Celebrating Parents

With Mother’s Day this past Sunday and Father’s Day right around the corner (June 21 for those keeping track!), I thought I’d write a bit about celebrating parents.

 mcpl-mother-day  mcpl-fathers-day

It seems like plain, common sense that parents are important in a child’s life. Parents birth you, feed you, change your diapers, protect you… basically keep you alive until you’re able to do so yourself. Research shows, however, that parenting well is about so much more than that. While not biologically imperative, the warmth a mommy or daddy shows a child when treating a boo-boo has been shown to be crucial to a child’s social and emotional development.  The relationships parents forge with their children have a lifelong impact on not just one’s future interpersonal relationships, but also on quality of life in general. Research indicates that levels of parental involvement are indicators for school performance and graduation rates, self-esteem & mental health, and substance abuse & violence.

“Parenting is probably the most important public health issue facing our society. It is the single largest variable implicated in childhood illnesses and accidents; teenage pregnancy and substance misuse; truancy, school disruption, and underachievement; child abuse; unemployability; juvenile crime; and mental illness.” – The Importance of parenting in child health; National Center for Biotechnology Information

Parents aren’t perfect- they’re just human, after all! But I think failing and making mistakes as a parent is not only unavoidable, it’s essential. Watching their role models make mistakes shows children that mistakes and failures happen- and it’s not the end of the world! Children are far more forgiving, understanding, and resilient than we give them credit for.

In any case, whether you’re a parent or just have one, celebrate parenthood! If you missed mother’s day, call your mom (they’re more forgiving than you think!) and don’t forget dad- it’s always a great time to appreciate parents.

As a note: My daughter and I love Anna Dewdney’s Llama Llama books! What are some of your favorite books about parents? -children, YA, or adult.

Nelly Gnu and Daddy too
Nelly Gnu and Daddy too – Anna Dewdney
Llama Llama Mad at Mama – Anna Dewdney
Always Daddy's Princess - Karen Kingsbury
Always Daddy’s Princess – Karen Kingsbury
Mama Says: a book of love for mothers and sons - Rob D. Walker
Mama Says: a book of love for mothers and sons – Rob D. Walker
Mama, do you love me? - Barbara M. Joosse
Mama, do you love me? – Barbara M. Joosse
Because your Daddy loves you - Andrew Clements
Because your Daddy loves you – Andrew Clements
Someday - Alison McGhee
Someday – Alison McGhee

Shelby Foote

Shelby Foote was born in the Mississippi Delta in 1916. His family  moved frequently,  because of his father’s job,  so he was raised in a number of southern cities.  Eventually, Foote  graduated from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. Then he served in the military during World War II.  Before he wrote his narrative history of the Civil War, he was known as a novelist.  The success of his novel, “Shiloh”, caused Random House publisher Bennett Cerf to ask Foote to write a short history of the Civil War to be published in conjunction with that conflict’s centennial.  What Foote’s efforts resulted in was three volume history stretching to approximately 3000 pages, published over twenty years.  In 1983 the paperback edition was published and then in 2005, Random House brought out a nine volume edition which added illustrations to the original text.  A new edition of the trilogy, edited by Jon Meacham, who wrote a companion volume, American Homer: Reflections on Shelby Foote and His Classic The Civil War: A Narrative was published in 2011.

I had a nodding relation with Mr. Foote because he used the Main Library in Memphis where I worked.  But more than that, I remember sitting in a room in the basement of Mitchell Hall on the campus of the University of Memphis listening to Shelby Foote discuss the American Civil War for two and a half hours with faculty and graduate students of the Department of History in the spring of 1990.  This was before Ken Burns documentary on the Civil War aired on PBS, so Foote was known to history students as the author of the expansive three volume narrative history of that war, not as a television personality.  As he later told Brian Lamb on C-Span’s Book TV, he hadn’t the realized the power of television until he was featured on Burn’s film.  Like Lamb, Burns had come to Memphis to interview Foote in his home on East Parkway.

Although Foote admits he is a novelist, he argues the historian and the novelist are seeking the end: “the truth–not a different truth:  the same truth–only they reach it, or try to reach it by different routes.  Whether the event took place on a world now gone to dust, preserved by documents and evaluated by scholarship, or in the imagination, preserved by memory and distilled by the creative process, they both want to tell us how it was:  to re-create it, by their separate methods, and make it live again in the world around them.”   I quote this passage as another way of saying, if you need foot or endnotes to substantiate a quote or  description of an action,  The Civil War, a Narrative is not for you.

Foote’s narrative opens with Jefferson Davis’ farewell speech in the United State Senate.  It ends with the death of the same man in New Orleans on December  6, 1889.  In between, as only a novelist paint them, there portraits of military leaders on both sides as well glances of the civilian administrators who sometimes helped their military counterparts but often got in their way.  Close to the end, Foote quotes Lincoln, on learned of his re-election said this, “What has occurred in in this case must ever recur in similar cases.  Human nature will not change.  In any future great national trial, compared with the men of this, we shall have a weak  and as strong, as silly and as wise, as bad and as good.  Let us therefore study the incidents of this, as philosophy, to learn wisdom from, and none of them as wrongs to be revenged.”

Foote lived to be eighty-eight.  He died in 2005 and was buried in Elmwood Cemetery in Memphis, where his grave is surrounded by the graves of soldiers who fought in the war he spent two decades writing about.   Nathan Bedford Forrest, the great Confederate cavalry general lies next to him.

The Civil War, a Narrative, Volume 1:  Fort Sumter to Perryville

The Civil War, a Narrative, Volume 2: Fredericksburg to Meridian

The Civil War, a Narrative, Volume 3: Red River to Appomattox

Brian Lamb’s Interview with Shelby Foote

Ken Burns Civil War

9 Innings: Baseball Books, Movies, and More

Spring is upon us and that means baseball!  My earliest baseball memory is watching Mark Fidrych beat the Yankees on a tiny black and white tv, and I have been a fan ever since.  Now back in those youthful days we would buy packs of baseball cards for a quarter, scrounge for any sort of something that could be used as a ball, and make our own homemade jerseys.  To keep up with baseball you had to pore over the box scores in the morning paper and watch This Week in Baseball on the weekends.  You might get to watch two games on television, the Saturday Game of the Week and Monday Night Baseball (Al Michaels and Howard Cosell!)

Nowadays I can get any baseball statistics I could ever want (and many I didn’t even know existed) with a few clicks of the mouse.  I can watch multiple games every week.  Indeed, for a fee to the cable gods I can watch any game I want.  I can read countless blogs and opinion pieces, and I can get up-to-the-minute score and news updates on my Twitter feed.  I can play in a wide variety of fantasy baseball leagues and I can shop on eBay for every type of baseball memorabilia imaginable.

So which way is better?  The answer is neither.  Nostalgia is potent, of course, but I work in a library and I know the power of knowledge.  In that vein I offer to you a variety of baseball books, movies, and even ebooks for you to consider.  There is nothing quite like hearing the crack of the ball on the bat, and while you can’t play baseball in the library you can at least get something to help you get through those long, long commercial breaks.

first inning


The Natural by Bernard Malamud

This one could well have fit into my previous blog about movies based on books, as many people will remember the Robert Redford movie more than the original book.  A classic piece of baseball literature, the novel tells the story of Roy Hobbs, a supremely talented baseball phenom who is shot down, literally, by a femme fatale.  Fifteen years later, his legend largely forgotten, he makes a comeback.  Like the heroes of mythology he must overcome a series of obstacles in order to find that moment in the sun.

The movie, by the way, is a pretty decent adaptation, which is another topic I dealt with previously.  The story itself, or at least the shooting part of it, is based on an actual incident.




The Boys of Summer, by Roger Kahn

Perhaps the kings of baseball nostalgia are the Brooklyn Dodgers.  Beloved by their borough, they broke many hearts when the team relocated to Los Angeles.  In their New York heyday they often came up short in comparisons to the mighty Yankees, until that magical 1955 season when they finally won it all.  Kahn’s book uses that year as its central focus, but goes behind just being a recap of the year.  Besides setting the stage, he also tells us what happened to those fabled Boys of Summer as the years progressed.  I always appreciate nonfiction that reads as smoothly as fiction does, and this is one of those books.



Baseball, PBS Documentary by Ken Burns

Now if one really wants to know the history of baseball than this series, done by Ken Burns, is your answer.  Originally aired on PBS in 1994, the Emmy winning series covers baseball decade by decade, and is full of wonderful interviews of not just players by of fans as well.  Newer or casual fans will be enchanted by the mystique of America’s Pastime, while even grizzled veteran fans will learn new things.  There is also a companion book.



Free Baseball, by Sue Corbett

Since baseball is after all a game, albeit a game that had $9,000,000,000 in revenues in 2014, I thought I would include a kids book.  Felix, an eleven year old originally from Cuba, knows his father was a famous ball player there.  But eager to leave their past behind them his mother won’t tell him the details.  When the opportunity presents itself Felix hides on the bus of a minor league baseball team and pretends to be a batboy.  Why?  Because the team has a Cuban player, and Felix hopes that from him he can learn something of his father.  Well written and authentic, this book is aimed for grades 4-7, but will appeal to a wider range of readers as well.

I’ve been there! And the Cubs did win that day.


Bull Durham, directed by Ron Shelton

There are plenty of good baseball movies, but my favorite remains Bull Durham.  It has a great cast, and I like how it shows the flow of baseball.  One player is on the way up, another is on the way down, and the fans are always there.  I guess it is best described as a dramedy, but the baseball parts are very authentic.  Also, not a children’s movie.

Evil Empire and all that.
Evil Empire and all that.

The Yankee Years, by Joe Torre and Tom Verducci

There are many great baseball biographies and memoirs out there.  I chose this one because, well, the Yankees.  Joe Torre managed them for 12 years, and each year they went to the playoffs and they won four World Series in that time.  He managed other teams before and after that, and was also a heck of a player back in the day, but this book focuses on the era of his greatest successes, and gives you an inside look at one of the most storied franchises in all of sports.  Oh, and Verducci is no slouch either, being one of todays premier baseball writers.

Yes, that is me.
Yes, that is me.

The Complete Book of Collectible Baseball Cards, by Robert Lemke and others

Ah, baseball cards.  They no longer come with bubble gum, which is good since that low grade stuff did more harm than good.  But baseball cards are still very collectible, even if the investment opportunities aren’t what they once were.  Now, this book was published in 1985, so it is not much use as a current guide.  It does have a big nostalgia factor, however.  If you did ever collect cards back in the day it is fun to flip through and be reminded of some of those old cards.  It is also fun to see their predictions about which of those 80s cards and players were going to be big.

Incidentally, I sold my collection to a friend in 1990.  He turned around and traded all 12,000 of those cards to a dealer in exchange for two cards.  They were two good cards.


ebooks, by lots of people

All of our libraries have plenty of baseball books, plus some baseball movies, but also keep in mind that we have baseball ebooks too, through the library’s e-iNC site.  Just like with books you can search by author or title, or just do a search for baseball and see what strikes your reading fancy.  If you need any help with our ebooks you can visit our help page or call any of our libraries.


Youth Baseball Drills, by Peter Caliendo

The libraries also have a wide variety of instructional materials, like this nice new one.  Books on coaching, books on playing, books on softball, and books on rules and learning the game.  They come in a variety of styles and age ranges, so we are sure to have something that fits your needs.


Okay then!  This is just a sampling of the plethora of baseball materials you can get at the library.  If you need help finding anything, or would like reading recommendations you can ask any of our helpful staff, or drop me a line in the comments below.  Play ball!

All of the baseball titles mentioned in this blog can be found in our library catalog here:


Dewey Attack 2015! 10 Books for 10 Categories

If you are like me, you may feel like you do not read enough nonfiction.  (Note: fellow blogger Stephen is not like me.) To help with that we are doing a Dewey Attack.

As most public libraries do, Fontana Regional Library uses the Dewey Decimal System to organize many of our books.  More specifically, to organize nonfiction books.  While novels and other works of fiction are arranged by author, nonfiction books are done so by subject.

Dewey gives every subject that exists its own number.  These numbers range from 000 to 999, with usually a decimal point and more numbers after that.  Combined with some other information, this creates the call number for the book, and the call number tells us on which shelf the book is at.  Each range of 100 numbers (100-199, 500-599 etc) is a separate general category.  So today we are going to choose a book from each general category.

Dewey Decimal Categories


Abominable Science!: Origins of The Yeti, Nessie, and Other Famous Cryptids, Daniel Loxton and Donald R. Prothero   001.944

Abominable Science! book coverThe library has many books about Bigfoot and other cryptids.  The thing that sets this one apart is that Loxton and Prothero take a very science based approach to their investigation of these beings.  Prothero himself is a paleontologist.  They focus on the evidence and not on the stories and myths.  Whether you are a believer or not you will find their book a great read.

Unrelated, I won a spelling bee in 8th grade by spelling abominable.

PostSecret : confessions on life, death, and God, Frank Warren  155.6

Boy telling girl a secret.
She is totally going to tell.

Do you like secrets?  Would you tell a stranger yours?  That is exactly what happens in PostSecret.  People share their most guarded secrets…via postcard.  Anonymously sent to the PostSecret website, the book compiles many of the most stirring ones.  Be warned, though.  Some are inspirational but many are heart breaking.

The complete gods and goddesses of ancient Egypt, Richard H. Wilkinson  299

Book coverZeus and Odin, Thor and Apollo…are not in this book.  Greek and Norse mythology is pretty well known to many of us.  But what about the Egyptians?  Their gods have stories that can rival any other pantheons.  This book has a nice multiple angle approach, covering not only the mythology but the historical aspect as well.  It has great pictures making it suitable for browsing but also has enough depth for true studying.


Green River, running red : the real story of the Green River killer– America’s deadliest serial murderer, Ann Rule  364.152

Book coverWhen I first moved to the Seattle area in 1991 the Green River killer was an ominous presence.  I read a paperback at that time that detailed the case, and if I remember correctly even named the killer as a prime suspect.  The book was a frustrating read since at the time Gary Ridgway, the killer, was unidentified and still a free man.  Fortunately he was later caught and convicted, and Rule, one of the best true crime writers, fills us in on the details.

Mortal syntax : 101 language choices that will get you clobbered by the grammar snobs– even if you’re right, June Casagrande  425

Book coverYour wrong!  It says so right their!  Anyone who spends much time on the Internet sees many spelling and grammatical errors, and also sees those who take it upon themselves to offer corrections.  Mortal Syntax tackles this issue head on with humorous, and often unexpected, results.


A lion called Christian, Anthony Bourke and John Rendall  599.757

In a story that is stranger than fiction, two Australians bought a lion from a department store(!) and when he grew too big set him free in Africa.  A year later they came back, and you really have to see it to believe it.

The book, of course, gives you the whole story.


Brewed awakening : behind the beers and brewers leading the world’s craft brewing revolution, Joshua M. Bernstein  663

Book coverI like beer, and since the 1990s I have been a bit of a beer snob, eschewing the big name brands for the locally produced craft beers.  In recent years the craft brewing industry has become much more mainstream, and this book gives you that history.  Drink up!



The noble hustle : poker, beef jerky, and death, Colson Whitehead  795.412

Book coverWhitehead, who wrote one of my favorite zombie books, here tackles poker, and more specifically the famous World Series of Poker.  Originally tasked to do an article for a magazine, he ended up with a book.  Witty, searing, and educational, this is a great read for you whether you have never gone astray betting on pocket jacks, or if you are a poker pro.  Go Team Anhedonia!


The war that killed Achilles : the true story of Homer’s Iliad and the Trojan War, Caroline Alexander  883

Book coverI’ve always loved Greek mythology, and Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey are among the best examples.  Did you know that the Iliad has basis in fact?  There really was a Trojan War, and Alexander details how the truth and the stories are intertwined, and shows how the Iliad reflects war in all its glory…and horror.


Chile, edited by Tony Perrottet  918.30466

I love to travel, although I don’t get to do it very much.  One place that is on my list to visit is Chile, if for no other reason than my wife was born in Santiago.  This book shows you some of the highlights of travelling to that country.  The library has travel books for most anywhere you want to go, so before heading out check them out.

Santiago, Chile skyline


All of these books can be found in the library catalog here:



The End of Two Wars

One week from the publication date of this blog will be the one hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the Abraham Lincoln’s assassination.  While Lincoln’s funeral train was tracing in reverse Lincoln’s trip from Illinois to Washington 1861, Jefferson Davis was hiding from federal troops trying to find him.   Eighty years later, in 1945, three days from the anniversary of Lincoln’s death, Franklin Roosevelt’s heart gave out  as the European war was coming to a close in Europe with  western allies closing on Berlin from the southwest and the Russians from the east.  The other part of World War II, being fought in the Pacific, against the Japanese, had a little over three months to go.

First, Lincoln and Davis! It was Good Friday, April 14, 1865.  The Civil War was over!  President Lincoln and his wife had planned an evening at the theatre; Laura Keene was performing in “Our American Cousin.”   A little after 10:13, John Wilkes Booth sneaked into the president’s box and shot him point blank in the back of head.  Lincoln lived a few hours before dying from his wound the next day while Booth led authorities on a twelve day chase before he died in a barn, set on fire by United State Army troops.  A quick investigation proved Booth had not acted alone; his accomplices were rounded up,  incarcerated awaiting trial, and for some eventual execution.

While in the north, Americans were mourning the death of Abraham Lincoln, Jefferson Davis was fleeing south with a price on his head.  From the time Ulysses S. Grant took overall command of the Federal forces in 1864, he decided to go after the Confederate  Army of  Northern Virginia, with a goal to destroy it, rather than capture Richmond  However, after the  Battle of Five Forks, April 1, 1865,  General Robert E. Lee told Davis Richmond would have to be evacuated and the president became a fugitive carrying what was left of the government’s gold. Davis started his journey by train to Danville, Virginia. After Lee surrendered, he went into North Carolina, where he hoped to meet up Gen. Joseph Johnston who was in command of another Confederate army.   He stayed in Greensboro for a while, then moved to Charlotte, as long as it was safe.  Finally, Davis went south to Georgia, where he was finally captured near Abbeville, after 38 days on the run.

Eight decades later, the United States was nearing the end of another war.¹  In the spring of 1945, the Allies were getting closer to the Japanese Home Islands.  American bombers had bases, first in China then in the Caroline Islands, well within range of Japanese cities.  Although the first bombing raid on Tokyo was that led by General James Doolittle in April 1942, launched from the aircraft carrier Hornet,  bombing of the home islands didn’t resume until  the fall of 1944 when the B-29 super fortresses performed strategic bombing raids against targets in the Japanese capital and other major cities in the Home Islands.  Meanwhile, in the spring of 1945 the Allies were preparing to invade Japan itself.  United States armed forces had invaded Iwo Jima, hopefully they would  have learned something since the bloody invasion of the tiny Tarawa Atoll, that 3300 causalities in November 1943.

 Iwo Jima was a volcanic hell with 23,000 Japanese dug in on Mount Suribachi.  It took almost 24,000 American causalities to secure the island.  Then the high casualty rate on Okinawa, an estimated 65,000 all types,  prompted the Allies’ decision to use the A-Bomb rather than  invade Japan.   When Harry S. Truman succeeded FDR in April 1945, he knew nothing about this atomic weapon. After giving his consent, two bombs were used against Japan: the first on 6 August  1945,  was dropped on Hiroshima; and the second on 9 August on Nagasaki.  The devastation and fatalities caused by these two bombs led the Japanese to surrender on 15 August.


¹ In case you think there is no direct connection between the two wars, the American commander on Okinawa, Simon Bolivar Buckner, Jr.  was the son of a Confederate general  and governor of Kentucky.  Buckner was the highest ranking American general officer killed in action during World War II.

Lincoln’s Assassination and Jefferson Davis

James L. Swanson.  Bloody Crimes

James L. Swanson. Manhunt

James L. Swanson and Daniel R.  The Lincoln Assassins

William C. Davis.  Jefferson Davis:  The Man and His Hour

War in the Pacific

James Bradley.  Flags of Our Fathers

Robert Gant.  The Twilight Warriors

Max Hastings.  Retribution:  The Battle for Japan, 1944-45

Robert Leckie.  Okinawa: The Last Battle of World War II 

Donald L. Miller.  D-Days in the Pacific

Martin Russ.  Line of Departure: Tarawa

Ronald H. Spector.  Eagle Against the Sun

Joseph A. Springer.  Inferno

Still Waiting For The Sequel…

And waiting and waiting…

Okay, so some authors are less prolific than others.  James Patterson, for instance, had more than a dozen books released under his name last year.  Granted, most were either co-written or were shorter Young Adult novels, but that is still a lot of output.  Nelson DeMille, in contrast, releases a new book about once every two years.  That may seem to be a long time, but it isn’t really in comparison to others.  Jean Auel took 31 years to write the six books in her series.  And that still isn’t long enough for this blog.

What we really are talking about here are the authors who were mostly “one and done”.  They put out their book and never did much of any writing after that.  Well, I suppose many, many authors have that happen.  If no one buys your first book there isn’t much chance you’ll get to publish a second one.  But some authors did have success and sales and still didn’t ever get around to that sequel.  Now I know that this topic has been written about on the Internet many times before.  So instead of just giving you a list of these not-writing-much writers I’m going to talk a bit about why they didn’t keep writing, and also pop in some bits about the writers who seem to never stop writing.

Consider these to be the unicorns of authors.
Consider these to be the unicorns of authors.

Gone With The Wind, by Margaret Mitchell

I bet you thought I was going to start with something else?  I’m sure many people hear this title and think of the movie, but the book is not to be disregarded.  It won both the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize.  It has 30 million copies in print.  The book and movie both continue to engender discussion on race portrayals.

Gone With The Wind Figurines
Gone With The Wind Figurines

Mitchell wrote it while on break from being a reporter, in part inspired by her husband who was exasperated at having to bring her so many library books and told her to write her own.  Which she did, taking three years to do so.  But being a novelist wasn’t her real passion.  She vowed she would never write a sequel.  During World War II she did more writing, this time letters to soldiers.  She also served in the American Red Cross, sold war bonds, and sponsored the cruiser USS Atlanta.

On August 11, 1949, she was struck and killed by a speeding car.  She was only 48, and I would like to think that eventually she would have written some more.  Her estate has in more recent times commissioned sequels to Gone With The Wind.

(Agatha Christie is estimated to have sold over 4 billion books.  Yes, that is billion with a b.)

The Catcher in the Rye, by J. D. Salinger

The famously reclusive Salinger wrote plenty of short stories and novellas, but only one full length book.  The Catcher in the Rye wasn’t just an immediate success in 1951, but a lasting one as well, remaining a constant on school reading lists and having sold in the neighborhood of 65 million copies.  I reread it myself a year or so ago and it does hold up all these years later.

Predictable joke is predictable.
Predictable joke is predictable.

Salinger was never comfortable with fame and the spotlight, and slowly stopped writing.  He last published a story in 1959, even though he lived until 2010, reaching a respectable 91 years in age.  His reclusiveness became famous enough that author W. P. Kinsella used him as a character in the novel Shoeless Joe.  In the movie version, Field of Dreams, the Salinger character was removed due to a threat of legal action.  I talked a bit more about that many moons ago in this post.

An earlier brush with fame Salinger had was when he dated the daughter of playwright Eugene O’Neill.  She ended up leaving him for her future husband…Charlie Chaplin.

(Have you heard of Eleanor Hibbert? Not surprising since there are no books published under that name.  What about Victoria Holt? Philippa Carr? Jean Plaidy? All the same person.  Hibbert wrote over 200 novels using eight pseudonyms.)

To Kill A Mockingbird, by Harper Lee

Ah yes, that Mockingbird book.  We all know that it is the one and only book Lee ever did…for now.  Her attorney recently released a statement that a second Lee book, Go Set A Watchman, is set to be released in June of 2015.  This is apparently a recently found lost manuscript, a book she wrote prior to Mockingbird, that features Scout as an adult woman.  When she wrote it her editor suggested she write a book focusing on Scout as a younger character, and the rest is history.

1960 review copy.  Not the Capote blurb.
1960 review copy. Not the Capote blurb.

That all being said, Lee has a strong connection to another very famous book, Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood.  Capote and Lee were lifelong friends, and she traveled with him while he researched the case that inspired his book.

In the decades since she won the Pulitzer, she started several books, including a Mockingbird follow-up, but never completed them.  Despite only ever having published the one title she has received numerous distinguished awards, including an honorary doctorate from Notre Dame and the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

(Isaac Asimov not only wrote hundreds of books and stories, but wrote a wide range of things.  He has books in nine of the 10 major Dewey Decimal System categories.)

Wuthering Heights, by Emily Brontë

It sure is hard to keep those Brontë brats sorted out.  Charlotte, the eldest, wrote four books (including Jane Eyre) and a number of assorted other works.  Anne, the youngest, wrote two novels.  And Emily wrote just the one.  But it was a good one.

Wuthering Heights was first released in 1847 as the first two parts of a three volume set, with the third part being Anne’s Agnes Grey.  Wuthering Heights is still considered to be a literary classic.  We don’t know all that much about Emily.  She was shy and avoided sociable events.  There are hints that she was working on a second book but this is unproven.  What we do know is why she didn’t finish it.  And that reason is tragedy.

We just wish you had left more relics.
We just wish you had left more relics.

The Brontë family, living in unsanitary times, weren’t long for this world.  Emily died in 1948, at the age of 30, from tuberculosis.  Anne, 29, died the following year from influenza.  Their brother Branwell passed a few months before Emily did, 31 years old and ravaged by alcohol and laudanum addictions.  The two eldest sisters had died within a month of each other in 1825.  Charlotte made it to 1855, when she died due to pregnancy complications.  She was almost 39.  All of which is tragic in its own right, but the thought of how many great works these sisters could have written if they weren’t struck down young adds a certain level of poignancy.

(Barbara Cartland wrote over 700 novels, and holds the record for most in a year, with 23 in 1983. She was 82 years old that year.)

Black Beauty, by Anna Sewell

BBWith 50+ million copies sold, Black Beauty is one of the best selling books of all time.  And, obviously since it is on this list, Sewell’s only book.  She wrote it in her fifties while in failing health, often bedridden and forced to dictate to her mother.  She sold it to a local publisher and lived long enough to see it have initial success, dying only five months after publication at the age of 58.

While classified as a children’s book, it also remains a must read for horse lovers of all ages.

(Alexandre Dumas is well known for having written The Count of Monte Cristo and The Three Musketeers.  He also wrote 275 over things.)

The Picture of Dorian Gray, by Oscar WildeDG

Wilde’s reason for writing only one book are twofold.  First, he was primarily a poet and playwright.  He wrote many things, including short stories, but only produced one actual novel.  Secondly, he died at age 46, his health shattered after a prison sentence for “gross indecency” with other men.  His wit survived even unto his death bed.

(Printing Nora Roberts bibliography off of Wikipedia will take 13 pages.)

The Help, by Kathryn Stockett

Okay, lets modernize things here a bit.  This 2009 novel, which is a very different look at race relations than Gone With The Wind is, has already sold ten million copies and received a feature film treatment.

Stockett worked on the book for five years and received dozens of rejection letters, and I think that kind of effort probably takes a lot out of you.  Perhaps that explains how six years later no new book has appeared.  She said in several interviews that one was forthcoming, but no sign of it yet.  Fans of the book will need to keep their fingers crossed.

Everyone needs some help at times.
Everyone needs some help at times.

(Remember Goosebumps? They remain popular reads, and R. L. Stine never stopped writing, with over 400 titles to his credit so far.)

A Confederacy of Dunces, by John Kennedy Toole

And finally we come to this one.  Published in 1980, it wasn’t an instant smash.  It did snag the 1981 Pulitzer and has slowly grown from a cult classic to being considered a modern masterpiece.  But there will be no sequel.  You see, Toole committed suicide in 1969.  After his death his mother found a carbon copy of the manuscript and spent a decade working tirelessly to get it published.  We are all glad she did.

While vacationing in New Orleans last year (WrestleMania!) one of the things we didn’t get around to was visiting the Ignatius statue.  Which means we will have to make a return trip some day.

Some day...
Some day…

(Many of us read Sophocles in school, most likely Oedipus the King.  I’ve read a couple other of his seven plays.  Well, several of his seven extant plays.  It is estimated he wrote over 120 in total, most now lost to history.)

You can find all of titles mentioned in this blog here in the library catalog:


A Song of Ice and Fire (and Obsession and Heartbreak)

One title: A Game of Thrones.
One name: George R.R. Martin.

Sound familiar?

If so, I admire your taste. (Or your friend’s taste, or your coworker’s taste, or your parent’s taste. Whoever spoke this title and/or this man’s name.)

If not (and even so), take a stroll with me. Or, well, a scroll, seeing as you’re reading this and not walking beside me, listening.

Let me start off by saying that I’m not a huge fantasy fan. I know. I’m sorry. Shame me if you must; HOWEVER, even though I am not as well acquainted with foreign worlds in fiction as I am this one, that does not stop or slow my love for A Song of Ice and Fire (the name of the series in which A Game of Thrones is the first book). This series has got it all, and once you’re in, you’re in. In. Invested. Theorizing. Obsessed.


Because I know I cannot and will not do it justice by trying to explain, the following is a direct quote from George R.R. Martin’s website:

“Long ago, in a time forgotten, a preternatural event threw the seasons out of balance. In a land where summers can last decades and winters a lifetime, trouble is brewing. The cold is returning, and in the frozen wastes to the north of Winterfell, sinister and supernatural forces are massing beyond the kingdom’s protective Wall. At the center of the conflict lie the Starks of Winterfell, a family as harsh and unyielding as the land they were born to. Sweeping from a land of brutal cold to a distant summertime kingdom of epicurean plenty, here is a tale of lords and ladies, soldiers and sorcerers, assassins and bastards, who come together in a time of grim omens.

Here an enigmatic band of warriors bear swords of no human metal; a tribe of fierce wildlings carry men off into madness; a cruel young dragon prince barters his sister to win back his throne; and a determined woman undertakes the most treacherous of journeys. Amid plots and counterplots, tragedy and betrayal, victory and terror, the fate of the Starks, their allies, and their enemies hangs perilously in the balance, as each endeavors to win that deadliest of conflicts: the game of thrones.”

And as if it couldn’t get any better, HBO has adapted the books into a TV series.

This poster is from season 1 (2011). Now, four years later, season five is premiering (returns April 12 at 9PM).

(A warning: these books and this show are not for those who take offense easily. It is not for those with weak stomachs. This story is raw. It is fantasy, but it is true. The people are kind, and the people are cruel. They are playing the Game of Thrones, they are fighting a war, and George R.R. Martin portrays it as such.)

If I have swayed you with my (and other’s) words and you are interested in beginning your own journey into A Song of Ice and Fire, HERE is a link to the first book (as well as the TV series) in our catalog.

The order of the books thus far is as follows:
A Game of Thrones
Clash of Kings
A Storm of Swords
A Feast for Crows
A Dance with Dragons

Good luck! Let me know what you think.

Dark Fiction: 5 Things To Read After Gone Girl

After I posted my last blog about book-to-movie adaptations I was, unsurprisingly, asked what I thought about the Gone Girl film.  I hadn’t talked about Gone Girl in that post since I have mentioned Gillian Flynn’s work more than once lately.  The answer to the question was that I thought it was not only a good film but a good adaptation of the book as well.  Which it should have been considering who the screenwriter was.  With Gone Girl we have the trifecta: great book, great movie, great soundtrack.

One of the things we do here at the library is a service called “Reader’s Advisory”.  In a nutshell this is when someone comes in and asks for a book similar to the one they just read, or for an author that writes like their favorite does, and we find them something new to read.  This can be pretty easy or a real challenge, depending on how unique the original book or author is.  A great example is To Kill A Mockingbird, which has no true equivalent.  Over the years I have had many people ask for something like it, and I can only shake my head sadly and point them towards works that pale in comparison.

Which brings us back to the point.  If you did like Gone Girl there are some other books that I think you will like.  My wife refers to them as “dark fiction”, which seems as good a name as any other.  They all have a similar feel, and they have some recurring themes as well.  The protagonists tend to be damaged in some way, whether it be through memory loss, or psychological trauma, or addictions, or just making bad decisions.  They are all flawed.  Also, we see “regular” people doing bad things, particularly murder.  We aren’t dealing with mastermind serial killers or super hacker terrorists.  The characters, both good and bad, are grounded in reality.  Plus the ladies are just as likely to be the bad guy as the men are.  These books can be classified as some mix of (murder) mysteries or thrillers, but the focus is on the people and not the crimes.

The Girl on the Train, by Paula Hawkins Book Review-The Girl on the Train

Rachel, the lead character in Hawkins debut novel, has issues.  Shattered by her divorce, she drinks herself into blackouts during which bad things happen.  The train that she takes into London stops each day at the same place, where she can look upon a couple enjoying their back deck.  A couple that lives only a few doors down from her old house, where her ex-husband still lives with his new wife and baby.  Rachel invents stories about this couple to occupy herself.  One morning she sees the wife kissing a different man, and the next day the wife goes missing.

Told through the perspectives of Rachel, Megan (the missing woman), and Anna (Rachel’s ex’s new wife), Hawkins does a nice job of building suspense through flashbacks and foreshadowing.  As the end approaches you as the reader are left trying to determine which of these women, or the men in their lives, is the villain of the story.

In The Woods, by Tana French In-the-Woods

Another debut novel, this time set near Dublin, Ireland.  In 1984 three 12 year olds went out to play in the woods near the Knocknaree housing estate.  Only one, Adam, is found, his shoes full of blood and his memory of what happened gone.  Twenty some years later in the same area another 12 year old is struck down, although this time her body is found.  Murder Squad detectives Rob and Cassie are assigned to the case.  Is there a connection to the previous incident?

Yes there is.  Rob is in actuality Adam, now sporting an English accent thanks to boarding school, and with no one except his partner knowing the truth.  He remains on the case, hoping that his past might help to find a killer, and help him discover what happened all those years ago.  Many secrets are uncovered, but not the ones that are needed.  The stress of the case and Rob’s erratic memory lead him to making poor decisions, ones that come with real consequences.

Rob says right at the beginning that he is a liar, and that and the tease of supernatural events helps turn this from a standard police procedural into something more.  I also liked how the police were competent in the story.  Too often police, FBI, or whomever are shown as bumbling idiots.  Do be warned that French uses a lot of words.  Her style takes a bit of getting used to.

The Silent Wife, by A.S.A. Harrison Silent Wife

Okay, I promise this is coincidental!  The Silent Wife is yet another debut novel.  Jodi is a middle aged woman, happy in her carefully structured life, and is a successful psychologist.  She knows that her husband Todd cheats on her, but it is okay as long as he follows her protocols and the illusion is maintained.  But the illusion is just, hmm, an illusion.  Jodi is not as secure as she thinks, evidenced by her secret petty acts of revenge on Todd, things like taking the key to his office building off of his keychain while he sleeps.  And when Todd goes too far with his latest infidelity lines are crossed, and the dissolution of their marriage will not be pretty.  Or safe.

The Silent Wife is told alternately through both Jodi’s and Todd’s perspectives.  You get to see the rationalizing they engage in.  And you get to see how bright, smart, and (in her case, at least) educated people can make bad choices that take them to dark places.

Night Film, by Marisha Pessl Night Moves

A young woman, daughter of a famous but reclusive cult film director, commits suicide.  Or did she?  Scott, a reporter who lost his job (and his marriage) due to his investigations of the director, isn’t so sure.  Assisted by a wannabee and boisterous actress and a “friend” with plenty of secrets, Scott makes an effort to uncover the truth, both about the suicide and about the family.

Some stories start out complicated and as the end nears they narrow down.  Night Film goes the other way, getting more convoluted, and more intriguing, as it progresses.  Pessl also incorporates multimedia elements into the book, allowing the reader to deeply immerse themselves into the story.  This one is as much Stephen King as it is Gillian Flynn.

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, by Stieg Larsson the-girl-with-the-dragon-tattoo-book

Originally I had planned to write just about the four books above, but as I got on with it I decided to add in this one as well, and not just because it was another debut novel (although Larsson had co-authored several non-fiction books previously). This was a big time best seller, and many of you may have already read it, but thinking about it I felt it fit the theme too well to leave out.

Mikael is a magazine publisher who is convicted for libel against a rich and powerful industrialist.  After serving his sentence he is offered a chance at redemption, after a fashion.  A retired businessman hires him to investigate the disappearance of his grandniece, an event that occurred decades ago.  Part of the payment will be damaging information against the man Mikael had libeled.  As he starts uncovering family secrets he enlists the help of a computer technician, a gifted and very mentally damaged young woman named Lisbeth, the inked girl of the books title.  Together they discover that some dark deeds are never forgotten, and that some people will go to lethal lengths to try and keep them buried.

The book is set in Sweden, which is neat.  This is story that shows that not only can people you think are normal turn out to be abnormal and evil, but also that people can overcome the horrors inflicted upon them and become the hero.  Or heroine.  Sort of.  Oh, and I am clearly not the only one who likens this to Gone Girl, as David Fincher directed both movies (and Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross did both soundtracks).

Gone Girl teaser
Quote is from Gone Girl, but pretty much could come from any of these books.


Five books that will keep you on the edge of your seat, and are likely to keep you up past your bedtime turning the pages.  You can also try these Young Adult books that are in the same vein, although not quite as dark and with tamer content.

I Hunt Killers, by Barry Lyga

Anna Dressed in Blood, by Kendare Blake

Dangerous Girls, by Abigail Haas

And finally the magazine Dark Scribe used to give out the Black Quill award to dark fiction.  You can check out their lists of winners and nominees for some more good reading options, but bear in mind their definition includes some true horror titles.

All of these titles can found in the library catalog here:


Live Long and Prosper

UPDATE from Youth Services Staff:

 The “Under the Stars” program at Macon County Public Library has been rescheduled due to the rain and thunderstorms that are forecast for Thursday evening, March 12.

It will now be held on Thursday, March 26 at 7 PM. Consequently, Science Club will be at 7 PM that day (instead of 3:30 PM). Should the weather be bad that day, we will still have Science Club at 7 PM and instead of covering astronomy, we will cover electricity that evening.

Live long and prosper.
Live long and prosper.

This past week a man who helped popularize science fiction (and science!) with his role as Spock on Star Trek, Leonard Nimoy, died at age 83.  Nimoy’s performance as Spock spawned a new generation of scientists, showing that cold, dispassionate logic could be tempered-and even improved- by compassion and sensitivity. Star Trek was a show that inspired imagination and the characters & performances of the actors helped draw in audiences that may have never dared to dream about space exploration.

Science fiction, however, doesn’t just beget daydreams. Many technologies that improve life on Earth have originated from the ideas first proposed in science fiction. The 1902 film, A Trip to the Moon, (inspired in part by the 1865 Jules Verne novel From the Earth to the Moon ) depicts a group of astronomers who travel to the Moon in a cannon-propelled capsule to explore the moon’s surface- 67 years before the Apollo 11 crew rocketed to the moon. NASA’s push to explore space has led to technologies such as infrared ear thermometers, artificial limbs, invisible braces, portable cordless vacuums, solar power technologies, as well as improvements in highway, fire, mine, and food safety- and so much more.

Image provided by Astronomy Club of Asheville
Image provided by Astronomy Club of Asheville

Space exploration, in general, is not really seen as a topic of great importance in the “real world.” Many people seem to still dismiss the idea as a fanciful pursuit- one to, realistically, remain squarely in the realm of science fiction; not nearly as important as the economy or other political issues. Stephen Hawking, however, recently said that space travel will save mankind.

Technological advancements aren’t the only benefits gained from space exploration. Working on the problems and puzzles of space exploration often gives us new perspectives on the immediate problems on Earth. The sort of out-of-the-box thinking that is required to do the seemingly impossible prompts breakthroughs in other realms- those sparks of imagination spread like wildfire!

Library Loaner TelescopeThe awe that people, children especially, feel when studying space can’t be underestimated. The impact that sort of wonder can have is enormous and life-changing, even if it’s not immediately seen.  If you have children, bring them out to Macon County Public Library on March 12 at 6:30pm for the “Under the Stars” Science Club event with special guests from the Astronomy Club of Asheville. Children will get the chance to use a refractor telescope to check out the night sky and learn about astronomy.

Who knows? Maybe your child will discover the inspiration or passion to become an astronaut, a sci-fi writer, or an unforgettable TV alien.

Do you have a favorite science fiction show or book? Has space or science inspired you or had any impact on your life?



Highclere Castle is the residence of  the  eighth Earl and Countess Carnarvon.   This country mansion, situated on 5,ooo acres in Hampshire, west of London, has been in the Carnarvon family since the late Seventeenth century.  What does this English country estate, where the hit television show, “Downton Abbey” is filmed, have to do with King Tutankhamen, who lived in ancient Egypt?  That relationship is part of the story told Sally Beauman’s novel, The Visitors.

At the opening of the story, the narrator, who is an older woman, is talking to a man who is producing a  documentary about the discovery and opening of King Tutankhamen’s tomb in Egypt’s Valley of the Kings and Queens in the Nile Valley  in the mid-1920s.   Eleven year old Lucy Payne and her guardian  visits Egypt from England, where typhoid fever  killed her mother and made her severely ill.   While in Egypt she becomes acquainted some of  historic personages, such as Howard Carter, the archaeologist,  and the 5th Earl Carnarvon, then owner of Highclere Castle, and some of his family.   Rose, another fictional character, whose society climbing mother is found murdered in Cairo, becomes a life long friend to Lucy.

On Lucy’s second trip to Egypt, she happens to be there when Carter opens the burial chamber of the young pharoah.  Later she is invited  by Carter see the room where King Tut’s coffin, containing his mummy, reclines. Fortunately for Lucy and her friend Rose, the supposed curse that caused the death of Carnarvon and others, skips them, so that by the story’s end they are still alive, albeit at an advanced age.  The Visitors  is one of the few novels I have read that has a bibliography.    It’s plain Beauman has done her homework.

The advent of modern archaeology came too late to avoid the pillage of the Egyptian tombs by robbers, who  harvested objects and sold them on international  black  market. The question posed in The Visitors  and some non-fiction books about Tutankhamen’s tomb, did Carter and Carnarvon remove objects from the burial chamber before letting Egyptian officials see what was inside?   If this is the case, are Carter and Carnarvon any better than the grave robbers who stole from other Egyptian tombs?  As part of a documentary, shown on PBS, that included a tour of Highclere Castle, the current owner showed some of his great grandfather’s relics from other tombs in the area.   In her book “Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey: the Lost Legacy of Highclere Castle,”  the 8th Duchess defends her husband’s ancestor by agreeing with his and Carter’s contention that they did not open the burial chamber until the proper officials were present.

The current resident of Highclere Castle, the  8th Duchess Carnarvon, has written the story of the 5th Duchess and her husband.   Almina Victoria Maria Alexandra Wombwell married George Edward Stanhope Molyneux Herbert, 5th Earl of Carnarvon in 1895.   The bride was the illegitimate daughter of millionaire banker Alfred de Rothschild.  The couple had two children, a son and a daughter.  The newlyweds honeymooned in Egypt, where the earl evidently became interested in archaeology, for he returned in 1907 to participate  in search for tombs in Thebes, which he backed financially.      After the war, he joined Howard Carter in search for Tut’s tomb.

Sally Beauman.  The Visitors

For further reading:

Lady Fiona Carnarvon.  Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey: the Lost Legacy of Highclere Castle

Howard Carter and A. C. Mace.  The Discovery of the Tomb of Tutankhamen

C. W. Ceram.  Gods, Graves, and Scholars:  The Story of Archaeology

C. W. Ceram.  Hands on the Past


Egypt – King Tut Uncovered

Secrets of the Manor House:  Secrets of Highclere Castle

Web sites:

Griffith Institute, Oxford

The Egypt Exploration Society