Sunday, November 15, 2009


It's been a long time since I've been able to read an entire book, but having a long plane ride across the Atlantic helps. When I first checked out Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides a list had just come out, The Best Fiction of the Millennium (So Far), that included this book (and many others in our Popular Reading Collection).

I was excited to dive into this hefty book and I was indeed carried away by this Greek Epic. I thought of the stories and trials of my own ancestors who passed through Ellis Island hoping for a better life in America. I was blessed to be born into middle class America in the late 1960s. The narrator Cal was blessed and cursed by his/her bloodlines. Growing up in the same era I recognized the aftermath of race riots that convinced our parents to flee to the suburbs, yet I was also easily transported to Asia Minor and Prohibition era Detroit through Eugenides' skillfull writing. His candid and unemotional treatment of hermaphroditism bordered on clinical but also made the story seem true. I half-wanted to use the library resources to see if Cal's case is indeed documented in medical accounts. The human story of Cal's family is what truly engaged me though and made the book an engrossing read.


Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Well, look at this! It's November!

This semester has been flying by. I'm amazed it's November already!

November is a month full of interesting things. Veterans Day gives us a chance to recognize and remember those who have served the U.S. in the armed services. Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays, not only for the food and the Macy's parade, but for the chance to pause and reflect on how good life really is.

But November is also National Novel Writing Month, and all over the world people are bent over their keyboards, cranking out words upon words. The deal with NaNoWriMo, as it's fondly called, is that the participants each try to get 50,000 onto paper in a fairly coherent fashion in one month--November.

Are you signed up for NaNoWriMo? Let me know and we'll try to get a gathering together. A write-in!

Have a good November and always have a book to read!


Friday, September 25, 2009

Dan Brown's new book is here!

Finally, after all the hype and hoopla, Dan Brown's new book is out! It's called THE LOST SYMBOL, and it's the next book in the Robert Langdon series. We bought two copies and they were checked out promptly. I haven't read it but it's supposedly 528 pages of intense reading, a riveting novel indeed.

If you want to read it, ask to have it held when it's returned. If we see requests for it, we'll get more copies.

We're heading into a new ordering season of books for Popular Reading, so as always, if there's something you want to read, just comment here. We look at the comments before publishing them (not that we think you're going to get, well, you know, but this way you can make a request and it won't appear on the blog--we respect your privacy).

We hope your semester is going well. Enjoy the weather, use hand sanitizer, and always have a book to read!


Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Life After Death: New Leipzig Paintings from the Rubell Family Collection

Author: Mark Coetzee and Laura Steward Heon

Genre: Contemporary Art History/Exhibitions

Painting is dead. So is hip-hop. There are a lot of people and things that are dead, some other things that should die (like Crocs, although they may be comfortable those definitely are not bio-degradable). Of those many things neither painting or hip hop are dead because I have experienced both and find them to be thriving in the most unlikely of places quite well.

In Life After Death, a group of essays commemorates the revival of painting that occurred by a group of young German painters during the decade after 1989—immediately following the fall of the Berlin wall. These men were the “Renaissance men” of our time and Steward and Coetzee take a look through the Rubell collection to examine the remarkable feat that these artists have created in times that are often looked at as less than alive. So the next time you see a clever ironic t-shirt that unknowingly claims “Hip Hop is Dead” politely tell them, “So is painting”.


Monday, July 20, 2009


Blankets by Craig Thompson

Genre: “An illustrated novel” taken from the front cover

Craig Thompson is a very young artist to reach the achievement that he has. While inking for DC comics, Dark Horse, Marvel, and National Geographic, he penned his own way through his second graphic novel, “Blankets”. An autobiography at a mere 592 pages, this graphic novel is a coming of age story about a Wisconsin native. Thompson moves from high school to college, experiences first love, and escapes his stifling evangelical upbringing, while these beautiful memories haunt the pages via swirling sketches within this book. More of an under-current within the novel is Craig’s relationship with his brother—the most sincere of all the relationships— I find that this is the most pivotal narrative of the novel—and one that sticks with me even as I write this.


Kristen's note: we don't own this book

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

What It Is

Thanks to "our favorite reviewer" Steph who has been doing some summer reading and provided us with a bunch of reviews. We need them! Kristen

Author: Lynda Barry

Genre: Comic Books/Graphic Novels/Writer’s Block Help

Lynda Barry makes beautiful, nostalgic, almost child-like collages and comics about youth. They are at once heartbreaking and insightful while making you laugh not at Lynda Barry, but yourself. At once a self-help book for artists with writer’s block and writers with artist’s block, this graphic novel becomes a way to remember the ways of creating that many of us have forgotten along the way to be adults. There is a great quote that comes to mind for me when reading this book, and that is from artist Damien Hirst, “All children draw it is a shame they ever stop.”

This graphic novel looks like one we should buy -- almost a thousand libraries worldwide have it! Lynda Barry's work is featured in a book we own, The best American comics 2007

Monday, June 15, 2009

Dakota Cipher review

We like guest posts! This is from Patty, who works here. Thanks, Patty, for the review! Make sure you read to the end for the surprise!

I have just come completed the latest adventure of Ethan Gage, an Indiana Jones meets Daniel Boone type hero, and again am blown away. This is the third of a series of books by William Deitrich consisting of: Napoleon's Pyramid (CFL has), Rosetta key (GFPL has) and what I just finished, Dakota Cipher (CFL has). Ethan Gage is a very rugged likeable rouge who started his adventures as an apprentice of Benjamin Franklin and electricity. He accidentally gets enlisted into Napoleon's quest for the mysteries of Egypt, fighting on both sides of the engagement between the British and the French. Whomever he happens to be with at the time, opportunist. In the next book, our hero is still on the loose now hunting for the fabled Book of Thoth in Israel. While being hunted still by all sorts of factions, he becomes well traveled for the day and age. In the third book, he ends up back in France with Napoleon, as an emissary of America and Jefferson has just been elected into office. He is enlisted first by Napoleon to check out the Louisiana territory, which Spain has just given back to France, and then teams up in Washington DC with a large Norseman who wants to seek out the proof of Norway discovering America first. Small Spoiler - the Kensington Runestone in Alexandria, MN, is one of the ultimate prizes to be found and proves to be a interesting journey. These books are a very good read, nicely historically accurate and action packed to keep you reading till way past your bedtime.

Patty's afternote: She wrote the author to tell him how much she enjoyed the book,and he emailed her back within an hour, thanking her for that. What a neat idea to thank the author! Have any of you tried it?


Monday, May 4, 2009

Nearing the end

I'm at the reference desk now. All around me I see you students working so hard, getting those last papers written and those last presentations prepared. It's pretty quiet here, except for the sound of keyboards.

It's almost the end of this semester. I don't know about you, but I was *delighted* to flip the calendar page to May. April seemed to drag on forever. Only 30 days? Seemed like 60!

But now it' s May and things are growing and flowers have popped up and the ground is green rather than white.

So the seasons change, and the students change. For those of you who are leaving us, we have truly enjoyed our time with you. For those who are staying, yeaaaa!

I won't be posting again until the end of the month so this is my chance to wish you a wonderful end-of-semester. Do well on your finals, and this summer, remember: Wear sunscreen, be safe, and always have a book to read.


Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Cupcakes, social networking, and hamburgers

I just ordered the last three books for Popular Reading this year. And how did I choose these landmark volumes?

Well, I'm on Twitter. It is the Voice of the Universe. I made that up but it is true that whenever I sign in to it, I hear from people all over the world (well, mainly the US but Canada, Australia, England--I even get news flashes from Le Monde in Paris, written in French, which I sort of understand). And, of course, some people are from right here in ND.

What do I hear people talking about?

CUPCAKES! I'm telling you, cupcakes are The Thing. Cupcakes this, cupcakes that. So I ordered the neatest looking cookbook called Little Cakes from the Whimsical Bakehouse:Cupcakes, Small Cakes, Muffins, and Other Mini Treats. Yum, the stuff in there looks good! Almost--yes--almost good enough to eat!

SOCIAL NETWORKING! Well, of course they're talking about social networking since it's Twitter, but take a look at this book: CauseWired: Plugging In, Getting Involved, Changing the World. It's about using social networking for making a difference. I like that! Log on and change the world!

HAMBURGERS: I've always said that if it weren't for bacon, I'd be a vegetarian, so I thought this book sounded interesting: The Compassionate Carnivore: Or, How to Keep Animals Happy, Save Old MacDonald's Farm, Reduce Your Hoofprint, and Still Eat Meat. Sort of covers it all, doesn't it? I sure want to find out how to reduce my HOOFprint, don't you?

I can't wait for them to arrive! Don't they sound great?


Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Same time, the next year

I've been reminiscing about being a "popular librarian" the past year. It's been great -- meeting authors, reading people's comments, and -- best of all -- having coffee, um WORKING with Janet. I was re-reading a posting I made almost exactly a year ago titled We Need More Book Reviews! The same is true today--we need your reviews. We started this blog to give UND community members a space to talk about books. The postings don't have to be long and they don't have to be only on books in the popular reading collection. Write about a book popular (or not) with you and send it in an email, we'll post it.

On another note, Janet and I and the other librarians are spending time in the Memorial Union with laptop in hand, ready to answer questions as you finish up term papers, research projects, etc. Please stop by to say "Hi" at the very least. We'll be at a table near the Union info desk 10:30-1:30 until May 7th.


Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Shopping for you

Kristen and I get to spend this week doing something absolutely yummy. We're going shopping! (Thanks, Student Government!)

We're buying cybercarts full of books, books for you! Bestsellers, mysteries, fantasy, whatever we think you'd like.

Our mind-reading skills are a bit rusty, though, so we want to make sure we're getting your book wishes right. So here's what we'd like you to do:

Comment back what you want to read. If you don't want us to publish your comment, we respect that, and we won't. But this is a great way to let us know what you've got a hankering to read. (Wow, I haven't used the word "hankering" in, well, you know what? Ever!)

So let us know what you'd like to see in the Popular Reading collection. Don't make us mind-read. Right now your minds are full of things like chemical formulas and thesis statements and DSM-IV disorders. It's been a long semester, hasn't it?

And until we hear back from you, have a good holiday break, and may all your bunnies be chocolate.


Friday, March 27, 2009

Writers Conference

Everyone is talking, of course, about the flooding, and UND is strangely quiet without the students. Many of you are using this time to help Fargo sandbag, and we are so proud of you!

Next week something wonderful happens in Grand Forks, really, it does! It's the Writers Conference, and the Popular Librarians will be there, in the audience, listening intently.

We're excited about this year's line-up.

Kristen and I had a fun little mini-conversation about who would be in our IDEAL writers conference. I'm obviously not bound the limits of time and space and little things like dead or alive, so I chose Laura Ingalls Wilder, Geoffrey Chaucer, Neil Gaiman, and Agatha Christie.

Who would *you* like to see?


Friday, March 13, 2009

Feet up, book in hand...

There is nothing like a vacation, even if you don't leave your chair. Actually, there are times when not having to leave your chair *is* the best vacation possible!

The Popular Librarians don't get the week off (grumble, grumble) but we'll celebrate with you in spirit. I'm planning to plunk myself in my recliner, cat in lap, lots of bad-for-me-but-tasting-so-good stuff at hand to eat and drink, and spend at least one evening revelling in the spirit of spring break. That means I'll sleep a little, watch a smattering of tv, and read the rest of the time.

But my spring break book has to be very special. I'm still trying to decide which one I'll select. It has to be a mystery, preferably a cozy mystery (I'm not big on guns and guts), and a hardcover is a lot easier to read from a sprawled-in-my-recliner position. Suggestions? Luckily we have this great Popular Reading collection that I can choose from.

BUT ENOUGH ABOUT ME (seriously). Let's talk about you! Are you taking a book on break with you? If you are, what is it? You are giving your brain cells some well-deserved recreation, we hope!

Have a safe and fun break! Come back rested and smiling and ready to finish up this winter!

And always have a book with you.

Janet (currently reading Coraline by Neil Gaiman and loving it!)

Thursday, March 5, 2009

cuz not all good books can be popular

Here is another one that won't make it to the popular reading shelf.

The Future of the Internet Volume 1: Up for Grabs by Lee Rainie, Janna Quitney Anderson and Susannah Fox

Sometimes funny, often contradictory, always thought-provoking are the answers given by respected technology experts and social analysts who were surveyed about the future of the Internet. The first couple of chapters describe the survey and the process of gathering and recording information. The main section of the book consists of a prediction, a summary of the survey responses and then additional credited responses in the form of quotes.Some of the topics covered are institutions, digital products, politics including the voting process, families, the health system and personal entertainment.

The layout makes for easy skimming and gives you something to think about even if you don't have time to read the entire book.


Monday, March 2, 2009

St. Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves

Have you ever felt like an outsider? Has that feeling been so extreme that you don't even feel like a member of the human race?

Have you ever wanted to curl up and disappear from the world for awhile? Has that happened and you get a panicky feeling that you can't rejoin the world because you'd done such a good job of disappearing?

Karen Russell in St. Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves plays with themes to an extreme. This is her first publication -- a collection of 10 short stories -- and she will be coming to UND in a few weeks as part of the Writer's Conference. I'm excited.

In her publisher's page she tells of being influenced by many writers, including Stephen King and Ray Bradbury, and I could see that. Her style is called "magical realism" and I love stories that mix the real and the fantastic. An author can get away with a lot -- push the envelope -- to get the reader out of their comfort zone, and maybe even elicit a gasp from them.
David Sedaris did that during his reading in Fargo several years ago. I encourage you to check out Russell's book. These stories will stay with you and they're perfect for a quick "time-out" from studying.


Monday, February 23, 2009


What is it about Frank L. Baum's Wizard of Oz that engages people year after year? After watching the classic movie with my kids, I checked out the original book. I was surprised at the differences, most notably how Dorothy is a much stronger, more self-reliant character who has to use her wits to get out of many more troubles than the movie character.

I also picked up The Wizard of Oz: Shaping an Imaginary World and discovered that after the success of his book, Mr. Baum lost money in several theatrical/film ventures and wound up having to write 14 sequels to the Oz books (usually coming out right before Christmas time). The sequels continued after Baum's death and some librarians/children's literature scholars dismissed the entire series as having any value to children 30 years after the Wizard of Oz was first written. However, the 1939 film version kept Oz and its characters part of the American landscape.

I'd heard of the broadway show, Wicked and knew songs such as "Popular" were from it. I didn't realize the 2004 musical was based on another book about that magical kingdom written in 1995.
Author Gregory Maguire created a story for the grownups in Wicked: the life and times of the wicked witch of the West. Just as you may be surprised when Lady Chatterley's lover reads more like a political manifesto than a juicy romance, so does Wicked explore weighty issues such as the nature of evil, while exploring political and religious holds on people who live under the dictatorship of the Wizard. I found myself slogging through the story of Elphaba (also known as the Wicked Witch of the West), her sister, friends (including Glinda) as they grew up in Oz during the earlier years of Oz's rule. I was enchanted with the story, though, and found the parallels to the book really interesting -- a talking lion makes perfect sense, the power of the glass prism shoes (not Ruby red) is explored, even the flying monkeys are explained. Elphaba is a complex, meaningful character in this book who seems to wreck havoc in the lives of those close to her-- without meaning to. Throughout her life she seems blessed and cursed at the same time. Because she didn't survive to give her side of the story and happened to be born with green skin, she became a nightmare character for generations of children.


Saturday, February 14, 2009

The Motorcycle Diaries

The Motorcycle Diaries by Ernesto Che Guevara


I feel that it is very unfortunate when icons become solely known for their revolutionary tendencies. I find that their beginnings are far more fascinating. Ernesto Che Guevara’s diary is one that is very close to Beat literature in some senses. It is a manifestation of change, of discovering culture and social identity, and of taking this discovery to hone in on the individual. When most often times people look within to find themselves (that sounds very fluffy-bunnyish. I apologize—barf bags are located in the front pocket of the seat in front of you.) I agree with Guevara that it is outside of the self that we discover the human being and figure out that our role is at once miniscule and abounding. The film is excellent too…but read the diary first.

S. Clark

Tuesday, February 3, 2009


I know this blog promotes reading for fun but I wanted to give my thoughts after reading the Jan 30th Dakota Student article on Tackling Textbook Troubles. I've just returned from the American Library Association Conference where I saw presentations by Nicole Allen, leader of the Make Textbooks affordable campaign, associate professor David Wiley, the "Chief Openness Officer" for Flat World Knowlege and Mark Nelson, "Digital Content Strategist" for the National Association of College Stores.

As I librarian, I was familiar with the "Open Access" movement to allow faculty to retain/negotiate rights for the research they produce. At this talk I learned of a push to create high quality textbooks that may be free to view online and available in print at a nominal cost-say $30 (for accounting and engineering textbooks!). Interestingly, the book store industry rep embraced this concept because bookstores do not make much of a profit from textbooks. Nelson talked about bookstores collaborating with libraries to create digital bookshelves. Someone mentioned that so far students have continued to buy (the very affordable) print versions to own but have easy access to the textbooks electronically while on campus (I wonder if Follet knows about this new strategy--I found on their website a 2004 document dealing with textbook prices).

The library does have some online books right now and we look into buying more but we need to match the right content with the right price and have access that doesn't expire. We haven't found that right mix yet. Today's Futuretense public radio program I like to listen to shows we're not alone in this problem, Why ebooks have yet to take off in a big way (2/3/09 program).

So, maybe someday soon real change will come for student reading, recreational and otherwise.


Wednesday, January 21, 2009

I read it at the movies

Have you noticed how many movies recently had their beginnings in books? Of course it's a grand tradition going back to Gone with the Wind and possibly before, but it seems that this movie season, Twilight started it, and!

Doubt. I haven't seen this yet but it looks impressive. Doubt is a play, not a very long one, and it'll be interesting for me to see how this short play morphs into a full-length movie.

The Tale of Despereaux. Let's clear one thing up right away: I'm not a fan of mice. Ick. Creepy little nasty things. But there's something really appealing about the mouse in this story, and both the book and the movie have quickly become well-liked, even by mouse-haters like me.

Marley and Me. This book was a huge hit, and so's the movie. But I think Jennifer Aniston and Owen Wilson would make any movie a hit, don't you?

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. This one I really want to see. Ever since I read The Great Gatsby in high school, I've been a fan of F. Scott Fitzgerald, and I'm curious to see how Brad Pitt interprets the role of the man who lives his life backwards.

The Secret Life of Bees.
The Boy in the Striped Pajamas.
Even The Day the Earth Stood Still started off as a short story!

So what movie have you read?

*who needs to choose a movie!*

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Review: The Hour I First Believed

As mentioned previously, I visited with author Wally Lamb while on his book tour promoting The Hour I First Believed. I just finished reading the signed copy donated by Harper Collins Publishers to the Popular Reading Collection and I encourage you to check it out.

Even though the large size of the book looks intimidating, I read through it quite quickly because I was immediately drawn into the characters and the story. The main fictional characters experience the real life tragedy of the April 20th 1999 shooting at Columbine High School. Lamb recreated that day and its aftermath through extensive research and his experience as a high school English teacher. He drew from his knowledge of teens, classical mythology, and female prison inmates to draw realistic characters who are stumbling through mazes and slaying monsters--sometimes victorious and sometimes not. In an author essay Wally writes, "A fiction writer weaves a fabric of lies in hopes of revealing deeper human truths." He weaves "lies" and facts to create an engaging story that does reveal many truths about the human condition.

In the book's afterward, Wally said he "had a terrible time starting this story." It took him nine years to get past everyone's expectations of him and "discover a story" to tell. Last time I checked, it was number nine on the New York Times Bestseller list. It also had a high rank on the bestseller for college campus list I saw at the bookstore. I will share more insights from Wally throughout the month but the Harper Collins website is great--full of information including a Q & A about this book.
Also, you can visit the reference area at the library to see a display on researching an author, the inspirations for this book, and the influence of popular fiction/nonfiction in general.


Friday, January 9, 2009

The Kingdom of Ordinary Time

UND alum Nancy Devine is a high school creative writing teacher and published author. (She's also an incredibly caring and fun person to know). She wanted to share her review of a collection of poetry by Marie Howe, The Kingdom of Ordinary Time via her blog. We don't maintain a blog list (even though some people are nice enough to add us to their lists) because this isn't our personal blog -- it's of and for the students of UND.

However, I encourage you to check out Nancy's blog to read the review AND check out her writings while you're there. I love Nancy's poetry, and the way she describes Marie's poetry is applicable to hers as well -- small scenes about everyday life that trigger a powerful sense of recognition.

Don't be put off by poetry -- we encounter it every day in song lyrics, in prayer, in a quiet moment of gratitude, in art. Take some time to read it and you'll be amazed how it will touch you.