Tuesday, June 30, 2015

What Should I Read Next?

books and beach
Have you ever had trouble deciding what you should read next? With so many books out there, it can be hard to narrow down the books that you, or your child, would enjoy reading. They key is finding the right book for you at the moment that you are in the mood to read it. Sometimes, I really want a book that makes me laugh. Other times, I am looking for a book that's so thrilling I have to get through it as fast as possible—because I just have to find out what happens next! And then there are moments that I just want a cozy spot and a good mystery.

So where can you find books that you or your child will love? At MCPL, of course! We have great reading suggestions for all ages.

mother reading to children
It's never too early to start reading to your babies but we also have books for older children who are reading on their own—whether they are comfortable readers or beginners. We have booklists on many favorite genres from Adventure to Trains on our Kids' page as well as booklists by grade. Does your child have a favorite book or author? Try NoveList K-8 Plus for reading suggestions based on books or authors that your child has enjoyed.

book at beach
For teens there are a variety of popular "if you like" and topical booklists, on subjects like dystopian worlds and road trips, on our Teensite. Our librarians who love teen books have also compiled some great books to read this summer and beyond for middle and high school students. Be sure to have a look at our Teen Pinterest board, which includes fun videos of MCPL staff talking up their favorite teen titles!

Kids and teens should also sign up for our exciting new Summer Reading program! Log the books kids and teens read all summer long to win incentives, and receive emails suggesting books based on their interests.  Your reading log and email reading suggestions will continue beyond Summer Reading throughout the year!

people reading on devices - what do i check out next
Let's not forget about the adults! Have a look at our engaging reading suggestions on Readers' Cafe. These include our We Recommend and Librarian's Choice selections. You can also find What We're Reading and Good Books for Book Clubs on our Pinterest boards. Want some personalized book suggestions just for you? Fill out our What Do I Check Out Next? form telling us what you like to read. Our expert librarians will email you a list of three to five books we think you'll love! We also have NoveList Plus for adults with reading suggestions based on books or authors you have enjoyed.

And finding more books to read like your favorite titles just got easier!  Search for any book in our catalog and select the title link to find even more enticing reads that are similar to that book.  This new NoveList Select feature in the catalog allows you to quickly and easily search for available copies and place holds on books and authors similar to your favorites.  If you like the "feel" of the book you can select links for more reading suggestions based on pace, tone, and writing style.

Interested in books in languages other than English? We have many exciting titles in our World Languages Collection in Amharic, Chinese, Farsi, French, Korean, Russian, Spanish, and Vietnamese.

parents reading to child on ipad
Looking for a different reading experience? Don't forget that besides books in print we also offer e-books, e-magazines, and audiobooks!

We love to read, and we love sharing our picks and our passion for reading with you! Our librarians are happy to give suggested book titles for you in person at our branches or online. There's something to read for everyone at MCPL, and we're here to find the right book at the right time for you!


Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Father's Day musings

The author and her father
in a distant past.
Father’s Day was this past Sunday. (In case you missed noticing all the commercials on TV or the sales flyers in your newspaper and mailbox.) I learned some new things about the holiday from the History Channel that amused me. For instance, even though the Mother’s Day holiday had already been established successfully in the early 1900’s there was apparently some resistance to an equal celebratory day for dad because “fathers haven’t the same sentimental appeal.” Flowers and gifts did not seem very “manly,” even by 1924 when President Coolidge was involved in a Father’s Day observance. As another quote in the article says, men saw the holiday as a “commercial gimmick to sell more products—often paid for by the father himself.” (That part still rings true!) It was 1972 when Father’s Day became an officially recognized holiday…in what could have been a politically motivated move by President Nixon during his re-election campaign.

MCPL has good reading on fathers and fatherhood, some of it sentimental, some of it educational, and some of it humorous. Here are some highlights:

When I First Held You, in which 22 critically acclaimed writers talk about the triumphs, challenges, and transformative experience of fatherhood. Edited by Brian Gresko. Musings on fatherhood that will pluck a variety of heartstrings.
Manhood for Amateurs by Michael Chabon. This popular author and father of four reflects on his own childhood through the lens of being a parent.
Fatherhood: rising to the ultimate challenge by Etan Thomas with Nick Chiles and a foreword by Tony Dungy. Thomas, a former NBA star with a commitment to helping youth and encouraging young men to engage fully in fatherhood as part of the Fatherhood Initiative, gives a heartfelt account of what makes being a father so important.

Like many other grown children, I traveled to my hometown on Sunday to spend time with my dad and my family. My dad and I have developed a Father’s Day tradition over the last several years. We ride motorcycles together through some of my favorite riding territory (winding country roads through orchards and state forest land) to attend a small, folksy, outdoor church service in Caledonia, PA. After the service we head down the road to a local diner for lunch and then back out on the road for more riding. He usually stops at some point to ask me if I want to keep riding or if I’m ready to head home, and unless it is raining or I’m getting sunburn we usually keep going for another hour or so before looping back home. I always enjoy this time with my dad because we do not often spend time together and because I know we’re doing something that makes both of us happy. This year, I broke tradition because of the stormy weather forecast and because I knew I wouldn’t be getting much sleep the night before we rode. (As it turns out, I still wouldn’t have gotten a good night’s sleep but the weather would have been fine.) Even though I went to visit for lunch, it wasn’t the same as getting that special time together out on the bikes.

My dad was my junior prom date
because my date never arrived.
He stayed longer than I did.

Father's Day outing 2014.

Tina R.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

I'll Write This...Later

This blog post is due today, so naturally I’ve spent the morning on Facebook. Well, not all morning. I had to eat breakfast after all. Can’t write on an empty stomach. And I had to take a shower, otherwise this post might stink. And that article on The Atlantic’s City Lab website about anti-collision technology was very interesting.  Naturally I had to rant—I mean write—about it for all my Facebook friends. I would have put in on Twitter too, but I’ve abandoned my Twitter account.  I was wasting too much time there.

I just did a Google search of Internet procrastination and came up with 1.2 million results, so I guess I’m not alone in my struggle. One fun article, again from The Atlantic—a fine procrastination tool, er, publication—discusses ways to break out of the "Procrastination Doom Loop". Any article with that fun
Stressed man
Can't talk now, I'm on deadline!
phrase deserves a look. Go ahead and read it, I’ll wait for you to come back. offers
"15 Ways to Overcome Procrastination and Get Stuff Done", which isn’t nearly as catchy a title, but it does have colorful graphics. Readers should be able to skim through it quickly and get back to their real work.

Some hardcore advisers recommend eliminating Internet access from your home. Such is the advice of Joshua Fields Millburn, co-author of The Minimalists website who penned the article "Killing the Internet at Home is the Most Productive Thing I’ve Ever Done." He asserts that by making his home Internet free, he doesn’t get sucked into random ‘net surfing. He keeps a running list in a paper notebook of specific tasks he needs to accomplish online, like uploading articles he’s written. When he goes out the library or coffee shop to get online, he’s more likely to attend to his tasks and not get trapped in mindless browsing.

You’ll note that one of his recommendations is to visit the library as a means of rationing one’s time on the Internet. All Montgomery County Public Libraries offer computers with Internet access and free WiFi

If cutting the cord at home seems like too much, there are many online tools that can help you step away from the keyboard. Google offers an extension for its Chrome browser called Stay Focusd. It allows you to set time limits on whatever sites you waste too much time on. You can also block sites altogether. Inc. magazine reviews Stay Focusd and other anti-procrastination apps in its article "10 Distraction Killing Tools for Better Concentration." I’ve been meaning to try some of these out, but well, I haven’t gotten around it it.

Eat That Frog! book cover
Add caption
Some of those apps are free, others have a price tag. But don’t worry, everything the library offers is free. I have read several books about procrastination, probably when I was suppose to be doing something else. There’s the humorous Art of Procrastination, by Stanford University professor John Perry. He recommends structured procrastination. This involves placing your most important tasks at the bottom of your To Do list in the hopes that you’ll complete these tasks as a means of avoiding whatever you’ve placed at the top of your list. I’m not sure how effective the method is, but his book is fun to read. For a more conventional book on overcoming procrastination, there’s The Procrastination Equation: How to Stop Putting Things Off and Start Getting Stuff Done, by Piers Steel.  For procrastinating foodies, there’s Eat that Frog! 21 Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less TimeFear not amphibian lovers, no frogs were harmed in the writing of this book.

If you too, suffer from occasional bouts of procrastination, don’t worry, you’re in good company. Revolutionary War era political activist Thomas Paine, in his famous pamphlet Common Sense, felt the need to chastise his fellow American colonists for dragging their feet on the task of rebelling against the British. In the conclusion of Common Sense, he notes, “... until an independence is declared, the [American] Continent will feel itself like a man who continues putting off some unpleasant business from day to day, yet knows it must be done, hates to set about it, wishes it over, and is continually haunted with the thoughts of its necessity.”

The American colonists overcame their reluctance to take on a difficult task. Whatever difficult tasks we’re avoiding, they probably don’t involve kicking out the British Empire, so sign off Facebook and get to work!

Mark S.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

"It Was A Dark And Stormy Night"

The English used to be the champions of idle chitchat about the weather. But Americans are catching up. There has been so much dramatic weather to talk about lately, drought in California, floods in Texas, tornadoes across the mid-west, and in our own area the daily pinging of alert messages on our phones warning of storms and flash floods. We’ll soon be in hurricane season with the south and eastern seaboard under constant threat. Weather rampages across the country like a monstrous character in a horror novel, or the personification of chaos in a myth. 

There is one group of people who are always happy about the weather, no matter how bad it gets: novelists. Since well before the immortal line “it was a dark and stormy night” novelists have used the weather to create atmosphere in their tales. Here the English have no rival. Their notoriously dreary weather was particularly useful for nineteenth century novelists, and can even be blamed for the invention of the Gothic. In 1816, known as “the year without a summer,” Lord Byron, Percy Shelley, and Mary Godwin fled the gloom of England for a villa on the shores of Lake Geneva. Alas, there was no summer there either. The friends entertained themselves on cold evenings with readings of their works in progress. Byron and Shelley wrote dark, brooding poetry and Mary, who later married Shelley, wrote the first draft of Frankenstein. You can read more about this scandalous literary summer in The Poet and the Vampyre: the Curse of Byron and the Birth of Literature’s Greatest Monsters by Andrew Stott, the perfect book for a stormy night.

The Bronte sisters made good use of the bleak weather on the Yorkshire moors. Emily gave us the lovely word “wuthering” and Charlotte sets the tone for Jane Eyre by bringing on the rain in her very first sentence. George Eliot ends The Mill on the Floss with a flood of biblical proportions, which sweeps Maggie and Tom to their deaths. The description of the brother and sister clasping each other in a final embrace brought on floods of tears when I first read it as a teenager.

American literature is full of apocalyptic life-changing weather events. Dorothy would never have visited The Wizard of Oz without that tornado. The dust bowl era also inspired the classic The Grapes of Wrath as well as many other books. Although it is shelved in the children’s section, adults should not miss Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse, a novel in verse.

A more recent weather disaster, Hurricane Katrina, is the setting for Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward, winner of the 2011 National Book Award. As the hurricane bears down on Mississippi a poor African-American family pull together to survive the storm. Written with suspense and poetry, this is an unforgettable portrait of a family tested by everyday reality and extraordinary danger. A storm inspired by Shakespeare’s The Tempest is the title event in The Storm by Frederick Buechner. Long estranged brothers are among a group of outcasts and misfits living on a South Florida island as a storm gathers. Will it bring destruction or reconciliation?

Whatever the weather this summer, you're sure to need a stack of reading from the library. Find summer reading suggestions at The Readers’ CafĂ©, in book displays at your local MCPL library, and in person from a librarian at the Information Desk. Here’s hoping for sunny days at the beach this summer, and may the stormy weather stay firmly between the pages of your books.


Monday, June 8, 2015

Great Fines Read Off!

Hey Kids and Teens! Got fines?
Earn a Library Buck toward your fines
for every 30 minutes you read at the library!

If you’re 17 or younger, you can earn a “Library Buck” for every half-hour you read in the library.
If you read to another young person in the library, you can both receive credit for your time!

You can register at any branch and may read any type of material (books, graphic novels, magazines, eBooks, eMagazines, websites, etc.) in any language.

Go to the Information Desk to track your time and collect your Library Bucks, and then redeem them at the Circulation Desk!

Please note: You must have existing fines or holds fees to participate. Library Bucks cannot be used toward fees for lost or damaged materials, collection agency fees, lost card fees, or other charges.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Jane in June

Who doesn't love Jane Austen?!  The clothes, the manners, the memorable characters and, of course, the romance. So here at MCPL we are celebrating Jane this June!


Every Sunday Bethesda Library is the place to be for Jane fans. Be sure to stop by for these exciting Jane events!

emma movie cover
Jane In June—Jane at the Movies: Austen's Novels on the Screen
Sunday, June 7 at 2 p.m.
Just how accurate are those Jane Austen film adaptations from the 1990s and beyond? Alden O'Brien, Curator of Costume at the DAR Museum will discuss the design concepts of the movies!

The Regency Era and the Making of Modern Morality
Sunday, June 14 at 2 p.m.
Want to know what England was like during the Regency period? What was it like living under the rule of King George III and his son? How was the Regency different from the Victorian period? Find out from Mike Bevel, the facilitator of the Bethesda Library Classics in Context book discussion group.

Begrudgingly Yours: Jane Austen, the Prince Regent and Emma
Sunday, June 21 at 2 p.m.
Celebrate the 200th birthday of the publication of Emma! Austen begrudgingly dedicated this novel to the prince Regent—a man whom she, to put it mildly, despised. How did this happen? Learn more from Mike Bevel, the facilitator of the Bethesda Library Classics in Context book discussion group.

"The Prussians are in the Woods!"
Sunday, June 28 at 2 p.m.
What was it like to be a soldier and sailor in the 18th and 19th centuries? How was England's ally Prussia important in the war with Napoleon? Learn all these exciting facts from Myron Peterson, Amateur Historian and Living History Reenactor!

Books and Movies

Pride & Prejudice word artHow else can you celebrate Jane in June? With books of course! It is amazing how an author with so few written works made such an impact and lasting legacy on literature. Of course, you can read her beloved writing in Pride and Prejudice, Emma, Sense and Sensibility, Persuasion, and Mansfield Park. Did you know that she also wrote Northanger Abbey and Lady Susan? While maybe not as well known as her other works, Northanger Abbey it is worth reading and has the engaging character of Catherine whose excessive fondness for reading Gothic novels might be impacting her real life! Both Northanger Abbey and Persuasion were published after Jane Austen's death in 1817 at the age of 41.

Want to know more about this amazing writer? Read one of our biographies to find out how Jane Austen became a writer and what influenced her. Like to explore and learn online about Austen?  Search for her in Biography in Context and Literature Resource Center.

Read all of Jane Austen's books but looking for something more? We've got a couple of options for you to choose from!

Looking for a story set during the same time period? Love shows like Downton Abbey with it's whole upstairs/downstairs drama? Longbourn by Jo Baker is the book for you. It's about what was happening downstairs while you were upstairs enjoying Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy! Love a good mystery but want more of the Pride and Prejudice characters you love? Read Death Comes to Pemberley by P.D. James. Can Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy solve a murder that has happened practically at their doorstep?

librarian in jane austen t-shirt
Looking for something modern yet Austen like? Every Jane fan must read Austenland by Shannon Hale. The ultimate Jane fan gets a rare chance to go to an immersive Jane Austen theme park. This book will leave you wondering just why they haven't built this yet! Read to find out if the heroine is able to kick her Austen addiction or find her own Mr. Darcy. If you enjoy that novel be sure to read the sequel Midnight in Austenland. Just want your beloved Jane Austen novels updated to reflect modern times? Read Sense & Sensibility by Joanna Trollope, Emma by Alexander McCall Smith, and Northanger Abbey by Val McDermid.

Looking for something Jane-esque but with more fantasy? Read Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Seth Grahame-Smith as well as Sense and Sensiblity and Sea Monsters by Ben H. Winters.  Not into monsters? Try The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde. This is the first book in a delightful Thursday Next series where a detective must stop literary crimes. In this world criminals are able to change works of literature forever. In this case, someone has stolen Jane Eyre from her own book. Poor Mr. Rocherster!

Don't forget to also celebrate Jane in June with movies! Be sure to watch all the Jane Austen movie adaptations of your favorite titles. It's a great way to see if the story and actors captured it the way you imagined it to be. Which actor portrayed Mr. Darcy the best? You decide!

Enjoy celebrating Jane in June with us!