Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Cornwall in real life

A recent bookshelf post reminded me of our trip to Cornwall in 2011 and so I retrieved some pictures from the archive.

Looe is a small fishing village in south east Cornwall. We stayed in a nearby  farm cottage for a week in May. It was here that we had our first authentic cream tea, saw a foot ferry and realised that small coastal villages were not designed for cars! Also the importance of tides!

This is the local library...

...and this is a view of the wharf...

...and a small fishing boat entering the narrow entrance to the harbour...

...and a closer view of the fishing boat...

...and finally a view of the town.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Silver on the Tree - Susan Cooper

This is the Twenty-ninth in my one-book-at-a-time bookshelf.

It is always difficult to conclude a series (or a book for that matter). I think Susan Cooper hits the mark with this last book in the sequence. The familiar characters have their work cut out for them and there are twists and satisfying resolutions.

The Dark is Rising sequence is still in print after nearly fifty years so I think I'm not alone in my enjoyment.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

The Grey King - Susan Cooper

This is the Twenty-eight in my one-book-at-a-time bookshelf.

The fourth book in the sequence is excellent though a little different, a little darker. In a sequence there is often a low point in the story arc and that point is reached in this book.

I've been to the wilds of Wales and appreciate this book much more than when I first read it.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Greenwitch - Susan Cooper

This is the Twenty-seventh in my one-book-at-a-time bookshelf.

The third book in this sequence doesn't disappoint. We return to the Cornish setting of the first book, but all has changed. There is a pathos and depth in this book that I really enjoy.

As an aside, a couple of years ago I saw for myself, for the first time, a fishing village in Cornwall and I was blown away. I could not believe the picture postcard houses perched on either side of the steep entrance to the tidal fishing harbour. I dream of spending a holiday living in such a village (but with a little less drama)!

Friday, July 26, 2013

The Dark is Rising - Susan Cooper

This is the Twenty-sixth in my one-book-at-a-time bookshelf.

It is perhaps significant that there is a gap of some eight years between the publication of this book and the preceding Over Sea Under Stone. There is a maturity in the writing of this book that wasn't there in her first book. It is as if the author found her voice and was then swept along by her material. This book has a certain texture which was missing from her earlier work - the 'seasoning' which makes a book something special.

This could stand as a work on its own and still find a place on my bookshelf, but is part of a sequence and all the more enjoyable as a result.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Over Sea Under Stone - Susan Cooper

This is the Twenty-fifth in my one-book-at-a-time bookshelf.

This is a pleasant and likable English children's story written in the mid-60's with a typical English seaside holiday setting and invocations of English history, mythology and culture. In fact it is unremarkable and by itself wouldn't have found a place on my bookshelf. It is what follows that makes Susan Cooper's 'sequence' stand out, but more on that in the next post.

Monday, July 22, 2013

It takes a village...to run a library

I was prompted to write this after seeing some twitter discussion in the last few days about the role of non-librarians in libraries and reading @librarianhoi's Thinking about the shambrians.

My view is (disclaimer: I work in an academic library and don't claim any inside knowledge of other library sectors) that running a large library is a complicated undertaking. In my library we have a significant number of librarians, library technicians, library assistants and some other staff who are none of those. They are IT, communication, education, administration or other professionals. They make a great contribution to the library, not despite the fact that they are not librarians but because they are competent professionals in their own field. The longer they work in the library and the more knowledge they gather about the peculiarities of the library world, the better they are at their jobs in the library.

Let me put this another way. If you were a librarian working as the only librarian in a particular company then as you learn about the company you get better at your librarian job. Why shouldn't this apply to other professionals working in our backyard. It does.

I remember when the world wide web was new and shiny and librarians turned their hand to web mastery because there was no one else to do it. Today we hire people to do those jobs and focus on our own knitting. That is because we no longer look for a willing amateur (librarian) but look for a professional in an area of expertise not our own.

We should look at all the roles in our library and ask which one's require a librarian and which would better filled by a competent professional from another field. There is no need to be precious about our role as library professionals. It takes a village to run a library.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Little Lord Fauntleroy - Frances Hodgson Burnett

This is the Twenty-fourth in my one-book-at-a-time bookshelf.

This is the last in my trio of books by Frances Hodgson Burnett. This is the earliest of the trio and I think her latter work, The Secret Garden, is her most mature. They are books from a different age that have survived and deserve a place on my bookshelf.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

A Little Princess - Frances Hodgson Burnett

This is the Twenty-third in my one-book-at-a-time bookshelf.

This is the story of Sara Crewe who was sent home from India by her rich father to attend school. I'm afraid the cover gives a hint that it might not all go well!

There is lots to like about this story and it joins The Secret Garden on my bookshelf.

Friday, July 19, 2013

The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett

This is the Twenty-second in my one-book-at-a-time bookshelf.

I was reminded of this book by the recent J.K. Rowling pseudonym saga, not because Frances Hodgson Burnett wrote under a pseudonym but because she wrote a different style of book for adults and for children. In her case she was more prolific as a writer of books for adults but it is her children's books, like this one, that have survived for over a hundred years.

There is a sentimentality about her books that can be a little off putting but, if you take the time to read this book, there is also a powerful sense of the vitality of life that is breath taking. There is more depth here than one might expect.

I should add that Rowling shares none of Burnett's sentimentality and that history is yet to judge which of Rowling's books will stand the test of time. It is likely few of us will be around to know!

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Not just twits on Twitter

Over the years I have been on Twitter I've added to my follows some tweeps that demonstrate that Twitter isn't just a mash-up of trolls, half baked rumours and mentions of small dogs.

Some examples of people and things I follow that are not twits and you might find interesting. Please comment if you wish to suggest others to me.

I'm not saying that Nobel prize winners are an authority on everything, but they are an authority on something and tend to be driven by evidence. I've got a couple.

I've been following Professor Peter Doherty @ProfPCDoherty for a while and he tends to comment a little on politics and a little on his area of specialty. I'm surprised he doesn't have more followers (or am I surprised?). In any case he is an elder statesman who continue to contribute to society.

I've also been following Barry Marshall @barjammar and have been relieved to find that even Nobel prize winners have frustrating battles with telecommunication companies!

I've been a big fan of The Conversation since they started and I pick up many of the articles via their twitter feed @ConversationEDU. It is great to get informed information that clearly identifies the author's credentials and affiliations. I get my second opinion from this place.

I started following Chris Hadfield @Cmdr_Hadfield while he was circling the earth and WHAT an eye opener that was. He tweeted photos of the earth below, talked us through preparation for a space walk, played guitar and had his hair cut on video. Over achiever and nice guy. And a scientist.

It is always timely to follow the fabulous, no nonsense @AntonyGreenABC who provides the FACTS and nothing but the facts. He is a must follow for political aficionados.

And lastly one of my news feeds @abcnewsPerth. Can I call this a wire? I rarely finds out anything new from the newspaper and I can follow the links for more depth.

Any suggestions? Please add via a comment.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Matilda The Musical

Earlier in the year we were in London on holiday. We had never seen a live show in London and a friend had recommended Tim Minchin's Matilda The Musical, the latest incarnation of Roald Dahl's Matilda.

I balked at the cost, as I am sure everyone does when buying tickets for a live show, but we really wanted to have a West End experience and the word of mouth recommendation had been very strong.

The theatre was packed, we were up in the gods and completely blown away by the staging, the performances and the musical itself. As we walked back to our digs after the show the kids were singing songs from the show. I don't think you can get a better endorsement than that.

I had bought the CD of the Cast Recording in the theatre and have subsequently purchased the song book. We listen to the CD  from time to time, shouting Telly or Brucie and singing When I Grow Up with gusto.

Needless to say we are now Tim Minchin fans and wondering what his next musical theatre project will reveal.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Matilda The Movie

I recently added Matilda to my bookshelf and was inspired to have a hunt in our DVD collection.

I found the 1996 movie which featured on the cover of my copy.

The film is a good, fun version of the story - directed and starring the wonderful Danny DeVito. Apparently it received critical acclaim at the time but struggled at the box office. I think it is a worthy effort and deserves a viewing.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Matilda - Roald Dahl

This is the Twenty-first in my one-book-at-a-time bookshelf.

My kids are much better read in this part of the bookshelf than me. I didn't really get into Roald Dahl as a child, though I have become more of a fan in later years. I absolutely envy his way with words, his ability to create characters and his knack for twisting the plot in a way that would break the story in another writer's hands. An excellent example of this is the short story The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar. His grossness has also been much appreciated in my house.

I don't like the cover of this particular edition of Matilda (though it is on my bookshelf, so I will live with it) so I have included one of Quentin Blake's illustrations from inside. It is hard to imagine Roald Dahl without Quentin Blake's contribution.

My admiration for Roald Dahl doesn't place me in a select minority. His books still grace the shelves of all good bookstores and there have been some derivative re-workings which I will mention in later posts. 

Friday, July 12, 2013

Mind the gap

I've been lucky enough to visit the great city of London and I was quite taken with the Mind the Gap slogan used on the Underground. It is a warning that is clear without being wordy. It is a direction to the passenger, expressed in three short words. I'm sure that we could do with more such pithy directions.

I have a magnetic version in my office at work.

It reminds me of holidays in foreign places, which is pleasant, but it also reminds me that gaps exist wherever one service meets another (in the case of the underground where the train meets the platform). Sometimes you can't make the gap disappear and have to give the passenger a timely warning.

Connecting systems is an essential part of what we do at work. We automate and smooth what we can but it is the bump between systems that is the hard work and it is us who have to mind the gap as best we can.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame

This is the twentieth in my one-book-at-a-time bookshelf.

I was reading @flexnib's book meme blog post and was interested in what she hadn't read. Some surprised me, including this work. It is a fabulous tale and while the comical capers of Toad might get the limelight there is a surprising sense of the mystical power of nature that always takes my breath away and gives the book depth. I think people have seen so many derivatives of the story that they overlook the original work and are poorer as a result.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Moonheart - Charles de Lint

This is the nineteenth in my one-book-at-a-time bookshelf.

The House, the Forest and the Biker. I guess Moonheart is a better title. Charles de Lint has specialised in what I've seen described as urban fantasy, and the urban Ottawa has a texture and reality that forms a great backdrop for the story. There is something particularly effective about his fantasy writing and though this is my favourite book there are many others worth a look.

And, yes, this is a great cover.

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Watership Down - Richard Adams

This is the eighteenth in my one-book-at-a-time bookshelf.

Oh no! My copy of this favourite has a cracked spine. It is about to fall in two. I've had it almost 20 years and read it a few times, so no surprise. Fortunately I'm confident that I can pick up a new or second hand copy. I don't think Richard Adams' reached this height with his other works, but hey, who could complain. This is a great read.

Must go shopping.

Nice cover BTW.

Monday, July 08, 2013

The Day of the Triffids - John Wyndham

This is the seventeenth in my one-book-at-a-time bookshelf.

When I re-read this recently I was surprised by the old fashioned nature of the writing and the extent of John Wyndham's vocabulary. It is a science fiction book written in a style we don't see today. However I wasn't surprised to find the story was still gripping and thought provoking. It is an excellent book on so many levels.

I might add that this Penguin Classic edition is nicely printed and easy to read, but they haven't covered themselves in glory by their choice of cover image. Yuk. Really!

Sunday, July 07, 2013

Two roads diverged

Mr 12 brought home a copy of Robert Frost's The Road Not Taken which he had annotated (or marked up would we say now?) with his thoughts as part of a class exercise. We discussed what the poet might have meant.

I was prompted to search the bookcase for my Selected Poems of Robert Frost which I had retained from my long distant high school days. No surprise, as you can see below, but I had also marked it up when I studied it.

We compared notes and I pointed out a couple of Frost's other poems that I particularly liked and could recall snatches of to this day. "Something there is that doesn't love a wall..."

I was reminded of this adventure in poetry when I read @flexnib's recent post on poetry. As I commented on her post poetry takes time and effort and we are not a generation that likes either. My poetry comes from music these days and I like artists who have lyrics that resonate. I was listening to Jackson Browne's The Pretender this morning and his line "Caught between the longing for love, And the struggle for the legal tender" resonated.

Saturday, July 06, 2013

Second Foundation - Isaac Asimov

This is the sixteenth in my one-book-at-a-time bookshelf.

The plots within plots are played out in this final installment of the Foundation trilogy. Asimov explores his galaxy in further works and prequels, inter-twining his plots with the Robot books, but I prefer the simplicity and completeness of these three books. I suspect that I, Robot is Asimov's best known and most influential work but the Foundation trilogy are the books that find a place on my bookshelf (I'm not a big fan of short story collections).

Friday, July 05, 2013

Foundation and Empire - Isaac Asimov

This is the fifteenth in my one-book-at-a-time bookshelf.

One of the distinctive features of the Foundation trilogy is Asimov's use of quotations from the Encyclopedia Galactica. These fall nicely within the context of the history he created but are also a clever narrative device, filling the role of the narrator who sits to the side of the stage speaking directly to the audience. A similar mechanism is used by Frank Herbert in Dune and is now a standard tool for unpacking complex science fiction scenarios.

Thursday, July 04, 2013

Foundation - Isaac Asimov

This is the fourteenth in my one-book-at-a-time bookshelf.

Isaac Asimov was a prolific author of fiction and non-fiction and an influential figure of the 20th century. This iconic book is typical of his style. Don't expect too much from the characters or the plot but expect to have your mind stretched. I have read most of his fiction works but it is this book and its two sequels that I have on my bookshelf.

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Ender's Game - Orson Scott Card

This is the thirteenth in my one-book-at-a-time bookshelf.

Orson Scott Card is a thoughtful writer with a mastery of his craft. I've read some of his thoughts on writing, particularly science fiction, and they have been insightful. I believe that this was originally a short story that the author later extended into a novel and he has followed the threads of this story back and forth in a number of other novels. For mine this is his best work and is the one that has a place on my bookshelf.

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Expectation, Anticipation and Recommendation

I've been reflecting on my bookshelf project. I'm enjoying sharing books that I've grown to love over the years but I would enjoy the project even if no one read the blog posts. It has been great to pick up and consider each title, think about which to do next and why they are on my shelf. There is a kind of quiet pleasure in knowing that they are waiting to be read again, when I am ready.

However I am also uncomfortable with the 'recommendation' aspect of the bookshelf. Personally I dislike book or film reviews and recommendations. I know this is a little weird, but it comes from wanting to experience a book or film with fresh eyes. A great book or film can be diminished, not by spoilers, but by raised expectations. There is a fine balance between anticipation, that looking forward to something, expectation, the expected quantum of enjoyment, and the actual experience.

It is the experience that matters.

With the most recent series of Doctor Who we decided not to watch any trailers and to take a low key approach to the new episodes (not easy). This helped to moderate our unrealistic expectations but allowed a sense of anticipation.

When a new film comes out that I might be interested in watching I read enough of the reviews to decide it isn't a lemon and then I don't read another word more.

So a word of advice. If you decide that you might like to read something from my bookshelf then ignore anything I've said about it and expect that it might be okay and lower your expectation. You might just have a great experience.

Monday, July 01, 2013

Harpist in the Wind - Patricia McKillip

This is the twelfth in my one-book-at-a-time bookshelf.

The final part of the trilogy brings the Riddle-Master to a satisfying conclusion.

Could I also say that whilst I am a big fan of book covers and visual representations of creative works in general I would suggest that many editions have covers that disappoint or misdirect. There are many books that I didn't read because of their covers but later discovered them to be excellent. I'm sure you know what I am talking about. Perhaps we don't give enough credit to the cover designs that work!

Don't judge a book (entirely) by its cover.