Friday, November 30, 2012

For Hipsters Who Don't Know What to Read Next

(By the way, I have not read Infinite Jest.)

Following Your Favorite Authors on Facebook

I like James Baldwin enough that I "Liked" his page on Facebook. As a result, I routinely get quotations from Baldwin in my Newsfeed, along with news of exhibitions, readings, tributes, and other events celebrating the late American novelist, playwright, poet, essayist, and civil rights activist.
James Baldwin. Photo via

The James Baldwin Facebook page, along with most other Facebook sites focused on a particular author, is maintained by the author's publisher - in Baldwin's case, Pantheon/Vintage Books. Other author sites on Facebook are managed by the estate of the author. If the author is still living, it's not uncommon for the author to upkeep his or her own Facebook page, informing fans of scheduled appearances and new releases or even sponsoring contests for signed copies of his or her books. Folowing your favorite authors on Facebook is a great way to stay informed of their literary goings-on. recently listed "10 Bookish Facebook Feeds You Should Follow." (Alas, Baldwin's is not among them.) To see what they are, go HERE.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The One Book That Hit You Hard in High School

Tuesday afternoon, I turned on the radio and tuned in to NPR. I happened to catch the final minutes of the show "The Takeaway," and listeners were calling in to tell the host, John Hockenberry, the books that had the most impact on them in high school. Animal Farm, Lord of the Flies, Catcher in the Rye, and The Sun Also Rises were among the titles that were enthusiastically rattled off by callers who sounded more than a little nostalgic recalling the pivotal books of their youth. I had stopped what I was doing to listen, and I began to really wish that I had caught the broadcast from the beginning.

Tonight, I had a chance to listen to this edition of "The Takeaway," the podcast of which had been posted online. This edition of the show is titled "Is Literature Necessary?," and Hockenberry started things off with:

"At a certain point in school, if you got serious about reading and books, you took the leap. You went from picture-dominated kid books to real titles. The real books kids read in school are an important door to intellectual independence. The mind-meets-book relationship can be one of the first times a kid really explores his or her identity. So the world opened up when you read what?"

Immediately, listeners started calling in to reveal their favorite school reads, or they began posting them on the show's website, Hearing their selections, I wondered what book had a major effect on me when I was in high school. And I couldn't come up with an answer - at least not right away. Being in AP English, my classmates and I were assigned an incredible amount of reading. Much of it left me feeling lukewarm (or stirred a strong dislike for particular authors). Oftentimes, the books were something to slog through just to complete the assignment. I can't remember the books I chose to read; it seems whatever I was reading at that time in my life was something that needed to be read for class. Animal Farm and Catcher in the Rye were books that I picked up long after my high school years. (I still wonder if the faculty considered these books too rudimentary or too rough, respectively, for their AP English students. I enjoyed both tremendously while devouring them in early adulthood.) I guess if one book stood out for me at that time, it would be Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave: Written by Himself.

Image via

From the very beginning, the book grabbed me. I was impressed with the title - by its length and by the fact that, in it, Douglass asserted that he was the one who wrote this story about himself. To me, that said so much, especially when I thought about who the author was and when the book was published - in the pre-Civil War United States. It was such a strong testament. Then as I got into Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, I was amazed at what he went through to arrive at the incredible person he became. I was especially moved by his determination to learn how to read; his unabashed love for the written word was in sharp contrast to the deep derision that many in my age group directed toward those who were into books or were serious about doing well in school. So I was enlightened - and bolstered - by the example that Frederick Douglass set. So, to answer John Hockenberry's question, the world opened up when I read Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass in high school.

To listen to Tuesday's broadcast of "The Takeaway," go to THIS LINK.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Beautiful Corners to Curl Up in with Books

Some people daydream about breakfast nooks. I, on the other hand, fantasize about having a reading nook - like the one seen here. If I ever had a rustic setup for reading such as this at my place, I would never leave...except maybe to go to work and to library school! For nine more "Excellent Reading Nooks," go HERE.

Such a dreamy place for reading! Image via

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Overcoming Obstacles to Finding a Library Job

A friend once told me he would not accept a job if it paid less than X amount, even if all of its other aspects were just what he was looking for. This sense of entitlement can be a big obstacle in gaining employment, says Ellen Mehling, director of Westchester Graduate Library School, director of internships at Long Island University's Palmer School of Library and Information Science, and job bank manager/career development consultant for the Metropolitan NY Library Council.

When trying to find a library job, it's best to be flexible...and stay positive! Image via

"Entitlement," says Mehling, "is believing you should have something that you want simply because you want it: you deserve it, you have a right to it, things should go your way. To complicate things further, caught up in entitled behavior are past experiences which can lead to unrealistic current expectations." Not being willing to adjust your outlook based on today's reality - "a still struggling economy," according to Mehling - can make finding a library job, or any job, much harder.

A sense of entitlement is just one obstacle that can come between you and the job you want. Other obstacles within your control are "lack of specific required skills or experience or education, poor verbal communication and interviewing skills, a sparse online presence, poor writing skills and/or resume and cover letter, insufficient network and poor networking skills, inability to "sell yourself," [and] inappropriate attire for interview[s]." You can work on all of these things to bring yourself closer to your dream job. For instance, if the jobs you're interested in require you to have certain skills, take courses or workshops to acquire those skills. That's totally within your power.

However, Mehling admits, there are some obstacles that are not within your control: "age (or other types of) discrimination within the mind of an interviewer, a number of applicants so high that the hiring manager doesn't even get to your resume and cover letter, employers posting positions even though they have already chosen the candidate they will be hiring." Although you can't do anything about these obstacles, it's best to stay "confident and positive, [and] demonstrate persistence and determination." With the right attitude, proper preparation, and patience, you'll eventually get the library job you want.

For more obstacles to employment, and what you can or can't do about them, see Ellen Mehling's article "Know the Difference" at THIS LINK.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Random House Says Libraries Own Its E-Books

Of all the "Big Six" book publishers, Random House is the only one that has held fast to its stance on libraries' ownership of its e-books. Last year, Ruth Liebmann, director of account marketing at Random House, told attendees at a library panel, "A library book does not compete with a sale. A library book is a sale." And just last month, Skip Dye, RH's vice president of library and academic marketing and sales, reiterated to Library Journal, "Random House's often repeated, and always consistent, position is this: when libraries buy their RH, Inc., e-books from authorized library wholesalers, it is our position that they own them."

        Book publisher Random House has not waivered in its long-held assertion that libraries own its electronic titles. (Image via

Random House's belief that libraries own its e-books is in stark contrast to the viewpoint held by the other big book publishers, especially Penguin, which feel "the ready download-ability of library e-books could have an adverse effect on sales," according to Molly Raphael, president of the American Library Association (ALA). As a result, they've developed an increasingly adversarial relationship with libraries, finding more ways to limit libraries' access to popular electronic titles, or even going as far as refusing to offer any of their e-books to libraries for fear of lost sales. That Random House has confidently allowed libraries continuous access to its electronic titles is commendable. 

Yet, this action doesn't completely absolve Random House of accusations of greed. Earlier this year, it drastically raised the prices of its e-books - in some cases, as much as 300 percent - eliciting both exasperation and consternation from librarians across the country and the world. The South Shore Public Libraries system in Bridgewater, Nova Scotia, Canada, actually  boycotted Random House e-books in the wake of the steep price increase. "I don't want to pick a fight with them," said Troy Myers, chief librarian of South Shore Public Libraries, "but their pricing's unfair and I think they need to change it." Despite calls from the ALA to reconsider the price increase, Random House has, as of yet, not done so. I doubt it will. After all, once prices go up, they're not very likely to come down.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

'Hobbit' Coins Thrill J.R.R. Tolkien Enthusiasts

New Zealand just keeps on giving. It was enough that it brought us Flight of the Conchords. But now Hobbit coins? That can be used as legal tender? Stop it!

A spoof of Lord of the Rings in an episode of Flight of the Conchords.
Brett McKenzie (left) actually appeared as the elf Figwit in the LOTR films.

A set of coins featuring Bilbo Baggins, Gandalf, and other characters from The Hobbit, the 1937 fantasy novel by J.R.R. Tolkien, are now on sale in New Zealand. More than collector's items, the coins are real currency, although their face value is only a fraction of what Tolkien enthusiasts will pay to possess them. According to ChannelNews Asia, the coins range in price from NZ$3,695 ($3,020) for one that's pure gold to NZ$29.90 ($24.68) for one that's made of aluminum and zinc.

A set of coins featuring characters from The Hobbit.
Image source:

The coins have been released to coincide with this month's premier of The Hobbit film series, directed by Peter Jackson. Part 1 of the series will open in Wellington, New Zealand's capital, on November 28. (It will hit theaters in the United States on December 14.) International orders for the coins can be made through the website of the New Zealand Post, which "has worldwide exclusive rights to issue official legal tender commemorative coins celebrating Sir Peter Jackson's trilogy of films based on 'The Hobbit,'" according to its home page.

To read more about The Hobbit coins, go HERE. To order the coins, go HERE.