Faster Than a Speeding Book Review!

In librarians’ lingo, the term for helping patrons choose a book to read—Readers’ Advisory—is often referred to as RA. Librarians employ strategies and tools to help us recommend books we haven’t read ourselves.Our most enticing recommendations, though, pour from our hearts when we offer a title we know and love.

The Eleventh Stack blog provides a handy channel for enthusiastic, first-hand, written book recommendations. “I loved this book. You might too, and here’s why.”

But let me describe a kind of RA that has a different slant: eight librarians delivering one-minute introductions, one after the other, to the books we most want to share with readers.

Tomorrow, September 11, at noon in Pittsburgh’s downtown Market Square, a troupe of librarians (myself included) will dazzle listeners with an RA performance named 30 Books in 30 Minutes.

We’ll pull rabbits out of hats, flames will shoot from our fingertips, and the sun will disappear behind the moon. Or we hope you’ll think so, as we lead you swiftly beyond formulaic best sellers to a land of diverse books plucked from the shelves of our beloved Carnegie Library.

My contributions will include a 1993 novel by a local author; a biography of composer John Cage, born 100 years ago this month; a history of the delicious food fish, American shad; and a well-researched, serious yet light-hearted guide to sad songs.

Wolf Whistle by Lewis Nordan


Novelist Clyde Edgerton said he’d rather read Lewis Nordan than find money. Nordan’s Wolf Whistle is based on a real-life murder. Somehow the author, a former University of Pittsburgh professor who passed away last year, turns this grim subject matter into a magical tale.




Begin Again: A Biography of John Cage by Kenneth Silverman

Reading about Cage’s creative life uplifts and inspires me. The author of this bio is not a music scholar—the narrative’s focus includes not only Cage’s music, but poetry, visual art, and philosophical influences such as Marshall McLuhen, Buckminster Fuller, and Zen Buddhism.


The Founding Fish by John McPhee

McPhee could write a thousand words about watching a tree grow and hold the reader’s attention. A 350-page book about one type of fish? You won’t want just a bite—you’ll want to eat the whole thing. Bonus tip: The “book on tape” version (actually on CD) is in McPhee’s own voice.



This Will End in Tears: The Miserabilist Guide to Music by Adam Brent Houghtaling

Why are sad songs so appealing? Why do composer write them? This collection of short essays explores a wide range of song writers. In one of a few longer pieces, Houghtaling describes his attempt “to coalesce disparate artists separated by time and traditional genres into a new system based on emotional cues (sad is the new jazz).”





Filed under Uncategorized

7 responses to “Faster Than a Speeding Book Review!

  1. lectorconstans

    “But let me describe a kind of RA that has a different slant: eight librarians delivering one-minute introductions, one after the other, to the books we most want to share with readers.”

    I couldn’t help recalling the Monty Python “Summarizing Proust” bit. (All over YouTube.)

    However – this one counts as “and now for something completely different”:

    Summarize Proust Challenge

    It takes place in a bookstore. The get it down to 6 minutes. Even if you’ve only heard of the book, this is worth watching. (And look for the in-jokes.)

  2. Wow, I had Lewis Nordan (he went by Buddy) as my senior year fiction professor. Very good teacher. Warm and hilarious person. I didn’t know he had passed until now.

    • Thanks for the reply. Here’s a new book you might be interested in: Lewis Nordan: Humor, Heartbreak, and Hope. It’s a series of tribute essays by scholars and fiction writers, including both literary criticism and personal remembrances by people who knew Buddy.

  3. Oh, the music one looks cool. Thanks for the post. I’m looking around this site for the first time today. Not sure how I got here, but it’s pretty cool. :)

  4. Rebekah

    Buddy Nordan is an amazing wirter and person. He and my father were office mates in graduate school at Auburn University. I personally like his story collection “Sugar among the freaks” and his memoir “Boy with loaded gun.”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s