Staff Picks Book Group : September

orphanmasterssonThe next Staff Picks Book Group meeting will be on Wednesday, September 10 at 7pm in the Robbins Library Conference Room.

We’ll be discussing 2013 Pulitzer Prize-winner The Orphan Master’s Son by Adam Johnson. Here’s a bit of the description from Goodreads:

“An epic novel and a thrilling literary discovery, The Orphan Master’s Son follows a young man’s journey through the icy waters, dark tunnels, and eerie spy chambers of the world’s most mysterious dictatorship, North Korea.

Pak Jun Do is the haunted son of a lost mother—a singer “stolen” to Pyongyang—and an influential father who runs Long Tomorrows, a work camp for orphans. There the boy is given his first taste of power, picking which orphans eat first and which will be lent out for manual labor. Recognized for his loyalty and keen instincts, Jun Do comes to the attention of superiors in the state, rises in the ranks, and starts on a road from which there will be no return.”

Copies are available now at the Circulation Desk. Please drop in for our discussion on September 10!

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Sci-fi fans in the library: recommendations from readers

The science and sci-fi book and author recommendations continue to stream in. Mentioned recently:

Space shuttle photo from the Credo Reference database

Space shuttle photo from the Credo Reference database

The science- and sci-fi-themed summer reading display is still up, so come add your recommendations to the list. You can also register for summer reading if you haven’t already, and drop off raffle tickets for books you’ve read this summer. We’ll be drawing the winners in September!

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More reasons to love hoopla

If you’re already using hoopla, you’re probably fully aware of how convenient it is to stream or download movies, music, and audiobooks in the comfort of your own home. (If you haven’t signed up for hoopla yet, see this post for details.) But sometimes the benefits are even more apparent, like earlier this week when I was looking at new music releases.

One of the best things about getting music online is that you don’t have to wait for it. A couple of new popular CDs that haven’t arrived at the library yet are already available to stream or download from hoopla. Probably my favorite thing about the service is that no matter how many people want to listen at one time, they all can. You never have to get on a waiting list.

Here are some popular new albums that are not currently available in our physical collection, but which you can listen to right now on hoopla (and the links will take you directly there.)

breezecsnyThe Breeze: an appreciation of J.J. Cale by Eric Clapton and Friends

CSNY 1974 by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young


hypnotic eyexedsheeranHypnotic Eye by Tom Petty


X by Ed Sheeran


voyagerinthelonelyhourThe Voyager by Jenny Lewis


In the Lonely Hour by Sam Smith


nowthat'swhaticallmusic1980sNow That’s What I Call Music 50


Now That’s What I Call the 80s


What have you been listening to on hoopla? Share your favorites in the comments!

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When it’s A Long Way Home, use a Landline to Call the Midwife

Like winter, spring, and fall, summer is a great time for reading. Here at the library, we know you like to read all kinds of books in all kinds of ways, which is why we’ve just added a big batch of new titles to our digital media catalog (a.k.a. OverDrive). There are new e-books and downloadable audiobooks, new fiction and nonfiction, books for adults and for teens (and adults who read teen books, and teens who read adult books…).

longwayhomelandlinecallthemidwifeLog in to OverDrive with your library card number and PIN and see what catches your fancy. Remember to check your default settings for checkout time – you can choose 7, 14, or 21 days, and you can set separate preferences for e-books and audiobooks. There’s also a new auto-checkout feature, and you can have more items checked out at once, and more items on hold as well.

biglittleliessecretplacemagicianslandRemember, you can also find audiobooks – as well as music, TV episodes, and movies – through hoopla. Stay tuned for more hoopla titles, coming soon…

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Not-So-Young Adult Book Group meets on 8/11

nochoirboyThe Not-So-Young Adult Book Group will be meeting on Monday, August 11 at 7pm in the Robbins Library Conference Room.

We’ll be talking about No Choirboy: Murder, Violence, and Teenagers on Death Row by Susan Kuklin. This is sure to be a great discussion! If you don’t have the book yet, don’t worry – copies are still available at the circulation desk. Take one home for the weekend and join us on Monday.


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Queer Book Group Talks About Octavia E. Butler’s Fledgling

QBG_FledglingHey!  Want to hear a funny story? This librarian goes on vacation with a single, awesome book to read, loses it on the very first day, and spends the next six days turning her rental cottage upside down looking for said book, only to have it reappear as she’s unloading the car in her driveway after a 4.5 hour ride.

True story.

That book was Octavia E. Butler’s Fledgling, and Queer Book Group is going to chat about it on Wednesday, August 27th at 7 PM.

Your copy is waiting for you at the Circulation desk at the Robbins.

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Everything you think you know

The squares marked A and B are the same shade of gray.

The squares marked A and B are the same shade of gray.

Humans are amazing. But we are very often wrong when we think – when we know – we are right. The example above easily illustrates how our powers of perception can mislead us. (Click on the image to see the proof and explanation.) This example is cited in the book Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of Error by Kathryn Schultz, but there are hundreds of other examples, and optical illusions are only one way in which our perception of a thing can be inaccurate. We can be wrong – even when we think we’re right – in hundreds of ways, dozens of times a day. Comforting thought, isn’t it? It could be, if we accept Schultz’s assertion that “errors do not lead us away from the truth. Instead, they edge us incrementally toward it.”

“That our intuition could lead us astray is troubling in direct proportion to the degree of trust we place in it.” -Leah Hager Cohen, I don’t know

If Being Wrong disturbs you, try Leah Hager Cohen’s book I don’t know: in praise of admitting ignorance and doubt (except when you shouldn’t). At just over a hundred pages, it gives a great return for time spent; in fact, I could easily see it becoming required reading for students entering high school or college. Cohen writes about learning to admit when we don’t know something, and goes further, asking, “but what about all those times we don’t know we don’t know?

Both Schultz and Cohen warn about the danger of belief hardening into certainty, and emphasize the importance of doubt. Cohen writes, “Real civil discourse necessarily leaves room for doubt. That doesn’t make us wishy-washy…We can still hold fervent beliefs. The difference is, we don’t let those beliefs calcify into unconsidered doctrine.” She continues, Fundamentalism of any kind is the refusal to allow doubt. The opposite of fundamentalism is the willingness to say ‘I don’t know.'”

For a quick, high-energy take on the same material, Hank Green (brother of John Green, author of The Fault in Our Stars, etc.) has a four-minute video entitled “Towering Mountains of Ignorance.” He says, “I’m glad that we have the desire to understand the world, that results in all sorts of great stuff. We want to know everything, we’re curious….But I think a lot of the time we end up mixing up thinking something with knowing something.”

Watch the whole video by clicking below.


“I think that I know a lot of things…but the vast majority of things, vast majority, I don’t know.” -Hank Green

Hank Green: “Now, I know that I don’t know, but somehow everyone else seems to know. They all know differently from each other, but they all seem to know. When you look at all deeply at this, you realize that people aren’t basing their opinions on what they think is the best course of action or the actual best explanation, they’re basing it on their values.”

“What I’m saying is nobody’s opinions are correct…and yet it’s impossible not to tie your opinions to your concept of self.” -Hank Green

In Being Wrong, Kathryn Schultz puts it this way: “The idea of knowledge and the idea of error are fundamentally incompatible. When we claim to know something, we are essentially saying that we can’t be wrong. If we want to contend with the possibility that we could be wrong, then the idea of knowledge won’t serve us; we need to embrace the idea of belief instead.” Call it what you want – knowledge, belief, opinions, values – it/they are “inextricable from our identities,” which is “one reason why being wrong can so easily wound our sense of self.”



The two books mentioned above, Being Wrong and I don’t know, are nonfiction, and I highly recommend them both to anyone and everyone. But fiction, too, can be useful, in that it allows readers to see from the point of view of someone different. Have you read a book, fiction or nonfiction, that has helped you understand something or empathize with someone you didn’t before? Please share in the comments.


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