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This Book is Not for Everyone March 26, 2010

Posted by bookgoddess in Book Clubs, Books, Fiction, Literature, Mysteries, Public libraries, readers, Reading, West Palm Beach Public Library.
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It’s a great joy when you recommend a book to someone, and they just adore it.  Recently I recommended the wonderful British mystery writer, Peter Robinson, to a long time patron.  When she stopped by yesterday, she thanked me and was looking forward to reading more of his books.

However, it can be deflating when you love a book and the person you recommend it to does not share your enthusiasm.  I have had book clubs disappointed with two of my all time favorites, Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather and Excellent Women by Barbara Pym.  My friend Peggie was lukewarm about another favorite, Raney by Clyde Edgerton, though she truly loved my recommendation of The Spellman Files by Lisa Lutz.  And my supervisor, a former children’s librarian and outstanding human being, inexplicably does not like Winnie-the-Pooh.

It happens with me, too.  I finally gave up on the immensely popular and critically acclaimed Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, mostly because I found parts of it too brutal for my taste.  And both the aforementioned Peggie and another friend, Joanne, highly recommended The Gold Coast by Nelson DeMille.  I just bogged down and stopped listening to the audiobook.  I’m not really sure why.

Please keep on recommending books, because when it goes right, you make a truly fabulous connection.  Just remember that we may not love the same books.  But in the library, the good part is that the price is right and we have no problem when you bring the item in for a return or exchange!

Happy Reading,

The Book Goddess

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Our Hispanic Literary Heritage September 30, 2009

Posted by bookgoddess in Book Talk, Books, Fiction, library programs, Literature, readers, Reading, Reading lists.
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At our most recent Book Talk, I presented a “sampler” of the rich feast of Spanish language literature in translation, as well as some titles from North American writers of Hispanic origin. 

As I began to prepare, I started to become overwhelmed.  This is a major literary language – for example, ten Nobel prizes have been awarded to writers in the Spanish language.  I also became very excited about the wonderful variety of the books – a rich feast, indeed. 

I should mention with pride that I am partly of Spanish descent, and perhaps that increases my appreciation of this body of literature.  But I recommend these books to all of you.  When we talk about culture, we are privileged to be citizens of the world, and it is a good thing to move beyond our cultural center.  I love Southern food, but I don’t eat it every night of my life. 

So – this is your invitation to Hispanic literature.  Click here for my list of books, and also please visit the Color Online blog for another wonderful selection of titles.

Disfrute sus libros!  (Happy Reading, or more literally, Enjoy your books!)

Theodore Dreiser August 27, 2009

Posted by bookgoddess in Authors, Books, Fiction, Literature, readers, Reading.
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Have you read any of Theodore Dreiser’s novels?  In his time, which was close to a hundred years ago, he was considered one of the greatest living American writers, but I suspect he is mostly read by English majors today.  Since this is his birthday, I’d like to suggest that you read one of his books.

My top choice would be Sister Carrie, in which a small town girl goes to the big city and is led astray by a traveling salesman.  The results are not what you might expect.

Another remarkable novel is An American Tragedy, based on a true crime, which is a literary relative of Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment and Richard Wright’s Native Son.

Both of these works appear on the Modern Library’s list of the 100 Greatest Novels of the 20th Century, at numbers 33 and 16 respectively.

Dreiser’s novels are long, intense, and compelling.  He was a prime practitioner of naturalism, which means that pessimism and determinism dominate the novels, and he was outraged by the social and economic inequalities of the day.  Even though it has been many years since I read these books, they have left a powerful impression.

You can find both of these books in the West Palm Beach Public Library in the Classics section on the First Floor or in the Fiction Section on the Fourth Floor, and I hope you will!

Happy Reading!

The Book Goddess

Loving Frank August 25, 2009

Posted by bookgoddess in Authors, Book Clubs, Books, Fiction, Great Reads, library programs, Literature, Public libraries, readers, Reading, Second Saturday Book Club, West Palm Beach Public Library.
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Have you read Loving Frank by Nancy Horan?  There’s a good chance that the answer is yes, especially if you’re in a book club.  Our most recent Second Saturday group had one of our liveliest discussions yet about this one, and I would certainly recommend it to you, for single or group readership. 

Here’s a bare bones, non-spoiler summary of the plot:  Mamah Cheney, a well-educated married woman with small children, falls in love with the architect Frank Lloyd Wright.  They leave their respective families and journey to Europe together.  There are, of course, consequences for all concerned. 

One of the challenges in reading and discussing the book is remembering that is a fictional account, even though the general outline of events did in fact occur.  In any case, it provoked some very strong responses from our members! 

One person found it very romantic, and thought that Frank and Mamah had found a once in a lifetime love.  Another reader was appalled that Mamah would leave her young children under these circumstances, and yet another had some extremely hostile things to say about Frank.

I enjoyed the book tremendously for a number of reasons, but especially for the portrayal of the life of the mind, not just in the persons of Frank and Mamah, but in the intellectual ferment in Europe and the growing importance of feminism. 

Did I mention that the book is beautifully written and very readable?  Loving Frank is not to be missed!  Highly recommended

Happy Reading,

The Book Goddess

P.S.  Here’s a link to questions for discussion from the publisher.

Happy Bastille Day! Joyeux Quatorze Juillet! July 14, 2009

Posted by bookgoddess in Authors, Books, Fiction, Literature, Reading.
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If you are French, or simply on the lookout for a reason to party, today is the day to celebrate Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity!  Remember that the French are our oldest friends and that their revolution was at least in part inspired by ours.

I have actually been in Paris on Bastille Day, which turned out to be bad news and good news.  Bad news:  the Louvre was closed.  Good news:  since we couldn’t go to the Louvre, we went to the Bois de Boulogne and met up with a French journalist who took us all over Paris in his little French car to show us the sights.  In these latter days, I would be more cautious, but it was certainly a day to remember. 

Anyway, there are a lot of wonderful things you could do to celebrate Bastille Day:  you could drink some French wine and have your sandwich on a baguette (Brie and foie gras, maybe?).  You could check a French film out of the Library!  How about Les Choristes or Amelie?  We have over 200 French films, so you have lots of options. 

You will also find a rich selection of literature by French authors.  For example, 16 French authors have been awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature, most recently J. M. G. Le Clezio in 2008.  One of my personal favorite titles is Claudine, a coming of age novel by the legendary Colette.  I’d also give my highest recommendation to A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway, a marvelous portrait of the lives of the “Lost Generation” artists in 1920’s Paris. 

It’s always good to have something to celebrate! 

Happy Reading,

The Book Goddess

Repackaging the Good Life June 4, 2009

Posted by bookgoddess in Audiobooks, Authors, Authors You Shouldn't Miss, Books, Fiction, Great Reads, Literature, Mysteries, Reading.
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Alexander McCall Smith is best known in the United States for the Number One Ladies Detective Agency books, a series of gentle mystery novels set in Botswana. 

But if you lived in Edinburgh, you might be more familiar with his ongoing serial in the Scotsman, 44 Scotland Street.  If my calculations are correct, he has published something like 500 short chapters in the newspaper, and will resume the storyline later this year.  Five collections have been published, starting with 44 Scotland Street, and four are currently available in the U.S.

I am a huge fan of this series, even though I will admit it is not for everyone.  If you require a great deal of suspense, drama, and graphic portrayals of sex, you would do well to look elsewhere. 

What you will find here is a series of stories about people living their lives the best way they know how, set against the backdrop of a wonderful city.  Some of the characters are more commendable than others, but McCall Smith leaves the judgment to us.

What I love about the 44 Scotland Street series is that it asks questions about the good life – and gives some answers, too.  For McCall Smith, friendship, art, good food, and good conversation are all part of the good life.  Caring about our fellow human beings is most important of all.

Am I the only one who thinks that as a culture, we seem to have lost track of much of what makes a life good?  These tremendously appealing stories remind us of the importance of the life well lived.   I love the thought that folks in Edinburgh have had an opportunity to think about this when they pick up their daily newspaper.

Thank you, Mr. McCall Smith, for bringing so much pleasure – and food for thought – into my life!  The goal of the classical writer was to delight and to instruct.  You have certainly done that for me.

Happy Reading,

The Book Goddess

P.S.  Listening to this series on audiobook will definitely enhance your enjoyment!

Favorite Books to Recommend May 14, 2009

Posted by bookgoddess in Audiobooks, Books, Fiction, Literature, readers, Reading, Reading lists.
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Recommending books is my business, or at least part of my business, and it can be a wonderful thing.  The right book at the right time is a real gift.  My friend Tim told me that Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole changed his life.  That book, like Tim, is one of a kind, and on that occasion I got it exactly right. 

Sometimes it doesn’t go so well.  Another favorite book of mine is Raney by Clyde Edgerton, which I think is funny and charming and very well-written.  I was delighted to recommend it to my friend Peggie, but it left her cold.  Oh, well. 

Anyway, I was recently asked for book recommendations by two friends.  I’ve decided to give both of them, and you, pretty much the same list.  I happen to think these are wonderful choices that would appeal to most book lovers. 

So – here are my choices, starting with some fine American novels:

Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather

Empire Falls by Richard Russo

The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver (especially good in audio)

If you like humorous fiction (and I realize this can be very subjective, even more so than literary merit), these are some terrific titles: 

How to Be Good by Nick Hornby

A Spot of Bother by Mark Haddon (audio version is excellent)

The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett

And, some excellent nonfiction: 

The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls 

Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi 

Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson 

I would love to have your recommendations, too!

Happy Reading, 

The Book Goddess

Books and Love in Barcelona April 23, 2009

Posted by bookgoddess in Authors, Books, Fiction, Literature, readers, Reading.
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Oh, to be in Barcelona, now that April’s here!  Barcelona is one of my favorite cities, and today is one of their special days, La Diada de Sant Jordi (that’s Catalan for St. George’s Day).  This is a day to celebrate books and love.  Ladies receive roses as gifts, and men receive books.  The romance comes from the St. George legend.  The day is special to books because it is International Book Day, so designated because both Shakespeare and Cervantes died on April 23, 1616.

You’re probably thinking, how can I get in on this celebration?  Well, a red rose for your wife or sweetheart (and your mother-in-law) would be a good start.  And there are some wonderful books about Barcelona:  Robert Hughes wrote a landmark book (Barcelona) about the fabulous art and architecture of the city.  Even more apropos might be the remarkable Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon, a novel set in Barcelona which features a graveyard of books and in which fictional characters seem to come alive. 

Happy Reading! 

The Book Goddess

The Book Floor at 411 Clematis Street April 20, 2009

Posted by bookgoddess in Audiobooks, Book Clubs, Book Floor, Books, Fiction, Just Browsing, Literature, Mysteries, Public libraries, Reading, West Palm Beach Public Library.
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The first floor of our new library has been designed to provide a delightful browsing experience for the book lover.  We have selected the newest and the best and arranged the entire floor so that you can easily find the books you really love.  There are about fifty separate collections, ranging from the expected, like New Mystery, to the more unusual, such as Just for Fun and Go Green.  

The selections are also organized into “neighborhoods,” so that collections of similar interest will be near each other.  If you love Science Fiction, you may love our nearby Graphic Novels, too.  House & Home is conveniently located near Food & Wine as well as Crafts.   And one of my favorite areas is the small but excellent children’s and teen section, located near books about parenting – designed for the quick drop-in by the busy family! 

We also have two small reading rooms, one of which is populated by a fabulous selection of paperbacks, and the other by great choices for book clubs.  And – do not miss our Staff Picks or our great selection of Books on CD, perfect for the commuter. 

I already love browsing on our Book Floor, and I hope you will too.  I look forward to seeing you there!

Happy Reading  –

The Book Goddess

What Would a Future President Read? January 29, 2009

Posted by bookgoddess in Books, Literature, readers, Reading, Reading lists.
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McNally Jackson Booksellers in New York City is presenting a fascinating program on the books that President Obama read in his twenties, as well as a few more recent titles.  The bookstore’s John McGregor came up with the idea and compiled the list based on titles mentioned in Obama’s own books and in interviews.  Here’s a link:  http://news.shelf-awareness.com/nview.jsp?appid=411&j=618968.  (You will have to scroll down a bit.)

Let me tell you that it is a rich – and richly varied – trove of titles.  I must admit that when I come across an interesting reading list, I check it to see how many of the items I have read.  The number wasn’t as high as I’d like – 12 out of 54 – but several of the books would be on my all time list of important titles:  The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Bartleby the Scrivener, the Bible, Heart of Darkness, and Self-Reliance.   

I wish that I could attend that discussion.  I do believe that that, among many other things, the books we read reveal something about us and help to create who we are.  Let me know how you react to the future President’s reading list, and if you found any favorites there.

Happy Reading!

The Book Goddess