One Book, Any Readers?

The concept of one community reading the same book and then talking about it has been around for quite some time. In fact, Lanark County libraries have taken part in the One Book, One Community initiative a few years in a row. Each library bought multiple copies of the same book, based on the theme for that year, and community members read, took part in book talks, author discussions, and fun activities. While it was super popular in some libraries, it didn’t do well in others. The reasons? We really have no idea.

Advertising can be part of the issue, and how community members get their news. Some populations might be more inclined to read everything in their local paper, while others rely on Facebook and other social media outlets. But it also depends on the age of the population that is likely to participate in library events such as this. It’s possible that some communities had a younger population attending adult library events, and maybe they weren’t ones who had a lot of time to participate in several events based on one book. Maybe in other communities, an older popular had more time, or loved book clubs. It’s difficult to say, but often, it comes down to people knowing about the program.

New York City recently tried a venture that stemmed from the Mayor’s Office for Media and Entertainment, and the popular website BuzzFeed. They called it “One Book, One New York”. Essentially, it was what libraries have been doing for decades. They advertised it as the largest book club in history.

Ironically, they tried to launch the same type of initiative two years earlier, but no one could agree on what book to read, so it was scrapped. This time, they allowed New Yorkers to vote on five selections, and they decided on AMERICANAH by Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi.

So, did it work this time? Each burrough of New York City reported back with their results—how they advertised, what events they offered, and what they thought about the program. You can read the entire article here.

Overall, it was difficult to measure the success, because it depended upon the area and who you asked. Some places in NYC found it difficult to advertise and get the book to people because they didn’t have any small, local bookstores there anymore. Other places couldn’t keep the book on their shelves. Some people saw ads for the program, but didn’t make it to any events, and felt a little out of the loop, while others read the book with co-workers and were able to have their own discussions.

This sounds typical of community book clubs in general. You can’t have programs that will accommodate everyone all the time. All you can do is try. And try again. And try a third time. And if it still doesn’t fly, move on to a new program.

Lisa Simpson Book Club

I’ve talked in the past about television shows influencing book clubs (like the Lost book club, based on books referenced in the show or shown in various scenes), but it turns out there is another fun club along the same lines! The Lisa Simpson Book Club was started when someone thought they should put together a scene by scene view of all the books, authors, magazines and bookstores that have influenced Lisa Simpson though the years.  And it turns out there are plenty!

The Big Book of British Smiles…..something Lisa was reading, and something that would give us ALL a chuckle, I’m sure.

Fans can contribute their own scenes  that reference reading and Lisa Simpson.  There are the funny clips when she encounters authors, the great store called Books! Books! and Additional Books! and the ever loved Junior Skeptic Magazine that cropped up in various episodes. As you’ll see, she has a wide scope of literary adorations…all of which will leave you chuckling.

If you have something you’d like to add to the site, make sure you have a .JPEG showing Lisa with one of her crazy book finds. There are links to ask a question about Lisa and her books, a link to submit your suggestion or you can just add them to your Facebook page or Twitter account.  It’s lots of fun, and very creative, so have a look around.  Maybe you’ll find her reading something YOU enjoy!

Joined any book clubs yet?

September is much like January in that it feels like a fresh start. All sorts of clubs and activities start up again and people begin workout routines and diets with vigor once again! (Okay, maybe not diets, but usually people get back into a workout schedule of sorts.)

But speaking of book clubs lately, the fall is a great time to start one of those as well, or to at least join one. If you don’t have one in your local area (bookstore, library etc.), you can find one online to suit your needs.  Today, for example, I ran across a new one at Entertainment Weekly. Sounds like they started ambitiously, trying to do a book a week, but let’s be realistic here…not many of us have time to do that. So, they’ve decided to go at it every few weeks (they’ve already posted a tentative schedule).  Most of the books they’re reading are new releases, so you’ll have to be first on the waiting list at the library or fork out some cash to purchase your own copy, but the idea is fun for people who do that anyway. There is a big discussion of each book and the bonus here is that usually, questions for the author can be submitted and answered. Now, how many local book clubs do you know that have access to authors? Right now, they’re reading Ape House by Sara Gruen who wrote Water For Elephants. If you love literary fiction, this just might be a great book club for you!

Of course, you can always hop over to Oprah’s Book Club on her website. She’s about to announce her latest selection on September 17th, and many people think it will be Nelson Mandela’s memoir, Conversations With Myself. Oprah usually has an extensive discussion about the book following the given time to read it and then she also interviews the author on her show, with lots more from the interview available afterward online.  You might not have as much of a chance to ask a question or talk about the book, as this is a REALLY popular book club, but she often picks fabulous books (okay, people either love her choices or hate them….you decide).

If you’re looking for something a little less formal, why not try an online book club group like BookTalk.org They offer a wide selection of books to talk about, both fiction and non-fiction and they give you plenty of time to read the books in order to discuss. The books are all very different, which should appeal to people who don’t like the traditional literary book clubs, but the conversation is also vast and interesting.

You can Google online book clubs and come up with a variety of resources, and these are just a few of those, so spend some time finding the perfect club for you.  Let this fall be the start of something fun and mind-opening!  Join a book club!

Cookbooks…do you like them?

I read a lot of cookbooks.  Yes, from cover to cover, for the most part.  There is nothing like a shiny new cookbook filled with beautiful glossy pictures of the food you can create with the recipes inside. To me, it’s almost like Christmas going through the pages.  What will I find?  Will I discover a new recipe that I just can’t live without?  The possibilities are wonderful!

So, when I came across a blog entry today from the Allen County Public Library in Indiana, I was fascinated!  A book club for cookbook lovers! The group meets and discusses one new cookbook a month and the results are posted on their blog right here. They talk about what they liked and disliked about the cookbook, the photographs and even how the author writes.  They also sampled a couple of recipes from the author’s blog (although I’m sure they were also found in the cookbook). This is a nice change from regular book clubs, who probably don’t do much more than a bowl of chips for their refreshments (okay, I’ll probably get a few arguments here, but you get the point.)  This form of book club also offers a variation on a cooking club where members meet and bring (or make) several recipes and discuss what they liked or disliked.

If you’d just like a few new cookbooks to look at, we’re always putting out new ones on our shelves (cookbooks are some of the most popular books in the library!). Some of the more recent ones that I’ve looked at and enjoyed, either for the recipes or the pictures or both, are:

Araxi : Seasonal Recipes from the Celebrated Whistler Restaurant by chef James Walt

This cookbook is a new Canadian offering and has wonderful pictures and exotic recipes (although I think many of them could be made at home). The pictures here are clean and well presented, making the food enticing!  You can also see more of this cookbook here or visit the Araxi website here.

Ghoulish Goodies by Sharon Bowers

Here’s a fabulous idea cookbook for that one special night! I’d purchased this book for the library quite some time ago, but I made myself wait until just recently to catalog it so I’d be in the mood. I’m working on Halloween Craft Night ideas, so this was perfect to take home and devour!  The recipes are simple and extremely creative and there are lots of ideas for your Halloween party or just dinner on that night.  The fun thing about this is the section at the back which gives you a few ideas about what to do with recipes once Halloween is over (fall themes etc.).  They also have a great website with many of their recipes posted.  I especially like the idea of candy corn pizza (not really candy corn) but they have a few really great ideas!

And finally:

Rose’s Christmas Cookies by Rose Levy Beranbaum

I have been thinking about Christmas baking, merely thinking about it, but I took this cookbook home for a little inspiration and I think I’ll take a few recipes from the book and try them this year.  Most of the recipes in here are very standard, so you can’t go wrong but there will be something for anyone who is looking for a new idea. Traditional is always best at Christmas, or so my husband tells me. Beranbaum has a super website filled with recipes, videos and lots of great ideas!

Have you read any great cookbooks lately?


My book club is…LOST?

One of my absolute favourite shows is Lost, on ABC. Okay, I’ll admit that sometimes (maybe more than that), I don’t know what is going on. The characters are complex, the storyline moves around quite a bit, and the references are often “lost” on me. An appropriate name for a show, I think. I find that often, if a director or writer of a movie or television show can keep you continually confused, the work is often praised. (It makes me think that critics are just as confused as I am and don’t want to let on so they make the work out to be of a higher intellectual level.) But Lost is actually quite good and can be enjoyed on many levels.

This particular series changes from season to season, focusing on different people, different points in time and different places. But one thing that continually runs through the show are the references to literature, and literature of all kinds, from pop culture straight through to classics. The creators of Lost have at all times wanted viewers to participate in the show by offering very creative websites, fake job postings, magazines and contests. And now, they are offering us something more. A book club!

The creators of the series, Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse, have included 40 books so far, ones that have either been mentioned in the show, referenced in some subtle way, or have simply appeared on the bookshelves in a scene. have this to say about the books:

“Over the first four seasons of LOST we’ve managed to incorporate more than 40 books into the show. For the first time, we’ve cataloged a list of books available in audio form that relate in some way to LOST. Some are being read by our characters, such as Sawyer, or are just sitting on shelves in episodes of the show; others connect with various themes of the series.
We hope you’ll join our informal Lost Book Club. To paraphrase one of our heroes, Stephen King, to be a writer one must first be a reader. We find ourselves constantly striving for even a small measure of the accomplishment of what all these authors have achieved in their books. Pick up any of them and experience the richness of storytelling, character, and theme, and then allow your imagination to connect all that back into our show.
We can’t promise you any of these books will lead you to answers about LOST, but we can promise you’ll be enriched for having read them.”

They are only offering these books to the viewers in audio format, but of course, you can come to the library and pick up pretty much any one of them to read on your own. I think this is going to be one of my challenges this summer, to start going through them. I don’t think it will help me to figure out the series, but I feel like participating in something, so I’ll let everyone know how it is going.

Here are a few of the books on the list:

On the Road by Jack Kerouac

Carrie by Stephen King

A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens

Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll


If you want more information about the Lost book club, you can follow this link:

http://abc.go.com/primetime/lost/index?pn=bookclub

Get “LOST” in a good book this summer!

Oprah….jumping the shark?

To use a phrase from pop culture, I think Oprah has “jumped the shark”! The term was coined back in 1977 when, on an episode of “Happy Days”, Ritchie and the gang went to California, and the Fonz tried to break a record by jumping on water skis over a shark. This episode was a way for the television show to try to boost its lagging ratings, but the stunt was so over the top for the show that it was thought to be the thing that fully brought the show down for good. Since then, the term “jumping the shark” has been used to describe shows that have run their course and are now on the downswing.

In the last few weeks, her topic choices have been becoming more and more questionable, but Tuesday’s topic did it for me. In my eyes, it was her moment on the water skis. Past life regression…..the type of talk show fodder that you’d see on other, more questionable shows, not on a serious show that has been Oprah’s fare for most of the years she has been on. I know that the topics can’t all be deep and serious and life altering, but to see her asking her newest sidekick, Dr. Oz, about his own past life regression session was truly a weird low for her. She once swore to only do topics that would not exploit people in any way, and those that would be of value. I’m not sure I’m getting the value here?

But let’s talk about the books! Ever since she began doing her now famous book clubs, our library has rushed out to make sure we have copies of each selection for our patrons. From the moment a new book is announced as her book club choice, we’ll have people coming in or calling us to find out if we have it. And we often have a long waiting list for each book. We even see a resurgence in the requests when her show starts running the episodes as repeats in the summer, so we might have a run on a certain book in the fall, and again several months later. (What always surprises us though, is the number of people who will hear her selection and think that they can just walk in and get a copy that same afternoon. They really are shocked when they find out we have a long waiting list. Keep in mind, waiting lists are MUCH longer in the bigger city libraries, so I think we have it pretty good in our little library!)

We have gone through her “new book” selections, her “classic book” selections, and this year, she seems to be on a self-discovery kick by promoting books such as:

The Secret, by Rhonda Byrne

Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert

and

A New Earth, by Eckhart Tolle.

Now, I have been a big fan of some of her book club choices in the past, and so have many of our patrons, but the latest choices have been disappointing to some. I had a conversation with a few of our patrons just the other day about Oprah’s apparent need to make us all more “spiritual”, and they were obviously tired of the choices as well. I think maybe it depends on where you are in your life at the moment, but the books are certainly not for everyone.

Now that I think of it, maybe I WOULD rather watch someone hold his breath for 17 minutes, or someone show us the funniest home videos of all time (which were two of her latest shows), than have to listen to an hour of Oprah going on about “AHA” moments, or backing her favourite presidential candidate. I can watch the presidential campaigns on CNN or read the tabloid headlines while I’m in line at the grocery store to catch up on the latest crazy Tom Cruise antics. Oprah….I wish you would please get back to your “great” books or start thinking about retirement!