Saturday, March 26, 2011

A closer look at art

A painting can depict so much and tell us a lot about the time period it was painted in. Take a closer look at art with the following books, and you might be able to see so much more.

Discovering the Great Masters: The Art Lover's Guide to Understanding Symbols in Paintings. By Paul Crenshaw. Universe, 2009. This book presents a unique design: It pairs each of the 62 featured paintings with a page of die-cut windows that help the reader focus on specific objects or viewpoints.

Food and Feasting in Art. By Silvia Malaguzzi. J.Paul Getty Museum, 2008. What role does food and drink play in art? There is also a chapter on the dining table and its furnishings.

Master Pieces: Making Furniture from Paintings. By Richard Ball and Peter Campbell. Hearst, 1983. Go ahead - design and build furniture as seen in works of art. This book is a visual treat in itself.

Flowers in the Louvre. By Michel Lis and Beatrice Vingtrinier. Flammarion, 2009. This book focuses on floral inspired works in the Louvre's world famous art collection.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Elizabeth Taylor dies at 79

Elizabeth Rosemond Taylor was born in London on Feb. 27, 1932 to American parents. Her father was a successful art dealer and her mother was an actress. In 1939 the family moved to Los Angeles, where Elizabeth, coached and encouraged by her mother, found work in the motion picture industry. Elizabeth Taylor starred in more than 50 films and became a Hollywood legend. She died at age 79 on March 23, 2011 in Los Angeles.

Books and films about Elizabeth Taylor

Movies and films with Elizabeth Taylor and a book written by her

Friday, March 18, 2011

Deborah Eisenberg wins 2011 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction

Deborah Eisenberg won the 2011 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction for her work THE COLLECTED STORIES OF DEBORAH EISENBERG (Picador). The honored book combines four volumes of Eisenberg's work: Transactions in a Foreign Currency, Under the 82nd Airborne, All Around Atlantis, and Twilight of the Superheroes. Twilight of the Superheroes was a PEN/Faulkner finalist in 2007.

Deborah Eisenberg was born in 1945, and grew up in the Chicago suburb of Winnetka. She went to boarding school and to college in Vermont, and in the 1960s moved to New York City where she received her B.A. at the New School. She now teaches at the University of Virginia.

The PEN/Faulkner Award is the largest peer juried-prize for fiction in the United States. Three judges considered about 320 novels and short story collections by American authors published in the US during the 2010 calendar year. As winner, Eisenberg receives $15,000. One of the judges, Laura Furman says, "From the first to the last of her collected stories, Deborah Eisenberg demonstrates her sharp intelligence, literary inventiveness, and her clear understanding of human interconnectedness as it exists in isolation." Each of the four finalists, Jennifer Egan for A VISIT FROM THE GOON SQUAD (Knopf), Jaimy Gordon for LORD OF MISRULE (McPherson & Co.), Eric Puchner for MODEL HOME (Scribner), and Brad Watson for ALIENS IN THE PRIME OF THEIR LIVES (W.W. Norton) receives $5,000.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

National Book Critics Circle Awards

The National Book Critics Circle is a group of more than 600 professional reviewers. Last Thursday they presented awards which "honor the best literature published in English in six categories—autobiography, biography, criticism, fiction, nonfiction and poetry".

A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan
Review by Colette Bancroft

The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson
a book about the history of black migration from the American South

Half a Life by Darin Strauss
The author killed a girl riding her bike with his car when he was a teenager.
Review by Karen Long

How to Live: Or a life of Montaigne in One Question and Twenty Attempts at an Answer by Sarah Bakewell.
Review by Steven G. Kellman

One With Others by C.D. Wright
Review by Craig Morgan Teicher

Lyric Poetry and Modern Politics: Russia, Poland, and the West by Clare Cavanagh
Review by Stephen Burt

Top 10 Books on the Environment

Booklist recently compiled a list of Top 10 Books on the Environment which were published during the last 12 months.

American Eden: From Monticello to Central Park; What Our Gardens Tell Us about Who We Are. By Wade Graham. 2011. Harper.

"Graham offers a fresh, ecologically astute history of American gardens grand and humble, designed by such diverse innovators as Thomas Jefferson and Martha Stewart."

Animal Factory: The Looming Threat of Industrial Pig, Dairy, and Poultry Farms to Humans and the Environment. By David Kirby. 2010. St. Martin’s.

"Kirby profiles people who have suffered the gravely deleterious effects of industrial animal farming in the most relatable, thorough, and irrefutable testimony yet to the hazards of factory farms."

Bird Cloud. By Annie Proulx. 2011. Scribner.

"Renowned novelist Proulx turns to nonfiction to chronicle the building of her dream home in Wyoming, combining construction misadventures with tales of wildlife and crimes against humanity and nature."

Green Gone Wrong: How Our Economy Is Undermining the Environmental Revolution. By Heather Rogers. 2010. Scribner.

"Rogers (Gone Tomorrow, 2005) exposes the “green” movement’s failure to advance sustainability and protect the environment as initiatives are hijacked by economic and political interests."

Growing a Garden City. By Jeremy N. Smith. 2010. Skyhorse.

"Smith reports on how Missoula, Montana, embraced the local food movement to create a model for healthful and environmentally sound community-supported agriculture."

The Quiet World: Saving Alaska’s Wilderness Kingdom, 1879–1960. By Douglas Brinkley. 2011. Harper.

"Historian Brinkley continues his magnificent multivolume history of conservation in America with an original and enthralling portrait gallery of colorful environmental visionaries intent on preserving Alaska’s glorious wilderness and wildlife."

Running Dry: A Journey from Source to Sea down the Colorado River. By Jonathan Waterman. 2010. National Geographic.

"Waterman chronicles his simultaneously personal and investigative journey down the Colorado River, profiling diverse individuals who have worked hard to keep the river alive and flowing."

The Story of Stuff: How Our Obsession with Stuff Is Trashing the Planet, Our Communities, and Our Health—and a Vision for Change. By Annie Leonard and Ariane Conrad. 2010. Free Press.

"A Time magazine Hero of the Environment, Leonard calculates the full ecological and social cost of our “stuff” and calls for an end to overconsumption and the valuing of quantities of consumer goods over quality of life."

The Turquoise Ledge. By Leslie Marmon Silko. 2010. Viking.

"Silko draws on her Laguna Pueblo, Cherokee, Mexican, and European ancestry and extended family in this richly veined eco-memoir of desert life, spiritual forces, close bonds with animals, and environmental destruction."

The View from Lazy Point: A Natural Year in an Unnatural World. By Carl Safina. 2011. Holt.

"Acclaimed ecologist and ocean advocate Safina reports on places around the world where the impact of climate change and environmental destruction is starkly evident."

Rides A Bike

Humphrey Bogart rides a bike.

Generally, when I choose to recommend a website, I choose sites that are educational, or that provide information that people might find useful.  Rides a Bike is neither educational nor particularly informational, but I just couldn't resist making it one of our featured web sites.

The blog is comprised exclusively of vintage photographs of classic movie stars riding bicycles. A simple concept that proves to be surprisingly charming and delightful. It's the only non-library themes blog that I include in my RSS subscriptions, and I always feel a tinge of happiness when a new post pops up.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Snapshot Day 2011

On Wednesday, April 13, 2011, libraries all over Connecticut will be taking a ‘snapshot’ – collecting information to capture the impact that Connecticut libraries have on their communities on a typical day. We call it ‘Snapshot Day.’

Snapshot Day is a joint project of the Connecticut Library Association, the Connecticut State Library and the Connecticut Library Consortium. It is based on a project of the same name created by the New Jersey State Library and the New Jersey Library Association. The aim is to encourage libraries all over Connecticut to collect basic data – how many people use the library on a given day, how many people use computers, attend programs, etc. Connecticut’s libraries are busier than ever these days, with people coming not only to check out books, but use computers, look for a job or attend the many programs our libraries offer. All across the state, libraries are the cornerstones of their communities, places were people come together to visit, learn and share ideas.

Last year's first ever Snapshot Day was a huge success! In just one day more than 80,000 people visited Connecticut libraries, borrowing nearly 100,000 books, movies and other materials. 113,000 people visited our libraries' websites. 136 libraries participated in Snapshot Day last year.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

ALA Notable Books 2011

The following titles have been selected by the Notable Books Council, American Library Association (ALA) Reference and User Services Assocation for their "significant contributions to the expansion of knowledge or for the pleasure they can provide to adult readers". Titles were selected from books published from November 2009 through November 2010.


Nashville Chrome by Rick Bass. Houghton Mifflin, Harcourt.
"This lovely and unsettling account of pop trio The Browns reels you in as though the concept of rags to riches were brand new."

Room: A Novel by Emma Donoghue. Little, Brown.
"Five-year-old Jack vividly narrates the story of his life confined in a room with his mother in this unsettling exploration of resilience and hope."

A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan. Knopf.
"A‘70s punk band becomes the touchstone for a motley crew who spin their interconnected stories over time and distance."

Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter by Tom Franklin. William Morrow.
"Two men – one black, one white – must confront the secrets surrounding their childhood friendship following the disappearance of two girls in rural Mississippi."

Freedom by Jonathan Franzen. Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
"This incisive portrait of the fractured Berglund brood captures the zeitgeist of contemporary America."

Next by James Hynes. Reagan Arthur.
"Welcome to the worst day of Kevin Quinn’s life as he battles the anxieties of the modern world in steamy Austin, Texas."

The Surrendered by Chang Rae Lee. Riverhead.
"The complex entangled lives of three people forever scarred by the Korean War are sympathetically portrayed in gorgeous prose."

Matterhorn: A Novel of the Vietnam War by Karl Marlantes. Atlantic Monthly Press.
"An ambitious and idealistic American Marine faces the horror, heroism, futility, and pragmatism of war in this visceral portrayal of life in-country."

The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet: A Novel by David Mitchell. Random House.
"A young clerk attempts to establish himself in the artificial and intense world of Dejima, the Dutch trading colony in 1800s Japan."

Skippy Dies by Paul Murray. Faber and Faber.
"Filled warmth and humor, this coming-of-age novel set in a Dublin boys schools is a sprawling homage to adolescence, string theory, donuts, and unrequited love."

The Lotus Eaters by Tatjana Soli. St. Martin’s.
"The adrenaline high that danger offers infects photojournalist Helen Adams as she documents the war in Vietnam."

The Lonely Polygamist: A Novel by Brady Udall. W.W.Norton.
"In this big-hearted novel, Golden Richards and his clan navigate their chaotic lives as each clamors to be noticed."


Washington: A Life by Ron Chernow. Penguin.
"A landmark biography provides insights into the complexities of this founding father’s character, and brings him fully to life within the context of his times."

The Hare with Amber Eyes: A Family’s Century of Art and Loss by Edmund de Waal. Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
"Blending history, biography and art, this personal account elegantly traces the fate of a European Jewish family and their collection of 246 netsuke."

Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea by Barbara Demick. Spiegel & Grau.
Chronicling the experiences of six people, this powerful account draws back the curtain on the brutality of life under a totalitarian regime.

Travels in Siberia by Ian Frazier. Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
"Stricken by Russia love, a writer sets out to experience all things Siberian and takes us along for the rollicking journey."

The Price of Altruism: George Price and the Search for the Origins of Kindness by Oren Harman. W.W. Norton.
"This moving work provides insight into the mind of a tormented genius attempting to understand an illusive aspect of human nature."

Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition by Daniel Okrent. Scribner.
"This intoxicating history of the 18th amendment reveals the surprising relationship between Prohibition and other social movements, and explores its lasting impact on American life."

Citizens of London: The Americans Who Stood with Britain in Its Darkest, Finest Hour by Lynne Olson. Random House.
"In this compelling portrait three influential individuals persuade a reluctant President to come to the aid of a beleaguered nation in the early days of WWII."

The Last Stand: Custer, Sitting Bull, and the Battle of the Little Bighorn by Nathaniel Philbrick. Viking.
"An epic encounter between two iconic individuals is vividly portrayed in fluid, evocative, and decidedly objective prose."

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot. Crown.
"A science writer uncovers the fascinating story of an African-American woman’s cancer cells harvested for medical research, thereby raising important questions of bioethics."

Just Kids by Patti Smith. Ecco.
"The poet and musician’s endearing memoir about her relationship with Robert Mapplethorpe captures life and art in New York City during the 1960s and ‘70s."

The Tiger: A True Story of Vengeance and Survival by John Vaillant. Knopf.
"Russia’s ecological and cultural history serves as the backdrop for this riveting adventure tale of man versus beast."

The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration by Isabel Wilkerson. Random House.
"The 20th century exodus of over 6 million Black Americans from the South is sensitively retold through the lives of three who left."


Unincorporated Persons in the Late Honda Dynasty: Poems by Tony Hoagland. Graywolf Press.
"These poems capture the absurdities and loneliness of American life using matter of fact language and humor."

Wait: Poems by C.K. Williams. Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
"A lifetime of experience is distilled into a slim but significant volume of verse by this Pulitzer and National Book Award winning poet."

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Hamden Native Receives National Medal of Arts

Hamden native and former U.S. Poet Laureate Donald Hall has received a National Medal of Arts, along with novelist Harper Lee, actress Meryl Streep, musicians Sonny Rollins, Quincy Jones, James Taylor and Van Cliburn, painter Mark di Suvero, theater champion Robert Brustein and an organization, Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival.

President Obama presented the awards on Wednesday, March 2nd. You can a video of the awards below.