Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The 1980s: They’re Back!

A new book by journalist David Sirota, Back to Our Future: How the 1980s Explains the World We Live in Now — Our Culture, Our Politics, Our Everything,
claims that the early decades of the 21st century mirror some of the less pleasant themes of a past era. Take Gordon Gekko’s famous mantra “Greed is good” in the 1987 film “Wall Street.” Not only did the movie spawn a sequel in 2010, but a real-life Gekko, Bernie Madoff, captured the headlines in 2009 when he was sentenced to 150 years in prison for operating what has been called the largest Ponzi scheme in the world.

In a USA Today review, writer Craig Wilson quotes Sirota: "Everything was big — really big. Big hair. Big defense budgets. Big tax cuts. Big shoulder pads. Big blockbuster movies. Big sports stars. The Big Gulp."

Recent cultural phenomena have their origins in the 80s, Sirota writes. “The Sopranos” is an updated “Goodfellas.” The reality show “American Idol” had its origins in “Star Search.” Apparently TNT is planning a remake of “Dallas.”

If you are curious about Sirota’s thesis, you can reserve a copy of Back to Our Future. Released on March 15, the library has it on order.

If you just want to enjoy fond memories of 80s icons such as Pac-man, the Rubik’s cube, “E.T.”, Ferris Bueller, MTV, Charles Barkley or the aviator jacket, here’s a few books to browse:

Eyewitness: The 1980s (eAudiobook)

Gen X TV: The Brady Bunch to Melrose Place by Rob Owen

Songs of the 80’s by Hal Leonard Publishing Corporation

Fashions of a Decade: The 1980s by Vicki Carnegy (reference: a few copies available for check-out)

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Books for a Better Life

Last week, the Southern New York Chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society announced the winners of its 15th annual Books for a Better Life Award.
The award is “dedicated to those books that best attest to self improvement.”

Lest you think self-help books are a phenomenon of the last few decades, Scottish author Samuel Smiles is credited with publishing the first true personal development book, titled appropriately “Self-Help,” in 1859. Its opening sentence "Heaven helps those who help themselves," was a variation of Benjamin Franklin’s famous maxim “God helps those who help themselves.”

The pioneer of the modern self-improvement movement, Dale Carnegie, published How to Win Friends and Influence People in 1936. That book as well as others he penned went on to sell more than 10 million copies.

Seventy-five years later here is a sampling of the Books for a Better Life winners:

Brave Girl Eating by Harriet Brown (Childcare/Parenting)

Eaarth by Bill McKibben (Green)

Breaking Night by Liz Murray (Inspirational Memoir)

The New Good Life by John Robbins (Personal Finance)

Back to Life after a Heart Crisis by Marc Wallack, M.D. and Jamie Colby (Wellness)

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Libraries and the E-Book Dilemma

While e-books grow more popular, public libraries are concerned as publishers limit access to library copies of their books in electronic format, reports USA Today ("Libraries Launch Boycott in Battle Over E-Books," March 8, 2011).

The article discusses HarperCollins decision to require libraries to order a second copy of an e-book after it has been checked out 26 times. In an era when local governments are strapped for cash and cutting public library budgets, few librarians can afford this new model, writes USA Today reporter Bob Minzesheimer.

He quotes Marilyn Johnson, author of This Book Is Overdue: How Librarians and Cybrarians Can Save Us All, published last year by HarperCollins. “Of course the librarians went crazy," she says "Think about it: 'I'm the 27th patron; I see that the book is in the catalog, and then suddenly it's not?' "

In response to the controversy, HarperCollins posted this message on its Library Love Fest blog to explain the new policy:

"Selling e-books to libraries in perpetuity, if left unchanged, would undermine the emerging e-book eco-system, hurt the growing e-book channel, place additional pressure on physical bookstores, and in the end lead to a decrease in book sales and royalties paid to authors."

But, librarians disagree. “It's never pretty when a publisher decides they have to destroy books in order to save their business model," wrote one librarian on a Library Journal blog.

Two other major publishers, Simon & Schuster and Macmillan do not sell e-books to libraries at all. This means library customers can not check out a digital version of a Stephen King or Jonathan Frazen novel.

Here at the Fairfax County Public Library, our staff is still considering the workload and cost implications of the 26 check out limit, reports the head of our Collection and Acquisitions Department.

So, if you can’t find your favorite digital-format book in our catalog, this may be why. New format. New quandaries for libraries and their customers.

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Read Across America Day

Today is the 12th annual “Read Across America Day,” sponsored by the National Education Association. Celebrated each March 2 on the birthday of Dr. Seuss (Theodore Geisel), it is designed to encourage children and adults across the U.S. to read together.

Yahoo! News offers a list of children’s books, both old and new that are great to share with kids ("Notable Children's Books, Then and Now," Feb. 28, 2011). It also asked members of the Yahoo! Contributor Network to write about their family's reading traditions. Bed time reading was the favorite time for one Mom ("Read Across America: Mom, Son Share ‘Good Night’ Books," Feb. 28, 2011).

So, if you have a little one in your house here are few suggestions from Yahoo! News readers for books to share:

Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss

Mr. Putter and Tabby Pick the Pears by Cynthia Rylant

Click, Clack, Moo: Cows that Type by Doreen Cronin

Gingerbread Baby by Jan Brett

The Napping House by Audrey Wood

For many more recommendations from library staff visit I Like Picture Books on the library’s website.