The Man Booker International Prize Shortlist!

On Friday, the Prize Committee for the 2017 Man Booker International Prize announced their shortlist, having whittled down their long list to six shining examples of greatness in international (that is, non English-speaking) fiction, and the best in translation work.

And it’s this aspect of the award that I personally find fascinating.  There are brilliant, creative, and insightful human beings around the planet, and they create art in any number of mediums, forms, and in as many languages as have been created thus far.  But to translate their work is another art form in and of itself.

As Rick Kleffel noted in his fabulous think-piece on this topic, titled The Art of Translation, word choice is only the beginning when it comes to translation work.  It’s fairly easy, generally speaking, to  transpose a word in a foreign language to English.  But a translator also has to think about the sound of words, especially when translating lyric works like poetry.  Local and cultural connotations are significant, as well–there are any  number of regional dialects that a translator has to parse in order to provide an effective and meaningful translation; think about how we in Massachusetts understand “wicked” to mean “very”.  Now think about the actual meaning of the word “wicked” (evil or morally wrong).  These are issues that a translator must not only understand, but be able to handle.

Time periods matter, too.  Kleffel notes a particularly colorful instance related to him by Burton Raffle, a professional translator who was hired to translate a 16th century novel from Middle French into modern English:

Written in the 16th century, the novel was set in a time of filth and squalor. Raffel found he had to overcome the limits of the English language.

“Rabelais, the author of this very strange book, ends the chapter with a sputtering iteration. I believe it’s something like 43 different words in French for s- – -,” says Raffel. “My problem was finding 43 different words because English is not so plentiful in these things.

So, on that note, let’s tip our hats today, not only to these phenomenal authors, but to their incredibly talented translators, as well!

And just a reminder, the international prize comes with a cash award of £50,000, or about $64,000, which authors split with their translators.

And the nominees are…

Compass by French author Mathias Énard.  As night falls over Vienna, Franz Ritter, an insomniac musicologist, takes to his sickbed with an unspecified illness and spends a restless night drifting between dreams and memories, revisiting the important chapters of his life, as well as the various writers, artists, musicians, academics, orientalists, and explorers who populate this vast dreamscape, including the love whose loss has defined his life (translated by Charlotte Mandell).

A Horse Walks Into a Bar by Israeli author David Grossman: In a little dive in a small Israeli city, Dov Greenstein, a comedian a bit past his prime, is doing a night of stand-up.  Gradually, as it teeters between hilarity and hysteria, Dov’s patter becomes a kind of memoir, taking us back into the terrors of his childhood, from his traumatized and violent parents to his week at a military camp for youth, while his audience is forced to wrestle with their part in his increasingly harrowing tale  (translated by Jessica Cohen).

The Unseen about a family living on a small Scandinavian fishing island.  Sadly, there has been no US release announced (yet) for this book (translated by Don Bartlett and Don Shaw).

Mirror, Shoulder, Signal by Danish author Dorthe Nors.   Sonja’s over forty, and she’s trying to move in the right direction. She’s learning to drive. She’s joined a meditation group. And she’s attempting to reconnect with her sister.  But Sonja would rather eat cake than meditate.  Her driving instructor won’t let her change gear.  And her sister won’t return her calls.  Sonja’s mind keeps wandering back to the dramatic landscapes of her childhood, but can she learn to find her way in the present? (translated by Misha Hoekstra).

Judas, by Israeli author Amos Oz.  Jerusalem, 1959. Shmuel Ash, a biblical scholar, is adrift in his young life when he finds work as a caregiver for a brilliant but cantankerous old man named Gershom Wald. There is, however, a third, mysterious presence in his new home. Atalia Abarbanel, the daughter of a deceased Zionist leader, a beautiful woman in her forties, entrances young Shmuel even as she keeps him at a distance. Piece by piece, the old Jerusalem stone house, haunted by tragic history and now home to the three misfits and their intricate relationship, reveals its secrets. (translated by Nicholas de Lange).

Making Magic: It’s Festival Time!

*This post is part of Free for All’s “Making Magic” series, which will focus on Kelley’s exploration of the opportunities in the library’s Creativity Lab as well as musings about art, creativity and imagination.

Spring is here, and with it comes festivals! If you’re familiar with annual North Shore happenings, you know that warm weather means music festivals, art fairs, farmers’ markets and more. For today, I’d like to focus on one very special event in particular and that is the Mass Poetry Festival. Every May, the Mass Poetry Festival comes to Salem and brings three days of poetry readings, workshops, lectures and performances. Venues for the event are all in downtown Salem and include spaces as varied as Old Town Hall and Howling Wolf Taqueria.

Each year, in preparation for the event, the library offers a series called Get to Know the Festival Poets, which gives people a chance to learn about the event’s headlining poets with the guidance of local poet and professor Jennifer Jean. This year’s series just wrapped up, but you still have time to get a ticket to the Festival, so that you can see live readings with some of the poets we discussed. This year’s headliners include Louise Gluck, Eileen Myles, Ross Gay, and Cornelius Eady. If seeing some award winning poets read their work isn’t enough for you, the Festival also offers a small press fair, panel talks, open air performances, and poetry slams.

So mark your calendar for May 5th – May 7th! And in the meantime, why not read some of these great books written by participating Festival poets?

Poems, 1962-2012 by Louise Gluck
A Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award winning poet, Louise Gluck will speak at the Festival as part of the Poetry Society of America’s current national series, Poetry and the Natural World.

 

Penguin AnthologyThe Penguin Anthology of Twentieth-Century American Poetry
This collection includes poems written by Cornelius Eady, a Festival headliner who will read on Saturday, May 6th. Eady is the author of Victims of the Latest Dance Craze, winner of the 1985 Lamont Prize from the Academy of American Poets, and The Gathering of My Name, which was nominated for the 1992 Pulitzer Prize.

Eileen MylesI Must be Living Twice: New and Selected Poems by Eileen Myles
Described by Publishers’ Weekly as “ both an underground star and a major force in contemporary poetry,” Eileen Myles is the recipient of four Lambda Literary Awards, the Clark Prize for Excellence in Arts Writing, the Shelley Memorial Award from the Poetry Society of America, Creative Capital’s Literature Award as well as their Andy Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Grant, and a Foundation for Contemporary Arts grant. Myles will read at the Festival on Saturday May 6th.

The Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude by Ross Gay
Ross Gay’s Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude is the winner of  the 2015 National Book Critics Circle Award and the 2016 Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award. In addition to writing award winning verse, Gay is a founding board member of the Bloomington Community Orchard, a non-profit, free-fruit-for-all food justice and joy project.

Saturdays @ the South: Can the Library help you stay healthy?

Why yes, yes we can. Aside from the many health benefits reading can offer you, Libraries have been known to increase the general population health of the cities they serve.  So how can we here in Peabody help our patrons be healthy in their lives?

April is Massachusetts Health Care Decisions month (celebrating 10 years, who knew?)  and the library has some resources to help you make good decisions regarding your health. Please know, however, that health is an exceedingly personal topic and the library is never a substitute for a medical health professional’s learned opinion. We can’t diagnose a condition or offer medical advice. What we can do is help you be more informed when you go to a health practitioner’s office so your conversations with him/her are more productive.

Have you ever looked up a headache on Web MD and incited a minor panic attack in yourself with all the possible diseases a headache can be a symptom of? I’ve been there; it’s not fun. While WebMD is a very popular site to look up health information, there are other options that are not ad-driven with reliable information. As Arabella noted, there is that great “more” section on the library’s website. Part of the “more” we offer, is access to the Health and Wellness Resource Center. This site offers searchable options for health conditions, directories of practitioners, alternative medicine options and information about drugs and herbs and their interactions with the body and each other. This and many other health-based databases are available here to help you make the best health decisions for you.

The library also has health and wellness titles ranging extensively in variety. The West Branch (and very soon the South Branch!) have those listed in the BISAC system, so all you have to do is look for the “Health” section in our Adult Nonfiction stacks to find what you’re looking for.  Or you can always ask a friendly staff member to locate a book either within our stacks, or in the catalog. Because the NOBLE system includes several academic libraries, you have access to a lot more researched and reviewed information than many other public libraries who don’t have a consortium behind them.

And then there are our programs. The South Branch recently hosted a professional organizer who talked about the affects of clutter on health and well-being. The Main recently hosted a Health Information Workshop and we’re always looking to offer more programs that can help our patrons live better lives.

So this Earth Day, while I highly encourage you to think about the health of the Earth, remember also that your health is important, to the Library as well. Till next week, dear readers, stay healthy and let us know how we can help you do that!

Five Book Friday!

And a very happy birthday to Turkish novelist, poet, and playwright Murathan Mungan!  Mungan, who was born this day in 1955, to an Arab father and a Bosnian  mother, is one of Turkey’s most respected and well-known writers, as well as being a champion of LGBT rights in Turkey.  His works deal with topics such as the Kurdish conflict, political Islam and gender issues.  You can read some of his beautiful poetry (in translation) via the Words Without Borders website.

Murathan Mungan, courtesy of FotoKritik

In 2014, Mungan sat down for an interview with Qantara.de, an Internet portal that represents the concerted effort of organizations within the German Foreign Office to promote dialogue with the Islamic world.  In the interview, which you can read in its entirety here, Mungan talks about language, about optimism, and about the potential for creating a better future through dialog.  In honor of his special day, we thought we’d share a few of his insights here with you.  And just a note, remember that this interview took place in 2014, right around the time that then Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan became President.  Perhaps these words have even more meaning for all of us now:

You say you don’t like the word optimistic, but in general you always seem optimistic when it comes to developments in Turkey. At the same time, you once said that you can do anything in Turkey, but you’re not allowed to disgrace yourself. Do you still feel as positive following the accusations of corruption against representatives of the AKP, which so far have not been followed up?

Mungan: First of all, I have to say that, as far as my own life goes, I’m no butterfly happily fluttering around. But I try not to think in terms of categories like optimistic, pessimistic, happy, unhappy, hopeful, hopeless; I try to find an objective yardstick, to see the entire picture, the whole process.

There’s a quote from a French thinker, whose name I can’t remember, who said: my experiences make me pessimistic; my will makes me optimistic. That’s the best way to describe my attitude. We have to find new paths of resistance. And I think the greatest resistance is to do what you do best. The system can take everything from me, but my ability and my belief in what I do best will always remain.

And speaking of doing what we do best, here’s some of the books have marched across our shelves this week for your reading pleasure!

Ararat: I know I’ve been waiting to meet this book for a while now, so it was lovely to see all the terrific reviews that have been pouring in for Christopher Golden’s newest novel!  When an earthquake reveals a secret cave hidden inside Mount Ararat in Turkey, a daring, newly-engaged couple are determined to be the first ones inside…and what they discover will change everything.  The cave is actually an ancient, buried ship that many quickly come to believe is really Noah’s Ark. When a team of scholars, archaeologists, and filmmakers make it inside the ark, they discover an elaborate coffin in its recesses. Inside the coffin they find an ugly, misshapen cadaver―not the holy man they expected, but a hideous creature with horns. Shock and fear turn to horror when a massive blizzard blows in, trapping them thousands of meters up the side of a remote mountain.  I’m in love with Josh Malerman’s cover blurb, so I’m going to share it with you here: “Let the other blurbers tell you how thrilling, how frightening, how robust this book is. They’re right to do it. But the thing that struck me deepest about Ararat is how timely this tale is for the world right now. The men and women in the book are treated as equals; in strength, in smarts, in power. Muslims are set to marry Jews. Scientists and Christians are working on the same edgy project. And yet, they all fear the same way. And they hope the same way, too. If ever we could use a story that reminds us that we’re together, a singular race, in religion and gender, that time is now. Bravo, Christopher Golden, for sewing such enormous themes into a nail-biting, exhilarating book.”

Finding Gideon:  Eric Jerome Dickey is one of those writers whose books are taut, exciting, daring, and envelope-pushing (if that’s a phrase), but they also focus on a number of issues that don’t normally get discussed–at least so overtly–in mysteries.  In this fifth outing for Dickey’s much-beloved hitman Gideon, the job is taking its toll. Neither Gideon nor the city of Buenos Aires has recovered from the mayhem caused during Gideon’s last job. But before the dust has settled and the bodies have been buried, Gideon calls in backup—including the lovely Hawks, with whom Gideon has heated memories—to launch his biggest act of revenge yet…one he believes will destroy his adversary, Midnight, once and for all.  Yet Midnight and his second-in-command, the beautiful and ruthless Señorita Raven, are launching their own revenge, assembling a team of mercenaries the likes of which the world has never seen… and Gideon isn’t their only target. Gideon will need all of his skills if he is to save not only his team, but his family as well.  This is a story, and a series, that blends soap-opera levels of drama with plenty of action, suspense, and vivid characters that is sure to keep readers enthralled.  Booklist certainly was, as they noted in their review “Dickey steadily generates a taut, deadly atmosphere throughout the book, and readers will not be able to predict who will be the last man standing”.

American War: Journalist Omar El Akkad’s debut novel, which is part dystopian sci-fi, part social commentary, and part action-thriller, has been winning acclaim from readers and reviewers alike, for good reason.  Sarat Chestnut, born in Louisiana, is only six when the Second American Civil War breaks out in 2074. But even she knows that oil is outlawed, that Louisiana is half underwater, and that unmanned drones fill the sky. When her father is killed and her family is forced into Camp Patience for displaced persons, she begins to grow up shaped by her particular time and place. But not everyone at Camp Patience is who they claim to be. Eventually Sarat is befriended by a mysterious functionary, under whose influence she is turned into a deadly instrument of war. The decisions that she makes will have tremendous consequences not just for Sarat but for her family and her country, rippling through generations of strangers and kin alike.   El Akkad’s own courage in defying genre expectations from start to finish, and his willingness to examine the darkest parts of our current interactions has earned him a great deal of attention, with The Washington Post cautioning ““Follow the tributaries of today’s political combat a few decades into the future and you might arrive at something as terrifying as Omar El Akkad’s debut novel, American War. Across these scarred pages rages the clash that many of us are anxiously speculating about in the Trump era: a nation riven by irreconcilable ideologies, alienated by entrenched suspicions. . . . both poignant and horrifying.”

Notes on a Banana: A Memoir of Food, Love, and Manic Depression: Any time I hear that someone loves Julia Child as much as I do, I want to hear their story, and James Beard-Award winner David Letie’s story is a truly remarkable one that speaks to readers on a number of levels.  Born into a family of Azorean immigrants, David Leite grew up in the 1960s in a devoutly Catholic, blue-collar, food-crazed Portuguese home in Fall River, Massachusetts. A clever and determined dreamer with a vivid imagination and a flair for the dramatic, “Banana”, as his mother endearingly called him, fell in love with everything French, thanks to his Portuguese and French-Canadian godmother. But David also struggled with the emotional devastation of manic depression. Until he was diagnosed in his mid-thirties, David found relief from his wild mood swings in learning about food, watching Julia Child, and cooking for others.  This is a story about self-acceptance, perseverance, and determination, and about using your talents not only for others, but to save yourself, and is winning reviews from psychologists, cooks, and readers alike, with Booklist calling it “Warm, witty…sometimes heartbreaking . . . Fans of the author’s James Beard Award-winning website, Leite’s Culinaria . . . won’t be surprised by his wonderful sense of humor and his keen powers of observation . . . candid and charming.”

H. H. Holmes: The True History of the White City DevilIf you’ve read Eric Larson’s seminal work Devil in the White City, you’ll have heard plenty about H.H. Holmes, the super-villain of Larson’s work.  But in this new book, Adam Selzer, host of the Mysterious Chicago blog, delves into Holmes’ biography to create a true-crime book that aficionados will savor.  Though Holmes has become just as famous now as he was in 1895, a deep analysis of contemporary materials makes very clear how much of the story as we know came from reporters who were nowhere near the action, a dangerously unqualified new police chief, and, not least, lies invented by Holmes himself.  The cover blurb notes that “Selzer has unearthed tons of stunning new data about Holmes”, and while I’m not sure if that’s a metric measurement or a gross exaggeration, he certainly is earning plenty of acclaim from other true-crime authors, and Publisher’s Weekly had this to say: “When the unprecedented success of Erik Larson’s Devil in The White City stirred up renewed interest in serial killer H.H. Holmes, Selzer made it his mission to painstakingly research Holmes’ life, family, and crimes with intense determination and doggedness. The result is this comprehensive, compelling, and surprising biography of Holmes, written in a conversational style, as if we are passengers on one of Selzer’s tours…Using thousands of primary sources to draw the most accurate picture of this American villain yet, Selzer keeps the delicate balance of salacious (and mundane) details maintained with solid facts. What emerges is a picture of a terrible but intriguing man, one who continues to capture our imagination over a century later, and one whose story leaps off the page in Selzer’s uniquely suited hands.”

Until next week, beloved patrons, happy reading!

On Book Stagnation and Readers’ Advisory

Did you ever have one of those days (or weeks….or months…) where you just couldn’t find anything to read?  Where every book you started failed to hold your interest through the first fifty (or twenty…or three…) pages?  Where even the covers annoyed you because you knew they weren’t the book  for you?   Where you genuinely begin believing you will never find another book to read ever again and there is no joy left in the world and all is darkness?

I’ve been there.

We’ve all been there–to a greater or lesser extent.  Your addiction to reading might not be quite as strong as mine, but I think you know what I mean.  It’s a more common issue for readers than we like to discuss.  Sometimes it’s a condition that Lady Pole has described here as a book hangover, when the last book you read was so good, so immersive, so engaging, that you don’t want to leave it’s spell once the final page has turned.   But sometimes, it has nothing to do with the last book you read.  Sometimes, it’s book stagnation.

We haven’t really discussed that one too much, but book stagnation refers to that feeling when you just can’t find a good book; when the publishing market and your personal tastes seem to be on very different pages (proverbially speaking).  Like when every romance novel I picked up wanted to be Fifty Shades of Grey.  If that was your thing, I’m very happy for you.  It just honestly did nothing for me.  Or every mystery I picked up featured a highly-detailed and gruesome murder, as told by the murderer, in the first pages (in italics, because all murderers talk in italics).  Again, if you enjoy these books, then I rejoice for you.  It’s just not my cup of tea at all.  Or when history books don’t have proper citations/footnotes/bibliographies.  That’s one that I refuse to tolerate, sorry.

But, thankfully, there is a remedy to both book hangovers and book stagnation.  And both can be found at the Library.  More specifically, from the people working at the Library.

Speaking for myself, one of my most favorite parts of the job is when a patron comes up and says that they like a certain author, or genre, or topic, and that they don’t like another genre, or a theme, or a type of plot, and asks me to help them find a new book based on that criteria.  Not only is it a fun challenge to find the bookish needle in the bookish hay of our stacks, but it’s also a true, heart-swelling moment of joy to talk about books and stories with another person, and connecting with another reader.  We may not see eye to eye about what makes a ‘great read’…in fact, we usually don’t.  And that makes it so much more fun, because it helps me appreciate the elements of a story that much more.

For example, I’ve had a long talk with patrons about scary stories.  And it was fascinating to learn what scares people in fiction.  For me, as we’ve discussed here, it’s a lot about the unknown, and the unexplored.  For others, it’s haunted houses.  For others, it’s true crime novels.  And for another, nothing was scary unless it had a soundtrack (so we headed to the DVD section of the Library).  Similar things happen with ‘funny’ books.  I delight in absurdities, while some patrons prefer black-as-night humor, and still others prefer humorous non-fiction like Erma Bombeck’s work, because the laughs come from empathy, rather than absurdity.

So imagine my joy when a fellow librarian friend of mine sent out a note to the Social Media last night saying that she was suffering from book stagnation and needed help!

I provide the recommendations she received in this hopes that it might encourage you to come in and find some new books for yourself, as well.

Here were the guidelines:

Books Recently Enjoyed:
The Rosie Project
A Man Called Ove

Dislikes:
Military History, Contemporary Romance, Gruesome Details in general (though mysteries are ok in theory), scenes of animals or children suffering

Recommendations:
(These are just a few of the huge pile that were suggested–feel free to check them out, or bring in your own list of ‘likes’ and ‘dislikes’ to get some more personalized recommendations!)

Non-Fiction:

Joe Gould’s TeethJoe Gould believed he was the most brilliant historian of the twentieth century. So did some of his friends, a group of modernist writers and artists that included E. E. Cummings, Marianne Moore, William Carlos Williams, John Dos Passos, and Ezra Pound. Gould began his life’s work before the First World War, announcing that he intended to write down nearly everything anyone ever said to him. “I am trying to preserve as much detail as I can about the normal life of every day people,” he explained, because “as a rule, history does not deal with such small fry.” By 1942, when The New Yorker published a profile of Gould written by the reporter Joseph Mitchell, Gould’s manuscript had grown to more than nine million words. But when Gould died in 1957, in a mental hospital, the manuscript was nowhere to be found. Then, in 1964, in “Joe Gould’s Secret,” a second profile, Mitchell claimed that the book had been, all along, merely a figment of Gould’s imagination. Lepore, unpersuaded, decided to find out.

The Soul of an OctopusSy Montgomery’s popular 2011 Orion magazine piece, “Deep Intellect”; about her friendship with a sensitive, sweet-natured octopus named Athena and the grief she felt at her death, went viral, indicating the widespread fascination with these mysterious, almost alien-like creatures. Since then Sy has practiced true immersion journalism, from New England aquarium tanks to the reefs of French Polynesia and the Gulf of Mexico, pursuing these wild, solitary shape-shifters. Octopuses have varied personalities and intelligence they show in myriad ways: endless trickery to escape enclosures and get food; jetting water playfully to bounce objects like balls; and evading caretakers by using a scoop net as a trampoline and running around the floor on eight arms. But with a beak like a parrot, venom like a snake, and a tongue covered with teeth, how can such a being know anything? And what sort of thoughts could it think?

Hidden Figures : the American dream and the untold story of the Black women mathematicians who helped win the space raceStarting in World War II and moving through to the Cold War, the civil rights movement, and the space race, [this book] follows the interwoven accounts of Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson, and Christine Darden, four African American women who participated in some of NASA’s greatest successes. It chronicles their careers over nearly three decades they faced challenges, forged alliances, and used their intellect to change their own lives, and their country’s future.

Fiction:

Miss Jane:  Brad Watson has mad his career by expanding the literary traditions of the South, in work as melancholy, witty, strange, and lovely as any in America. Inspired by the true story of his own great-aunt, he explores the life of Miss Jane Chisolm, born in rural, early-twentieth-century Mississippi with a genital birth defect that would stand in the way of the central “uses” for a woman in that time and place–namely, sex and marriage. From the country doctor who adopts Jane to the hard tactile labor of farm life, from the highly erotic world of nature around her to the boy who loved but was forced to leave her, the world of Miss Jane Chisolm is anything but barren. Free to satisfy only herself, she mesmerizes those around her, exerting an unearthly fascination that lives beyond her still.

The Spellman FilesIn San Francisco, 28-year-old private investigator Isabelle “Izzy” Spellman works for her parents’ detective agency as does her 14-year-old sister Rae (their brother, the perfect and non-nosey one in the family, is a lawyer). The fact that the Spellmans are outlandishly dysfunctional, have trouble with boundaries, and are prejudiced against dentists (including the one Izzy starts dating) just adds to the fun–but then things take a bit of a serious turn when a family member goes missing.

Good luck, and good reading!

Getting MORE out of your Library

You’d be surprised the amount of terrific stuff you can find at the Library.

It’s true.

And I bet you’d be surprised by some of the neat things that you can find on our website, as well!

A few days ago, one of my favorite Circulation Staff Members asked me to help her access newspapers online with her Library card–and together, we discovered the glory of the “eLibrary”, and the magic of “more”.  And now, you can discover it, too!

From our homepage (www.peabodylibary.org), click on the “eLibrary” tab at the top of the page (underneath “information”)

This will open up a menu that gives you access to a whole bunch of features available through that Library that you can access with your Library Card.  Not only is there a link to the Library catalog and the Free For All (yay!), but you’ll also find links to Overdrive (e-books and e-audiobooks), Zinio (digital magazines), and Hoopla (streaming videos).

Even more than that, if you click on “Articles/Databases“, you’ll be taken to our menu of newspapers, magazine, academic journals, and a whole bunch of other databases, including Massachusetts driving tests, citizenship test prep, and homework help.    Though a number of these resources are available only to Peabody residents with Peabody Library cards, there are still plenty of resources here that all our patrons can access, totally free of charge.

But you know what?  It gets even better.

If you click on “More” from the “eLibrary” menu, you’ll be taken to a screen that will give you even more options for your digital delectation.  Here you’ll find Pronunciator, which can help you learn more than 80 different languages at your own pace.  You’ll find handouts for downloading material from Overdrive, and links to our YouTube page…why yes, we do have a YouTube page!

We here at the Library are always trying to keep up-to-date on the latest databases, resources, and technology to make your life easier, your learning more comprehensive, and your leisure-time more fulfilling.  So feel free to have a look through our e-resources, and be sure to click on “More”.  And let us know if you have any questions about how to use any of these resources!

Saturdays @ the South: Hysterical Fiction

As our blogger-in-residence Arabella noted in a recent post (one that I wholeheartedly and unabashedly support, agree with and second), this week has been National Library Week. What I only realized a few short days ago is that April also happens to be National Humor Month. While I don’t believe that humor supersedes libraries (libraries cover SO much more than fun), I do believe that humor is the spice of life and it can be the cure to many minor slumps.

But don’t take my word for it. Science is increasingly beginning to understand that laughter boosts more than endorphins. The Mayo Clinic notes that laughter can help with stress relief. The Huffington Post wrote an article that mentioned several health benefits of laughter including long-term pain management, immune system boosts and the fact that it’s a decent, albeit brief, workout.

While the Huffington Post recommends watching stand-up comedy for laughter benefits, might I humbly recommend reading (or listening to) a book? There are some fantastic books out there that can really bring on the belly-laughter. Go ahead, see if you’re health can improve ever so slightly with one of these tickling options:

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion

This book was read by one of the South Branch’s book groups and several patrons mentioned that it had them laughing out loud. This story follows the somewhat hapless antics of Don Tillman who, despite never having gone on a second date, decides to use science to find himself the perfect wife. Instead, he finds a barmaid named Rosie. Hilarity ensues. (If after reading this book you find yourself wanting more, you can follow up on the adventures of Don and Rosie in the sequel: The Rosie Effect.)

Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls by David Sedaris

While this book happens to be a particular favorite mind by Sedaris, I’m not sure you could go wrong with any of his books. Sedaris has a unique way of taking the mundane and occasionally odd and recounting it in a way that is both genuine and genuinely hysterical. His essays remind us that not only is the truth often stranger than fiction, but it’s also a lot funnier when put into the right hands.

Heart and Brain: Gut Instincts by The Awkward Yeti

The Awkward Yeti is a flesh-and-blood person who writes web comics, very funny web comics that a publisher had the good sense to collect and put into print. The characters Heart and Brain (along with several other organ friends) perfectly capture the dueling loyalties between everyone’s logical side and their emotional side. This is an it’s-funny-’cause-it’s-true type of hysterical, but don’t be fooled by it’s format, this is a comic aimed at adults and adult problems. Nothing in here that kids couldn’t see, but they wouldn’t get the jokes…

A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy O’Toole

This book follows the misadventures of Ignatius J. Reilly, a man for whom gluttony is a way of life and flatulence is something that everyone does in public. Yup, this is a Pulitzer-Prize winning book with fart jokes. O’Toole took the picaresque tradition and gave it a modern twist that has been a comedic classic for generations. This one receives much in-house library love and, since it’s a bit indescribable plot-wise, you’ll just have to take our word for it.

Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Watterson

Make no mistake, these collections of the classic comic strip are not just for kids. Ten years of my childhood can be marked in quality time with my grandfather, who enjoyed these strips every bit as much as I did and unabashedly laughed out-loud at every one of Calvin’s antics. I find I enjoy these comics even more as an (alleged) adult, because some of the poignancy in Watterson’s words is more significant to me now. Take a bit of time to follow the antics of Calvin and his wonderfully wise stuffed tiger yourself and you’re sure to get some good laughter rolling.

What types of book put your sides in stitches? Feel free to let any friendly library staff member know! Until next week, dear readers, take some time for some self-care: laugh!

"Once you learn to read, you will be forever free." ~Frederick Douglass