Thursday, May 29, 2008

Best Book in the English Language (according to the British)

The Man Booker Prize is "awarded to the best full-length novel written in English by a citizen of the UK, the Commonwealth, Eire, Pakistan or South Africa." American and other authors are excluded from eligibility, even if they write in English. This year the Prize is celebrating its 40th anniversary with a contest for the best Booker title. The shortlist for the 40th anniversary Best of the Bookers contest consists of six titles chosen by a three-member panel. Soon after the announcement, British bookmakers released their odds on who they believe will win, with Salman Rushdie favored to take the title. Now the public, including you, will be able to vote for "the greatest Booker prize winner of all time" at the Man Booker Prize website. Results will be announced July 10.

The shortlist:

Midnight's Children by Salman Rushdie
Disgrace by J.M. Coetzee
The Siege of Krishnapur by J.G. Farrell
The Conservationist by Nadine Gordimer
The Ghost Road by Pat Barker
Oscar and Lucinda by Peter Carey

For your summer reading, try one of these titles, all of which will stand the test of time. The Library’s Adult Summer Reading Program begins June 9. If you would rather have more of a "beach read", place a hold on a title from the Good Read's Spy Thrillers or Recent Mysteries.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Elmore Leonard's 10 Rules of Writing

Elmore Leonard has written more than three dozen critically acclaimed books during his highly successful career, including the bestsellers The Hot Kid, Mr. Paradise, Tishomingo Blues, Be Cool, Get Shorty, and Rum Punch. Many of his books have been made into movies, including Get Shorty, Out of Sight, Jackie Brown, and 3:10 to Yuma.

He has written a new writing guide - Elmore Leonard's 10 Rules of Writing - with rules to help him remain invisible while writing and to keep the reader's interest. The book is quite entertaining with drawings depicting the rules.

1. never open a book with weather
2. avoid prologues
3. never use a verb other than said to carry dialogue
4. never use a adverb to modify "said"
5. keep your exclamation points under control
6. never use the words "suddenly"
7. use regional dialect sparingly
8. avoid detailed descriptions of characters
9. don't go into great detail describing places and things
10. try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip

Experience Leonard’s cool writing stye:

Up in Honey's Room: a Novel
Latest novel, and sequel to The Hot Kid, and as in previous novels, character and dialog dominate plot.
The Hot Kid
Carlos Webster, who inadvertently gets his start in law enforcement at age 15 when he shoots a cattle thief, wants to be the country's most famous lawman.
Mr. Paradise
Rich wth comic dialogue and cop-shop color.
Tishomingo Blues
A daredevil diver performing in Mississippi witnesses a murder by the local Dixie Mafia, and must team with a black gangsta from Detroit to save his skin.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Wildlife in Your Own Backyard

A patron contacted us recently about how she could turn her garden into a National Wildlife Habitat. I was intrigued; I have recently acquired a love of gardening and had no idea one could turn their garden into a habitat. With a few clicks of a mouse, I found all of the information she needed and passed it on to her.

Building your own National Wildlife Habitat is surprisingly easy and doesn’t even require a garden. In fact, you could have your own refuge on your apartment balcony. All you need to do is provide food and water, make a place where animals can take cover and raise young, and adhere to sustainable gardening practices. This could be as simple as setting up a birdfeeder, birdhouse, birdbath, and a couple of plants.

Once you’ve certified your refuge, there are all kinds of perks such as a yearly membership to the National Wildlife Federation (NWF), a subscription to National Wildlife magazine, a personalized certificate recognizing your habitat, and even a yard sign to proclaim your habitat to the neighborhood (additional fee is required). Besides the perks provided by the NWF, you will also experience the joys of watching living creatures hanging out in your garden. Not to mention the great service you do to the environment by helping to restore and revitalize Austin’s natural ecosystems and committing yourself to sustainable gardening practices.

Below is the website where you can find more information and apply for habitat status, as well as just a small sampling of the many great books Austin Public Library has to get your garden started:

National Wildlife Federation Website

Attracting birds, butterflies, and other backyard wildlife

Bird and butterfly gardens

Bringing nature home: how native plants sustain wildlife in our gardens

Gardens for birds: hummingbirds & butterflies

Garden guide for Austin & vicinity

Natural gardening for birds: the bird-friendly backyard: simple ways to create a bird haven

Natural gardening in small spaces

Texas gardening the natural way: the complete handbook

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Champions League Final Today

The Champions League Final is today. What is the Champions League? It is a nine month soccer tournament contested by the best teams from just about every European country. Today’s final pits two teams owned by foreign billionaires striving for the title of “European champions.” Manchester United—owned by American billionaire Malcolm Glazer—is looking for their third Champions League trophy, while Roman Ibramovich’s Chelsea is looking for their first. Both teams boast squads filled with international superstars accustomed to the great stages of world soccer: the World Cup, the Premier League, and now the Champions League Final. A win guarantees a massive financial windfall

Today’s match will be an intriguing battle between a silky and attractive Manchester United and a burly—yet equally effective—Chelsea. The ace in the hole, might be the location: Moscow. Considering Chelsea’s owner is the richest Russian, fate and power might fall in their favor If fate conspires to bite you with the soccer bug, the Austin Public Library has a variety of books that discuss soccer’s history and its link with social and political forces around the world.

Soccer in Sun and Shadow

Brilliant Orange: the Neurotic Genius of Dutch Soccer

How Soccer Explains the World

The Thinking Fan’s Guide to the World Cup

Winning At All Costs: A Scandalous History of Italian Soccer

A Season with Verona

The following two titles have been purchased by the Austin Public Library and will arrive shortly. They are both worth the wait.

Soccer Against the Enemy

The Ball is Round

Oh yeah, the match is on ESPN2 at 1:30pm.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Robert Rauschenberg

Robert Rauschenberg died recently. He was a giant of the post-modern art world and rubbed elbows with the likes of Andy Warhol, Jasper Johns, and James Rosenquist to name a few. The Austin Public Library has a number of items devoted to the life and work of one of this country’s most celebrated visual artists.

Robert Rauschenberg : combines

Robert Rauschenberg : breaking boundaries

Random order : Robert Rauschenberg and the neo-avant-garde

The New York schools of music and visual arts : John Cage, Morton Feldman, Edgard Varèse, Willem De Kooning, Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg

Robert Rauschenberg

Robert Rauschenberg : work from four series : a sesquicentennial exhibition

Robert Rauschenberg, photographs

Friday, May 16, 2008

American Trilogies

You know that forlorn feeling you get when you read the last paragraph of a book that you really enjoyed? When the characters have grown as close to you as family members, or maybe even closer? To keep the story going a little longer, next time read a trilogy, and even better, a trilogy that not only captures a character, but also the American experience.

My favorite American trilogy (pus one) is the Rabbit novels by John Updike, which are a tribute to the average American guy who peaked as a high school athlete.
Rabbit, Run
Rabbit Redux
Rabbit is Rich
Rabbit at Rest

Other American trilogies that are considered masterpieces are:

Richard Ford - Frank Bascombe Trilogy
Spanning about 20 years, real estate agent Frank Bascombe’s meditation on American life tells us that life is fraught with trials and somehow we learn to cope as we go along.
The Sportswriter
Independence Day
The Lay of the Land

Cormac McCarthy – Border trilogy
Lives of two young men coming of age in the Southwest and Mexico, poised on the edge of a world about to change forever.
All the Pretty Horses
The Crossing
Cities of the Plain

Peter Mathiessen - Florida Trilogy
Account of the real life and death of renegade cane-grower Ed Watson in southwest Florida at the turn of the century. The three books have recently been condensed into one novel by the author – Shadow Country.
Killing Mr. Watson
Lost Man’s River
Bone by Bone

Reynolds Price - Mayfield Trilogy
Slow, inextricable twining of the Mayfield and Kendal families from 1903 to early 1990s.
Surface of the Earth
Source of light
Promise of Rest

Philip Roth - American Trilogy
America’s loss of innocence since 1945.
American Pastoral
I Married a Communist
The Human Stain

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Is Google always good?

Nowadays, who doesn’t go to Google when a question about any topic comes to mind? The address of your friend’s house, bus schedules, yoga lessons in your area, restaurant ratings, the website of a particular organization in this country or abroad, the lyrics of your favorite songs, music videos, and news. We can go on, and on and on, about what people search with Google. Just type the words of what you are looking for and in two seconds you will get more than a million links related to your question. But, the problem with this is, how do we know the information we are getting is reliable? How can we tell the information we are reading on our screen is written by a trustworthy author or organization?

These questions are more important when looking for information on sensitive topics like health or legal help, for example. In the case of health, good sources for these questions are the organizations that advocate or specialize in particular illnesses like the American Cancer Society, and the American Diabetes Association among others. There are also websites that compile information on health diseases or symptoms that can help like Medline by the National Library or Medicine.

Legal help is the other topic that can be tricky when searching on Internet. Websites like Texas Law Help or Find Law are reliable sources when looking for lawyers or information about particular laws or rights.

Austin Public Library offers access to databases on different topics, including the ones mentioned above, that you can access from home for free with your library card or also at the library. The librarians of the Central Library have also put together a list of trustworthy resources on line that you can access from our website by going to the Research Guides section or to Recommended Web Sites. Don’t forget that librarians are also another tool you can use in your research. Visit us, Call us, e-mail us or chat with us. We will be very happy to help you!

Monday, May 12, 2008

Spring is in the air...

Flowers are in bloom, the sun is shining, time to mow the lawn and enjoy BBQ on the patio. But, remember, spring time is also a time of year when bugs, spiders, snakes and poisonous plants come out of their shells. The Texas Poison Center gets a lot of calls this time of year, and it’s good to know they’re open 24-hours a day and offer free medical assistance.

Did you know that the popular house plant, Pothos Ivy, is poisonous? Make sure your ivy is on a high shelf and out of the reach of children. The Oleander is poisonous as well, watch the pets to make sure they don’t nibble on the leaves. Can you identify poison ivy? It’s no wonder that many people can’t because it has many looks…its leaves can be as small as 1/3 of an inch up to 2 1/4 inches. Usually this ivy consists of three pointed leaves, the middle leaf much bigger than the side ones. The leaf edges can be ragged or smooth, can be shades of green, yellow, orange or red! You can see more pictures here.

Creepy, crawly bugs and snakes are coming out of the woodwork to enjoy the warm weather. I don’t know about you, but I’ve seen a few rattle snakes out where I live already this spring. Did you know that scorpions are poisonous but none of the Texas scorpions are deadly? I wouldn’t want to test that fact! Watch out for Black Widow and Brown Recluse Spiders, they can be pretty nasty if you have a run in with one.

Go to the Poison Control’s website and check out all the facts, there is a lot of misinformation out there , i.e. induce vomiting, extract snake venom, use ice or a tourniquet! You can also do more research on all things poisonous at our many Library databases, such as the Encyclopedia Britannica. Go to the 590s in the Library to look at books on snakes and insects, the 580s and 630s for plants.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Digital photo tools

Digital cameras provide ease of use and no possibility of wasted film, which allows users to click away without regard to cost. Once the camera's memory is full, it's a snap to transfer photos to a computer or delete unwanted photos. If you have boxes of old photos lying around, you can scan those into digital images too! Less than perfect photos can be easily fixed at home. Once you're happy with your pictures, you can share them online or purchase prints, photo books, or a wide variety of items incorporating your images.

Our new Digital Photo Guide provides lists of software and online services (many of them free) that will help you organize, store, share, edit, and enhance your digital photos. The library also has plenty of books on the subject available for checkout:

Mastering Digital SLR Photography by David D. Busch

Hands-On Digital Photography: A Step-By-Step Course in Camera Controls, Software Techniques, and Successful Imaging by George Schaub

Introduction to Digital Photography by Joseph Ciaglia

Kodak Digital Photoguide by Michael A. Guncheon

Digital Photographer's Handbook by Tom Ang

Shooting Digital: Pro Tips for Taking Great Pictures with Your Digital Camera by Mikkel Aaland

Kodak, the Art of Digital Photography. Digital Photo Design: How to Compose Winning Pictures by Paul Comon

Complete Guide to Ultimate Digital Photo Quality: Optimize Your Photos at Every Step by Derek Doeffinger

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Texas wildflowers

I don’t remember it raining that much in April, but I’d imagine we will still see May flowers. The ole saying can’t be wrong. Whether you paused for pictures or zipped on down the highway, I’m sure you noticed our blue and pink speckled highways throughout the past month or so. Indian paintbrushes and bluebonnets have been ubiquitous. There is still time to enjoy Texas’ bounty of wildflowers. The following two books can help with identification.

Texas Wildflowers
Campbell Loughmiller’s classic field guide will help you identify all the indigenous flowers of Texas. I enjoy this book, but am seemingly identification-incapable. Nonetheless, I keep trying. Whether going on a road trip or tromping through your neighborhood park, this is a great resource.

Wildflowers of Texas
A big book is fun, especially when it contains page upon page of vibrant Texas wildflowers.
Are you wanting to hit the road? This book will get you somewhere and be on the lookout for wildflowers.
Country Roads of Texas: Drives, Day Trips, and Weekend Excursions

If you’re considering making your garden more native, consider checking into the City of Austin’s green garden program:

Monday, May 05, 2008

Jewelry as Art

Neue Galerie in New York has a jewelry exhibit that does belong in an art gallery. The exhibit “Wiener Werkstätte Jewelry,” with more than forty precious objects drawn from public and private collections, highlights masterpieces created by the Wiener Werkstätte (Vienna Workshop) between the Viennese firm’s inception in 1903 and 1920. The Vienna Workshop promoted viability of good design and fine craftsmanship.

The jewelry in this exhibit is made of gold and sliver, with no precious stones. The jewelry looks like miniature sculpture.

The Library has lots of books on making metal jewelry. I have talked to many people who either make their own jewelry or know someone who does, and have stopped buying jewelry from stores. Perhaps this image will inspire you to do the same.

Elegant Wire Jewlery
500 Earrings
Contemporary Bead & Wire Jewelry
Making Colorful Wire & Beaded Jewelry

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Don't Wing It!

I recently spoke to a group of UT employees during their lunch hour about library services. After working for the Austin Public Library for many years, I have no trouble describing all that the Library has to offer with lots of enthusiasm. It's easy to talk about oversized art books, business databases, Academy Award DVDs, and talking children’s books - all available for free with a Library card. Yet, I still prepared for the presentation, and looking back I realize that I should have prepared even more.

The Library has quite a few books on public speaking. The major points usually included in the guides are:

1. Prepare for the speech.
2. Make an outline with talking points, rather than a manuscript so the speech is more conversational.
3. Rehearse the speech.
4. Ask questions about format – what is the set up, including AV equipment, the audience, and how much time you will have.
5. If you are nervous, slow down.
6. Eye contact is important.
7. Use technology sparingly.
8. Don't acknowledge that you are nervous.
9. Visualize yourself being successful.

For more advice on how to keep the attention of your next audience, check out these books:

The Exceptional Presenter: a Proven Formula to Open Up! and Own the Room

Present like a Pro: a Field Guide to Mastering the Art of Business, Professional, and Public Speaking

Speaking Scared, Sounding Good: Public Speaking for the Private Person

Read this blog: Public Speaking Blog

Watch an entertaining lecture on public speaking by a professor from MIT.