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What We’re Reading & Watching

Wednesday, September 22nd, 2010

We asked Ana Banu, a student who works in Bailey/Howe Library, to share some of her favorite books and movies from our collection and she delivered an eclectic mix of film, fashion, fiction, and art. Get them while they’re hot!

Here are her recommendations:

Yves Saint Laurent by Jéromine Savignon and Bernard Blistène

YSL is a brilliant fashion designer, although I could just call him a brilliant artist, without any further ado. He is also an inspiring individual not only for people who are intrigued by fashion. This book talks about his life in almost an intimate manner and presents it from different points of view, including his and the peoples who he worked with. You get to learn about his ways and also see how a character can become lovable through his actions, creations and way of living, right in front of your eyes. YSL dedicated his life to making women, and later on men, feel comfortable, powerful and stylish.

Zen in the art of archery by Eugen Herrigel

This book is one the shortest books, yet helpful and insightful, I’ve ever read. It is about Zen and it is about Archery. It is also about how the two go together in creating an awareness of the moment that is beyond words. Things, in general and in particular, begin appearing a lot simpler and natural after taking in what Eugene Herrigel says. And the way he says is accessible enough to keep you going.

Camera lucida : reflections on photography by Roland Barthes

This is one other short(er) book, but so intense and powerful that every paragraph could be developed into pages. In Camera Lucida, Roland Barthes talks about his own system of viewing and interpreting photography, beauty, history. It is both playful and academic and it explains things that are not easily explained, like why we get emotionally involved when looking at a photograph.

L’ećume des jours (translation: Froth of the Daydream) by Boris Vian

L’ećume des jours is a novel for the French speakers, only because it is in French, not because the story wouldn’t survive a broader audience. I, personally, read it in a different language and loved it. The images described in the book are so powerful and visual that they transcend language. Reading it in French might add some nuances to the strange and creative ways of telling Colin and Chloe’s story.

Malcolm X – Directed by Spike Lee

Based on The autobiography of Malcolm X, Malcolm X is a movie directed by Spike Lee. It truly embodies both historical accuracies and the director’s admiration for the person that Malcolm X was. The story is brought to life by Denzel Washington, Spike Lee’s fetish actor, and probably the best choice for playing this character.

Bubba Ho-tep

I postponed watching this movie, because it seemed to have that silly and distasteful air some movies have. But it is not distasteful, nor silly. It is the story of an old “Elvis”, who may or may not be the Real Elvis, and a black old man (Ossie Davis) who thinks he is JFK, in fighting an Egyptian mummy trying to steal some souls. And as “Elvis” says: Ask not what your rest home can do for you. Ask what you can do for your rest home.

What We’re Reading

Tuesday, June 22nd, 2010

Wonder what librarians do for summer reading? Here are Assistant Library Professor Selene Colburn’s recent picks:

A friend and I share a project to make it through the approximately forty titles neither of us has read on the Guardian’s list of the hundred greatest novels of all time. In between (largely eighteenth century British) titles, we read whatever we feel like.

Here are a few highlights:


Clarissa by Samuel Richardson
The Guardian calls this “one of the longest novels in the English language, but unputdownable.” And though it did take me three months to read it, I was riveted by the still-shocking-today behavior of the novel’s arch villain Lovelace, and fascinated by the ways in which Clarissa is entrapped by the systems of class, gender, and family that he exploits, as he sets about romancing and abducting her.

The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark
A friend said this slim book was “so tart it makes my eyes pucker” and truer words were never spoken. Muriel Spark’s brilliant prose lands like a dart in this devastating portrait of a single Scottish school teacher and the girls she takes into her confidence.

Coming Up Next

Tristram Shandy by Laurence Sterne
I’m a little daunted by the Wikipedia entry (occasionally, when no one is looking, librarians turn to Wikipedia to see what they’ve let themselves in for in greatest novels), which says that “Tristram as narrator finds himself discoursing at length on sexual practices, insults, the influence of one’s name, noses, as well as explorations of obstetrics, siege warfare and philosophy…” But I’ll reward myself for finishing it by watching the incomparable Steve Coogan’s turn in Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story.

Whatever I Feel Like

In addition to local author Creston Lea’s fantastic short story collection Wild Punch (which I’m reading slowly, to make it last), I’ll be bringing Ivy Compton-Burnett’s A House and Its Head on my upcoming trip to the American Library Association Annual conference. But the book I’m most excited to read this summer is Roberto Bolaño’s The Savage Detectives, about which Francine Prose wrote, “Reading Roberto Bolaño is like hearing the secret story, being shown the fabric of the particular, watching the tracks of art and life merge at the horizon and linger there like a dream from which we awake inspired to look more attentively at the world.”

What We’re Reading

Wednesday, September 9th, 2009

Asst. Dean of Libraries and Learning Resources Group Peter Blackmer shares some of his recent favorite readings from the Bailey/Howe Library collection. Peter is pursuing his third advanced degree at UVM, in history.

Local People book cover

Local People: The Struggle for Civil Rights in Mississippi by John Dittmer
Dittmer challenges the persistently popular notions that the struggle for civil rights happened at a national level. This book refocuses on unfamiliar Mississippi towns and counties, and the everyday citizens as agents of social change. Portraits of common folks resisting commonplace bigotry and finding ways to build networks of common goals bring this history to life. Amidst the horrors of the last days of legalized segregation there are incredibly hopeful people. This book makes me want to go to Mississippi and eat roadside barbecue.

The Marketplace of Revolution book cover

The Marketplace of Revolution: How Consumer Politics Shaped American Independence by T. H. Breen
Breen’s argument is that commercial networks between England and the American Colonies, established prior to 1776, became a means of politicizing rebellion. The Commercial Revolution of the 18th century created and relied upon a vast network of exchange whereby English goods – china, fabrics, and manufactured goods – were distributed to the 13 American colonies. The network gave a common experience to otherwise independent northern and southern economies. After the French and Indian Wars, when the English crown imposed new taxation on colonists, this commercial network of exchange was readymade distribution for a new political resistance. Boycotts of English goods galvanized colonists across geography and social standing. Breen’s book helps flesh out a picture of American independence, beyond the compelling political arguments to the necessary mechanisms of social cohesion and identity.

A is for American book cover

A Is for American: Letters and Other Characters in the Newly United States by Jill Lepore
Lepore’s book is a set of fascinating portraits of Americans of the Early Republic, who argued for, and attempted to create a democratized language for the new United States. Noah Webster’s Americanization of English spelling – “shoppe” versus “shop”, “colour” versus “color” – created new a kind of accessibility of literacy that the “the King’s English” never attempted or even concerned itself with. The chapters on the Native American known as Sequoyah, the inventor of the Cherokee alphabet, and Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet, an early educator of the deaf and a pioneer of American Sign Language are other examples of what Lepore argues as the ways in which language, letters, and symbols created a new American culture. This book is particularly meaningful to me because the school founded by Gallaudet, The American School for the Deaf, is where my 14 year old niece is an eighth grade student.

What We’re Reading (and Watching)

Monday, July 20th, 2009

Library Associate Professor Linda Brew is a Reference and Instruction Librarian who serves as a subject liaison to departments of Communication Sciences, Education, Integrated Professional Studies, Psychology, and Social Work. She shares some of her recent favorites books and DVDs from the Bailey/Howe collection.

Destiny Disrupted book cover

Destiny Disrupted: A History of the World through Muslim Eye by Tamim Ansary
If you’ve ever longed to be able to sit down with a thoughtful, articulate, patient Muslim to discuss the state of the world and how we got here – this is the book for you. Ansary takes the reader from the birth of Mohammed and Islam to 2001, and he does it so clearly that even someone with no background in the subject at all can follow the thread. He’s a storyteller with experience as a textbook writer, and his obvious passion for the subject makes this book a page-turner right from the start. Highly recommended.

Hear Tamim Ansary read an excerpt from his memoir West of Kabul, East of New York: An Afghan American Story.

Unpacking the Bozes

Unpacking the Boxes: A Memoir of a Life in Poetry by Donald Hall
Hall is a well known New Hampshire poet with many books and honors, including Poet Laureate of the United States (2006-2007), to his credit. In this volume, he “unpacks,” shares and considers his memories — the combination of an elderly man’s idiosyncratic recollections with a poet’s sense of language is distinctive and moving. And what a life — he took classes at Harvard with John Ciardi and Archibald MacLeish, rejected Allen Ginsberg’s work for the Paris Review, taught during the 1960’s at Ann Arbor. I’ve studied gerontology from the traditional viewpoints of sociology, psychology and biology — Hall’s work is a poetic lens on what he calls “the thin air of antiquity’s planet.”

Watch Hall’s 2007 poetry reading at the University of Virginia.

The Closers book cover

The Closers by Michael Connelly
Connelly, a former crime reporter in Los Angeles, writes fast-paced gritty detective novels featuring an ensemble cast who appear and reappear in each others’ stories. I’m particularly fond of Harry Bosch, his updated version of the classic hard-boiled, heavy-drinking LA investigator with a hidden vein of idealism that keeps him on the job. Harry’s motto is “Everybody counts or nobody counts.” He will investigate the deaths of society’s lost souls with the same attention he gives to the rich and famous — even when his supervisors tell him to lay off. Great summer reading (is this summer?).

Watch Michael Connelly give a video tour of some the locations featured in The Closers:

Chinese Bpx DVD cover

The Chinese Box (DVD) directed by Wayne Wang
This movie traces events in the the lives of several characters in Hong Kong during the transition year, 1997. John (Jeremy Irons) is an expat journalist from Britain, in love with Vivian (Gong Li), a bar manager from mainland China. John documents life on the streets with a video camera and becomes involved with a young Chinese woman named Jean (Maggie Cheung) who tells conflicting tales about her scarred face. Images, stories, truths and lies – all interwoven like the complex history of the great city itself. I visited Hong Kong in 2007 and this portrait feels vividly accurate to me.

Watch the trailer for Chinese Box:

What We’re Reading

Wednesday, July 1st, 2009

Government Documents Librarian Scott Schaffer shares some of his recent favorites from the Bailey/Howe book collection.

True Believers book cover

True believers : the tragic inner life of sports fans by Joe Queenan
Why do we root for incredibly inept teams? Why do we pass up the finer things in life to witness our favorite squad fall to yet another ignominious defeat? Joe Queenan attempts to answer these questions in this hilarious work. Queenan grew up in Philadelphia home to some of the most wretched franchises in the history of sports. He documents his unfailing loyalty to the Phillies, Eagles, Seventy-Sixers, and Flyers. Front runners, miscreants, true believers, and other bizarre manifestations of the sports fan are considered and analyzed. Queenan even discusses his attempt at psychotherapy to “cure” himself of his awful condition. This a great book for anyone with a modicum of interest in sports.

A Long Way Down book cover

A long way down by Nick Hornby
A TV talk show host’s life is ruined by his affair with a teenager. A 51 year old mother spends all her time caring for her disable son. A musician upset over the breakup of his band and a smart mouthed young woman with a host of issues. They all attempt to end their lives. This probably sounds dark and depressing. But it’s not in the world of Nick Hornby. The story of these four disconsolate and mismatched London characters unfolds with humor and unexpected twists and turns. I highly recommend this tale of a suicidal group of individuals who realize that in some odd sense they need each other.

A Sunburned Country book cover

In a sunburned country by Bill Bryson
Do you want to go to Australia but you don’t have the money and/or time? Reading this book by Bill Bryson is the next best thing. Bryson, a self-professed Australophile, tells us all about the country’s wonderful cities, the Great Barrier reef, and Ayer’s Rock. In often hilarious fashion he imparts us with stories of the many deadly Aussie animals and the harsh climate and landscape covering the majority of the continent. He also provides incredible historical tidbits. Underlying the entire text is the sense of how little most of us know about this extraordinary and eccentric place.

What We’re Reading

Monday, June 15th, 2009

Dan DeSanto works as a staff member in the Bailey/Howe Information and Instruction department. He shared some picks from his summer reading list.

Dan says, “Granted, I’ll probably do what I do every year and read three New Yorkers and half of a novel, but with better intentions, I give you my low-brow, not very organized, mildly interesting summer reading list.”

Sea of Poppies cover Sea of Poppies by Amitav Ghosh

A few years ago, I read Ghosh’s The Shadow Lines, which I absolutely loved. I tend to read a lot of Indian writers, and the things that attract me to Ghosh are the same things that attracted me to (the much better known) Salman Rushdie: multiple story lines woven through generations, the trauma of schism, and fascinating relationships between characters. The book takes place in 1838 Calcutta, and the story revolves around a former slave ship named the Ibis and its new multifarious inhabitants. I’ve been looking forward to reading this book ever since I heard it profiled on NPR.

An interactive map at the book’s website let’s you follow the route of the Ibis and mark your own location.

Street Gang cover Street Gang: The Complete History of Sesame Street by Michael Davis

I first saw this on the Bailey Howe new book shelf. Since then, I’ve seen it pop up on lists and reviews everywhere. The book covers the history of Jim Henson’s Sesame Street, complete with photos and interviews. A colleague and I were talking about this book and a time in the first season or two of Sesame Street when Oscar the Grouch wasn’t garbage-can-bound; he had legs and the power of locomotion. And then there was the pivotal episode where we all found out that Snuffleupagus wasn’t imaginary and that Big Bird wasn’t delusional. From flipping through it, there seem to be some very interesting sections dedicated to Henson’s decision making process and how those decisions shaped the show we’ve come to know. All this, peppered with tales of cast parties and “more risqué” muppets will hopefully make this an intriguing summer read.

Visit the book’s website, where you can see photo and videos and read and share your memories of Sesame Street.

Golem's Migty Swing cover The Golem’s Mighty Swing by James Sturm

This graphic novel is set in the 1920’s and tells the story of a Jewish baseball team trying to eke out an existence by going town-to-town and taking on the local team. The ball players encounter anti-semitism in every town, during every at-bat. I’ve heard this book-talked a few different times, and the story seems fascinating. From my brief perusal at Google Books, the illustrations also appear to have a sharp eye for subtlety and period detail. This should also be a quick read for those of you looking for plane or beach material.

Read a TIME magazine review.

Dan in stockades

We occasionally let Dan outside the library, but we need to keep a tight watch on him.