Giving Tuesday

Posted on Monday, November 20, 2017 by Ida

When my son was five, we gave him an allowance of 50 cents per week. Usually, he took his two quarters and put them in his Thomas the Tank Engine bank with all of the other coins he’d been given during his short life. There was never anything he wanted to buy. But one day when we were taking our cat to the vet, my son insisted on carrying his life savings along with him, stating he had something important to do with it. He remembered from a previous visit that our vet’s office kept a donation box in the waiting room to collect funds for a local animal shelter. He gave all of his money to help the homeless animals.

Helping book coverIt’s a fundamental part of human nature to want to help those in need. That’s not just the view through my rose-colored glasses. There’s been research on the subject. Stefan Klein gathers and discusses much of this research in his book, “Survival of the Nicest.” He makes a case for altruism as the key to the survival of the human race. “The Giving Way to Happiness” by Jenny Santi shows that the act of giving has as many benefits for the giver as for the recipient. And Edgar Schein examines how to make sure efforts to help have the intended effect in his book “Helping: How to Offer, Give and Receive Help.”

survival of the nicest book coverAlthough almost all of us want to help others, contemporary life is busy and sometimes we need a nudge to remind us. That’s what Giving Tuesday is about. Observed each year on the first Tuesday after Thanksgiving, the day provides an opportunity for us to indulge our charitable impulses and create a positive difference in the world. We are encouraged to “help others through the gift of your time, donations, goods or your voice.”

If you want to participate but need ideas, the Giving Tuesday website provides suggestions, including directories for local communities. DBRL also provides a guide to volunteer opportunities. Before donating to an organization, it’s a good idea to check and see if they’re doing what they claim. Charity Navigator rates charities based on transparency and effectiveness, including information on what percentage of donations makes its way to the advertised recipients. Two other well-known sites are Guidestar and the BBB Wise Giving Alliance.

Whether it’s helping a neighbor shovel snow or contributing to global famine relief, we all can find a way to give back on November 28.

Rodin: One Hundred

Posted on Friday, November 17, 2017 by Jeremiah

Photo of The Think by RodinNovember 17, 2017: the hundredth anniversary of Auguste Rodin’s death.

You don’t have to cross the state, country or sea to study and admire and treasure Rodin’s seductive sculptures. The Saint Louis Art Museum and Kansas City’s Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art have castings of his originals on display, and the library, of course, has many books describing and depicting his sensuous works. Continue reading “Rodin: One Hundred”

NaNoWriMO: Halfway Point Malaise?

Posted on Wednesday, November 15, 2017 by Eric

NaNoWriMo Badge

We are in the middle of NaNoWriMo, which means if you’re participating in this intense creative exercise you should have half of a new modern classic written. It probably has a rich sense of place, complex characters that the readers will love despite their flaws, romance, suspense, melancholy, hopefully a little karate and reading it will be a transformative experience. Or maybe the weight of these expectations has left you paralyzed.

If you’re stuck, I can relate. I’ve struggled with this blog post for a long time. At first I thought it would be funny to start a blog post about inspiration and writer’s block with jokes about how I couldn’t write it because of my writer’s block. Ha. After pages of hilarious riffing on that theme I realized it was trite and deleted everything. Back to the drawing board. Back to the blank screen. The screen stayed blank. For what seemed like hours I stared and the screen stared back. Then I thought I heard a voice coming from the screen. That was it! Someone discovers they have a talking computer screen and a beautiful friendship develops. No, a spicy romance. No, a professional rivalry. But what is the screen’s name? It has to have a name … Continue reading “NaNoWriMO: Halfway Point Malaise?”

The Gentleman Recommends: Hari Kunzru

Posted on Monday, November 13, 2017 by Chris

Like any gentleman of means, I’m fond of gallivanting around the world. Though I may not travel as much as I’d like, what with the estate, the cats and the pending transactions needing looking after, my attache case is always packed with books and monocles so that I may use the wonders of literature to mitigate the horrors of public transportation. On two of my most notable excursions, novels by Hari Kunzru helped eat several hours that would have otherwise been occupied by fretting over what sorts of messes the cats were making in the estate. Given space constraints, my obligation to save the details of my travels for my visitors’ parlor, and two lawsuits, I’ll sum it up by saying that I have a soft spot for Kunzru’s writing. He earned the soft spot, though. It wasn’t just because he succeeded in distracting from the snores of the man taking up most of my seat: Kunzru is a brilliant writer.

The Impressionist,” which I read when I was little more than a pup easily startled by every ticket taker and fuel-efficient vehicle I saw, is his debut novel, and one that garnered a lot of praise on publication. It’s about a brown boy born with white skin. My memory is fuzzy on specifics, but it was great. Continue reading “The Gentleman Recommends: Hari Kunzru”

Literary Links: Veterans Day

Posted on Sunday, November 12, 2017 by Seth

I come from an extended family that has always prided itself on military service. My Grandpa Smith was a combat engineer in France during World War II, and numerous uncles and cousins have served in the Army and Navy. For me, Veterans Day is always a day of profound appreciation for all veterans in this country. The holiday, which was originally called “Armistice Day” to celebrate the signing of the treaty that signaled the end of World War I on the 11th day of the 11th month at the 11th hour, is now a federal holiday. The library offers a variety of books for readers interested in learning more about the veteran’s experiences.

Civilianized book coverReturning home from war can be difficult, and countless books have recounted the perilous journey after discharge. One of the more recent titles to come out about this struggle is Michael Anthony’s memoir, “Civilianized.” Anthony immediately struggled with depression, severe anxiety and an escalating drinking habit after returning to the States, before he got back on his feet and became a published author. Some of Anthony’s fellow soldiers continue to battle far worse demons; several members of Anthony’s unit have taken their own lives. Continue reading “Literary Links: Veterans Day”

Quintessential Comics: Top Five Must Reads

Posted on Friday, November 10, 2017 by Josh

Do you find yourself wanting to explore the worlds of graphic novels, but are unsure as to where you should start? Have you perhaps caught yourself wishing that you, too, could learn to love this particular form of storytelling? Trying to familiarize yourself with this new and uncanny world of literature can seem daunting at first. Well, have no fear! This volume of “Quintessential Comics” should hopefully give you a good place to start. These titles are in no particular order and some contain mature content, so be advised. Okay then, let’s get started.

Watchmen

Watchmen book cover

Alan Moore’s “Watchmen” almost has to be on this list if only for the fact that it is one of the most recognizable and influential graphic novels to date. Set in an alternate Earth timeline in which the United States is on the brink of World War III with the Soviet Union, this graphic novel contains a grittiness unlike any other work of its kind. With pencils by Dave Gibbons and color by John Higgins, this work really captures the “realness” of the world in which the story takes place. With their help, Moore manages to create a bold world in which the heroes might not always win and even if they do, it begs the question, “Does the end justify the means?” If you’re looking for something raw, or just want a change of pace from most comics, be sure to check this out.

Kingdom Come

Kingdom Come book coverThis one makes the list for two main reasons. First, the artwork by Alex Ross is some of the best I’ve seen. His style perfectly captures the iconic nature of the heroes and the battle of good versus evil. Second, it holds a special place in my heart. This graphic novel is one of the first that I read back in high school and remains one of my favorites to this day. This one also takes place in an alternate timeline, but in a future where metahumans (individuals with powers) are running rampant across the globe, and the heroes of the golden age have all but retired. What happens in a world where Superman himself has lost hope in humanity? If you want to find out, pick this one up at your library.

Saga

Now, this entry technically can’t be classified as a singleSaga book cover graphic novel, as it’s a series of comics that is still running. However, it’s such a wonderful series that I can’t leave it off this list. Have you ever wondered what Romeo and Juliet would be like if it took place in space? Well, look no further. Full of rich character development, action, suspense and that very awesome sci-fi/fantasy mix, “Saga” is sure to keep you captivated for the long haul. I can’t think of a series that I’ve read in recent memory that rivals the extent to which this work fleshes out its characters. If this one sounds like something you’d like, stop by the library for more blaster fire, space travel and romance than you can handle.

Maus

Maus book cover

I can’t imagine creating a “Top Five” list for graphic novels and not including this title. Creator Art Spiegelman delivers a tale of the anguish brought about by the Holocaust in a format unlike any you’ve seen before. This one is framed by an interview with Spiegelman’s father, accounting his experiences during the war. By depicting the Jewish characters as mice and the Nazi soldiers as cats, Spiegelman evokes emotions that I feel are unique to this method of storytelling. The first graphic novel to win a Pulitzer Prize, “Maus” has since been praised by critics, in addition to gaining its academic merit. Anyone who believes that graphic novels can’t be powerful needs to give this one a read.

Persepolis

Persepolis book cover

Rounding out this list is another moving tale featuring a young girl growing up in Iran during the Islamic revolution. Categorized as a graphic autobiography, this piece by Marjane Satrapi really brings something new to the table. Accompanying beautifully simplistic black and white panels, this poignant story effortlessly captures the tumultuous period of adolescence amidst such a harrowing event. Don’t miss out on this one.

 

Image credit: Sam Howzit, Comic Books via Flickr (license)

New DVD List: The Farthest, American Gods & More

Posted on Wednesday, November 8, 2017 by Dewey Decimal Diver

Here is a new DVD list highlighting various titles recently added to the library’s collection.

The Farthest dvd coverThe Farthest
Website / Reviews
In 1977, NASA launched the Voyager missions as a way of exploring the solar system’s outermost planets, capturing images of Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune and their moons. This film documents Voyager’s journey, including first-hand accounts of the men and women who built the ships and guided their missions. Bonus film “Second genesis” explores the scientific quest to find life, or evidence of it, beyond Earth. Continue reading “New DVD List: The Farthest, American Gods & More”

Nonfiction Roundup: November 2017

Posted on Monday, November 6, 2017 by Kirk

Here is a quick look at the most noteworthy nonfiction titles being released in November. Visit our catalog for a more extensive list.

TOP PICKS

Promise Me, Dad book coverPromise Me, Dad: A Year of Hope, Hardship, and Purpose” by Joe Biden

This chronicle of the vice president’s experiences in the most momentous and challenging year of his life describes how in 2015 he struggled to balance the requirements of his job with the realities of his eldest son’s failing health, a challenge marked by international crises, his growing friendship with Barack Obama and his deepening perspectives on his family ties.

Bunk book coverBunk: The Rise of Hoaxes, Humbug, Plagiarists,Phonies, Post-Facts and Fake News” by Kevin Young

The award-winning author traces the history of the hoax as a distinct American phenomenon, exploring the roles of stereotype, suspicion and racism as factors that have shaped fraudulent activities from the heyday of P. T. Barnum through the “fake news” activities of Donald Trump. Continue reading “Nonfiction Roundup: November 2017”

Create a Memory Board

Posted on Friday, November 3, 2017 by Jerilyn

photo of small memory boardWay back in 2008, my teenage niece introduced me to memory boards. I was in need of suggestions for things teens might be interested in making. She had recently made a circular ribbon board out of cardboard, quilt batting, fabric, ribbons, buttons and glue. I got the supplies and she demonstrated. I loved it. I made them with teens at the library, and they seemed to enjoy them as well! Continue reading “Create a Memory Board”

Staff Book Review: Dinner at the Center of the Earth

Posted on Wednesday, November 1, 2017 by Jeremiah

The Arabic name for Jerusalem is Al-Quds, and the Arabic name for Temple Mount is Haram al-Sharif. (I could have begun, “The Hebrew name for….”) The double-naming underscores the confusion and complexity that is Israel-Palestine.

The so-called Israeli-Palestinian conflict confounds policymakers, diplomats, government officials, citizens. The situation, if this is the appropriate word, resists simplicity because, to put this simply, historical consensus—what happened and who is at fault—is impossible.

But what, if not their land, do Israelis and Palestinians share?

book cover for "Dinner at the Center of the Earth"

Heartbroken by the conflict, Nathan Englander investigates the failure of solution in his second novel, “Dinner at the Center of the Earth.” Unlike his previous short story collections (“For the Relief of Unbearable Urges” and “What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank“) and novel (“The Ministry of Special Cases“), Englander’s latest work, not unlike his subject, defies categorization or genre. A plot-driven political and spy thriller, a love story, a farce—this novel is an admirable literary combination but fails to compel. The humor falls flat: what’s the joke and where’s the punchline, I thought. The dialogue, despite a few enticing passages, is stilted, wooden, even cliché. The discontinuous timeline and various threads Englander attempts to interweave are strained, rushed. The fits and starts, so to speak, never resolve. Continue reading “Staff Book Review: Dinner at the Center of the Earth”