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How Women Got the Right to Vote, Among Other Things August 26, 2009

Posted by bookgoddess in A Few Good Books on the Subject, Books, Reading.
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On this day in 1920, the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment gave female citizens of the United States the right to vote.  You can visit the website of the New York Times for the front page of the day.  Strangely, this event was not even one of the major headlines.

To those of us born at a time when the right to vote is taken for granted and even undervalued by some, it may seem incomprehensible that it was ever a controversy. 

But what a controversy it was!  Suffragettes faced scorn, danger, and imprisonment in their battle for the right to vote.  It was a long and amazing saga that led to the Nineteenth Amendment, and it’s worth knowing about.  Here are a few good books on the subject: 

The Ladies of Seneca Falls:  The Birth of the Women’s Rights Movement by Miriam Gurko – Five women sitting around a tea table in upstate New York organize “A Convention to discuss the social, civil, and religious condition and rights of woman.”  There are many consequences. 

Not for Ourselves Alone:  The Story of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony by Geoffrey C. Ward.  The towering figures of the movement. 

The Trial of Susan B. Anthony.  Her own narrative of the trial leading to her conviction for voting “knowingly, wrongfully, and unlawfully.”  For primary source enthusiasts. 

Sex Wars by Marge Piercy.  Not just about the suffrage movement, this novel is set against the lively background of post-Civil War New York and the social ferment of the era. 

The Nineteenth Amendment is an important part of the story of how we got from then to now, and I for one am profoundly grateful to the women and men who brought it about. 

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.

The School of Essential Ingredients July 29, 2009

Posted by bookgoddess in Authors, Books, Fiction, Reading.
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Do you remember Grandmother’s kitchen fondly?  Did your spouse propose over a special meal?  Are you the sort of person who will prepare a nice dinner when you are dining solo?  Or do those possibilities sound good even if not currently applicable to you?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, then I suspect you will greatly enjoy The School of Essential Ingredients by Erica Bauermeister.  I just finished reading it (over a nice little lunch, thank you!) and it was a delight.

Eight students attend Lillian’s cooking class, and discover themselves through their experience of food.  Each chapter tells the story of one participant, and also guides us through their cooking experiences and their personal interactions.  Lillian teaches cooking, but it is not simply cuisine; it is the elements of the meal speaking to the heart as well as the senses.

Among other things, Lillian convinced me that I must learn to prepare a proper Sauce Bolognese.  I expect the book will inspire you to dust off your kitchen equipment, too.  Thank you, Erica Bauermeister, for giving us a book to savor!

Happy Reading (and Cooking)!

The Book Goddess

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

Wine Glass Painting 2009 June 23, 2009

Posted by bookgoddess in library programs, West Palm Beach Public Library.
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This Thursday, June 25th, I will be presenting a workshop on wine glass painting from 6:30 to 8:00 p.m. in the Auditorium of the West Palm Beach Public Library at 411 Clematis Street.  It’s easy and fun and you will be amazed at how creative you are.

Wine Glass Painting

Wine Glass Painting

Please bring a wine glass (larger ones work best) – we will supply the paints, brushes, etc. 

I hope to see you there! 

Happy Painting, 

The Book Goddess

P.S.  We did this last year and it was a great success! 

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Florida Books for Young Readers June 16, 2009

Posted by bookgoddess in Books, Fiction, readers, Reading, Reading lists.
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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

Doing without Dewey June 9, 2009

Posted by bookgoddess in Book Floor, Books, Just Browsing, Librarians, Public libraries, West Palm Beach Public Library.
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The Rangeview Library District near Denver has decided to discontinue use of the Dewey Decimal system for its shelving arrangements.  They will use an organizational scheme similar to a bookstore.  I do not know all the details of how this will work, but since the Rangeview Director, Pam Sandlian Smith, is my former boss, friend, and generally greatly admired person, I am quite interested in seeing how it turns out.  And let’s just say that most of Pam’s ideas turn out to be very good ones.  (Keep in mind that she dubbed me the “Book Goddess.”) 

We actually considered this approach for our Book Floor at the West Palm Beach Public Library, but eventually chose to use bookstore categories AND keep the Dewey Decimal system.  So – we do have a separate cookbook section, and a history section, and even some more unusual sections like Guys Read and Go Green, but within those sections the books are arranged by Dewey. 

I was a bookseller for eight years before I went to library school, and I like to think that I can see the strong and weak points of each system.  At our library, I believe we have the best of both.  You can walk in the door and go right to the section of your choice (there are about 50) and enjoy browsing as you might at a bookstore.  You can also use the computer catalog or the assistance of a friendly library employee to find the exact book that you want.  

There were a number of considerations that went into our decision making, but I think that we arrived at the best arrangement for our library.  If you visit the Denver Post site, you can see the article and comments about the Adams County Public Library.  I’m happy to see that people care so much about their local library. 

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

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!

Wash This Blood Clean from My Hand June 2, 2009

Posted by bookgoddess in Books, Fiction, Mysteries, Reading.
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This was my first experience with a mystery by Fred Vargas, who, oddly enough, is a French woman.  I enjoyed it very much indeed! 

Comissaire Adamsberg is brilliant, eccentric, and has some secrets of his own.  His “sidekick” Danglard is a gifted detective who is overly fond of white wine.  Their search for a serial killer is interrupted by a Canada to study evidence techniques with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.  Trouble follows them there in a very nasty way.  

The plot is convoluted, in a good way, and the solution turns out to be quite exotic.  For me, the real pleasure of the book lay in the writing style, the characters, and the humor.  I enjoyed the culture clash between the French and the French Canadians, and how Adamsberg solved the problem of Danglard’s fear of flying. 

The best recommendation for a mystery author is whether you want to read more of their books.  Fred Vargas gets a definite yes! 

Happy Reading, 

The Book Goddess