Friday, June 20, 2008

Inexpensive Loose Tea

Recently, my husband and I ventured into a small Asian market. In addition to being a great source for all things Chinese he remembered eating when he was in China, it had an abundant supply of loose tea. This was very ordinary tea--plain green tea and oolong. I'm learning to like oolong, so I thought I'd give it a try. The bag I bought was $3.99: at home, I filled almost 3 quart-sized canning jars! The bags were simply plastic bags someone had filled with tea; no brand name, ounce equivalent, or anything like that. If you enjoy fresh loose tea, check out your local Asian/ethnic grocery stores. You might find a deal! (And, since I'm not an oolong connoisseur, I don't really know if the tea is outstanding, but it's definitely fresh.)

Monday, June 16, 2008

Thursday Next in Audio Format

The Well of Lost Plots is part of a series of witty, tongue-in-cheek novels featuring Special Operative Thursday Next. Jasper Fforde is the author/creator of this heroine and her friends/enemies. These books are bibliowit--you must be well-read to appreciate and enjoy the little quips and references to various literary situations and characters (for instance, Falstaff and Tiggywinkle are paired up at one point...). Hearing them read aloud is an added bonus for two reasons: first, the narrators I've heard for these books have all been British and therefore make the setting (London) much more believable. Second, the names in these books are often references to well known phrases and/or characters and/or books. For example: Braxton Hicks, Millon de Floss, etc. It is easy to miss some of the humor when reading these names silently. Hearing them pronounced makes the correct pronunciation (and reference) much clearer. If you're looking for some amusing road trip audio entertainment and you consider yourself a bibliophile, you might want to check these out. Be warned, though, that there is at least one character with a crude name.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Unfortunate Events in Audio Format

Another favorite of mine in the audio realm: Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events as narrated by Tim Curry. Several of the books in this delightful series have been narrated solely by the author (Lemony Snicket) and, frankly, they're not as good as Curry's renditions.

This series lends itself well to audio format because there's a great deal of authorial intrusion (when the author breaks from the plot to tell the reader something specifically; in the SOUE books, this happens most often when the author tells the reader what a word means). Curry's narration makes this authorial intrusion come alive. His wry sense of humor comes through and his inflections and emphases are perfect. The books are quite funny on paper; in audio format, they're hilarious. There is also some rather weird, but fitting, music at the beginning and, occasionally at the end, an "interview" with Lemony Snicket himself. Highly recommended for road trips and boring house work.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Water for Elephants in Audio Format

If you're remotely interested in reading Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen, then I highly recommend you "read" it via audio format, specifically the production by HighBridge Audio.

WFE is a fascinating book in which an older man alternately reflects on his encroaching senility and frailty (he's in his 90's in an assisted living facility) and recounts his memories of his time spent as a veterinarian with a traveling circus in the 1930's. The circus memories are, not surprisingly, a bit salty (language, some sexual scenes, and violence), and, in my opinion, those are a little more pronounced when heard in audio format as opposed to simply reading them silently. However, the book is quite interesting; the salty elements are, for the most part, not condoned/encouraged; and the reflections on old age are wonderfully written. Gruen elevates the story from a simple coming-of-age plot in an interesting setting to a much more insightful reflection on humanity and aging. (Given the unsavory elements, this is not a book to listen to when children/less mature audiences will be listening.)

HighBridge Audio's production of this novel was's "Best of 2006--Fiction Winner" and for good reason. There are two narrators (David LeDoux and John Randolph Jones) so that the reflections of the older man are recounted in an older sounding voice and the circus memories are recounted by a much younger sounding man. Both men are excellent narrators and enter fully into their characters. A well written story narrated by talented performers is such an experience!

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Home Library Organization, Part 5: Some classification ideas

Need to catch up on the series?
Home Library Organization, Part 1
Home Library Organization, Part 2
Home Library Organization, Part 3
Home Library Organization, Part 4

Should I use LOC? Dewey? My Own?
Don’t feel tied to either. Your private library may not have the same emphasis as a public institution. Here are some ideas to structure your launch. Be creative—whatever you do, make it your own!

Alphabetical Book Classification Scheme (sample headings)
A - Art
B - Biography
C - Cooking (properly "cookery")
D -
E - Education
F - Fine arts, recreation
G - Geography, travel, customs
H - History
I -
J - Juvenile
K -
L - Literature
M - Music
N - Natural Science
O -
P - Poetry
Q - Quotations
R - Religion
S - Science
T - Tonsils
UV -
W -
XYZ - Zoology

Library of Congress
A – General Works
B – Philosophy. Psychology. Religion
C – Auxiliary Sciences of History
D – History (General) and History of Europe
E – History: America
F – History: America
G – Geography. Anthropology. Recreation
H – Social Sciences
J – Political Science
K – Law
L – Education
M – Music and Books on Music
N – Fine Arts
P – Language and Literature
Q – Science
R – Medicine
S – Agriculture
T – Technology
U – Military Science
V – Naval Science
Z – Bibliography. Library Science. Information Resources (General)

000 - Generalities (reference, computers, museums, etc.)
100 - Philosophy and psychology (ethics, paranormal phenomena)
200 - Religion (Bibles, religions of the world)
300 - Social sciences (sociology, anthropology, politics, economics, government,
education, customs, and especially folklore and fairy tales)
400 - Language (linguistics, language learning, specific languages)
500 - Natural sciences and mathematics (general science, mathematics, astronomy,
physics, chemistry, earth sciences, palaeontology, biology, genetics, botany,
600 - Technology (applied sciences) (medicine, psychiatry, applied physics, engineering,
agriculture, home economics, management, accounting, chemical engineering, etc.)
700 - The arts (art, architecture, photography, music, games, sport)
800 - Literature and rhetoric
900 - Geography and history

Other Possibilities:
Science/Creation Module
I found this model on the Internet several years ago, organized by a woman whose family library must be substantial. She is a Christian, mom and homeschooler, and I appreciate her original and very detailed planning. She organizes her non-fiction by the seven Days of Creation. Just another example of how you can be comprehensive through other approaches.

Me? To tell the truth, although I love classifying and cataloging, I haven't yet organized my entire collection, though I'm working on my Mom's when I go home to visit. Of all of the above, I would probably use some Dewey, but mostly broad categories, as long as authors and fairy tales are grouped together. Let me know what works for you!

Next: Shelf labeling and acquisition. We're almost done!

Home Library Organization Conclusion

Stein and Steig: Which notion is more preposterous, creation or evolution?

When I recently saw the documentary Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed, I was thoroughly impressed at the logical reinforcement of what I have always been taught, that we are not here by random chance or accident. While I strongly believe in creation for biblical reasons, Expelled gave scientific support to the claim that there must be intelligent design behind the complexity of DNA, let alone the universe.

I am surprised that somehow I have heretofore missed Yellow and Pink by William Steig. Steig is better known for his Caldecott winning Sylvester and the Magic Pebble and his Newbery honor book Dr. DeSoto. Even the movie Shrek (which I have not seen) was based on a picture book by Steig, so he’s quite reputable as a storyteller. So I like his stories, I like his art, but how could I have missed Y&P for so long?! I am grateful to Marti Anderson for sharing this with me on a rainy evening.

Two figures are lying in the sun on a piece of newspaper. After a while they “wake up” and begin to ask each other how they got there and why. The first fellow, “Pink,” assumes that, since they were so admirably formed, someone must have made them. The second, “Yellow,” scoffs at the notion. Being so perfect and intricate, they must have been an accident, just “happened” after a series of natural events over millions of years that resulted in both of them being so much the same, and yet quite different. Yellow is soundly convinced of his theory, even though it is so full of holes and he has no greater evidence than Pink’s simple theory of design.

[Pink] suddenly gave Yellow a challenging look. “Explain this,” he said. “How come we’re painted the way we are?”
Yellow took a few circular turns pondering this question. “The paint,” he muttered, “the paint. Well, suppose when we rolled down those hills, or whatever it was we rolled down, we rolled through some paint someone had spilled…” (emphasis mine)

Finally Yellow protests that he can’t answer all the questions, that some things are just a mystery. Oh well. And then a man comes along and finds them nice and dry, and carries them back where he came from. Makes me think of Pinocchio.

Of course, we were not left to wonder about our true origins. If we will just read and believe the creation account that was supplied in Genesis, furnished by the only firsthand witness, all those silly questions are answered and we wouldn’t waste such time. Steig’s story makes this plain enough to children, though many of his stories are really a nudge to adults. See if your library has a copy of Yellow and Pink. And make sure you see Expelled at your earliest opportunity!

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Harry Potter in Audio Format

As I mentioned in my Narnia in Audio Format article, a well narrated book is a true delight. My all-time favorite books to listen to are the Harry Potter books, narrated by Jim Dale. I remember vividly trying to dream up new house work while I was working my way through one of the HP books. Finally, I gave up and plopped down on the couch, merely sitting and listening. I couldn't stop! Dale is one of the best narrators I've ever heard (and I've listened to a LOT of audio books). Whenever I actually read one of the books, I hear the characters in the voices he gave them. I must confess that I'd rather listen to him read the books any day than read them to myself silently. I even was disappointed in the first movie because the actors weren't saying their lines right (meaning, weren't using the same inflections/tones Dale used in his narration). If you're an HP fan, you MUST try these books in audio format. Each one is many hours long, but a true delight. Check your local library before hitting the road for summer vacation.