Read, Listen, Watch

Staff Picks and Suggestions


Hey folks, it’s late March, and I wish I were in Fort Myers, Florida. Not just because it was snowing in Boston this morning, although that’s probably a good enough reason. But no, the real reason I’d like to be there is ’cause then I’d already be enjoying some Red Sox baseball! Opening Day is just around the corner, and I can’t wait. The Sox are due to be playing their much-hyped season-opening games against the Oakland A’s in Japan in just a few short days. Yes, you can catch those on TV — too bad the start time for both is 6:05 AM, Eastern Daylight Time! Maybe you want to read something about the team to get psyched up for the start of the season. One title I definitely enjoyed is One Day at Fenway — a great choice for anyone who (like me) hasn’t actually got tickets to a game. Author Steve Kettmann and his team of researchers attended the August 30, 2003 Red Sox-Yankees game at Fenway and had access to multiple different viewpoints — celebrities in the crowd, everyday fans, team owners, even the scoreboard operator. The resulting book is an incredibly detailed and fascinating look at one regular-season baseball game with pennant-race implications (the Sox-Yanks rivalry helps!) and, more broadly, the relationship of fans of all stripes to the sport. Definitely a fun read, with all kinds of interesting tidbits and background information about the game that you probably didn’t know. Snell Library has lots of other books on baseball, and on the Sox: for example, try a Subject search on Boston Red Sox. And yes, if you must, you can also get Subject results for the New York Yankees, but I’m not going to automate that search for you. 🙂 Happy reading, in anticipation of that wonderful soon-to-be-heard cry, “Play ball!”

Long Form Journalism for Everyone

Newspapers are dying. Century-old papers are shuttering their doors faster than anyone in the industry would have thought even 10 years ago. There are a variety of factors driving this, and no one can say for sure what they are.

But while daily news gathering takes a hit (worry not, it will return in a new incarnation), long form journalism, the type of story that can take months or years to research, is only gaining more and more ground. With this in mind, I’ve compiled a list of books that I feel exemplify this format of journalistic endeavor.

Danny’s Picks:

Fast Food Nation, Eric Schlosser. One of the first books I read in this genre, Schlosser’s classic looks at the food industry in America. Focusing on agriculture and the big businesses that thrive in this country, Fast Food Nation is a compelling read. From his ride-alongs with ranchers barely breaking even every year to his anecdote about the meat packer who fell into an industrial vat and died, Schlosser paints a horrifying picture about what we eat, and how it get to us.

****(4 Stars)

The Burning Season, Andrew Revkin. Chico Mendes was an Brazilian intellectual, environmentalist, union leader, and in 1988, martyr for the rubber trade. After Mendes’ death, Andrew Revkin immersed himself in Mendes’ hometown, and researched a thick, but interesting read. With all of the historical background on the rubber trade as well as the cultures of the area, Revkin’s book explains exactly what happened, why, and how it can be prevented in the future.

***(3 Stars)

Kitchen Confidential, Anthony Bourdain. Classically trained in French Cooking, Bourdain worked his way up to the top of New York’s culinary scene. At the height of food television’s popularity, he published this voyueristic look at the food industry. From the fights to the romances to the vices of kitchen workers, Bourdain lays out exactly what happens behind the closed doors.

****(4 Stars)

Reading Challenges

After taking a look at several reading related blogs, I’ve seen that many blogging readers participate in “reading challenges.” The main prize seems to be the pride of checking a book off your list, and the joy of reading something new or different from your usual selection. But I still might have more to learn about readerly ‘street cred.’ I’ve decided to undertake a few (when the blog goes live, I’ll sign up officially).

One is “TBR Challenge 2008”, in which you assemble a list of twelve books that have been on your “to be read” list and plan on finishing them over the course of the year. Readers also select up to twelve ‘alternates,’ in case they decide that one of their first selections isn’t quite their cup of tea. I’ve included my list, and throughout the year, as I complete books, I’ll be updating you on my progress.

1. Middlemarch by George Eliot

2. Tristram Shandy by Laurence Sterne

3. Saturday by Ian McEwan

4. The Dower House by Annabel Davis Goff

5. The Unconsoled by Kazuo Ishiguro

6. Son of a Witch by Gregory Maguire

7. Still Life by A.S. Byatt

8. Farenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

9. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

10. The Wings of the Dove by Henry James

11. The Black Prince by Iris Murdoch

12. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller

My Alternates:

Lord of the Flies by William Golding

Barchester Towers by Anthony Trollope

Hard-Boiled Wonderland And The End Of The World by Haruki Murakami

Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell

Tom Jones by Henry Fielding

Clarissa by Samuel Richardson

The Ambassadors by Henry James

The World is Flat by Thomas Friedman

(Some of these are books that I’ve received as gifts over the years, all are available through NUCat, and if they’re checked out, try reserving through NExpress).

Have any of you ever undertaken either organized or impulsive reading challenges? How did they go? And have you read any of the books? (Not too many spoilers, please!)

The Future of food

The Future of food is a DVD that we have in the library’s collection. It is a documentary about GMO (Genetically Modified Organism) crops such as Canola, Corn and Soy. This film gives the average viewer a basic understanding of how food crops are genetically modified and how GM crops may effect consumers. The primary focus is on plant agriculture in the United States. I think the film maker would be a great guest speaker at one of your author talks.

For Dog Lovers

If you like dogs or any animal really, you’ll enjoy Street Dogs by Traer Scott.  She’s a photographer who documented stray dogs in Mexico and Puerto Rico.  There are some astonishing photographs and the stories will just break your heart.  You can see some of her shots at her web site.