Book Reviews

A Book About the Other New Yorkers

Robert Sullivan's new book may make some readers a bit queasy, but NYT book reviewer Michiko Kakutani calls it ""Engaging ... a lively, informative compendium of facts, theories and musings."

The subject is...rats.

This article relates how the author studied the habits of rodents each evening over the period of a year in New York's Chinatown aided by a pair of infra-red goggles. He found that social connections within the rat community are amazingly similar to the city's predominant species. Happily, he tells us that the long-believed formula that there is one rat per New Yorker is, as of the moment, fictitious.

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Library lectures become book series

nbruce writes "The opening paragraph of a detailed review of a series of seven books that started out as a lecture series in a library states:

“Recently, prominent writers from a wide variety of fields took the stage at the New York Public Library to expound upon the Seven Deadly Sins. Four of the lectures have now been published in book form, with three additional volumes forthcoming. An editor's note explains that these books are intended "to chart the ways we have approached and understood evil, one deadly sin at a time." The problem, however, is that the series lifts seven names from an old and closely detailed map in order to draw a new and rather vague one, occasionally replacing what once was a warning with a blessing.�

And so, lust, envy and gluttony are all reworked and misapplied and even become virtues at the hands of these authors. Even greed, although closer to the traditional teachings on the subject, is weak, according to reviewer Abram Van Engen. Read the Books & Culture review here."

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Bring patrons to the library : Running a successful card campaign

In the preface of this How-To-Do-It Manual, Patrick Jones indicates that one of the biggest mistakes librarians can make is taking for granted that everyone wants to have a library card. Statistics tell us otherwise. Adult usage is on the decline and many of us are in the position of having large numbers of our service population who are not card-carrying library users.

That's the situation this book is designed to address. It focuses on how to "sell the sizzle" when it comes to your library card, i.e., how to market the services accessed via the card in the most compelling way possible. To do this, it looks in-depth at the methods and results of a number of library card campaigns conducted by large, urban libraries (Houston, Philadelphia, etc.) and summarizes those of mid-sized and smaller libraries. Read a more indepth review of the book.

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When Washington was in vogue

nbruce writes: "Yesterday's Wall Street Journal (January 23, 2004) reviews the novel When Washington was in vogue (Amistad), a love story that includes conflicts between bourgeois blacks and traditional working class blacks of the 1920s. It was originally serialized anonymously in The Messenger and has been issued as a book for the first time. The author, Edward Christopher Williams (1871-1929) was a librarian, playwright and teacher. According to the website about black culture in Washington DC.:"Soon after graduation [from Case Western], Williams accepted the Assistant Librarian position at his alma mater, where he initially prepared the plan of organization of the Library School and taught courses in collection development. In 1898, he not only earned a promotion to Library Director at Case Western Reserve University, but also took sabbatical in order to attend the New York State Library School in Albany.After completing the two-year Masters Degree program in one year, Williams returned to the University and continued to serve admirably. When Case Western Reserve established the Library School in 1904, Williams taught courses in Reference Work, Bibliography, Public Documents, and Book Selection.In addition to his teaching responsibilities, he was a founding member of the Ohio Library Association (OLA) and lectured at the Ohio Institute of Library workers, which held its annual meetings each year at OLA."He gave up his library career in 1909 to go into education and then became a writer, but never lost his interest in libraries, returning to the field in 1920 at Howard University."

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The Economist Weighs in with their books of the year

djfiander writes "And the good news is that it's free online! I haven't had a chance to look at it yet, since my print copy just arrived, but I expect it to be full of all sorts of creamy goodness."

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Wireless Hacks by Rob Flickenger

From WiFi Networking News:

"Rob Flickenger's latest book, Wireless Hacks, has been out for a few weeks and I wanted to share my delight with the title. I have the privilege of having been asked to write the foreword, and so read the book completely a few weeks ago. Here's what I wrote:

s my wife likes to remind me, I'm an early adopter. I've bought piles of equipment that litter various shelves in the basement, home office, and work server closet that never quite met the promise that caused me to shell out the bucks in the first place.

Rob Flickenger is an early adopter's early adopter: before the technology has reached the fancy stage in which it's stuck in a box, wrapped in nice plastic clothing, and displayed to the masses, Rob has torn it open, decompiled its innards, and turned every part of it into something rich and strange.

Reading Wireless Hacks gives me a warm feeling inside, like holding my hands over the vacuum tube in a pre-transistor radio. The glow of this book illuminates Rob's intense interest in spreading knowledge about cool stuff in order to spread more knowledge about the world in general."

The rest of the Review

Library - an Unquiet History tells part of the Berman Story

Steve Fesenmaier writes "LIBRARY – An Unquiet History part about Sandy Berman
BY Matthew Battles

Lost in the stacks

And not everyone is happy with them. In seeking a lofty common denominator, useful for libraries of all shapes, sizes, and specialties, the Library of Congress subject classes often strike a tone of bureaucratic high-handedness. Sanford Berman, a librarian in Minnesota’s Hennepin County Library since 1973, has waged a battle against subject headings he considers racist, reactionary, insulting to human dignity, and plain confusing. In the process, he and a merry band of fellow catalogers turned the HCL catalog into an exemplary tool for readers.

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The Cover Critic

There's a new feature in this month's issue of the online journal Mastication: book reviews that focus primarily on what really matters — the cover. Reviewed jackets include Living History by Hillary Rodham Clinton ("a little too reserved") and
Treason: Liberal Treachery from the Cold War to the War on Terrorism by Ann Coulter ("nothing short of perfect"). Cover design was mentioned earlier.

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Summer Reading

I spent a good part of this afternoon wandering through the jungle that my garden has become since spring’s bloom gave way to the summer heat. Southern California may seem like a gardener’s paradise, but the flip side is that there is very little downtime. The good news is, things grow all year. This is also the bad news, especially since some of those things are weeds. With no winter to kill them off, the perennial varieties go to town on whatever schedule suits them, and the annuals come up as they please.

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Evergreen Review, V.1, No. 2

I admit with no reluctance to a certain weakness for old books. An old book contains two stories: its contents and whatever tales its users have attached to it over the years. Sometimes I like a book because of the way it has worn: like an old shoe or a favorite hat, books break in and become comfortable; their spines relax and their pages lie flat without effort; they smell of someone’s home—they carry the memory of the owner’s hair, his cigar, her perfume, the particular dust of the place, the residue of curtains or carpets or hardwood shelves or sometimes the faint aroma of a musty attic trunk. I look for books like that, sniff and feel for them like a hog searches for a hidden acorn, and for the same reason.

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