Tag Archives: MA

A Year in Review

And what a year it has been!  While advocacy was a major theme for the Library this year (and that will continue in 2010!), we also managed to have a great big celebration of summer reading, open a new Allegheny branch, and spend more time in the news than ever before.

Of course, each member of the Eleventh Stack team has been sharing their thoughts, ideas and suggestions with you all year long. We thought we’d take this opportunity to bring you highlights from the Library trenches, where we’ve been discovering new books, DVDs, CDs, online resources, or simply learning something new each day.  Come join us anytime!

Kaarin:  Highlights for me this year were new “My Account” features, Reading History and Wish Lists.  I can now keep track of everything I’ve borrowed and everything I want to borrow without having to keep separate lists!  I was thrilled to discover new ways to find good books to read using librarything and goodreads.  And finally, I thoroughly enjoyed two novels I can recommend, The Shack, by William P. Young, and The Help, by Kathryn Stockett.

Leigh Anne:  Every December a book sneaks up on me, completely undermining my sedate recap of a literary year with its sheer brilliance.  This year’s book is The Hunger Games, which wraps pointed questions about social and political justice in the guise of a well-written dystopian fantasy novel.  The Hunger Games pits Katniss Everdeen against other teenagers from the various districts of Panem in a televised fight to the death that’s akin, plot-wise,  to both Battle Royale and the Stephen King novellas The Long Walk and The Running Man.  Get your hands on a copy, absorb the brilliance, and then get back in line, immediately for the sequel, Catching Fire.  I promise that, at the very least, you’ll have had some second thoughts about the excesses and inequities of American culture.

Other highlights of the year include a new countywide subscription to Mango Languages and Pittsburgh’s return to the ranks of America’s most literate cities.  The best thing that happens at the library all year, though, happens every day:  I get the privilege of helping you with your information needs, always learning something from you in the bargain.  It’s only going to get better and more interesting in 2010, dear readers, so fasten your seatbelts…

MA: The year for me has been exhilarating in the terms of literature.  I’ve stumbled across books that have, as Leigh Anne once said, presented me with book serendipity.  A few titles from the list:

Traveling with Pomegranates– a wonderful mother-daughter memoir detailing their growth and understanding with each other over a course of drastic change in both their lives. 

The Time Traveler’s Wife:  Niffenegger takes you through a world of almost science fiction proportions, but not overtly so.  The book encompasses the beauty and the despair that love brings to the lives of two people.  A true pleasure to read.

Bright Lights, Big Ass:  A hilarious memoir (one of the many!) by Jen Lancaster, ex sorority girl extraordinaire!  Written with a zest that not many authors can pull off, she takes you through her days so honestly that you can’t help but feel charmed by it. 

Wes: This year I was extremely pleased with the success of our newly created Black Holes, Beakers, and Books science book club. The book club had some great discussions about science, and a few of them were joined by the authors of the books we were reading, including Ann Gibbons, Lee Gutkind, and Marvin Minsky. Stay tuned for even more from Black Holes in 2010!

Lisa: 2009 can be easily summed up for me with this one book, Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone. It’s been my go-to cooking guide, impressed many, and has greatly enhanced what’s for dinner!

Bonnie: My favorite reads of 2009:

American Nomads by Richard Grant: Grant is my favorite writer right now.  This gem recounts the history of nomadism in America—beginning with Indians, conquistadors, and then on to truck drivers, mountain men, hobos, cowboys  and bull-riders.  Grant is a nomad himself, and writes about the tension between the “sedentary” and people on the move—read this when you’re in the mood for an adventure.

First Blood by David Morrell: This was a big surprise—I had no idea Rambo was based on a book—and I was totally blown away by it.  Literally!

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins: This teen novel helped to alleviate my blood thirst caused by reading First Blood.  It’s chock-full full of edge-of-your seat, heart-pounding gloriousness.  If you read it, you will want to give me five dollars for suggesting it.  But I will turn it down.

Wishing you the best in 2010.


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Anyone for the Zoo?

01_29_54-elephant_webWith all the warm weather we have been having  in the past week or so, I got the child-like desire to rush off to the Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium to see the animals awaken from their winter slumber. While on my journey, I noticed that we have some of the most fascinating animals residing at the zoo, many of which I knew little about. So I searched at the library and found some very informative books. Here are some of my favorites:

Sea Horses and Sea Dragons

Although this is  a children’s book, it is very informative about one of the zoo’s most exotic creatures – the sea dragon. While there are few books about sea dragons themselves, you can find plenty of information by researching sea horses, since they are members of the sea horse family.

Sea Otters

There isn’t a shortage of books written about these lovable sea mammals! In this particular book, John Love offers a wonderful introduction to the behavioral patterns of the sea otter along with an excellent outline of the trials and tribulations they face in the future.

The Elephant’s Secret Sense: The Hidden Life of the Wild Herds of Africa

The Pittsburgh Zoo is practically littered with elephants these days, which makes knowing so little about them almost  criminal! In this book, Caitlin O’Connell paints a detailed picture of elephant behavioral patterns in the wild. Also, she introduces a unique theory about the communication patterns of elephants.

Track of the Tiger: Legend and Lore of the Great Cat

Tigers, much like sea otters, have a plethora of books written about them. This particular book, however, stood out. Maurice Hornocker provides the reader a collection of essays written by a variety of  tiger lovers who describe their adoration of and  personal encounters with these  magnificent cats. Each provides a new insight to their behavior as well as the need for heightened conservation.

Komodo, the Living Dragon

The Komodo Dragon at the Pittsburgh Zoo, or No Name, is one of the more fascinating characters housed between the Asian Forest and the African Safari in warmer weather. Like the Sea Dragon, there was little I could find about the animal aside from a children’s book. Then, I stumbled across Richard Lutz’s Komodo, the Living Dragon in the Non-Fiction section and found it to be an incredible read. Not only is the nature of the Komodo Dragon described, but also their unique habitat. A great mix of travelogue with excellent insight.

Other great general books about zoos:

We Bought A Zoo by Benjamin Mee:  This is a fascinating read for anyone who ever fantasized about having  a zoo filled with exotic animals! Giving excellent insight into the financial, geographical and physical hurdles that come with undertaking such a task, Mee opens your eyes to the reality of being a zoo owner.  

And for anyone curious about the history of the zoo:

Zoo: A History of Zoological Gardens in the West


The Pittsburgh Zoo: A 100-Year History:  Probably one of the more nostalgic reads that has passed through my “to read” pile, this book is great for anyone who has been a longtime zoo goer and would like to see just how much it has changed over the years. 

Happy discoveries!


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It’s All Greek To Me


 γεία σας !  Welcome in advance, to the wonderful world of the Greek language!  As the cliché goes,  ‘it’s all Greek to me’, and in this instance, yes, yes it is. Oh, where is my spirit?!  ναι, ναι είναι. 

Greek is one of my favorite languages, aside from Romanian and Polish.  It was never originally on my list of languages to learn.  Instead, it was more of a chance that life threw at me, which I eagerly accepted.  I know the script looks a bit terrifying, and can be a put off from the beginning, but really it isn’t as hard as it looks!  (if you’re curious, those of you who have Facebook, go under settings and change the language to Greek for a couple of minutes to see what I mean.)  I’m sure you’re asking  ‘What does it  mean?’ or  ‘How do you even  read or say it?’  And of course, you can have the reaction that my four year old niece did: “Is that alien language??”  Ah kids…

Please don’t be terrified by the fun script that you see.  Greek is actually a fairly easy language to catch onto.  Of course there are many- countless- books on ‘how to’ learn the lovely language of Greece.  Some of my favorites are the Teach Yourself Series, we have several  for Greek.:

Teach Yourself Instant Greek

Teach Yourself Conversational Greek

Teach Yourself Beginner’s Greek

Are you curious? Have I whetted your appetite just a smidgen?  Aside from a book and taking very expensive college classes, how would one ever learn Greek?  Ah, the library, it has a solution for such troubles.  One of the things that I really REALLY love about the library is  that you can come to one of our fun free educational  programs to learn new, fascinating things!  So here is the solution to your Greek curiosities:  Here at Main I will be teaching a program about the Greek Language called The Greek Language Club  which starts on Monday, March 9th at 4:30 pm in Classroom A.  This club is for beginners to learn the basics of Greek.  You will learn the script, greetings, counting, talking about yourself and basic conversation, learn to  play cards and even discuss food!  I promise it will be far from a boring ordinary language instructions course!  Simon says and poker in Greek, who could resist?!    If you are interested in attending, please register:  here, however, if you decide on a whim that you would like to come, you can register anytime when you come to the program!

I encourage everyone to come and learn the lively language of Greece. I promise that it will be a wonderful adventure for all of us!  And of course, as always, if you are coming because you learned about it from the Eleventh Stack Blog– let me know because brownie points are yours!!!!!! 

θα σε δω σύντομα!!!

MA ^_^

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Romania Anyone?


“Your passport is the greatest thing you own.  It is your key to the world.”

                                                                                                          –EB, 2003

 I remember when I first got my USA passport back in 2003.  It was a period of great excitement in my life.  I was just finishing my first year of college and was preparing for my first trip abroad to Romania.  I got many stares as I happily showed off my passport and talked about my upcoming trip.  A few people gave me a blank stare, the kind that makes you think you have a third eye protruding from your forehead; “Where?” they would ask, almost like I spoke an off-the-wall language to them.   I was amazed, in fact, how many people there were that didn’t know where Romania was.  I’m sure some of our dear readers may be a bit confused themselves.  Well, fear not!  I’m about to satisfy your curiosity…

Many of you  have heard of Romania, a part of it anyways, and just don’t know it.  Transylvania, anyone?  The supposed residence of Bram Stoker’s Dracula…AHA!  So that’s Romania?  Well no, it’s only a part, and for a good portion of history a hotly disputed part of Romania, but a part none the less.  Historically speaking, Romania consisted of three parts, Dacia, Transylvania and Dobrodjea. I won’t get into great detail about all of this because we will be here for months if I did, but this is just a little bit of extra info for those ‘need something to talk about’ party moments.

Back to Dracula, who was in fact a real person and was, indeed, from Transylvania.  Stoker did his research…somewhat.  Firstly, Dracula  was no vampire.  Sad, I know, my vampire lovers, but he was actually a voivode, a prince of the country more commonly known as Vlad Tepes, or The Impaler, a name given to him by his enemies due to his favorite method of execution.  Now, even though he wasn’t a vampire, if you went to Bran Castle, the ‘supposed’ castle of Vlad (it’s not, of course, but hey, tourists seem to buy it…) they have what I have fondly dubbed as ‘vampire ville’ for all the crazy little bric-a-brac that you can purchase of the vampiric persuasion.   If you want to read more about Vlad, which I recommend you do, it’s fascinating stuff, I strongly urge you to read both Dracula, Prince of Many Faces by Radu R. Florescu, as well as In Search of Dracula: The History of Dracula and Vampires.   Both books, written by a famous Romanian historian, really dive into the intriguing tale of Vlad.

Please, don’t go and think that Vlad is the only interesting thing to come out of Romania.  He’s by far just a tip of a giant iceberg of fascinating people.  Have any of you read the dynamic works of Mircea Eliade (1907-1986)?  I’m sure many of you had- I should know, I see the holds and send them to all you lovely people!  Eliade is probably one of the most famous  writers around the globe due to his groundbreaking research in the field of religious studies. Many actually argue that his work had led to the development of the field known as ‘religious studies’ today.  If you’d like a taste of Eliade I would recommend The Sacred and the Profane as well as one of his many works of fiction, my favorite being  Two Strange Tales (Nopti la Serampore).

Two last famous Romanians, probably my favorites, are Mihai Eminescu (1850-1889), Romania’s national poet, and Queen Marie of Romania (1875-1938).  Eminescu is probably the most quoted Romanian due to his brilliant insights into the world around him. Let me give you a taste: 

I have yet one desire:

in the quiet of the night.

Allow me to expire

Within the sea’s sight;

To have a peaceful sleep

With the forest near,

Above, a sky so clear

Over calm waters, deep.

I want no coffin rich,

A bed for me just stitch,

With branches young bind tight.

Sadly, the library only has one book on my beloved Mihai, so I strongly urge you to check it out quickly- The Last Romantic: Mihai Eminescu, by Roy MacGregor-Haiste. 

Lastly, I encourage all of you who are interested to read the works of Queen Marie of Romania entitled Ordeal: The Story of My Life in Two Volumes.  She is beyond words, and I mean that quite literally.  I accidentally came across her during my last year of college, finding her books at the small corner of my college library.  Her memoir strikes heart chords and drags you into a world that is lost to most modern readers.  I encourage anyone with the time to check out her books.

Are any of you dying to know more about Romania?  Do you want to know where the real castle Dracula is located?  Would you like to learn about an awesome Romanian rock band?  Or what about the culture, the food, the art, the people?  Come now, I know you are!  And I have just the place for you to find out, at the Library’s own Armchair Travels!  On Saturday January 3rd at 3 (in the Large Print Room, per usual) I will be talking, excitedly and with much glee, about my trip to Romania as well as any other little factoid  that you’re dying to know about!  (And the readers who come and say ‘buna’ to me will get a special surprise for being such awesome blog readers!)

I do realize that is a long ways off, so until Saturday rolls around, how about curling up on the couch with a nice Romanian movie?  I suggest either  12:08 East of Bucharest (A Fost Sau n-a Fost?) or The Way I Spent the End of the World (Cum Mi-am Petrecut Sfarsitul Lumii).  Both are excellent films! 

Have a wonderful New Year everyone!

MA :) 

PS- Quick Romanian Phrases for fun!

Buna Ziua – Good day (Buna- Hi)

Multumesc – Thank you

Bine – Good

Ce Mai Facei? – How are you?

La revedere – Good bye


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The Dark Knight

“I dont want to kill you.  You complete me.” -Heath Ledger’s the Joker, The Dark Knight

This quote was perhaps my favorite from the movie.  It stuck in my head for hours after I watched the thrilling Dark Knight in July.  Hearing someone say that ‘you complete them,’ you imagine it coming from a lover.  Lovers complement each other in every way, bringing about a continuity of bliss.   Batman and the Joker in the newly released film The Dark Knight  are far from a pair of bright-eyed lovers, and yet the Joker, in all his insanity, speaks an interesting truth.  Batman and the Joker, though not lovers, have a relationship that would not exist without either one of them.

The strong sense of order and chaos is blatant in Christopher Nolan’s latest Batman film.  Batman, our penitent hero, represents the good and orderly in Gotham.   Our caped crusader, despite his own tortured nature, continues to do good and struggles within himself to not stray from that mindset and become the exact opposite of himself, his own personal demon, brought to life through the Joker. 

The Joker, on the other hand, is a sadistic, pleasant and cheerful little bugger.  He has no moral qualms, or any qualms really, about any action that he undertakes.  The chase is most appealling to him, and the chaotic nature of it all (that may in fact make no sense to anyone else) always finds a place in his own demented world.

This is, of course, but a taste of the many philosophical ideas that come from the world of the Batman.   Undoubtedly you’ll want to learn more.  Who wouldn’t?? In that case allow us, your friendly neighborhood library, to point you in the right direction.

First I recommend, for the academic at heart, Batman and Philosophy: The Dark Knight of the Soul, which is a wonderful collection of essays written by modern-day philosophers.  The essays center around the world presented through the comics, and not just the movies.

If that doesn’t quench your thirst and you’re dying to know more, I recommend some of my personal favorites:

  • The Essential Batman Encyclopediaprovides an excellent reference for any reader who lacks the time to read the large collection of Batman graphic novels available at CLP.
  • The DC Comics Encyclopedia is also an excellent reference book for those of us whose lives run on the New York minute.
  • Showcase Presents Batmanis a collection of Batman comics, and we have it at CLP in two volumes!  If you don’t have the time or the money to hunt down all the old comics, this is the book for you!
  • Batman: The Killing Joke is a newer graphic novel that I found by chance in the library.  It has some of the best artwork that I’ve seen to date!
  • Batman Cover to Cover This one isn’t a graphic novel, but it is an excellent collection of the best comic covers throughout the ages.

Finally, to truly understand the troubled and tormented relationship between Batman and the Joker, I suggest you check out my personal favorite, Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns.

On top of all this we have dozens of Batman graphic novels at the library.  Simply search our network, or come on in for a nice cup of joe while you meander our graphic novels section.

In the meantime, enjoy the release of the latest Batman feature in the comfort of your own home with a delicious bowl of popcorn!!!


Marianne, a/k/a MA, is the newest member of the Eleventh Stack blog team.  This is her first post.


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