December 20, 2014 by Reader's Connection
I promised you that my next post would be merrier, and I’ve made this as merry as I know how. Here are the January publications (and a few from late December) chosen by librarians around the country.
As Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust: A Flavia de Luce
Novel by Alan Bradley
After the unexpected recovery of her mother’s body brings the de Luce’s family secrets to light, Flavia’s life is turned upside down. Now on her way to a Canadian boarding school, she must survive her first term–and more importantly, uncover the mystery of a corpse found in her dorm room chimney the night she arrives. A delightful installment in the series! — Lizzie Gall, Grand Rapids Public Library, Grand Rapids, MI
The Rosie Effect by Graeme Simsion
Don Tillman and Rosie are back again, and they’ve relocated to New York. Rosie is continuing her studies, while Don is teaching and even adding to his small circle of friends. But when Rosie announces that she is pregnant, Don is once again out of his depth. What follows are crazy situations that could only happen when Don is involved. Funny and heartwarming. — Catherine Coyne, Mansfield Public Library, Mansfield, CT
The Magician’s Lie by Greer Macallister
Arden is a famous illusionist whose show involves sawing a man in half, but one night, she grabs an axe instead of a knife and her husband is found dead under the stage. Can Arden, an expert at deception, get away with murder–or is she really innocent? Recommended to anyone who likes historical fiction, strong women characters, and surprisingly twisty plots. — Paula Jones, Brockton Public Library, Brockton, MA
The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
Rachel is a washed-up thirty-something who creates a fantasy about the seemingly perfect couple she sees during her daily train ride into London. When the woman goes missing, Rachel manages to insert herself into the investigation of the woman’s disappearance. In the vein of Gone Girl, this dark psychological thriller is fast-paced and features some very unreliable narrators. — Andrea Larson, Cook Memorial Public Library, Libertyville, IL
Golden Son: Book II of the Red Rising Trilogy by Pierce Brown
After reading Red Rising, I was looking forward to seeing more of the politics of this world. Darrow has infiltrated the Golds and works to bring them down from the inside, end their tyranny, and free his people. There’s so much political drama and action. Brown does a wonderful job describing it all through Darrow’s eyes. It’s exhausting, thrilling, and heartwrenching! — Nita Gill, Brookings Public Library, Brookings, SD
The Dress Shop of Dreams by Menna van Praag
Tidy, romantic, and fine escapism. All the characters here have interesting back stories: Cora is believable as a no-nonsense gal trying to rebuff sweet Walt’s advances, and Etta is someone I’d like to meet in real life. Reminiscent of Love Actually and P.S. I Love You, this cute little book is recommended to readers who want to be charmed by the possibilities of love. — Andrienne Cruz, Azusa City Library, Azusa, CA
The Bishop’s Wife by Mette Ivie Harrison
As a practicing Mormon, I felt Harrison did a great job of detailing Mormon culture and doctrine without evangelizing. I appreciated that the bishop is a good man, and the bishop’s wife is a woman who has been through her own struggles. The bishop’s wife sometimes can barely keep up with all the drama and mysteries around her. But she does, and does it quite well under the circumstances. This is a rather brave book. — Amanda Monson, Bartow County Library System, Cartersville, GA
Vanessa and Her Sister by Priya Parmar
Told uniquely as part diary, part epistolary novel, Parmar focuses on the relationship of Vanessa (later Bell) and Virginia (later Woolf) Stephens, one filled with unspoken jealousy and a fierceness of love that will ultimately destroy their kinship. This well-researched novel with gorgeous prose brings the characters to life with a unique perspective. — Jennifer Winberry, Hunterdon County Library, Flemington, NJ
First Frost by Sarah Addison Allen
First Frost is a great continuation of the stories of sisters Claire and Sydney, and Sydney’s teenage daughter, Bay. Each of the Waverlys has their own somewhat supernatural gift, and all of them struggle with issues of identity and family. As with Allen’s previous works, this novel will appeal to fans of Alice Hoffman and readers who enjoy family stories that are not overflowing with angst and drama. — Lauren Mitchell, Pima County Libraries, Tucson, AZ
Full Throttle by Julie Ann Walker
Readers can always count on Walker to deliver a suspenseful, action-packed read, and she delivers on all counts. However, it isn’t the heart-pounding adventure that makes this a fabulous story–it’s the characters. Abby and Steady, college friends who were torn apart by a mutual loss, have great chemistry. Walker has created a complete and suspenseful narrative. — Vanessa Gempis, Dallas Public Library, Hampton-Illinois Library, Dallas, TX
December 18, 2014 by Reader's Connection
Louise Glück’s A Village Life reminds me, a little, of Spoon River Anthology, by Edgar Lee Masters. Each book contains poems about different people, living in (or having lived in) some town and its environs; and neither book seems cheerful about our place in the universe. (I promise to do a bright, merry blog post before the longest night of the year gets here.)
But the books are more different than they are alike. The people in Spoon River are given names, and Glück’s aren’t. Even her village is unnamed, described on the book jacket as “a village, a Mediterranean world of no definite moment or place.” Not all of Glück’s points of view are even human. The poem “Earthworm,” reprinted here, is the second one in the book with that title.
“Walking at Night,” “A Slip of Paper,” and “Earthworm” from A VILLAGE LIFE by Louise Glück. Copyright © 2009 by Louise Glück. Reprinted by permission of Farrar, Straus and Giroux, LLC.
CAUTION: Users are warned that this work is protected under copyright laws and downloading is strictly prohibited. The right to reproduce or transfer the work via any medium must be secured with Farrar, Straus and Giroux, LLC.
While I was typing up these poems from her 2009 collection, Ms. Glück won the National Book Award for her 2014 collection Faithful and Virtuous Night.
Walking at Night
Now that she is old,
the young men don’t approach her
so the nights are free,
the streets at dusk that were so dangerous
have become as safe as the meadow.
By midnight, the town’s quiet.
Moonlight reflects off the stone walls;
on the pavement, you can hear the nervous sounds
of the men rushing home to their wives and mothers; this late,
the doors are locked, the windows darkened.
When they pass, they don’t notice her.
She’s like a dry blade of grass in a field of grasses.
So her eyes that used never to leave the ground
are free now to go where they like.
When she’s tired of the streets, in good weather she walks
in the fields where the town ends.
Sometimes, in summer, she goes as far as the river.
The young people used to gather not far from here
but now the river’s grown shallow from lack of rain, so
the bank’s deserted—
There were picnics then.
The boys and girls eventually paired off;
after a while, they made their way into the woods
where it’s always twilight—
The woods would be empty now—
the naked bodies have found other places to hide.
In the river, there’s just enough water for the night sky
to make patterns against the gray stones. The moon’s bright,
one stone among many others. And the wind rises;
it blows the small trees that grow at the river’s edge.
When you look at a body you see a history.
Once that body isn’t seen anymore,
the story it tried to tell gets lost—
On nights like this, she’ll walk as far as the bridge
before she turns back.
Everything still smells of summer.
And her body begins to seem again the body she had as a young woman,
glistening under the light summer clothing.
A Slip of Paper
Today I went to the doctor—
the doctor said I was dying,
not in those words, but when I said it
she didn’t deny it—
What have you done to your body, her silence says.
We gave it to you and look what you did to it,
how you abused it.
I’m not talking only of cigarettes, she says,
but also of poor diet, of drink.
She’s a young woman; the stiff white coat disguises her body.
Her hair’s pulled back, the little female wisps
suppressed by a dark band. She’s not a ease here,
behind her desk, with her diploma over her head,
reading a list of numbers in columns,
some flagged for her attention.
Her spine’s straight also, showing no feeling.
No one taught me how to care for my body.
You grow up watched by your mother or grandmother.
Once you’re free of them, your wife takes over, but she’s nervous,
she doesn’t go too far. So this body I have,
that the doctor blames me for—it’s always been supervised by women,
and let me tell you, they left a lot out.
The doctor looks at me—
between us, a stack of books and folders.
Except for us, the clinic’s empty.
There’s a trap-door here, and through that door,
the country of the dead. And the living push you through,
they want you there first, ahead of them.
The doctor knows this. She has her books,
I have my cigarettes. Finally
she writes something on a slip of paper.
This will help your blood pressure, she says.
And I pocket it, a sign to go.
And once I’m outside, I tear it up, like a ticket to the other world.
She was crazy to come here,
a place where she knows no one.
She’s alone; she has no wedding ring.
She goes home alone, to her place outside the village.
And she has her one glass of wine a day,
her dinner that isn’t a dinner.
And she takes off that white coat:
between that coat and her body,
there’s just a thin layer of cotton.
And at some point, that comes off too.
To get born, your body makes a pact with death,
and from that moment, all it tries to do is cheat—
You get into bed alone. Maybe you sleep, maybe you never wake up.
But for a long time you hear every sound.
It’s a night like any summer night; the dark never comes.
It is not sad not to be human
nor is living entirely within the earth
demeaning or empty; it is the nature of the mind
to defend its eminence, as it is the nature of those
who walk on the surface to fear the depths—one’s
position determine’s one’s feelings. And yet
to walk on top of a thing is not to prevail over it—
it is more the opposite, a disguised dependency,
by which the slave completes the master. Likewise
the mind disdains what it can’t control,
which will in turn destroy it. It is not painful to return
without language or vision: if, like the Buddhists,
one declines to leave
inventories of the self, one emerges in a space
the mind cannot conceive, being wholly physical, not
metaphoric. What is your word? Infinity, meaning
that which cannot be measured.
December 15, 2014 by Reader's Connection
There were once five high school friends, in the suburbs of Nagoya, who meant the world to each other. Four of them had surnames with colors in them. Their (Japanese) names meant “red pine,” “blue sea,” “white root” and “black field.”
These four sometimes joked about Tsukuru Tazaki, the fifth member of the quintet, telling him that he was colorless.
It really was just a joke, but as the years after high school went by, Tsukuru took his colorlessness more and more seriously. He had left Nagoya to pursue an education and career in Tokyo, and in the summer of his sophomore year the other four disowned him. When he tried to call, they didn’t want to talk to him.
The mystery of why they turned against him, and the traumatic effect that it had on him, are at the heart of Haruki Murakami’s new novel Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage. I don’t want to reveal any more than I would reveal when discussing a murder mystery, so instead I’ll talk about Franz Liszt.
Yuzuki Shirane (“white root”), known to the group as Shiro, plays the piano. She likes to play a piece from Liszt’s Années de Pèlerinage, Première Année: Suisse. That’s the first of his “Years of Pilgrimage” sequences, and is devoted to Switzerland. I decided to listen to it, to try to allow Liszt’s music to mean something to me, which would be a first. The piece that Shiro plays is called “Le mal du pays.”
“Le mal du pays.” It’s French. Usually it’s translated as “homesickness” or “melancholy.” If you put a finer point on it, it’s more like “a groundless sadness called forth in a person’s heart by a pastoral landscape.” It’s a hard expression to translate accurately.
That explanation of the title is given by another character, whose name means “gray field.” The library has three recordings of Années de Pèlerinage, Première Année: Suisse, played by Louis Lortie, Andreas Haefliger and Leslie Howard.
If you’re giving the book to a devoted Murakami fan (if you can find a fan who hasn’t already read the book), you might think about combining it with a recording of Années de Pèlerinage, Première Année: Suisse, or at least of “Le mal du pays.”
One of the interpreters of Liszt who is mentioned by Murakami’s characters is Alfred Brendel. You can click here for Brendel’s treatment of “a groundless sadness called forth in a person’s heart by a pastoral landscape,” but the quality will depend on your connection, and the piece may disappear from YouTube.
Listening to the library’s recordings of “Le mal du pays,” I find that Murakami has softened my resistance to Liszt. I had thought of the Hungarian composer’s works as calisthenics for recital hall virtuosos, but this piece is allowing me to relax and spend some time with it. And vice versa: Liszt is softening me toward this novel. That’s an odd thing to say, since I loved the story from the start; but I’m re-reading it already, and it’s unusual for me to reread a book so soon. Liszt has beckoned me back through the story. His music plays in my kitchen and tenderizes me as 36-year-old Tsukuru, searching for the truth about what happened with his high school friends, leaves Japan for the first time in his life.
Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage is also available as a downloadable e-book, a downloadable audiobook, an audiobook on CD, and a bag made of expensive cloth, the opening tied up with string.
No, wait. That last one isn’t a format. Exposure to Murakami and Liszt has me confused. There’s a character in the novel whose name means “green river,” who gives a fascinating description of his enlightenment, and who carries something–I think it’s a token of his own death–around with him in a bag made of expensive cloth. Sorry.
Category Book Review, Gift Suggestions | Tags: Années de Pèlerinage: Première Année: Suisse., Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage, Franz Liszt, Gift Suggestions 2014, Haruki Murakami, Le mal du pays
December 11, 2014 by Reader's Connection
From Selector Chris Murray:
On Tuesday December 2nd, The New York Times published a list of the 100 Notable Books of 2014, a list of “The year’s notable fiction, poetry, and nonfiction, selected by the editors of The New York Times Book Review”.——————————————————————————————————————————
I want to do something a little different with this post. Rather than blurb a summary of some of the more popular titles, which already have full reviews by NYTBR that you can read by following the link up above, I’d like to take a moment to ask a question that will perhaps be more relevant to Indianapolis residents: How do our IndyPL holdings measure up? What can YOU get for free from your friendly public library?
(Note: for reasons I don’t understand I decided to throw in silly award names. Bear with me.)
Do we have it? Print Edition.
IndyPL already has 81 of the titles on hand, with 18 on order. An ON ORDER record could mean several things. It might not be out yet (we try to order print titles 90-120 days early if we can), or maybe we have received it at the Library Services Center and the item is currently undergoing processing.
The lone unselected title, and winner of the LAST PICKED AWARD: American Innovations, by Rivka Galchen, which is in a cart and will be ordered soon as of December 3rd, 2014.
Do we have it? Other formats.
Keeping with the times, I was curious to see the breadth of coverage in other formats. 40/100 titles are available as audiobooks, 74/100 as eBooks through OverDrive, 43/100 as eAudio through OverDrive, and 6/100 are available in Large Print. Generally this reflects publisher decisions – we are doing the best we can to make material available in as many formats as possible! Checking to see if we had any all-rounders, I found one, our ALL-FORMATS AWARD winner: We Are Not Ourselves, by Matthew Thomas, which is also available as a downloadable e-book, a downloadable audiobook and an audiobook on CD, and is on order in large print.
The number of copies ordered is a rough estimate of what us librarians think will be popular. We bought in amounts from a low of 1 (we only ordered 1 copy of 4 titles, 2 of which were books of poetry), to our MOST COPIES AWARD winner at 67 print copies: All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr.
Another measure of popularity is more community-driven: the amount of holds placed. While plenty of titles have 0 holds on them, our MOST REQUESTED AWARD goes to The Paying Guests, by Sarah Waters, with an astounding 211 holds on 60 copies!
For the math nerds out there, I thought I’d look at one more popularity metric: by dividing the number of hold requests by the number of copies, we can come up with a holds ratio, or, as I like to think of it, ”dang I should have ordered more copies of this one”. Our ORDER MORE ALREADY AWARD winner is Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End, by Atul Gawande, with 116 holds on 20 copies (as of December 3rd), for a 5.8 hold ratio. (And yes, I am ordering more of copies of this book).
Overall, looking at all 100 titles, we have purchased an average of 10 copies of each title, and each title has an average of 12 holds placed on it.
Getting that Value
Our final GETTING A GOOD DEAL AWARD goes out to our patrons. Buying all 100 titles in print at list price would cost you $2,662.76! I hope you enjoyed this information, and if you have any questions please let us know!
December 11, 2014 by Reader's Connection
The Year of the Horse isn’t over ’til it’s over. February 18th, 2015, will be its end-date. Until that time, whenever you and this blog are in the same room, you might hear the sound of oats being chomped.
The poem “Switch” appeared in the November issue of Poetry.