Monday, December 31, 2007

Money Magazine's Best of 2007

As a culture our interaction with the Internet continues to expand. The Internet has become a powerful tool in greatly augmenting our abilities to connect with each other on a personal level. It has also evolved into a crucial resource for purchasing, planning, and decision-making in regard to the management of personal finances and asset allocation. It is in this vein that I introduce to you some of “Money” magazine’s 28 most highly recommended websites to aide you in maximizing your investment returns and keeping as much of your hard earned cash in your bank account as possible in the coming year. For a full listing and a detailed explanation of the web resources included below please consult the January 2008 issue of “Money” or find the full text of the article using the Austin Public Library’s Masterfile database.

Personal Finance:


Car Buying:


Best Sites for Investment Advice:




Career Networking:


Home Buying:




Friday, December 28, 2007


Dictionary editors are using a "word of the year' ritual as a way to get publicity for their dictionaries. It's also a way to check to see if you are keeping up with current trends.

Merriam Webster's WOTY is w00t, which is an interjection that expresses joy.

New Oxford Dictioanry's WOTY is locavore, which is someone who eats locally grown foods.

Webster's New World Dictionary's WOTY is a phrase - "grass station", a theoretical place where cars could fill up with ethanol one day.

The American Dialect Society will hold its 2007 words-of-the-year vote January 4th in Chicago. The society claims that it is "the
longest-running such vote anywhere, the only one not tied to commercial interests, and the word-of-the-year event up to which all others lead."

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Rock ‘N’ Roll Novels

If one of your New Year’s resolutions is to start your own band, or to listen to more music, then you might want to start by reading a rock and roll novel.

The Exes is about an up-and-coming underground Boston band comprised of people who used to date each other.

Bill Flanagan, music journalist and current executive vice president of MTV, reveals the ins and outs of the recording industry in A&R.

Nick Hornby's first novel, High Fidelity is about a music junkie, record collector, and owner of London record store who experiences a self-discovery.

Lewis Shiner's Say Goodbye: The Laurie Moss Story tells the story of the rise and fall of Laurie Moss, a singer-songwriter who almost makes it.

Jesse Melungeon, is a 20-year-old bassist for a bar cover band in Anything Goes.

Reservation Blues is Sherman Alexie's brilliant novel that brings to life band members and their on-the-road experiences.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Less than heroic

Some of the most intriguing characters in literature, movies, and television have been antiheroes. Take for instance, Curb Your Enthusiasm's Larry David, Michael Scott (or David Brent) from The Office, or Alex Vega from Cane. These are the protagonists that just don’t quite live up to our heroic ideals due to some character or personality flaw. Nonetheless, they do capture our interest and hopefully a little bit of understanding or sympathy for their human failings. The antihero label is subjective and therefore not always an easy one to bestow on characters. Below are just few examples of antiheroes and antiheroines. Feel free to disagree or to suggest others!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Mitchell Report and Baseball

Some say it’s a token gesture while others applaud baseball for addressing the steroid era. The Mitchell Report was released last week and tips the scales at a stout 409 pages. It names 88 players alleged to have taken steroids or human growth hormones over the past decade to improve their baseball prowess. While the report has no judicial power, Major League Baseball commissioner Bud Selig has stated that he will consider punishing the players mentioned. How this affects the future of baseball is uncertain. Congressional hearings are slated for January to discuss the findings of the Mitchell Report. Depending on those findings, the 2008 season might have a different look to it, namely missing a few notable players. Amid this confusion, one thing is for sure: baseball is still popular. Major League Baseball set a league-wide attendance record last year while grossing over $6 billion and expects to surpass that in 2008.

If you’re looking to catch up on the hoopla concerning performance enhancing drugs and baseball, Mark Fainaru-Wada and Lance Williams’ Game of Shadows is an excellent read. Noted steroid-user and home-run basher, Jose Canseco released a 2005 tell-all called Juiced that reveals his and others rampant steroid use throughout the past two decades. Canseco has another tell-all on the way and is promising to name more names. I wonder if he’ll mention his refusal to toss me a batting practice ball in 1988?

Monday, December 17, 2007

Holiday Recordings

If you want to get into the holiday mood, check out some holiday music: Christmas with Yolanda Adams, Julie Andrews' Greatest Christmas Songs, Making Spirits Bright, Ray Charles' Spirit of Christmas, Lou Rawls’ Merry Christmas, Baby, Marty Sexton’s Camp Holiday. Two from Texas are One More Christmas and Jerry Jeff Walkers’ Christmas Gonzo Style. Three international recordings are Circle of Light, Vuelve por Navidad and Homecoming from South Africa. You can find more holiday recordings by searching for carols, christmas music, or holiday music as a subject. If you are looking for the recording of a particular song, type the name of the song as “search everything” followed by {505} which searches for song titles in the contents field. An example: auld lang syne {505}

You can also download some free Christmas music.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Making Decisions

Some new consumer web sites that will help us vote, travel, buy a new car, or purchase other new items:

truth o meter


travel awards

best cars


Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Traveling librarian goes to the International Book Fair in Guadalajara

Every year, the last week of November, the city of Guadalajara, Mexico, opens its doors to thousands of people from all over the world visiting their International Book Fair. This is the second most important book fair in the world after the one in Frankfurt Germany. Lucky me, I got to go!

More than 1,600 vendors and more than 500,000 people attended this prestigious event. Writers from around the world presented their books and spent time with their fans, for example: Arturo Pérez Reverte from Spain, Tahar Bekri from Turkey, Rubem Fonseca from Brazil and Chenjerai Hove from Zimbabwe.

An amazing mass of local teenagers stood in line every day to participate and also have their pictures taken in front of their favorite publisher stand’s, holding a book in their hands as if it were a trophy. Parents with their little children, retirees, all kinds of people, from all ages and different countries were there, sharing ideas and talking about their favorite books. The never-ending line, outside the Expo Center where the book fair was held, was a clear indicator that for nine days, that was the place to be.

If you didn’t have a chance to go this year, don’t worry, next year, you will have another opportunity to participate of this great event! For more information visit this website.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Tennis, Anyone?

US tennis players have not done that well the last few years in Grand Slam matches, but the US team recently won the Davis Cup, thanks to James Blake, Andy Roddick, and Bob and Mike Bryan.

Blake beat the Russian player Tursunov to bring the US final score to 4-1 to win the Davis Cup in Portland, Oregon December 1. The U.S. hadn't won the gigantic silver trophy since 1995, foiled not only by tennis-rich countries such as Spain, Sweden and Australia but also by Croatia and Russia. You can watch match highlights from the Davis Cup.

In Breaking Back, James Blake tells the dramatic story of the tumultuous year that followed a convergence of tragedies in Blake’s life, including a serious injury and the death of his father. The Davis Cup victory certainly confirms his "breaking back".

This winter is predicted to be dry and warm, so you don’t need to wait until spring to pick up a racket. The City of Austin has courts throughout the city .

If you would rather enjoy tennis off the courts, please see this list of tennis fiction, including two films.

Drop Shot by Harlan Coben. Sports agent Myron Bolitar has under contract one of the hottest young male tennis players around. When a young former tennis star is murdered he finds that his client may be connected.

McNeils’ Match by Gwynne Forster. A tennis love story.

Murder is My Racket by Otto Penzler. This collection of stories by famous mystery writers, including Ridley Pearson and Lawrence Block, deal with the prestige of the high-stakes race to become one of the few international tennis stars.

The Tournament by John Clarke. The greatest minds of the 20th century-128 of them to be exact-have gathered in Paris for a two-week tennis tournament.

Match Point

Friday, December 07, 2007

Happy 58th, Tom

If there is one entertainer I would spare no expense seeing, it would be Tom Waits. In one of my favorite albums, Closing Time (1973), his signature craggy voice has not yet been fully developed, but his heartfelt lyrics and melodies are astounding especially considering this is his debut album. The song "Martha" brings me to tears every single time I hear it no matter what my mood. In his 2004 album Real Gone, Waits steps away from his jazzy/bluesy/folksy origin to a bellowing, industrial sound. He has achieved a cult following as well as two Grammies, a Golden Globe, and an Oscar nomination. He's also appeared in several movies including Ironweed, The Cotton Club, and Short Cuts (a great role alongside Lily Tomlin), as well as composed for films. He's a class act who has no fear in pursuing new endeavors and styles. With a career spanning over 30 years, you're bound to find something you love about him. Rolling Stone provides articles, reviews, a biography, and much more, and you can find the following at the Austin Public Library:

Orphans: Brawlers, Bawlers & Bastards
Mule Variations
Real Gone
The Early Years. Volume Two

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

2007: Top Ten Lists

The end of the year brings “end of the year lists.” Before we turn our gaze towards the new releases of 2008, December serves as a time to look across the expanse of 2007 and compile our favorites: those memorable books that we read, recommended to others, and just might see canonized as classics down the road. Be on the look out as publications begin to release their “best of 2007” lists.

The New York Times’ Ten Best Books of 2007:


Man Gone Down

Out Stealing Horses

The Savage Detectives

Then We Came to the End

Tree of Smoke


Imperial Life in the Emerald City

Little Heathens: Hard times and High Spirits on an Iowa Farm during the Great Depression

The Nine: Inside the Secret World of the Supreme Court

The Ordeal of Elizabeth Marsh: A Woman in World History (on order)

The Rest is Noise: Listening to the Twentieth Century (on order)

Some 2007 books I enjoyed or look forward to reading:

Falling Man

Exit Ghost

Bearing the Body

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao


The Gathering

Refresh, Refresh (on order)

Like You’d Understand, Anyway (on order)

Beethoven Was One-Sixteenth Black (on order)

The New York Times also compiled a 100 Notable Books of the Year list.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Latin Redux

An editorial in today's New York Times is about the revival of Latin. The author believes this trend could strengthen the country's political rhetoric. Reading the foundations of Western civilization in its original form is a richer, fuller experience, and opens one eyes up to our classical roots. And, translating Latin is a wonderful way to train the mind. All of our early presidents studied Latin in school, and even Presidents Clinton and Bush studied Latin, but in in the mid 1960s the study of Latin collapsed. In 1977 only 6,000 students took the National Latin Exam, but in 2005 that number increased to 134,873.

Those of you who were lucky enough to have studied Latin, please visit the new website, Vicipaedia. The goal of Vicipaedia is to keep Latin hip and alive, but the articles are written in authentic classical Latin. Some articles are written by beginning Latin students, so Vicipaedia should not be used as a reference work, but as a way to practice the language.

Vicipaedia has 15,000 articles. Catullus, Horace and the Roman Senate are included; so are musica rockica, Georgius Bush and cadavera animata, aka zombies. You can read in Latin about hangman (homo suspensus), paper airplanes (aeroplanum chartaceum), as well as about famous Italians like Leonardo da Vinci and the Super Mario brothers.

Friday, November 30, 2007

New Movie Tie-ins

Often movies are based on books - what better place to get a screenplay idea? If you would like to read the book before you see the movie (or after), place a hold on one of the titles listed below. Two of America's best living authors - Cormac McCarthy and Philip Roth - are included.

Love in the Time of Cholera (Gabriel Garcia Marquez) - Two lovers must wait 50 years in early 20th-century South America to be reunited.

Atonement (Ian McKewan)- Haunting novel that spans pre-World War II England to contemporary times that addresses guilt and redemption.

Beowulf - Epic poem in which the mighty warrior Beowulf must slay Grendel, a murderous monster, and then the beast's vengeful mother.

Elegy (Based on the novel The Dying Animal) by Philip Roth) A professor becomes obsessively attracted to one of his students.

The Mist (Stephen King) Townspeople come under siege by mysterious creatures after a bizarre storm.

Starting Out in the Evening (Brian Morton) A graduate student becomes attached to an elderly writer she once idolized.

No Country for Old Men (Cormac McCarthy) Dark tale of drugs and bloodshed in the wild present-day West.

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (Jean Dominque Bauby) Extraordinary memoir by a French magazine editor who had "locked in" syndrome after suffering a rare stroke to his brain stem.

Charlie Wilson's War (George Crile) A longtime Sixty Minutes producer investigates the expenditure of what eventually amounted to $1 billion a year to support Afghanistan's Mujahideen in their battle against the Soviets.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Electronic Books: Welcome to a New Era

When people talk about electronic books they might be thinking about those books that you can read with the use of a special portable device or those that can be read on your computer. In both cases, the text of the book will be read in a screen or monitor and it is not in printed format.

This month Amazon launched Kindle, a portable screen that connects to the Internet and displays newspapers, blogs, magazines and books. This isn’t, however, the first of its kind. Ebookwise has had a similar gadget where you can read and store your favorite books. The Portable Reader by Sony has the same purpose. There are other similar devices in the market that provide the same advantages: light screens, portable and versatile machines.

As mentioned before, the other type of e-books are those that you can read directly on your computer screen. It is not necessary to buy another piece of equipment to display these books. Organizations around the world have been working to provide as many free electronic books through the Internet as possible. An example is Project Gutenberg that offers a total of 100,000 electronic books online. Austin Public Library subscribes to NetLibrary, a database that contains 27,000 titles that you can access from the library or from home. To learn more about this particular database, just click here and enjoy your electronic reading!

Monday, November 26, 2007

Finding a Good Book

Amazon customer reviews for the same book frequently range between one star and five stars. Award winning books can be great or unreadable. Your best friend's recommendation sits on the night table racking up overdue fines because you just can't get past the first page. In other words, sometimes it's hard to find a good book to read or to give someone.

A new website called shelfari may help you find a book that you will enjoy. It's a social networking site for book lovers that functions like an online book club. Users can post titles they own and make lists of books they want. Each entry is then placed on a virtual bookshelf that is publicly viewable. Users categorize their books and and can join groups. Shelfari makes it easy to see what your friends are reading, what others with similar tastes have enjoyed, and even get and give book recommendations.

For more ideas, check out the Library's Good Reads. For current book titles, see Best Fiction by Year. My personal favorite website under Reader's Tools is Overbooked which includes annotated lists of nonfiction, fiction, science fiction, and mystery books which received starred reviews.

If you want to slog thought 137 titles that have been nominated by libraries around the world for the year's best novel, see the 2008 International Impac Dublin Literary Award list.
For fiction and nonfiction, see the New York times best 100 books of the year.

Last but definitely not least, the Library offers the database, Fiction Connection, where you can browse titles by topic, genre, setting, character, location, and timeframe and read short plot summaries.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Shopping tips

It's the day after Thanksgiving so let the holiday shopping begin! In addition to the regular retail stores don't forget to visit the local artists' markets for unique gifts. The Armadillo Christmas Bazaar and the Blue Genie Art Bazaar are two worth checking out.

If you need a little help choosing the best item for your money, Consumer Reports is available in the libraries and online through our Research Databases. Visit our E-journal Finder, type in Consumer Reports, and click Search. Click on Academic Search Complete (you will be asked to enter your library card number if you are access the database remotely). From here, you can either browse by clicking the year or click the Search within this publication link to do a keyword search. Enter your keywords on the second line. You can always Ask a Librarian if you have questions.

A few more consumer titles are listed below along with the history and psychology of shopping:

Shopping Online Safely

Savvy Online Shopping: Your Guide to Getting the Best Products--At the Best Prices--On Line!

The Bottom Line Bargain Book: How to Get the Best Deals on Anything and Everything

The Consumer Bible: 1001 Ways to Shop Smart

Going Shopping: Consumer Choices and Community Consequences

Spree: A Cultural History of Shopping

The Call of the Mall: A Walking Tour through the Crossroads of Our Shopping Culture

Why We Shop: Emotional Rewards and Retail Strategies

I Want That!: How We All Became Shoppers

Carried Away: The Invention of Modern Shopping

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving! All Austin Public Library locations will close today at 6:00pm for Thanksgiving. We will be closed Thanksgiving Day as well as Friday and will re-open Saturday morning at 10:00. The Austin Public Library wishes you a Happy Thanksgiving. Enjoy the food, family, and football.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Fictional Biographies

Two novels about Henry James have been published within the last few years - Author, Author by David Lodge and Master by Colin Toibin. I had always heard that Henry James attended dinner parties as often as possible, giving his hosts dazzling conversation in return for the hospitality. But these books tell a different story. James actually withdrew quite a bit into himself in order to write his novels. An anecdote from a new book titled The New Oxford Book of Literary Anecdotes illustrates this contradiction.

"He would occasionally say he was a hermit, and speak as if he lived a life remote from the world. I once heard him say this during a brilliant party at Stafford House, where he was the guest of Millicent, Duchess of Sutherland."

Other recent fictional biographies you may enjoy:

Arthur and George (Sir Arthur Conan Doyle)
Becoming Madame Mao
Casanova in Bohemia
Dancing in the Dark (Bert Williams, first really famous black entertainer)
Fanny: a Fiction (Fanny Wright - Scottish gentlewoman, abolitionist)
True History of the Kelly Gang (Ned Kelly, Australian outlaw)
Loving Frank (Frank LLoyd Wright)
Oscar Wilde Discovers America
Wintering: a Novel of Sylvia Plath

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Build Your Vocabulary!

The editors of the American Heritage® dictionaries have compiled a list of 100 words they recommend every high school graduate should know.

"The words we suggest," says senior editor Steven Kleinedler, "are not meant to be exhaustive but are a benchmark against which graduates and their parents can measure themselves. If you are able to use these words correctly, you are likely to have a superior command of the language." If you need to look up the definition or pronunciation of a word, please see the Library's Oxford English Dictionary database.
The following are a few dozen from the 100 word list.


Wednesday, November 14, 2007

2007 National Book Awards

The National Book Awards will be announced tonight. Writers, publishers, agents, and librarians will descend upon midtown Manhattan for a black-tie gala to celebrate the best of American writing this year. Simply being nominated is a significant coup, but to win elevates a writer into the immortalized pantheon of National Book Award winners that includes the likes of Faulkner, Bellow, Roth, Updike, Proulx, and Welty. Awards are given in four categories: fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and young people’s literature.
A list of finalists and corresponding interviews are available on the National Book Foundation’s website:

Check back for the results and head to the library to grab a winner or a finalist.

*Update: The 2007 National Book Award winners*

Fiction: Tree of Smoke (Denis Johnson)

Nonfiction: Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA (Tim Weiner)

Young People’s Literature: The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian (Sherman Alexie)

Poetry: Robert Hass’ Time and Materials

Monday, November 12, 2007

Veterans Day

Today the Library is closed in observance of Veterans Day.

Although it is largely an American holiday, honoring and thanking veterans for their service, this holiday is celebrated on the same day as Armistice Day or Remembrance Day in other countries. In America, Woodrow Wilson declared in 1919:

“To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations…”

In 1954, the name of the holiday Wilson commemorated as Armistice Day, was officially changed to Veterans Day by President Eisenhower. You can read more about Veterans Day at the US Department of Veterans Affairs website.

Remember to thank a Veteran today!

Friday, November 09, 2007

Local theater

While Austin is known as the "Live Music Capital of the World," we also have a very vibrant local theater community. In addition to the well-known Paramount Theater and State Theater Company and the Zachary Scott Theatre, there are several smaller theaters and theater companies that are definitely worth checking out. Take a look at the Austin Circle of Theaters web site for a listing of all the options available. You can find comedy, dance, musicals, outdoor theater, children's theater, and everything in between.

If you are in the theater biz, and are looking for funding sources, check out the Foundation Directory database at any library location to find grant opportunities. We also have several books about acting and producing for the theater:

At Play: Teaching Teenagers Theater

Career Opportunities in Theater and the Performing Arts

The Alchemy of Theatre: The Divine Science: Essays on Theatre & the Art of Collaboration

Stage Combat: Fisticuffs, Stunts, and Swordplay for Theater and Film

The Commercial Theater Institute Guide to Producing Plays and Musicals

Sculpting Space in the Theater: Conversations with the Top Set, Light and Costume Designers
Business and Legal Forms for Theater

How to Run a Theatre: A Witty, Practical and Fun Guide to Arts Management

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Modern African Fiction

Africa boasts an amazing collection of writers. From Dangarembga’s familial strife to Gordimer’s race relations, Africa offers a diverse and noteworthy literary canon. Some of Africa’s great works were written in exile, while others have been penned in African metropolises such as Lagos, Johannesburg, and Nairobi.

When Nelson Mandela was released from Robben Island, one of the first people he sought out was his old friend, Nobel Laureate Nadine Gordimer. African fiction helped bust apart colonialism and now addresses varied topics such as cultural isolation, disease epidemics, and poverty. It’s not all doom and gloom though. The writing is beautiful and affirms the wonders of the family and the community.

Chinua Achebe Things Fall Apart

J.M. Coetzee Disgrace

Tsitsi Dangarembga Nervous Conditions

Nadine Gordimer July’s People

Nuruddin Farrah Secrets

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie Half of a Yellow Sun

Charles Larson (ed.) Under African Skies: Modern African Stories

Ben Okri The Famished Road

Ngugi wa Thiong’o Wizard of the Crow

Bessie Head A Question of Power

Monday, November 05, 2007

Searching for Video Clips

Source:Gale Virtual Reference Library

This weekend I needed to learn how to tie a bow tie. I quickly found lots of videos with step-by-step instructions on how to tie a bow tie. But sometimes, searching for videos, the hottest content on the Web right now, isn’t easy. I found my bow tie videos on Google's popular YouTube site, but Youtube is not the only place to look for videos. You won't find videos from other sites, especially copyrighted clips that YouTube doesn't offer or has removed from its site.

When looking for a clips from your favorite TV show or for a recent news story, try these video-search engines, especially Truveo. Truveo seems to offer the most relevant clips, and includes a large selection of popular and high demand video that cannot be found in any other search engine. It looks beyond metadata attached to the video file itself and explores the content on the website around the video - resulting in more data to index and better search results. For example, using Truveo, you can find Daily Show clips on the Comedy Central website instead of just looking for them on Youtube.


Thursday, November 01, 2007

Texas Book Festival

You should look through the list of the authors coming to the Texas Book Festival to find who you would like to hear speak. I have chosen my favorites – a mystery writer, a painter, a cartoonist, and a book critic. While you enjoy the festive air of book signings, music, and interviews, you are also helping Texas libraries. The 2006 Texas Book Festival awarded a total of $200,000 to 60 libraries throughout the state.

Michael Connelly Overlook is his latest mystery about an LA detective, but my favorite is The Concrete Blonde.
Melissa Miller – Her expressionistic animal paintings can be seen in a new UT Press book.
Tom Perotta – His entertaining books about suburban life are often made into movies – The Election, and Little Children. The Abstinence Teacher, his most recent, is on order for APL.
Roz Chast– Her cartoons of the neurotic and clueless appear in the New Yorker, and APL has one collection.
Alan Cheuse - You might have heard him on NPR reviewing a new book. Like Jorge Luis Borges, he says, "I am more proud of the books I've read than I am of the books I've written." Listening to the Page is a collection of his criticism.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Scary Characters

Happy Halloween!

Just in time for the scariest night of the year, polled visitors on the 10 scariest characters in literature.

The results:

1. Big Brother from 1984 by George Orwell
2. Hannibal Lecter from the novels by Thomas Harris
3. Pennywise the clown from It by Stephen King
4. Nurse Ratched from One Flew Over a Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey
5. Count Dracula from Bram Stoker's novel
6. Annie Wilkes from Misery by Stephen King
7. The demon from The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty
8. Patrick Bateman from American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis
9. Bill Sykes from Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens
10. Voldemort from the Harry Potter books by J.K. Rowling
I'd add these characters from books I read this year:

Anton Chigurh from No Country for Old Men by Cormac McCarthy
Mr. Whittier from Haunted: a Novel of Stories by Chuck Palahniuk

Who would YOU add?

Monday, October 29, 2007

Day of the Dead Celebration

A tradition that has been documented, studied, and still fascinates locals and foreigners is the Day of the Dead Celebration in Mexico. This celebration started as a ritual performed by indigenous people at least 3000 years ago. When the Spaniards came to America, they tried to eradicate this rite. When they realized it was impossible they decided to combine it with the Day of All Saints, celebrated by the Catholic Church on November 1st. The mix of these two traditions enriched this celebration and it has become one of the most captivating events in the world.

Although this is a big celebration throughout Mexico and nearby areas, there are two special places where you can see the most of this event: Mixquic, a small community in Mexico City an the Janitzio Island in Michoacán. For three days, starting on October 31st and ending on November 2nd, people will bring ofrendas: flowers, sugar skulls, “pan de muerto” bread and the favorite dishes of their dead relatives to the cemetery. Altars, music, and decorations resembling the skeletons painted by the famous artist Guadalupe Posada can also be seen everywhere.

This is a very brief description of all the traditions and rites that take place during these three days of celebration to remember, with happiness, those who are not among us. If you want to learn more about this festivity, here are some titles you can check out from our library:

Austin Public Library will host two celebrations for El Día de Los Muertos, one at St. John Branch and another one at University Hills. Enjoy!!!

Picture taken from Britannica Online.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Graphic Satire

We’ve all cheered or bristled at one of those black and white caricatures in the editorial pages. The successful political cartoon offers a powerful commentary with a simple picture and possibly a few well chosen words. Benjamin Franklin is considered the first American political cartoonist with his "Join or Die" cartoon of a snake representing the colonies. The 1860s marked the beginning of the daily political cartoon in newspapers. While political cartoons typically lampoon political figures or policies, the editorial cartoon appeared later and broadened the commentary to less political issues.

In the book Them Damned Pictures: Explorations in American Political Cartoon Art, author Roger Fischer explores why cartoonists practice their art. While some believe they have the ability to change minds, others only seek to start conversations. In the book, Bill Watterson (of Calvin and Hobbes fame) is quoted as saying, "People do not turn to cartoonists to learn what to think. Rather they turn to cartoonists to be confronted with an opinion –one that could just as easily be unpalatable as palatable."

Read more about cartoons and cartoonists at your library:

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

The Church of the Hardwood

It’s autumn. The Church of the Hardwood opens its doors as basketball takes center court. It might not be cold outside yet, but the action is inside. Gymnasiums and arenas across the country have shaken off summer’s slumber, crawled out of off-season hibernation, and are shaking with the sound of swishes and bricked shots. Whether you’re a crack shot or couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn, basketball offers something for everyone: skill, entertainment, and great books. Below are just a few of the great basketball books in the Austin Public Library collection. Post up with one of ‘em.

Hoops Nation: a guide to America's best pickup basketball

Black Planet: facing race during an NBA season

A Season on the Brink: a year with Bob Knight and the Indiana Hoosiers

Values of the Game

Playing for keeps: Michael Jordan and the world he made

The Miracle of St. Anthony: a season with Coach Bob Hurley and basketball's most improbable dynasty

The Best Seat in the House: a basketball memoir

Tip-Off: how the 1984 NBA draft changed basketball forever

Longhorn hoops: the history of Texas basketball

Pistol: the life of Pete Maravich

Seven Seconds or Less: my season on the bench with the runnin' and gunnin' Phoenix Suns

Life on the Run

Loose Balls: the short, wild life of the American Basketball Association

Heaven is a playground

Monday, October 22, 2007

The novella

The novella is commonly known as a work of fiction falling somewhere in length between a short story and a novel. The first novellas started in Italy during the Middle Ages and were quite a bit shorter than what is considered a novella today. These tales were often gathered in collections and some authors would use a frame story to tie the tales together, such as in Giovanni Boccccio's Decameron or The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer. The German version, called a Novelle, was very successful beginning in the 18th century. According to Encyclopedia Brittannica, these stories were "characterized by brevity, self-contained plots that end on a note of irony, a literate and facile style, restraint of emotion, and objective rather than subjective presentation." The novella was established as a major literary genre from this point forward.

Do you have a favorite novella? Let us know! Here are a few classic and contemporary novellas available at the Austin Public Library:

Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad

Death in Venice by Thomas Mann

The Death of Ivan Ilych and Other Stories by Leo Tolstoy

The Scribe: A Novella by Francine Rivers

A Soul in a Bottle by Tim Powers

Agamemnon's Daughter: A Novella and Stories by Ismail Kadare

Come Together, Fall Apart: A Novella and Stories by Cristina Henríquez

Becoming Abigail: A Novella by Christopher Abani

Friday, October 19, 2007

Perfume Books

"Where should one use perfume?", a young woman asked. "Wherever one wants to be kissed", I said.
Coco Chanel The New Quotable Woman (p. 276)

The Library has a variety of books on most subjects. Quite often, you can approach a topic through reading fiction and nonfiction books. Below you will find books about the allure and history of perfume.

The Secret of Scent: Adventures in Perfume and Science of Smell
Author is a biophysicist who uses his theory of olfaction to design new fragrances.
The Emperor of Scent : a Story of Perfume, Obsession, and the Last Mystery of the Senses
A portrait of the secretive and Byzantine perfume industry.
Essence and Alchemy
Treatise on the history and making of perfume.
Scented Palace : the Secret History of Marie Antoinette's Perfumer
The author, a professor at the Versailles School of Perfumers, draws on the papers of perfumer Jean-Louis Fargeon to reveal the secrets of his luxurious creations for Marie Antoinette.

Perfume: the Story of a Murderer
A murderous perfumer of decadent eighteenth-century France wants to isolate the most perfect scent of all, the scent of life itself.
Madame Mirabou's School of Love
As newly divorced Nikki tries to find herself, her old dream of making perfume as a business instead of a hobby infuses her with purpose.
Crimson Petal and the White
In this bawdy, brilliant novel, a prostitute in Victorian England is taken up by a wealthy man, the perfumer William Rackham, and she must balance financial security against the obvious servitude of her position.

For more reading recommendations, please see the Good Reads Historical Fiction and Historical Romance lists.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Craft series: Embroidery

It seems like everywhere you look, everyone is knitting, or talking about crocheting, or buying something embroidered…what’s the deal? What’s all the hubbub? It seems like everyone is crazy about knitting, crocheting, embroidery, or any of those wonderful DIY crafty type things.

This week, I’ll chat about embroidery.

Beginnings: The 2005 Encyclopedia of Clothing and Fashion states that “(t)he origins of this art form, mentioned in the Bible and in Greek mythology, are lost. Textile scholar Lanto Synge posits that it probably originated in China, and documents early surviving fragments that are estimated as being 4,500 years old. In South America embroideries from the fifth century B.C.E. have been recovered from tombs.”

Books: Do a simple subject keyword search for embroidery in our Library catalog. You will find hundreds of books on patterns, how-to, and history, including 2006’s Sublime stitching: hundreds of hip embroidery patterns and how-to by local embroidery extraordinaire, Jenny Hart. You can also scan the bookshelves in any of our Libraries in the call number area 746s.

Who’s doing it: If you’re in Austin, you’re in good company when it comes to embroidery! The Internet has had a hand in bringing crafts such as knitting, crocheting and embroidery back in a big way. There are tons of blogs, websites, guilds, and other fun stuff online. Here’s one for the locals:
Jenny Hart’s fabulous website

Don’t forget! We have a “knitting” circle here at the Central Branch of the Austin Public Library, every Friday 11-12. Bring your new or continuing projects and chat with fellow stitchers!

Monday, October 15, 2007

Che Guevara: polemic icon

Ernesto “Che” Guevara died on October 9th,, 40 years ago. His work throughout Latin America, and his ideals have been a point of controversy while he was alive and even today. For some, Che Guevara symbolizes the revolution, the fight for the common good and democracy, but for others he is seen as an enemy of freedom and a supporter of extreme communist ideologies.

Something inarguable is his impact in the history of Latin America during the 20th century: he has a key role in the Cuban revolution, for example. Current political movements in Latin America still use Che Guevara’s beliefs as part of their core values.

Che Guevara has turned into a social and cultural icon that people either love or hate.

To learn more about “el Che” here are some books that you can check out from our library:

Che: a memoir

Traveling with Che Guevara: the making of a revolutionary

Back on the road: a journey to Latin America

Chasing Che: a motorcycle journey in search of the Guevara legend

Che Guevara: a revolutionary life

Compañero: the life and death of Che Guevara

Friday, October 12, 2007

2007 Nobel Laureate Doris Lessing

You can’t win the Nobel Prize in Literature as a flash-in-the-pan. Nope. You need a substantial body of highly regarded work to even be considered. Worth over $1.5 million in tax-exempt prize money, the Nobel provides a hefty nest-egg plus the glamour of pocketing the world’s most prestigious literary award.

Yesterday, the Swedish Academy announced the selection of Doris Lessing as the 104th Nobel Laureate. Ms. Lessing’s first book was published in 1950, and she has remained incredibly prolific over the last six decades. Her early works expressed the world’s burgeoning feminist ideals; she devoutly condemned colonialism; and she became a noted science fiction writer. She followed disparate paths throughout her career, yet no matter which way she went, Doris Lessing always wrestled with society’s ills gracefully.

The grass is singing

The golden notebook

The memoirs of a survivor

The good terrorist

The fifth child

The Doris Lessing reader

Under my skin

Love, again

The cleft

The making of the representative for Planet 8

An interesting history of the Nobel Prize

The Nobel Prize: a history of genius, controversy, and prestige