Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Fiction Book Review: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

Book Cover
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows, a delightful novel of letters beginning with writer Juliet Ashton,who in January 1946,writes to her publisher to say that she is tired of covering the “light-hearted” side of the war. Later, she receives a letter from Dawsey Adams, a Guernsey Island farmer, who has discovered her name in the front cover of a Charles Lamb novel. He would like to order more of Charles Lamb's writings by post. Dawsey tells her of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society, a unique book club created by a few individuals during the German occupation as a way to protect its members from arrest.

Juliet Ashton becomes more absorbed in Guernsey and its inhabitants. She learns of their struggles, their hopes, their fears, and the lives of these individuals are soon intertwined. They share common interests and new friendships develop. Book club members write letters to Juliet describing how reading has made a difference in their lives.

Through stories, we are inexplicably magically altered in some manner. Reading allows us to see our lives in a new way, learn something exciting and new, or become completely lost in a world different from our own. We may strongly relate to a character, to an idea, or to the flow of words that are beautiful, poetic, and perfectly describe a feeling or emotion. Delicate placement of words creates euphony, words moving, dancing, spilling over the page, and finally plunging into perfect meaning for the reader.

Juliet writes: “I wonder how the book got to Guernsey? Perhaps there is some sort of secret homing instinct in books that brings them to their perfect readers.”

In a letter from Juliet to Dawsey:

“That’s what I love about reading: one tiny thing will interest you in a book, and that tiny thing will lead you onto another book, and another bit there will lead you onto a third book. It’s geometrically progressive-all with no end in sight, and for no other reason than sheer enjoyment.”

She decides to travel to Guernsey in order to meet and learn more about its inhabitants and their struggles. Read this book for an inspirational story about friendship, and the power of books to capture a reader, change their lives and never let go.

For more information visit the author's website:

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

Monday, December 29, 2008

Now Read the Book

Twilight by Stephenie MeyerBeen to the multiplex lately?

Despite the harsh economy, many of us are flocking to the cinema's latest offerings including those movies based on books like Twilight or short stories like The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.

It is hard not to compare the book and the film adaptation.

Reading the book is almost always better. When watching a movie, you typically miss out on details. Many details are cut due to time or excluded due to the "director’s vision”. It is not unusual for entire characters to be cut out of a film.

Also, reading the book allows your imagination to run. As you read, you get to delve into characters’ thoughts allowing you to feel as though you are on the journey with them.

Go ahead see the movie, but also consider reading the book.

Book Trailer: Contagious by Scott Sigler



Contagious, a new Scott Sigler horror novel, is the bloody sequel to Sigler's masterful thriller Infected.

Booklist calls Contagious, "A definite must-read, whether you’ve read Infected or not."

Contagious will be released on December 30.

Click here to reserve a copy today.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

WORD UP! Deadline Extended Until Jan. 9

Word UP Winner 2008 Erika Wade
You get another chance to join in on WORD UP!, the county-wide spoken word contest for high school students. The deadline has been extended until Friday, January 9. High school teachers or principals please call us at 226-3670 or email us at hm@bham.lib.al.us to let us know your school would like to participate.

Details about the contest may be found here.


Holiday Schedule

All locations of the Birmingham Public Library will be closed December 24-December 26 and January 1-January 2.

Happy Holidays!

P.S. You can always visit BPL's online library which is open 24/7 at www.bplonline.org.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Rick Bragg Named 2009 Harper Lee Award Recipient

rick braggCalhoun County native Rick Bragg has been named the 2009 recipient of the Harper Lee Award for Alabama’s Distinguished Writer of the Year, the Alabama Writers’ Forum announced recently. Bragg will receive the award at the Alabama Writers Symposium in Monroeville on May 1 at the annual luncheon. The conference will meet April 30-May 2.

“I was honored to hear I had been chosen to receive the Harper Lee Award, named for a writer whose book, and its message, have spanned decades,” said Bragg. “I am also honored to join a list of people I have admired and respected all my writing life, people who have helped establish this state as a place where good writers just seem to come out of the dirt.”

Bragg is the best selling and critically acclaimed author of Southern non-fiction, including a trio of books on his Calhoun County family that have become anthems of working-class Americans—All Over but the Shoutin’, Ava's Man, and The Prince of Frogtown. The books, award winners in both literary and audio circles, track one family's conflicts and triumphs across a century of whiskey making, deprivation, fist fights, knife fights and human kindness. The story of his mother's sacrifices in raising him and his brothers in 1960s Alabama, All Over But the Shoutin’ is one of the most often read books in community and college-wide reads.

He is also the author of I Am a Soldier, Too: The Jessica Lynch Story, and a collection of newspaper stories, Somebody Told Me.

A 1993 Nieman Fellow at Harvard University and a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, Bragg has covered stories from Central Asia to the Caribbean to economic and social upheaval in the U.S., usually focusing on people in trouble. He has written from the Bazaar of the Storytellers in Peshawar, Pakistan, and the slums of Port-au-Prince. He covered the Oklahoma City bombing, the Susan Smith trials, 9/11, and many other stories in newspapers from The Jacksonville News to The New York Times.

Bragg lives in Tuscaloosa with his wife, Dianne, and step-son, Jake, where he is Professor of Writing at the University of Alabama. He continues to write for magazines such as Sports Illustrated, Food and Wine, Best Life, Men's Journal, Southern Living, Garden and Gun, and others.

The Alabama Writers’ Forum coordinates the process to select the Harper Lee Award recipient annually from nominations from the field.

The Harper Lee Award includes a cash prize and a bronze sculpture by Frank Fleming of the Monroe County Courthouse clock tower. The courthouse is a setting for Harper Lee’s novel To Kill a Mockingbird.

The honor is presented annually by Alabama Southern Community College at the Alabama Writers Symposium in Monroeville. It is made possible through a generous grant from George F. Landegger.

For more information about the 12th annual Alabama Writers Symposium, visit www.writerssymposium.org. For more information about the Harper Lee Award, phone the Alabama Writers’ Forum at 866-901-1117 or visit www.writersforum.org.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Birmingham Public Library Presents the National Traveling Exhibit "Benjamin Franklin: In Search of a Better World"

Benjamin Franklin exhibit logo“Benjamin Franklin: In Search of a Better World,” a traveling exhibition opening at the Birmingham Public Library on January 5, 2009, tells the remarkable story of the man who began his life as a poor printer’s apprentice and ended it as a revered elder statesman known throughout the world for his wisdom, wit, and resourcefulness. Benjamin Franklin’s achievements in diplomacy, science, philanthropy and other fields profoundly influenced the path of a new nation and continue to inspire us more than three hundred years after his birth.

Benjamin Franklin’s accomplishments were the result of a lifelong dedication to improving the world around him. “I would rather have it said, ‘He lived usefully,’ than ‘He died rich,” he once wrote to his mother. Franklin also placed great value on self-improvement and believed that integrity and moral responsibility were the foundations for a successful life and a strong community.

“Franklin has a particular resonance in twenty-first century America,” biographer Walter Isaacson has written. “We would relate to the way he tried to balance, sometimes uneasily, a pursuit of reputation, wealth, earthly virtues, and spiritual values.” Although Franklin excelled at nearly everything he attempted, his first priority was to use his talents for the greater public good. He refused to seek a patent on his numerous inventions, believing that they should be universally available. As co-founder of a number of civic institutions, including America’s first public hospital and first lending library, and Philadelphia’s first firefighting brigade, Franklin continually encouraged his fellow citizens to collaborate in useful projects for the community.

“We are pleased to have been selected as a site for this exhibition,” said Sandi Lee, Public Services Coordinator at the Birmingham Public Library. “Benjamin Franklin’s life is the quintessential American success story. His dedication to the welfare of the community, and his belief that overcoming society’s challenges required mutual action, collaboration and generosity on the part of all citizens, offers us inspiration as we face many difficult issues in contemporary American society. Benjamin Franklin has much to say to 21st century Americans.”

Franklin was the only American political figure to have signed five of his country’s key founding documents: the Albany Plan of Union (1754), Declaration of Independence (1776), Treaties of Amity and Commerce with France (1778), Treaty of Paris (1783), and the U.S. Constitution (1787). His last years were spent in writing his autobiography, the most widely published memoir in history, and in promoting the abolition of slavery. In 1787, three years before his death, Franklin became the oldest member of the Constitutional Convention. Although he was in poor health, he played a significant role in the “Great Compromise,” which resulted in the legislature of two houses which is today the United States Congress.

Organized by the Benjamin Franklin Tercentenary, Philadelphia, in cooperation with the American Library Association (ALA) Public Programs Office, “Benjamin Franklin: In Search of a Better World” was made possible by a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH): great ideas brought to life. This exhibit is also supported by a grant from the Alabama Humanities Foundation, a state program of The National Endowment for the Humanities. The traveling exhibit is based upon a major exhibit developed by the Benjamin Franklin Tercentenary, which has traveled to major cities in the United States and abroad. The Benjamin Franklin Tercentenary is a nonprofit organization established through a major grant from The Pew Charitable Trusts to educate the public about Franklin’s enduring legacy.

“Benjamin Franklin: In Search of a Better World” draws upon original documents in the collections of the American Philosophical Society, The Franklin Institute, the Library Company of Philadelphia, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and the University of Pennsylvania, other museums and libraries, and private collectors. Photographs of handwritten and printed documents, objects owned by Franklin, maps, paintings and drawings provide a colorful background for Franklin’s story. The traveling exhibition was curated by Rosalind Remer, Ph.D., executive director of the Benjamin Franklin Tercentenary, and Page Talbott, Ph.D., Associate Director of the Benjamin Franklin Tercentenary and chief curator of the original “Benjamin Franklin: In Search of a Better World” exhibition.

The library is sponsoring free programs and other events for the public in connection with the exhibition. Contact Sandi Lee at 226-3742 or slee@bham.lib.al.us, or visit http://www.bplonline.org/ for more information.

“Benjamin Franklin: In Search of a Better World” will be on display at the library until the end of February 2009.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Library Confessions: Pay Fines Online



Paying late charges online is convenient, fast and easy!

Access your account.
Click on any unpaid fines and bills.
Click pay online.

Click here for more information.

Brown Bag Program ~ A Touch of Piano

anthony pattin
Dr. Anthony Pattin, Professor of Music at the University of Montevallo and Director of Music at Chapel In The Pines Presbyterian Church, will present a diverse program of music performed on the piano. This program will feature the music of Bach, Liszt, Brahms, and Ravel, as well as hymn tunes, popular standards, and some holiday favorites. Come and enjoy the artistry of this talented and gifted pianist. Wednesday, December 17, noon.

brown bag imageFeed your body and mind at BPL's Brown Bag Programs. You bring the lunch and we'll bring the drinks. Wednesdays at noon in the Arrington Auditorium located on the 3rd floor of the Linn-Henley Research Library, 2100 Park Place.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Birmingham Native Odetta Dies at 77

OdettaOdetta, a singer whose voice resonated throughout the Civil Rights Movement, died on December 2nd in Manhattan at the age of 77. According to her manager, she had been hoping to perform at the inauguration of President-Elect Barack Obama. With a career that spanned decades, Odetta has influenced a generation of musicians. In fact, her solo debut album, Sings Ballads and Blues (1956), is cited by Bob Dylan as one of the reasons he switched to acoustic guitar.

Odetta was born December 31, 1930 in Birmingham, AL. In 1937, her family moved to Los Angeles and she began taking music lessons at the age of 13. Although she performed in musical theater after high school, her introduction to the West Coast folk music scene changed the direction of her career. She made quite a name for herself performing in clubs on the West Coast and in 1953, traveled to New York to perform at the famous Blue Angel folk club. In 1954, she recorded her first album, The Tin Angel, with Larry Mohr. During her most active decade, the 1960s, she released 16 albums and became heavily involved in the Civil Rights Movement. She marched in Selma with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and performed at the 1963 March on Washington. She continued to record for decades, releasing her final album, Gonna Let It Shine, in 2005. This album received a Grammy nomination for Best Traditional Folk Album.

Her storied career brought her several awards. In 1972, she received the Duke Ellington Fellowship Award along with Paul Robeson, Marian Anderson, and Eubie Blake. During the 1980s, the National Music Council awarded her with the American Eagle Award. In 1999, she received the National Medal of Arts from President Bill Clinton, the highest award given to artists by the United States Government.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Birmingham African-American Genealogy Study Group Meeting

the bennett family of gees bend
The Bennett Family of Gee's Bend, 1971-1980
Photo courtesy of BPL Digital Collections

The staff of the Southern History Department will be on hand to assist African Americans in family research. Sunday, December 14, 3:00-5:00 p.m. on the first floor of the Linn-Henley Research Library. For more information call 226-3665.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

BPL @ Night presents An Evening with Foxxy Fatts

Foxxy Fatts: Photo by Larry O. Gay With his trademark toothpick hanging from his lips, Foxxy Fatts guides his band.

An Alabama Music Hall of Fame and Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame inductee, Fatts began drumming around 8 years of age. Among his many credits are playing with Percy Sledge on "When a Man Loves a Woman" and Larry Graham's platinum single "Your One in a Million."

The unique blend of rock, R & B, fussion jazz, swing and Motown played by this multi-dimensional performer is not to be missed.


Event Details
What: An Evening with Foxxy Fatts
When: Tuesday, December 16
Time: 6:00 p.m.
Cost: Free

BPL thanks Compass Bank for its generous support of BPL@Night. BPL@Night is also made possible by grants from the Alabama State Council on the Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Birmingham Public Library Board Elects New Board Officers

At its annual meeting in November, the Birmingham Public Library Board elected two new officers: Mrs. Gwendolyn Bowen Welch as President and Mrs. Nell Allen as Vice-President. Both Mrs. Welch and Mrs. Allen have served on the BPL Board for seven and six years respectively.

In keeping with Birmingham Library Board procedure, President Welch appointed Shanta Craig Owens, Esq to Parliamentarian, the position in which Mrs. Owens has previously served. Also, Rev. Anthony A. Johnson was appointed to the Library Board to complete the term of the late Mrs. Emily Norton.

Former Library Board President, Mrs. Lillie M. H. Fincher, stepped down from her post as President this year. She served for three years in this position. She continues to serve as Past President and board member.

The Library Board is BPL's governing board, and it consists of eleven members who serve in non-salaried positions. The Library Board faithfully promotes BPL’s mission, which is “to provide the highest quality library service to our citizens for lifelong learning, cultural enrichment and enjoyment.” The Birmingham Public Library appreciates the Library Board’s commitment to service and welcomes the new officers to carry out its mission.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Brown Bag Program ~ A Christmas Memory Starring Dolores Hydock

dolores hydock
Join us for our annual tradition with Birmingham storyteller and actress Dolores Hydock as she presents A Christmas Memory. Truman Capote's poignant reminiscence of his boyhood in rural Alabama is brought to vivid life in this wonderful holiday performance. Wednesday, December 10, noon.

Learn more about Dolores Hydock's stellar career at Storypower.

brown bag imageFeed your body and mind at BPL's Brown Bag Programs. You bring the lunch and we'll bring the drinks. Wednesdays at noon in the Arrington Auditorium located on the 3rd floor of the Linn-Henley Research Library, 2100 Park Place.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Scott Sigler Alert

book coverI hope my fellow horror fans are as excited as I am about the sequel to Scott Sigler's book Infected (read my review of this book) . Infected is one of those great stories that I had to read and listen to on CD. The fact that Sigler himself narrated his story made it that much more affective.

Contagious continues the story of Perry Dawsey, the tough ex-linebacker who survived his infection by cutting the triangles out of his body; Margaret Montoyo, the epidemiologist who was called on to track the infection when it first broke; and Dew Phillips, the tough CIA agent who dealt with the trail of bodies left by the psychopathic attacks of the infected. They stopped an alien invasion the first time around, and now these three must work together to somehow save humanity the second time around.

More about Contagious from Scott Sigler's Web site:
Across America, a mysterious pathogen transforms ordinary people into raging killers, psychopaths driven by a terrifying, alien agenda. The human race fights back, yet after every battle the disease responds, adapts, using sophisticated strategies and brilliant ruses to fool its pursuers. The only possible explanation: the epidemic is driven not by evolution but by some malevolent intelligence.

Standing against this unimaginable threat is a small group, assembled under the strictest secrecy. Their best weapon is hulking former football star Perry Dawsey, left psychologically shattered by his own struggles with this terrible enemy, who possesses an unexplainable ability to locate the disease’s hosts. Violent and unpredictable, Perry is both the nation’s best hope and a terrifying liability. Hardened CIA veteran Dew Phillips must somehow forge a connection with him if they’re going to stand a chance against this maddeningly adaptable opponent. Alongside them is Margaret Montoya, a brilliant epidemiologist who fights for a cure even as she reels under the weight of endless horrors.

These three and their team have kept humanity in the game, but that’s not good enough anymore, not when the disease turns contagious, triggering a fast countdown to Armageddon. Meanwhile, other enemies join the battle, and a new threat — one that comes from a most unexpected source — may ultimately prove the most dangerous of all.
The street date for Contagious is December 30. Reserve your copy in advance.

Sigler's earlier novels, Earthcore and Ancestor, are available through Interlibrary Loan.