Monthly Archives: July 2013

Way out West in Big Sky Country

whistling seasonPosted by Nancy Novak, Children’s Librarian

The challenge to read something I don’t normally read for our staff summer reading book club was a little difficult for me.  I have a very wide range of reading interests, so the categories presented, which thankfully did NOT include a romance novel, looked like familiar friends.  Except one.  Westerns.  I think the first western I ever read was back in 2011 while preparing for our month long event, Azle Goes West.  True Grit by Charles Portis beckoned, and having seen the most recent movie version, I figured it would be a good choice.  And so it was.  But other than gobbling up Robert B. Parker’s iconic Appaloosa and Brimstone, I left it at that, and went back to my true loves.

So once again this summer I began to tackle westerns.  I was a little fearful – was I going to be subjected to lots of showdowns at OK Corral wannabees?  So, I let my computer fingers do the walking and got a list of recommended western authors.  I chose Max Brand, Ivan Doig, and of course, Larry McMurty.

I won’t wax poetic about McMurtry’s talents.  I liked his Boone’s Lick tale, and thought it a very typical western.  I then moved on to Max Brand, who was quite a unique person during his lifetime.  The Lightning Runner was a treat.

And then I picked up Ivan Doig’s The Whistling Season and I was never quite the same again.  Here is my Goodreads review on this most wonderful novel:

~This is at once a beautifully poetic homage to early 20th century Montana life, and a well crafted tale of moral choice in life.

Paul Milliron, now at the zenith of his career as Superintendent of Public Instruction for the state, faces a horrible task of closing all of the one room school houses in order to get all Montana kids into the STEM fever spawned by Sputnik.

And so he returns to his roots with a reverie on his rather unusual childhood, populated by his widower father, two brothers, a woman hired from Minnesota to be their housekeeper, and her purported brother.

But there are secrets kept by the two Minnesotans, and the truth of those secrets lead Paul to a rather difficult life choice, at the age of 13.

I could not get enough of Doig’s beautiful writing: “The Rembrandt light of memory, finicky and magical and faithful at the same time, as the cheaper tint of nostalgia never is.” I could also not get enough of the characters and their quirks, which at first seem way out there, but then pulled back reveal wonderfulness, uniqueness, and a certain type of normalcy. These are all clever and grounded, yet flawed people. Each brother has his own talents that beautifully complement each other. Their lives are full of work, as well as play and wonder. Halley’s comet appears. Latin envelopes Paul and leads him to greater things than he would have thought. Made me wish I had been there in 1910, which of course I really don’t wish, because, well, it wasn’t that comfortable a time and I like comfort. But that is the mark of a great novel and a great writer.

And so, “[e]ven when it stands vacant, the past is never empty”. That past calls Doig’s readers to revel in the story, and personally face the choices Paul must make and decide whether they would do the same. I never did come to a conclusion on it, and some others may not either. But the wrestling will be worth it.~

In our collection, Doig’s novel is not shelved with the Westerns; it is in adult fiction.  But it’s western to me.  Can’t get much more western than Montana in 1910.

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Posted by on July 31, 2013 in Uncategorized


Bibliotheca Bonanza 2013!

Posted by Library Director, Curren McLane,

People often have the notion that librarians read ALL the time. While this is a noble idea, in reality we are working individuals with as little free time as anyone else. That’s not to say we don’t enjoy reading. Books are our life’s passion, after all! At the Azle Memorial Library we are fortunate to have a staff full of voracious readers, who fit in time to read between work, chores, kids, going to the gym and all the other things that seem to consume our days. So this summer I decided to challenge the staff to not only read all summer long, but to read outside of the box. I provided a list of 10 distinct genres and formats, and encouraged them to read from at least five on the list. And being the overachievers that they are, I am so pleased that everyone on staff has risen to the challenge! I am not exempt from this reading exploration and plan to complete all 10 genres myself. Here’s a peek at what I have read so far:

Western Fiction: True Grit by Charles Portis

This was my first delve into the western literary world. And I enjoyed Portis’ classic so much that it has become one of my new favorite books!

Young Adult Fiction: Annie on My Mind by Nancy Garden

This is a controversial, yet classic book for teens written in 1982. I was surprised to find that the 30-year-old novel seemed rather timeless.

Non-Fiction: Bossypants by Tina Fey

I’m a big fan of Tina Fey’s comedy, so I jumped at the chance to read her autobiography. The book delivered on its promise to make me laugh out loud. But what surprised me was the applicable life lessons Tina provided, especially relating to work and management. As producer of her own show, 30 Rock, Mrs. Fey knows what it’s like to lead a staff of 200. And she passes on the lessons she has learned in a more entertaining delivery than any other management book I have ever read.

Suspense Fiction: Cell by Stephen King

Cell falls under the dystopian, end-of-the-world class of books that are so popular these days. Written in 2006 (before the zombie craze really took off) King writes of an sudden epidemic where all cell phone users suddenly turn into crazed zombies. But it’s really not about the zombies. It’s about the survivors and their human ability to bond and survive together.

eBook: City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau

When it comes to book formats, I tend to lean toward audiobooks. I love being read to – plus it makes driving long distances in my car so much more enjoyable. Next in line would be print books. There’s something about turning pages and enjoying the book as an object that is so enjoyable. I don’t own an eReader (believe it or not) so I downloaded City of Ember on my iPad. I must admit that the ability to browse for books online in the comfort of my home, and download a book long after most libraries and bookstores are closed, was very convenient. Perhaps it’s time for me to jump on the eBook bandwagon, too.

Classic Literature: The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

After watching numerous movie and TV adaptations of these classic mysteries, I thought it was only fitting to read the original tales. It amazes me how Sir Arthur Conan Doyle can lay out the clues right in front of me, but I am never able to pick up on their trail quite like the masterful Sherlock Holmes. A highly recommended read for all mystery and crime solving sleuths.

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Posted by on July 16, 2013 in Uncategorized

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