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Ray Boomhower to talk about John Bartlow Martin

January 8, 2016 by Reader's Connection


I have made a mistake.

We have a book sale coming up, January 22 – 30, at the Library Services Center; and poking around over there, I see that John Bartlow Martin’s book Indiana: An Interpretation  (1947, 2nd edition 1992) is no longer available on the Indiana shelf in Miriam’s Corner.

It has been there in the past, and I’ve thought about buying it, but someone has snatched it up.

Why is Martin on my mind?


Indiana: An Interpretationblaaaaaaaaaaaa aaaaaaaaaaaaa Because historian Ray Boomhower will appear at Central Library on Monday, January 25th at 6:00 pm, to speak about Martin. The title of his presentation will be “An Uneasy Relationship: John Bartlow Martin and Indiana.”

Boomhower has written a new book, John Bartlow Martin: A Voice for the Underdog, and he’ll have copies to sell and sign on the 25th.

John Bartlow Martin: A Voice for the Underdog
According to our calendar notes, Martin was one of the nation’s top freelance writers, and he worked as a speechwriter for every Democratic presidential campaign from Adlai Stevenson to George McGovern. Boomhower will explore Martin’s roots in Indianapolis, where he worked for the Indianapolis Times. He will also look at how Martin, in Indiana: An Interpretation, examined the “myth” of Indiana; and how that book was utilized by Robert F. Kennedy’s campaign during the 1968 Indiana presidential primary.

The Interpretation, even if it won’t be available at the book sale this month (boo-hoo!), can be requested from the library.

Boomhower will give his presentation in the Nina Mason Pulliam Indianapolis Special Collections Room on the sixth floor of Central Library. This is always an appropriate spot for historical reflection.

Join us on January 25th at 6:00 pm.


The Indiana Bicentennial Reading Challenge!

January 6, 2016 by Reader's Connection

For my 2016 reading challenge, I’m borrowing parts of Rachel Manwill’s 2016 Read Harder Challenge and adding other elements. Since our state turns 200 this year, it made sense to have some Indiana-related challenges.

All the book covers that appear here are just suggestions. They aren’t necessarily books that I plan to read. That especially goes for the one about Donald Trump; but if he’s your guy, have at it.

For more information about any of the Public Collections pictured here, just click the picture. If you get an “Aw, snap!” response, please try again.

Evolution of Reading, by Kimberly McNeelan, at White River State Park

1aa3.aVisit three of the Public Collections (click for info) here in Indianapolis. Take a book at each one, read it. Really, I hope to visit more than three of the Public Collections, but I don’t want this first challenge to scare anyone off.


4 – 6. Read 3 books by authors who have won an Indiana Authors Award. Each book should be in a different category: National Author, Regional Author, Emerging Author. Click on Fire in the Water for a list of the winners.

Deadstick7. Read a book by an Indiana author who hasn’t won an IAA. You can choose an author who has been nominated, but that isn’t necessary. The criteria will be the same as for IAA nominees: Any living published writer who was born in Indiana or has lived in Indiana for at least five years will be eligible.

The Miami Indians of Indiana


8. Read a book, fiction or nonfiction, about indigenous people of Indiana. I read a couple of novels about indigenous people for the 2015 Read Harder Challenge, but both books involved Scandinavia. This category needs to come home.

If the Indiana restriction is too confining, at least read about indigenous people of the United States.





And Know This Place: Poetry of Indiana
9. Read a collection of poems from and/or about Indiana. Pam Wright in our Processing Section recommends And Know This Place: Poetry of Indiana.







The Fault in Our Stars




INresistible in Indy tweeted: “Love this challenge! An additional suggestion: read a book that is SET IN INDIANA. I like THE FAULT IN OUR STARS!”

So number 10 in our challenge is: Read a work of fiction set in Indiana.


The remaining challenges don’t necessarily have Indiana components, but you can add them if you wish. Reading a book of essays by an Indiana author or a book about religion in Indiana is a fine idea.

Monument, 2015, by Brian McCutcheon, at Monument Circle,



11. Read an unfinished work of fiction. You can click on The Acts of King Arthur to see BuzzFeed’s list of suggestions.


Spooky Action at a Distance : The Phenomenon That Reimagines Space and Time - and What It Means for Black Holes, the Big Bang, and Theories of Everything12. Read a nonfiction book about science. I’m going to take another shot at physics. My physics blog posts tend to be silly, but Rachel Manwill is making me do it.

The Classic Horror Stories



13. Read a horror book. I may chicken out on this one. I usually do.


Topiary, by Eric Nordgulen, at the Southeast Corridor of the Indianapolis Cultural Trail


The Givenness of Things: Essays14. Read a collection of essays.

Never Enough: Donald Trump and the Pursuit of Success



15. Read a biography (not memoir or autobiography).


Wouldn’t you rather read about someone from Indiana?









A Streetcar Named Desire



16. Read a book originally published in the decade you were born. The decade, mind you, not the year. There ought to be something in that decade that you haven’t got around to reading.

I’ve seen the movie, A Streetcar Named Desire, never read the play.





The Complete Stories/Edgar Allan Poe





17. Gregg Jackson at the Southport Library has proposed an ingenious variation on that last one. “How ‘bout reading something originally written in the same decade as you were born BUT with a twist – minus 100 years.” So since I was born in the 1940s, and Edgar Allan Poe’s story “The Murders in the Rue Morgue” was first published in the 1840’s, that story could be part of my reading challenge.



The answer is in the question, by Phil O’Malley, at Mary Rigg Neighborhood Center

The Sun


18. Read a magazine, cover to cover. You can skip the ads. I invented this one last year. It allows me to sit down with a magazine and claim that I’m rising to a challenge.





Beyond the Bedroom Wall



19. Re-read a book you enjoyed way back when. See if your reaction to it changes.






The Catcher in the Rye

Melanie Hoffman at the Pike Library commented: “How about the reverse of #18 — rereading something that you absolutely hated when you first read it. Not to offend, but for me, The Catcher in the Rye and anything by Faulkner come to mind!”
So a new challenge could be: Re-read something you didn’t like, and see if that situation has changed.

I don’t know if I can rise to that challenge, though. Do I really want to subject myself to what is likely to be another bad experience?

On the Roadaaaaaaaaaa aaaaaaaaa aaa aaa aaa aaa aaa aaa aaa aaa aaa aaa aaa aaa aaa aaa So Challenge 20B can be an alternative: Read some celebrated book that you’ve always avoided, and see if you’ve been wrong to do so.I’ve had friends, down through the years, who have raved about Jack Kerouac’s On the Road, and writers and critics whom I respect have praised it highly, but I’ve never been able to get started. There’s no appeal for me in a guy just typing out a scroll of a tale, bursting with male egos.

Perhaps it’s a hormone thing. Anyway, 2016 may be the year that I finally hit the road. What supposed classic have you always avoided?



Moonlight Leaning Against an Old Rail Fence: Approaching the Dharma As Poetry



21. Read a book, fiction or nonfiction, that involves religion.












22. Holy Lunar Reading Challenges! Bethany Warner of the Library Foundation has helped to issue a monthly challenge on her Word Nerds blog. Click on the image and you’ll have a read for each month. Maybe I should number this 22 – 33, but I’m holding off on that.



Harvesting Knowledge, by Brose Partington, at the City Market






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The 2015 Read Harder Challenge: How Did I Do? And What Are My Picks?

January 4, 2016 by Reader's Connection

• I, Glenn Halberstadt, your Reader’s Connection blogger, have completed (or by mid-afternoon will have completed) my reading for Book Riot’s 2015 Read Harder Challenge, as created by Rachel Manwill.

• I doubled the requirement in each category, and added a category, so the goal for the year was 50 books.

• By my count, I have read 51 titles.



The Red Window, by Adrian Stasiak• Whenever I’ve read the required 2 books for any category, that slot is stamped with The Red Window. If I’ve read more than 2 in that category, my accomplishment will be indicated.
friend_thumb• When I have read less than 2 titles in a category, this portrait of yours truly will serve as an emblem of shame.
• If I have extra books in a category, I can cut back elsewhere. Example: I have 3 extra translated books (The Red Window + 3), so in 3 other categories I can get away with just one book.

The Red Window and Friend in a Sky-Blue Chair appear courtesy of Adrian Stasiak.

A book written by someone when he or she was under the age of 25 The Opposite of Loneliness, by Marina Keegan
A book written by someone when he or she was over the age of 65 The Book of Sand, by Jorge Luis Borges, and Every Third Thought by John Barth redwindow_thumb
A collection of short stories Get in Trouble, by Kelly Link Ghostly, A Collection of Ghost Stories, edited by Audrey Niffenegger redwindow_thumb
A book published by an indie press Song of the Shank, by Jeffery Renard Allen, published by Graywolf Press Poverty Creek Journal by Thomas Gardner, published by Tupelo Press redwindow_thumb
A book by or about someone who identifies as LGBTQ The Testament of Mary, by Colm Tóibín James Merrill, Life and Art by Langdon Hammer redwindow_thumb
A book by a person whose gender is different from your own The Hearts of Horses, by Molly Gloss Hold Still, by Abby Mann redwindow_thumb
A book that takes place in Asia The Kite Runner & And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini. Yes, I know, the characters move around, not everything happens in Afghanistan. But I say: these characters all take Afghanistan with them. redwindow_thumb
A book by an author from Africa The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears, by Dinaw Mengestu.
A book that is by or about someone from an indigenous culture Forty Days Without Shadow, by Olivier Truc, about the Sami of Sápmi The Prophets of Eternal Fjord, by Kim Leine, about the Inuit of Greenland, and their Danish overlords. redwindow_thumb
A microhistory Stay : A History of Suicide and the Philosophies Against It Microhistories don’t have to be about little things like salt and pepper shakers.
A YA novel The Hybrid Chronicles, by Kat Zhang I had read the first of the trilogy, What’s Left of Me, a few years ago, and I knew I wanted to read the rest to meet the challenge. redwindow_thumb
An SF novel Frederik Pohl’s Gateway and Beyond the Blue Event Horizon, the first two books in his Heechee saga
The Southern Reach Trilogy, by Jeff Vandermeer redwindow_thumb
A romance novel New Uses for Old Boyfriends, by Beth Kendrick Smoke and Fire, by Julie Cannon redwindow_thumb
A National Book Award, Man Booker Prize, or Pulitzer Prize winner from the last decade The Swerve: How the World Became Modern, by Stephen Greenblatt–Pulitzer Prize, 2012
A book that is a retelling of a classic story The Just City, by Jo Walton, in which characters “live out” Plato’s Republic
An audiobook–but I’m unable to listen to audiobooks safely, so I’ve invented a new category: Read a magazine, cover to cover. The May 2015 issue of Poetry And then the June issue
The Sun, November 2015 And then the December issue. redwindow_thumb
A collection of poetry Who Said, by Jennifer Michael Hecht Mistaking Each Other for Ghosts, by Lawrence Raab redwindow_thumb
A book that someone else has recommended to you Heart of Darkness: Unraveling the Mysteries of the Invisible Universe, by Jeremiah P. Ostriker and Simon Mitton, recommended (more or less) in a poem by Ostriker’s wife.
A book that was originally published in another language Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities, trans. from the Italian by William Weaver
Elena Ferrante’s 4 Neapolitan Novels, translated from the Italian by Ann Goldstein. redwindow_thumb
A graphic novel, a graphic memoir, or a collection of comics of any kind Justice League 3000. Volume 1, Yesterday Lives
The Graveyard Book (2 volumes) redwindow_thumb
A book that you would consider a guilty pleasure Lament of the Dead: Psychology After Jung’s Red Book Felt guilty because I didn’t think I’d get a blog post out of it. Eventually blogged about it, but the guilt was there while I was reading.
A book published before 1850 On the Nature of Things, by Lucretius Plato’s Republic, of which I read only a half
A book published this year The Girl Who Slept with God, by Val Brelinski The Mare, by Mary Gaitskill redwindow_thumb
A self-improvement book How to Watch a Movie, by David Thomson Art as Therapy, by de Botton and Armstong, of which I read only a half
Another challenge I’ve invented: Re-read something you liked in the past, see if you still like it Ann Patchett’s Bel Canto In the Freud Archives, by Janet Malcolm redwindow_thumb

And your blogger’s picks of the year, from among these 51 reads:

Stay, by Jennifer Michael Hecht. A book against suicide, which gave me a chance to memorialize a boyhood friend who took his own life.

Erica Ferrante’s four Neapolitan novels. The fourth in the series, The Story of the Lost Child, was deservedly included on some of the Best of 2015 lists.

Jeff Vandermeer’s Southern Reach Trilogy. We and our world are made up of atoms, as Lucretius told us; but what if we encountered a force that messed around with those atoms in identity-shattering ways?

I just discovered The Sun, a magazine, and am enjoying it immensely.

Wait a minute. I loved Kelly Link’s story “The Lesson” and Marina Keegan’s Christmas story and Colm Tóibín’s novel narrated by the Virgin Mary and Val Brelinski’s novel about a girl who is pregnant and repeats the words that the Virgin Mary spoke.

Really, I enjoyed just about all of the above, and am grateful. Best wishes for your reading in 2016. (My own reading challenge for 2016 will appear this week.)

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In a just city, would robots be treated as slaves?

December 31, 2015 by Reader's Connection

The RepublicIn Jo Walton’s 2014 novel The Just City, the goddess Athene decides to see what would happen if a new city were set up along the rules that Plato put forth in The Republic.

That Plato was such a nutbar. The Republic is described by our library catalog as a utopia, but to lots of modern readers the work comes off as dystopian fiction along the lines of Divergent.

There is state-scheduled sex for purposes of reproduction, and the elimination of what we normally think of as families. The state must “hide away in a secret and unknown place” defective children, or those of inferior parents. (This may or may not mean that these children are left out to die.) There will be rampant censorship.

The Just CityBut Athene says, hey, let’s give it a shot, and she travels through time, gathering teachers and worthy youngsters; and robots to do the heavy lifting. The god Apollo has himself turned into a human, and comes along to see how things go.

They don’t go well. As kids get older, they tend to engage in unscheduled sex. And when Sokrates is brought on board, against his will, to teach the young folk rhetoric, he gets to thinking that the “workers” (that’s what robots are called) have souls, and shouldn’t be treated as slaves.

I’m reading W. H. D. Rouse’s translation of The Republic, which is no longer in the library’s collection. It’s a yellowed old paperback that a dear niece gave to me decades ago. The library has many translations, though, in different formats, and if Walton inspires you as she did me, you can go to the catalog and see what you retrieve with plato republic as your search terms.

The  Philosopher Kings


In 2015, Walton came out with The Philosopher Kings, which continues the story. I’ve read reviews but will shut my trap for fear of giving away too much about the mix-ups in The Just City.








If this is the case, then I recommend John Banville’s The Infinities.

This 2009 novel is soulful, lyrical, and more sensually real to me than The Just City or–oh, puh-lease–The Republic.

However sensually real it may be, the tale is set in an alternate universe, one in which, way back when, Mary, Queen of Scots had “the treasonous Elizabeth Tudor” beheaded, and in which a modern-day mathematician, Adam Godley, can look back on “the early days of the great instauration, after we had exposed the relativity hoax and showed up Planck’s constant for what it really is.”

The fruit trees and furniture and human bodies all seem real, despite this world’s oddity. Adam is dying, and the god Hermes has appeared to lead him away. A couple of other gods are afoot, observing–or interfering with–Adam and his family.

At the start of the novel, Hermes enthuses about the wonder of dawn on Earth:

Of the things we fashioned for them that they might be comforted, dawn is the one that works. When darkness sifts from the air like fine soft soot and light spreads slowly out of the east then all but the most wretched of humankind rally. It is a spectacle we immortals enjoy, this minor daily resurrection, often we will gather at the ramparts of the clouds and gaze down upon them, our little ones, as they bestir themselves to welcome the new day. What a silence falls upon us then, the sad silence of our envy. Many of them sleep on, of course, careless of our cousin Aurora’s charming matutinal trick, but there are always the insomniacs, the restless ill, the lovelorn tossing on their solitary beds, or just the early-risers, the busy ones, with their knee-bends and their cold showers and their fussy little cups of black ambrosia. Yes, all who witness it greet the dawn with joy . . .

I have clipped out the paragraph’s closing barb because 2016 is upon us, and the words of Hermes should be allowed to welcome everyone to a glorious dawn. Happy New Year.

The Just City is also available as a downloadable e-book.

The Infinities is also available as a downloadable e-book and a downloadable audiobook.

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The world’s most versatile ingredient to be discussed at Glendale

December 30, 2015 by Reader's Connection

On Monday, January 4th, from 6:00 to 7:45 p.m., eggs will be the subject of Glendale Library‘s Cooking Chats.

The Perfect Egg: A Fresh Take on Recipes for Morning, Noon, and Night


The Perfect Egg: A Fresh Take on Recipes for Morning, Noon, and Night by Teri Lyn Fisher & Jenny Park


Egg: A Culinary Exploration of the World’s Most Versatile Ingredient

Egg: A Culinary Exploration of the World’s Most Versatile Ingredient by Michael Ruhlman

Egg is also available as a downloadable e-book.


Brown Eggs and Jam Jars: Family Recipes from the Kitchen of Simple Bites


Brown Eggs and Jam Jars: Family Recipes from the Kitchen of Simple Bites by Aimée Wimbush-Bourque



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