Wednesday, February 28, 2007

An Author's Introduction

If you come to the Austin History Center, Tuesday, March 6 at 7 pm, you will hear the introduction printed below for Nate Blakeslee, the author of Tulia, Race, Cocaine, and Corruption in a Small Texas Town.

“Welcome to the Austin Public Library’s Meet the Author series. Tonight we’re talking about race, justice, and the war on drugs, with one of the most admired and effective investigative reporters working, Nate Blakeslee.

Mr. Blakeslee is a muckraker, and lord knows these days there is muck to rake. He’s written on Enron and Halliburton and radioactive waste, but it’s his reporting in The Texas Observer on drug busts in the panhandle town of Tulia, Texas, that has brought Nate awards and accolades--and a contract for a big-time Hollywood movie!

But as spectacular as that is, I suspect Nate is most proud that his work led to the freeing of innocent people, to accountability, and to changes in the law.

The book is Tulia: Race, Cocaine, and Corruption in a Small Texas Town, and it’s a page-turner. Ladies and gentlemen, Nate Blakeslee.”

Mr. Blakeslee frequently called the Library’s Telephone Reference service (974-7400) to confirm facts and dates while doing the research for his book.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Libraries and War: Stories of Hope

It is known that the first targeted buildings in times of war are libraries. That is how millions of rare and valuable collections have disappeared, and with them, parts of the history of humanity. One can find information on the destruction of libraries and archives such as the Oriental Library in Shangai in 1934, the Naples State Archives in Germany in 1943, and the National and University Library in Bosnia-Herzegovina in 1992. These stories impact us not only as librarians, but as people who value library collections, rare literary gems, and reading.

In the last two years, however, there have been two interesting stories in the news about librarians preserving their collections during armed conflicts. The first story is about Alia Muhammad Baker, a librarian in Basra, Iraq. This librarian knew she had a very special library collection, and when the war started in 2003, she decided to move, during the night, all the books to her house and friends’ homes to protect them. The second story is about Hirsie Mohamed Hirui, a librarian from Somalia who keeps his library open even though the majority of the buildings in the city have been closed due to the high level of violence. “When people read, they are not worried about anything”, Hirui says. These are two wonderful stories about strong people who are trying to make a difference in the middle of chaos.

Austin Public Library owns the children's book Librarian of Basra: a true story from Iraq

To know more about the Somali library we recommend the following link:
Chaos Can’t Shut Somali Library

Thursday, February 22, 2007

A grim fairy tale

Pan’s Labyrinth is making waves around the world and is a contender for six Oscars including Best Foreign Language Film of the Year and Original Screenplay. In the movie, a young girl copes with her harsh stepfather and the horrors of the Spanish Civil War by escaping to a fantastic world filled with fauns, fairies, and ogres. Melding the realism of war with a fairy tale creates a truly dark and disturbing film. The Pan’s Labyrinth web site states that writer and director Guillermo Del Toro “is well versed in mythology and the history and forms of fairy tales, as described by authors including Maria Tatar, Jack Zipes, Vladimir Propp, and Bruno Bettelheim.” Del Toro states, “There is something vaguely embryonic about all the magic environments because I believe that fairy tales are ultimately about two things: facing the dragon or climbing back to our world inside.” Check out one of our many books about the influence of fairy tales:

  • God of the fairy tale: finding truth in the land of make-believe. Jim Ware 398.2 WA
  • Spinning straw into gold: what fairy tales reveal about the transformations in a woman's life. Joan Gould 398.352082 GO
  • The Brothers Grimm: from enchanted forests to the modern world. Jack David Zipes 398.20922 ZI
  • The witch must die: how fairy tales shape our lives. Sheldon Cashdan 398.45 CA
  • Off with their heads!: fairytales and the culture of childhood. Maria M. Tatar 398.45 TA

  • The uses of enchantment: the meaning and importance of fairy tales. Bruno Bettelheim 398.2 BE
  • Amazing Grace, the Film

    The new inspirational film Amazing Grace is about the long battle to abolish slavery in England. William Wilberforce, a British parliamentarian, repeatedly introduced bills against the slave trade, and for 20 years, Parliament voted down all but the mildest reforms. Finally, in 1807, Parliament abolished the slave trade by an overwhelming vote. In 1833, as Wilberforce lay dying, slavery was abolished throughout the empire--46 years after the battle was begun.

    The movie gets its name from Wilberforce's friendship with John Newton, the author of the hymn "Amazing Grace" and a former slave trader who helped Wilberforce to abolish the trade.

    f you would like to read more about slavery in England, please check out the books listed below.
    You can also find many recordings of the hymn in the Library’s collection.

    Bury the Chains: Prophets and Rebels in the Fight to Free an Empire’s Slaves
    Adam Hochschild (2005)

    Hero for Humanity: a Biography of William Wilberforce
    Kevin Belmonte (2002)

    The Queen’s Slave Traders: John Hawkins, Elizabeth I, and the Trafficking in Human Souls
    Nick Hazlewood (2004)

    Rough Crossings: Britain, the Slaves, and the American Revolution
    Simon Schama (2006)

    The Two Princes of Calabar: an Eighteenth-Century Atlantic Odyssey

    Randy Sparks (2004)

    Though the Heavens May Fall: the Landmark Trial that Led to the End of Human Slavery

    Steven Wise (2005)

    Saturday, February 17, 2007

    Must-Hear 2006 Audiobooks

    Sometimes an audiobook can be a better literary experience than a printed book. The narration by a professional actor can make the story come alive and stay with you longer. Browsing at your local branch may not result in an audiobook that you will like. Quite often you will need to place a hold on a popular title using the online catalog.

    Below is a list of some must-hears from 2006. For more suggestions, please see Good Reads.


    Between Georgia by Joshilyn Jackson
    Gentleman and Players by Joanne Harris
    Memory Keeper’s Daughter by Kim Edwards
    The Road by Cormac McCarthy
    The Sea by John Banville
    A Spot of Bother by Mark Haddon
    The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield
    Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

    Historical Fiction

    Imperium by Robert Harris
    Ordinary Heroes by Scott Turow
    The Rising Tide by Jeff Shaara
    Suite Francaise by Irene Nemirovsky
    Telegraph Days by Larry Mc Murtry
    Thirteen Moons by Charles Frazier

    Mysteries and Thrillers

    The Afghan by Frederick Forsythe
    The Book of Fate by Brad Meltzer
    Dirty Blonde by Lisa Scottelone
    Errors and Omissions by Paul Goldstein
    Fortunate Son by Walter Mosley
    The Husband by Dean Koontz
    Killer Instinct by Joseph Finder
    Kingdom Come by Tim Green
    The Prisoner of Guantanamo by Dan Fesperman
    Twelve Sharp by Janet Evanovich

    Wednesday, February 14, 2007

    Arthur Ashe's Virtual Museum

    Arthur Ashe’s widow, Jeanne Moutoussamy-Ashe, has created an interactive web site to commemorate her husband’s spirit and legacy. Arthur Ashe, who died 14 years ago, speaks to us in video interviews about tennis, education, protest, and AIDS.
    The web site takes a minute to load, and this time the introduction is worth watching.

    Books at the Austin Public Library by Arthur Ashe

    Advantage Ashe
    Arthur Ashe on Tennis
    Days of Grace: a Memoir
    A Hard Road to Glory: a History of the African-American Athlete
    Off the court

    Books at the Austin Public Library about Arthur Ashe

    Daddy and Me: a Photo Story of Arthur Ashe and his Daughter, Camera
    I Remember Arthur Ashe: Memories of a True Tennis Pioneer and Champion of Social Causes by the People Who Knew Him

    Monday, February 12, 2007

    What’s More Romantic Than a Poem?

    There are many gifts you can give your significant other this Valentine's Day: chocolate, flowers, cards, but how about a poem?
    Here is one by the Chilean poet Pablo Neruda:

    Love Sonnet XLV
    by Pablo Neruda

    Don't go far off, not even for a day, because--
    I don't know how to say it: a day is long
    and I will be waiting for you, as in an empty station
    when the trains are parked off somewhere else, asleep.

    Don't leave me, even for an hour,
    then the little drops of anguish will all run
    the smoke that roams looking for a home will drift
    into me, choking my lost heart.

    Oh, may your silhouette never dissolve on the beach;
    may your eyelids never flutter into the empty
    Don't leave me for a second, my dearest,
    because in that moment you'll have
    gone so far
    I'll wander mazily over all the earth, asking,
    Will you come back? Will you leave me here, dying?

    The poem was taken from the book 100 Love Sonnets, a bilingual edition you can find at the Faulk Central Library. We also have two book displays on the subject of love. Both displays include a Valentine’s Day Raffle where you can win a box of chocolates. Wednesday is the last day to enter. Happy Valentine's Day!

    Friday, February 09, 2007

    From Slavery to Freedom

    February is Black History Month. This year’s theme is “From Slavery to Freedom” which honors the historical importance of slavery and the struggle for freedom in the making of modern societies in the Americas. Some of the finest writers in the African American literary tradition have rewritten the slave experience in a contemporary novel. Below is a list of books in chronological order that you can find at the Library. Please check the catalog for availibility.

    Ernest Gaines, The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman (1971)
    Gayl Jones, Corregidora (1975)
    Alex Haley, Roots (1976)
    David Bradley, The Chaneyvsville Incident (1981)
    John Edgar Wideman, Damballah (1981)
    Charles Johnson, Oxherding Tale (1982)
    Shirely Anne Williams, Dessa Rose (1986)
    Toni Morrison, Beloved (1987)
    Barbara Chase-Riboud, Echo of Lions (1989)
    Octavia Butler, Kindred (1998)
    Charles Johnson, Middle Passage (1990)
    J. California Cooper, Family (1991)
    Caryl Phillips, Crossing the River (1993)
    Louise Merriweather, Fragments of the Ark (1994)
    Fred D’Aguiar, The Longest Memory (1994)
    Phyllis Perry, Stigmata (1998)
    Alice Randall, The Wind Done Gone (2001)
    Lalita Tademy, Cane River (2001)
    Edward P. Jones, The Known World (2004)
    Nancy Rawles, My Jim (2005)

    Wednesday, February 07, 2007

    Molly Ivins 1944-2007

    Austin resident and political humorist Molly Ivins died January 31, 2007. Molly was a frequent library user; we’ll miss seeing her here. We can’t improve on the Texas Observer’s comprehensive review of the life and writings of their former co-editor, so we’ll just link to it:

    Here’s a list of just a few of Molly’s books you can check out from Austin Public Library:
    Who Let the Dogs In?: Incredible Political Animals I Have Known
    Bushwhacked: Life in George W. Bush's America
    You Got to Dance with Them What Brung You
    Shrub : The Short but Happy Political Life of George W. Bush

    Monday, February 05, 2007

    Coffee Today and in the 27th Century

    The Austin Public Library will host the authors of The Birth of Coffee, Wednesday, February 21 at 7 pm at the Austin History Center, 810 Guadalupe. Daniel and Linda Rice Lorenzetti will present an evening of photographs and narrative from their travels to the coffee-producing countries of Indonesia, Ethiopia, Kenya, Yemen, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, and Brazil.

    According to an online National Geographic article "coffee as we know it kicked off in Arabia, where roasted beans were first brewed around A.D. 1000."

    In Charles Stross' new science fiction novel, Glasshouse, which takes place in the 27th century, humans are still drinking coffee.

    A dark-skinned human with four arms walks toward me across the floor of the club, clad only in a belt strung with human skulls ...She pulls out the chair and sits, flipping her great mass of dark hair over her shoulder and tucking her skulls under the table with two hands as she glances at the menu. "Hmm, I think I will have an iced double mocha pickup, easy on the coca."

    Thursday, February 01, 2007

    Farewell to Sidney Sheldon

    Novelist, screenwriter, and playwright Sidney Sheldon died Tuesday afternoon at the age of 89 from complications from pneumonia. Over the course of his long career, Sheldon wrote 200 television scripts, twenty-five major motion pictures, six Broadway plays, and eighteen novels. Sheldon began his career at the age of 17 as a reader at Universal Studios and then joined the Air Force during World War II. After the war, he traveled to New York and wrote the Broadway musicals Merry Widow, Jackpot, and Dream with Music before winning an Academy Award in 1948 for his screenplay for The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer. Sheldon also wrote scripts for The Patty Duke Show, I Dream of Jeannie, and Hart to Hart.

    Sheldon’s career as a novelist began in 1970 with the mystery novel, The Naked Face, which won the Edgar Allan Poe Award for the best first mystery novel of the year. Although not universally lauded by critics, Sheldon has always entertained his readers. In an interview with Paul Rosenfield of the Los Angeles Times, Sheldon states, “"I have this goal. And it's for a reader to not be able to go to sleep at night. I want him to keep reading another four pages, then one more page. The following morning, or night, he's anxious to get back to the book." His books have been published in 180 countries and translated into fifty-one languages. His memoir The Other Side of Me was published in 2005. Please visit the online catalog to check the availability of all Sheldon’s titles or to place a hold.