Archive for March, 2011

Author Robyn Okrant spent one year living the Oprah life as expressed on her TV show and website. Then she wrote a book about her experience, outlining the good, the bad and the ugly.

Robyn will be here to read from her book and answer questions about her experiences, writing, and anything else that’s on your mind. After the reading there will be a book signing.

Come out and meet Robyn Okrant! It’s sure to be a fun and inspirational event.

Robyn Okrant

Wednesday, September 28

7:00 p.m.

Algonquin Area Public Library – 7:00

Description from Amazon:

Product Description

What happens when a thirty-five-year-old average American woman spends one year following every piece of Oprah Winfrey’s advice on how to “live your best life”? Robyn Okrant devoted 2008 to adhering to all of Oprah’s suggestions and guidance delivered via her television show, her Web site, and her magazine. LIVING OPRAH is a month-by-month account of that year.
Some of the challenges included enrollment in Oprah’s Best Life Challenge for physical fitness and weight control, living vegan, and participating in Oprah’s Book Club. After 365 days of LIVING OPRAH, Okrant reflects on the rewards won and lessons learned as well as the tolls exacted by the experiment.

About the Author

Robyn Okrant is a writer, filmmaker, performer, and yoga teacher. A graduate of Bennington College, she also holds an MFA in performance from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She lives with her husband and two cats in Chicago.

Don’t think I’ll try to read these, especially since the prize is for each writer’s whole body of work. Even I don’t feel I can tackle that. Still working on the Orange Prize Longlist as well as the NBCC winners (selected).

But here’s the info:

Thirteen selected for finalists’ list

30 March 2011

Thirteen writers have made it on to the judges’ list of finalists under serious consideration for the fourth Man Booker International Prize, the £60,000 award which recognises one writer for his or her achievement in fiction.

The authors come from eight countries, five are published in translation and there are four women on the list. One writer has previously won the annual Man Booker Prize for Fiction and two have been shortlisted. Famously, another, John le Carré, asked that his books should not be submitted for the annual prize to give less established authors the opportunity to win.

The Finalists’ List is announced by the chair of judges, Rick Gekoski, at a press conference held at the University of Sydney, today Wednesday 30 March 2011 at 10.00 (EST).

The thirteen authors on the list are:

  • Wang Anyi (China)
  • Juan Goytisolo (Spain)
  • James Kelman (UK)
  • John le Carré (UK)
  • Amin Maalouf (Lebanon)
  • David Malouf (Australia)
  • Dacia Maraini (Italy)
  • Rohinton Mistry (India/Canada)
  • Philip Pullman (UK)
  • Marilynne Robinson (USA)
  • Philip Roth (USA)
  • Su Tong (China)
  • Anne Tyler (USA)

The judging panel for the Man Booker International Prize 2011 consists of writer, academic and rare-book dealer Dr. Rick Gekoski (Chair), publisher, writer and critic Carmen Callil, and award-winning novelist Justin Cartwright.

More info at the Man Booker website.

For the past decade Library Journal has been honoring librarians who’ve gone above and beyond the call of duty, singling them out via the “Movers and Shakers Award” for their innovation, service and ways they’ve otherwise raised the profile of quality library service.

This post is the first in a series of interviews I conducted with the 2011 Mover & Shaker winners. Here’s to the librarians who’ve brought so much innovation to the field!


Name:  Anthony Molaro

Library name:  Messenger Public Library, Aurora, IL

Library type (public, academic, etc.):  Public

Address:  113 Oak Street, North Aurora, IL 60542


Why he was chosen for this honor:

Information Activist

Anthony Molaro is a true “information activist.” Whether he’s blogging as the Information Activist Librarian, engaged as a public speaker, or gathering like-minded people to support a worthy cause, he is driven by “the poor understanding of the role of libraries in a democratic society.” As a regular contributor to the Libraries and Transliteracy blog, Molaro is part of a team that is committed to removing barriers between people and information. They recognize the importance of library support for communicating across a range of platforms, from reading and hand writing to signing and social networking. But Molaro does more than write. He cofounded Chicago Deskset, a local offshoot of the New York City—based group of librarians, bibliophiles, and information professionals who “thrive through social events and give something back to our community.” A supporter of libraries in their essential form, he believes that attacks on libraries, intellectual freedom, and human rights can be countered with “the very stories contained within our walls.” Those stories illustrate a critical service in action. “There is no greater reward in the world than knowing that our profession saves lives,” he says. “Whether it is a lonely senior or a kid trying to find [his] way in this world, their sanctuary is the public library.”

1).        Do you hold an MLS degree? From which school?

            MBA Elmhurst College

            MLIS Dominican University

            PhD Anticipated Dominican University

2).        If you hold an MLS, what was your undergraduate field of study? Have you applied that degree in your library career?

            BA History.  History, like LIS, is an all encompassing field.  Much of what I have learned pursuing that degree has been relevant in my current position.

3).        Is there anything unique about the history and/or architecture of your library?

            My library is known for its porches and fireplace.

4).        What stands out about your library? What special features or services does it offer?

            Messenger Public Library stands out because of the level of service it offers.  Since I started, we have been the first in the area to lend out eReaders, create a video game collection, lend out comic books, dump RFID, and create a Blu-ray collection.  We are on the cutting edge but have managed to avoid the bleeding edge.

5).        How many patrons does your library serve?

            Our geographic boundary is 15,848.  However we are often the library of use for many patrons in both Aurora (who does not have a branch anywhere near so many of their patrons) and Sugar Grove (the library is closed on Sunday and Monday and only open half days for Friday and Saturday).

6).        What is the demographic in your area?

            About 80% white, 10% Latino, 5% African-American

7).        What are your favorite reading genres? Any favorite books or authors you’ve read recently?

            As a PhD Candidate, most of my reading is related to LIS theory and research theory.  On my free time I tend to read nonfiction.

8).        What are your thoughts on the eBook vs. book debate? Will books as we know them ever be completely usurped by eBooks?

Usurped is a tricky word.  If by that do you mean that eBooks will have a larger market share than print books, well yes I do think that will happen much sooner than we had thought.  For libraries, the important question is whether we will be forced out of the eBook race.  If publishers and retailers continue to create services, products and terms that leave libraries out, well then we are faced with forced obsolesces. 

9).        Have your patrons been receptive to eBooks?

            Yes, our patrons have used eBook services that we have offered, and they turn to us for recommendations on eReader advice.  Our local Barnes & Nobles pushes Overdrive and libraries pretty hard.  I’m not sure if this is universal for B&N or if it’s just the one by us, but it has been great.

10).      Finally, what concerns – if any – do you have about the future of libraries?

            I am worried that we don’t see the writing on the wall.  I believe that libraries need to shift their focus from content consumption to content creation.  YouMedia is the future of libraries.  Those that don’t see that will follow what the systems are experiencing in the state. 


As an “expert” in Technology, Technological Exploration, Technical Services, Management & Leadership Issues, Strategic Planning, Social Media, Information Activism, Social Justice, and all around coolness, I am available to speak to your library group.  You may contact me at

Upcoming Presentations:

April 8, 2011: Schaumburg, IL, “eBooks: Dreams, Realities & Nightmares”, LACONI Technology Section.

September, 2011, Chicago, IL, “Grassroots Organizing: How Librarians are Getting Stuff Done”, Illinois Library Association 2011 Annual Conference with Leah White and Adam Girard.


I’m native to Mississippi, but I am in love with Louisiana. I associate it with mysterious swamplands and sprawling cyprus trees dripping Spanish moss, peopled with an Acadian culture marked by fierce independence and a shared multi-cultural heritage. To me it’s one of the most romantic, beautiful and fascinating places on earth.

I’ve been to the state only once, during Mardi Gras as a teenager (an eye-opening experience.) I’m  told part of my family tree sprouted from New Orleans – via the founder of the now defunct Gibson’s department stores. And, of course, with that supposed legacy comes the ubiquitous palatial plantation home we could never locate to claim, due to incomplete records and the ineptitude of the county clerk. But could it have been any other way? Do you ever find out your family lived in a shack, deeply in debt, uneducated and missing most of their teeth? Of course not. No one wants to admit that. If it’s true or not I’ll likely never know.

And Zydeco music. I have a soft spot for it in my heart. There’s something about it, exuding raw  joy despite shared hardships, that lifts the spirit. It’s like jazz funerals in New Orleans. Through times of sadness and challenge a celebrative hopefulness lingers; a zest for life shines through. Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow you may die. And in the meantime, don’t stop for tears.

When NetGalley offered up an eGalley of Louisiana’s Historic Cajun Country I pounced. The photography turned out to be stunning, as well as heartbreaking in an “I wish I could be there right now” way. Also, in an I wish I had a hard copy of this and not an eGalley, the better to appreciate the gorgeous shots. Because it isn’t quite the same looking at them on the computer. Good enough to recognize their beauty, but, well, you know. I’m not going into the eBook versus book debate, but suffice to say nothing satisfies like the original.

Taking a photo of a photo robs it of beauty, but when the original is so perfect maybe this will give you some idea what Philip Gould‘s shots are like. Just stunning.


The well-researched history was so beautifully executed I didn’t realize how much I was being taught as I read. You know what I mean. While text books teach you the facts, very well-written works of history educate and entertain you along the way. If I hadn’t enjoyed the book so much I wouldn’t have read it through twice, something I almost never do. There’s just too much to read, too many books I’m committed to reviewing to take the time to read books through more than once. But Brasseaux’s prose took me on a journey I didn’t want to end.

And no wonder! Carl Brasseaux is an expert on Acadian culture, one of the leading authorities on French North America, having published thirty-three books related to the topic. He’s been editor and associate manager of the Center for the Louisiana Studies publication program, and I could go on and on. This doesn’t even scratch the surface. Suffice to say, he’s very well-qualified. Not surprising I found this work so entrancing.

The book covers the history of Acadiana from the earliest settlements up to the present, taking the story area by area: Pointe Coupée & Avoyelles Parishes, German/Acadian Coasts, Lafourche-Terrebone Area, Upper Prairie and Lower Prairie. Each  has its own distinct history, but as a whole share several things in common: great ethnic diversity, a landscape shaped by water, fertile soil, plantation or grazing land used largely for agriculture, eventual ethnic unrest and economic depression both following the Civil War and the devastation of the 1927 flood.

The depression following the Civil War brought on a severe labor crisis due to the end of slavery, complicated by the continued occupation of Acadiana by Union troops. Then came the yellow fever epidemic in 1867, hitting the area hard. Rice, planted instead of corn, helped dig them out of the hole they were in. Shortly after, the rail system and national roadways were built, followed by increased industrial development. Commerical hunters, exporting ducks and frog legs, added yet more of a boost.

Between WW II and the present, Acadiana made its way via war-time construction jobs, shipyards and the availability of French translators to help the war effort. More oil exploration provided many more jobs as the area became increasingly modernized.

Today Acadiana still has its own distinct flavor, though much of the French language and heritage has either been lost or morphed into what we now know as Cajun culture. What’s left is still distinctive, still recognizable as the culture of southern Louisiana, though by reading Brasseaux’s book the full story of the region’s past gives us an idea what changes it has gone through.

My verdict? This is a beautiful book, both for its stunning photography and thorough treatment of the history of Acadiana. Anyone interested in Cajun culture or the early history of southern settlement – including the Spanish influence – would find this book an essential addition to his or her library. It’s simply gorgeous.

Thanks to for the opportunity to read and review this ebook.

  • Hardcover: 200 pages
  • Publisher: Louisiana State University Press (May 18, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0807137235
  • ISBN-13: 978-0807137239

First the NBCCs, then the Orange Prize Longlist, now the American Academy of Arts & Letters literary awards. I am in list heaven!

And no, I’m not going to try and read all these books and authors, too, alongside my Orange Prize Longlist reads and selected NBCC winning books. I’m nuts, but not quite that nuts.

Hey, I heard that!

One thing I’m confused about, there’s an award for a talented young playwright named Karen Russell. The only Karen Russell I know, and/or can find, is the writer who wrote the Orange Prize Longlisted book Swamplandia!, which I’m currently reading. I couldn’t find another Karen Russell who’s a playwright.

So, did they make a mistake or is this other Karen Russell just really obscure? The world may never know.

Anyway, enjoy:

Arts and Letters Awards in Literature

Eight Academy Awards in Literature of $7500 each are given annually to honor exceptional accomplishment in any genre.
Mark Doty, Alice Fulton, John Koethe, Colum McCann, Suzan-Lori Parks, Alex Ross, Leslie Marmon Silko, and Joseph Stroud

Award of Merit Medal for Drama

$10,000 and a medal to an outstanding playwright.   John Patrick Shanley

Benjamin H. Danks Award

$20,000 to recognize a talented, young playwright.   Karen Russell

E. M. Forster Award

$20,000 to a young writer from the United Kingdom or Ireland for a stay in the United States. Award jury: Anita Desai, Margaret Drabble, Paul Muldoon.   Rachel Seiffert

Sue Kaufman Prize for First Fiction

$5000 for the best work of first fiction (novel or short stories) published in 2010.   Brando Skyhorse, The Madonnas of Echo Park

Addison M. Metcalf Award

$10,000 to a young writer of fiction, nonfiction, drama, or poetry.   Matthea Harvey

Arthur Rense Poetry Prize

Triennial award of $20,000 to an exceptional poet.   David Wagoner

Rome Fellowships in Literature

A one-year residency (2011²2012) at the American Academy in Rome.   Matt Donovan and Suzanne Rivecca

Rosenthal Family Foundation Award

$10,000 to a young writer of considerable literary talent for a work published in 2010.   Monique Truong, Bitter in the Mouth

John Updike Award

A biennial award of $20,000 to a writer in mid-career who has demonstrated consistent excellence.   Tom Sleigh

Harold D. Vursell Memorial Award

$10,000 to a writer whose work merits recognition for the quality of its prose style.   Thomas Mallon

The top 25 book group discussion books of 2010, based on reports by book clubs, according to

I highlighted the titles I’ve read in a lovely shade of maroon:

1. The Help by Kathryn Stockett

2. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson

2. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

4. Sarah’s Key by Tatiana de Rosnay

5. Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford

6. Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout

7. Little Bee by Chris Cleave

8. A Reliable Wife by Robert Goolrick

9. The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein

10. Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese

11. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

12. Half Broke Horses by Jeannette Walls

13. Still Alice by Lisa Genova

14. Shanghai Girls by Lisa See

14. The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery

16. Three Cups of Tea: One Man’s Mission to Promote Peace… One School at a Time by Greg Mortensen and David Oliver Relin

17. Loving Frank by Nancy Horan

18. Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann

19. People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks

19. The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls

21. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

22. South of Broad by Pat Conroy

23. The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski

24. Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

25. The Postmistress by Sarah Blake

“The Help has been a mainstay on many bestseller lists for over a year now, and its appeal made it a must-read for book groups even in hardcover,” Carol Fitzgerald, president of, commented. “Also, it was nice to see To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, which celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2010 on the list. We are certain that this was a re-read for many of the members of reporting book groups.”

Chances are there’s a Borders store near you that’s either closing or will close within the next year. Fortunately, the store in my town will remain open – for now – though another location 15 minutes north of here isn’t quite so lucky.

I’ve visited the unfortunate Borders store three times since they put up the deadly yellow “Store Closing Sale!” and “Everything Must Go!” banners, and each time felt a bit like a vulture. Every time I visit I’m effectively picking the bones of the carcass that was once a bustling store. And it’s a distinctly cringe-worthy feeling I don’t like at all.

I know it’s inevitable the store must rid itself of inventory, but at the same time it’s just so sad. I’ve spent a lot of time there since it went up, though, admittedly I preferred the Barnes & Noble down the street (better selection, more comfy chairs, more neutral decor), but I still spent a lot of time at Borders, partly because I’m a member of their rewards program and received regular coupons, because I spent that much there (DID I EVER!). There’s another reason I’m shocked it’s closing, that I wasn’t able to keep them in the black with my purchases alone.

But it’s not just the local closings that’s bothersome. It’s more the fact Borders is one of the two book mega-chains, the brick and mortar biggies that were responsible for putting the independents – with few exceptions – out of business years ago. Now they’re going bankrupt, struggling to keep themselves alive by streamlining, cutting jobs and closing less profitable stores. So, without the assurance Borders will make it, everything now hinges on Barnes & Noble. And it’s having its share of problems, too.

Why? I see the reason as two-fold: first, GIANT retailer Amazon is able to undercut the prices of all brick and mortar stores, and second, the spectre of eBooks that require no manufacturing, no shipping and the convenience of instant delivery. Oh, and they’re generally cheaper than regular books.

So, what will happen to books once eBooks eventually take over? Or will they? Look at the music industry. Once there were Victrolas, then reel-to-reel and vinyl records. Along came 8-track tapes (a travesty!), cassettes, then CDs. Now, iPods and electronic downloads.

Recording artists are also having their works pirated, downloaded for absolutely free online, cutting their profits to the bone. Once books go all electronic the same will happen with them, you can bet on it. Writers who’re unable to live off writing proceeds alone will have that much less incentive to write – assuming they’re not in it for the love of the art itself. What will happen to the publishing industry? As goes music, soon will follow books.

Best case scenario, used book stores will thrive. Those of us who covet the written book will be able to get our fix buying lower-priced, pre-owned if you will, books. And there’s always print on demand, too. Not a bad option, at least if they’re priced reasonably.

For the sake of disclosure, though I love books I own a Sony eReader. I even have the Kindle app on my iPhone. And, when Kindles are given away for free – which is rumored to start happening by the end of this year – I’ll take one of those, as well. I do buy eBooks. I love the portability of them, the fact I can load up on library and bookstore books, carrying a virtual library with me wherever I go.

So, have I stopped buying books? Not by a long shot! Instead I’ve been buying way too much, between eBooks and book books. Not the best financial strategy, but I’m putting the brakes on that right now. Right. Now. Or, after I’ve bought the last batch of cheap books at the doomed Borders store that’s a mere 15 minutes away.


None of us can predict what will eventually happen, but the writing is on the wall. Resist though we may, this is already in motion, such a strong tide can’t be stemmed. All well and good to try to fight it, if it makes a person feel better, but in the end logic, and economics, will prove the big publishers get their way. They’re already struggling. Tell me how the prospect of making larger profits on eBooks, which don’t have to be manufactured and shipped, won’t keep ailing publishers afloat. Or at least assure the survival of the most powerful of them. There’s no way around it.

I’ve posted a lot re: eBooks, and with a great deal of passion, but from here on I see there’s not much point in denying the inevitable. The demise of Borders is a dire event. The bell is tolling for bookstores.  Soon we’ll be left with just Amazon, which I predict will still be standing when the mega-chains are shuttered. Where Amazon goes, there goes publishing.

Keep your eye on the Amazon basket. That’s where the remaining eggs lie. But this librarian/book reviewer/manic reader predicts what will be left, when the dust settles, are eBooks and print on demand. What will happen with picture books, graphic novels, etc., is a different kettle of fish. Likewise, children’s books. Maybe specialty publishers will continue to exist for those. But this may turn out to be the exception to the rule.

Probably not what you wanted to hear, and it’s definitely not what I like to say. I’ll take no pleasure in “I told you so!” in this case. And nothing would make me happier than being proven wrong. But I don’t think that’s going to happen.

The question is when, not if. And it may be a gradual shift, as in cassettes and albums giving way to CDs. Like LPs, maybe books will enjoy a renaissance, for the novelty. But I’m afraid to say it’s not looking good for lovers of the book. Never mind I already own more books than I can read in my lifetime. In several lifetimes, I think. I’ll mourn the passing of books regardless.

Just let me be wrong. That’s what I hope.

Current list of Borders closures.