Thursday, September 22, 2016

Teens: Make Shelf-talkers with us!

By focusing on efforts across the country to remove or restrict access to books, Banned Books Week (this year September 25 to October 1) draws national attention to the harms of censorship. Our plan is to hang "shelf-talkers" around the library, which will give a brief synopsis of a book and reasons why others don't want you to read it, to cause these books to be highlighted, read, and discussed. And we want TEENS to help us get the library ready for Banned Books Week and promote the freedom to read!

We will provide materials--the cards, plus pens, pencils, colored markers, paints,
etc.--and we hope to end up with some fun and colorful shelf-talkers, which the teens can then participate in hanging on shelves in the library for Banned Books Week.

If your teen is a reader who is not artistic, or an artist who is not a reader, that's okay--we can all collaborate! One can do the writing, the other can do the images!

Please encourage your teens to join us TODAY, Thursday, September 22, after school, at the Central Library! (We'll bring snacks.) This activity is for teens in grades 6-12 only.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Special Author Event: The Language of Politics

Enough Said: What’s Gone Wrong with the Language of Politics?
by Mark Thompson

We are all living through a season of unease these days regarding the language of politics,
a sense that something has gone wrong.  We have, however, only a vague notion of why we find it all so disturbing. Mark Thompson, author of Enough Said, has some answers. Why does public language matter? Thompson argues that the character of our public language is not merely a symptom of deeper and more formative forces in our culture and politics.
He writes, “I want to place it at the heart of the causal nexus. As much as anything, our shared civic structures, our institutions and organizations, are living bodies of public language, and when it changes, so do they. The crisis in our politics is a crisis of political language.” He describes the salient danger that lies in the corruption of public language, “For some, the instrumentality, the leaching away of substance, the coarsening of expression are essentially cultural disappointments--evidence of some wider dumbing down and failure of seriousness. For me, the critical risk is not in the realm of culture but that of politics and,
in particular, democracy--its legitimacy, the competitive advantage it has historically conferred over other systems of government, and ultimately its sustainability.”
High stakes indeed.

The way Thompson treats this subject in Enough Said may well be unexpected. Our expectations, however, reveal something about the nature of the problem. We expect something reductive and tendentious these days when it comes to the discussion of issues of public importance. It may not only be something we expect, but a mode of discussion we have come to prefer. It makes things simpler, less intellectually taxing, imposes fewer civic burdens, and makes us less anxious. We can move on to the next thing. But Enough Said is written in the style of the personal essay, and shares that form's latitude. It is discursive and unhurried, well suited to the sophisticated exposition Thompson feels his subject needs. It does not slight context or complexity in tracing the problem’s origins or evade the difficulties of its amelioration.

Sarah Palin's formulation of the phrase "death panels" during
the debate over "Obamacare" is explored by Thompson as a prime
example of everything that has gone wrong in political speech.
The political language of Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, and Sarah Palin is, predictably, examined critically here, but it will perhaps come as a surprise to readers that Thompson’s praise and criticism extend across the political spectrum. His perspective is independent, his judgments even-handed. His tools of analysis are derived from rhetorical theory, not politics. He is unwilling to single out any group--politicians, the public, journalists, or new media technology--as the party to blame for the dismal state of affairs. He traces the dynamic between these groups and parses their share of culpability. (It will not surprise the reader that there is plenty to go around.) Enough Said is, in both its temperament and in the depth of its analysis, a model of the way Thompson believes that issues of public importance should be discussed.
British Prime Minister Tony Blair called
the British Press "the feral beast" and his
administration developed methods of spin
and information management to control it.
This is, however, not a book just about the language of politics. The language of politics is part of the larger world of contemporary public speech. Thompson makes the connections, and identifies the components of the general crisis in public language. Enough Said is an exploration of the way public language has lost its power to explain and engage, and how this has threatened the bond of trust between people and politicians.

The authority of Enough Said--why the reader will pay attention and give some serious consideration to the arguments--has as much to do with the personal and biographical elements of this account as it does with the detail and intelligence of the analysis. As a journalist working for the BBC, as Director General of the BBC, and as Chief Executive Officer of the New York Times, Thompson has had a front row seat. He has been both a witness and a participant. He is able to support his points with examples that give context and dimension. Through a close examination of words and context he builds a remarkably resonant analysis. Enough Said is elegantly argued, dense in ideas, and displays a sophisticated comprehension of its subject. With one reading, you will miss too much, pass by too much you wanted to think about and think through. Readers will want to return to passages in Enough Said. But then, once again, that was the idea, to spark more sustained thought and a more considered--and considerate---discussion about the problems in our public language than might be achieved by the aphorism or sound bite. 

Aristotle's Rhetoric, written in the 4th
Century B.C., is still a book for our times.

In Enough Said, Thompson ranges widely, using ideas from social psychology, history, science, philosophy, marketing, and other fields. But at the core of this book is a defense of rhetoric's classic ideal as “critical persuasion.” He has much to say, critically and passionately, about the nature of journalism and its place in public language. In the acknowledgements to his book he apologizes to the experts into whose fields he may have wandered. But just as his book presents a model of how public language might be used in discussing important public issues, Thompson as a thinker presents an instructive model of what someone with broad learning and inquisitiveness can contribute to the discussion of the difficult public issues we face. It is Thompson’s willingness to presume, his comfort in ranging broadly through the ideas and concerns of our Western tradition that allows him to give us not only particular insights, but the synthesis and overview found in Enough Said. He says that he hopes his “congenital intellectual overconfidence….may have allowed me to bushwhack my way to a handful of insights that might be hard to make out from any one of these established academic paths.” That’s putting it modestly. In Thompson’s hands, the performance here redeems any real or putative presumption. Enough Said is a stimulating tour of the crisis in our
public language.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

This week at the library...

Central Library, 7:00 p.m.

Live & Learn Documentary presents...
The Make-A-Wish Foundation and the city of San Francisco join forces to grant a five-year-old boy's wish to become Batman for a day, drawing worldwide attention.

87 minutes / Rated PG

Central Library, 12:00 noon

The club will discuss The Little Paris Bookshop, by Nina George.

Central Library, 6:30 p.m.

Coloring Club for Adults

We provide the colored pencils, crayons, and coloring pages, or you can bring your own. Stop in, sit down, get creative, and HAVE FUN! Coloring offers a fun way to unwind and express creativity.

Buena Vista Library, 7:00 p.m.

The club will discuss The Maltese Falcon, by Dashiel Hammett.

Buena Vista Branch, 7:00 p.m.

What's Gone Wrong with the
Language of Politics?

Mark Thompson, President and CEO of the New York Times Company, and former Director-General of the BBC, will talk about his new book Enough Said: What’s Gone Wrong With the Language of Politics? Books will be available for purchase, and the author will autograph.

Central Library, 3:30 p.m.

Stand up for your right to read by making a shelf-talker for your favorite banned book. We provide the materials, you come up with the words and/or pictures. Afterwards, we hang all the shelf-talkers in the library in preparation for Banned Books Week! This activity is for teens in grades 6-12 only.


A story and song program for children ages one and two, accompanied by an adult.
Tuesdays @ 10:00 a.m., Buena Vista Branch
Wednesdays @ 10:00 a.m., Buena Vista Branch
Fridays @ 10:00 a.m., Central Library
Fridays @ 11:00 a.m., Buena Vista Branch

Stories and songes for children age three and up,
accompanied by an adult.

Wednesdays @ 10:00 a.m., Northwest Branch
Thursdays @ 10:00 a.m., Central Library
Fridays @ 1:00 p.m., Buena Vista Branch

Songs, stories and rhymes for children under 12 months of age.
Thursdays @ 10:00, Northwest Branch

Friday, September 16, 2016

What we're reading: In search of Paris

As I have mentioned before on this blog, I am a sucker for any book set in Paris. I keep reading any and every book that boasts that city as its backdrop, and more often than not, I am disappointed; Paris, wonderful as it is, just can't carry a whole book. Two weeks ago, I saw not one but two books in the New Books section that had Paris in the title or in the description, and checked them out, eternally hopeful. This time, I'm happy to say, I was not disappointed!

The first book I read was Unbecoming, a debut novel by Rebecca Scherm, and I'm happy that I read it before looking at Goodreads to see what people had to say, because everyone there was comparing it to The Goldfinch, by Donna Tartt, to The Talented Mr. Ripley, by Patricia Highsmith, and (inevitably and inanely) to Gone Girl, by Gillian Flynn. Because I did not see all the comparisons to other authors and styles, I was able to approach it "fresh"; and without all those judgments to hinder me, I was delighted by it.

The book takes place partially in the present day and partially in flashback. A girl named Grace is living in Paris, and although she is from Tennessee, she tells people her name is Julie and that she hails from California, because she is in hiding. She is living a quiet life, working for a small shop that specializes in restorations, and spends her days mending teapots and re-setting gems. But there is a mystery in her past, to do with the boy she married and the boy she loved (not the same boy); she has learned that the two have just been paroled from prison sentences they served after an art heist gone bad that was planned by Grace, and now she's afraid they'll be after her.

The evolution of the main character and the degrees of denial and self-knowledge, combined with the plots and plans, the failed heist, and the anticipation of revenge, all kept me intrigued throughout this novel. Ironically, the only thing that disappointed me a tiny bit was that the supposed setting in Paris wasn't all that distinct--she worked in a shop with a girl from Poland via Amsterdam; she lived in a suburb outside the city with a German landlady; and there was almost no Parisian "feel" to it, not even in the street market scenes, which were more grim than they were picturesque. Also, more of it actually took place in Garland, Tennessee than in Paris. But that's a small caveat--this was a skilled debut from an author I will revisit should she write more!

Parenthetically, isn't that a weird book cover? The picture works with the character, but I've never before seen something set sideways on a vertical format like that.

The second book, A Week in Paris, by Rachel Hore, fulfilled every expectation I had for a book that would evoke the feel and ambiance of Paris--the streets, markets, music, cafes, churches, schools, everything. That by itself sets the bar pretty low for a reason to like a novel, but after having read a slew of books that promised me Paris and didn't deliver, this one was completely satisfying--not only for that reason, however!

Although the two protagonists, mother and daughter, are both English by birth, both of their stories--one beginning in 1937 and the other in 1961--take place in the City of Light. Fay Knox, the daughter, knows little of Kitty Knox's story, or in fact her own; her childhood before the age of six is a complete blank to her, and her mother doesn't talk about it, with the excuse that it's too painful to revisit the time directly after she lost her beloved husband, Eugene.

Two things happen nearly simultaneously that lead Fay to that past: Her mother has what amounts to a nervous breakdown and is hospitalized in an asylum to recuperate; and Fay is hired by an orchestra (she is an accomplished violinist) to play three dates in Paris over the course of a week's time. When Kitty's doctor convinces Fay that in these early stages of her depression her mother won't even know that she's gone, Fay takes the job and, while in Paris, connects with an old friend of her mother's who reveals a surprising and disturbing version of the past that Fay has never heard before.

Both the story and the style of writing reminded me of Kate Morton, particularly evoking her book The Distant Hours. I'm tempted to describe it as Kate Morton "lite," although I don't mean that in a negative way; simply that, as detailed as Hore's book is, it's simplicity itself when compared to the microscopic descriptiveness of Morton's works (which, for many people, may be a good thing!). But the pattern of a mystery from the past intruding itself on the present, and the character of a daughter attempting to solve the puzzle of her mother's life, are quite similar, and equally well done.

I haven't read anything else of Hore's, but will definitely seek something out soon. Perhaps not immediately, however, for, as much as I enjoyed it, the intricacies and the serious tone of the story (judging from the years in which it takes place, you can surmise that World War II plays a large part) need to be counterbalanced by some reading that is simple and straightforward! Luckily, I have a heist caper meant for 6th- and 7th-graders that I must read next for our middle school book club!

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Special Author Event: Mass Incarceration in America

Please join us tonight, Wednesday, at the Buena Vista Branch for a special presentation by author Elizabeth Hinton (review of her book below). Books are available at a special discount price for this event only, and the author will sign.

From the War on Poverty
to the War on Crime:
The Making of Mass Incarceration
in America,
by Elizabeth Hinton

In the United States today, one in every 31 adults is under some form of penal control, including one in 11 African American men. Elizabeth Hinton argues that “Since President Lyndon Johnson first called for a 'War on Crime' some 50 years ago, prisons, jails, and law enforcement institutions have functioned as a central engine of American inequality.” She has written a methodical and relentless analysis about the creation of mass incarceration in America, one that looks at its origins and foundational assumptions, and the policies, legislation, and institutions that have sustained it. Her research is formidable. Hinton focuses closely on the developments at the federal level in the “War on Crime” during the Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, and Reagan administrations. This book is destined to become an important reference in the growing discussion of the causes and political meanings of mass incarceration.

Helmeted policemen wield their clubs on an
African-American man lying on the sidewalk at
132nd St. and 7th Ave. in Harlem in July 1964.
Demonstrators were protesting the fatal shooting
of a 15-year-old African-American boy, James
Powell, by a white police officer.
Johnson’s “War on Poverty,” resulted in the social welfare programs that first established a federal presence in America’s impoverished urban centers, but the "War on Poverty," Hinton argues, was never willing to confront the inequality and racism that were the root causes of urban unemployment and poverty. The "War on Poverty" was based on certain racial assumptions of its own, the diagnosis of a pathology in the culture of marginalized African American communities that social welfare programs would seek to address.

When the urban riots in Harlem, Watts, Detroit, Newark and other cities broke out, the emphasis of the "War on Poverty" shifted to keeping urban unrest in check. Hinton argues that federal policymakers “….decided to manage the criminal symptoms of poverty and inequality rather than disrupt the racial and economic status quo.” Primarily in urban areas, a law enforcement dimension migrated into existing social programs of the "War on Poverty," a policing presence that increased surveillance of minority populations and added a punitive dimension to the distribution of federal assistance. Hinton traces this change, analyzing the assumptions and objectives of the new federal anti-crime legislation of the period, tracing the bureaucratic realignments of the period in which many of the "War on Poverty" programs were either abandoned or moved under the aegis of federal law enforcement departments and out of the government social welfare departments, and most tellingly, she follows the dollars. The budgets of social welfare programs declined as funds for urban law enforcement grew rapidly, and she parses the expenditures, showing where most of the money went: towards greater police presence and improved law enforcement armament and technology. 

Frisking everyone during the Detroit riots.
 The most interesting chapters of From the War on Poverty to the War on Crime are those that address the “War on Crime” policies of the Nixon administration. The Nixon administration abandoned the idea that social welfare programs would help reduce crime and took a frankly more punitive view of law enforcement and incarceration. Tougher and more targeted enforcement, coupled with the deterrent value of mandatory and longer sentences, became central to policy and federal grant support to urban police departments. Money was made available for a huge increase in prison building as policymakers projected large increases in incarceration. Hinton observes that “Although policymakers, law enforcement officials, and scholars justified the unyielding wave of prison construction by citing the high rates of reported crime during the 1970s, in reality, incarceration rates had little relationship to actual crime rates. Instead, incarceration rates correlated directly to the number of black residents and the extent of socioeconomic inequality within a given state.” Her examination of the inequalities of the juvenile justice system during this same period is the most poignant chapter in her book. It shows in stark relief, among the youngest people in the growing system of incarceration, the inequalities inherent in the institutions of mass incarceration. 

Jimmy Carter in 1977 amid the rubble and abandoned
buildings on Boston Road and Charlotte Avenue in
the South Bronx. The Carter administration expended
large amount of federal money trying to make crime
ridden housing projects"defensible fortresses."
Most of us who lived through the years when the system of mass incarceration in American was being established were oblivious. This was not our history. We might have been involved in other liberal and radical causes, but the growing incarceration of a significant portion of Black and Latino citizens was not something most of us thought about or worried about as long as we were safe. We might get alarmed over individual cases, maybe even sometimes take them as representative of a wider or systemic problem, but what was happening in the aggregate in that shadowed world seems to have eluded us--the social effects of laws, the nature of their enforcement, the character of the institutions and the assumptions upon which they were built, and the seemingly unassailable legitimacy they gained simply by the passage of time. The “War on Crime” has been self-perpetuating. It set up a feedback loop of self-fulfilling prophecies in urban neighborhoods, one that was in turn supported by the newly vested financial interests engaged in policing and imprisonment.

Our lack of attention may or may not be racism, but unarguably, it isn’t good citizenship. Citizenship demands that we should have paid more attention than we have to matters of race and equality in our criminal justice system and to the experience of our fellow citizens who had the most direct contact with that system, however marginalized or poor they were. From the War on Poverty to the War on Crime isn’t just about racism in the criminal justice system, however. It is larger than that. Mass incarceration is a reminder that we remain still unwilling to disrupt the racial and economic status quo, unwilling to address the causes, yet still willing to pay the huge financial and social costs of merely controlling the symptoms.  We seem still willing to do that, however much that strategy has failed in actually reducing crime. A reckoning may be upon us. This is a book that takes us back to the gate where we started, shows us how we took the wrong path, and tells us what we must do as we face the road ahead.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

What we're reading: Three thrillers

I just finished reading a series of three thrillers by author Joseph Finder. I hadn't read anything by him before (and there is a lot from which to choose), so I decided to start with his series about corporate intelligence specialist Nick Heller, since there are so far only three books. People on Goodreads variously call Heller a Jack Bauer / Jack Ryan / Jack Reacher (why are they all named Jack?) oh, or Mitch Flynn (not named Jack!) kind of guy. Some characterize these as "Ludlum light" (though to me he's no Jason Bourne). Finder does follow the protagonist rulebook, established by the writers of all those Jacks (and Mitch, let us not forget):

          Special Forces background
          Troubled childhood
          Authority issues
          Tough guy with a soft spot/heart of gold

The first book, Vanished, is an introduction of the character, and does that well; but the mystery is kind of tame (his brother is missing, which leads to some bigger issues), and fell a little flat for me. It did, however, nicely set up the characters and relationships that would continue into subsequent books (his vulnerable nephew, the woman who would become his right-hand tech researcher) and give a good look into his background (his high-powered financial crook of a father, his brother who seems poised to follow in their father's footsteps), so having concluded that I liked the protagonist more than I liked the story, I decided that was sufficient reason to continue.

The second book, Buried Secrets, was better than the first. An old family friend, a hedge fund billionaire named Marshall Marcus, calls Nick when his daughter goes missing. He refuses to contact the police or the FBI, so Nick is his only hope to get her back. When Nick questions why Marshall doesn't approach the FBI (missing persons being their specialty), Marshall is cagey enough that Nick knows something's up. But when he starts poking around, he discovers there's a lot more to this than a simple kidnap-for-ransom.

This had a more exciting and visceral mystery (although my claustrophobia kicked in big time at some of the descriptions), and I liked how Nick and his background team collaborated to solve seemingly insurmountable problems. But I thought the final explanations for why everything happened were a bit muddled and unclear, so I would have to call this one good, but uneven. Still, since #2 was an improvement, I sallied forth and checked out #3.

The plot of Guilty Minds was more topical for these times: A Supreme Court justice is about to be outed on a salacious gossip website for consorting with a call girl, and his lawyer hires Nick to prove it didn't happen, giving him 48 hours before the story goes public. Then dead bodies start turning up, and things get vastly more complex.

Again, this one was an improvement over the second, which was an improvement over the first; but honestly, none of the books blew me away. There's nothing wrong with them, and much to like, but they don't grab me the way the books of Connelly or Crais do, and I'm much more intrigued by the Jacks than by Nick. But if you're looking for a pretty good read, a classic page-turner with a protagonist whose characteristics are reassuringly familiar, then try the series. And if you don't want to read them all, you get enough explanation at the beginning of each book to take them as stand-alone books, in my opinion.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

This week at the library...

Buena Vista Branch, 4:00 p.m.

Family Films presents...
Disney animation inspired by Rudyard Kiplings "Mowgli" story. Mowgli is a boy who has been raised by wolves in the Indian jungle. When the wolves hear that the fierce tiger, Shere Kahn, is nearby, they decide to send Mowgli to a local "man tribe". On his way to the village, Mowgli meets many animal characters in this musical tale.
78 minutes / rated PG

4:30-6:30 p.m.

Metrolink Station Burbank
201 N Front Street
Burbank, CA 91502

Burbank Public Library will be giving away free paperback books to Metrolink commuters on Tuesday, September 13, from 4:30 - 6:30 p.m.! Stop by our booth to find out more ways the Burbank Public Library can make your ride more enjoyable.

This event is part of Outside the Lines, a weeklong celebration demonstrating the creativity and innovation happening inside and outside libraries. #getOTL

Buena Vista Branch, 6:30 p.m.

Twilight Cinema presents...
You've read the bestseller--now see the movie!

93 minutes / Rated PG 13

Central Library, 7:00 p.m.

The club has read and will discuss Loot, by Jude Watson. This club is for registered teens only. To inquire, email

Central Library 5:30 p.m.

Buena Vista Branch, 7:00 p.m.

The Making of Mass Incarceration in America

An illustrated talk by author Elizabeth Hinton

A Harvard historian examines the origins of "the foremost civil rights issue of our time." During the past two years, deadly confrontations between police and young African-Americans, the demonstrations and movements these incidents inspired, and subsequent commentaries by writers such as Ta-Nehisi Coates, have forced the issues of aggressive police practices and mass incarceration to the forefront of our national consciousness.

In the United States today, one in every 31 adults is under some form of penal control, including one in eleven African American men. How did the “land of the free” become the home of the world’s largest prison system? Challenging the belief that America’s prison problem originated with the Reagan administration’s War on Drugs, Elizabeth Hinton traces the rise of mass incarceration to an ironic source: the social welfare programs of Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society at the height of the civil rights era.

Buena Vista Branch, 7:00 p.m.

The club has read and will discuss Far, Far Away, by Tom McNeal. This club is for registered teens only, and is full. To be placed on the waiting list, email

Central Library, 7:00 p.m.

(not your mother's book club)
The club has read and will discuss Ham on Rye, by Charles Bukowski.

Northwest Library, 4:00 p.m.

Join us in the park behind Northwest Library for a FREE OUTDOOR craft program for kids in K - 8.
Paint a flower pot
Paper airplanes
Create a windsock
And much more!

Space is limited - Call 818-238-5640 to sign up.

This program is part of Outside the Lines, a weeklong celebration demonstrating the creativity and innovation happening inside and outside libraries.  #getOTL

Burbank Farmers' Market, 9:00 a.m.

Visit our booth at the Farmers' Market and find out about the extensive services and diverse programming the Burbank Library has to offer! Get freebies, ask questions, and sign up for a library card.  See you there!

This program is part of Outside the Lines, a weeklong celebration demonstrating the creativity and innovation happening inside and outside libraries.  #getOTL

Central Library, 10:00 a.m.

Drop in and build! For children ages 2-14 and their families. Children under the age of nine must be accompanied by an adult.

Central Library, 2:00 p.m.

Practice writing, drawing and storytelling skills in this special workshop for children in grades 4-6, run by artists from Cartoon Network! Sign-up required. Call 818 238-5610 to reserve your spot!

This program is part of Outside the Lines, a weeklong celebration demonstrating the creativity and innovation happening inside and outside libraries.  #getOTL


A story and song program for children ages one and two, accompanied by an adult.
Tuesdays @ 10:00 a.m., Buena Vista Branch
Wednesdays @ 10:00 a.m., Buena Vista Branch
Fridays @ 10:00 a.m., Central Library
Fridays @ 11:00 a.m., Buena Vista Branch

Stories and songes for children age three and up,
accompanied by an adult.

Wednesdays @ 10:00 a.m., Northwest Branch
Thursdays @ 10:00 a.m., Central Library
Fridays @ 1:00 p.m., Buena Vista Branch

Songs, stories and rhymes for children under 12 months of age.
Thursdays @ 10:00, Northwest Branch

Tuesday @ 1:00, Buena Vista Branch

Tuesday @ 6:30, Buena Vista Branch
Join us for a bilingual storytime with stories, songs, and rhymes in English and Spanish. There will be a short video at the end of the program. Vengan para una hora de cuentos bilingüe con cuentos, canciones, y rimas en inglés y español. Habrá un video corto al final del programa.