New York Times

More Snow on the Way? Curl Up with One of the New York Times Top 10 of 2010

The New York Times Book Review released its list of the 10 Best Books of 2010 early last month and now you can find almost all of the celebrated tomes right here at Snell Library! Most of the books on the list are available at The Hub, our library’s special, rotating selection of international bestsellers, groundbreaking graphic novels, and popular DVDs that you can find immediately across from the Snell Library entrance. Check out the list below to learn more about the 2010 picks and where to find them at Snell. Get ready for a good read while the snow piles up outside! Fiction Freedom By Jonathan Franzen PS3556.R352 F74 2010 Touted by critics as a “masterpiece of American Literature,” and compared in Esquire magazine to Tolstoy’s classic War and Peace, Freedom is a darkly written comedy framed through the envious eyes of an American family’s moralistic neighbors. The book paints an insightful portrait of the cultural forces and individual choices that can bring families together—and tear them apart. Selected for several book lists, Freedom was not without controversy. Boston’s WBUR reported that several best-selling female authors, including Jodi Picoult, believed the critical praise for Franzen’s book was merely misplaced gender bias. Check out Freedom for yourself to discover if the book is worth the wide acclaim. Room By Emma Donoghue PR6054.O547 R66 2010 Jack, like other five-year-old boys, plays with his toys and loves his mom, but he lives a life quite different from other children. He has spent his entire life in a small room with his mother as a prisoner of a man called Old Nick. Despite the disturbing premise, Room is a story of endurance, filled with raw emotional extremes that make readers feel like they too are discovering the world for the first time. Winner of the Hughes & Hughes Irish Novel of the Year and the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize, Room is a strange but powerful novel. A Visit from the Goon Squad By Jennifer Egan PS3555.G292 V57 2010 Punk rock laced with obscenities? Sign us up, please. Jennifer Egan’s book starts in modern day New York before flashing back to the early Bay Area punk scene to follow the life of Sasha, a child of a broken, violent marriage who runs away and ends up in the radically new music scene of the late 1970s and early ’80s. A Visit from the Goon Squad is more than just sex and rock and roll—it’s rich with satire and clever prose. Pick up the book today to give this Brooklyn-based author a spin on the turntable. Non-fiction Apollo’s Angels: A History of Ballet By Jennifer Homans GV1787 .H58 2010 Homans, former professional ballet dancer and current dance critic for The New Republic, chronicles the formal and cultural history of ballet in her two-part work Apollo’s Angels. It is partly a celebration of the ballet’s most notable achievements and its cultural importance, but Homans also questions its survival as its relevance gradually fades. Written before Black Swan revived the public’s interest in ballet, it’s a fascinating exposition of a purportedly languishing art form. Cleopatra: A Life By Stacy Schiff DT92.7 .S35 2010 Countless literary and film portrayals present Cleopatra as a bold, manipulative seductress, but they neglect to credit her as a brilliant politician and leader, according to author Stacy Schiff. The author, who won a Pulitzer Prize in 2000 for her biography of Vera Nabokov, the wife of Lolita author Vladimir Nabokov, dispels the myths surrounding the legendary queen of Egypt while also crafting a “bloody and harrowing” portrait of the royal family. The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer By Siddhartha Mukherjee RC275 .M85 2010 In his debut work, oncologist Siddhartha Mukherjee writes a “biography” of one of our time’s most pervasive and misunderstood illnesses: cancer. It provides detailed accounts of our society’s battle against the disease and the gripping stories behind the treatments and breakthroughs we know today. Mukherjee shows us how far we have come in understanding this “emperor of all maladies,” but he also recognizes how little we actually know. Finishing the Hat: Collected Lyrics (1954-1981) With Attendant Comments, Principles, Heresies, Grudges, Whines and Anecdotes By Stephen Sondheim ML54.6.S69 S66 2010 Finishing the Hat, which is part self-critique and part illumination, analyzes lyricist Stephen Sondheim’s earlier works, including West Side Story, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, and Sweeney Todd. The title refers to a line from Sondheim’s 1984 musical Sunday in the Park with George, where painter Georges Seurat is moments away from completing his grand work, “A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte.” Finishing the Hat provides great insight into the creative process of our generation’s most gifted composers. The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration By Isabel Wilkerson E185.6 .W685 2010 When George Swanson Sterling, an orange grove worker in Florida, became aware he was a potential lynching victim, he fled the area for Harlem in 1945. Beginning in the 20th century and peaking in the post-WWII years, more than six million African Americans left the South to escape Jim Crow–era brutality for areas with industrial job opportunities. Wilkerson, a Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist, culminates fourteen years of research in her work, The Warmth of Other Suns. She details the journeys of three individuals who made the trek from the American South to Wisconsin, California, and New York, respectively. Sterling’s story and others’ provide fascinating insight into the historical migration that shaped and enriched the culture of our major urban areas in the North and West, and consequently, our country.

Friday five on the brain

Today’s Friday Five starts with the mind. Specifically, the hottest article in this week’s Times, judging by the number of times emailed, debunked common myths about studying. Based on a review article in Psychological Science, it says there are no “left-brain” and “right-brain” learning styles, we all basically learn the same way!    Furthermore, you should study a mix of different things and not immerse yourself in one thing according to a study of college students and retired people in the Journal of Psychology and Aging.  Other studies say you should study in different rooms not just sit in one place because changes of scene and environment help you to remember.  Finally, spacing your studying, and testing, help you remember better over the long term. Ready to blame the teacher?  Turns out that’s hard, we don’t really know scientifically what makes a teacher successful at getting kids to learn, according to Daniel T. Willingham, a psychologist at the University of Virginia and author of the book “Why Don’t Students Like School?” (available on the 3rd floor of Snell Library!) Finally, an MRI scan can map brain development in children, according to research in the journal Science.  It could allow doctors to place children on a “maturation curve” just like we do with height and weight and perhaps even be alerted to signs of disorders.

Before the News Dies…

The purported death of newspapers sure is taking a while, and in some ways seems like just another trendy lamentation. First there was ‘The Death of Rock.’ Then there was ‘The Death of Cinema’ (which has died hundreds of times). Now, the death of newspapers will apparently coincide with the death of the publishing industry. However, there also appears to be some frightful truth to this predicament. The New York Times recently announced that it may be closing the Boston Globe. It seems that people everywhere, even journalists, would rather write something for the internet than publish something on a physical piece of paper that one can carry with them. What a pity. (I might note here that I’m the pot calling the kettle black by posting all this on a blog).

If the newspaper does in fact die, then let’s take a moment to celebrate the wide variety of newspapers that Snell contains. They really are from all over the globe. You can read newspapers from different areas of the U.S, such as The Philadelphia Enquirer, or the St. Louis Post Dispatch. Or you can read newspapers from other countries, in other languages, such as Die Welt, from German, where you can find out that ‘Deutschland sucht neuen Wirtschaftsminister’ (Germany searches for a new Economic Advisor). Or you can read The Moscow Weekly News (which comes in an English edition), Le Monde, from France, or The India Reporter, from India. It is helpful to have this diverse array of newspapers, of course, for the foreign students who want to read news in their own language from their native country. But it is also beneficial for Americans, even one’s who do not know any foreign languages. You are not going to read in The Boston Globe, at least not in a detailed article, that Germany is choosing a new Economic Advisor. Perhaps facts like this are, or will be, more important than they seem. U.S news, including its newspapers, has always had an aversion to world news. The only place in this country to my mind you can hear comprehensive world news in on NPR radio. Many of these newspapers have English editions, if not in print, then online, so why not be informed? (It’s also worth noting that these papers do mention all the U.S news that is relevant)

Will newspapers die in this country? Will this death be a payback for a disregard for the rest of the world? Actually, there is no direct correlation. Newspapers are dying because of an economic crisis, the internet, plummeting sales and overall poor writing. But perhaps newspapers from other parts of the world will remain. At least for a little while.

It’s Not You, It’s Your Books

This NY Times Sunday Book Review essay was written several months ago-a good friend sent it to me at the time, and pointed out the tragic humor of the Isabel Archer/Gilbert Osmond example.  I found the essay to be a very humorous and interesting one, and I shared it with family members.  They however were not as pleased!  They thought it demonstrated caring far too much about insignificant details.  I recently met someone and the essay topic came up again, as he knows the essayist and had gotten into a disagreement with her about it when the essay came out.  It’s an essay that seems to be polarizing, and so I’m interested to hear what others-bookish or not-have to say! I must say, that I also cringe when I hear people claim to love Ayn Rand (often celebrity actors and Alan Greenspan).  But I did think it was a bit funny for this essay to call out Rand enthusiasts-as the Times had not that long before published an article on the success of Rand devotees in the financial world. 

Italy, Multiculturalism and Libraries

Italy Italy, (along with most European countries), has experienced an influx of immigrants in last few years, and with that there have been some ongoing (and escalating) tensions down racial and ethnic lines.  This has also been reflected in the election of an increasingly conservative government.   While this recent New York Times article certainly demonstrates a mixed outlook, I was pleased to see that the reporter interviewed two Italian librarians who were trying to promote cultural diversity in their country and the ways in which libraries and art organizations are uniquely positioned to do that.