Dear Reader

Random musings on reading and books from a librarian in training.

Monday, March 31, 2008


The Man Who Made Lists is getting a lot of press recently. Earlier this month, I heard the author Joshua Kendall speak at the Boston Athenaeum (

Kendall profiles Peter Mark Roget, the man behind the thesaurus. Roget’s family had a history of mental illness. His uncle committed suicide, slitting his throat in front of Roget. Kendall relied on a number of unreleased papers and correspondence for his biography. According to Kendall, Roget made lists as a way to make sense of the world/ battle depression.

I tend to take things like the thesaurus for granted. It's just one of those things that's just there. However , it apparently has generated a fair amount of controversy with some arguing that the thesaurus is a crutch for weak writers. The thesaurus, like the dictionary, is an evolving work with words being added or definitions changing.

If you think this sounds interesting, you may enjoy The Professor and the Madman: A Tale of Murder, Insanity, and the Making of The Oxford English Dictionary.

New York Times,



Sunday, March 30, 2008

Guess it was windy...

Because my storm window decided to make a break for freedom. A little digging yielded this Robert Frost poem, which nicely captures my growing weariness with the weather and the unpredictability of New England spring.

Two Tramps in Mud Time

The sun was warm but the wind was chill.
You know how it is with an April day
When the sun is out and the wind is still,
You're one month on in the middle of May.
But if you so much as dare to speak,
A cloud comes over the sunlit arch,
A wind comes off a frozen peak,
And you're two months back in the middle of March.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Dating & Books

Paper Cuts tackles a essay in the New York Times about reading and dating -- It’s Not You, It’s Your Books.

Some snippets:

“I did have to break up with one guy because he was very keen on Ayn Rand,” said Laura Miller, a book critic for Salon. “He was sweet and incredibly decent despite all the grandiosely heartless ‘philosophy’ he espoused, but it wasn’t even the ideology that did it. I just thought Rand was a hilariously bad writer, and past a certain point I couldn’t hide my amusement.”

“I know there were occasions when I just wrote people off completely because of what they were reading long before it ever got near the point of falling in or out of love: Baudrillard (way too pretentious), John Irving (way too middlebrow), Virginia Woolf (way too Virginia Woolf).” Come to think of it, Collins added, “I do know people who almost broke up” over “The Corrections” by Jonathan Franzen: “‘Overrated!’ ‘Brilliant!’ ‘Overrated!’ ‘Brilliant!’”

I would tend to agree with one commentator on Paper Cuts who wrote he “found this whole notion a bit snobby.”

I think that dating is hard enough; adding literary compatibility seems like adding another hurdle. Ideally, I would like to date someone who enjoyed reading. However, I think it’s all about compromises. I despise watching sports and would hate to be dumped because I didn’t want to watch baseball, football, really any sports. Although, would ballroom dancing count as a sport?

I try not to judge what other people are reading. 1. It’s rare enough to see people reading. 2. Who the heck am I to criticize other’s reading choices. I read plenty of what could be considered “middle brow.” I like to think of reading like eating a fine meal. Yes, you may have a nice fillet but it’s nice sometimes to have a corn dog. A nice murder mystery or science fiction can be like a palate cleanser or a nice sorbet between courses.

That said, John Irving too middlebrow. :-O I would not hold it against a boyfriend if he had John Irving on his bookshelf. But then again, A Prayer for Owen Meany is one of my favorite books.

More Literary Links

There are a wealth of literary blogs out there. Here’s a few I like to peruse for inspiration or amusement. Some of these are blogs written by authors and some by bibliophiles. Happy browsing!

Book Lust,

Book Lust is written by a Canadian illustrator. I love her illustrations and whimsical posts.

Book Puddle,

An avid reader. He drinks coffee. He has a cat. Sigh.

book girls’s nightstand,

Books Etc.,


Charlaine Harris, Book & Blog,

Neil Gaiman,

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Maya Angelou’s Birthday

USA Today has a story about Maya Angelou, who is turning 80 this year.

Maya Angelou celebrates her 80 years of pain and joy,

A book featuring pictures and letters is coming out next month – Maya Angelou: A Glorious Celebration.

An interesting nugget on her writing method:

She writes on yellow legal pads and says that even after all these years, a clean sheet of paper scares and thrills her: "I see a yellow pad, and my knees get weak, and I salivate. I know that sounds like coyness, but I have less coyness than modesty, and I have none of that." She laughs.

And now, in honor of Maya Angelou’s birthdays, one of her poems:

Still I Rise

You may write me down in history
With your bitter twisted lies,
You may tread me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.

Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
‘Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells
Pumping in my living room?

Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I’ll rise.

Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling like teardrops,
Weakened by my soulful cries.

Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don’t you take it awful hard
‘Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines
Diggin’ in my own back yard.

You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.

Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I’ve got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?

Out of the huts of history’s shame
I rise
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I rise
I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.

Leaving behind the nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave,
I rise
I rise
I rise.


Browsing through my Google Reader, I stumbled on “Bookshelf Etiquette” on Paper Cuts. Jennifer Schuessler discusses a recent column that claimed: “It is unacceptable to display any book in a public space of your home if you have not read it.”

Judging from the number of comments this generated, this is a touchy subject. My current lack of bookshelves makes this moot for me, but WOW I’m torn. I tend to hoard books. When I had bookshelves, I felt like all those unread books were silently judging me. I also felt guilty that it's possible I would never read all the books I bought and that I had spent money on books merely to have them languish. Now, I have a few stacks of books out and the rest in boxes. It's a temporary solution.


Time magazine has an interesting profile on Rita Mae Brown. She’s perhaps best known for her ground breaking work, Ruby Fruit Jungle. Published in 1973, Ruby Fruit Jungle is a lesbian, coming of age story. I’ve heard of Rita Mae Brown, but didn’t realize she’s a prolific murder mystery novelist and also apparently a big cat fan.

(I thought this t-shirt on Amazon was hilarious. I can’t imagine there’s too many authors with t-shirts like this!),8599,1723482,00.html

Literary Links

There are a lot of great book-related blogs out there. I decided to break my favorites into two categories -- traditional and reader/writer generated.

Part I: Traditional

Amazon’s Omnivoracious

Written by Amazon’s book editors, the blog features Q&As, news, and reviews. I think it’s a fair assessment to say Amazon has completely altered the way books are sold and helped revolutionize ecommerce. What I like about this blog is that they discuss so many different types of literature – scifi, graphic novels, childrens lit and more. They also have a regular round up on book reviews every Monday.

New York Times Paper Cuts

This is written by the book review editors. I enjoy their playlist feature where authors discuss some of their favorite songs. I hate to admit it but most times there are a lot of artists I’ve never heard of.

Washington Post Short Stack

Every week, the Book World picks five favorite books and discusses them. The latest post discusses five fictional novels based on real-life historical mysteries or puzzles. It was a good reminder to me – I’ve been meaning to read The Daughter of Time for years. Library time!

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

When novelists strike

The Onion has an absolutely priceless article, Novelists Strike Fails To Affect Nation Whatsoever.

As you can guess, novelists go on strike and no one notices. Maybe it’s because the picket lines are in front of their desks!

"There's a novelists strike?" Ames, IA consumer Carl Hailes said. "That's terrible. When is it scheduled to begin?"

The strike kicked off last fall when the NGA announced it had hit a roadblock in negotiations with the Alliance of Printed Fiction and Literature Producers, failing to resolve certain key issues concerning online distribution, digital media rights, and readers just not getting what writers were trying to do with a number of important allegorical devices.

After a press conference at the Massachusetts home of NGA president John Updike—who called the strike an attempt by novelists "to give both the sublime and mundane alike their beautiful due"—members of the guild began picketing their studies, desks, and libraries and refusing to work on any further novels until the APFLP and the American reading public agreed to their demands.

So far, sources say, no one has attempted to cross the picket lines, most of which are located in private homes. However, unconfirmed reports indicate that at least one novelist may be breaking the strike by writing under the pseudonym "Richard Bachman."

One novelist had to put aside the book he’d been working on for more than 15 years. A tome is horrible thing to waste. :p With it’s cutting wit, the Onion suggests that unfortunately (unlike some other strikes) this one is having little impact.

While the strike has been joined by an estimated 250,000 novelists—225,000 of whom have reportedly stopped in the middle of their first novel—it has done no damage to any measurable sector of the economy, including bookstore chains, newspapers, magazines, all major media, overseas markets, independent film studios, major film studios, actors, editors, animators, carpenters, those in finance or banking, the day-to-day lives of average Americans, or anything else anyone can think of as of press time.

On a more serious note, I laugh at stories like this. But like much humor, there’s a kernel of truth here. During the recent writers’ strike, there was a lot of coverage about how this would affect consumers, what would people watch on tv, etc. Reading however is a different story. According to an Associated Press poll last year, one in four said they didn’t read a single book last year.

Hard to imagine.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

an ice cold grave

Phew! I didn't think I was going to get two read this month. Just finished an ice cold grave by Charlene Harris. This is another one that sort of defies description. After Harper Connelly is struck by lightening, she can sense where bodies are buried and how they died. In the newest book in the series, Harper helps uncover the bodies of several boys who were presumed missing. With a serial killer on the loose, Harper also becomes a target.

This had more of what I like about Harris -- character development. This series is a little darker than Sookie Stackhouse.

I'm stumped on what to read next. I'm halfway through two books but feel like something different. I could use a comedy.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Real Murders

For my New Year's resolutions, I decided to make affirmative resolutions. One of them was two read two books per month. I'm running a little behind this month. I just finished book one for this month -- Real Murders by Charlaine Harris.

I discovered Harris when I happened to randomly pick up the first Sookie Stackhouse book at the library. This series really defies explanation -- paranormal/ romance/ mystery/ thriller. Sookie is a psychic working in a bar when she meets a vampire. Turns out vampires exist and they've announced their presence. Sounds weird, but these books are fun.

I just finished Real Murders by Harris. It had an interesting premise -- librarian Aurora "Roe" Teagarden is a member of the "real murders" club. They meet once a month to discuss famous murder cases. One night before a meeting, Teagarden discovers a club member murdered in a manner very similar to the real life murder they were about to discuss. Soon it appears that there is a murderer on the loose copying famous murders.

I hate to say it but this was not my favorite Harris book. There were too many characters and as a result I felt like the character development, which is something Harris usually shines at, was weak. There was a little much going on -- too many people, too many murders. I'm willing to give the new Teagarden book, A Bone to Pick, a chance because Harris very rarely disappoints. Hopefully it will be a stronger showing.


Club Passim, the stomping ground of folk legends like Joan Baez, Judy Collins, Suzanne Vega, Nanci Griffith and Shawn Colvin, is turning 50 this year. Boston Globe’s Sunday magazine profiles Joan Baez, who got her start at Club Passim and brought along a friend of hers you might have heard of – Bob Dylan.

Joan Baez, waitressed at the club during the week, cooked on Sundays, and ran the art gallery in the afternoons…”

Update: I just browsed their online calender. There's so many good shows coming up: Cheryl Wheeler, Antje Duvokot, The Nields, Girlyman. Wow. Richard Thompson sadly is WAY out of my price range. If you've never seen him, he's amazing live.

These are a few of my favorite things…

A few months ago, a coworker introduced me to Good Reads ( It’s a simple, but elegant idea. You post books that you’ve read, rate them and review them. Books are sorted into three categories – books you’ve read, you’re reading and want to read.

Like Facebook, you can create a network of friends. Your friends will receive updates when you post reviews or add books. It’s also possible to see reviews, most popular reviewed books or least popular.

From the site:

“And on this journey with your friends you can explore new territory, gather information, and expand your mind. / Knowledge is power; and power is best shared among friends.”

This is a great way to track what you’ve read and your impressions or look for new ideas for books. I’m trying to cut down on the number of books I buy, so I like being able to keep a list of books I want to read that I can use when looking at the library catalogue or

You can also post books that you’d like to swap. Speaking of swapping – another favorite site is Paperback Swap ( Another great idea. Once you’re done with a book, if you don’t want to keep it, post it. If someone requests your book, you pay to mail it to them, earning a credit in the process. When you see a book you want, you request it, and someone pays to mail it to you.

I’m trying to be more selective about the books I keep. With Good Reads, I’m able to have a record of what I’ve read, so I’m less likely to hang onto books I wasn’t crazy about, but still remember them.

Paperback Swap’s wish list feature allows you to request books as soon as they’re posted in the site. The site has a number of user-friendly features – reviews, buddy lists, contests, etc. A feature I’ve just noticed is recommendations, which are based on what books I’ve swapped and what’s on my wish list.

If join either site, keep an eye out for me! I’m on both sites under my email address,

Happy reading!

Saturday, March 22, 2008

The Lion Peeps Tonight

To boldly go where no peep has gone.

Thanks to Project Rungay, I saw this "peep" show. Apparently the Washington Post, has a peeps Diorama contest. (But peeps are made for eating, not decorating. Mmm... peeps.)

One of my favorites was the Star Trek one complete with Tribbles.

There's some really creative and funny stuff. No Country for Old Peeps. Peeps Atop a Skyscraper. Project Peepway. The peep who's Rami even has an unbuttoned shirt!

Not Anne!

This year is the 100th anniversary of Anne of Green Gables. To commemorate this milestone, a prequel to Anne of Green Gables – Before Green Gables – is being published.


Apparently the book will focus on Anne’s life before she joins the Cuthberts. Anne, a fiery red head with a wonderful, crazy imagination, is adopted by siblings Marilla and Matthew. Although they originally were expecting a boy, they decide to take Anne in.

Hilarity ensues. Anne gets into the claret by accident, she almost drowns recreating a poem, she ends up with green hair after trying to die hers. Two words – puff sleeves.

Growing up, my mother would tell people that my name was spelled Anne with an e like Anne of Green Gables.

“What difference does it make how it’s spelled?” asked Marilla asked with another rusty smile as she picked up the teapot.

“Oh, it makes such a difference. It looks so much nicer. When you hear a name pronounced can’t you always see it in your mind, just as it was printed out? I can; A-n-n looks dreadful, but A-n-n-e looks so much more distinguished. …”

Why fiddle with a childhood classic? I don’t want to be too judgmental without reading the book but it always sounded like Anne’s life was grim before she was adopted by Marilla and Matthew. I also have a real problem with another author writing an Anne book. It just seems wrong.

Fun fact about Anne of Green Gables: An animated series was made of the novels in Japan, where Anne is very popular.

From Wikipedia:

The Japanese PEI club:

Grab a hanky!

“Well now, I’d rather have you than a dozen boys, Anne,” said Matthew patting her hand. “Just mind that you – rather than a dozen boys. Well now, I guess it wasn’t a boy that took the Avery scholarship, was it? It was a girl – my girl – my girl that I’m proud of.”


New Anne of Green Gables book stirs debate,

Prince Edward Island,

Thursday, March 20, 2008

An Ode to Libraries

According to today’s Boston Globe, two communities in Mass are considering privatizing their libraries (

As a reporter, I witnessed many communities struggle with library funding. While the public understands the need to pay for police officers, firefighters, trash pickup or plowing, it’s a little harder sometimes to convince taxpayers to swallow tax increases for the library.

I think the importance of a library can never be underestimated. A library provides a service to young and old, married and single, rich or poor. When I was in high school, I spent hours in my library. My favorite study place in college was the library, which had stained glass windows and tiny tables stuffed in the narrow nooks in the stacks.

At my library, there’s a book club, baby story time, play groups, family movie night, ESL lessons and more. I have access to hundreds of books, movies and cds. If they don’t have what I want, there’s a good chance I can have it sent in from another library from their network.

Libraries are a special place.

TS Eliot on L&O

I was watching Law & Order reruns the other day when something caught my attention.

When speaking with DA Jack McCoy, a defense attorney said, “I have measured out my life with coffee spoons.”

I don’t read a lot of poetry, but the Law & Order writers managed to reference one of my favorite poems, “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock.” (

“For I have known them all already, known them all:
Have known the evenings, mornings, afternoons,
I have measured out my life with coffee spoons;
I know the voices dying with a dying fall
Beneath the music from a farther room.
So how should I presume?”

Dare I eat a peach?

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