Book Reviews

'Terror' rides the Arctic seas

Like many modern readers, I impatiently demand that an author hook my attention from the very first paragraph. Yet one of my absolute tiptop favorite novels, Lonesome Dove, begins slowly.

Dan Simmons' brilliant fictional saga, The Terror, requires some patience as well. The problem isn't the crackling opening. It's because many Americans are unfamiliar with the ill-fated 1845 British expedition to the Arctic Circle led by Sir John Franklin. The fate of the 129 men became an obsession in Britain because most of their bodies were never found. For Americans, it may take a few pages to grasp the setup and connections. Rest of book review at USA Today is here. Recently there was an episode of NOVA that dealt with the expedition. The web page for the episode is here.
The expedition took 2400 books with them. You can see a list of their provisions here.
The title of the book comes from the name of one of the ships on the expedition, the HMS Terror.


The Case of the Missing Books, by Ian Sansom

From Booklist: "Librarians have found themselves a new hero in Israel Armstrong."

From Kirkus Reviews: "A buoyant series kickoff....Sansom writes with refreshing deftness and sharp wit."

And from The Clarion-Ledger a review of what seems to be delightful read, particularly for librarians...

The Case of the Missing Books (Mobile Library Mysteries)
by Ian Sansom

Publisher HarperCollins describes this first of a series thusly: "Israel Armstrong is a passionate soul, lured to Ireland by the promise of an exciting new career. Alas, the job that awaits him is not quite what he had in mind. Still, Israel is not one to dwell on disappointment, as he prepares to drive a mobile library around a small, damp Irish town. After all, the scenery is lovely, the people are charming ; but where are the books? The rolling library's 15,000 volumes have mysteriously gone missing, and it's up to Israel to discover who would steal them...and why. And perhaps, after that, he will tackle other bizarre and perplexing local mysteries like, where does one go to find a proper cappuccino and a decent newspaper?"

A nebbish-y librarian, who woulda thunk it??

National Book Awards-Tonight!

National Book Awards. There are four panels of five judges each for Fiction, Nonfiction, Poetry, and Young People's Literature, each including a Chairperson,
chosen by the National Book Foundation. eBooks are not considered as a separate category; they are considered within the four existing Award categories. Judging will be based on literary merit only.

2006 Finalists are below


Mark Z. Danielewski, Only Revolutions (Pantheon)
Ken Kalfus, A Disorder Peculiar to the Country (Ecco/HarperCollins)
Richard Powers, The Echo Maker (Farrar, Straus & Giroux)
Dana Spiotta, Eat the Document (Scribner/Simon & Schuster)
Jess Walter, The Zero (Judith Regan Books/HarperCollins)


Taylor Branch, At Canaan’s Edge: America in the King Years, 1965-68 (Simon & Schuster)
Rajiv Chandrasekaran, Imperial Life in the Emerald City: Inside Iraq’s Green Zone (Alfred A. Knopf)
Timothy Egan, The Worst Hard Time: The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the Great American Dust Bowl (Houghton Mifflin)
Peter Hessler, Oracle Bones: A Journey Between China’s Past and Present (HarperCollins)
Lawrence Wright, The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11 (Alfred A. Knopf)


"Pearls Picks" -- Coming to a Library System Near You

Everyone's favorite librarian and book-luster, Nancy Pearl, will be starting a new on-line feature, "Pearls Picks" on the first of next month. Pearl's Picks will be available through nine library systems around the country via the King County (Seattle) Library System website; here's the press release.


New Cookbook, for Teens, by a Teen

New from Candlewick Press , "Cooking Up a Storm" sounds like the kind of cookbook kids will love, because the recipes and instructions are written by one of their own, British teen Sam Stern. Review from the AP also includes recipes for Carrot Soup with Coconut Milk and a few other tasty-sounding dishes.


Recovering Literature's 'Lost Books'

NPR Has an Excerpt from The Book of Lost Books by Stuart Kelly. Some of the world's greatest prose and poetry may lie in the ash heap of history, according to Stuart Kelly. In The Book of Lost Books, he describes works by Jane Austen, Aristophanes, Sylvia Plath and others whose bibliographies may be incomplete.

Best List? No Way.

When Sam Tanenhaus came on board as editor the New York Times Book Review, word was that nonfiction would take the lion's share of the coverage. Two years later, if anyone doubts that Tanenhaus is giving short shrift to fiction, the recently published list of the best works of American fiction in the last 25 years should change their mind. Scott Esposito Says This is a list that--with the resources and influence of The New York Times--could have been awesome. Instead what we have is a list that shows signs of poor planning, and that ultimately is uninteresting.


Your librarian is a what?

The Republican - Springfield,MA Has This on "My Librarian Is a Camel: How books Are Brought to Children Around the World", which includes information on how fourteen different countries around the world get books to the youth. As Author Margriet Ruurs found out, there are many ways to transport books across the country, many of which require vehicles. But some countries, like Kenya, use a more natural approach: animals


In Honor of Presidents Day...

Which President served for the shortest time? Which President had the most children? Blogcritics reviews Uncle John's Bathroom Reader Plunges Into The Presidency.


A handbook for Alaska's settlers (1960)

Daniel writes "Inspired by Blake, I went through my own write file and brought out this item from April 2005. NOTE: Neither Alaska nor the US currently offer a homesteading program. If you are interested in obtaining government land in Alaska, try the Alaska Dept of Natural Resources Land Sales Program . The February 2005 flooding which closed my half of the Alaska State Library for a month did have an upside for me. Once we got the books back onto shelves, all staff had to participate in shelfreading the collection. This helped me get reacquainted with our print collection, and led me to several interesting Alaska-related books. From time to time, I will make note of books I have read. Most should still be available for purchase or interlibrary loan. My first book, appropriately enough for me is the government document: Title: A handbook for Alaska's settlers, with special reference to agricultural homesteads. Author(s): Saunders, Dale. Corp Author(s): University of Alaska Fairbanks.; Agricultural Experiment Station at Palmer. ; Alaska Agricultural Experiment Stations (U.S.) Publication: [Palmer, Alaska] : University of Alaska, Alaska Agricultural Experiment Station, Year: 1960 Description: 31 leaves ; 28 cm.Language: English Series: Circular ;; 24; Variation: Circular (Alaska Agricultural Experiment Stations (U.S.)) ;; 24.OCLC Number: 41767969 I actually decided to read this book because of the cover. There is a black and white illustration of a worried looking farmer with seven arms holding various implements, including a bag of cash, that are helpful to have on a homestead. The implied attitude is typical of many Alaskan publications discussing settlement and relocation over the years. In some ways we actively discourage people from moving here because we can't abide disgruntled people who lack the resources to return home. People who come understanding the challenges are more likely to be successful here. But I digress, which is a blogger's privilege. The book itself offers very practical advice on homesteading, from deciding whether homesteading is really for you, through land selection, through researching markets to building your home on your land. Mr. Saunders begins by saying that homesteading is neither for everyone or even "free land." He estimates that it may take $40-60K to clear land and build a successful farm – remember these were 1960 dollars! He mentions several then existing sales programs that might better suit people who simply want to live in the country. For those determined to homestead, Mr. Saunders offers selection tips like:Don't select land in winter, "In the winter all land will seem solid when frozen. Some homesteaders later find they can't drive a jeep over their swamp once it thaws out." Since this book was written in a different era, there is a section called "The wife's point of view", written by Mrs. Kay Hitchcock, who offers advice like: "Women must be prepared for hard physical work both in the house and out of doors, due to lack of modern conveniences. They must adjust themselves to isolation from neighbors, especially the companionship of other women, and they must be prepared for concern over the welfare of their children if they settle where medical care, schools and other similar services are not available." Although this book was written nearly fifty years ago, I think it still contains a lot of sound advice for people who want to live the rural lifestyle, especially in Alaska."



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