Author Archives: WCPLtn

The Suspense is Terrible! (ɪ ʜᴏᴘᴇ ɪᴛ ᴡɪʟʟ ʟᴀsᴛ.)*

By Chelsea Bennett, Reference Department

₮ⱧɆ ₴Ʉ₴₱Ɇ₦₴Ɇ ł₴ ₮ɆⱤRł฿ⱠɆ

When confronted with a thriller, I used to think, “Here’s a novel that features guns, bombs, and lies. Probably some politics, too.” And while those elements might feature in some bestselling books, I now know how narrow my perception was. For I have probed past the whims of pop culture, and discovered some of the fascinating premises to be found within the realm of suspense, thriller, and crime novels. While this genre may not be new to you, I hope you’ll follow along with this two-part post, and perhaps leave your best recommendations at the end.

“Crime pays,” says journalist Anita Singh, writing for The Telegraph: “thrillers and detective novels now outsell all other fiction.” [1] It’s a broad category: these novels might be packed with fast-paced action (the Jason Bourne series), psychological drama (Gone Girl), or military intrigue (The Hunt for Red October). With high stakes and life-or-death outcomes, thrillers often become the basis for hit movies. And while supernatural or dystopian tales may have had a surge in popularity over recent years, thrillers continue to enthrall us because they could happen. Grounded in reality, often set in present-day, they let us imagine what life would be like if we got on the wrong side of a corrupt government – or a jealous lover.

But why would anyone want to do that? The late novelist and critic Mary McCarthy explained it this way: “We all live in suspense, from day to day, from hour to hour….” And, as writer Lisa Gardner adds, “…one of the appeals of suspense is [that we can] safely explore our innermost fears.” [2] In other words, we all live with a high degree of uncertainty in our lives. The more nervous, fragile, lonely, pessimistic, or uninformed we feel, the more we fear that uncertainty. When fiction addresses that primal fear, it allows us to take a breath, say to ourselves, “OK. What if?” and confront those worst-case scenarios. Fear often shrinks under scrutiny. And if we vicariously reach a satisfying solution through the deeds of our literary avatars, so much the better.

Today, we’ll start with the heavy hitters: the names that even I recognized! Then we’ll look at the classic works of literature that paved the way for those authors. Next week, we’ll scrounge up a few “deep cuts” – lesser-known works of suspense by authors who usually fit into a different genre. And we’ll highlight some of the women authors who are shaking things up in the realm of suspense.

Heavy Hitters

  • Ian Fleming, author of the James Bond Casino Royale is a classic. Fleming said, “While thrillers may not be Literature with a capital L, it is possible to write what I can best describe as ‘thrillers designed to be read as literature’.” [3]
  • Robert Ludlum, creator of the character Jason Bourne. Ludlum died in 2001, but the wildly popular Bourne series continues, thanks to a collective of authors who carry his torch.
  • Stieg Larsson’s Millennium series also continues posthumously, following the success of Larsson’s first three novels, beginning with The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.
  • Tom Clancy created the Jack Ryan character in The Hunt for Red October. There are now more than 20 novels in the series.
  • John le Carré introduced British intelligence officer George Smiley in Call for the Dead, and he appears in nine other novels, perhaps most famously in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.

The Classics

  • The Secret Agent: A Simple Tale by Joseph Conrad. A tale of terrorism, anarchy, and political intrigue, set in 1880s London.
  • Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier. Although many modern reprints give this gothic work the appearance of a romance novel, it’s a psychological work that led to a rather faithful film adaptation by that master of suspense, Sir Alfred Hitchcock.
  • A Study in Scarlet by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. This is the first appearance of Sherlock Holmes, star of four novels and many short stories by Doyle. Fans of the BBC series Sherlock may find the differences – and similarities – amusing.
  • “The Murders in the Rue Morgue” by Edgar Allan Poe. Before there was Sherlock Holmes, there was C. Auguste Dupin, Poe’s amateur detective with uncanny skills of deduction. Dupin appears in two more of Poe’s stories.
  • A Coffin for Dimitrios by Eric Ambler (also titled The Mask of Dimitrios). Charles Latimer is a mystery novelist becomes intrigued by a dead man’s past, which leads to dangerous consequences. The story is described as a hybrid of “spy thriller” and “detective noir.” [4] There is a sequel, The Intercom Conspiracy.
  • The Mysteries of Udolpho by Ann Radcliffe. This is a “quintessential Gothic romance,” with a young heroine in both physical and psychological danger. Austen, Poe, and others were heavily influenced by Radcliffe. [5]
  • The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins. “Pursuing questions of identity and insanity along the paths and corridors of English country houses and the madhouse, [it] is the first and most influential of the Victorian genre that combined Gothic horror with psychological realism.” [6]

That’s all for this week. Check back next week as I do my best to turn up some unexpected finds, and explore the success of women authors in this genre. Don’t forget to share your favorites (especially classics) in the comments below!

* A line you will recognize from either The Importance of Being Earnest or Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, depending on your tastes.

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Music Scenes in Franklin

By Lindsay Roseberry, Reference Department

We all know that Nashville is called “Music City” with all the concerts and venues that take place all over Nashville and Davidson County, covering so much more than country music these days, too.  But, Williamson County is catching up and has quite a few venues that may interest you.  From the annual Pilgrimage Festival to summer concerts to weekly and daily music venues, Franklin and Williamson County have much to offer!

If you want to relax and have a meal while listening to music, try out these restaurants in the area:

The Bunganut Pig does have a strange name but it has good food.  It’s been in Franklin for over twenty years; there’s a sign out front that boasts the “best burger in town.”  It is a laid back place to eat, with a varied menu.  There is live music on the patio in the summer, and dance bands perform on the weekends.

Puckett’s Grocery and Restaurant started in Leiper’s Fork as a small restaurant in the 1950s; word spread and now there are six area restaurants.  The original one is still in in Leiper’s Fork, and next Franklin, then spreading out to Nashville, Columbia and Murfreesboro.  Franklin also boasts Puckett’s Boat House, which is actually in a refurbished boat house.  All of the locations have live music most days of the week.

From VisitFranklin.com

Puckett’s Grocery & Restaurant in Leiper’s Fork, Tennessee, is more than just a place to enjoy a good meal. It’s a popular destination for locals and tourists alike. With mismatched tables and chairs and an eclectic clientele of tourists, farmers, songwriters, and country music stars, it’s a restaurant serving up a dining experience unlike any other.  It is even on the National Register of Historic Places in America!  Founded by the Puckett family in the 1950s, Puckett’s served as a country store to several communities in Williamson County. From fresh groceries and a good southern meal, to a tank of gas and a place to catch up with friends, Puckett’s has become a staple in the Leiper’s Fork community.

Puckett’s in Franklin is focused on providing friends new and old with great food and Southern hospitality. They built a name on hosting live, local musical acts and serving Southern staples.  They offer live music Tuesday through Saturday.

Puckett’s Boat House is in Franklin’s old Boat Locker at 94 E. Main Street; they offer by-the-shore dishes that are reminiscent of the Gulf coast and the Big Easy, plus Southern staples. They also offer an oyster bar and a wine bar.  Every Tuesday through Saturday they offer live music.

From VisitFranklin.com

Kimbro’s opened in 2005 as a pickin’ parlor by songwriter Ron Kimbro. In 2007 Will Jordan became a partner and changed it to a music venue. In 2014, Jordan became the sole owner. In 2013, Kimbro’s won second place behind The Ryman Auditorium for “Best Live Music Venue” in The Tennessean’s 2013 reader’s pole and second place behind The Bluebird for “Best Open Mic” in The Nashville Scene’s reader’s pole.  In addition to incredible music, Kimbro’s also offers a fantastic menu of homemade foods from specialty salads to gourmet burgers, delicious sandwiches and fantastic sides. It also features more than 30 different varieties of imported and domestic beer and draft options are all made by local brewers; they also have a complete wine selection, mimosas, sangria and ciders.

The Whiskey Room at King’s Bowl at the Galleria is a relative newcomer to the area. Kings Bowl was founded in 2002 as a mission to create a new dining and entertainment experience that revitalizes the charm and nostalgia of bowling and other social games that have faded in America since their heydays. Not your average bowling alley, Kings Dining & Entertainment takes a restaurant-first approach with amazing scratch dishes from its chef-driven, award-winning kitchen in a classic retro environment. At King’s Dining & Entertainment, you can dine in one of three premium bars, on a 60-seat patio with fire pit and beer garden, or right at your bowling lane.

The Whiskey Room LIVE, part of the King’s Bowl complex, is a 120-seat entertainment stage with state-of-the-art audio and lighting.  “Music is part of our DNA,” the owner said, and the Nashville area just seemed like an ideal location to introduce our first Whiskey Room and music venue.”

thefuntimesguide.com

Mellow Mushroom Pizza Bakers was established in 1974 in Atlanta, Georgia as a single pizzeria; the headquarters are still there.  This downtown restaurant has live music in the summer on the square.  Sixty-Four, a Beatles cover band, will be playing every second Saturday!

The Gray Drug Co. was a landmark pharmacy here for nearly a century. In 2013, after careful restoration, the three-story Gray’s on Main was unveiled, honoring Tennessee’s cultural heritage through fresh spirits, flavors and sounds.  The menu reflects the best of the South in food, with a focus on locally and regionally sourced ingredients. The second floor bar and music hall features live performances from the best musicians in the area.

The Pond is a local neighborhood bar with music; they also offer happy hour daily from  to 7 p.m.  The bar is for 21+ and they do allow smoking.  And for those who like late nights, they are open until 3:00 a.m.

Arrington Vineyards opened its doors July 1, 2007. Since then, we have been providing a “wine country experience” of award winning wines set among the picturesque rolling hills of middle Tennessee.  Arrington Vineyards hosts Music in the Vines every year from April through October every Saturday and Sunday. To view the entire schedule, check the event calendar.  They offer two live music locations on the property; they host live jazz groups in the courtyard and live bluegrass bands by the Grand Barn.  Both music events are free!

from visitfranklin.com

The Franklin Theatre was established in 1937, but time caught up with the theatre and in 2007 it closed.  Thanks to a community wide effort, headed by the Heritage Foundation, the theatre was restored.  It now shows standard movies, recorded music and now also has live music.  Featuring well known groups and singers, the theatre has reclaimed its place in downtown.

Music City Roots, Live From The Factory is a weekly, radio show and webcast that revives the historic legacy of live musical radio production in Nashville. Broadcast on Wednesday nights from 7pm to about 9:30 pm, CST, Music City Roots showcases Nashville’s astonishing music scene, from country and Americana to more progressive interpreters of tradition — a “roots and branches” format that brings together fans of different tastes and generations. The show is broadcast live over WMOT/Roots Radio 89.5 FM from Middle Tennessee State University and webcast in Livestream.

Graystone Quarry in Thompson Station is just beginning to be an outdoor music venue and there will be outdoor music concerts coming soon!

And we can’t leave out the big annual music festival at Harlinsdale Farm!  The Pilgrimage Music and Cultural Festival is become a well-known outdoor music concert.  2018 will be the 3rd year, and it continues to grow and have popular musicians.

Chess in SP-A-A-A-A-C-E!

By Howard Shirley, Teen Department

The game of chess reaches back to at least the 6th Century AD, but its origins remain unclear. Though generally thought to have arisen in India, both China and Persia lay claim to the game, and other cultures have some variation of chess-like games (some still played today). Even the Vikings had a chess-like game by the nearly unpronounceable name “hnefatafl.” (Say that three times fast, if you can say it at all.)

Regardless of their differences, all these games have one thing in common: they’re all flat.

This is hardly surprising. Chess in many ways derives from concepts of ancient warfare, which, for tens of thousands of years, was mostly a (violent) meeting on roughly flat open areas. Even if there were hills or walls or fortresses or towers involved, for the most part nobody could move over (or under) the enemy. Chess did allow one piece—the knight—to leap over intervening pieces as part of its move, but for every other piece the world of chess remained solidly flat (Christopher Columbus not withstanding).

Moving Up (and Down)

During the 19th century an attempt was made to extend chess into three dimensions by stacking eight boards on top of each other (yes, 8). Well, chess wasn’t flat any more. But one can question whether it was playable!

As the 20th century arrived, and brought with it both the airplane and the submarine, the idea that chess should move into the third dimension again came out. This time, the design was restricted to 5 stacked boards, and added an unusual piece (the “unicorn”) which could make triangular movements (no, I don’t know what that means, either). The creator started a club for fans (in 1919 Germany), which lasted until World War II, when, apparently, Germany itself decided to try it all out in Real Life. And that pretty much ended that version of Germany, as well as that version of 3D chess.

Where No Chess Game Has Gone Before

Fast forward twenty some-odd years to the creation of a new American science fiction show named Star Trek. Set in the 23rd century, the show featured the now famous starship Enterprise, filled with amazing advanced technology, like automatic sliding doors that went “whoosh,” wall slots that cooked food in an instant, a talking computer, and more. (Hey, in the 1960s, all that stuff was futuristic and cool.) The show also included an unusually-shaped chess set, consisting of three quarter-sized chess boards in three staggered levels on an unusual crescent-shaped support, and four smaller boards on posts at the corners of these boards. The smaller boards were additional levels, halfway between the larger boards, and were often in different positions on the show, indicating that they could be moved (though this action was never shown on the show). The chess set was unusual-looking, implied a high level of complexity, and the open design clearly allowed the pieces to be easily moved (which the early 3D attempts mentioned above did not).

This three-dimensional chess set made prominent appearances in several episodes from the very beginning of the show. In three episodes, the chess game would be a pivotal plot element in the story’s resolution.* (How many television shows and movies, not about chess itself, have gone so far as to make chess central to the story?) Twenty years later, the show jumped from TV to film, and so did the chess set (at least as an idea). In Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, during a grand duel between battling starships, the heroes arrive at a crucial realization—namely that the villain’s tactics “reveal two-dimensional thinking.” Tellingly, early in the film the villain’s home was shown to have a crude, handmade two-dimensional checkers board game present—intentionally invoking memories of the three-dimensional chess set fans knew Spock and Kirk played. The implication? Had Khan played the same game as Kirk, he would have thought more broadly in his tactics. Without even showing the three-dimensional set, the movie made its existence again pivotal to the plot!

So, what does this game have to do with the Williamson County Public Library?

Well, thanks to yours truly, with assistance and advice from fellow staffer Lon Maxwell, the Teen Room now has one of these sets, completely homemade (except for the pieces; I’m not that skilled). The design is a bit different, but I humbly think it looks just as cool (if not cooler) as the original set crafted for the show.

How Do You Play?

Very Well, Thank You.

Okay, this is the kicker, actually. The answer to “How do you play Three Dimensional Chess?” is quite simply “How do you want to play it?”

You see, the original chess set was merely a prop. The design had nothing to do with creating an actual, playable game, but with creating an interesting, visual set object on which the actors could move the pieces about to create the appearance of a complicated game—a game “from the future,” as it were! Indeed, if you pay attention to the scenes in which characters play the game (and if you know about chess), you can quickly discern that there doesn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason to the movement or the declared progress of the game in the dialog. In one of the earliest episodes to feature the game—“Charlie X,” the second episode ever aired—Kirk and Spock play chess, with Spock moving a knight and declaring “check,” when in fact Kirk’s king couldn’t possibly be in check from the knight’s movement. Actor Leonard Nimoy is clearly just moving pieces around in a visually interesting manner, but he’s not simulating any relationship to chess, 3D or otherwise. By contrast, William Shatner’s moves in this sequence can reasonably be assigned to the pieces being used, as well as his declaration of “checkmate,” representing a logically valid position (though really only for “check,” but still…).** So there was a prop, but not really a game.

But in 1975 artist and writer Joseph Franz contacted Paramount Studios, who held the rights to Star Trek, about a book he called “The Star Trek Technical Manual: Training Command Starfleet Academy.” The book would be a collection of detailed plans and drawings of Star Trek ships and equipment (even uniforms), all presented as if these were actual designs of futuristic devices, inadvertently downloaded into a 20th century USAF mainframe during the events of the episode “Tomorrow is Yesterday.” Paramount agreed, the book was published and snapped up by Trekkies around the globe. One of the schematics included in the book were the blueprints for a “tri-dimensional chess set,” as Franz dubbed it. He even included a cursory (yet incomplete) set of rules, as well as diagrams of how the smaller post boards might be moved over the course of the game. It was now possible for Trek and chess fans to at least build a set themselves, and even attempt to turn the simple rules into a playable reality.

Around this same time, Paramount also licensed the Franklin Mint to create and sell a high-end gold and silver official Star Trek Three Dimensional Chess set, complete with “official” rules. The “official” rules were reportedly borrowed from a 1977 magazine, The Star Trek Giant Poster Book, Voyage #14, who supposedly themselves borrowed the rules from an unattributed fan author. (This author may be Andrew Bartmeiss, who currently sells “The Federation Standard Rules” online. According to Bartmeiss, he contacted Joseph Franz about the set design, and Franz encouraged him to create the rules.) The Franklin Mint licensed set is still sold—for about $300 a pop!

(The set in the Teen Room cost the maker (yours truly) $20 (in materials). You can read about that here: https://parzivalsplace.blogspot.com/2018/05/queen-to-queens-level-two-mr-spock.html )

There are a number of other rules around the Internet, including “Tournament” Rules, a number of themed variants, and even a computer game version named “Parmen,” after a Star Trek villain (who, oddly, never played the game).

All the versions tend to share distinct similarities:

  1. Pieces move horizontally as in standard chess.
  2. Pieces can move between levels vertically, but only when also moving horizontally.
  3. Pieces can move above or below pieces on other levels.
  4. The smaller “attack boards”*** can be moved to new positions, potentially carrying a piece with them.
  5. The game may have as many as seven levels, or as few as four, depending on the position of the smaller boards.

StarChess, or, The Way We Play It

But truth be told, none of these rules are “official.” You can pretty much find the set you like the most, and play those. In the Teen Room, we offer StarChess, created by yours truly. (You can find a link to these rules on my blog: https://parzivalsplace.blogspot.com/2018/05/queen-to-queens-level-two-mr-spock.html ) I think they work rather well, but try for yourself.

And if you are a teen (or have one), you’re welcome to come try the game in the Teen Room. The set is generally available Saturday-Tuesday. Mr. Howard (yours truly) will be happy to teach you, or the rules are available if your prefer. (Note that due to Teen Room age policies, the set is restricted to use by teens ages 12-18, though adults who accompany teens can play for a short time, if the room is not busy. Check with the Teen Staff!)

Live long and prosper—and enjoy the future of chess!


*The episodes where chess action is prominently shown are “Charlie X,” “Where No Man Has Gone Before,” “Court Martial,” “By Any Other Name,” and “Whom Gods Destroy.” The game is central to the plot in “Court Martial,” “By Any Other Name,” and “Whom Gods Destroy.” A similar version of three-dimensional chess also appears in several episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation, and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, though not as a central plot device.
**This movement sequence is flawed by a clumsy scene edit, where a re-shoot failed to correctly reset the board to its original condition. Kirk initially moves a Queen to a lower level. After the edit jump, it has been replaced at that position by a Bishop, which Kirk then moves as a Queen, suggesting that either Shatner had chosen that action from the start, without realizing that the piece had changed, or that the direction of the scene called for the pattern to be followed. Had the piece been a Queen, the moves would all be quite legal, and indeed have resulted in a legitimate check on Spock’s King. Spock, on the other hand, just moves his Knights between levels, ignoring their established pattern, and says “check” with no apparent reason to do so. (Maybe the Vulcan really doesn’t understand the game, and the humans are just humoring him…)
***I actually prefer the term “warp boards,” for their ability to change the shape of the board and move pieces about rather like a “warping” spacecraft, so that’s what I use in my rules.

Words and Music by . . .

By Stacy Parish, Children’s Department

On more than one occasion, usually to no discernible effect whatsoever, I’ve admonished my own children as well as library patrons for seeing the movie before they read the book.  I can’t do that with the  titles in this blog, for the simple reason that a different medium preceded the book; to wit, this is a list of children’s books that were inspired by rock, pop, or folk songs.  Turn it up, y’all . . .

It was immediately clear to me which book/song I wanted to start this blog with, for a couple of reasons.  Bob Marley, the enigmatic and often misunderstood Jamaican singer-songwriter who achieved international acclaim before his untimely death from cancer at the age of 36, has long held a spot in my heart.  His daughter Cedella has written five books to date, all based upon or inspired by her iconic father’s life and music.  One Love and Every Little Thing (J E MARLEY) are both delightfully inspirational, and emphasize how one person can make a difference in this world, and that of course “every little thing is gonna be alright.”

Next up on my songs-to-books list is another transformative song that was also written and published in an era of revolution, war, and enormous historical and cultural changes to the American landscape.  “What A Wonderful World,” written by Bob Thiele and George David Weiss and recorded by Louis Armstrong, was not initially a hit in the United States; it sold fewer than 1,000 copies because the president of ABC Records did not like the song and therefore did not promote it, but was a major success in the United Kingdom, reaching number one on the UK Singles Chart in 1967.  The eponymous children’s book illustrated by Tim Hopgood (J E HOPGOOD) is just as sweet, hopeful, and uplifting as the song.  (Author’s note:  my very favorite writer of books for grownups, Michael Connelly, takes inspiration from this song for his complex protagonist Harry Bosch, and his next novel is entitled Dark Sacred Night, which is of course a line from this beautiful song.)

The brave and persistent Itsy Bitsy Spider from the children’s finger-play nursery rhyme is back, and on an even bolder adventure in this charming book written and illustrated by Iza Trapani (J E TRAPANI).  She manages to survive encounters with a fan, a mouse, a rocking chair, a cat, and a gigantic maple tree, and is finally able to build her web and relax.  Trapani’s rich watercolor illustrations and playful rhythm transform this simple song into a delightful journey to be enjoyed again and again.

Also from the fabulous Iza Trapani is her brilliantly illustrated Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star (J E Trapani).  While we have several different versions of the song-to-book rendition of this sweet little song, Iza’s is far and away the best of the bunch.  (Pete the Cat’s version comes in second, because I love him so.)  Just as in Itsy Bitsy Spider, this modern spin on the traditional classic will yield many hours of reading pleasure.

Last on this list is Puff, the Magic Dragon (J E YARROW) by Peter Yarrow, an American singer-songwriter who was one-third of the 1960s folk trio Peter, Paul and Mary.  Yarrow once said, “Puff has appeared to me both childlike and wise, a king but also a willing follower of just about any bright spirit that inspired him. Puff gives his whole heart and soul to one special friend…One day, as you can see at the end of this book, a new and special friend comes to Honalee…In this way Puff and Jackie’s friendship continues through new children like you.”   Both Yarrow and co-writer Leonard Lipton have adamantly and repeatedly stated that “Puff the Magic Dragon is not about drugs.”  He has also said of the song that it “never had any meaning other than the obvious one” and is about the “loss of innocence in children,” and dismissed the suggestion of association with drugs as “sloppy research.”  So, disregard that urban legend.  The book is comprised solely of the lyrics to the song with no additional text, but the lush illustrations imply a new twist to the sad final stanza.

Come visit the rock star librarians at WCPL to check out these and many more music-related titles to enjoy during our Summer Reading Program—which is not coincidentally themed “Libraries Rock!”  Happy Reading—


Librarian by day, aspiring fiction writer by night, and enthusiast of rock and roll 24/7/365, the author lives with her two children and four cats, not all of whom share her taste in music.

How to Take a Mental Health Day

by Chelsea Bennett, Reference Department

Are you unusually overwhelmed at work? Do you fear that – contrary to your character – you are one careless comment away from smacking a coworker in the face, or bursting into tears in the break room? Can you no longer distinguish your personal life from your work life? If you’re otherwise healthy, but feeling out of sorts and out of control, maybe it’s time to take a mental health day.

A mental health day (MHD) is just like a sick day. Instead of staying home because of a sore throat or a twisted ankle, however, an employee takes this day off work for a legitimate wellness concern that may not present physically. Sometimes the need stems from a clinically diagnosed illness (i.e., Major Depressive Disorder), but not always. Depression, anxiety, grief, stress, and emotional trauma are some possible reasons to take a mental health day.

“That sounds like playing hooky,” you might say, skeptically. Indeed, our culture pressures us to put career first, ahead of family and sanity. You may know someone who missed a child’s birthday party, rescheduled an anniversary dinner, or cancelled a vacation due to being “on call” at a job that has nothing to do with life and death.

Web developer Madalyn Parker made waves in 2017 by publically sharing her experience taking a mental health day. Check out this screenshot of her Tweet. See, it can be done!

And there’s still a cultural stigma against mental illnesses. They often go ignored or misunderstood, and aren’t given the same consideration as a visible sickness or injury. People with depression, for example, are instructed to “buck up.” This places the demand for a cure back on the sick individual, rather than encouraging them to seek help. (Imagine telling someone with a broken leg to “walk it off!”)

I’m not suggesting we all abandon our jobs and start living like Thoreau in the woods. (Although that is my own personal plan for early retirement.) But I am suggesting we start to value mental health as a vital element of wellness. It’s irresponsible to show up to work if you’ve got a fever. It’s equally unwise to wait until you’re in psychological crisis mode before you take some time off work. When you see your emotional distress flare, consider scheduling a mental health day (people who know you well can help you spot the warning signs, too.)

Be sure the day is productive in some way. You’re not skiving off work; you’re taking care of yourself. Evaluate the reasons you are staying home from work, and decide what you need most. Is it sleep? Quality time with a loved one? An afternoon full of play? If a Netflix marathon usually leaves you sluggish and empty, skip it. This is a day to fill yourself up. Here are some elements you might incorporate into your MHD:

  1. Drink lots of water all day long, and eat healthy food. (Dehydration and poor nutrition amplify the effects of emotional stress.)
  2. Schedule an appointment with your therapist, counselor, or mentor; or catch up with a friend who will listen with compassion.
  3. Attend to personal issues that have been causing stress, such as a long to-do list or a wilting relationship.
  4. Get out in nature.
  5. Sleep in, or take a restorative nap during the day. Go to bed earlier than usual.
  6. Exercise, to get your mind and body back in sync. It should be something you enjoy, not a chore: yoga, swimming, shooting hoops, golfing, climbing rock walls, …
  7. Book a therapeutic massage.
  8. Drive a few towns over for a change of scenery.
  9. Put your phone on Do Not Disturb. This will help block out social media, e-mails, and marketing calls. (Most phones let you customize this option, so you can still get important calls from select contacts.)
  10. Do something creative and meditative, such as painting, writing, cooking, or gardening.
  11. Laugh – and cry! Both work wonders for stress relief. Watch a movie, listen to a podcast, or read a book that you know will engage your emotions.

During your mental health day, you may come up against a few lies, so be sure to equip yourself with the truth: Time spent resting is NOT time wasted. It is NOT weak to ask for help or to express your needs. You ARE worth taking care of! And self-care is NOT selfish!

If taking a paid day off isn’t an option at your job, you can still dedicate a day to your mental health. The same goes for those of you who work from home, or stay home as a caregiver to family members. You’ll have to be intentional with your scheduled days off. You may have to ask for more help and be firm with your boundaries. But you CAN do it, and it IS worth it.

None of these activities will cure a mental illness or replace a long-term management plan, of course. You may need to incorporate lifestyle changes, or find a counselor or medical professional whose job is to equip you to navigate life’s challenges. (Check the links at the end of this post for a starting point to that search.) But taking time to care for yourself in meaningful ways can help maintain a sense of balance, self-worth, and perspective. As the rallying cry goes, “Mental health is health!”

When you are ready to go back to work, I hope you notice that you’re feeling refreshed and in control. A healthy person can give more, and joyfully so, to all around them: at home, at work, and everywhere else.

 


A few links to help you search for a mental health care professional:

Sources:

When Ronny Met Jacksie: Narnia and Middle Earth

By Lon Maxwell, Reference Department

I’m definitely a fantasy genre lover. I always have been, going all the way back to when my dad first read The Hobbit to me when I was little. While I have broadened my reading horizons considerably, I still love to pick up a fantasy novel and slide into a world of warriors and dragons. As such, I have a special soft spot for the patron saints of fantasy literature; Tolkien, Lewis, Pratchett, Jordan, Le Guin, White, and Rowling. These men and women carry on a tradition of storytelling that goes back to a time of oral history and fireside stories of fantastic heroes and the even more outlandish creatures that either aid them or seek to destroy them. It was very surprising to me, many years ago, to learn that two of these men, Lewis and Tolkien, not only knew one another, but were friends.

C.S. Lewis

Clive Staples Lewis, known to his family as Jack, was born in northern Ireland. His nickname actually belonged to the family dog, Jacksie, which was killed when Lewis was four. He lost his mother to cancer at age nine, and was sent to boarding school after boarding school by his father. He abandoned the Christianity of his youth and escaped into stories of fantasy. He started with anthropomorphic animals like Peter Rabbit, and then developed a fascination with Scandinavian mythology and stories followed by the same for Greece and Ireland. When he first went to Oxford, he joined the officer cadet corps and quickly found himself a second lieutenant in the Somme. In early 1918 he was wounded by a British shell that fell well short of its target, and he spent the rest of the war in England.

J.R.R. Tolkein

John Ronald Reuel Tolkien had a similar childhood. His parents had moved to South Africa not long before his birth, but this quintessentially British author returned to England at age three on what was supposed to have been an extended family visit. It proved permanent when his father died in South Africa before he could join the family. Ronald, as his family referred to him, grew up in a series of homes in and around Birmingham. After his mother’s conversion to Catholicism and then death, he was raised by Father Francis Xavier Morton. After getting married and finishing his education, Tolkien found himself a second lieutenant and posted to France. By 1916 he had contracted Trench Fever, and split most of his time between infirmaries and light duty.

The Eagle and Child pub (commonly known as the Bird and Baby or simply just the Bird) in Oxford where the Inklings met informally on Tuesday mornings during term.

So we end up with two men, in the same department of a university, who experienced some of the worst the Great War had to offer, both of whom lost a parent while very young. So when these two men found themselves in Tolkien’s Coalbiters Club for people who enjoyed reading the Old Icelandic sagas, it was natural for them to gravitate towards each other, which led Tolkien to spend time with Lewis’s group, The Inklings. Opinions on how the dynamic between the two men worked varies between scholars. You find Lewis dominating The Inklings in some and Tolkien listening quietly and issuing sharp criticism in others. However, the one common theme is the interplay. These men helped each other grow as writers and world crafters. Their works went on to profoundly influence one another, to the point where Tolkien’s Numenor and a Saruman cognate ended up in Lewis’s That Hideous Strength.

This is not to say the two men never disagreed. Tolkien’s first proposal to Oxford was rejected and one of the votes that turned it away was Lewis’s.  According to Humphrey Carter in his book, The Inklings, Lewis’s thoughts on Tolkien were, “No Harm in him: only needs a smack or so.” Lewis also felt that Tolkien was too mired in the ancient and neglected the renaissance authors and later writers. Tolkien had his own problems with Lewis, as well. Tolkien was an inveterate opponent of allegory and felt Lewis’ Narnia books were vastly too allegorical and that they were contrived and inconsistent. It was at this time that their friendship began to cool.

Without this meeting of two eventual literary giants, we would not have those same literary giants. It was Lewis who suggested that Tolkien turn his children’s story about diminutive people fighting a dragon into what we now know as The Hobbit. Conversely, Tolkien was among the people who convinced Lewis to return to the fold of Christianity. How lucky the world is that the happy accident of their meeting came to pass and we have some of the greatest works of modern English Literature.


Sources and Suggested Reading:

  • R. R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis: A Legendary Friendship
  • Tolkien’s ‘No’ to Narnia
  • The Inklings by Humphrey Carter (823.9CAR)
  • The Chronicles of Narnia: Beyond the Wardrobe by E. J. Kirk (823.912 KIR)
  • R. R. Tolkien, Robert E. Howard and the Birth of Modern Fantasy by Deke Parsons (823.912 PAR)
  • Tolkien and the Great War by John Garth (828.91209 GAR)
  • Song of the Vikings: Snorri and the Making of Norse Myths by Nancy Marie Brown

Cinco de Mayo!

By Lindsay Roseberry, Reference Department

In case you don’t know, Cinco de Mayo means the Fifth of May in Spanish.

Cinco de Mayo dancers in Washington DC

So sit down with a margarita, put on some mariachi music and read about this almost more American than Mexican holiday. (May 5 is often confused with the Mexican day of independence. The nation celebrates its Independence Day on September 16. On this date in 1810, Mexico won her independence from Spain.)

Cinco de Mayo does commemorate an historic event in the city of Puebla de Los Angeles in Mexico. President Benito Juarez sent a rag tag army of volunteers to meet the French army there. General Zaragoza led this army against the much-better supplied French army. The 4,000 man Mexican army defeated the 8,000 man French army on May 5, 1862. The French army was considered the best in the world at that time and defeating the French was a huge morale booster, and gave the beleaguered country a sense of unity and patriotism. The Mexicans lost 100 men in the battle, the French 500.

Anonymous, Batalla del 5 de mayo de 1862 (Battle of the 5th of May of 1862)

France returned next year with a much bigger army (30,000 soldiers) and a chip on its shoulder. This time France defeated Mexico, and ruled the country for three years. How did this all come about? When Juarez became president in 1861, Mexico was broke. They were still recovering from the Mexican-American war in the 1840s, when a defeated Mexico allowed the United States to annex Texas. The country had borrowed money from Spain, Britain and France to keep the country going, and was recovering from the defeat. It couldn’t afford to pay back the loans.

Spain and Britain negotiated with Mexico and settled the matter. France was in no mood to settle; they wanted more territory and decided to invade Mexico at the port city of Veracruz. France only ruled Mexico for three years, installing Maximillian I as king. The United States was able to help Mexico after the Civil War ended. With additional funds and arms, plus with the pressure on France from Prussia, France withdrew to protect closer borders. In June, 1867, President Benito Juarez became president again, and started pulling Mexico back together.

Interesting Facts about Cinco de Mayo:

  • Napoleon III, the emperor of France, had the idea to take over Mexico, and then send arms and men to help the Confederate Army. Not that he was pro-Southern, he just wanted the nation to continue to be divided and weak. Since this invasion, no foreign country has ever invaded any nation in the Americas.
  • Some historians believe that if it were not for the Mexican victory during the Battle of Puebla, the Confederates would have won the Civil War and changed the fate of the United States forever.
  • Cinco de Mayo is not a federal holiday in Mexico, and is not really celebrated outside of Puebla and a few other cities. In the United States, however, it is a huge holiday.
  • Photo taken by “The Republic”

    In and around Puebla, “Cinco de Mayo” is known as El Día de la Batalla de Puebla (the Day of Puebla Battle). And they celebrate with re-enactments and parades more than with tequila, margaritas and such.

  • May 5th was made more popular under Franklin Roosevelt, who established the “Good Neighbors policy” in the 1930s.
  • Americans eat nearly 81 million pounds of avocadoes on Cinco de Mayo every year, according to the California Avocado Commission.
  • Many cities in the United States celebrate Cinco de Mayo with weekend-long festivals, including Denver, Chicago, Portland and San Diego.
  • Los Angeles wins with the largest party (in the world!). It is called Fiesta Broadway. Many other countries enjoy this celebration as well. Even Vancouver, Canada has a big celebration, with a skydiving mariachi band!
  • Chandler, Arizona has a Chihuahua race on May 5!
  • Because we like to celebrate and drink tequila, the United States drinks more of this potent liquor than Mexico, where most tequila is made!
  • Enchiladas and tamales make up more the traditional dishes and as they take a bit of time to create and cook, it becomes a time for family togetherness.

Read the rest of this entry

“LOL Books”

By Chelsea Bennett, Reference Department

April was National Humor Month. (Remember our April Fool’s Day Prank?) To celebrate, we put together a great selection of books – both fiction and nonfiction – that fit the theme. In case you missed it, we’re sharing that book list here. We hope you’ll find a book to make you laugh all year long!

  • Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh, (792.7028092 BRO)
  • Yes, Please by Amy Poehler, (92 POEHLER)
  • Life’s a Stitch: the Best of Contemporary Women’s Humor by Anne Safran Dalin, ed., (817.608 LIF)
  • Running with Scissors by Augusten Burroughs, (92 BURROUGHS)
  • The Road to Little Dribbling: Adventures of an America in Britain by Bill Bryson, (914.1048612 BRY)
  • In Such Good Company: 11 Years of Laughter, Mayhem, and Fun in the Sandbox by Carol Burnett, (791.4572 BUR)
  • Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal by Christopher Moore, (F MOO)
  • Walking Across Egypt by Clyde Edgerton, (F EDG)
  • Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris, (814.54 SED)
  • This Is a Book by Demetri Martin, 817.6 MAR
  • The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams, (F ADA)
  • Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency by Douglas Adams, (F ADA)
  • I Could Pee on This: and Other Poems by Cats by Francesco Marciuliano, (811.6 MAR)
  • Being Dead Is No Excuse: the Official Southern Ladies’ Guide to Hosting the Perfect Funeral by Gayden Metcalfe, (393.097633 MET)
  • Reasons My Kid Is Crying by Greg Pembroke, (818.5407 PEM)
  • Bridget Jones’ Diary by Helen Fielding, (F FIE)
  • The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl by Issa Rae, (92 RAE)
  • The Big Over Easy by Jasper Fforde, (F FFO)
  • The Eyre Affaire by Jasper Fforde, (F FFO)
  • Dad Is Fat by Jim Gaffigan, (814.6 GAF)
  • How to Be Alone by Jonathan Franzen, (814.54 FRA)
  • Texts from Jane Eyre by Mallory Ortberg, (818.602 ORT)
  • The Innocents Abroad by Mark Twain, (914.04286 TWA)
  • Gentlemen of the Road by Michael Chabon, (F CHA)
  • Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling, (92 KALING)
  • High Fidelity by Nick Hornby, F HOR
  • I Feel Bad About My Neck: and Other Thoughts on Being a Woman by Nora Ephron, (814.54 EPH)
  • I Remember Nothing: and Other Reflections by Nora Ephron, (817.54 EPH)
  • The Autocrat of the Breakfast Table by Oliver Wendell Holmes, (814.3 HOL)
  • The Code of the Woosters by P. G. Wodehouse, (F WOD)
  • Holidays in Heck by P. J. O’Rourke, (818.5402 ORO)
  • How to Make Your Baby an Internet Celebrity by Rick Chillot, (818 CHI)
  • Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons, (F GIB)
  • I Am America (And so Can You!) by Stephen Colbert, (818 COL)
  • Midnight Confessions by Stephen Colbert, (818.602 COL)
  • Maskerade: a Novel of Discworld by Terry Pratchett, (F PRA)
  • Bossypants by Tina Fey, (92 FEY)
  • Half Asleep in Frog Pajamas by Tom Robbins, (F ROB)
  • Night Thoughts by Wallace Shawn, (814.54 SHA)
  • The Princess Bride by William Goldman, (F GOL)
  • The Bear Went over the Mountain by William Kotzwinkle, (F KOT)
  • White Teeth by Zadie Smith, (F SMI)

Discover the World of Urban Fantasy

By Chelsea Bennett, Reference Department

“The Dresden Files” by Mika-Blackfield

Being a lover of memoir and “the classics” (think, “books you were forced to read in high school”), I’ve felt comfortable referring to those categories in previous blog posts. But when I saw the colorful genre bookmarks we have at the library – check them out on your next visit!–, I felt inspired to explore some authors I’ve never read before.

One genre I’m pretty unfamiliar with is Urban Fantasy, so I thought I’d start there, and every research trip begins with a visit to Wikipedia, doesn’t it (just don’t tell your teachers)? From there, I gathered these elements of the Urban Fantasy subgenre (1):

  • A primarily real-world, urban setting, in the past, present or future
  • Earthbound mythological creatures (sometimes)
  • Coexistence / conflict between humans and paranormal beings (some other times)
  • Often explores how city life changes after the discovery of magic
  • Does not rely primarily on a romantic plot (as distinct from Paranormal Romance subgenre)

This sounds like many of the bestsellers and blockbusters in the past couple of decades! So who are the storytellers behind this enduring pop culture phenomenon?

“Neil Gaiman’s American Gods Fan Art” by AnamikaB

Even I, in my ignorance, recognize the name Neil Gaiman halfway down the list on the bright yellow bookmark before me. His novel, American Gods, is a prime example of the genre. In it, Gaiman posits that “gods and mythological creatures exist because people believe in them.” (2) Therefore, in modern America, new gods – representing media, the internet, and the stock market, among others – have more authority than the old gods brought over by immigrants; and fantastical creatures hold commonplace occupations. But a mysterious man wishes to shake things up, and he needs the help of ex-con Shadow to rouse ancient powers. A strange, epic journey, with elements of horror, fantasy, and magical realism, this award-winning novel has an international fan base.

Neil Gaiman, and indeed the genre of Urban Fantasy, would not be where they are today without Terri Windling. She created the Bordertown universe, tales of which have been written by a multitude of authors. Bordertown is “a dystopian metropolis that lies along the border between “the Elflands” and “The World”.” (3) The tagline on some of the book covers reads, “Where Magic Meets Rock ‘n’ Roll,” which I find charming. As one reader puts it, “the aesthetic of Celtic punk rock, elf/human gang warfare, and glamorous urban decay absolutely succeeds. You can understand why this series inspired its own new wave/nerd subculture back in the eighties.” (4)

Mercy Thompson

Interestingly, 57% of writers in this genre are women. (1) Another such writer who caught my eye was Patricia Briggs, with her Mercy Thompson series. Mercy is a shapeshifting mechanic who was raised by werewolves. She interacts with vampires, gremlins, and other creatures of the night. Ignore the sexy artwork on the book covers: this is not a steamy series, but rather one with compelling dialogue and a strong, sensitive female lead. There are plenty of books in this series, starting with Moon Called.

I’d like to leave you with some more author recommendations, which is a hard thing to do as I haven’t actually read any of them. But thank goodness for those bookmarks, and for Goodreads.com, a great resource for book lists and reader reviews. Searching Goodreads by genre, I found that there are some Urban Fantasy authors whose books have been reviewed by community members hundreds of thousands of times! (Side note: If you find a reviewer whose taste matches your own, you can follow him/her on the site. It’s like having your own personal book critic who delivers tailored book recommendations.)

  • Charlaine HarrisSookie Stackhouse series (AKA the Southern Vampire Mysteries). These books are the source material for HBO’s True Blood.
  • Jim ButcherThe Dresden Files Harry Dresden is Chicago’s first and only wizard P.I. This series is the Urban Fantasy high standard for many reviewers.
  • Kelley ArmstrongDarkest Powers A genetically-engineered teenage necromancer’s powers are out of control: she raises the dead without even trying. On the run from her creators, she’s accompanied by a sorcerer, a werewolf, and a witch.
  • Seanan McGuireWayward Children Children who have gone through magical portals – like Wonderland’s rabbit hole, or Narnia’s wardrobe – find it hard to adjust to normal life once they return. Luckily, there’s a home just for them.
  • Kevin HearneThe Iron Druid Chronicles. The last of the druids runs a bookshop in Arizona, but that won’t throw an angry god off the trail of his magic sword. Celtic mythology meets vampires, werewolves, and Thor. Yes, this series definitely has a silly edge to it, but reviewers say it’s a lot of fun!
  • Holly BlackThe Poison Eaters and Other Stories. Elves, werewolves, vampires, faeries: whatever your creature obsession, there’s a short story for you in this YA/adult collection from the author of popular middle-grade series The Spiderwick Chronicles.
  • Terry BrooksWord & Void There’s been a long strike in a steel town, and it’s the hottest Fourth of July on record. Into this volatile atmosphere come a knight of the Word and a demonic servant of the Void, whose opposing goals are mysteriously linked by a teenage girl. The fate of humanity is to be decided amidst the fireworks that celebrate freedom.
  • Ilona AndrewsKate Daniels Magic feeds on technology, creating a chaotic backdrop for tales of a mercenary who lives in Atlanta, cleaning up paranormal problems.

I plan to broaden my literary horizons by adding a couple of these to my reading list. If I abandon my classics and only ever write about Urban Fantasy from now on, you’ll know what triggered it!


Sources:

Art

The Space for True Reception: Why We Love Great Verse

By Allan Cross, Reference Department

Poetry isn’t the simplest thing to appreciate. At a passing glance, it may not have the same immediacy of film, music, and visual art. When placed alongside other forms of literature, a book of poems can struggle to match our latest bestsellers in accessibility. For all these reasons, some of us might dismiss poetry as a medium for high-minded wordsmiths, rather than a readership of less heady taste. But exceptional poetry has endured for millennia, and verse as a creative avenue stretches onward still. Why, then, do so many others read and derive worth from it today?

The convenient answer nowadays might be to quote Dead Poets Society. Mr. Keating, an English teacher played by the late Robin Williams, inspires his students (and unceasing scores of audiences) with his speech about why people read and write poetry. One of the film’s great strengths lies, of course, in its poetry readings. These, combined with well-chosen samples, bring forth the emotional meaning that fuels successful verse. The film serves as a great access point to poetry, emphasizing the importance of reading it aloud. When we readers encounter a given poem, we can better involve ourselves by audibly speaking the work. By doing so, we should enhance the piece with our individual voices, each one conducive in its own distinct way.

Testing this in light of three widely known poems seems a good place to begin. The trio we have selected consists of Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken,” Rudyard Kipling’s “If–,” and Shel Silverstein’s verse children’s book The Giving Tree.

In the third stanza of “The Road Not Taken,” Frost writes:

And both that morning equally lay/

In leaves no step had trodden black./

Oh, I kept the first for another day!/

Yet knowing how way leads on to way,/

I doubted if I should ever come back.

Andrew Spacey, a commentator for Owlcation, points out that Frost’s work reflects on the many choices we make in life, and how we tend to regret those decisions after committing to them. It is also commonly read as a statement in support of individualism, and the promotion of opinions that contrast with majority views.

Below is an excerpt from Kipling’s “If—”:

If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;/

If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;/

If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster/

And treat those two imposters just the same;/

If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken/

Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools/

Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,/

And stoop and build them up with worn out tools:

 

The theme of Kipling’s work, which regards the importance of thought, but not to the point where it impedes action, seems like a stirring antidote to Frost. It acknowledges the significance and moral need for regret, but urges the reader not to allow past mistakes to obstruct the path to future growth.

The Giving Tree addresses similar concerns, as shown in some of its final lines:

“I am sorry,” sighed the tree./

I wish that I could give you something…/

But I have nothing left./

I am just an old stump./

I am sorry….”/

I don’t need very much now,” said the boy./

“just a quiet place to sit and rest.”/

I am very tired.”

Rivka Galchen, in her 2014 review for The New York Times, argues that there is an unavoidable dilemma in The Giving Tree, it being whether we read it as a statement on thoughtless acquisition or unreserved giving. The two characters, the boy and the tree, do what is most fundamental to their natures. It’s up to the reader to then decide how to feel about the situation, including the conclusion about whether it turns out morally right.

The takeaway from all of this, in spite of all the people who attempt to influence our points-of-view, is that we allow ourselves to read and study works on our unique terms. As mentioned earlier, it may prove worthwhile to read these pieces and others to ourselves (at the risk of seeming foolish), in order to bring out their inherent humanity. We should remember that reading can be, in its way, a roomy type of interpretation. There’s a mysterious element of poetry, one we cannot entirely rationalize and so must trail behind. Rather than strain for full understanding, this is the process we might instead come to accept.


Sources:

 

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