29 March, 2017

This is what a librarian looks like : a celebration of libraries, communities, and access to information for all by Kyle Cassidy

So what does a librarian look like?

This book is the result of a project that involved taking photographs of
American librarians and recording their impressions and views about libraries and their importance in today’s communities. The photos are interspersed with chapters about some notable American libraries and essays by authors, including Neil Gaiman, Jude Devereaux and Cory Doctorow.

It illustrates how libraries are being used now along with visions of the future, and really highlights why we need good libraries and dedicated library staff. There is huge diversity in the people featured in this book but they all have the common values of tolerance, acceptance, and concern for their communities.

I liked the way the text is broken up by groupings of photographs which I found made it easy to read and kept it interesting. The portraits are of a high quality and manage to show the individuality of the subjects. The way the photographs are laid out is also pleasing to the eye, with its mixture of small and full–page portraits.

Although this is about American libraries, the issues and concerns are the same worldwide. Our policy-makers could learn a lot from this, as libraries seek to affirm their value in our societies.

And to answer the question - there’s no such thing as a typical librarian!

Title: This is what a librarian looks like : a celebration of libraries, communities, and access to information for all.
Author: Kyle Cassidy

Recommended by Kathy N, Collections Development

Kathy N can’t sleep unless she has read a bit before turning the light off. As well as most fiction, she enjoys craft and lifestyle books to get project ideas for her rural home.

21 March, 2017

A brief history of creation : science and the search for the origin of life by Bill Mesler and H. James Cleaves II

In the beginning… soup, or something along those lines. If I were to explain how I got from beginning to soup, it would probably take me many volumes, lots of mistakes (and some motivation), so there is something to be said for explaining the history of creation and how we came to that point in the space of 250 pages. This book does an admirable job and covers as much ground as possible, from Anaximander of Miletus’ theory of humans forming inside fish creatures to the work of Oparin-Haldane.

I enjoy my history a lot and though my mind fades to mush most of the time while reading about science, I do enjoy trying. This book grabbed me quite quickly with its readable narrative style, where the journey to the present day on the question of life is filled with 'heroes' and 'villains', instead of a straight chronological onslaught of theory. 

Interesting historical twists and fascinating science do abound, but I found the portrayals of the personalities involved most gripping, with such historical heavyweights as Darwin and Voltaire, alongside lesser knowns like biochemist Sidney Fox and the overlooked English chemist Rosalind Franklin. These people are brought to life with stories of their struggles, hits and misses.

Before you know it, the book is finished and the history of an important part of life is sitting lightly in your lap. Don't expect to come away diploma hardened, just happy that you know a little bit more about a very important subject.

Author: Bill Mesler and H. James Cleaves II 

Recommended by James W, Māngere Bridge Library

James W has often pondered the history of creation and evolution. But lately it has taken a back seat to the creation and evolution of optical disc packaging and why, after 30 years, CD cases are still so rubbish...

20 March, 2017

Towards Another Summer by Janet Frame

Written in 1963, Towards Another Summer is one of Frame’s works that was not published during her lifetime. At the back of 2007 edition (three years after Frame’s death), Pamela Gordon, the author’s niece, thanked the board members at the Janet Frame Literary Trust for “sharing the responsibility for the decision to offer this manuscript for publication”. She noted that the text was “too personal” to publish during the author’s lifetime. 

Meanwhile, no matter how true to life the novel may seem to Gordon, who was not only aware of Frame’s life story through the other texts (whether or not one can trust them) but knew her in person (same question), Towards Another Summer seems to work perfectly well as a piece of fiction.

Protagonist Grace is a 30-year-old New Zealand writer living in London. She accepts an invitation from a journalist named Peter to spend a weekend at his place in the north of England with his wife Anne and their two small children. Due to her excessive shyness, Grace struggles to communicate with her hosts, hides from the kids whenever she can, feels uncomfortable and seeks privacy:

- I don't suppose you mind, having a couple of kids swarming around?
- Oh no, Oh no!
Grace wondered if her heart hadn't sunk through the floor of the taxi. There's still time, she thought wildly, there's still time to escape… 

The narrative shifts in time, looking back into the protagonist’s childhood in New Zealand, and is constantly interrupted by her expanded views on truth, literature and identity.  

Longing to belong and have an identity, Grace stubbornly claims to be “a migratory bird, not a human being”, insisting one can be anything (so why not a bird?), the notion of identity is fluid, always changing and that its borders are blurred.

Author: Janet Frame

Recommended by Maria M, Central Library

Maria M believes reading is the best way to understand other people and places. She is an avid bilingual reader who is particularly interested in New Zealand fiction.

17 March, 2017

Our souls at night by Kent Haruf

The night can be a very lonely time for widows and widowers. The day may be busy with friends and chores but after the sun has set each is alone in their own home.  She may have a profound thought, he may have a humorous anecdote that has just come into his mind, but they have no one to share them with.  It is a given that you don't disturb other people late at night just for a natter.
Addie comes up with an audacious solution to her loneliness problem, she invites her neighbour, Louis, to spend nights with her.  After initial surprise, Louis agrees and trots over to her place with his pyjamas and toothbrush in a paper bag. It becomes a regular thing and, of course, gets noticed in this small town.
This might just have been a sweet tale of elderly romance, but there is a bite to this tale too in the social control that their adult children attempt to exert on Addie and Louis.

Title: Our souls at night
Author: Kent Haruf

Reviewed by Christine O.

Christine O has worked in libraries on the North Shore for over 20 years.  She likes her fiction to be believable and her non-fiction to be accessible. 

Night song of the last tram: a Glasgow childhood by Robert Douglas

It takes a village to raise a child, they sometimes say. Here is a perfect example. 

Growing up in a one room ‘single end’ flat in a Glasgow tenement, Robert Douglas describes his life. A loving mother and abusive, philandering and thankfully, often absent father, are the blessing and the blight of his life respectively.

The tight-knit community of Maryhill is where Douglas grows up and hangs out with his friends. The adults keep a casually watchful eye and look out for each other. The local cinema affords him many blissful hours, there is a favourite Italian café and it is a nostalgic time of tram cars, lamplighters, pawnbrokers and the joy of simple pleasures like joining the local library and being able to read for free! 

Set during and immediately after the Second World War, Douglas takes us through his childhood and teenage years until the age of 16 when his beloved mother tragically dies of cancer.  

Although the story of their life together is in some ways very sad – there is poverty, wife beating and drunkenness and a marked inequality pervades the society of the times; it is also filled with happy and fun-filled moments. 

Characteristic Scottish humour and strength of spirit shine through the honest and unpretentious writing.  And if, like me, you enjoy the sounds of Scottish English, you will love hearing them in the words. 

There is a sequel to this memoir called Somewhere to lay my head, which begins when Douglas is forced to join the RAF after his mother’s death. I haven’t read it yet but it seems that once again, the author uses his remarkable memory for people and places and talent for telling stories to utterly charm the reader.

Title: Night song of the last tram
Author: Robert Douglas

Reviewed by Suneeta N, Highland Park Library

Suneeta N particularly enjoys biographies, travel stories and reading authors from around the world. She loves a good discussion and believes that everybody has a story worth telling.

15 March, 2017

The penguin lessons by Tom Michell

Juan Salvador is one amazing penguin.  First he survives an oil slick that poisons and 
drowns all of his fellow Magellanic penguins, then he contrives to be rescued from a beach in Uruguay by a young English teacher. Tom, the teacher smuggles him into the classy apartment where he is staying and cleans him with a mixture of butter, margarine and detergent in the bathroom.  Halfway through this process Juan Salvador realizes that this human is making him feel better and stops his frantic and vicious struggling. It's easy to imagine the state of the bathroom by this stage!
Juan Salvador (named as a nod to Jonathon Livingston Seagull) is also gregarious and adaptable, essential qualities for a penguin who after his rescue and clean up becomes a much-loved resident at the boarding school that employs Tom.  He learns to eat dead fish from hand, toboggan down stairs and swim in a concrete pool without crashing into the sides.  

TitleThe penguin lessons
Author: Tom Michell

Reviewed by Christine O.

Christine O has worked in libraries on the North Shore for over 20 years.  She likes her fiction to be believable and her non-fiction to be accessible. 

10 March, 2017

Rajesh Khanna

In the seventies, I was a young girl and Rajesh Khanna was the superstar of Bollywood films and a very big name in Indian (Hindi) films. His smile lit up his whole face and his fan following was the kind that only very few people could dream of. The hysterical fan following he had was unbelievable and he had young teenagers writing letters of love in their blood to show their devotion to him. It was bizarre.
However, the heavy workload and an erratic lifestyle of late nights, alcohol and unhappy relationships took its toll. Rajesh Khanna was slipping from his perch at the top of a high pinnacle. His fan following started changing and new faces started becoming more famous on screen. Rajesh Khanna the king could not understand how he could put it right. He married a very talented actress, Dimple, who was very young and one of his ardent fans. This relationship later fell apart, although they had two daughters whom he adored.
In the latter part of his life he was lonely and happiness eluded him as he hankered for the good old days. Until the end he remained true to his love of acting.
I, for one, enjoyed his acting and will always remain his fan. I am sure there are others who thought the same and this book will bring back forgotten memories.

Title: Rajesh Khanna 
 Author: Yasser Usman

Reviewed by Kanchan T, Blockhouse Bay Library

Kanchan is a library assistant at Blockhouse Bay library. Reading is her passion and the library is just the place she loves being in.

08 March, 2017

The fifth season by N.K. Jemisin

I love reading fantasy because of the freedom of imagination and exploration of the 'what if' type of ideas you can get. I like to read something new and this book gives it to you in spades.

Set on an alternative Earth (or is it our Earth, far in the future?), ironically called the Stillness. Stillness is subject to frequent seismic and volcanic activity and periodically has cataclysmic near extinction events called Fifth Seasons that keep humans on their toes. Evidence of past civilisations litter the planet, giving you tantalising glimpses of the past. It is not surprising then that in a world like this people who can control the kinetic energy of the earth (orogenes), would be either feared and killed, or controlled and trained to use their skills to avert disaster (under the shackles of Guardians).

The book follows three narratives on different timelines that at the beginning don't seem to match up, but it makes so much sense in the end. We have:

Damaya, a child who has been cast out by her family because she is an orogene, and her Fulcrum Guardian, Schaffa.

Syenite, a young woman who still wants to excel in the regime permitted for orogenes through the Fulcrum, and her assigned mentor, Alabaster.

Essun, a mother and orogene who has lived in hiding for years and now travels in the aftermath of disaster in search of her daughter in the company of a strange boy named Hoa. 

It does take a while to get into the story because you are figuring out the world as you go along, but it is worth it. The writing is beautiful and the world building is superb. N. K. Jemisin has created a innovative and unique world that feels very real. A fantastically rewarding read.

TitleThe fifth season
Author: N.K. Jemisin

Anita S reads widely and eclectically, but most often random non-fiction fact books, good general and teen fiction (often dystopian future types), fantasy and sci-fi if they cover a new angle on something, kids books and... actually she'll take a look at most stuff. Books are great! She also loves art and illustration