David Cherry's blog

HCPL Catalog Will Be Temporarily Unavailable: Saturday, Sept. 14. 8:00 p.m.

ExclamationThe Harris County Public Library catalog will be unavailable starting at 8:00 p.m. Saturday, Sept 14. We anticipate it will be down only for a few hours, but due to the nature of the necessary procedures, we cannot guarantee exactly when it will be up and running. Of course, we will do everything we can to minimize the catalog's downtime.

We thank you for your patience.

September is National Literacy Awareness Month

National Literacy Awareness Month Logo This September, the Houston Center for Literacy and Harris County Public Library want you to recognize the importance of literacy in your life, and to encourage you to share the gift of literacy by helping someone in your own community learn to read.

Take just a moment to think about how your ability to read has broadened your own world. Think of all the books that have entertained you, educated you, and changed your life for the better. Now, think about everything you’ve read today: the email, the street signs, the instructions for that new gadget, the expiration date on a can of tuna. Now think about how much harder your life would be if you could not read.

Finally, think about this: 1 out of 5 of your neighbors is functionally illiterate. That means that more than 400,000 of us who call Houston home cannot fill out a job application, read a bank statement or help their children with homework. 400,000 people.

Seamus Heaney (1939 - 2013)

cover art: Electric Light by Seamus HeaneyThe Nobel laureate, Seamus Heaney, had the great good fortune to be born in a place that values poetry in a way that most Americans cannot imagine. He was an honest-to-goodness celebrity in his native Ireland, not perhaps on a Bieberian scale, but solidly, unostentatiously famous nonetheless. Right around the time he accepted the Nobel laurels, he became something beyond the poet and teacher he started out to be. He became a sage, a go-to quote-maker on the Big Questions of the day, and I think to some extent he relished those extracurricular roles. I know he was awfully good at them.

It's always tempting to see a softening in the work when someone in any profession has reached that level of success, and perhaps the poems became bigger, more aware of their place in his country's sociopolitical discourse, and his own legacy, but they were still masterful. For me, there will always be something in his early work when all that talent was balling up into a fist and he was finding new ways to say what had to be said, when he hadn't quite become the master (though so much better, more naturally gifted than anyone working at the time). Those are the poems I suspect I'll return to most.

Elmore Leonard (1925 - 2013)

cover art 52 Pickup

I hate that in its obituary for Elmore Leonard, the New York Times felt the need to sniff down its long, blue-blooded corporate nose, and call him “a modern master of American genre writing” [italics mine]. I’m sure no offense was intended, and I suspect Leonard wouldn’t have objected, but still, the qualification is wholly unnecessary. He was a master. Period. And the fact is, he didn’t aspire to the literary pantheon. He preferred to be read, and his influence was not limited to other "genre" writers. There are a lot of people referred to as "writer's writers," Elmore Leonard was a writer's writer's writer. He was that good. He was not only the consummate craftsman, he was a bit of a visionary. Leonard was one of those people who come along when an art form has gone a little soft, become a little too reliant on convention and its practitioners a little too pleased with themselves, who strips the form down and re-imagines it, and in so doing revitalizes the art. Elmore Leonard did that twice, for the western and then crime fiction.

If you regularly write anything more complex than a grocery list and you haven’t memorized Leonard’s 10 Rules for Good Writing, do it now...

No, really. I'm serious. NOW

Stripes Presents Donation to Fairbanks Branch Library

Check presentation @ Stripes Convenience Store opening.

The Fairbanks Branch Library recently received a donation of $1000 from Stripes Convenience Stores in honor of the opening of their first location in Houston. The check was presented to Fairbanks' Children's Librarian Victor Schill at the store's grand opening and ribbon cutting ceremony on July 26. Harris County Public Library thanks Stripes for their generosity and welcomes them to the community.

South Houston Branch Will Be Closed August 23 - 24 for Parking Lot Repair

La Biblioteca de South Houston estarán cerrada Viernes, 23 de agosto y Sábado, 24 de agosto para la reparación del estacionamiento.

SHOThe South Houston Branch Library will be closed Friday, August 23 and Saturday, August 24 for much-needed parking lot repaving. Please keep in mind that you will not have access to the library’s book drop during that time, but you are welcome to return any HCPL items to any of our locations.

We encourage you stock up on books, DVDs and music prior to the temporary closing, or visit one of the other nearby branches for internet access and all other library services. The locations nearest South Houston Branch are Galena Park Branch Library located at 1500 Keane Drive Galena Park TX 77547,
Parker Williams Branch Library at 10851 Scarsdale Blvd, Suite 510 Houston TX 77089.

South Houston Branch Library will reopen Monday, August 26 at 1:00 PM.

Have Book - Will You Triumph or Be Defeated? Amazing Read Challenge Week 8

Where did you travel for last week’s challenge? Wherever you went, I hope you met some new friends, saw some new sights, and plan to go back sometime soon.

After seven of these challenges, we figure your competitive juices should be flowing, so this week we want you to read books about sports or other competitions. For you fiction readers, how about Chad Harbach's bestselling The Art of Fielding, or Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain? If you like your competitions with somewhat higher stakes, you could try any one of The Hunger Games Trilogy. For you nonfiction folks, there are quite a few recent releases that might get your motors running. Try Dream Team by Jack McCallum, or Over Time, the memoir by the always thought (and argument)-provoking Frank Deford.

Have Book - Will Travel Somewhere New, Amazing Read Challenge Week 7

amazing read logoSo did you travel to the dark side for last week's challenge, or stay on the side of the angels? I tend to prefer heroes who straddle the line myself--like Dashiell Hammett's Sam Spade in The Maltese Falcon which I re-read on a plane ride.

Now on to this week's challenge! Most of us are creatures of habit. We find something we like and stick with it even though we’re pretty sure we could find a better cup of coffee, say, or a dentist with smaller hands, if we only bothered to look. The same can be said of our reading lives: we like what we like and see no reason to look elsewhere. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that, but just for this week we are challenging you to step out of your comfort zone and  read something by an author you've never read before, or about a subject you don't know anything about

There are a lot of directions you can go with this one. Below are just a few suggestions.

If you're a mystery lover, why not slip over to the nonfiction aisles and try some true crime reads like Lost Girls by Robert Kolker or Deal with the Devil by Peter Lance.

How about a first novel by an up-and-coming author like The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls by Anton DiSclafani, or The Marlowe Papers by Ros Barber,

Have Book - Will Explode, Amazing Read Challenge Week 5

I hope you picked a savoAmazing Read Logory read for last week’s challenge. Myself, I fairly devoured Daniel Vaughn’s The Prophets of Smoked Meat: A Journey through Texas Barbecue. For hardcore ‘cue geeks like me, the pictures can only be described as salacious.

That brings us to this week's challenge: Have Book - Will Explode. By now you're probably making preparations for your 4th of July festivities (don't forget to swing by your local HCPL branch beforehand to pick up some books, videos and music!), we have great books for kids about this most American of holidays, like Karma Wilson’s How to Bake an American Pie, or What Is the 4th of July by Elaine Landau. For grownups, there is 1776, David McCollough’s highly readable look at the Founding Fathers who, it turns out, were just Above-Average Joes you might hang out with at the icehouse (when they weren’t busy forging the Nation and raising the ire or bewigged (and wiggy) British monarchs, that is).

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