Saturday, April 28, 2007

Awards: LA Times Book Prizes Awarded

The LA Times awarded its book prizes Friday night. There is one winner I have to check out based solely on its title--Ooga-Booga: Poems by Frederick Seidel, which received the poetry prize.

Also, on the LATimes page I read, there's a video clip running called Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles that I found very evocative of a certain time, place, and mood. It's short, only about a minute long and worth viewing. Maybe we can read Chandler next summer....

Friday, April 27, 2007

Links: Orwell and "1984"

As you might expect, there's a lot of material on the web about George Orwell and his classic novel 1984. Over the next week, I'll pass on some sites that I've found provocative, amusing, illuminating, etc. And please feel free to share any that you come across. Here's my first website recommendation:

George Orwell, The Chestnut Tree Cafe
There are several good articles and essays on Orwell's life and work at this site. Here's two I liked:
George Orwell
by Landon Y. Jones
People Weekly, Jan 9, 1984

He had big feet. His size-12 boots had to be handmade, and George Orwell was sometimes forced to order them from friends in America. A soldier who met him in the trenches during the Spanish Civil War was astounded: He'd "never seen boots that were so large, clogged in mud"... Link
Democracy Sabotaged by Shoddy Speech
by Sanford Pinsker
Insight on the News, 21 Oct 1996

All issues are political issues," George Orwell declared with the same no-nonsense clarity he brought to nearly every sentence he crafted during a long career at the writing desk. And with this large generalization on the table, he went on to make clear just how debased most political writing had become: "Politics itself is a mass of lies, evasions, folly, hatred, and schizophrenia." Link
Thanks to superlibrarian Taryn for helping me with this Internet research!

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Article: "Reading Gets Wired"

An article in this week's issue of Time magazine evaluates the Sony Reader, an e-book that can hold about 80 books. After trying to read The Kite Runner on it, the author comes to the following conclusion:
If anything, the [Sony] Reader reminds us that 5 1/2 centuries after its 1.0 release, the book is a surprisingly robust piece of information technology. Sure, its memory is relatively tiny--one novel adds up to less than a megabyte. But it doesn't need charging, and it never crashes. Its interface is rapidly and intuitively navigable. The scroll never stood a chance. Link to full article.
BTW: In the article's introduction the author mentions a funny YouTube video called Middle Ages Tech Support. He doesn't provide a link, but you can watch it here:

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Reading Jane Eyre

In the last discussion, I referred to an essay on that compares the classic novel Jane Eyre to the popular TV show Sex in the City. It's a clever, amusing essay whose main conceit is what one (formerly sexist) male reader learns from reading 19th century "chicklit." Here's the essay if you want to read it for yourself.

Reading "Jane Eyre"
By Stephen Amidon
Forget the two-fisted Faulkner and Hardy. Tackling Charlotte Bronte's courageously romantic novel made me a better man. Link to article.

A Campaign to Save Book Reviews

Critical Mass, a blog by the National Book Critics Circle board of directors, has started a campaign to keep newspaper book reviews and book review sections from being trimmed down or even dropped altogether. For the next month or so, they will be running various features on this topic written by concerned writers, editors, and critics.

And despite San Francisco being ranked #1 among American cities in book buying (America's Most Literate Cities 2004), the Chronicle's booksection is still under threat:
While book sections at the Washington Post and the New York Times continue strongly, many other newspapers have begun packing up and winnowing down their book coverage. And it started at the top. Not long ago, the San Francisco Chronicle Book Review, which has readership levels in excess of fifty percent, was folded into another part of the paper. The community protested, it was restored, but just recently the section was cut in half in order to make space for an advertisement.
Link to full article
- Lori

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Reminder: BIG Book Sale

The San Leandro Friends of the Library Booksale is today--Saturday,April 21.

9:00 AM - 11:00 AM -- Members Only
11:00 AM - 4:00 PM -- General Public

At the Main Library - 300 Estudillo Ave.

Over 10,000 books in every subject and genre will be offered for sale at bargain prices. DVD's, CD's, children's books, collectible books and much, much more will also be on sale. Hardback fiction will sell for $1 each and paperback fiction will sell for 25 cents each. From 3:00 - 4:00 PM, the Friends have a bargain hour, selling books at $2 a bag!

Follow this link for more information.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Government Documents: Best Titles Ever

While you're reading Orwell's 1984, please rest assured that your government does have a sense of humor! Yes, most government documents have serious, somber (some may even say stodgy, deliberately snooze-inducing) titles. But occasionally, the sly double-entendre, the stupid pun, and even the Malaprop slip through. The Free Government Information website celebrates these surges of silliness with a list of the best government titles. A few of my favorites include:
  • The Bear Essentials
  • Gobbledygook has gotta go. Bureau of Land Management
  • The Impact of Computer Aliens Along the Mexican and Canadian borders.
  • L.U.S.T.LINE: A report on Federal and state programs to control leaking underground storage tanks.
  • Plane Clothes: Lack of Anonymity at the Federal Air Marshal Service Compromises Aviation and National Security.
And there are lots more! Find your favorites.

Thursday, April 19, 2007


Dickensworld, an amusement park inspried by Charles Dickens' novels, is opening just outside London next month. Based on the (rather snide and amusing) description in this article from The Guardian newspaper, it sounds to me like a year-round Dicken's Fair. I don't know if I would go to it, but I think it could be alot of hokey fun. After all, I had a blast at the Dickens' Fair when I was 19 and even learned how to polka in Mr. Pickwick's ballroom! - Lori
What the Dickens!
A Charles Dickens theme park opens in Kent next month. Don't go expecting grimy Victorian authenticity, says Simon Swift - just enjoy the Great Expectations log flume
. Link to article.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Just for fun: NYC to London

Taking a trip across the pond? You may want to get directions first...

1. Go to Google.
2. Click on "Maps."
3. Click on "Get directions."
4. Type "New York" in the "start address" box (the one on the left).
5. Type "London" in the "end address" box (the one on the right).
6. Scroll down to step #23.
7. Then check out step #24. After all that effort in #23, you wouldn't want to miss the EO5

[This tip came from a blog I just discovered called BookDaddy.]


Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Orange Prize Shortlist

The British Orange Prize for Fiction has announced its shortlist. And as RRTable member Linda noted, "It's cute, they actually have the bookmaker's odds in the article as to who will win. So British!"
William Hill announced opening odds on the shortlisted books as:
11/4 Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie Half of a Yellow Sun
3/1 Kiran Desai The Inheritance of Loss
7/2 Rachel Cusk Arlington Park
5/1 Jane Harris The Observations
11/2 Xiaolu Guo A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers
11/2 Anne Tyler Digging to America

Announcemnt: Fall 2007 Titles

Well, the votes are all in. Here's the list of titles we'll be reading next fall. (Note that the meeting dates are still tentative.)

BTW: Cormac McCarthy's The Road was awarded the 2007 Pulitzer for fiction yesterday. So, with two classics and a major prize winner, this is quite a prestigious reading list.

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Jay Gatsby still adores Daisy Buchanan although she has married someone else, and he risks everything to lure her back.
Saturday September 15 2:00 to 3:15 pm

The Road by Cormac McCarthy
In a futuristic, post-apocalyptic world, a father and his young son make their way through the ruins of a devastated American landscape, struggling to survive and preserve the last remnants of their own humanity. Winner of the 2007 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.
Saturday October 6 2:00 to 3:15 pm

Slaughter-House Five by Kurt Vonnegut
Unstuck in time, Billy Pilgrim, Vonnegut's shattered survivor of the Dresden bombing, relives his life over and over again under the gaze of aliens and eventually comes to an understanding of the human comedy.
Saturday November 3 2:00 to 3:15 pm

Special Topics in Calamity Physics by Marisha Pessl
Blue van Meer, who has a head full of literary, philosophical, scientific, and cinematic knowledge, could use some friends. Upon entering the elite St. Gallway school, she finds some—a clique of eccentrics known as the Bluebloods. One drowning and one hanging later, Blue finds herself puzzling out a byzantine murder mystery.
Saturday January 5 2:00 to 3:15 pm

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Reminder: Readers Roundtable Meeting

Don't forget: Readers Roundtable is meeting this Saturday at 2 p.m. in Conference Room B. (Always check the meeting room monitor though since we might still get bumped.)

We'll be discussing the book Prep. And I have one question for you now just to get your juices flowing: Did any of you notice how many coming-of-age books we've read recently: Never Let Me Go, Zorro, The Tender Bar, and now Prep? Believe me, this wasn't my intention when I finalized the winter/spring reading lists, but I think it does bring up a nice opportunity to compare/contrast. Because despite their similar subjects, I think each book offers a unique portrayal of the joys and terrors of adolescence.

Also, there will be at least two other topics on the agenda. 1) We need to pick 3 books for the Fall/Winter months; 2) We need to select a second meeting time for the club since the groups are getting large.

Hope to see you Saturday!


Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Book Design

As some of you know, I'm often guilty of judging a book by its cover--at least initially. To me, many covers today are just as, if not more beautiful, intriguing, and/or meaningful than the book they protect.

If you share my fascination with covers, check out the blog The Book Design Review. (It's listed under Miscellaneous in the links list.) In it, blogger Joseph Sullivan critiques book covers, assessing how well they communicate the theme of the book using the basic elements of graphic design: type, images, color, composition, pattern, etc.

Here's a brief sample critique of the book cover for Sick:
Nothing surprising about the image given the subject of the book, but the reminiscent-of-money title type is a nice touch. [Jacket photo by David McGlynn]

Saturday, April 7, 2007

Fall's Reading List: Michael Dibdin?

Did you hear the sad news? Acclaimed mystery writer Michael Dibdin died this past week. His most famous series is set in Italy and features the brooding detective Aurelio Zen. The Reader's Roundtable has never read any of Dibdin. Maybe it's time we did?


Friday, April 6, 2007

Fiction vs. Non-Fiction, Part III

A new movie called The Hoax is in theaters today. It's about one of the most brazen cons ever played on the publishing world. In the 1970's Clifford Irving wrote a biography about the famous recluse Howard Hughes, claiming he had Hughes' full approval and cooperation. But Irving's claims were eventually exposed as bald-faced lies, resulting in a huge uproar and scandal.

Reviews seem to be generally favorable, and it looks very entertaining. Here's the movie trailer.

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Fall's Reading List

Well, it's that time again. Time to choose another set of books to read. We need to choose three books for Fall 2007. One title I'd like to nominate is Little Children by Tom Perrotta. It almost made summer's list, so I thought we'd just roll it over to the fall.

Please forward any suggestions via the "Contact Me" link or bring them with you to the next meeting on Saturday, April 14. Thanks!


Fiction vs. Non-Fiction: Part II

In today's SF Chronicle, columnist Jon Carroll weighs in on the fiction vs. non-fiction debate:
I am just amazed that anyone thought David Sedaris' stories were literally true. I am even more amazed that the New Republic would publish a lengthy article "proving" that David Sedaris' stories were not literally true. Exaggerated for comic effect, even. Imagine that.
Link to article


On TV: Novel Reflections

When I got home last night, I plopped down in front of the TV, did a little channel surfing, and happened upon a terrific PBS program about the American novel, called Novel Reflections on the American Dream. It explores "the characters, plots, and themes of seven novels that deal with wealth, poverty, and the nature of success and failure in America."

I wasn't able to watch the entire program, but liked what I saw and was thrilled to see a serious, engaging study of American literature presented on TV. (Fortunately, I'll able to catch a rerun of the program on KQED.)

If you have the time, check out the website for this program. It's excellent. And it looks like "The American Dream" may be the first of a six part series. (Although I'm not sure about that since I couldn't find showtimes for the other five parts. Maybe they're waiting to see the response to the first one before producing more?)

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Fiction or Non-Fiction?

Last month the New Republic ran an article chiding humorist David Sedaris for calling his work non-fiction when, as it turns out, a number of his "exaggerations" are in fact lies. While I found the article a little persnickity since Sedaris isn't a journalist, scholar or historian, it did bring up some valid questions: Why are so many "fiction" books being marketed as "non-fiction"? And what does it really matter when it comes to recreational reads like humor?

SFChronicle Book Editor Oscar Villalon chimes in on the debate, saying that for publishers the appeal of non-fiction is that it's easier to market and that it outsells fiction. While for writers, non-fiction is easier to write because you don't have to persuade the reader to suspend disbelief.

The Chronicle goes on to make the case that this premium on non-fiction ultimately devalues fiction, making it seem "second rate." What do you think? How rigorous should the standards for non-fiction be? Does it depend on the subject? What do you get out of reading fiction versus non-fiction? Link to SFGate article.

Event: Friends of the Library Book Sale

Saturday, April 21, 2007
9:00 AM - 11:00 AM -- Members Only
11:00 AM - 4:00 PM -- General Public

At the Main Library - 300 Estudillo Ave.

Over 10,000 books in every subject and genre will be offered for sale at bargain prices. DVD's, CD's, children's books, collectible books and much, much more will also be on sale. Hardback fiction will sell for $1 each and paperback fiction will sell for 25 cents each. From 3:00 - 4:00 PM, the Friends have a bargain hour, selling books at $2 a bag!

Follow this link for more information.