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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!)

Florida Books for Young Readers June 16, 2009

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Several months ago, I received a nice message from a gentleman who was looking for books about Florida for a young friend.  Unfortunately, the request came just at the time that we were gearing up for our move, and so I’m afraid it got shelved until now.

My correspondent was interested in books that portrayed Florida as it used to be.  I have also included some books, such as those by Carl Hiaasen, that deal with contemporary issues of development and the environment.   Click here for the list.

I’m sorry it took so long to complete this reading list.  I might mention that I am a 5th generation Floridian, so it was a labor of love.

Please consider reading some of these books even if you don’t fall into the “young reader” category.  Books aimed at a younger audience are often very readable with a compelling story line; kids won’t sit still for them otherwise.

Please send me your suggestions of books about Florida that you love!  I would really appreciate it.

Happy Reading!

The Book Goddess

Cookbooks for Summer Reading June 5, 2009

Posted by bookgoddess in Book Floor, Books, Just Browsing, Public libraries, readers, Reading, Reading lists, West Palm Beach Public Library.
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NPR recently released their “Summer Books List,” and this past Sunday’s New York Times featured their Summer Reading selections.  

One similarity between the two is that they both included a selection of cookbooks.  I love cookbooks, and my observations as a bookseller and a librarian are that many people do, whether they like to cook or not. 

And in these trying economic times, it might be a good idea to take an interest in food preparation.  Some financial pundits tell us that we could be wealthy if we didn’t go out to eat so much, though I doubt that applies to restaurant owners.  These are complex issues. 

However, the ability to prepare a good meal for friends, family, or yourself is undoubtedly a useful skill, and can also be an act of generosity, a creative outlet, or a way to take out your aggression by vigorous vegetable chopping. 

We have a wonderful Food and Wine section on the First Floor, and many more food titles in the Grand Reading Room on the Fourth Floor.  I’ve selected some delicious sounding titles from among our new arrivals, and you can link to the list here.  Just keep in mind that there are many more! 

Happy Reading and Cooking, 

The Book Goddess

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

A Celebration of Friendship February 19, 2009

Posted by bookgoddess in Books, Fiction, library programs, Reading, Reading lists, The Latest and the Greatest, West Palm Beach Public Library.
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We had a good discussion today at The Latest and Greatest – our topic was A Celebration of Friendship.  It’s not surprising that many wonderful books have been written on the theme of friendship.  Of all our important relationships, friendships are the ones we get to choose.  I have been more fortunate than I can say to have made some of my very best friends among my book club participants and my library colleagues.

I’m going to let the reading list speak for itself (here’s the link), but I should mention a few titles that my book-loving friends reminded me about:

Christina recommended Little Woman by Louisa May Alcott.  This is one of my all-time favorites, too.  I read it multiple times in my childhood, and in recent times had the pleasure of visiting the Alcott home.  Christina also recommended Leaving Cecil Street by Diane McKinney-Whetstone.

Other recommendations were The Tender Bar, a memoir by J. R. Moehringer (Lois); A Red Bird Christmas by Fannie Flagg (Marsha); and The Women of Brewster Place by Gloria Naylor (Claudia).  All great suggestions, and I would love to hear yours, too!

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

Interior Decorating for the Financially Strapped and Emotionally Exhausted October 24, 2007

Posted by bookgoddess in Books, Public libraries, Reading, Reading lists.
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Samuel Johnson is reported to have said that “To be happy at home is the ultimate result of all ambition, the end to which every enterprise and labour tends.”  Many of us spend a great time on the enterprise and labor part, and not so much on being happy at home.  One of the things that contribute to our home-based contentment is liking what we see around us.

There are a number of obstacles to this, and they tend to vary by individual.  Some people are intimidated by interior design, so they end up with white walls and beige everything else.  Some people have a fabulous design scheme, but it has nothing to do with them.  Still others have trouble with maintaining order (I fall into this category).

I can’t promise to solve all your problems, but I can assure you that this is an area where you can become more competent, and the Library can help you.  Click here for a fabulous array of interior decorating books.

Check in tomorrow for the Book Goddess’s Top Ten Tips for Home Decorating!  (I’m pretty sure they’re not what you expect….)


The Book Goddess

Cooking, Culture, and Community October 18, 2007

Posted by bookgoddess in Books, library programs, Reading lists, West Palm Beach Public Library.
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I chose the theme of cookbooks for this month’s “All You Can Read Book Buffet” because October is National Cookbook Month (and because almost everyone loves food and many people love cookbooks).  And yes, there were some yummy selections.  But it turned out to be about more than that.

As I was making my choices, I was reminded that food is about so much more than taking in enough calories to get our daily tasks done.  The two themes that stood out for me, and that overlap considerably, are culture and community.

I started with my own cultural heritage – quite a mixture, really – and the first book I chose was the wonderful Florida Cookbook:  From Gulf Coast Gumbo to Key Lime Pie by Jeanne Voltz and Caroline Stuart.  They do a terrific job of bringing together the diverse regions and cultures that contribute to Florida cuisine.  And there are wonderful anecdotes and information about Florida cooks, restaurants, and specialty foods like swamp cabbage and stone crabs.

Other selections are from many of the world’s cuisines and culinary techniques (click here for the whole list), but one of my very favorites is Hungry Planet:  What the World Eats with text by Faith D’Aluisio and photographed by Peter Menzel.  This fascinating volume documents the eating habits of the world by showing families in several dozen countries with their weekly grocery shopping gathered around them in their homes.  Other photographs portray markets, food, and ways of life.  Statistics on income, overweight, and other related topics are provided.  From Great Britain to Bhutan, from spacious houses to rented rooms, everyone needs to eat. 

Recently, I attended a multicultural event in which people brought dishes from their native cuisine, or that of their ancestors, to share.  It was a wonderful dinner, and we all had the opportunity to try something new.  And I have to think that, in general, people who sit down and share a good meal have a much better chance of getting along.

I hope there’s a good meal and good people to share it with in your plans!

All the best,

The Book Goddess

P.S.  If you would like to be notified of book-related events at the West Palm Beach Public Library, please send your e-mail to me at albeet@mycitylibrary.org.

The Armchair Gourmet September 21, 2007

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We just had the annual City of West Palm Beach Chili Cookoff, and I was one of the cooks.  We didn’t win this year, though I think it was a fine chili – Miss Jenn, our Teen Librarian, provided her family recipe.

The proceeds from the Cookoff benefit the American Heart Association, so you could say that we were cooking (and eating) for a higher purpose.  Which I think is a good thing.

(We’re just about to get to books, really….)

Cookbooks, actually.  I have a particular love for a certain type of cookbook.  It’s the sort of book where the recipes are inextricably linked with a place, a culture, or a person’s life.  It’s not generally the “quick and easy” cookbook, and actually it may not have recipes at all. 

From my perspective, no one has outdone M. F. K. Fisher in this kind of writing.  Her food writing has a sacramental quality, reminding us that the ordinary things in life can be beautiful and significant.

But you also don’t want to miss Elizabeth David, a British food writer with a wonderful sense of humor.  Or Jane and Michael Stern, who have wandered the highways and by-ways of America in search of the best local cuisine.

If you want to read more, here’s my Armchair Gourmet reading list.  I hope some of these titles enhance your taste for life.


The Book Goddess

New York, New York September 20, 2007

Posted by bookgoddess in Fiction, Literature, Reading, Reading lists.
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We just had our monthly All You Can Read Book Buffet (which meets on the third Thursday of the month at 12:15 p.m. and you are most certainly invited!)

Our topic this month was “New York, New York”, and it was certainly an embarrassment of riches, even though I limited it to fiction to avoid being completely overwhelmed.  Everyone has a favorite New York novel, or several.  A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith was one of the favorite books of my teen years, and more recently I so enjoyed The Alienist by Caleb Carr.

I’d love to read every book on the list (here’s the link:  New York, New York Reading List), and I am having a hard time deciding where to start.  However, this is a strong contender:  Wonderful Town:  New York Stories from the New Yorker.  Everyone who is anyone (in terms of New Yorker fiction, at least) is represented here, from James Thurber to Woody Allen.

Let me know about your favorite New York reads!

The Book Goddess