Thursday, January 31, 2013

Guest Review: Women of the Silk by Gail Tsukiyama

One of our wonderful library patrons, Marilyn Rosen, recently read Women of the Silk by Gail Tsukiyama. 

Here are Marilyn's thoughts on the selection:

"This is a fictional story; however, it tells of life in China in the early 1900's.   The story of Pei covers 20 years of her life.  Her parents sent her to a silk factory to work.  She was sent away from home as she was described by a fortune teller that she was not the marrying kind.   The story tells of her hard life but also of the love she finds in the sisters of the silk factory.  This book enlightened me of a time that I did not know  about and of a country of the verge of siege from Japan.  Also, it tells of women who do not wish to marry against their parents wishes.
This book is written so beautifully I could not put it down; I read it in less than a week.

Other books written by Gail Tsukiyama are Samarai's Garden, A Street of a Thousand Blossoms, Dreaming Water, Night of Many Dreams and the Language of Threads.The Language of Threads tells more of Pei's life in the 1930's when she leaves for Hong Kong and continues her life."

Thank you so much, Marilyn, for sharing your thoughts!

If you have recently read a book that you found fascinating or absolutely horrendous, feel free to let me know about it so I can post it on our blog. Send your thoughts to

Sharlene Edwards
Program Director

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Book 4: Beyond Coincidence: Amazing Stories of Coincidence and the Mystery and Mathematics Behind Them

One of the many reasons that I enjoy reading nonfiction is because it gives me an infinite number of topics to discuss and adds a little more depth and range to my knowledge bank. It's comforting to know that I have an arsenal of information at hand to defeat even the most horrifyingly awkward silence! Sure, maybe the stranger sitting next to me on the train doesn't care to hear about the issues that plague London and New York sewer tunnels or the problems with public sanitation in India (read The Big Necessity: The Unmentionable World of Human Waste and Why It Matters by Rose George)....luckily, I've got a lot of (geeky) material to fall back on.

With that being said, Book 4 of the 52 Nonfiction Books in 52 Weeks Challenge left a lot to be desired. With THAT being said, I did, in fact, have a fifteen minute conversation about coincidence with two women at the library today. Beyond Coincidence: Amazing Stories of Coincidence and the Mystery and Mathematics Behind Them written by Martin Plimmer and Brian King was published in 2005. It fared poorly with critics, and, while I was lured in by the promise of mathematics, I was pretty disappointed by the  lack of substance in this book.

Here's what I did take away:

1. Our love for coincidence stems from our need for organization and meaning in a chaotic and uncertain world. And, let's face it, we DO love coincidence. It gives us chills. It envelops us in a fuzzy, warm feeling. And, when it's a grave or tragic coincidence, it somehow lends us comfort to know that some things are "meant to be."

2. Human beings are easily impressed. And we are seriously bad at estimating probability.

3. While many "unbelievable" coincidences are mathematically feasible, there are mysteries that are inexplicable when viewed through the lens of modern science/mathematics. There is so much that we just don't understand.

Half of this book is devoted to accounts of coincidences. Many of which contain only first names and little other detail. The authors admit that not all the coincidences shared in their book are verifiable. For me, this took something away from the content.

On the plus side, my new favorite simile: "The Narnia-like world of the atom."

Sharlene Edwards
Program Director

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Book 3: The Wikipedia Revolution: How A Bunch of Nobodies Created The World's Greatest Encyclopedia


I hope that everyone enjoyed their long weekend and took a time-out to appreciate Martin Luther King, Jr.'s great legacy.
This is one of my favorite quotations
This past week, for the 52 Books in 52 Weeks Challenge, I started out reading The Island of Lost Maps: A True Story of Cartographic Crime by Miles Harvey, but spending the entire weekend reading 349 pages about maps, while very interesting, did not seem to me like an ideal situation. Plus, I'm still desperately trying to catch up on Downton Abbey (there's something about British period drama that really relaxes me), and just added the first season of Sabrina, The Teenage Witch to their collection (I was feeling nostalgic!). Long story short, I decided to switch gears and read The Wikipedia Revolution: How A Bunch of Nobodies Created the World's Greatest Encyclopedia written by Andrew Lih and published in 2009. I've always loved learning about the origins of things that make their way into my daily life. Not to mention that Lih's book is a lightweight at only 229 pages.

Anything with "revolution" in the title is sure to be riveting, right?

As is my standard practice when diving into any nonfiction book, I immediately checked out the copyright date and was a bit dismayed that it was written in 2009. Three+ years in the world of the Internet is enough time to produce drastic changes. Fortunately, much of the content was focused on the history of Wikipedia, and I took the statistics mentioned in the book with a grain of salt.

Through Lih's layman-friendly prose, the reader gets acquainted with the most important computer-related breakthroughs in the 20th and 21st centuries. While library school had equipped me with some basic knowledge, this book provided some in-depth coverage of revolutionary ideas like free and open source software and copyleft. We are also introduced to the interesting personalities that contributed, directly and indirectly, to the creation of Wikipedia including Richard Stallman, champion of free and open software, who refuses to drink Coca-Cola (in protest of "the suspicious murders of unionized workers at Coca-Cola plants in Columbia") and Ward Cunningham, developer of the first wiki, who coined the term after the Hawaiian word for "quick". Lih also explores the challenges and controversies that have plagued Wikipedia throughout the years and the novel solutions that have allowed the encylopedia to thrive. 

If you can get past the use of the word "tome" on every page (okay, maybe not EVERY page), this really is an absorbing account of the creation of one of the most widely-used, and most unique, encyclopedias out there. The fact that this project was almost entirely produced by unpaid volunteers makes it even more fantastic, and I'm willing to bet that anyone who reads this book will get the urge to jump online and edit a few Wikipedia entries themselves. 

Sharlene Edwards
Program Director

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Gov. Christie Praises the Dunes

Yesterday morning (Monday, January 14th), the residents of Bradley Beach were honored with a visit from New Jersey Governor Chris Christie who came to the shore town to praise the Bradley Beach dune system, which helped keep destruction from Hurricane Sandy to a minimum. The mile stretch of dunes is now being rebuilt with discarded Christmas trees.

Gov. Christie speaks to the crowd on Ocean Avenue
Gov. Christie also spoke about the $51 billion federal hurricane aid package that will be voted on by Congress today. He assured his audience that his main focus for the rest of his term as governor will be to restore the shore. In response to various questions from the press, Christie voiced his opinions on gun control (he advocates for violence control); the criticism from democrats of the contract that was awarded to Florida-based debris-removal company Ashbritt (he waves off any talk of a scandal); property tax (he stresses the need for reduced spending); and the recent cover of TIME magazine that bears his unsmiling image along with two words: "The Boss" (he calls the cover "insensitive").

Mayor Gary Engelstad, who was on hand to welcome Christie, extended an invitation to the governor to take part in Bradley Beach's Memorial Day celebrations in May. Christie politely accepted.

Mayor Gary Engelstad welcoming the Governor

This week's edition of The Coast Star, which is always available at the Library, will have the full story on Governor Christie's visit.

Sharlene Edwards
Program Director

Monday, January 14, 2013

Book 2: This Book is Overdue!: How Librarians and Cybrarians Can Save Us All by Marilyn Johnson

I selected This Book is Overdue!: How Librarians and Cybrarians Can Save Us All written by Marilyn Johnson and published in 2010 as my second book for the 52 Nonfiction Books in 52 Weeks Challenge. As a librarian myself, I was excited to find out what it is about my profession that makes me a superhero of least in Johnson's eyes.

Aside from librarians, librarians in training, and those with a librarian fetish, many people would probably never think to check out a title that focuses solely on librarianship. In my experience (and Johnson's as well), most individuals are content with the librarian stereotype-  old fashioned (or just plain old), meek, and unsociable with tidy buns and an aversion to technology. "You need a Masters to be a librarian?!" is the typical response when stating that you went to grad school to get your MLIS. We are a mysterious and, according to some, endangered breed.

Lucky for us, Johnson enthusiastically explores the reality of librarianship and the larger than life characters at the front lines of this constantly evolving field.While many (librarian) reviewers were dissatisfied with the level of comprehensiveness of the book (it is not comprehensive at all- it takes delicious bites out of an ever-expanding field of work), others praised Johnson's anecdotal style. Some complain that we never do learn HOW librarians and cybrarians can save us all. We might not, but we do learn about the challenges and victories experienced by librarians that indirectly and directly affect our lives (and maybe even democracy as we know it). For example, Johnson tells the story of the Connecticut librarians who (with support from the American Civil Liberties Union) stood up against the federal government to defend their patrons' privacy against the Patriot Act. They likened seizing patrons' library records to spying on people in voting booths. They won....though the Patriot Act remains.

I did enjoy this book (not just as a librarian but as a lover of miscellaneous information), and I learned about new, innovative uses for technology in my field of work (like digital libraries popping up all over Second Life). On the flip side, Johnson is prone to generalizations (we're not all cat lovers), and the content of the book is disorganized. It's difficult to keep track of the overarching theme besides perhaps this idea that librarians really ARE awesome and have something to offer you besides musty old books and constant shushing. And Johnson proves that they do.

Sharlene Edwards
Program Director

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Book 1: UFOs: Generals, Pilots, and Government Officials Go on the Record by Leslie Kean

As part of the 52 Books in 52 Weeks Challenge, I selected UFOs: Generals, Pilots, and Government Officials Go on the Record written by Leslie Kean and published in 2011 as my first book. I am aware that it's an interesting first choice especially since UFOs are such a taboo subject (an issue that is addressed in this book), but the idea of UFOs has always fascinated (and sometimes terrified) me. I've read a number of books and articles on the subject of UFOs as well as on the possibility of extraterrestrial life, and I do believe that unidentified flying objects DO exist....although we can't be sure who/what is manning the controls!

These types of book covers are always so eerie!
I think that, right off the bat, it's important to note that Leslie Kean is a well-respected investigative journalist who has been published internationally and nationally. This particular work took ten years of dogged investigation. The foreword of the book, which supports the work of Leslie Kean and the idea that the creation of a US government agency is needed to investigate UFOs further,  is written by John Podesta, former White House Chief of Staff under President Bill Clinton from 1998 to 2001. 

The purpose of the book is to explain the origin of the stigma associated with the belief in UFOs; to provide irrefutable evidence of the existence of unidentified aerial phenomenon; and to condemn the denial of the existence of UFOs by the United States government. The book includes firsthand accounts of experiences with unidentified flying objects from reputable sources. Some of these accounts are absolutely chilling. I was especially alarmed by the transcript of the radio transmission between pilot Frederick Valentich and the flight service specialist at Tullamarine Airport in Melbourne in 1978. After this transmission, during which Valentich indicated that he was being orbited by an unidentifiable object with a green light and a shiny, metallic outside, Valentich was never heard from again. Not to mention the "extraordinary incident at Rendlesham Forest," which occurred in 1980 and was witnessed by dozens of United States Air Force personnel. The accounts given by Sergeant James Penniston and Colonel Charles I. Halt are riveting. 

You might consider Kean's view on UFOs to be conservative. She insists throughout the book that acceptance of the existence of UFOs does NOT mean acceptance of the existence of extraterrestrial life. She avoids sensationalism and sticks strictly to the facts. The book is well-written but very dry at certain points. The reader is bombarded by aviation and military terminology that might be difficult for an outsider to grasp. Kean's focus on national defense and her insistence that UFOs are a possible threat to aviation safety can be tedious. 

While this book will most definitely by eye-opening for some, for me, it simply reconfirmed my beliefs about UFOs while introducing me to some ironclad arguments in defense of these beliefs. It was also interesting to learn about the handling of UFO reports by foreign governments compared to the seeming indifference of the US government. If you have an open mind and a curiosity about things unknown, I'd recommend this book. 

Personally, I would have loved to see more photographs! Although, I think that I'll have a hard time falling asleep tonight as it is!

Sharlene Edwards
Program Director

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Revving Up For A Review-filled New Year


In my previous blog entry, I talked about the 52 Nonfiction Books in 52 Weeks challenge that I've started this week. Several people have expressed interest in doing this book challenge with the inclusion of fiction. While I am going to stick solely to nonfiction (for two reasons: 1) because I want to highlight the amazing  titles in our nonfiction collection at the library, and 2) I LOVE nonfiction. I can't get enough of it.....although we'll see how I feel about it in a few weeks!), feel free to read WHATEVER whenever wherever that pleases you! Ultimately, the goal is to make some more room in your life for books in the year 2013.

In this blog entry, I want to give you all a little tutorial on how to review books via the library catalog. Most people aren't even aware that they can submit reviews that will appear in the catalog as other people browse titles! I will be posting my weekly review on this blog as well as in the catalog, and I invite you all to do the same (even if your review only consists of giving the book five stars and a happy face emoticon).

Here's How to Submit Your Reviews to the Catalog:

1. Head to our website:

2. Click on the Catalog tab in the top navigation bar

3. Log into your library account
  • You need to enter your library card number & your password
  • If this is the first time that you are logging in to your account, your password is userpass

4. Search for the title for which you are submitting a review. I decided to review Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver.

5. A new screen will appear. Click on the title of the book that you want to review from the list of search results.

6. A new screen will appear. Scroll down until you see the "Review This Item" button in the left hand side navigation bar.

Scroll Down!
Click on "Review This Item"

7. Click on the "Review This Item" button. The first time that you review a book, you will be asked to accept the terms and conditions put forth by the library. This prompt will never ever appear again (which is why I couldn't take a screenshot of it!).

8. Type your review into the box and then hit "Submit"

I was a little stingy with the stars.

9. After being approved by a library staff member, your review will be posted in the catalog under the "Review" tab.

10. Congratulations! You've just shared your insightful thoughts about a book with the rest of our library patrons!

To be part of this challenge, it is not mandatory that you review your selected books. If you prefer, you can simply read the book, enjoy the book, and move on to the next one. : )

Stay tuned for this Monday's first book review!

Sharlene Edwards
Program Director