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For adults who don’t like non-fiction

4 Feb

For most people, non-fiction is a black and white, either/or. They either like it or the don’t. They either read it, or they don’t.

So, adults who don’t love non-fiction , I am calling out to you today. You should read this book!

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First, it doesn’t read like non-fiction. It is an excellent example of narrative non-fiction. The “story” of the fire is interwoven with the history of the LA, the LA Public Library, and the people who make it up. You’ll be drawn in by the story, but will be fascinated by the research Susan Orlean has done. And, if you don’t already use your local public library, I hope it encourages you to renew your relationship with it.

Publisher’s Summary: On the morning of April 29, 1986, a fire alarm sounded in the Los Angeles Public Library. As the moments passed, the patrons and staff who had been cleared out of the building realized this was not the usual fire alarm. As one fireman recounted, “Once that first stack got going, it was ‘Goodbye, Charlie.’” The fire was disastrous: it reached 2000 degrees and burned for more than seven hours. By the time it was extinguished, it had consumed four hundred thousand books and damaged seven hundred thousand more. Investigators descended on the scene, but more than thirty years later, the mystery remains: Did someone purposefully set fire to the library—and if so, who?

Weaving her lifelong love of books and reading into an investigation of the fire, award-winning New Yorker reporter and New York Times bestselling author Susan Orlean delivers a mesmerizing and uniquely compelling book that manages to tell the broader story of libraries and librarians in a way that has never been done before.

In The Library Book, Orlean chronicles the LAPL fire and its aftermath to showcase the larger, crucial role that libraries play in our lives; delves into the evolution of libraries across the country and around the world, from their humble beginnings as a metropolitan charitable initiative to their current status as a cornerstone of national identity; brings each department of the library to vivid life through on-the-ground reporting; studies arson and attempts to burn a copy of a book herself; reflects on her own experiences in libraries; and reexamines the case of Harry Peak, the blond-haired actor long suspected of setting fire to the LAPL more than thirty years ago.

Along the way, Orlean introduces us to an unforgettable cast of characters from libraries past and present—from Mary Foy, who in 1880 at eighteen years old was named the head of the Los Angeles Public Library at a time when men still dominated the role, to Dr. C.J.K. Jones, a pastor, citrus farmer, and polymath known as “The Human Encyclopedia” who roamed the library dispensing information; from Charles Lummis, a wildly eccentric journalist and adventurer who was determined to make the L.A. library one of the best in the world, to the current staff, who do heroic work every day to ensure that their institution remains a vital part of the city it serves.

Brimming with her signature wit, insight, compassion, and talent for deep research, The Library Book is Susan Orlean’s thrilling journey through the stacks that reveals how these beloved institutions provide much more than just books—and why they remain an essential part of the heart, mind, and soul of our country. It is also a master journalist’s reminder that, perhaps especially in the digital era, they are more necessary than ever.

This week’s book talks 1/21-25

25 Jan

It’s a crazy week with only 3 book talks. Monday was MLK Day and no school, so no book talk. Today, I am on my way to Seattle for the ALA Midwinter Meeting, where the . I’ll write posts over the weekend and into next week about that.  Here are this week’s three books.

Tuesday

Be  A Changemaker: How To Start Something That Matters by Laurie Ann Thompson

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Wednesday

You Are Mighty: A Guide to Changing the World  by Caroline Paul

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Thursday

It’s Your World: Get Informed, Get Inspired and Get Going! by Chelsea Clintonchelseclintonitsyourworld_cv

 

 

 

 

The Voice in My Head Last Week

14 Jan

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Last week, knitting and driving, I listened to Philip Pullman read the collection of his essays that constitute Daemon Voices: On Stories and Storytelling. I’ve since put the print book on hold because he says some wonderful things in it. I want to see them in print and ponder them. I want to share some of them with my students.

If you like stories, storytelling or writing, I highly recommend it. It is not written for kids, but readers and writers of upper middle school and high school age might also find this fascinating.

Publisher’s Summary: From the internationally best-selling author of the His Dark Materials trilogy, a spellbinding journey into the secrets of his art–the narratives that have shaped his vision, his experience of writing, and the keys to mastering the art of storytelling.

One of the most highly acclaimed and best-selling authors of our time now gives us a book that charts the history of his own enchantment with story–from his own books to those of Blake, Milton, Dickens, and the Brothers Grimm, among others–and delves into the role of story in education, religion, and science. At once personal and wide-ranging, Daemon Voices is both a revelation of the writing mind and the methods of a great contemporary master, and a fascinating exploration of storytelling itself.

 

2019 YALSA Excellence in Nonfiction Award Finalists

13 Dec

As promised, here are the finalists for the 2019 YALSA Excellence in Nonfiction Award. As with the Morris Award nominees, I’ve read all the titles. They, too, will be announced at the Youth Media Awards in Seattle. These authors will also present at the same ceremony as the Morris finalists.

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  • The Beloved World of Sonia Sotomayor written by Sonia Sotomayor
  • Boots on the Ground: America’s War in Vietnam written by Elizabeth Partridge
  • The Faithful Spy: Dietrich Bonhoeffer and the Plot to Kill Hitler written and illustrated by John Hendrix
  • Hey, Kiddo:  How I Lost My Mother, Found My Father, and Dealt with Family Addictionwritten and illustrated by Jarrett J. Krosoczka
  • The Unwanted: Stories of the Syrian Refugees written and illustrated by Don Brown

My heart is with Hey Kiddo,  which I wrote about here. I am also excited to see Faithful Spy on the list.

You can read more about all five finalists on the 2019 YALSA Excellence in Nonfiction Award page.

 

The Hollywood Ten

19 Nov

George Santayana wrote “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”. It is often misquoted and misattributed. In this age of fake news and extreme political opinions, Larry Dane Brimner’s Blacklisted!: Hollywood, The Cold War, and The First Amendment should almost be required reading.

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Publisher’s Summary: World War II is over, but tensions between communist Soviet Union and the U.S. are at an all-time high. In America, communist threats are seen everywhere and a committee is formed in the nation’s capital to investigate those threats. Larry Dane Brimner follows the story of nineteen men—all from the film industry—who are summoned to appear before the House of Representatives Committee on Un-American Activities. All nineteen believe that the committee’s investigations into their political views and personal associations are a violation of their First Amendment rights. When the first ten of these men refuse to give the committee the simple answers it wants, they are cited for contempt of Congress and blacklisted. Brimner brings the story of the trial and its consequences to life, giving readers an in-depth look at what it’s like to fight for the most basic of our Constitutional rights. The book includes an author’s note, a bibliography, source notes, and an index, as well as archival photographs, documents, cartoons, images, and quotations from the accused and their accusers.

Since his audience has probably never hear of the hearings held by the House Committee on UN-American Activities, Brimner takes the time to build the historical background necessary to understand why we should care. In his author’s note he states, “America and Americans need to be ever watchful that the Constitution’s guarantees are never sacrificed again out of fear, hysteria, prejudice, or political passion.”  Indeed.

The flu to end all flus

8 Nov

Just as we mark the 100th anniversary of The Great War this year, we also mark the 100th anniversary of the flu pandemic of 1918. In Very, Very, Very Dreadful: The Influenza Pandemic of 1918,  Albert Marrin deftly shows how the two world issues are connected.

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Publisher’s Summary: In spring of 1918, World War I was underway, and troops at Fort Riley, Kansas, found themselves felled by influenza. By the summer of 1918, the second wave struck as a highly contagious and lethal epidemic and within weeks exploded into a pandemic, an illness that travels rapidly from one continent to another. It would impact the course of the war, and kill many millions more soldiers than warfare itself.

Of all diseases, the 1918 flu was by far the worst that has ever afflicted humankind; not even the Black Death of the Middle Ages comes close in terms of the number of lives it took. No war, no natural disaster, no famine has claimed so many. In the space of eighteen months in 1918-1919, about 500 million people–one-third of the global population at the time–came down with influenza. The exact total of lives lost will never be known, but the best estimate is between 50 and 100 million.

Marin also does an excellent job explaining the science behind the flu and research into it. I now finally understand what they mean when they call it an H1N1 flu! He talks about recent flu pandemics readers might actually have seen, though they might not have experienced directly.

All in all this is an interesting read that looks at the medical and social implications of the flu.

Spooky!

20 Sep

I think my first exposure to the infamous1938 radio broadcast tof War of the Worlds  was a 1975 made-for-TV movie entitled The Night That Panicked America.

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In this era of “fake news” and fake “fake news” Gail Jarrow’s new work of nonfiction, Spooked! How a Radio Broadcast and The war of the Worlds Sparked the 1938 Invasion of America Spooked, takes a new look at that event and makes connections to the present.

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Publisher’s Summary: Acclaimed author Gail Jarrow explores in riveting detail the famous War of the Worlds radio broadcast from 1938, in this nonfiction title. Jarrow highlights the artists behind the broadcast, the broadcast itself, the aftermath, and the repercussions which remain relevant today. On the night of October 30, 1938, thousands of Americans panicked when they believed that Martians had invaded Earth. What appeared to be breaking news about an alien invasion was, in fact, a radio drama based on H. G. Wells’s War of the Worlds, performed by Orson Welles and his Mercury Theatre players. Some listeners became angry once they realized they had been tricked, and the reaction to the broadcast sparked a national discussion about fake news, propaganda, and the role of radio. Archival photographs and images, as well as an author’s note, timeline, bibliography, and index round out this stellar nonfiction title.

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