Monday, April 30, 2007


It's probable that you have seen that David Halberstam died in the last week. I have only read three of his books: Teammates, Summer of '49 and October 1964. Summer of '49 was the first book by him that I read and it is still the baseball book by which all others are measured. The only book on baseball I have read that comes close to the majesty of '49 is The Boys of Summer by Roger Kahn.

As a reporter and historian he brought to his books on baseball much more than the game. He brought in the world around the game that directly influenced how the game was poplulated and played. You can't have a major sporting league without the society that supports and staffs it. He knew that and brought the contemporary American culture into both Summer of '49 and October 1964. Two aspects of October 1964 really stand out to me: his description of the majesty of the young Mickey Mantle and the baseball tragedy of his early injuries and the awe in which the teammates of this damaged warrior held him and how the embrace of integration by the St. Louis Cardinals allowed them to beat the Yankees in 1964 and how the Yankees' management ignored racial integration and paid for it and didn't finish in 1st place again until 1976.

If you are even in the mood to read a baseball book you can't go wrong by picking up any of three books I mentioned above. He captures the game, the time and the players better than anyone else.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

John Updike

Over the last few days I have been reading Rabbit, Run by John Updike. A few months ago I read my first Updike book, Terrorist. I've been told by a friend that Updike is sexist and that his portrayal of middle America is too pessimistic. I am withholding any judgement until I finish this book. Just like Terroist, Rabbit, Run is full of some stunning prose. Not only that but the book was published when Updike was 28 years old. That's amazing to me.

I have read that a complaint about Updike is that he doesn't address big issues in his book. So far I would have to disagree with that assessment. What can be bigger than a person's life? The main character is going through a bad time. He is leaving his wife, he is disillusioned with American life as it was lived in the early 1960's. Rabbit, Run is a serious book and I believe it can't be dismissed lightly.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

How to be Impressed

I love reading the New York Times Book Review. Every now and then I will come across a review that flat wakes me up. I just finished reading a review by Clive James on two new books about Leni Riefenstahl.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Book talking

Every month the reference staff here at Morrison travels to Atria Merrywood, a retirement community, to give a book talk in their library. With a staff of six that means I go a couple of times a year. Depending on staffing you can sometimes go three times a year. I subbed for the bossman today because he had a lot of email to answer. It may have been more inolved than that but emails is the reason I am using today.

I was a little nervous going in today because I felt that last time I didn't do a very good job. I was not as prepared as I should have been. I've watched other staff deliver book talks and a couple of them can go in there with a few books and talk. I tried that last time and it just didn't work out. I need notes. I don't read from my notes but if I don't write down my major points and refer to the notes as I go I get lost and the talk is not nearly as good as it should be.

Today, armed with three pages of notes and four books I read recenlty I wowed the nine residents of Atria Merrywood that were in attendance. It's funny, my performance at Merrywood can determine how the rest of my week is going to go. My last performance sent my week into a tailspin. Right now I am ready to wrestle a b'ar.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

So it goes...

I'm sure everyone has seen that Kurt Vonnegut died today. I figured I should be mentioned him because this wouldn't be much of a library blog if I didn't acknowledge the passing of one of the great writers and thinkers of the last fifty years.

One of the best experiences of my life was sitting in the audience at Spirit Square for about an hour listening to Kurt Vonnegut speak. This happened back in the early 90's before some of you were even born. I remember telling my friends afterwards that I felt I had sat in the presence of a truly wise person for the first time in my life. A remark that probably would have given him fits of laughter since to him man was anything but a wise animal.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Peeps! Peeps! Peeps!

OK, this has nothing to do with the library but how can I resist linking to a contest for dioramas with peeps? How could I not link to that? How?

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Adios, Last Empress

Well, I put down The Last Empress the other day. I just couldn't get into it. It just isn't as interesting as Empress Orchid I have moved on to a biography of Johnny Cash by Michael Streissguth. This book I am really enjoying. I feel that I know a lot about Cash and I am learning new things about Johnny. I am really liking when the author goes into detail about the making of specific songs and albums. I love good descriptions of how music is created and recorded. I only wish there was more of that here.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Last Empress

I am in the middle of reading The Last Empress by Anchee Min. I am having a hard time really getting into the book. The writing is just as good, the attention to detail is still there but it has a detatchment that Empress Orchid didn't have. I have a feeling part of the reason is that this book is plowing through a longer time period than Orchid. Orchid was more about the title character than the last empress. Both books have a lot of palace intrigue (which is really fun when done right) but Orchid was really about Orchid, not so much politics. Empress is almost all politics and history. Heck, it's almost like one of those new Star Wars movies. It's different from a new Star Wars movie in that reading it has not caused me to want to gouge my eyes out.

I think I'll finish this book but I'm disappointed because I will nto be able to use this as enthusiastically in book talks as I was hoping. Using this book and its predecessor for book talks was my plan. I guess I still can do that but I like to talk about books I really like.

I'm a little bummed because I really wanted to like this book.