Monday, September 15, 2014

September 2014 Book Recommendations

September 22, 2014 

Nordic Art: The Modern Breakthrough 1860-1920
Edited by David Jackson 

The cover, a detail of Finland’s noted artist Askeli Gallen-Kallela’s 1901 painting Lake View, pulsing with colors of Finland and the Nordic regions, is a perfect choice to represent this catalog of the 2012-13 exhibit of the same name at the Groninger Museum in Munich. The title refers to a cultural movement, Modernism, which affected all areas of northern culture in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Jackson’s opening essay about the movement is extraordinary in its breadth and depth as he explores its impact on Nordic art, French and Paris influences on Nordic painters, and the nationalistic sense many artists developed “…without degenerating into insular chauvinism or xenophobia.” The essays are heady, educational, analytical, informative, and exciting to read. The book is large format and the reproductions – and there are many - are beautiful and inspiring to view. 

The format of the book incorporates a timeline to put world events, the world art scene, Nordic events, and the Nordic art scene in a rich contextual environment that helps to make sense of the flow of the movement. There is also a biographical section for each artist represented in the book, with each painting reproduction and page number listed. When all is said and done, it is the paintings that “talk”: landscapes, portraits, scenes from life, and fantasies. If you do not know a great deal about Nordic art – as I did not – then this book is a rich, rich reward of discovery. Some names you may know of, such as Anders Zorn and Carl Larsson. But many may be new and open up possibilities.

--Bill

September 15, 2014 

Outlander
By Diana Gabaldon 

Diana Gabaldon’s classic time-traveling adventure defies categorization. While it’s billed as romance, it could also be called fantasy, sci-fi, or historical fiction. Outlander contains elements of all of these genres. The book follows Claire Randall (or Beauchamp) a World War II nurse who is transported back in time when she steps through a ring of standing stones in the Scottish Highlands. She falls 200 years into the past landing in 1744, where she confronts her husband’s villainous ancestor, Black Jack Randall, and connects with dashing highlander, Jamie Fraser. Claire uses her spotty memory of history to help her survive, while desperately clinging to the memory of her husband and trying to resist Jamie’s muscles and charm. 

So, a little corny—but great escapist literature. Since the Starz adaptation started airing last month a lot of people have hailed Outlander as a feminist version of Game of Thrones. While I don’t think we can compare Gabaldon’s series with Martin’s (they’re completely different things), I agree with the assertion that Claire is a feminist heroine. Claire is transported into a highly misogynistic time and society. Almost immediately after arriving she is assaulted and then kidnapped. Rape is a real and constant threat throughout her ordeal. Despite these trials she is intelligent, funny, and able to adapt. What I love about Claire is that she is a real strong female character (as opposed to the Strong Female Character) yet she’s allowed to be sensual and fall in love and have doubts and make mistakes, and that doesn’t compromise her as an independent and powerful person. 

Gabaldon’s story is engrossing and thrilling, and her writing is lovely, if a little flowery. 

--Chelsea

September 8, 2014 

California 
By Edan Lepucki 

 If you enjoyed Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake trilogy and/or conjecturing what post-apocalyptic existence in America would look like, consider reading Edan Lepucki’s debut novel California. Protagonists Frida and Cal, a Los Angeles couple who have escaped the looted, burned-out, pirate- patrolled metropolis, eschew what passes for community and head into the wilderness by themselves. Having fallen in love when Cal was enrolled at an elite avant-garde school for survivalists with Frida’s dangerously charismatic brother Micah as a roommate and best friend, the spouses believe they can endure loneliness, hunger, and extreme deprivation relying only on each other. And so they do, in an abandoned shack, largely relying on Cal’s farming and hunting skills. Until Frida becomes pregnant. 

Suddenly, their isolation seems less romantic than ominous. The rumor of other mavericks living in a secret, possibly violent community a few days’ hike away, brought to them by mysterious trader August, peaks their interest as the reality of bearing and raising a child becomes clearer. Although cautious Cal is reluctant to approach the well-guarded community, Frida’s adventurous spirit prevails and off they go. While some answers from their shared past are answered upon their arrival in this cloistered society, far more questions arise and their idyllic union threatens to become extinct. 

This novel starts off very strong. Told in a back-and-forth style, providing the reader pertinent background as the plot progresses, main story is set against a backdrop of world-changing events. According to Lepucki’s imagination, it’s the weather that’s ultimately going to do us in, i.e., an uber-blizzard that permanently takes out the Northeast. Although this reviewer felt the story’s latter half to be a bit tedious and predictable, many reviewers disagree. For sure, Lepucki is definitely an author to watch. 

--Christina


September 4, 2014

(Milan: Skira, 2012. ISBN 9788857213736) 

This is actually a catalog of an exhibition held at the Palazzo delle Esposizioni, Rome, Oct. 11, 2011-Jan. 8, 2012. There are multiple contributors to this book which includes essays by various scholars and is to an extent an attempt to contextualize what is known in Soviet art history not as an aesthetic movement but rather a reflection of totalitarianism. The book has beautiful reproductions of Russian art but most of the paintings discussed have political underpinnings and are analyzed with that theme in mind. It is dense writing, as this long quotation from the publisher foreshadows:

"Socialist Realism was and remains an exceptional phenomenon in twentieth century art. It bore the challenge of promoting realist figuration on a scale without parallel in the rest of the world, employing the talents of thousands of artists over decades and spreading over an immense and varied empire. By glorifying the social role of art, affirming the primary value of content as opposed to form and restoring the central role of traditional practices, socialist Realism was the declared opponent of the modern movement, and in fact represented the only completely alternative artistic system. Socialist Realism. Soviet painting 1920-1970 is the most exhaustive exhibition on Soviet realist painting ever shown outside Russia and follows the movement's development over fifty years through a selection of works from the country's leading museums. Created by the great Russian artists (Deineka, Malevic, Adlivankin, Laktionov, Plastov, Brodskij, Korzhev) the works present a multiplicity of questions, themes and formal approaches to art spanning from the last phases of the civil war to the beginnings of the Brezhnev era, stopping at the early 1970s when trends in official Soviet art took on varied and inconsistent directions such that the cultural supremacy of the socialist-realist current faded definitively. A non monolithic view emerges, in which the movement does not originate exclusively as the product of totalitarian control and political pressures but as an evolving organism that reflected internal issues and echoed the great historic events of the twentieth century."

The book provides an important and critical look at the impact of Russian policies on artists and the influences on artistic development. One very interesting interview is Zoya Katashinskaya’s of the artist Geli Korshev about his life as an art student before and during World War II. Best known for his mammoth work Scorched by the Fires of War, Korshev answers his interview questions in telling detail and humanity. The fact that art students were able to function at the level they did is amazing.  A separate essay on Scorched by the Fires of War by Michael Brown is another “must read” part of this fascinating book.


--Bill

Monday, August 25, 2014

August 2014 Staff Book Recommendations

August 25, 2014 

Elizabeth is Missing
By Emma Healey 


This poignant debut novel is equal parts whodunit and a meditation on memory. It is told from the perspective of an 82 year-old woman suffering from increasingly severe dementia. This narrator, Maud, is living on her own at the beginning of the novel, but a “carer” comes frequently to assist her. She relies on handwritten notes to remember things, but still constantly repeats herself to her daughter and makes cup after cup of tea without drinking it. Many of the things she repeats seem senseless at the time, such as asking where the best place to plant summer squash is, but reveal their startling origins in the end. 

The plot of the novel jumps back and forth in time from the present to Maud’s childhood in war-torn England, and to the disappearance of her older sister, Sukey. This tragic event defines her life in many ways, something she may not fully realize until 70 years later, when she finds herself still investigating. In the present, she is also concerned for an elderly friend, Elizabeth, who she hasn’t heard from in some time. She becomes relentless in her search for Elizabeth, despite her inability to always remember why she is looking for her, or who she is. She goes to her house several times, even sneaking inside once, and also finds out how to contact her son, who she suspects. In her parallel world of memories, she is still looking for her sister, trying to investigate from the disadvantage of childhood. She looks for clues everywhere she goes, collecting ticket stubs and pieces of broken shells in the dirt, and using her naiveté as a screen through which to interview everyone around. 

The characters of the town, their ways of coping with the war, and the town's extreme rationing lend a fascinating historical element to this already rich story. I recommend this book to anyone who is interested in nontraditional mysteries or psychology. The texture of Maud’s confusing world is terrifying at times, as a possible eventuality for ourselves or our loved ones, but it also has a lyricism to it that reminds us of the magic of everyday routines. Once you start reading, you won’t be able to put this down. 

--Katie

August 12, 2014 

Inside of a Dog
By Alexandra Horowitz 

“Few celebrate a dog who jumps at people as they approach--but start with the premise that it is we who keep ourselves (and our faces) unbearably far away, and we can come to a mutual understanding.”

Ever since I adopted my dog, Zoe, back in March, I’ve been spending an increasing amount of time in the 636.7 section of our non-fiction stacks. For those uninitiated into the cloistered society of Dewey, that’s the dog book section. Zoe, like all dogs, is partly a mystery. What is she thinking behind those knowing eyes? Does she have thoughts like we do, or is her cognition more of a disarray of olfactory and visual impressions? Can Zoe sense my emotions? Anyone who’s lived with and loved dogs knows that they inspire devotion and fascination in their human companions. Although it’s impossible to learn the truth of a dog’s internal life straight from the source, Alexandra Horowitz gives us her best guess at what it’s like inside of a dog.

Horowitz begins by establishing her credentials. She’s an ethologist, a studier of animal behavior, specializing in canine cognition. More importantly she is a dog person. She peppers this edifying book with personal anecdotes of her beloved dog, Pumpernickel (“Pump”). These stories form the heart of the book. Once we’ve read about the mechanics of a dog’s nose, including the boggling vomeronasal organ (read mega-nose), we then read about the snuffling nose-nudges that Pump used to wake her sleepy human each morning. The book is packed with fascinating illuminations of the dog’s inner life and explains some common befuddling dog behaviors including why they kick and scratch the ground after urinating and what those playful downward-facing-dog poses are all about. Most notably, Horowitz gives readers a glimpse at the dog’s umwelt, “their subjective or ‘self-world.’”

The author also provides her best advice for dog owners: allow your dogs to be dogs. They don’t need to be washed everyday nor should they. Smell is the most important aspect of a dog’s sensory world and it makes up a huge part of their self-identity. They’re dogs…they’re going to bark and sniff butts and do all those doggy things that seem baffling to us (but hopefully not so baffling once you’ve read this book). This is a must read for all dog lovers.

--Chelsea

August 4, 2014 

Watercolor for the Serious Beginner 
By Mary Whyte 

Watercolor for the Serious Beginner is an excellent instructional introduction to this artistic medium. The author is an accomplished and well known painter, especially in South Carolina where she resides, working mostly in watercolor. Educated at the Tyler School of Art at Temple University, she has published books of her paintings, instructional DVDs, and given numerous workshops. 

This particular book is concise and focused. The chapters are divided into materials, fundamentals, starting, still life, landscape, and figures and portraits. Each section gives pointers on techniques and examples of paintings employing those techniques – both her works and those of other painters. The book contains ample demonstrations which a student can follow. She is admittedly influenced by the work of Winslow Homer and John Singer Sargent, two watercolorists certainly at the top of that game. The WPL has Whyte’s Working South : Paintings and Sketches in its own collection. This is an excellent mirror of her skills and philosophy as an artist. 

Whether a serious beginner or an experienced watercolorist this book will have something inspirational for you. The other artists she uses as examples might lead to new discoveries and as she points out, “To create a work of art that is refreshing, imaginative, original, and even surprising, you must reach from within. This is not always as easy as it may sound, since it requires you to know yourself well and identify what truly moves you.” 

--Bill

Monday, July 28, 2014

July 2014 Staff Book Recommendations

July 28, 2014 

All the Light We Cannot See 
By Anthony Doerr 

Marie-Laure LeBlanc and Werner Pfennig are two children growing up during World War II whose lives will intersect in 1944 during the Allied bombing of Saint-Malo. Marie-Laure is a curious and dreamy blind girl whose childhood is spent exploring Paris’s Museum of Natural History where her father works as the head of security. Werner is gifted and inquisitive and lives with his sister, Jutta, in a German orphanage until he is selected to attend an elite government school where he is promised answers to his scientific questions, but also told that his mind is dangerous, independent and subversive. 

This novel is rich in symbolism and written in a lyrical, thoughtful tone. Doerr deals with heavy subjects and writes with great detail while remaining abstract about his character’s inner lives. Despite this, the novel is highly readable. Doerr calls his decision to break up the novel into short (two or three page) chapters a “gesture of friendliness” to the reader (http://www.powells.com/blog/interviews/anthony-doerr-the-powells-com-interview-by-jill/). The short chapters aren’t the only thing helping the reader to speed through this thick book. Doerr’s plot is thrilling. Jumping back and forth between 1944 and earlier years, Doerr keeps his audience anticipating the eventual merging of the timelines, when Werner and Marie-Laure will finally cross paths. I found myself at times clutching the book in desperation and at other times staring into space contemplating a poignant sentence. 

This novel will leave you haunted, which is appropriate considering that many of its characters are haunted themselves. Marie-Laure hears her father’s voice in her head advising her during moments of terror. Sergeant Major Reinhold von Rumpel is obsessed with the legend of the fabulous gem he tracks throughout Europe, especially its supposed gift of longevity. Werner cannot escape the image and voice of his sister, Jutta, who becomes his belabored conscience while he is being indoctrinated at school. And then there is Marie’s uncle, Etienne, who suffers from PTSD after watching his brother die in his arms during the first World War. 

Moving, thrilling and fulfilling, this is a great summer reading pick. Read it if you like literary or historical fiction with the smallest dash of magical realism.

--Chelsea

July 21, 2014 

Lexicon 
By Max Barry 

The online comic strip xkcd.com once had a strip where a man tells his female companion to bring him a sandwich. The woman tells the man to get himself the sandwich. The man then says, “Sudo, get me a sandwich” and his companion immediately gets does so. We are to believe that “sudo” is a magic word; you only need to precede your demands with this word-of-power and everyone will obey you. 

The plot of Lexicon expands on this idea. We are not all susceptible to the same “magic” word or words but, by analyzing an individual’s psychology, a secret organization can classify a person by “segment”, and with that knowledge, take over his mind. And they do this by asking you five simple questions: 

 •Are you a dog person or a cat person? 
 •What’s your favorite color?
 •Close your eyes and pick a number from 1 to 100
 •Do you love your family? 
 •Why did you do it? 

But Wil seems to be immune to every segment’s power words. Nobody knows why that is so, but everyone is hunting him, and using deadly force. Emily, on the other hand, is just the sort of person this shadow organization wants to recruit into their stable of “poets”: highly persuasive young people who can be taught neuropsychology and linguistics, with the ultimate goal of using the poets to control the world. 

One thread of the story follows Wil and the other follows Emily. The reader knows that their lives and the action will converge at some point, and as the body count grows, the sense of anticipation and tension also grows, exponentially. The action is non-stop, the characterization is well-done, and the suspense is a killer. 

If you only read one book this year, Lexicon ought to be it. Not a perfect book - this reader has some issues with the ending - but nearly so!

--Melody

July 14, 2014 

The Last Kind Words Saloon 
By Larry McMurtry 

The climatic shooting incident at this book’s conclusion supposedly lasted 30 seconds, and it involved names that have since morphed into iconic Western lore. Fittingly, the author also shoots the reader right in the heart at the end of this novel and you, the reader, must decide if this is a good or a bad thing. 

The Last Kind Words Saloon by Larry McMurtry (Liveright Publishing Corporation, 2014) is another memorable story of America’s mythic West brought to life in empathetic, unheroic but very human terms. McMurtry again proves that he is the literary master of the Western fiction genre, and the astute choice of the jacket art, the painting “The Fall of the Cowboy” by Frederic Remington, the master of Western art, foreshadows the nostalgic sense that permeates the book. 

McMurtry’s West is one where even legends are basically and simply human beings. This novel is short, perhaps approaching a novella. The dialog is almost truncated but the characters are still sharply drawn. If there is anything in the novel dealing with aiming and hitting a target, McMurtry certainly has a good bead on the West. His women would be “victims” by today’s standards and the men would be “abusive”, but this is the wild, wild West and McMurtry boldly populates it with whores, gamblers, thieves, lawmen, rustlers, ranchers, bartenders, settlers, Indians, and life, death, and love. And weather and geography populate McMurtry’s world as effectively as his human characters. 

There is no need to write about plot and character, there is just the enjoyment of reading this wonderful novel. When McMurtry fires that last bullet you will have a chance to dodge it, but you won’t…just go back to the cover art and glance at Remington’s painting.

--Bill



July 2, 2014


The Vacationers
by Emma Straub

If you're looking for a new beach read this summer, look no further. Emma Straub's previous works, the short story collection Other People We Married  and novel Laura Lamont's Life in Pictures, showed her to be a master of literary stylings, but this book is meant more for pure pleasure reading. She tells the tale of a middle- class New York family on vacation in Mallorca. The mother, Franny, is a food writer, and the father, Jim, a recently "retired" editor. (The truth of his retirement comes out to the family in stages). Joining them is their daughter, Sylvia, who will be leaving for Brown University at the end of the summer, and their older son, Bobby, who has moved to Miami and is dating Carmen, a personal trainer who does not curry much favor with the more pretentious members of the family. We also have Franny's oldest friend Charles and his husband Lawrence. Each of these characters has, as you may have guessed, inner turmoil of one kind of another. Sylvia has to figure out who she wants to become in the fall while embarrasedly lusting after her Spanish tutor; Bobby has to admit his financial problems to his family; Franny and Jim are not-so-obviously unhappy together, despite it being their 35 year anniversary. Each of them get a chance to tell part of summer's tale in their own unique voice, all of which Straub describes with startling accuracy. Their character arcs are believable but, at times, heart warming. We also get delicious details of the landscape and the food of Mallorca. This is a quick, easy read that will fit in nicely in between taking dip in the pool and  a turn at the grill.


--Katie


Monday, July 21, 2014

Classes and One-on-one Assistance for Adults at the Main Library


Technology Classes

Computer & Internet for Beginners (4 sessions)
Fridays, 9:30-11 am, 3rd Floor lab

The first two weeks of this class will build your basic computer skills by teaching the parts of the computer and practicing with mouse and keyboard. The second two weeks will teach you how to go online and perform basic Internet searches. Register on the 2nd Floor Reference Desk, or call 508-799-1655 ext. 3.

Clase Básica de Computadora (4 sessions)
Martes, 1:00-2:00 pm, 3a Piso, Laboratorio de Computadora

Si necesitas ayuda con computadoras, esta clase es para ti.  Cubrimos la información más básica: cómo usar el ratón y el teclado, abrir programas, y usar el internet para buscar información. Cada mes empieza un nuevo semestre de 4 clases. Para registrarse, llame al 508-799-1655 ext. 3 o registrarse en persona en el escritorio de consulta en el segundo piso.

Open Lab with Staff Assistance (Drop-in)
Wed.  5:30 p.m. - 7:30 p.m., 3rd Floor lab

This drop-in lab designed for people who need extra computer time to work on job applications, Microsoft word documents, or those who need assistance setting up a library account, email, downloading ebooks or audiobooks. No registration required.

 Job Application, Resume, Writing and Business Help

Small Business Counseling
First Wednesday evening each month, Third Floor Study Room

A SCORE counselor provides assistance and answers questions to anyone thinking about or planning to start a business. Register for a one-hour session, or for more information, call 508-799-1655 ext. 3.
                          
College Admission Essays, Resume & Job Assistance, Research Help
Wednesdays, 5:30-8:30 p.m., 2nd Floor Ref. Desk

Assistance with writing resumes and cover letters, finding information on a topic, editing, content organization and citations.  Register on the Events Calendar on the library’s website or call 508-799-1655 ext. 3.

Introductory Grants Workshop
Fourth Thursdays each month, Main Library--Banx Room and Third Floor Computer Lab

This class is for anyone new to fundraising, non-profit grant seekers, and to members of the non-profit community. It will cover grant-seeking basics including what needs to be in place before beginning your search in the Foundation Center, one of the premier resources for grant-seekers. Pre-registration is required; register online at worcpublib.org or call 508-799-1655, ext. 3.


Citizenship Interview Preparation

Citizenship Classes
Wednesdays 5:30 - 7:30 p.m. Main Library – 1st Floor Computer Lab

This drop-in class will provide help with citizenship questions, practicing the citizenship interview, and learning about the U.S. government, U.S. history, and the rights and responsibilities of being a U.S. citizen. For more information, call 508-799-1655 ext. 3.

Arts, Crafts & Literature

WPL’s Knitting Circle 
Thursdays -starts in September, 2:30-4:00 p.m., Main Library—3rd floor Ellipse

Knitters of all skill levels and other needlecraft enthusiasts are welcome to join us.  All participants must bring their own supplies. If you would like to learn how to knit, please bring size 7 or 8 straight knitting needles and a skein of worsted weight yarn. For more information please call 508-799-1655 or visit our Events Calendar on worcpublib.org.


Open Drawing Studio
2nd and 4th Thursdays, 9:30-10:45 a.m., Main Library—3rd floor Ellipse

Create an artwork based on our still-life displays. Bring your own drawing supplies (a limited supply of pencils and sketch paper will be available). Beginners welcome, but instruction is not provided.
For more information please call 508-799-1655 or visit our Events Calendar on worcpublib.org.


Book Club
3rd Tuesdays, alternate months, 6:00-7:30 p.m., Main Library---3rd floor Ellipse

Come for a lively discussion surrounding the book selection of the month. Check with staff for title to be discussed, or to request a copy. For more information please call 508-799-1655 or visit our Events Calendar on worcpublib.org.


*Please check with library regarding holiday schedules, class cancellations or to verify dates.
For more information please call 508-799-1655 or visit our Events Calendar on worcpublib.org.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

DrivingTests.org - MA Driver's Permit Practice Tests

New! We are pleased to present free access to Driving-Tests.org, a database where you can practice for the Massachusetts Driver Permit tests. Take these interactive practice tests and pass your exam with flying colors! No more fear of the road test!

Along with the practice tests you can also brush up your knowledge on MA road signs, fines, limits and get answers to frequently asked questions about Massachusetts Driver’s License. The tests for both Automobile and Motorcycle are available along with the Driver’s Handbook for each.

To access this Free database, go to our homepage at www.worcpublib.org and click on 
New! FREE MA Driving Permit Practice Test

Have fun and practice safe driving!

Forensic Mysteries







Image of item


We are having another Book Talk on Monday, July 14 from 11 AM - 12 PM at the Main Library! The subject this time is Forensic Mysteries. If you are fan of the genre, or if you are a fan of "Bones" and other TV police series, you won't want to miss it. We will have copies of recommended titles available, and please bring your own favorites to share. Everyone is welcome.








If you can't make it or want to get a sneak peek, take a look at our book list. It is live in our catalog so you can see what's available or place a hold on a book so it's ready for you to pick up.