish Louisiana Leper colony. Severson's decency spurs him to stand up for the rights of fellow patients and begin reforms. A raging flood and murderous Klansmen lead to his escape. He doesn't remain free long, he ends up in Molokai, the infamous Hawaiian Leper Colony.

You will find yourself rooting for John Severson, a noble man trying to make the best of a life blighted by a disease which automatically makes one an outcast. The story is suspenseful and full of interesting historical details. If you enjoyed
Molokai by Alan Brennert, you will love The Leper by Steve Thayer.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Yet Another Fake Memoir

Oprah has been caught out again by endorsing a memoir, in this case Angel at the Fence by Herman Rosenblat, that turns out to be made up. Oprah called it "the single greatest love story". The couple in the memoir had supposedly met in a concentration camp during World War II--the truth is they met on a blind date in New York--considerably less engaging as a story. Here is a description and excerpt of the book from Oprah's web site:
When he was 12, Herman Rosenblat and his family were taken from their home in Poland and sent to a concentration camp in Nazi Germany. Young Herman was forced to work shoveling bodies into a crematorium. All the while he did not know if he, too, would soon be killed.One day two years later, Herman walked up to the barbed wire fence and saw a girl on the other side. "She says, 'What are you doing in there?'" Herman says. "I said to her, 'Can you give me something to eat?' And she took an apple out of her jacket."The girl fed Herman an apple every day for seven months. Then one day he told her not to come back—he was being moved to another camp. "A tear came down her eyes," Herman says. "And as I turned around and went back I started to cry, too. I started to cry knowing that I might not see her again."Herman was shipped to Czechoslovakia. Just two hours before he was scheduled to die in the gas chambers there, Russian troops liberated the camp and Herman was set free.

What I don't understand is why people want to write memoirs when they don't feel their lives are exciting enough to merit one? If they have the urge to write why not try fiction.

Monday, December 29, 2008

The Hunger Games

I repeatedly get asked about what kids can read once they are finished with Stephenie Meyer's Twilight Series. And though I have a "If you liked Twilight try..." booklist available, fans may also be interested in titles that get Stephenie Meyer excited. One such title, that she gushed about on her blog at, is Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. Here is what she had to say:

People often ask me for reading suggestions, and I'm always happy to share because books are exciting things to me. My latest excitement is this: The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. I was so obsessed with this book I had to take it with me out to dinner and hide it under the edge of the table so I wouldn't have to stop reading. The story kept me up for several nights in a row, because even after I was finished, I just lay in bed wide awake thinking about it. I've been recommending it to total strangers in Target. And now to everyone who reads my website. The Hunger Games is amazing.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

2008's Best Books

It’s that time of the year when booksellers, reviewers and critics analyze the year’s published works and choose their “Best Books of 2008”. Here’s several top lists for you to peruse:
Library Journal, Publishers Weekly, Barnes & Noble,, and The New York Times.

I wondered if there was any commonality among the lists and so conducted my own quick poll. Among the fiction titles with appearances on at least four lists were Home by Marilynne Robinson, The Lazarus Project by Aleksandar Hemon, Lush Life by Richard Price, Netherland by Joseph O'Neill, and Unaccustomed Earth: Stories by Jhumpa Lahiri. Non-fiction with four or more citations included: Night of the Gun: a Reporter Investigates the Darkest Story of His Life---His Own by David Carr, The Dark Side: the Inside Story of How the War on Terror Turned into a War on American Ideals by Jane Mayer, The Hemingses of Monticello: an American Family by Annette Gordon-Reed, The Post-American World by Fareed Zakaria, and This Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War by Drew Gilpin Faust.
Other frequently listed titles also recommended by our staff are: The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows, American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld, Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout, The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski, The Brass Verdict by Michael Connelly and The Given Day by Dennis Lehane.
Enjoy a good book as 2008 draws to a close!

Do You have a Favorite?

A library patron asked me a stumper of a question last week. Who is your favorite author? I can't pick just one, I have a list of favorites in many genres. Its like asking a mother who is her favorite child. If I feel liking reading science fiction I like Octavia Butler and Sherri Tepper. For mysteries I like James Lee Burke, Kerry Greenwoood, Elizabeth Peters, and Suzanne Arruda.Jonathan Kellerman and Jeffrey Deaver for thrillers. Jonathan Katz and Patricia McConnell for books about dogs. Carl Hiaasen, David Sedaris, and Lisa Lutz for humor. Don't even get me started on historical fiction, I have way too many favorite authors in that genre; Geraldine Brooks, Ken Follett, Rosalind Laker, Kathryn Harrison to name just a few.

I just can't limit myself to one author above all others.
How about you; is there one author you prefer above all others? Who is it?

Monday, December 15, 2008

At Your Service

New Hampshire was hit by a devastating ice storm Thursday night and many areas are still without power. On Saturday the Library served as an impromptu shelter for many Dover citizens who sought some warmth and light. We fielded phone calls all day from anxious residents who wanted to make sure we would be open. The Library was jam packed with people using the wireless network, Internet computers, checking out books, re-charging cell phones, and enjoying the film matinee. We even received a phone call from someone in a Midwestern state who hadn't been able to contact her parents and wanted to know if phone lines were down. It was good to see so many people turn to the Library in time of need. We were glad we could help.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Books for Holiday Giving

The Children's Room has compiled some helpful lists of holiday books to give children. Here are a few of their suggestions:

Merry Christmas, Ollie by Olivier Dunrea
Baby Elf’s Christmas by Jane Cowen-Fletcher
The Night before Christmas: tenth anniversary by Clement C. Moore/Jan Brett
The Christmas Bears by Chris Conover
Olivia Helps with Christmas by Ian Falconer
The Nutcracker by Susan Jeffers
The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg
Christmas at Stony Creek by Stephanie Greene
A Dog Named Christmas by Greg Kinkaid
The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson

Friday, December 12, 2008

I Found the Time...

“If I Had the Time…” has been the heading of a number of blogs listing new non-fiction books that librarians here at DPL find intriguing but just do not have the time to read. In one such blog post for the Children’s Room, I listed King George: What was his Problem? : Everything your schoolbooks didn't tell you about the American Revolution by Steve Sheinkin. After years of writing American history textbooks, Steve Sheinkin used all the amazing stories and quotes that he collected in his research to write this funny, simplified, but entirely true account of the American Revolution. History was never my favorite subject but this book looked like fun so I finally found the time to read it. If school textbook editors had allowed Sheinkin to write history books like this one, I would have looked forward to my history homework reading assignments.
Here is one scene that Sheinkin recounts involving Samuel Adams and John Hancock as they high tail it out of Lexington after Paul Revere’s warning:

“When Samuel Adams heard the explosion of gunfire from Lexington, he had a pretty good
idea of what just happened.

“Oh, what a glorious morning is this,” he said.

John Hancock thought Adams was talking about the weather, which was not bad, but not
glorious. Adams clarified: “I mean, what a glorious morning for America.”

What was so glorious about it? Adams must have been thinking that those early-morning
shots would be the start of a long, hard fight for American independence.

Hancock must have been thinking about lunch. He sent a messenger back to Lexington,
instructing Dorothy and Aunt Lydia to meet him in Woburn (where Adams and Hancock were
now headed). He told them to “bring the fine salmon” that they had planned to eat that day.

Wait a minute. The American Revolution just started, and we’re talking about salmon.
What just happened back there on Lexington Common?”

I, for one, had to find out! And, when Steve Sheinkin’s second volume, Two Miserable Presidents: Everything your schoolbooks didn’t tell you about the Civil War, was added to our collection, I found the time to read that, too!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

More Gift Ideas

I believe that one can never have enough good cookbooks. I love to browse through my favorites, even when I am not looking for a recipe. So if you are looking for a gift idea for someone who loves to cook, or someone who could use good advice on the topic, here a few that came out in 2008. Of course, if you would just like to just peruse these yourself they are all available at the DPL. Happy holidays!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Wrap these up!

What do an 1890 first edition of the "Tragic Muse" by Henry James, a 1919 first edition of "The Book of Halloween", and a 1911 first edition of the "Biography of Harriet Beecher Stowe" have in common? They are all for sale in our mini-antiquarian corner near the main circulation desk. More than 40 items have been sold from the 100 we pulled from our basement collection for the sale. Among the remaining items are: three volumes of an 1898 first edition of the "Life and Works of Susan B. Anthony", five volumes from the 1800's of "Pomes" by Elizabeth Barrett Browning, three volumes of an 1883 edition of the "Life of Andrew Jackson", an 1853 edition of the "Life of Roger Williams". Other titles include "History of Our Lord in Works of Art", "Cathedrals of New England", "Weir of Hermiston", "Life and Letters of General Thomas Jackson", and "Paul Jones Founder of the American Navy". All are priced right for gift giving: $5 - $100, and proceeds go to the Friends of the Dover Library.

Monday, December 08, 2008

It's Been a Harry Potter Weekend

The Family Channel seemed to be playing every Harry Potter movie yet made every minute of the day this past weekend. Actually it was rather soothing to wrap presents and decorate with the enchanting background music and the familiar voices of Harry and his friends floating around the house. Much more pleasant than the sounds of dogs barking out Christmas carols. A hot topic of conversation over dinner with friends was the question of why the latest Harry Potter movie was delayed from opening Thanksgiving weekend as was usual. Was it a conspiracy by those vampire-loving Twilight nuts? We were all disappointed at not getting our usual Harry Potter fix. There is hope for those of you who long to return to Hogwarts. J.K. Rowling has released Tales of Beedle the Bard. It is not a Potter story, but is is mentioned in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, and features commentary by Albus Dumbledore. The following description is from, but don't order the book, put a reserve on the Library's copy!

'Offering the trademark wit and imagination familiar to Rowling's legions of readers--as well as Aesop's wisdom and the occasional darkness of the Brothers Grimm--each of these five tales reveals a lesson befitting children and parents alike: the strength gained with a trusted friendship, the redemptive power of love, and the true magic that exists in the hearts of all of us. Rowling's new introduction also comments on the personal lessons she has taken from the Tales, noting that the characters in Beedle's collection "take their fates into their own hands, rather than taking a prolonged nap or waiting for someone to return a lost shoe," and "that magic causes as much trouble as it cures."

But the true jewel of this new edition is the enlightening and comprehensive commentary (including extensive footnotes!) by Professor Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore, who brings his unique wizard's-eye perspective to the collection. Discovered "among the many papers which Dumbledore left in his will to the Hogwarts Archives," the venerable wizard's ruminations on the Tales allow today's readers to place them in the context of 16th century Muggle society, even allowing that "Beedle was somewhat out of step with his times in preaching a message of brotherly love for Muggles" during the era of witch hunts that would eventually drive the wizarding community into self-imposed exile. In fact, versions of the same stories told in wizarding households would shock many for their uncharitable treatment of their Muggle characters.

Professor Dumbledore also includes fascinating historical backstory, including tidbits such as the history and pursuit of magic wands, a brief comment on the Dark Arts and its practitioners, and the struggles with censorship that eventually led "a certain Beatrix Bloxam" to cleanse the Tales of "much of the darker themes that she found distasteful," forever altering the meaning of the stories for their Muggle audience. Dumbledore also allows us a glimpse of his personal relationship to the Tales, remarking that it was through "Babbity Rabbity and Her Cackling Stump" that "many of us [wizards] first discovered that magic could not bring back the dead."'

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

If I Had the Time...

These new non-fiction titles all have some connection to water! I'd love to read them...if I only had the time!
Thames: the Biography by Peter Ackroyd.
This 215-mile river flowing through London is exquisitely explored in all its misery and majesty. As a Dickens lover and a huge fan of Clare Clark's novel The Great Stink, I know I would enjoy this biography of a river which has been a playground, an attack route, an artistic inspiration, a power source, a royal stream, and even a sewer.

The Gulf Stream: Tiny Plankton, Giant Bluefin, and the Amazing Story of the Powerful River in the Atlantic by Stan Ulanski.
This fascinating blend of science and history delves into the marine life, the transport properties, and the notables who've studied this "ocean conveyor belt" which can even been seen from space. Ponce de Leon discovered it, and Columbus used it, as did the real pirates of the Caribbean and later slave traders. Benjamin Franklin experiemented with its temperature differences in order to chart the stream's boundaries and perhaps speed up delivery of the mail.
Discover its major role in the development of East coast America.

Weather Matters: an American Cultural History Since 1900 by Bernard Mergen.
Hurricanes, floods, tsunamis and other stormy conditioons are examined for their enormous social and cultural impact. Weather, after all, is always a topic of conversation in America. Our inability to control nature, its unpredictability, its politics (Katrina), and even weather lore and humor and the marketing of weather are delightfully explained here.

Bridges: 3000 Years of Defying Nature by David J. Brown
Not on the subject of water, per se, but over the subject of water is this grand coffee table volume. With over 300 photos and illustrations, the author relates the origins, engineering, structure, materials, and design principles of over 100 of the world's greatest bridges. Arranged chronologically, this is a delightful (and fairly non-technical) book for an architecture or civil engineering buff. I adore going over the Zakim bridge in Boston so I loved this book!

Looking For a Good Book?

We have just issued the 2008 Librarians' Choice bookmark which lists many of our favorite books this year. The New York Times has also come up with their own list of notable books of 2008. If you can't come in to pick up your book mark; here is a virtual copy. (Click on the image to make it larger.)

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Pirates Take 60 English Men, Women, and Children Captive

I am not talking about the modern day piracy off the coast of Somalia, but of a little known raid that took place in 1625. Barbary Pirates stormed a church in Penzance, Cornwall, ruthlessly taking the congregation to sell as slaves. Jane Johnson was inspired to write The Tenth Gift by this old family tale of a stolen ancestress. The novel is actually the intermingled stories of Julia, a modern day Englishwoman who finds the scribbled notes of one of the captives, Cat Tregenna, in a very old book of embroidery patterns. Julia is so intrigued by Cat's story that she travels to Morocco to find out the truth of what happened to Cat and the faithful lover who struggled to rescue her. This atmospheric audio book transported me to the hot, dusty streets of exotic Morocco, just the ticket during a cold, grey New England day.