Tag Archives: books on CD

On the Sheepish Retraction of Erroneously Constructed Opinions

Many authors annoy the heck out of me, not so much because of the quality of their work but because of the quantity – I just don’t see how it’s possible for them to crank out books once or twice a year. Can’t they back off a little and let some new authors have a crack at literary fame and fortune? Take a little vacation time, maybe? Learn a new language or pick up some other hobby?

Enough! Please!

I’ll admit that part of my frustration stems from the fact that this building is a historic landmark. Sometimes it’s very cool to work in a historic landmark (and sometimes it’s very cold to work in a historic landmark, when the windows get stuck). Problem is, there are limits to how much you can cram into a building like this – that’s why our book on CD shelves are always so full. There’s never enough room for everything I’d like to offer! So when I find certain authors taking up shelves and shelves and SHELVES, I get a little grumpy. And then I start ranting.

There must be an AMS book title generator somewhere.

I was about to add Alexander McCall Smith to my list of annoyingly prolific authors when I spotted his name on this unlikely looking title: Creating Humans: Ethical Questions Where Reproduction and Science Collide. It’s not a book; it’s a seven CD lecture series on medical ethics. How curious – could this be the work of the same man who produced such adorable-sounding titles as The Finer Points of Sausage Dogs and The Limpopo Academy of Private Detection? Turns out that yes, it is. Here’s a little something that I found in one of our databases, Contemporary Authors Online.

The diverse accomplishments of Alexander McCall Smith include a distinguished career as a legal scholar and more recent fame as a best-selling novelist. A professor of medical law at Edinburgh University, Smith has published many works on medical ethics and criminal law. For example, he has written about the duty to rescue and the impact of medical advances on parental rights. Smith also had numerous books of fiction for young children and short-story collections in print before he published a series of detective stories set in Botswana.

Contemporary Authors Online, Gale, 2009.

Wow. So he has a real job. And he does more than churn out cozy mysteries that crowd my shelves. That’s pretty cool. Alexander McCall Smith, I apologize for my near-scorn! I’ll clear out a few of these old James Pattersons to make a little more room for you.

– Amy


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Stuff We’re Enjoying: Early Spring Edition

Summer weather arrived in Pittsburgh this past week, dramatically muscling spring weather out of the way with a flourish, flipping its ponytail over its shoulder and flopping down on a beach towel with a good book.  Your stalwart Eleventh Stack crew has done likewise; here are a few of the library materials we’re enjoying at the turn of the season.


This book will mess you up.

I know that everyone and their grandmother is reading The Hunger Games right now, but I don’t feel that I need to, as I’ve already read Lord of the Flies, Battle Royale, and The Long Walk. As a matter of fact, I’m rereading The Long Walk for the fifth or sixth time right now. It’s a Stephen King short novel, written under the pseudonym Richard Bachman, from back in the days before King started selling novels by the pound. Basically, every year one hundred teenage boys start at the Maine-Canada border and walk south until there is only one boy left. There are rules, of course. And penalties. And insanity. And death. If you read this one, you’ll never forget it.


Recently I visited some family in Illinois. One of the folks there is a big reader of sci-fi and fantasy, and so I waxed on to him over a couple of beers about a recent title, Embassytown, by China Miéville, that I thought one of the best science fiction titles in years.  He told me that I had to read The City and the City, another Miéville title he insisted was equally fantastic.

And right he was. The basic plot has a noir feel: a dead body is found, a hard-boiled Eastern European detective is investigating. But there’s a twist. The city where the murder takes place (Besz) happens to share contiguous space with another, just barely visible, city (Ul Qoman), where a different population and a very different–though related–language is spoken. And, oh yeah, where the murderer perhaps came from. I’ve just started this one and once again  Miéville is pushing–literally, this time–the boundaries of speculative fiction.

It seems I ought to go to Peoria more often.


The following two CDs have been in heavy rotation during my daily commute:

The Hunger Games: Songs From District 12 and Beyond. First things first: contemporary country music mostly makes my brain hurt. However, for some inexplicable reason, I love the current wave of bluegrass/folk-alt-country stuff that’s out there (Avett Brothers, anyone?). Thankfully the music producers went that route for most of this soundtrack, which fits the tone of Katniss and Peeta’s District 12 perfectly. I especially like the tracks from Neko Case (“Nothing to Remember”) and Kid Cudi (“The Rule and the Killer”).

Say Anything’s Anarchy, My Dear. I’ve always admired SA leader and primary lyricist, Max Bemis, for his smart, brutally honest songwriting. Though he’s mellowed a bit with age and marriage, he’s still telling it like it is. Standout tracks include “Overbiter,” which includes backing vocals from his wife, Sherri DuPree of the band Eisley, and describes their long-distance courtship; “Admit it Again,” a sequel of sorts to the “Admit It!!!” track on the …Is A Real Boy album (completely worth tracking down to dissect the lyrics); and the title track, “Anarchy, My Dear,” an almost ballad-y ode to rebellion.

Leigh Anne:

I’d like to be able to tell you I’m reading something incredibly literate, deliciously witty, or professionally advantageous. However, I am forced to confess that, in this unseasonable heat, the best I can do is leaf through magazines. Super Girl Scout Niece #1 was selling subscriptions, and I’m a huge fan of The Girl Scouts, so I’m happily parked in front of a fan with Oprah, yoga, and some warm-weather recipe ideas.


In the Basement of the Ivory Tower: Confessions of an Accidental Academic, by Professor X. This eye-opening and provocative treatise caught my eye in a review journal. It’s an expansion of an article originally published in The Atlantic magazine, and deals with the unprepared students colleges recruit and the status and treatment of professors (especially adjunct professors like the author), with a bit of the author’s life story mixed in. I was intrigued because the author is an English professor, and he writes extremely well, so the book is interesting, illuminating, and readable. He writes anonymously because he’s worried he’ll lose his job.


For my birthday I received a Kindle Fire from my awesome husband , who always buys me things I think I don’t want until I get them. To my eternal (but not blushing) chagrin, the first thing I did was purchase the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy from Amazon. In case you live under a rock, Fifty Shades is a self-published “erotic BDSM” e-book by a little-known British author named E. L. James. I zipped through Fifty Shades of Grey and Fifty Shades Darker in two days. I was ready to run out and buy some grey ties and an Audi.

For over a week now I’ve malingered on the final book, Fifty Shades Freed. I have simply stopped caring about the characters, the story, and the sex. The controversy surrounding this book reminds me of a quote from Fear of Flying author Erica Jong: “My reaction to porn films is as follows: after the first ten minutes, I want to go home and screw. After the first twenty minutes, I never want to screw again as long as I live.”


Sublime Frequencies re-issues strange and wonderful music from all over the world, everything from Bollywood steel guitar to what’s playing on the radio in Morocco. It’s perfect music to listen to while cooking or porch-sitting, and we have quite a few albums available for check-out here at the library.

I’ve also just watched a recently re-released gem on DVD called A Thousand Clowns. Fans of films about eccentric and lovable iconoclasts (and the films of Wes Anderson) should check this one out immediately.


I’m not enjoying this “nice” weather because it’s disturbing to have 80 degree weather in mid-March.  And you know what else doesn’t like it?  Spinach.  Or radishes.  Or any of the other cool weather crops that only grow well when temperatures are in the 60s and 70s.

So I’ll be forced to enjoy such books as The Gardener’s Weather Bible: How to Predict and Prepare for Garden Success in Any Kind of Weather by Sally Roth or The Weather-resilient Garden : a Defensive Approach to Planning & Landscaping by Charles W.G. Smith.

Your turn.  Hot enough for you?  What are you reading / watching / listening to this spring?


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Play it again

I prefer Poirot, but there are many Marples here as well.

Sometimes bad things happen to good books on CD. Very bad things. Things that should not be discussed on a library blog, but that the librarians might tell you about if you befriend them. I’m talking hand-washing-and-rubber-gloves things, here.

Fortunately, bad things can lead to good things – like replacement copies. If a book on CD is super popular, you can bet your hand sanitizer and bleach wipes that we’ll buy a new copy. Like these! 

Austen, Jane – Emma

Bradbury, Ray – Fahrenheit 451

Christie, Agatha – Pretty much every book she ever wrote.

Tolkien, J.R.R. – The Hobbit

Some of these books are always popular with students, and some of them are just, well, always popular. Either way, they’re here for you to enjoy. Please be gentle with them!

– Amy


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A Bibliophile’s Challenge

Mark your calendars everybody. Synch up your Android or I-Phone, charge up the Ereader (or E-Reader), make sure the reading lamp works and double check the library card – the 2012 Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh Winter Read-a-Thon is almost here.

From Valentine’s Day to the Ides of March – February 14th to March 15th – you read and it counts.  It counts towards your enjoyment, edification and pleasure.  It counts if you read to your kids, sitting in your favorite chair or during the obligatory 30 minutes you need before falling asleep.  It even counts if you listen to a book in your plane, train or automobile.

What counts?  Reading counts, and only for the sake of reading.  This year’s Winter Read-a-Thon has a goal.  We, all of us participating, are going to finish 20,012 pages, and it doesn’t matter if they’re paper, digital or audio; they’re all tomes and they all count.  For convenience sake, attending a book discussion counts too, and even newspapers and magazines figure on the pagination abacus.  Now that I’ve revved you up, where are the details you ask.  Think of this as a sneak preview without the preview.  Details will be forthcoming but they’re not ready yet.

In the meantime, if you’re looking to prep for your winter’s perusing or need some ideas, here are a few easy to find tools to utilize.  We like most of them — we made most of them.

These lists are updated and added to regularly by our librarians and other staff.

  • New Fiction (There will be waiting lists for some of these.)  Take a look at some of the latest additions to our New and Featured Fiction collections! We check in new books nearly every day — check out the First Floor’s LibraryThing account where we log all of our newest arrivals!
  • Nonfiction Additional sub-lists of favorite subjects and genres.
Finally, if you’re skeptical of the tools used (and assembled) by the hoi-polloi, then we can always direct you to the New York Times Best Seller List – all 23 of them – from Paperback Trade Fiction all the way down to Political Books.

So stay tuned, keep coming back to our pages, or call us at 412 622-3114 and ask about the 2012 Winter Read-a-Thon.



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Tomorrow is the twelfth anniversary of my first day at this fine institution. In honor of that glorious occasion, here are twelve twelve-related items from my department!

  • 12 – Ah, we start with a depressing foreign film. This one looks like a Russian version of 12 Angry Men, which is of course also on this list.   
  • 12 Angry Men – See? We thought of it first. In 1956 and with Henry Fonda, no less. 
  • 12 Monkeys – Whenever I see this movie, I have to remind myself that no one in 1996 could have predicted our current cell phone technology.    

Will I last another 12 years? Will this library last another 12 years? Will Brad Pitt ever star in any movies based on Janet Evanovich books? Tune in again in 2023 to find out!

– Amy

Leave a comment on today’s post for a chance at today’s prize in the 29 Gifts giveaway.  Daily winners will be contacted by e-mail.


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Audio Libros!

Shiny and new!

 By popular demand, the Film & Audio Department now offers books on CD in Spanish. This small but growing collection features titles by authors such as Isabel Allende, Dan Brown, Malcolm Gladwell, Sue Monk Kidd, Eckhart Tolle, and more

(For some reason, I find the Spanish title of Who Moved My Cheese to be wildly entertaining. It’s ¿Quien Se Ha Llevado Mi Queso?

If you’d like to brush up on your Spanish but just can’t stand to conjugate any more verbs, check them out! 

– Amy


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Historic, Mystery, Science Fiction

If you enjoy a good audio book now and then but just don’t feel like sorting through the 1,600 (really!) or so titles that we have in stock at any given time, check out our display of historic, mystery, and science fiction titles. Each of the books on these shelves is lovingly hand chosen by yours truly, using an exactingly scientific process and a roll of cheerfully colored stickers. And here’s how I do it.


Historic – To me, historic fiction is written in the present but set in the past, where the book’s time period is almost as important to the story as the plot and the characters. For example, although Suite Francaise is set during WWII it’s not historic, because that’s when it was written (it’s just a book that no one bothered to translate right away). But these books have made it into my historic fiction section.

  • Heyday by Kurt Andersen – America, gold rush, blah blah blah. It’s really really long and I couldn’t finish it. Definitely historic, though.
  • The Teahouse Fire by Ellis Avery – You get two fires in this book, which is about an American orphan in Kyoto in the mid 1800s.
  • The Good German by Joseph Kanon – Don’t misplace your mistress, especially in Berlin, especially in 1945.

Mystery – The easiest way to find a mystery is to look for dead people, or if you’re me, look for the word “mystery” on the CD case. Those who write mysteries tend to keep writing mysteries, so if you find yourself fancying a particular detective you’ll often have many titles to choose from.

  • Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie – Highlight the text between the brackets for a spoiler. (Everyone did it.)
  • Holmes on the Range by Steve Hockensmith – You could argue that this one’s a western (due to the blatant use of cowboys) but it does say mystery right on the cover. So there you go (plus, I don’t have western stickers).
  • Maisie Dobbs by Jacqueline Winspear – Okay, this one does border on historic since it’s set in the years after WWI. The main character is a charming female private investigator and former army nurse with a tragic love life, intriguing scar, and a sporty little car. What else could you want?

Science Fiction – If there are robots, spaceships, strange planets, hot green alien babes, stuff like that – you’ve got science fiction. Stay away from dragons, though, as that puts you into fantasy territory and I don’t have any fantasy stickers either.

  • I, Robot by Isaac Asimov – I will lose a little librarian street cred here by freely admitting that I’ve never read the book, but I’ve seen the movie.
  • Dune by Frank Herbert – Okay, I’m really bad at science fiction. You’ve got me. But Scott likes Dune. So you can go talk to him about it, right?
  • Altered Carbon by Richard Morgan – This one sort of veers into mystery territory, since the main character’s a UN investigator. But he’s also doing his detecting in a) the 25th century, and b) a replacement body. That covers the sci-fi requirements nicely.

And there you have it, the three genres that I’ve managed to label. I’m still campaigning for more stickers (Vampire Porn and Manly Adventure come to mind), but that may take a while. Until that glorious stickery day, you can always ask a librarian.

– Amy

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Measuring Film & Audio

I’ve been running around with a measuring tape in one hand and a floor plan of the Film & Audio department in the other, because we’re installing new shelving and I have to make sure that everything will fit.

So for your amusement and enlightenment, here are the sizes of some of our collections (in inches).

Feature films on DVD: 736 inches. That doesn’t sound like much, does it? But you need to remember that one DVD takes up less than half an inch of shelf space. So over 1,400 DVDs? Not too shabby. Remember, you can check out five at a time for one week. And it’s free, as long as you bring them back on time.

Foreign films on DVD and VHS: 736 inches. Makes sense, as the foreign film collection is shelved on the back of our feature film racks. Did you know that we have films in 54 different languages? I didn’t even know that Dzongkha was a language until we purchased Travellers and Magicians.

Playaways: 108 inches. Playaways are checked out a lot, so I know it doesn’t look like we own that many – but trust me, we do. I’d recommend Bangkok Haunts, in which a detective of the Royal Thai Police has to deal with the ghost of his ex-lover, the FBI, and some very cranky elephants. Watch out, as it is the third in a series.

Books on cassette: 664 inches. We’re down to our last stalwarts, the sturdy and most popular titles. Our copy of Poirot’s Early Cases (one of my favorites) has been checked out 65 times! And while I prefer Monsieur Hercule Poirot and his little grey cells, we do have plenty of that wacky Miss Jane Marple, if you’d rather.

Nonfiction books on CD: 704 inches. We have more nonfiction books on CD than we have books on cassette! I just finished Lucia: a Venetian Life in the Age of Napoleon and learned a lot about gondola parking.

Lecture series: 1,080 inches. This section is a combination of all formats and is full of thrilling (or dull, depending on your tastes) Teaching Company and Modern Scholar sets. I’m big on the European history, myself.

Family listening: 90 inches. Books on CD that the whole family can enjoy (or at least tolerate). It’s a small but growing collection filled with things like Wintersmith and The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big, Round Things. How can you go wrong with a title like that?

So there you have it. 4,118 inches (over 343 feet) of audiovisual love, from us to you (and that’s probably less than a quarter of the entire collection). How do you think we measure up?

– Amy

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Brothels, Goats, and Napoleon

Now that I’ve got your attention, let me tell you about the nonfiction books on CD that I’ve been enjoying lately.

Sin in the Second City: Madams, Ministers, Playboys, and the Battle for America’s Soul, by Karen Abbot.

Welcome to the Everleigh Club, Gilded Age Chicago’s swankiest and priciest brothel. Learn all about the founding sisters and their invented past, the political bosses of Chicago, the best ways to drive puritanical reformers from your doorstep, the origin of drinking champagne from a shoe, and highly inappropriate parlor tricks that involve gold dollar coins.

book jacket

Charlatan: America’s Most Dangerous Huckster, the Man Who Pursued Him, and the Age of Flimflam, by Pope Brock.

Follow the path of “Doctor” John R. Brinkley as he rises from poor backwoods medicine show performer to multimillionaire “surgeon,” radio station owner, and Kansas gubernatorial candidate. Along the way you’ll learn about the invention of the sound truck, fly-by-night medical schools with unlikely degree requirements, the history of the American Medical Association, Mexican “border blaster” radio stations, and some uncomfortable and unlikely uses for goats.

book jacket

Mirage: Napoleon’s Scientists and the Unveiling of Egypt, by Nina Burleigh.

In 1798, Napoleon Bonaparte and a crew of soldiers, sailors, scientists, artists, and students set out on a three year voyage of exploration and conquest down the Nile river. They lost almost all of their supplies the week they arrived in Egypt, were repeatedly attacked by foreign enemies, wild dogs, and infectious diseases, and managed to offend almost everyone they met. On the other hand, they discovered the Rosetta stone, accurately measured the great pyramids, and produced a 20+ volume survey of Egypt complete with maps, paintings, drawings, and essays about everything they saw. Not as overtly wacky as the other two books, though it does feature some lively ostrich chasing.


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