Thursday, January 31, 2008

Margaret Truman, Mystery Writer Passes

President Harry Truman's daughter who grew up in the White House died this week. She was nearly eighty-eight. Margaret Truman was the author of twenty-five mystery novels which, while not gaining critical favor, were very popular with readers.

In the series of Capitol Crimes mysteries she wrote about one a year. The first, published in 1980, was Murder in the White House and the most recent, published last year was Murder on K Street. She occasionally wrote nonfiction books of Washington interest. You may get them all here at the library if you wish to read in retrospect.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

This Week in Reading January 27 - February 2

We're getting into some of the most populated weeks for author births with some fascinating names this week and in the next two. Does it mean some of the best selling authors are Aquarians? Probably not as popular writers are spread all over the calendar but it does make you wonder what was happening nine months prior that so many with wide appeal appear in the last weeks of January and most of February. Oh, that's right, it was Spring, where thoughts run to ...

There are authors and others with wide appeal in several fields like Norman Mailer, Zane Grey, Paddy Chayevsky, Oprah Winfrey, S. J. Perelman, John O'Hara, Barbara Tuchman, Langston Hughes, and James Dickey. There are those who appeal to more specialized literary tastes like James Joyce, playwright Anton Chekhov, and science fiction writer Yevgeny Zamyatin. For politicos there is Thomas Paine and even commentator Keith Olbermann this week. And there are a lot more names than even these. (This week links currently only to January 27 - January 31 as we're relinking starting on February 1 to just four static weeks a month. You can find Feb. 1 and 2 on the Past Weeks pull down menu above. We're updating and correcting as we go, however.)

This Week's Question: In August of 1814, during the War of 1812, British troops burned the Capitol building in Washington, DC, that housed the original Library of Congress. Immediately thereafter, Ex-President Thomas Jefferson, who had spent fifty years collecting books, offered his personal collection to Congress to begin a new library. On January 30, 1815, after much debate about whether his wide-ranging interests suited a legislative library, Congress accepted them. Jefferson wrote "I do not know that it contains any branch of science which Congress would wish to exclude from their collection; there is, in fact, no subject to which a Member of Congress may not have occasion to refer." That universality of interest lies behind the Library of Congress still today and it has become the world's largest library with over 130 million items in over 460 languages. How many books did Jefferson give to the library to start it up again?

Answer to last week's question: What was the Bloomsbury group? In the early years of the twentieth century America had its Algonquin Roundtable of cosmopolitan wits in New York who quipped with little more than incidental social consciousness, and Paris had its disillusioned Lost Generation of expatriates who tried to acheive a European sophistication beyond simple morality and social standing. London at the time, however, had its own earlier intellectual community of upper class writers, artists and thinkers called the Bloomsbury circle or group. Very much influenced by the impressionist painters, belle epoque arts, and critical of war and capitalism, the group began as a clique of upper class collegiate classmates moved into the Bloomsbury section of London and lived a bohemian lifestyle devoted to art and ethics. This was decades before American beatniks and hippies began to channel them. The names of Virginia Woolf, Lytton Strachey, E. M. Forster and economist John Maynard Keynes were current among American intellectuals of the 1960s when Edward Albee entitled his play about academic relationships Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

U. S. Constitution Made Simple - 3 Events

The Glendale Public Library is pleased to present Dave Kluge, author of The People’s Guide to the United States Constitution in a three-part series of events at the Central Library in late January and early February.
On Monday, January 28, 2008 at 7:00 P.M. Mr. Kluge will speak in the library auditorium as part of the Friends of the Glendale Public LibraryAuthors, Artists, and Friends” series. His talk, “The Constitution Made Simple will address the purpose of government as written in the Declaration of Independence, the Preamble to the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Afterwards he will entertain questions for a lively discussion of topics about the Constitution.
Copies of The People's Guide will be available for sale through the Friends of the Glendale Public Library and the author will sign copies.

On the following two Monday evenings, February 4 and 11, at 7:00 P.M. in the Glendale Central Library's media interactive Learning Center, Mr. Kluge will bring the Constitution into sharper focus for up to thirty people. Using projected Internet sites, with sixteen computers, and a dozen other seats for onlookers, the author will show how the Constitution came to be, how it has endured, and how you can find more information and resources to become civically engaged with constitutional issues in your life. Sign up for this event at the end of the January 28 auditorium speech.

These events are free and open to all, depending on space. (For another computer interactive program that happens in in the library see Moyers Talkers which meets monthly.)

Saturday, January 19, 2008

This Week in Reading January 20 - 26

Who's afraid of Virginia Woolf this week?
Have you ever read anything by her or by anyone else in the Bloomsbury Group of which she was considered a member? How about the other Londoner born on the same day a few years earlier, W. Somerset Maugham? Which of the two would you like more? They wrote about the same time but didn't care for each other's works much. You can decide whose style and concerns interest you more.

We Americaphiles can read one of our homegrown classic writers this week, Edith Wharton, whose work was nearly contemporaneous with theirs but both just as rich yet more than plain than either.

This Week's question:
What exactly is the Bloomsbury Group?

Answer to last week's question: Many people have used the phrase "a Horatio Alger story" to describe how someone became successful by pulling himself up by his bootstraps. Alger wrote dozens of these very popular books in the 1800s. However, his story was essentially the same one over and over. And it was hardly "rags to riches." It was about some poor, but well meaning clerk in a company who faced difficulties and seemed to help others in the company, and in every instance, was rewarded by the company owner or wealth holder who found his work ethic or values of note. Rather than becoming rich by his own ingenuity the subject of each book got promoted from clerk to head clerk or maybe to assistant manager because of his loyal hard work. not to anything higher. The class and opportunity based disparities between those who ran companies and those who worked for them never were addressed. First, you have to have boots from which to pull straps.

"Authors, Artists & Friends" Series

Robert Novak, conservative journalist and pundit will be at the Glendale Public Library to discuss his new book, The Prince of Darkness.
It's free, so join us Wednesday, January 23, 2008 at 7:00 pm.
Novak, one of the most influential political reporters of our era, recounts his journey from Associated Press cub reporter to "Novak's Inside Report," one of the longest-running syndicated columns in the nation.
His remarkable career has also made him a well-known face on television news programs such as Cross Fire, Capital Gang and Meet the Press.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Continuum’s 33 1/3 Series of Books Celebrate Popular (and Not-So-Popular) Music’s Great Albums

The Brand Library features a fine selection of titles from the 33 1/3 series, an ever-growing collection of books that celebrate the great and important records of the rock and roll era, from The Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds to Radiohead’s OK Computer. While the series, published by Continuum, covers many of the legendary names in popular music history (Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Pink Floyd), many underground, overlooked, and generally underappreciated albums are featured as well. PJ Harvey’s Rid of Me and Neutral Milk Hotel’s In the Aeroplane Over the Sea, neither of which developed much more than a cult following upon being released, are featured in the series, right along side the Rolling Stones’ Exile on Main Street and Neil Young’s Harvest.
It is important to note that the albums covered are not exclusively rock and roll records. Stevie Wonder’s Songs in the Key of Life, the Beastie Boys’ Paul’s Boutique, and ABBA Gold are among the many titles from other important genres of popular music in the latter half of the 20th century featured in the 33 1/3 series.
The format for the series is very simple: one classic album, one writer, one book. It is obvious that each writer, normally a musician or music critic, has a genuine fondness for the album about which he or she is writing, and this helps transform the series from a dry rehashing of extended production notes into a celebration of popular music’s truly remarkable artistic achievements. Themes in a given book can range from biographical treatment of the artist, to contextualizing the album in the musical or social era in which it was created, to simple reminiscences of the author’s initial experiences of buying and listening to the album. As The New York Times Book Review puts it, the books are “freewheeling and eclectic, ranging from minute rock-geek analysis to idiosyncratic personal celebration.”

ALA Youth Media Awards 2008

Reading is good, at any age. The American Library Association announced the winners of its Youth Media Awards today.

John Newbery Medal (for most distinguished contribution to American literature for children)
Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! Voices from a Medieval Village by Laura Amy Schlitz

The Wednesday Wars by Gary D. Schmidt

Randolph Caldecott Medal (for most distinguished American picture book for children.)
The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick

The Wall: Growing Up Behind the Iron Curtin by Peter Sís

Theodor Seuss Geisel Award (for most distinguished book for beginning readers)
There Is a Bird on Your Head! written and illustrated by Mo Willems

Michael L. Printz Award (for excellence in literature written for young adults)
The White Darkness by Geraldine McCaughrean

One Whole and Perfect Day by Judith Clarke
Your Own Sylvia, a verse portrait of Sylvia Plath by Stephanie Hemphill

Coretta Scott King Book Awards (recognizing an African-American author and illustrator)
Elijah of Buxton by Christopher Paul Curtis (author honor)Let It Shine: stories of black women freedom fighters written and illustrated by Ashley Bryan (illustrator honor)

King Honor Books
November Blues by Sharon M. Draper (author honor)
12 Rounds to Glory: the story of Muhammad Ali by Charles R. Smith (author honor)
The Secret Olivia Told Me
by N. Joy, illustrated by Nancy Devard (illustrator honor)

Jazz on a Saturday Night illustrated by Leo and Diane Dillon (illustrator honor)

Pura Belpré Awards (honoring Latino authors and illustrators)
The Poet Slave of Cuba: A Biography of Juan Francisco Monzano by Margarita Engle, illustrated by Sean Qualls

Pura Belpre Honor Books
Frida: viva la vida! long live life! written and illustrated by Carmen Bernier-Grand (narrative)
Martina the Beautiful Cockroach, a Cuban folktale retold by Carmen Agra Deedy, illustrated by

Sunday, January 13, 2008

This Week in Reading January 13 - 19

This week is full of very well known names with just a few literary standouts. Everyone's heard about Horatio Alger stories, but it's doubtful anyone these days has read one. Everyone knows about Ben Franklin as printer and founding father but how many of his essays have you read? How about Dr. Albert Schweitzer, whose name was nearly synonymous with anything underdone as a humanitarian effort, and for which he won the Nobel Peace Prize? Even though you've heard about it for years, when was the last time you used Roget's Thesaurus?

At least it's likely you read stories and poems by Edgar Allan Poe, maybe because you had to for school. If you're like us, you enjoyed them, too. And maybe, when you were six, you learned to read A.A. Milne's stories of Christopher and Pooh by having them read to you before that. If you haven't read John Dos Passos, who wrote before and during the Great Depression, perhaps you should before and during the one that's coming.

This week's question: Just what is an Horatio Alger story anyway?

Answer to last week's question: Ina Coolbrith was the librarian of the Oakland Public Library in 1895 when she became a mentor to an adolescent who hung out there after school. His name was Jack London, and she helped him learn to write stories by showing him good ones to read. Coolbrith, by the way, was also a writer and poet who helped others, and was honored as California's first Poet Laureate in 1915. (That position, however, fell into political abuse and for years many of California poets laureate were not literary types but instead were politicians or friends of politicians. Finally in 2001 a law was passed to establish the California Arts Council as the recommending body for the governor's two year appointment. From 2005 - 2007 the first new California Poet Laureate was the jazz poet Al Young, but no appointment has been made since.)

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Tristan and Isolde @ Brand Library

On Saturday, January 12, 2008 at 2:00 PM the Brand Library will be hosting a talk on Richard Wagner's opera Tristan und Isolde. The talk will be given by Los Angeles Opera Speaker Bureau member Arlene Stone. Admission is FREE. Tristan und Isolde will be performed by the Los Angeles Opera January 19 through February 10, 2008.

To receive emails about other events at Brand Library please sign up at

For more materials related to Wagner's Tristan und Isolde search the library's catalog.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

This Week in Reading January 6 -12, 2008

This week runs the gamut from Carl Sandburg and Kahlil Gibran to Rush Limbaugh and Howard Stern. What can one say about that range? Perhaps it's fitting since this is also the fictional week that HAL, the 2001 spaceflight computer gone bad, was born. In fact, HAL, Limbaugh, and Stern share the same day, January 12. But so do Jack London, Edmund Burke, and Jeff Bezos, the founder of Fortunately E. L. Doctorow, Zora Neale Hurston, Robinson Jeffers, and William James keep this week's list more intellectually balanced.

This week's question: Which author born this week discovered the public library and was mentored in reading and writing by librarian, Ina Coolbrith, who was called by that person "literary mother"?

Answer to last week's question: It would have seemed reasonable to guess that Rudyard Kipling "was the single most widely read English speaking author throughout the world" during the early part of the twentieth century but the words were written about Stephen Leacock, the conservative Canadian humorist widely reprinted in magazines and newspapers.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

The Art of Buying Art

One of the more popular topics that is researched at Brand Library is finding out the value of art works and also collecting art in general. A couple of new titles have recently been added to the collection that complement many standard price indexes.

The Art of Buying Art (2nd ed.) by Alan Bamberger is an easy-to-understand book on how to buy, sell, appraise, and collect art. Topics covered include instructions on: how to research and evaluate art prices, spotting fakes and forgeries, how to buy art at online auctions, negotiating for art, how to buy directly from artists, buying fixed-price art online, telling the difference between an original and a reproduction, and much more. Bamberger is a noted art expert, author, and syndicated columnist. He doesn't provide any pretty pictures to look at, but this is an easy read and he has compiled invaluable information to make it possible for you to buy art like a professional.

Another addition to our shelves is The Art of Buying Art: An Insider's Guide to Collecting Contemporary Art by Paige West. In this book, contemporary art expert and gallery owner Paige West guides readers to understanding contemporary art by discussing the process of finding, appreciating, and collecting contemporary art on any budget. West writes from her experience as a professional art dealer and gallery owner and uses many illustrations of contemporary art to show the reader some of the contemporary art scene. The book opens by defining "original art", and then moves on to discuss how to start collecting, where to find modern art, and what reasonable prices might be. West also educates the reader so that s/he may make decisions about what to display on their walls -- including possibly interesting pieces from limited editions by current artists without breaking the bank! The book concludes with a list of Recommended Galleries in several major U.S. Cities (including Los Angeles), and a Recommended Reading list.

Brand Library has many more books on the topic of art collectors and collecting, so don’t forget to search the catalog!

Library's Most Wanted Books

Here's a quick look at some of our most requested books at this time.

Click on the book cover images to find them in our library catalog. There you can read summaries and reviews, find other books by the same authors, or place a hold of your own!

Search the Book Talk archives!