Used Book Treasures At The Aliante Library

If you never browse the used book racks at this excellent library, you’re missing out on high quality, discount summer reading. Here’s just some of what I noticed a few days ago:


The humor of Augusten Burroughs, the macho side of Elmore Leonard, a Faulkner classic, and a novel from a series that was made into movies where Sean Bean *doesn’t* die!


Margaret Atwood is very popular right now, so this duo will likely go quickly.


Another duo, this one from Fitzgerald


And such variety! Here we see great looking copies of contemporary classic Bel Canto, the legendary One Hundred Years of Solitude, some stories of Fitzgerald, Crime and Punishment, and if you’re looking for recent genre fun, some of F. Paul Wilson’s Repairman Jack stories. 


Plenty more quality here! What do we see? Out front, it’s already hard to miss three classics: Madame Bovary, The Two Towers, and a comic masterpiece by Oscar Wilde. Behind those: the excellent memoir Reading Lolita in Tehran, next to an older classic by Cormac McCarthy, a couple of titles away from McEwan’s magnum opus Atonement, a few more titles away from the first “Ladies Detective Agency” novel. Speaking of comedy, I just noticed in this picture that the row under these appears to have a book by Al Roker in it. 

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C.H. Spurgeon, Rachel Peden, Katrina Kenison, and Me

bassThis is the story of an invisible community, where one voice at a time leads us to connect with others, in a chain back in time.

It starts with Katrina Kenison, who edited the annual Best American Short Stories series in the 90’s and early 2000’s. I love the essays she’d write as a foreword to each volume–usually loving little slices of the literate life, crisp and juicy together. For example, consider the paragraph from her essay in the 2001 volume, below. Isn’t it perfect?

Actually, her very best such essay was the one that started off the 2004 volume. I’ve used that essay a number of times with students, as a model of style and form–it seamlessly weaves a meditation on books with an illustrative anecdote, written in a way that creates comfort while it also demands engagement and action. I don’t have a copy handy just now, so I can’t provide a quote, nor is it anywhere online that I can find, but this book–along with all the volumes she edited–is worth tracking down just for her essays alone.

(She’s written other books, but I wish she’d compile one just collecting all these essays. What a treat that would be!)



In the 2004 edition essay, however, Kenison mentions several older books that she’d found in a used book shop that was about to close. She tosses off titles with brief reveries about the contents–tiny taglines meant to offer whisps of joy found between those covers–and I’ve long wanted to find some of them myself.

This year I finally did. One in particular stood out to me, Rachel Peden’s Speak to the Earth. As I recall, Kenison called Peden “a naturalist of the first order.” Sounded good to me.

No library in southern Nevada had a copy, so I used the interlibrary loan program available at the university where I work part time to borrow a copy from whomever had one to share. Continue reading

Stolen From The Library

I was just looking at my library district’s web page to see which branches have copies of some movies I’m looking to check out over the long weekend. One of them is The Expendables 3. Below is a screen shot of part of the results page for that one.

This is hilarious. Look how many copies were checked out and never returned! (Those are the ones marked “billed.”) Between this and the other branches shown on the rest of that page, there are dozens of copies borrowed and kept forever.

I’ve seen this note on other movies before, but never in quantities like this.

So, what is it about The Expendables 3 that makes so many people check it out and keep it?


Highly Recommended: The World’s Strongest Librarian

51HOYIpg0PL._SX330_BO1,204,203,200_From this book’s Amazon description: “A funny and uplifting story of how a Mormon kid with Tourette’s found salvation in books and weight lifting.” What’s not to like? Here’s what appealed to me about each part of that summary:

FUNNY: Josh Hanagarne is a natural comedian. His panache for characterization and anecdote are evident on nearly every page, and his memoir is filled with plenty of amusing characters and anecdotes–most chapters start with stories about his work in libraries, which reminded me of the McSweeney’s feature “Dispatches From a Public Librarian,” which I also loved.

UPLIFTING: This is no Hallmark movie. There’s an unvarnished–but still generally lighthearted–feel to this story that does leave you feeling positive about things.

MORMON: Spoiler: Josh ends the book not active in the church, but he is never bitter about it; there’s no axe to grind here. Instead, all of his descriptions of Mormons are positive. He even relates a couple of earlier spiritual experiences and doesn’t try to downplay them–they’re still very real to him. That’s rare and wonderful. Alas, his only references to the Book of Mormon are to lament how boring it is, though.

TOURETTE’S: Josh handles the telling of his experiences with Tourette’s with the same deft narrating that strengthens his humor as well.

BOOKS: I’ll love most anything that name drops as many great titles as lovingly as this book does. Josh has some great taste. I also loved his ecstatic passion for libraries.

WEIGHT LIFTING: Just as with the humor, religion, and Tourette’s, his stories of working out are enthusiastically entertaining, especially the segments towards the end of the book with his main trainer, a perfectly amusing, realistic, and inspiring character.

This is also a fine memoir about a young man starting a family, and loving every tedious and frustrating moment that entails. So really, this book has it all.



Coincidence or Commentary?


I picked up Saladin Ahmed’s fantasy novel Throne of the Crescent Moon from the library this week, having heard that it’s really original and well written. Most fantasy novels still take place in a fantasy version of medieval England, but this one is set in a fantasy version of the medieval Islamic world.

As soon as I opened it, though, I found this bookmark that some other reader had left in it. As you can see, the bookmark is an ad for a local Holocaust Resource Center.

I guess it could be a coincidence, but it’s not hard to see that there could be something behind it. A Jewish message placed inside an Islamic book? Seems like it might be supposed to say something political, but I’m not sure exactly what the message is. Who left it and why? There are no clues beyond what we see here.

The $1 Study Bible

I’d been looking around for study Bibles to supplement my scripture study when I was at Alexander Library on Wednesday and saw The NIV Archaeological Study Bible on the shelves.  It looked really good–tons of color maps and articles–but I didn’t check it out at the time.

I kept thinking about it, though, and on Friday I was near Aliante and stopped at their library, hoping they had the same one there. As soon as I walked in, I faced their racks of used books for sale.  The first one that jumped out at me was The NIV Archaeological Study Bible.

It was in perfect condition and was on sale for one dollar.  The cover price was $49.99.

I took the hint and bought it.

Scenes From the Recession in North Las Vegas, Pt. 1

A lot of public services are being cut around the country, I’m sure, as municipalities run out of money.  However, I think we in North Las Vegas have a uniquely extreme situation.

Everyone knows that this has been the hardest hit area in the whole country–last month, in an unprecedented move to slow the financial hemorrhaging, our city council declared a state of emergency.

As debates continue about union contracts, recreation centers, and public services in general, one desperate act by local leaders has hit my family especially close to home.

They cut the library’s hours.

This is really only a minor inconvenience, sure, and other library districts have cut their hours, also, but the result here seems acutely sad to me, and not just because my family loves the library so much.

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How to Prune a Library

For years, I’ve subscribed to a pretty Spartan philosophy about buying books.  A few weeks ago, as part of a larger effort to declutter, I decided to apply these rules to my existing library retrospectively.

Thus, I showed up to work one morning with a few cardboard boxes filled with about 150 books, which I gave away to my students.  (God bless the little bookworms where I work; every last book was gone by the end of the day.)

I only buy a book if it meets one of these conditions: Continue reading

Your Guide to Las Vegas Libraries

Some notes on the local libraries with which I’m most familiar:

centhills1Centennial Hills Library

Abstract:  At just a few months old, Las Vegas’s newest library is gorgeous, and conveniently located across from the YMCA by Durango and the 215. 

Highlights: Though it has (understandably, for a new library) a small collection, CHL has a terrific section for short story anthologies.  The children’s section is huge, and the study/meeting areas in the back are built to accommodate large groups. 

Lowlights: Besides the small collection (it’s surprising how much is missing from what I assume is a standard core collection–how can you not have a copy of The Brothers Karamazov on the shelf?), the rooms in the back offer little privacy for studying.  My oldest daughter hated how the floor plan puts every section in a single open area, like a warehouse.  I can’t understand why the videos are set up face-out, on a frame that looks built for magazines; isn’t it intuitive to line up videos spine-out, like books? 

cclClark County Library

Abstract: CCL is by far the biggest public library in the valley, and is almost right across the street from UNLV.  Its sprawling collection is a joy to browse: this is where you really get to experience that thrill of looking for a book and seeing a dozen similar titles that you’d never known about right next to it.  This library offers you your best chance of finding really old books, as well. 

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Download Electronic Items From Your Library

Did you know that you can borrow electronic items from your public library?  You might have known that most libraries now carry a wide variety of audio and visual materials in addition to their book collection, but their downloadable options seem to be less well advertised. 

This is the page for my area–the Las Vegas-Clark County Library District–where you can see a whole digital menu spelled out.  Besides ebooks and audiobooks, there is even a selection of music and movies.  This is how I got to hear Sarah McLachlan’s Rarities, B-Sides, and Other Stuff, which I have just checked out again (ha ha, beat you to it–you can have it in a week). 

Around here, you can check out 35 electronic items at a time, and they don’t have to be put on your computer–eBooks, for example, can be put on your Nook or similar device.  Music can go on an iPod. 

Now, to find a good travel video about Scotland…


31 Days of Mozart

This January 27th, Mozart will be 255 years old.  In celebration, the good people at KING in Seattle are putting on a month-long festival of Mozart.  The schedule is shown below, and links to their station.  I’ve listened to this station online for years, and love it, and the Mozart theme this month is splendid.  I find that, alas, the local classical music station has no such Mozart celebration going on. 

The library is holding a copy of Amadeus for me.  I’ve never seen it, and this seems like an apt time. 

Speaking of the library, one of the best audio books I’ve ever borrowed was their copy of Mozart: His Life and Music, a Teaching Company title by Professor Robert Greenberg.  I’ve listened to and enjoyed several of Greenberg’s lectures, but this one is my favorite.  It’s a fun, quick, and easy listen, that truly does justice to the great composer’s life.  Mozart’s love for wordplay really comes across in his letters.  Highly recommended.  Especially if your library has it! 

Reserve The Lost Symbol Early

Last week I thought to see if copies of Dan Brown’s The Lost Symbol, his sequel to The Da Vinci Code, were available to put on hold at the library yet.  It’s due to be released in September, so I thought it might still be too early.

Nope, not too early.  I’m number 340 in line.  Clearly, plenty of people are having the same idea.  In fact, as of right now, there are a total of 429 people waiting for this one on the Las Vegas-Clark County Library District’s Web site.  If you live around here, you might want to put your marker down for it now: I can only wonder how many people will have it on hold by the time it actually comes out in two months!

I enjoyed the dumb fun of The Da Vinci Code, balanced by some neat trivia and clever cliffhangers on one hand with a very poorly researched and defended controversial thesis on the other.  The Lost Symbol is about Freemasonry, and there have been some hints that Brown may delve into the early Mormon Church’s associations with it.  That creates a personal interest for me, and I’m curious to see if he handles it accurately or pumps it up for sensationalism. 

It looks like the library district is ordering about 150 copies, and with new books checked out for seven days, I’ll still have to wait a few extra weeks to read it.  I’ll have a detailed review ready sometime in October.