Julie Dina: Welcome to Library Matters, a podcast at the Montgomery County Public Library. I’m your host, Julie Dina. Everyone wants a friend and I’m glad to say Montgomery County Public Library has a friend with the Friends of the Library, Montgomery County chapter.
Today on the program, we have Ari Brooks, Executive Director, and Lance Salins, Business Manager of the Friends of the Library, Montgomery County chapter, FOLMC. Welcome guys.
Ari Brooks: Thank you.
Lance Salins: Yeah, thank you for having us.
Julie Dina: So let’s start of if you can let the listeners know what exactly is FOLMC?
Ari Brooks: We are a group of dedicated residents of Montgomery County who believe very strongly in the value of the library system and came together back in 1983 to make a good library system, a great library system.
FOLMC is first of all a parent organization, Friends of the Library Montgomery County to 17 chapters of Friends of the Library. So at the 21 branches here at MCPL, 17 of those branches have chapters that report under our parent organization.
Julie Dina: What would you say is the difference between the FOLMC and the Friends of each individual chapter?
Ari Brooks: Well, the major difference is that FOLMC, the parent organization works with the public library system to provide enhanced programs or services throughout the entire system. So we for example helped pilot a lot of the new materials in libraries that really didn’t exist back in the ‘80s or even in the ‘90s.
So we piloted the VHS tapes as a new media. So we purchased, I think it was $60,000 that we put into the collections budget. And then when DVDs replaced the VHS tapes, we purchased DVDs for the collections. We piloted CDs, musical CDs, to help the system to determine whether or not people would go to the library and check out other materials, you know, other than books or magazines, your traditional materials.
So those were the kinds of things that we provide, again, enhanced programs, services, and materials that are going to impact the entire library community. Another example of that is the fact that we piloted the first session management software found in MCPL. So remember a very long time ago when the computers were first introduced to libraries, volunteers and library staff actually cued the lines.
And then software was developed to allow you to enter your library card number to be able to use the computer for a certain amount of time. Well, we piloted that software first at the Long Branch Library. And then the library director came back and wanted to pilot another version of that. We purchased that. Again, it was piloted at the Long Branch, branch and at Gaithersburg because those were two branches that had traditionally the highest computer use, public computer use.
And so, again, we are in the position that we can help the system by funding things that will benefit the entire library community. Whereas the local chapters really work hand in hand with their branch mangers to look at what the unique needs are of their community and how they can fund programming that is very specific to their community needs.
So you might find more Chinese Lunar New Year programs at one branch because of a certain, you know, demographics or you might find more children’s programming at one branch or more programming for older adults at another branch. Again, based on demographics and based on what the branch manager says the community really needs. So that is the major differences. We’re looking at the system as a whole whereas the chapters are really focused on their branches in their communities.
Julie Dina: So tell us about your work with the FOLMC? Exactly, what would you say your role is in the whole thing?
Ari Brooks: Sure. Well, I’ve been the executive director for almost 15 years now.
Julie Dina: Wow.
Ari Brooks: I know.
Julie Dina: Did you start when you were five?
Ari Brooks: Basically, six.
Julie Dina: Six?
Ari Brooks: Six and a half. And so my role is to oversee the organization to make sure that the mission and vision as it has been carved out by the Board of Trustees is carried out. And we do that through a strategic plan to make sure that community needs are being met and that the residents of this county needs are being met through our support of public libraries.
So I get to work very closely with Lance who oversees the bookstore, so a big part of what I do is support him in his role. We do have a development staff that does your traditional fundraising. We’re a membership organization, so we recruit people to become members of Friends of the Library. We do receive grants. So there is a lot of very traditional fund raising that goes on as well. So I oversee all of those activities and the administrative functions as well. It doesn’t sound very exciting the way I’m describing it right now, but it is my –.
Julie Dina: I’m sure it is.
Ari Brooks: – life’s passion. It is a very rewarding work to know that I am in a position to be able to support something that every single resident of Montgomery County can ultimately benefit from.
Julie Dina: Sounds good. So who then can join the Friends?
Ari Brooks: You can join the Friends. Anyone –.
Julie Dina: I can be your friends?
Lance Salins: Anyone, everyone.
Ari Brooks: Anyone can join the Friends of the Library. We’re a very welcoming group. And we want to expand our base of friends in Montgomery County because, you know, when you consider how many people have library cards, all of those people potentially should be a friend of the library.
Julie Dina: That is true.
Ari Brooks: Even if you don’t have a library card or don’t consider yourself a library person or a reader, you should still be a friend of the library.
Lance Salins: Yeah, even if you’re not a regular library user every day and I’ve met people at our stores that say that they don’t – they just buy books new. They don’t use the library. But they – it is still would benefit them to support and be a friend of their library system because it is a community wide service that we’re providing, that everyone is providing. And so, you know, if they may not use it individually, other members in their community are using it. And so it won’t impact them that way.
Ari Brooks: Yeah. And I know that library systems have been tied into things like property values and having a strong library system is really in everyone’s best interest. And, you know, you might be a book buyer today, but you might not be able to be a book buyer tomorrow.
Julie Dina: That is true.
Ari Brooks: And you want that public library there so that you can access it in the event that you might need it. I know that in – the downturn of the economy, often libraries and especially our bookstores will see an upsurge and use. And so it is very important that communities have a strong library system regardless of whether or not you consider yourself a library user. So everyone is welcome to be a friend of the library.
Julie Dina: How can they join?
Ari Brooks: Well, you can join a number of ways. In our website @folmc.org, there is membership brochure throughout the entire library system in all branches. You can call into the office at 240-777-0020. And segue into the bookstores, you can actually join at the bookstores as well.
Lance Salins: Yes, that is what I was eager to say. You can come and see us at the bookstores. We’re open approximately 359 days every year. We offer a year round. We’re open 62 hours a week and are currently have two locations. At any time that we’re open, you can come in there and purchase a membership and it gets you 10% off of all materials at our bookstores.
Julie Dina: I would think that is one incentive that everyone should join.
Ari Brooks: Definitely. Many people come to get their membership card so that they can enjoy that benefit. But that is one of many membership benefits. We do programs throughout the year. We also do an annual gala during national library weeks. So we offer discounted rates on our events as well. MCPL also produces a quarterly calendar of events, so members who receive that from FOLMC through subscription. You also would get our quarterly newsletter which highlights our organization and events that we produce. So you get first-hand information about what is happening in libraries if you’re a member.
Julie Dina: And is this the same way you generate your funding or how exactly do you acquire funding?
Ari Brooks: Well, the largest funding strain comes from the use bookstores. And so –.
Julie Dina: Yeah.
Ari Brooks: – and Lance can speak to that. But membership – like I mentioned before, we do traditional fundraisings such as grants. We’re a large organization, a large arts and humanities organization in the county, probably a medium size, arts and humanities organization in the State of Maryland. So we are a large grantee through the Arts and Humanities Council. So we do received grants. So we also receive foundation support, so the Family Foundations. But definitely, the largest chunk of our funding comes from the – to use bookstores that we currently operate.
Male Speaker: And now, a brief message about MCPL Services and Resources.
Female Speaker: Flipster, what in the world is Flipster? Is it a new word game or gymnastics move? No, it is a great way to read your favorite magazines absolutely free. You’ll find entertainment magazines like “People,” news magazines like, “Time,” financial, children’s, fitness, and lots more. You can read the magazines in your browser or download the Flipster app and read them offline. You can find the link to Flipster and our other e-magazine resources in this episode’s show notes.
Male Speaker: Now, back to our program.
Julie Dina: And talking about bookstores, can you tell us something about your wonderful bookstore, Lance?
Lance Salins: I will tell you something, I can tell you anything and everything. It is really – I love the bookstores. That is how I was drawn into the organization. A family member of mine took me to the bookstore, they were like, “You should come and check out this bookstore, the prices are really good.” I went in. And the first time I was over there I spent two hours just wandering around. And it is in four weeks expanded our Rockville location.
I just was in awe looking at the shelves up and down. It is so affordable. You know, I was just not so long out of college at that point and so on a tight book budget. But every thing was just so – it was just amazing, the opportunity for a book lover to just create your own library, we are just immense. And so I just spend so much time wandering around. So I immediately signed up on the website to volunteer. And the bookstore manager at that time, he is still the bookstore manager at Rockville, got in touch with me. And so that was a little over years ago I started as volunteer. And I sort of worked my way to the position I’m in now.
But our bookstores, as I said earlier, they are open 62 hours a week to the public. We take donations from the public during our normal hours. And that is how we operate entirely is on donations from the public. And it is amazing. I am amazed every day at the quality of materials that we get. This is a wonderfully diverse area in terms of cultures and educations and backgrounds and interests. And we see that in our donations in the wonderful assortment of things that we get.
And we’ve grown a solid group of regulars that come from pretty much up and down the east coast to visit us because they know that we just get such an amazing panoply of things that they – and we get thousands of books donated to us every day. We sell thousands of books every day. The turn around is incredibly quick. We can sell a book within 10 minutes of it coming in, because someone drops it off and then we price it and someone else walks in the door and that is the book they have been looking for, for years. And so we see, you know, the confluence like that and it is really fun to see the books really enriching people’s lives like that.
Julie Dina: And it is funny you mentioned how you get an array of books daily. I actually read, I think it was in Montgomery County Media, about a book that the FOL bookstores recently sold for a significant amount of money. Can you tell us a little about that?
Lance Salins: Sure. That would the signed copy of Ernest Hemingway’s “A Farewell to Arms.” It was a limited edition that he did before publication. I think it was in 1929. And he was pretty young at that point. I think he was only 30. And so he signed. I believe it was 500 or 510 of these. It is fairly well-known book among book collectors.
And so a few years ago, one night a staff member was going through a box of books and he called me and I came over. And when I looked at him, he was very pale. He was like almost shaking a little bit. And I walked over and he said he just had the book in his hand, and he said, “Is this real?” And I looked at it. And I went, “Oh my.” And so I said, “Well, let’s find out.” We did a little research and then indeed it was real signed. He was holding and I was holding a book that Ernest Hemingway had once held and singed. It was number of 382 of 510 copies.
And it came in a Baileys Irish cream box, liquor box. Somebody had just dropped it off. Clearly, they had no idea what they had and what they were dropping off, but we were very grateful to receive it. We’re not even sure to this day who donated it. I suspect that it was in somebody’s garage or someone’s attic, you know, just a book that some of their family members have had. And it winded its way to us and we were delighted to receive it. And we were able to broker a sale and we sold it for $6,000 to a private collector in Oregon.
Julie Dina: Wow, all the way in Oregon.
Lance Salins: Yes. We had a listing online for it. It was online for a number of months. And we were finally able to find the right buyer for it.
Julie Dina: So would – can we then say that is true friend indeed.
Lance Salins: Absolutely. I would say, definitely a supporter of libraries, lover of libraries. And then as this the person who brought it in seemingly without realizing it, they just said, “Oh, I got this old box of books in my garage or my attic.” And they just dropped it off not knowing that there was $6,000 check in the box that we were able to convert it into that. But that is what we are relying on every day. And that is why I’m always very excited and eager to greet our donors when they show up, because often times they’ll be in the midst of something they’re moving. They’re downsizing. They’re dealing with an estate or their kids going off to college or any number of different life circumstances could lead someone to having to just get rid of stuff.
And so when they show up, and they usually like, “How does this work? Where do we drop it off?” And I’m just happy to say, “If you got books, we’d love to help you. We can bring them in. Thank you for bringing them to us.” They may not realize what they have, but that is our life blood, is those donors’ books. And as Ari said, it is – our biggest fundraising mechanism is our bookstores. It is our biggest face to the community. And we would not be there without the community every day being willing to donate to us, to shop with us. And really, it is a wonderful thing to see.
Julie Dina: And how often does this rare opportunity occur?
Lance Salins: You mean a collectible like that?
Julie Dina: Yes.
Lance Salins: I would say on a monthly basis, we get some very valuable books in. I just wrote in our quarterly newsletter which our members receive directly via the mail about a book of Picasso’s lithographs that is worth a few thousand dollars for original lithographs were produced for this book. I believe it is called "Toreros". And Picasso did those, I believe it was published 1961. And, again, I just found that going through an ordinary box of donations. And another one that we found was –.
Ari Brooker: The Andy Warhol.
Lance Salins: The Andy Warhol. Yes, thank you. We had a book that was doubly signed by Andy Warhol, once on the cover, the dust jacket of the book and on the title pages as well. And it is a beautiful book Andy Warhol’s exposure. It is a book compilation of his photos of his celebrity friends. I believe it dates from a book signing that he did in the 1970s in Downtown, DC. So it is two legitimate signatures by Andy Warhol who was just an icon of the Pop Art Movement.
So, on a monthly basis we get very valuable books like this. We’ve had signed – book signed by Langston Hughes. I think we’re up to nine different presidents that we’ve had book signed by that we’ve sold. I found three books signed by Richard Nixon just this week and a book signed by George Bush.
Ari Brooks: And presidential candidates.
Lance Salins: Presidential candidates as well, Bernie Sanders –.
Julie Dina: Wow.
Lance Salins: – Elizabeth Warren, anybody you can think of. We live in such a diverse area here. There are so many different luminaries in different fields. We get donations from lawyers, ambassadors, doctors, teachers –.
Ari Brooks: Senators.
Lance Salins: – senators, yes. They all, well, you know, a lot of them live in this area. And so if they have libraries or offices that they need to clear out they’ll say, “Well, we’ll just, you know, give it to a good cause, give it to the library.” They’ll bring it to us and we’re very grateful because they’re handing over sometimes treasures that we’re able to convert into funding for the entire library system, so.
Ari Brooks: And that is a testament, the ability to identify these books is a strong testament to the training that Lance provides to the managers and to our staff because we take very seriously our job to turn these books and these materials into moneys –.
Julie Dina: Yes.
Ari Brooks: – that we can then put back into the public library system. At the end of the day, that is what our purpose is, that is what our mission is, is to fundraise for the enhancement of Montgomery County Public Libraries.
Lance Salins: Yeah. And me and Ari talked about that a lot and I do with our bookstore staff. And we do have – a lot of people don’t realize, we do not pay professional trained staff that are evaluating these books at both book stores year around. It is not – we do have volunteers who are very grateful for their help, but we have paid staffs that are handling the money and handling these very valuable materials because as Ari said, we have a duty to the library system to make sure that it is carried out in the best way as possible in the best responsible manner.
Ari Brooks: Yeah, to extract value from them so that we fund these items that can benefit the entire Montgomery County Community.
Lance Salins: Yeah. And it is really a public trust from all those donors that stream to the store. They are trusting us to extract that value to benefit their libraries. When they drop off that box of books, eventually in their mind they’re thinking this is going to benefit the library. This is going to put a book in a child’s hand. This is going to provide better technology for library staff to serve the entire county.
Julie Dina: So this is big stuff we’re talking about here.
Lance Salins: It really is, yeah. We get – it gets lost some time in the day to day but really, we’re working to help strengthen and just make a better system for all of us, including ourselves. You know, we’re part of this community, too, so that is – I think I know that is why I love it and I think that is why Ari loves it as well is that we’re trying to make a difference and make a better system.
Julie Dina: And you guys are.
Ari Brooks: Thanks.
Lance Salins: Thank you.
Ari Brooks: And I think – and just to clarify Lance’s comment, it gets lost, I think, and not an – and we’re very clear about what our mission is.
Lance Salins: Oh, absolutely.
Ari Brooks: But it gets lost in the public when they see all these books coming in and the volume that comes in and goes out. It gets lost in the translation for other people who assume those books were given to us for a different reason. And so we’re very clear about what our stated purpose and mission is and why we’re doing what we’re doing and how we’re benefiting the community.
Julie Dina: And for our listeners who are now hearing you mention all these treasurable books, don’t be surprised if tomorrow you get tons of people come into the bookstore.
Ari Brooks: We love that.
Lance Salins: We welcome it.
Ari Brooks: Yes.
Lance Salins: That is our stated goal at the bookstores, is to be placed in Montgomery County where people can donate their books that they longer need and where they can purchase books for any and all purposes. We have a broad range of books. We take books in every subject, every language as long as it is in good condition we will accept it and we have customers from all over the world who buy for a number of reasons, including the philanthropic reasons.
Ari Brooks: Yeah. And so people can really responsibly donate to us. You know, if it is in sellable condition we will find a home for it. And then we have a variety of other ways that we responsibly handle the materials, including helping, you know, set designers with their sets. I think two years ago, books from our bookstore were actually featured in the White House Christmas display.
Lance Salins: Yeah, they were. They were crafted, absolutely a set designer for that – I believe that – I believe the first lady was working with to decorate the White House. She stopped by the – from a design agency and she spent a few hours buying books that they eventually turned into a tree of books. They arranged it in layers such that it resembled the traditional Christmas tree that was made entirely out of books.
Ari Brooks: Books that we – that couldn’t be sold because they were in a condition where you couldn’t read them at that point.
Lance Salins: Yeah.
Julie Dina: But it was still use –.
Lance Salins: She did, yeah.
Ari Brooks: You could still use like that – maybe like the cover of them.
Lance Salins: And she did buy them. We were able to sell them for that purpose. So if there is a book that we know – you normally wouldn’t put on a shelf because it may not be seem readable to the average consumer, we will make every effort we can to repurpose that book and give it, not only to raise funds by selling it, but also to keep it out of the waste stream, to give another purpose. We have people buy books to turn into clocks.
Ari Brooks: Purses.
Lance Salins: Purses, all sorts of different crafts. They’ll show up every month. They may go have a blank journal. I have had different –.
Ari Brooks: Art teachers –.
Lance Salins: Art teachers coming in.
Ari Brooks: – contacted us to work to have materials again that are not in sellable condition. Clearly, you know, there is pages torn out of them or –.
Lance Salins: Or see discs, compact discs or DVDs that are heavily scratched and won’t play. Even those, we have our teachers that work with the school system or home schoolers that will use them for arts, arts and crafts and collaging and repurposing. So that is part of our effort to be environmental stewards and to make sure that we are doing everything we can to lessen the landfill stream.
Ari Brooks: To lessen – to decrease our footprint.
Lance Salins: Absolutely.
Ari Brooks: Yeah. And so, you know, every book hopefully will have a home.
Lance Salins: Yes.
Ari Brooks: But then there are books that – and I’m sure your listening audience might want to know what does happen to books that are soiled beyond repair. And, you know, working in the used book business is a dirty business. And so we unfortunately do get books that are just completely beyond repair or books that would be at –.
Lance Salins: Beyond recognition. They’ll be soiled contaminated and this is where – but it does come with the territory and we’re prepared to handle that.
Ari Brooks: It could be hazardous if they were redistributed to the community at one point when we were also physically located in the lower level of the Wheaton branch. We have to not only protect our collection but the libraries collection above. And so if things with, you know, visibly molded, we do work. We have worked with Montgomery County solid waste division to train our staff on how to properly dispose of items that could be hazard to us, to our customers, and to library patrons.
Lance Salins: Yeah, absolutely. We work with them to train them – our staff on recycling the best practices just to make sure. There are such things as paper viruses that they will get into the paper and they can spread throughout collections. That is what Ari was mentioning about protecting not only our own collections but anybody that were collocated with, which we were at one point in the Wheaton branch. But that is all just part of our general management.
Ari Brooks: And we’re also, you know, very sensitive to help other communities want to handle their discarded books. So we work with – we have a volunteer who works with a rabbi –.
Lance Salins: Yes.
Ari Brooks: – to dispose of Judaica.
Lance Salins: Yeah. There is a certain way, listeners may not know, but there is a certain way that books in the Jewish faith need to be disposed off when they’re no longer readable. And so we do have volunteer that it is a member of a synagogue and he works with the rabbinic leadership there to make sure that those materials are properly disposed off in accordance with their cultural traditions.
Ari Brooks: So at the end of the day we’re book lovers.
Julie Dina: Yes.
Ari Brooks: We love books.
Lance Salins: From beginning to end.
Ari Brooks: From beginning to end and, you know, we definitely take very seriously our purpose to recycle these books and to repurpose them so that, again, that we can fulfill our ultimate mission, which is to use these funds to go back into the public library system.
Lance Salins: Yeah. We’ve sort of become – because our bookstores have grown so much, a lot of people don't realized we become a major recycling and repurposing resource in the county just because people come to us so much with these goods that they no longer need and they want for a greater cause that on our end we have taken these measures to be stewards of the environment and to make sure that we’re handling all the material, this great influx of material that we’re handling it properly.
Julie Dina: So that is plenty. You guys actually have – other than selling books you actually have this big operation. You have lots of stuff going on behind the scenes just to have everything going.
Lance Salins: Oh, absolutely. Yeah, we do. And we only had books. We had already form book imaginable. We have comic books.
Ari Brooks: We have vinyl records.
Lance Salins: Vinyl records, compact discs, CDs. Sometimes they buy the CDs cheaper than to download the album because we sell our CDs usually for $2 each and usually on online it can be $10.
Julie Dina: Don’t you have a coupon system that you –?
Lance Salins: We do.
Julie Dina: Yeah.
Lance Salins: We send that membership coupon when anybody signs up for their initial membership they’ll get a coupon. We distribute coupons at our events.
Ari Brooks: Yes.
Lance Salins: We’ve worked with schools, Montgomery County public schools, to do individualized coupons for programs that they have.
Ari Brooks: To help encourage reading and so that parents will know that there is a resource for their families to purchase affordable books, work a lot with home scholars, too, who purchased textbooks from us. I have known families who have bought textbooks from us so that their kids don’t have to take books back and forth to school.
And we also are the major funder of MCPL’s Summer Read and Learn Program. So the children and teens that participate and successfully complete that program also get a coupon as one of the many incentives that MCPL gives out to them. And we make a really big deal about that when the kids bring in their coupons and congratulate them on completing the program and, you know, making them feel really good about being readers.
Lance Salins: And vinyl actually on the upswing, vinyl records. There are people starting to release vinyl records. New bands are – were releasing new records in that format. A lot of audio files are seeking out that content, the order content because they prefer how it sounds in that format. We have a number of collectors that frequent at our stores so we’ve had a series of vinyl auctions collectible, vintage vinyl. And I believe MCPL is working on having an event next year that will focus on that community that –.
Ari Brooks: Yes.
Lance Salins: – help vinyl enthusiasts.
Ari Brooks: MCPL, FOLMC, the Levine School of Music, and Open Sky Jazz are partnering for a vinyl just for the record day.
Julie Dina: And this is sometime next year.
Ari Brooks: It is in April.
Lance Salins: Yes, still in the planning stages and we – at the bookstores we have a vinyl list people can join if they email bookstores at folmc.org and we keep people up to date on all of the vinyl collectibles because we do get vinyl – just like we get book collectibles we get vinyl collectibles. We sold records for as much as $400 individual records.
Julie Dina: That is a record?
Lance Salins: Yeah, yeah.
Julie Dina: No pun intended?
Lance Salins: But, yeah, which is exciting. We have people that shop. They’ll come by every day looking to see if we have new records.
Ari Brooks: Every single day.
Lance Salins: Oh, yes. They’re committed.
Ari Brooks: Every day there is – there are people who literally come every single day. I can remember going to the stores and seeing like the same guy. Every single time I went and go and asking –.
Lance Salins: They’ll be like, “Did I hire this person?”
Ari Brooks: Did they hire this guy, like?
Lance Salins: Yeah.
Ari Brooks: And when I see on the payroll why is he here every time I’m here and then we go – I, you know, find out that, no, he actually just comes every single day after work –.
Julie Dina: So it is not just because you’re there.
Ari Brooks: Right.
Julie Dina: It is because he is there all the time.
Lance Salins: Oh, yeah. We have committed regulars that we know by name and it is great.
Ari Brooks: That has got to really feel good.
Lance Salins: It does. We’re a regular part of their life in their community and now they’ll pull up a chair, and they’ll read, and they’ll shop, and they’ll talk, and they’ll meet other regulars, and they’ll talk, and they’ll trade book recommendations, and just talk about their book collections or their music collections and there is a lot of cross talking. That is really where we see the community aspect.
Ari Brooks: The community, yeah.
Lance Salins: And that is what we strive to be a welcoming community bookstore because we just think that it is a wonderful thing to see people enjoying books, enjoying literacy, artistic expression. It is just it is great.
Ari Brooks: And I think part of our success is that we turn the books over. When I think of used bookstores from my past, I think of the books being there, you know, the one month going back, the next month the book is still there.
Lance Salins: It is all static.
Ari Brooks: And then the book is on the floor and then the next time I go back and we actually have a constant turnover of books and are always seeking outlets to get the books into the hands of people regardless of whether they’re sold in our store or sold through other set –.
Lance Salins: Online, we sell online.
FeLance Salins: – online vendors.
Lance Salins: Where – then we’re like we sold the Hemmingway online just because it was such a rare item. The chances of having somebody walk in with $6,000 to spend –.
Julie Dina: Yes.
Ari Brooks: Right.
Lance Salins: – may not have been that high. But – so we do use online market places, but that is just to extract the greatest value and the greatest return for the library because that is our mission and that is our duty.
Ari Brooks: Right. So they aren’t sold in the store. There is another place that we will try to sell it.
Lance Salins: Oh, yeah. We’re constantly thinking of new channels and new ways that we can find homes for these materials and these books. And that is all to serve our greater mission. But it is fun and it is enjoyable to find new outlets and that is why we have these reading lists. We also have a comics list where we send out messages to comic enthusiasts to let them know we have a new batch of comics in and they flock.
I’ll go to the store the morning after I’ve sent an email to our comics list and they will be 10 people eagerly waiting inline crowding around the door because they want to get in there and start going through and looking for those comics to complete their sets or the comic from the their childhood that they’ve been looking for, for 15 years and they just can’t find it, or they can’t find it because it is, you know, a thousand dollars online and they’re hoping to find it on our store for a better price. Yeah, that is what we see.
Julie Dina: That is awesome. So we usually like to close the show off with what books are you currently reading? We’ll start with you first.
Ari Brooks: Okay. So I am finishing up "The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears" by Dinaw Mengestu, which is the big read book that we hope the entire Montgomery County will be reading with us from April to June of 2018. And I’m reading with my daughter the “Case of the Missing Lion” by Alexander McCall Smith, one of his young adult books.
Lance Salins: I am reading “The Bell Jar” by Sylvia Plath, which is amazing. I definitely recommend it. I’m only about a third of the way through, but it is very intense and I highly recommend it. I’m also reading a number of other things like I kind of tend to alternate and switch around with my books. And I also want to give a shout out with my niece. I currently – I’m reading with here, she is working her way through the Warriors series –.
Julie Dina: Yeah.
Lance Salins: – by Erin Hunter which is extremely popular.
Ari Brooks: The cats.
Lance Salins: Those cats get up to some really –.
Ari Brooks: I know.
Lance Salins: It is very –.
Ari Brooks: I’ve been there and done that with my daughters.
Julie Dina: Yeah, the cats.
Lance Salins: Yeah. Talk about intensity, oh my goodness. She was explaining to me all the intricacies of these different clans.
Ari Brooks: The clans.
Julie Dina: Yes.
Lance Salins: And all of the – just all the behind the scenes politics and backstabbing or I guess back cloying or all the different things. And it was – she would kept explaining it to me and I was just sitting there stunned because it was – it almost read like “Game of Thrones,” all the intricacies and just nine – just my nine-year-old niece is telling me all of this. I’m just like, “Wow, that is intense.” I was impressed with her grasp on all of it. So I give a shout out to the Warrior series for her.
Julie Dina: I hope you heard that, niecy [Phonetic] [0:35:48].
Lance Salins: Yes, absolutely. Or anybody that is looking for that great level, that fourth, fifth, sixth great level.
Ari Brooks: I highly recommend it.
Lance Salins: Yeah.
Ari Brooks: My older daughter went through that whole face and just gobbled those books up.
Julie Dina: Well, I’ve got to say this was very, very – a very, very nice conversation. And I have to mention that on behalf of Montgomery County staff, we want to say a very big thank you to our friends, Friends of the Library, for all the many show stopping programs you guys have been able to allow us to provide to our customers and for everything that you guys do. We really, really appreciate it. So thank you to Ari and thank you Lance for coming to the program today.
And keep the conversation going by following us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest. Don’t forget to subscribe to the podcast on the new Apple podcast app, Stitcher or wherever you get your podcast. Also, please review and rate us on Apple podcast. We’ll love to know what you think. Thank you once again for listening to our conversation today and see you next time.
Recording Date: November 29, 2017
Hosts: Julie Dina
Episode Summary: Julie Dina discusses the work of the Friends of the Library, Montgomery County (FOLMC) with FOLMC Executive Director Ari Brooks and Business Manager Lance Salins.
Guests: FOLMC Executive Director Ari Brooks and FOLMC Business Manager Lance Salins
Featured MCPL Resource: Flipster is an online collection of current and back issues of your favorite magazines such as Cooking Light, Ebony, and Sports Illustrated. A different selection of popular magazines is available through our other online magazine service, RBdigital Magazines.
What Our Guests Are Currently Reading:
Items of Interest Mentioned During this Episode:
FOLMC Bookstores: The FOLMC operates 2 used bookstores. 1 in Rockville and 1 in Silver Spring. The revenues from these bookstores support FOLMC's mission. Here is a description of the items they accept for donations.
"Friends of the Library Sells Rare Copy of Hemingway's Farewell to Arms for $6,000": MyMCMedia news article about the discovery and sale of a copy of Farewell to Arms signed by Ernest Hemingway.
Friends of the Library, Chapters: 17 of MCPL's 21 branches have individual Friends of the Library chapters. The Deaf Culture Digital Library also has a Friends chapter.
Friends of the Library, Montgomery County (FOLMC): An independent nonprofit that provides supplemental funding, programs, materials, and equipment to MCPL.
Library After Dark: An annual gala at which library staff, volunteers, donors, and community leaders are recognized for their contributions to making MCPL a nationally recognized library system.
Montgomery County Library Board: The Library Board makes recommendations to the County Executive on matters affecting the public library system. 23 subcommittees of the Library Board, called Library Advisory Committees (LACs) represent each library branch, the correctional facility, and the accessibility community.
David Payne: Hello and welcome to another edition of Library Matters with your host, David Payne.
Julie Dina: And I’m Julie Dina.
David Payne: Today, we are talking about a genre which has become increasingly popular but increasingly difficult to define and that is science fiction. And here with us to talk about sci-fi and explain it, we have two MCPL staff members, Richard McElroy.
Richard McElroy: Hi there.
David Payne: And Beth Chandler.
Beth Chandler: Hello.
David Payne: Just a reminder that all of the books, authors, television shows, and movies that we mention during the podcast today can be found listed on our show notes on the Library Matters website.
Julie Dina: So why don’t we start the show off with asking the most obvious question? What exactly is science fiction?
Beth Chandler: Well, in my experience science fiction is a genre in which the creator extrapolates from our current technology and our current knowledge of the universe and projects what it might be like in the future.
Richard McElroy: In coming up with the definition I would try to, I guess, just still it into a few words as possible. And so based on these two words, science and fiction, it is just a work of fiction that is based around scientific technology. Because it is fiction, it would be based on technology that is not currently possible but that is feasible.
Julie Dina: So do we say is this – does this have anything to do with STEM?
Richard McElroy: That is right.
Beth Chandler: Because it has lot to do with STEM.
Julie Dina: Since everyone is talking about STEM these days.
Beth Chandler: You can find the elements of all sciences and technologies in it. And some stories also incorporate art, language, music, and other elements of, you know, basic – you know, anything that you think about with society or civilization, either hours or some potential civilization with very different beings.
Richard McElroy: Yeah. And it is great because it is fun, so it can encourage kids to get involve with STEM.
Julie Dina: It will encourage me for sure.
David Payne: So now that we’ve defined sci-fi and we know what it is, we tend to think of it, science fiction, as always being set in the future. Is that necessarily the case?
Richard McElroy: Well, I don’t think it has to be the case. It often is the case because that is the easiest way to present science that is not currently possible. But there has been plenty of science fiction that has been set in the present like, Jules Verne, set all of his books in the present and they were all about fantastic journeys into parts of the world that we hadn’t yet discovered using technology that wasn’t quite available at the time.
Beth Chandler: Definitely you can go back in the past – the past and have things for instance, let’s say Leonardo da Vinci had gotten much further with some of his inventions that never came to fruition. And we had 19th century technology back in the renaissance era. That is a possible setting for science fiction or could go back to the days in pyramids and say, “Yes, there really were aliens who helped build the pyramids.” And, you know, and write a story, you know, based on that with highly advanced technology.
Julie Dina: Now, science fiction is often paired with fantasy. Can you tell us why exactly and are there differences, are there similarities between the two genres?
Beth Chandler: One of the similarities is that they both deal with things that we don’t have in our present reality. And a lot of authors also write books of science fiction and fantasy, sometimes you can’t tell the difference. People who’ve read – may read very well know that. A lot of stories are fantasy and some of them edge into a combination and Martian Chronicles is a good example. He brings some characters from the past and from fairy tails into future stories about Mars and the Martians.
One of my favorite Manga, “Fullmetal Alchemist,” is mostly about Alchemian magic. But there is also something called automail, which is a prosthetic replacement for people that actually interacts with their own musculature and nerves that is something that were only starting to develop now these days. And this story was written more than 10 years ago.
Richard McElroy: Beth hit on this a little bit, but I think science fiction and fantasy are often paired together because they often look very similar on the surface. They both often involved aliens, and monsters, and spaceships, and explosions, and stuff like that. But I think the key difference is that science fiction as I said in my first answer is something that is feasible. It is something that we could see ourselves progressing towards as species, or as a society, or as fantasy as something that is not feasible. It is something where we have to suspend our disbelief and go into another world often involving magic or alternate universes or just world that don’t exist altogether.
Oh, and one other thing I’d like to add is a clear example of the difference between science fiction and fantasy is the difference between “Star Trek” and “Star Wars”. I think that “Star Trek” is a classic example of science fiction as it takes place in our world, set in the future based on scientific advancement, whereas “Star Wars” is more of a space fantasy. It is sort of this big opera that is about the story and involves magical elements and it is in a galaxy far, far away, and isn’t necessarily as directly related to the world that we live in.
David Payne: What has drawn you both to science fiction? How do you develop your interest for science fiction books, movies, and so on?
Richard McElroy: I was drawn into science fiction originally as a kid. I used to watch a lot of “Twilight Zone.” My mom would watch it a lot, especially the marathons that would go on TV. I believe on New Years Eve there would be marathons of Twilight’s unplayed. So since then I’ve always been interested in potential futures. I’ve always been interested in the questions about life and possibilities that it brings up.
Beth Chandler: I was to add a similar introduction. It was, you know, through TV. I grew up in the era of the “Star Trek: Animated Series,” which people growing up in the ’70s will remember. And actually we used to play “Star Trek,” my brother, and my cousin, and I. They always wanted to kill aliens and I was more interested in investigating new worlds and new civilizations which are the great appeal for me is exploring the unknown, getting to know that new ways of being – as ancient being.
Julie Dina: What is some of the best science fiction books you’ve ever read?
Richard McElroy: Well, I say that my favorite is probably “Frankenstein” by Mary Shelley. I – If you’ve only seen the movie and never read book, I highly encourage reading the book available at the Montgomery County Public Libraries.
The “Frankenstein” monster is a much more intelligent creature than he was in the movie. And it really grapples with a lot of questions about existence in our world. About what it is to be human? What it is to be a person? How to be an accepted member of our society? Some other preferred science fiction books of mine include “Childhood’s End” by Arthur C. Clarke and “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep” by Philip K. Dick. Also my favorite science fiction short story is probably “The Last Question” by Isaac Asimov.
Beth Chandler: I enjoyed the last question, too. I spent much of my teen years reading short stories, many by Isaac Asimov. My favorite for many, many years it does time with one or two others is the “Left Hand of Darkness” by Ursula K Le Guin. It is a story about a single human who goes as the envoy to try to convince a planet of humans who have been for millennia, millennia distance from other humans. He is going to influence them to join a sort of consortium of known worlds. And this particular planet has people who do not have one set gender. They become either male or female once a month.
Ursula K Le Guin when writing this said that she went to play with the idea of what would a society be without gender? So it is a very character-driven and concept-driven story, but also it has a lot to say about skepticism, how much politics influences things. And also quite a bit about the nature of friendship, loyalty and, you know, patriotism. In addition, she does manage to get some good humor into it.
Richard McElroy: I’m glad that you mentioned humor, because I love humor in science fiction, too, and some matters that I might mention are Kurt Vonnegut and Douglas Adams. “The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy” is just a fantastic, really funny science fiction book that is really easy to read. It is a short readable book that I highly recommend.
Beth Chandler: Yeah, that is a good place to start off with science fiction if you want something that is not going to throw a lot of data in advance science that you would also be very enjoyable. I enjoyed “The Hitchhiker’s” series myself. And actually my other favorite author besides Ursula K. Le Guin, Lois McMaster Bujold, has a wonderful gift for humor. And sometimes, you know, write up one of the most heart wrenching period to the story a moment later she will throw in this sort of rye joke. And you’re like, “I was almost crying a minute ago and now I’m cracking up.” So she was –.
Richard McElroy: – emotions.
Beth Chandler: Yeah. Yes it is.
Julie Dina: So she knows how to sneak it in.
Beth Chandler: She knows how to sneak it in and she has amazingly, you know, well rounded characters. There is, you know, cast of dozens in her “Vorkosigan Saga” stories. And when one pops up, again, I remember, you know, who they are, what their personality is, little bit of their history, very memorable.
David Payne: So let’s go from authors to characters. Which character from a science fiction movie or TV show would you most want as a co-worker?
Richard McElroy: Well, that is easy for me. And I think it is might be the same for most science fiction fans, but I would say Spock from “Star Trek”. He is unemotional. He is completely rational. He is the science officer. And so he is easily as efficient as possible because he doesn’t have to grapple with work place emotions that often arise. Who wouldn’t want to have Spock as a co-worker?
Beth Chandler: Yeah. I thought about Spock, too, actually. And then I thought, you know, he does have that occasional sort of rye almost sensitive humor. But, you know, if I wanted someone friendly to chat with, you know, my other favorite is the Fourth Doctor from the British Doctor Who series. He was one of my favorite doctors. He is cheerful. He is also very ethical. He seems genuinely fun to people. Does his best to get along with everyone and just gives this whole sense that, you know, everything is somehow okay and he is going to be okay. And we’re going to have a pretty, pretty good time dealing with it whatever it is.
Richard McElroy: And if you have a bad day just leave on his TARDIS.
Beth Chandler: Also true.
Julie Dina: So in your opinion, what elements should good science fiction book or film contain?
Beth Chandler: I think it needs to have something of everything. A good, you know, good plot, technology that is, you know, realistic to extrapolate from what we have now or is so far in the future that it seems realistic even though it is something that we can’t quite figure out how it will work. So you need that, the technology, a good plot line, characters you really care about. I love a lot of the old classic science fiction, but I have to admit some of the characters are basically there to, you know, support the technology and the plot and fortunately that has changed the great deal.
Richard McElroy: In my opinion, good science fiction provides a vision of the future that is connected to our present day reality. And the way I distinguished good science fiction from, let say hackey [Phonetic] science fiction, is that the good science fiction allows you to come up with your conclusions about whatever the subject matter is. It stimulates your own curiosity rather than telling you how the future should be.
A lot of science fiction I think often falls into the pitfalls of being preachy and saying how the future should look. Whereas good science fiction just sort of presents concepts that are difficult and doesn’t necessarily tell you what the answer is, but allows you to come up for the answer yourself. And a lot of that I think involves conflicting virtues. Science fiction often presents two different virtues that when taken to their extreme might clash with one another and it forces us to grapple with which ones we value more.
David Payne: Do you think then sci-fi has become more complex if we’re – if our world today is more complex and we’re looking – if we are looking at future worlds? Has it become more difficult to understand?
Richard McElroy: No. I don’t – I mean, I think that it is always been able to. It just progressed with the times and with the progression of technology. So talking about space travel in the first place was difficult to understand for people 100 years ago. And now what is difficult for us to understand is something like let’s say, the nature of consciousness and what it is to be a person and whether an artificial life form can have an equal status to a human life form and where do you draw the line between life and let say having your conscious uploaded on to a computer. There are a lot of questions that for us seem difficult now that might seem easy to those in the future and questions that in the past seem easy to us now but might have been difficult for them.
Beth Chandler: I agree with Richard. Science fiction is always dealt with some of the major more in philosophical issues going back to some of the classics. Isaac Asimov writing his Robot stories, you know, dealt with the question of, you know, a robot is more good for humans or bad for them and the answer seeming, you know, different and ambiguous going all the way up through his timeline further and further into the future. And he explored all sorts of advantages and disadvantages of that one particular type of technology the positronic robot that he created with his mind and his knowledge of science as it existed in the ’50s and ’60s.
Richard McElroy: It seems like most of the good science fiction coming out nowadays is about artificial intelligence because that is something that is really blossoming right now and it is – there are a lot of moral issues that come up there. We have to really have an understanding of if we’re going to move forward with the development of artificial intelligence.
Julie Dina: And now a brief message about MCPL services and resources.
Lisa Navidi: Ever wonder about the who, what and why of a book? Readers Cafe is a virtual meeting place for books and readers. Your one stop center for book clubs, book blogs, articles, and literally research. Take a look and you can be the envy of your literally chums. You can find the link in this episode show notes.
Julie Dina: Now, back to our program.
David Payne: Which science fiction world would you most and least like to live in?
Beth Chandler: The first book in the “Terra Ignota” series, “Too Like the Lightning” by Ada Palmer. She – this is just her first novel. She has only written one other when so far that has been published. And it is a future world about 300 years on from now where the, you know, the world is separated into entirely different concept, to what countries are. We finally have our flying cars and they can cross the world in the matter of hours. Still working on trying to colonize Mars, but there is a lot of wonderful things about the culture and the way human beings get along with each other. But of course, there is always that little deed of something that starts falling apart, so I’d like to live there before things start falling apart.
Richard McElroy: Okay. I would say that the science fiction world that I would most like to live in, you know, is about to go with “Star Trek,” which seems to be a common answer for me, but instead I’m going to go with “Firefly,” the TV show by Joss Whedon, because “Star Trek” is a little too sanitized for my taste, whereas “Firefly” is similar. It is a futuristic space series, but it is a little more wild west like. There is a little more freedom out there, a little more conflict, and it just seems like a more a fun universe to live in than, let say “Star Trek.”
David Payne: So looking back over the years, the whole history of the sci-fi genre, which sci-fi movie or novel written long ago and set either in the past or the current present is most hilariously wrong and which is the most accurate?
Richard McElroy: Well, I think it is very important to note that in ‘Back to the Future’ they went to 2015 and the newspaper headline said ‘Chicago Cubs win World Series.’ They were one year off. The Cubs won their first World Series in 110 years in 2016.
David Payne: Right.
Richard McElroy: So that was really impressively accurate.
Julie Dina: That was close.
Beth Chandler: Yeah. One I thought of – as being hilariously wrong was of 2001, “Space Odyssey,” the original book by Arthur C. Clarke in which he has people referring to hotels as Hiltons. He figured, you know, just as many people called refrigerators as frigidaires and adhesive bandages – Band Aids that we’d all be calling hotel Hiltons and we don’t. There are a lot of other things. There was a space station. We had gotten much further forward in space travel than he expected we would, which is one of the ongoing limits of a lot of science fiction fans as well as scientists themselves.
Richard McElroy: There are a lot of technologies that have been predicted very accurately like “Star Trek” for example. Can you tell that I like “Star Trek”?
David Payne: Oh, you bet.
Julie Dina: Yeah.
Richard McElroy: They were using these little screens that they had in their hands that were just like tablets today. They had –.
Julie Dina: iPads.
Richard McElroy: Yeah. They had communicators that were like cell phones. They had replicators where they would just create food or other objects that they needed out of these replicators, which are very similar to a 3-D printers that are currently available in the Montgomery County Public Libraries.
Beth Chandler: Library, yes. Although we do not make candy with them, but I – now make candy with some 3-D printers.
Richard McElroy: Oh, wow.
Beth Chandler: So we’re getting into Tea, Earl Gray, Hot.
Richard McElroy: Exactly. Also with the holodecks where this virtual reality rooms that you could go into and create any kind of reality you wanted. Now, we’re progressing with virtual reality which is coming soon to Montgomery County Public Library near you.
Julie Dina: One thing for sure, you do love your Montgomery County Public Library.
Beth Chandler: It is very good with that. And an interesting thing is that “Star Trek” was not the primary creation of just one person, but it has been written by a dozens of screen writers and multiple directors and producers have had their hand in, so it seems that crowd sourcing a science fiction story. You know, maybe said to help make it more accurate.
David Payne: That is interesting. So what are some of the science fiction books that contained characters of color or of the LGBTQ community?
Beth Chandler: Just to name a few, there is Nnedi Okorafor who is American who grew up in Nigeria. She has written several stories about – not just African-Americans, but primarily Africans. Several other writers Nalo Hopkinson is one, Ada Palmer, who I’d mentioned before has written a lot about characters both of various colors. Three-hundred years from now, most of us are going to be highly into racial, according to her. Very few people who are, you know, purely, you know, one ethnicity or another. And actually, one of our MoComCon guests last year and this year, Don Sakers, is a local author, has been writing for years about characters of color and characters in the LGBTQ community.
David Payne: So diversity very much of the heart of sci-fi.
Richard McElroy: Yeah.
Julie Dina: So what exactly would be the weirdest science fiction book you’ve ever come across, weirdest ever?
Beth Chandler: I will say it was more of a novella, but I would say one of the weirdest stories I’ve read by one of the strangest authors I’ve read, but I love him dearly is –.
Julie Dina: But he is weird?
Beth Chandler: Oh, yes. I -- to further out the better, I mean, I never did drugs because I said all I have to do is go pick up a Theodore Sturgeon novel, you know, as a teenager, or collection of short stories. And he wrote one story called The, and next few words are in brackets, [Widget], The [Wadget] and Boff. And it is about two aliens who are observing earth and making a small change to see if it can effect the larger change in the world, which is something more than one science fiction or author has done.
But this one is so bizarre by the way it puts everything from the alien’s perspective. Ordinary things like somebody trying to ask someone else for a date and meal times in children are seen through the view point of these aliens. So I would say that is one of the strangest stories by one of the strangest science fiction authors.
Richard McElroy: Unfortunately I don’t have anything to notch that.
Beth Chandler: Okay.
Julie Dina: Well, we do have, and I’m sure you both know that our MoComCon last year was very successful. We had tons of people come from the county and from the neighboring counties. Would you please explain to our listeners what exactly MoComCon is?
Beth Chandler: MoComCon stands for Montgomery County Comic Con, but like many conventions in the, you know, science fiction fantasy, comics, et cetera, you know, phantom, it is a convention that ties in a lot more than comics brings in, as I said science fiction and fantasy stories, movies, TV shows, and pretty much various kinds of nerdity including, you know, hot technology. And that is what you’ll be seeing in January at MoComCon.
Julie Dina: Yeah.
David Payne: So are you coming to MoComCon dress as a sci-fi character?
Richard McElroy: Well, indeed I am as I am an employee of the – well, I work at the Silver Spring Library. And fortunately for my co-workers my dream will come true for all of them because I will be there dressed as Spock, so they will get to have Spock as a co-worker for a day.
Beth Chandler: Oh, excellent. Delighted to hear Spock will be working with us. I’m on the actual MoComCon committee, so I won’t be able to dress up. I’ll be wearing one of our colorful and exciting MoComCon t-shirts. But I hope to wear a couple of buttons, almost certainly one of my buttons that says, “Prepare for the future, read science fiction.”
David Payne: Well, finally it is our tradition here on Library Matters to ask all guests to tell us about the book that you have enjoyed recently. What have you both enjoyed reading recently?
Richard McElroy: So this isn’t science fiction work. I haven’t read a science fiction book in a little while, but I recently read “American Pastoral” by Philip Roth which is a fabulous book. I highly recommend. It takes place in the recent past, so it is a recent historical fiction, novel you could say.
Beth Chandler: A book I read recently that I really enjoyed is actually a fantasy novel. And like many science fictions fans, I also read fantasy. It is the first in Philip Pullman’s new series, “The Book of Dust.” The title is “La Belle Sauvage.” And I thoroughly enjoyed going back into the same world as the previous series he’d written in the same universe about Lyra and a world where each human has their own demon which is a part of, you know, their own selves. And he writes a marvelous story taking place 10 years before the previous series. And just like in a good science fiction book, he has a wonderfully realized alternate oxford at alternate earth that you just dive right into. You can almost feel like, you know, you’re sailing along with the main character in his little boat.
Julie Dina: Well, thank you so very much Beth and Richard for all the wonderful information you’ve given us which relates to sci-fi.
Keep the conversations going by following us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest. Don’t forget to subscribe to the podcast on the new Apple podcast app, Stitcher, or wherever you get your podcast. Also, please review and rate us on Apple podcast. We’ll love to know what you think. Thank you for listening to our conversation today and see you next time.
[Audio Ends] [0:26:59]
Recording Date: November 8, 2017
Hosts: Julia Dina and David Payne
Episode Summary: Science fiction fans Beth Chandler, a librarian in our Collection Management division, and Richard McElroy, a Library Desk Assistant at our Silver Spring branch, talk about science fiction: what it is, how it has changed, and what it means.
Guests: Librarian Beth Chandler and Library Desk Assistant Richard McElroy
Featured MCPL Resource: Readers' Café, a virtual meeting place for books and reader. Visit Readers Cafe to find book reviews, recommended reading, book clubs, and more.
What Our Guests Are Currently Reading:
Beth Chandler: La Belle Sauvage by Philip Pullman
Richard McElroy: American Pastoral by Philip Roth
Authors, Books, Movies, Television Shows, and Other Items of Interest Mentioned During this Episode:
2001: a Space Odyssey: A film based on Arthur C. Clarke's short story "The Sentinel" about the crew of a spaceship bound for Jupiter along with a self aware computer, HAL, who begins to malfunction.
Childhood's End by Arthur C. Clarke
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick
Doctor Who: The time and space traveling adventures of a long lived Timelord and his Terran companions.
Firefly: A science fiction television series about the adventures of the crew of Serenity, who make their living on the fringe of society.
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
Full Metal Alchemist by Hiromu Arakawa
Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
I, Robot by Isaac Asimov
"The Last Question" (short story) by Isaac Asimov
Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin
Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury
Don Sakers: A Maryland science fiction writer and book reviewer for Analog Science Fiction and Fact magazine. He is a frequent guest speaker at science fiction conventions. He will be a workshop presenter at MoComCon.
Star Trek: A long standing science fiction world that has spawned numerous television shows, movies, and countless books.
Star Trek: the Animated Series: A cartoon version of the original Star Trek television series, produced for 2 episodes during the 1970s.
Star Wars: Science fiction fantasy tale from a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.
Twilight Zone: A genre mixing science fiction, horror, thriller television show begun in 1959 that often concluded with an unexpected twist.
Other Items of Interest:
Lauren Martino: Welcome to Library Matters. I’m Lauren Martino and...
David Payne: I’m David Payne.
Lauren Martino: And we’re here today with some of the most talented librarians in the system and they can cook too. This is Nalani Devendra and Dana Alsup. And they are going to talk to us today about their favorite cookbooks, their favorite methods, their favorite ways of preparing delicious goodness, and I am excited to have you guys here welcome.
Dana Alsup: Thank you for having us.
Nalani Devendra: Thank you for having us.
Lauren Martino: So, we’d like to know a little bit about you guys. We know you’re awesome librarians but tell us a little bit about you as cooks. What do you like to cook best? Do you have a signature dish? What makes you kick tick as cooks?
Dana Alsup: Well, I’m a recipe follower. I like following recipes. I’m not good at making stuff up and so I don’t feel advanced enough to not follow the recipe. But I – the more I cook, the more I understand like the elements of what I’m doing, like bread making. I made bread recently and I could feel, like I knew just kneading the dough like it’s right – it’s good, it just needs to rise now so.
Lauren Martino: You’ve gotten to that point where it’s like –
Dana Alsup: I’ve gotten to that point with bread-making alone. And then I like – foods I like best, anything fried, whatever, any – anything fried, my heart’s not probably happy about that, but I sure am. And my family is from New Mexico so anything with green chili on it –
Lauren Martino: Green chili.
Dana Alsup: Green chili is, oof, I heard great.
Lauren Martino: Legends. What is the deal with the green chili?
Dana Alsup: Well, it’s from Hatch in New Mexico which is a town and there’s – every fall, they do a roast, so it’s a big – it’s a big thing in New Mexico, and it is only – that’s where green chili is from. So I have a stockpile of green chili in my freezer at all times, put it in anything. Green chili mac and cheese. We’re going to put green chili in the stuffing for Thanksgiving.
Lauren Martino: Wow.
Dana Alsup: My favorite is green chili cheeseburgers. It’s not – they can be hot but they’re flavorful, so it’s not like a scald-your-mouth hot, heat pepper, its flavor. And in New Mexico, they’ll either ask you red or green but you can say Christmas, which means both.
Lauren Martino: Nice.
Nalani Devendra: I’m a lot more opposite with Dana. I’m not that much big follower of the recipe. I get something from the recipe but always I never hesitate to change the recipe, modify the recipe. I always go for the recipe to check how I can change this to my taste or my husband – especially my husband’s taste because I know he’s mostly prefer only to eat Sri Lankan food. But I’m making for him some type of other food, some touch with the Sri Lankan style. I have to be creative.
Lauren Martino: Oh, boy.
David Payne: So, a lot of experimental stuff?
Nalani Devendra: Of course, I do a lot of experimental stuff. Also, every time when my husband realizes I’m doing something, creating something, he is scared of that because he know he has to eat them. That’s what will happen. If I’m around, he’s trying to eat; if I’m not there, all these going to be in the trash.
Lauren Martino: Oh.
Nalani Devendra: Sometime. But most of the time, I have done good job.
Lauren Martino: So does that usually involve like kicking up the spice? I know you were telling me – we work together in the same branch and you were telling me about when you make stuff for work, it’s a – it’s different.
Nalani Devendra: Yes. I have to – I have two ways to cook. If I’m cooking for my husband, I cook as regular. And if I’m cooking for my colleague at work, I call for that – I call in for that the – I’m making a baby food because I’m not using that much spice on there. Normally what our country people do for the babies because they are not yet pick up the spice.
Lauren Martino: That’s all of us at Silver Spring. Yeah.
Nalani Devendra: But I believe now, I’m also enjoying baby food. I’m not anymore good with the spicy. Although, I cook for my husband, I cannot eat some time.
Lauren Martino: So I’m trying to picture what you’d have to do to like, you know, spaghetti or mac and cheese to make your husband like it.
David Payne: Yeah.
Nalani Devendra: Yes. If I’m doing mac and cheese, I mean, I will add pinch of crusted pepper, then it will give him some spice.
Lauren Martino: It’ll be enough for him.
Nalani Devendra: Yes.
David Payne: So, two very different approaches here.
Lauren Martino: Yes.
David Payne: Tell us, where do you get your recipes from? What are your favorite cookbooks?
Dana Alsup: Oh, that is an end-list, endless list. I like using cookbooks. And I found – I use blogs, Pinterest, of course. But a lot of times, a blog – well, the person who writes the blog comes out with a cookbook and there are so many of those and I love those cookbooks. And then you have the blog as like an annex of recipes, almost. So, The Forest Feast, which we own here at MCPL, we own two of the three cookbooks for it. The first one I use is the kid’s version. It’s – the kids’ books for cooking are a lot of fun and they’re very simple and there’s a lot of warning about how you might cut yourself. But The Forest Feast by Erin Gleeson is great.
Lauren Martino: What is The Forest Feast? I’m not familiar with this.
Dana Alsup: One, it’s beautiful. She was a food photographer in New York and now she lives in like beautiful Northern California, and they’re vegetarian recipes. But everything is about like five ingredients or less. So you don’t have to go – it’s like the opposite of America’s Test Kitchen. It’s like the antithesis of that, which is nice to say I only need five ingredients to make these, you know, tacos or these cookies or the salad. And a lot of times, it’s just three ingredients and it’s –
David Payne: So it’s cooking at its most basic?
Dana Alsup: Yeah. And it’s beautifully – it’s beautifully laid out, so it’s a pleasure just visually to look at but that’s – I’d say a lot of stuff comes from online, but then part of my job is looking at all the new books when they come in, so all of those new cookbooks go through my hands before they hit the shelf.
Lauren Martino: I feel like I’m always looking at those before lunch and then we just –
Dana Alsup: Oh.
Lauren Martino: I do love eating mediocre lunch while looking at beautiful pictures of food.
Dana Alsup: Yes.
David Payne: Clearly, timing is everything, yeah.
Dana Alsup: Yeah, it is.
Lauren Martino: So, Nalani, you were telling me a little bit about where you cook from.
Nalani Devendra: Actually, if I go back how I started –
Lauren Martino: Yes, tell us about those.
Nalani Devendra: I didn’t know whether I’m good with the cooking because I didn’t cook when I was teenage or after – until I get to this country. Actually, I didn’t cook much. But I do remember when I was very young, my father normally don’t cook. My mother was – who is cook usually. But especially in the Sri Lankan New Year actually I’m from Sri Lanka – at the Sri Lankan New Year Day, my father is the one who cook and I’m his helper. My mom got off on that day. And then I saw something different. I never want to watch how my mommy cook, I don’t remember how she cooked, but I do remember how my dad cooked because he made special dish on that day. And maybe that is why I love it. My father brought one cookbook which is very popular in Sri Lanka. I believe its name is [Gunasekar] [0:09:20] Cooking Book or something. He gave it to me, not for my mommy, not for my sister, he gave it to me. I believe my father knew whether I have a talent on that.
Lauren Martino: Yeah.
Nalani Devendra: Then my next start was in the America. I got to this country 2009. And since the second day of my life in America, I start watching the TV. Guess what I watch? My husband at work, I’m at home for eight-hour by myself, I turn on the TV, I found the Food Network. Almost seven hours I watched the Food Network at least for two months.
David Payne: That would do it. Yeah.
Lauren Martino: Yeah.
Nalani Devendra: My favorite and my only one known celebrity was Paula Deen.
Lauren Martino: Talk about fried food.
Dana Alsup: Yes.
Nalani Devendra: But I don’t like her food because a lot of fat. I don’t like to eat a lot of fat. But I love to watch her TV show. And – but I took a lot of things from her, how she do it. After that, I enjoy Giada.
Lauren Martino: Giada.
Nalani Devendra: Giada.
Lauren Martino: Giada de Laurentiis, is that how you say it?
Nalani Devendra: Yes. Yeah.
Dana Alsup: I think so.
Lauren Martino: Yeah.
Dana Alsup: I believe so.
Nalani Devendra: Yes. And there’s other one, I don’t remember her name, Barefoot or something.
Lauren Martino: Barefoot Contessa?
Dana Alsup: Barefoot Contessa.
Nalani Devendra: Yes, of course.
David Payne: All right.
Lauren Martino: Oh.
Nalani Devendra: I wish my husband like my food like that way.
Lauren Martino: What do you guys find appealing in a cookbook? What does it have to have to make you pick it up and what does it have to have in it to make you cook from it?
Dana Alsup: Pictures. I need pictures. A cook book without pictures is sad to me. I don’t, don’t like looking at it. What’s it supposed to look like? Will I like what it looks like? I like having pictures on a cookbook. And like ingredients-wise, what it should have or like butter, cheese, cozy – I generally like cozy foods, I’m not a salad person. Grilled things, grilled meats, yeah, a lot of cozy, cozy food as if I’m hibernating all year round but it sounds like –
David Payne: Do you go for the picture first or the recipe?
Dana Alsup: The picture. I’ll go for the picture. And there are plenty of cookbooks that I’ve looked at several times where I think, “I haven’t seen this before,” and then I see the recipe and it’s like, “I have and this just – oh, it’s too complicated. I’m not doing this.” I’m not – I’ve – although I do have a passion for America’s Test Kitchen cookbooks, they are so thorough and they take time to just even read, and so I – if I have the time, I will grab my Test Kitchen cookbook and I will find the recipe, but then I also grab like Mark Bittman’s How To Cook Everything, which is like half the ingredients half the time and a very good result. So I don’t – although I do like things like bread-making, which take hours to make bread but it’s not a lot of hands-on time. It’s – you know, you’re – it’s rising for two hours –
David Payne: It’s the preparation.
Dana Alsup: Yeah. You come back to it for five minutes. It’s rising for another hour. But the – too much time, I’m just not into it. I have stuff to binge watch on Netflix, right? I’m a casual cooker.
Nalani Devendra: Yes. As you mentioned – Dana mentioned, of course, picture. If it doesn’t have picture, I don’t want to touch that cookbook. Every time like you mentioned if I have a moment at the library, I go to the new cook book section, turn it, “Is picture on it? Yes, that is my book, let me grab it.” I go through that. Although, I kind of admit, I like to see it. If it doesn’t have a picture, although how popular, how good, I don’t want to touch it. As I saw the picture, I can image, “Oh, yes, I can do that. Oh, I can eat that. Oh, my husband will like.” Or maybe I can cook for my colleague. If it doesn’t have picture, I don’t know. I –
Lauren Martino: Yes, you can cook for your colleagues.
Nalani Devendra: Oh, yes, I know.
Lauren Martino: Yes, you can cook for your colleague.
Nalani Devendra: Also, the ingredient is really big. Normally, I loved – the ingredient which is, I can easily find, also ingredient which is I can use every day, but I am kind of good with substituting for the ingredients. I don’t hesitate to drop out the ingredients. I can feel if I use this, it’s not – if I drop out this ingredient, it – it’s not going to make a change. I can enjoy it still although I – if I don’t have the ingredient. Also, other thing, the less ingredient, yes, of course.
Lauren Martino: Fewer ingredients?
Nalani Devendra: Fewer ingredients. I know one of my colleague I used to work with him at the Long Branch Library, Fred Akuffo. That is the point I used to start looking less ingredient recipe because every time when I saw him – cookbook or recipes he has, how many ingredient over there, then he count the ingredients including salt, pepper, onion, everything. I say, “Hey, Fred, don’t count salt, pepper, garlic, ginger, every kitchen has it.” He said, “No.”
Lauren Martino: Sure thing you’ve got that on your stove, right? It’s in there.
Nalani Devendra: Yes. And since then, I start looking at the cookbook with the less ingredient. It’s much easier to handle, it is less opportunity to go –
Lauren Martino: To mess it up?
Nalani Devendra: Mess it up, yes. Thank you, Lauren. Then – yes, of course. Also, I have to thinking about whether my husband will like it, so – because that is the only one I have at my home.
Dana Alsup: I agree with that. I also want to know if my husband will like the meal.
Lauren Martino: Because you’re cooking it for somebody else and –
Dana Alsup: Typically, his answer is yes. He’s not a picky eater like myself.
David Payne: So that brings us to a follow-up question. Now, you’re in the mood to cook. You decide to cook something, how do you decide what you’re cooking?
Dana Alsup: Well, a lot of it is dependent upon time. As the – are – my schedule and my husband’s work schedule don’t line up, so sometimes I get an hour to make and eat dinner and that’s it. If he’s going to also eat it, not go to work without food. And other times, a day – a day off or if our schedules line up better, I have much more time to cook. So I can do something that takes more time or I don’t have to prep it, part of it the night before, I can do – I like fast meals like a grilled pizza, those are quick. I don’t have – I can do that real fast, but that’s a lot of how I plan what we’re eating. And I plan everything on Sunday and shop for it. I used to be one of those willy-nilly shoppers. At the end – at the end of the week, I have a whole bunch of stuff that I had to throw away or we didn’t get to or why did I buy this? So I now plan the meals according to our schedules, but it’s also like, you know, if I’m cooking something for my brother, no cheese can be in sight. He does not like cheese. I know. Something’s –
Lauren Martino: That’s strange.
Dana Alsup: We don’t want to get into it.
Lauren Martino: I could understand it for ethical reasons, but –
Dana Alsup: Where I think like – beside – like butter and cheese are my first two food groups. If I’m cooking something for my mom, she’s a fantastic cook and she’s an adventurous cook, she’ll try anything. But I was a stubborn, stubborn picky eater as a child, so I feel that my cooking now for her is like continuously attempting to make up for my horrible eating habits as a child. So it’s like, “Oh, look what I made. I use this ingredient. Aren’t you proud?” And she and my brother are still stunned that I will eat certain things now that I refused to eat as a child.
Lauren Martino: I was totally the same way. And I’m kind of curious, Nalani, were you a picky eater as a kid?
Nalani Devendra: Of course, I was. In Sri Lanka house, some food I don’t want to eat. I mean, I never eat. I don’t know why.
Dana Alsup: I’m the same way. There are still foods I won’t eat, ask my in-laws, they are – they have a list.
Lauren Martino: A list.
Dana Alsup: We have to remember Dana doesn’t like that. I believe there’s something to that, maybe like people that are picky eaters just become cooks like us.
Lauren Martino: Well, there’s a great book by Bee Wilson who’s – the title of it just went out of my head but it’s all about how we learn to eat and part of it is picky eaters, is it a hereditary thing? Is it a choice thing? And it goes into all the different aspects of how we learn to eat as people and as cultures.
Nalani Devendra: Yeah, I do remember as a young kid, I believe – as I do remember, whole one year, I only eat one dish. I mean, rice and that veggie dish. Every day my mom cooked for me, whole year –
Lauren Martino: This was by your choice or hers?
Nalani Devendra: My choice.
Lauren Martino: Okay.
Nalani Devendra: Because I was – I don’t want to eat anything else.
Lauren Martino: Like Bread and Jam for Frances but probably over the year.
Nalani Devendra: And, now, I have realized I’m now excited to try new food, not actually Sri Lankan food – sorry. Any other culture food I like to try. When I go somewhere to eat, I try to go with the food because I don’t know what is that. Sometimes I come hungry because I couldn’t eat that, but it’s still okay, I tried it.
Lauren Martino: So you see something, you got to try it.
Nalani Devendra: Yes. Yes.
Lauren Martino: Sometimes you hate it.
Nalani Devendra: Yes.
Lauren Martino: But – and you go hungry but it doesn’t stop you from trying new things.
Nalani Devendra: No, it’s not, because the reason is I have some scare. While I’m eating, I can just think, “What are the ingredients? Do I have this ingredient? What I can do with this ingredient? Can I make this dish?” Sometimes I come home, try it, sometime I’m – oh, yeah, I have done good job. Maybe I am missing some ingredient but it’s still – at least I can get close to it. One thing I just – first thing I did, I love to go to the Ruby Tuesday.
Lauren Martino: Ruby Tuesday’s? Yeah.
Nalani Devendra: They have potato salad. I love that. Always I want to go to the salad bar because of that.
Lauren Martino: Because of the Ruby Tuesday’s potato salad.
Nalani Devendra: Yes. And then, I start thinking why I cannot make it. Actually, I did make, I add some spice.
Lauren Martino: Sri Lankan potato salad.
Nalani Devendra: Yes, Sri Lankans would be too scared for potato salad, I made it.
Lauren Martino: Awesome.
Nalani Devendra: And, actually, I have made that for my colleague at the Long Branch before I came to the Silver Spring.
Lauren Martino: For Fred?
Nalani Devendra: Yes, for Fred and the Long Branch people, they enjoy.
David Payne: And, now, a brief message about MCPL services and resources.
Female Speaker: What do astronauts eat in space? How does corn become popcorn? What happens to a hamburger inside your stomach? Who can answer all these questions? You and your child can. Our libraries offer fun programs and resources to help your child develop an interest in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math, STEM. Come to the library to learn to code, to build, to design, and to open up the world. You can find a link to MCPL STEM resources in this episode’s show notes.
David Payne: Now back to our program. So, an interest – a full disclosure on the show, what’s the most epic failure you’ve ever had working from a cookbook?
Dana Alsup: I made a lemon pasta dish where you order – where you add a quarter cup of lemon juice at the very end. And I served it and my husband said, “Oh, no, it’s good.” And then I had a bite and if you ever need something to peel the outermost layer of the inside of your mouth that’s the dish. It was so acidic. Our mouths peeled. And we threw it away and I threw the recipe away. I don’t even remember what cookbook it was from. We’re very angry at it. And then we order takeout. That was – that was an epic fail and we still talk about it. “Remember that time –” “Yeah, I remember.”
David Payne: Yeah. So, listeners, don’t try that one.
Dana Alsup: Don’t try that one. But beware because I don’t remember the cookbook because we got to add a little bit of lemon juice on that.
Lauren Martino: Yeah, squeeze and put – and I thought – a quarter cup of lemon juice? Oof. Well, I was right.
Dana Alsup: Not more than once I’ve tried the recipe and I’m like, “This has to be wrong.”
Lauren Martino: Yeah. This is just not right.
Dana Alsup: I even – I went back, I looked, I looked, I looked. And afterward, after I made it, I looked, my husband look, “No, it says quarter cup. It says a quarter cup.”
Nalani Devendra: I’m just guessing it might be printing mistake, maybe quarter tablespoon?
Dana Alsup: It’s quite the mistake. Come on, editors, step up.
Nalani Devendra: Of course, I have one recently.
Lauren Martino: I didn’t – I did not taste this but you say other people at our branch did.
Nalani Devendra: Yes. I want to try the zucchini brownie. I found that recipe at one of our cookbook. I don’t remember which one. The recipe is good. Then the first time I made, it turned out like a zucchini chocolate cake –
Lauren Martino: Which is not an epic fail, you know, you can aim for brownies and reach cake and that’s okay.
Nalani Devendra: Then next time I thought, “Okay, I made the mistake, let me correct it.” The next time I made it – oh, my God, I didn’t even want to eat it until I take it to the library. It was a special meeting for something and I brought it. And then as soon as I cut it, I realized, “No, this is not the one. Then I told, “Oh, guys. Don’t eat this one.”
Lauren Martino: What was wrong with it again? Is it just too squishy or is it runny?
Nalani Devendra: Yes, it’s like a really sticky rice.
Lauren Martino: Sticky rice brownies.
David Payne: Yeah.
Nalani Devendra: It is like a sticky, I don’t know what’s wrong. Then I was thinking, “Oh, my God, Silver Spring people got scared for Nalani’s food. They will not anymore trust Nalani’s cooking.” Fortunately, they still –
David Payne: I gather they still have you back.
Nalani Devendra: Yes.
Lauren Martino: Well, you made that eggplant lasagna and all was forgiven, I assure you.
Nalani Devendra: Thank you, Lauren.
Lauren Martino: That was really good.
Nalani Devendra: And you miss my – I believe you miss my recent fried rice, healthy fried rice.
Lauren Martino: No, I had some of that.
Nalani Devendra: Oh.
Lauren Martino: I had some of that. It was very good.
Nalani Devendra: Yes.
Lauren Martino: So you’d say that was your signature dish?
Nalani Devendra: For them, my colleague, which is I called the baby food, yes, my signature dish is my fried rice.
Lauren Martino: Is the fried rice.
Nalani Devendra: Which is – because I use very healthy version with a lot of veggie, less oil, everyone asking how you do that, everyone asking, “Can you send me that recipe? I’m sorry I don’t have a recipe. Whatever I can find, I add, I made it.”
Lauren Martino: You did.
Nalani Devendra: Then I have to tell them. Okay, write it down.
Lauren Martino: So you have to write your own cookbook now.
Nalani Devendra: Yes. And for the Sri Lankan community, my signature dish is – which called in English hoppers, in Sri Lankan word is Aappa. It is long process. It has to – have a lot of experience do you need or whatever, I don’t know. I know a lot of people cannot do that. Everyone, if I’m inviting them, “Nalani, is that going to be hoppers?” I said, “No.” “We don’t want to come.”
Lauren Martino: So, if you know anybody that finds cooking a challenge, what advice do you have for them to help them get over their intimidation, their fear of cooking?
Dana Alsup: I think Nalani and I might bring up the same cookbook. It’s Jessica Seinfeld’s The Can’t Cook Book where she has – she has how-tos throughout it. She tells you – she shows you in pictures, thank goodness, how to chop certain things and how to cut things a certain way. And she even has, before every recipe, “Don’t panic” and a little tip.
Lauren Martino: In big friendly letters?
Dana Alsup: Yes, don’t panic. But it is – it’s simple. And it’s – you will fail at cooking. Cooking is – the kitchen is like a laboratory. You experiment there and you try things, and sometimes they don’t work out because you add a quarter cup of lemon juice. Sometimes they go really in your favor. And the next time you make that it’s not the same thing and you have to figure out why. It is – it’s different every time, and it’s okay to fail. And don’t, like, don’t try to make Thanksgiving as your first meal.
Lauren Martino: Oh, that’s very good advice.
Dana Alsup: Start small, start real small. And it’s okay not to make fancy type meals. The Queen is rarely coming over for dinner, so you don’t need to make her a huge meal. If it’s just you and a family member, you can make something small.
David Payne: Just probably cook breakfast.
Dana Alsup: Yeah, just start small. I love the cover of this book by the way. It’s got all these things burning on the like huge flames leaping out of the pots on the stove. So The Can’t cookbook, just for the cover alone, it’s – yeah.
Lauren Martino: I think it’s worth taking.
Dana Alsup: Yeah, it’s good.
Nalani Devendra: And also, inside of this book, it has given the description and the – with the – with the picture what are the tools you will need.
Dana Alsup: Yes.
Nalani Devendra: And very basic tools because sometime or since we cook, we know some tools but I also don’t know everything. I mean this is really good if someone is going to start cooking also. I will tell if someone is going to start cooking, first step is start – is start boiling water. Second day, add the egg on the boiling water, then you’re going to have – after you cook – boil for 15 minutes, you’re going to have a boiled egg. Hey, yes, you cook. Start – and probably the next day, all right, now, you know how to cook the egg, boiled egg, grab the pasta – box of the pasta and it will tell you instruction how to cook or boil it – boil the pasta. And now you know something.
Lauren Martino: We’ve got carbohydrates and the protein.
Nalani Devendra: Yes. Also, then, go to the grocery store, grab the pasta sauce and then mix pasta – pasta sauce and your pasta, you have a perfect dinner or lunch with the carbohydrate and protein. And, next day, I would tell have some chopped onion, garlic, and if you have some basil or some herbs, and heat up the pan, add some oil on it, let it to – a little bit heat up, add the garlic, ginger, or onion, or any herbs, which is you have for it, sauté it, then add your pasta sauce on it, then you are changing your pasta sauce test a little bit, and add your pasta on it. You have a different test today. And next day if you want, just boil – steam some veggie and add that veggie for that sauté onion, garlic, whatever you are doing and then you have a veggie pasta with the boiled egg.
Lauren Martino: There you go.
Nalani Devendra: There you go. You are cooking.
David Payne: So lots of cooks, there’s your answer. Yeah.
Lauren Martino: Here at Library Matters, we really like to ask everybody, what book are you reading that you’re just dying to gush about?
Dana Alsup: Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz. I’m a murder mystery fan, and Anthony Horowitz wrote Foyle’s War, which is a television show and also Midsummer Murders, which I’ve seen all of them, and they are amazing. So he wrote this book, he’s written several others, but it just – I was on vacation in Italy and I just wanted to stay in and read.
David Payne: Not cook, not cook?
Dana Alsup: Yes. Not cook. I just – I did –
Lauren Martino: Or eat.
Dana Alsup: Or eat. I just – yeah, yeah, yeah, we’re in Italy, but listen, there’s Magpie Murders to read.
Lauren Martino: That is a matter of a good book.
Dana Alsup: I – it was – it was phenomenal. I loved it so much. It was funny. It was not predictable. None of his stuff is. And that was great. And I also just finished reading The Almost Sisters by Joshilyn Jackson, and that was – that was a different kind of book for me to read, and it was very enjoyable. It’s a – it’s complex. But if you are the type of person that likes watching like reality shows just for the sake of looking in on someone else’s life, then you’ll like this book.
Lauren Martino: Reality show without the reality.
Dana Alsup: Exactly, yeah.
Lauren Martino: It’s fiction.
Dana Alsup: But you’re really peeping in on someone’s life. Yeah.
Nalani Devendra: I just finished, which is a talk about – which called Future Crimes, Marc Goldman – Goodman.
Lauren Martino: Marc Goodman.
Nalani Devendra: Goodman, sorry. I liked it because it’s kind of prediction.
Lauren Martino: It’s predicting the future?
Nalani Devendra: Future. We think all these modern technology make our life easier. Also – on that way, it make easier for the internet crime – happened internet crime.
Lauren Martino: Wow, that’s timely, isn’t it?
Nalani Devendra: Yes.
Lauren Martino: There’s been a lot of hack.
Nalani Devendra: Like a – we think of – if we have as much door lock, that much convenient. At the same time, if cyber –
David Payne: Cybercrime?
Nalani Devendra: Cybercrime, people who are doing cybercrime, it’s make easier for them to handle our life, take things from our life because we think it is everything is convenient but at the same time, actually – it is convenient plus there’s risk. But I like modern life. I want to buy this smart door lock.
David Payne: Well, Nalani and Dana, thank you very much for joining us on the show today and making us feel very hungry. Don’t forget, keep the conversation going by following us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest. Don’t forget to subscribe to the podcast on the new Apple Podcast app Stitcher or wherever you get your podcasts. Also, please review and rate us on Apple Podcasts. We’d love to know what you think. Thank you for listening to our conversation today. See you next time.
Recording Date: November 7, 2017
Hosts: Lauren Martino and David Payne
Episode Summary: Cooking enthusiasts Dana Alsup, a librarian at Marilyn Praisner Library, and Nalani Devendra, a library associate at Silver Spring Library, discuss the joys and challenges of cooking and how MCPL can make your next meal a delicious one.
Guests: Librarian Dana Alsup and Library Associate Nalani Devendra
Featured MCPL Service: Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) resources and events. Our Go! Kits contain books, science tools, a tablet, and more selected to encourage parents/caregivers and children to actively explore the world around them. We have Little Explorer Go! Kits for children ages 3-6 and Young Voyager Go! Kits for children ages 7-12.
What Our Guests Are Currently Reading:
Dana Alsup: Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz. Horowitz has also written for the television series Foyles War and Midsomer Murders. Dana also recently read Almost Sisters by Joshilyn Jackson.
Nalani Devendra: Future Crimes by Marc Goodman
Books, Magazines, Cooking Shows, and Other Items of Interest Mentioned During this Episode:
641.5: The call number for cookbooks at MCPL.
The Can't Cook Book: 100+ Recipes for the Absolutely Terrified by Jessica Seinfeld.
First Bite by Bee Wilson: A look at how individual's food habits are formed.
The Forest Feast blog: Erin Gleeson's blog features mostly vegetarian recipes and entertaining ideas.
The Food Network: Cable and satellite television channel focused on food.
How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman
Other Items of Interest:
Flipster: An online collection of full color magazines that includes the magazines Food & Wine and Cooking Light.
RBdigital Magazines: This online collection of full color magazines includes several cooking magazines such as Bon Appetit, Eating Well, Food Network Magazine, and more.
Julie Dina: Welcome to Library Matters. Here are your hosts, Julie Dina and –.
David Payne: David Payne.
Julie Dina: Do you have a child who is reluctant to pick up a book and read? Today we have Barbara Shansby who is a wonderful and knowledgeable children’s librarian, who is here to share with us activities, tips, and advice that will encourage reluctant readers to start turning the pages, perhaps even before this podcast is over. Welcome Barbara, and thanks for being with us today.
Barbara: You’re welcome.
David Payne: Well, Barbara we are talking about reluctant readers but perhaps we should start by understanding what we mean by that term. In terms of the work that you do, can you explain what is or who is a reluctant reader to you?
Barbara: Sure. We usually think about, consider people reluctant readers if they don’t seem enthusiastic about reading. We see this especially with children who come to the library and then they’ll ask for help finding a book for a class or for a book report, and when we give them a book, they just give you this blank stare or worse, and there just seems to be no appeal at all for the books. The kids often don’t say that they don’t like to read, but we can tell from their body language that that’s a big issue, and just as often we’ll get questions from parents who are very honest about that. They will say their children don’t want to read or don’t like it and can we help them get them the books that they do need?
David Payne: You talked about children. Can we count adults as reluctant readers?
Barbara: Absolutely; although to be honest, they are probably a little bit less likely to come to the library. I do think there are plenty of adults in this day and age who don’t read or who are intimidated by it in some way and it’s a challenge.
David Payne: Well, Barbara, let’s talk about you a bit as a reader. Did you like to read as a child?
Barbara: Yes, I did. I was a huge reader as a kid. I probably spent too much time reading. I was sort of the opposite problem. My parents were like, “Why don’t you go outside for a change?” So yeah, I’ve always been a reader and in fact my book club for a while, we were going to call ourselves The Women Who Read Too Much and I love that title.
David Payne: So how did you develop your – or discover your love for reading?
Barbara: Well, that’s a hard thing to answer because I can’t – I don’t remember what got me started. I just remember that I loved to do it. However, I will say that the libraries were probably a big part of it. We lived in Montgomery County and my mother used to take me and my sisters to the library every few weeks and we’d check out our two or three books or whatever and bring them home and then we finished we’d go back and it was just an ongoing thing and really as I said, a b part of my life. I mean I remember many of my books very fondly and then when I came back to work as a children’s librarian, there they were. That was pretty amazing.
Julie Dina: Why do you think some people are reluctant to read, both adults and children?
Barbara: I think there are a lot of reasons why people don’t like to read. There’s a feel of failure with it if they’ve had books that they didn’t like or couldn’t make it through for some reason, then the whole task might be intimidating. Certainly learning disorders play a part in especially again in children. There may have been frustrations that kids or adults faced in previous classes or with previous tasks. Sometimes people may want to read but they are not just finding what appeals to them at that particular point. I also think we can’t discount peer pressure again for the kids, that if their friends aren’t reading why should they pick up a book? And for adults, lack of time is often an issue. Sometimes a person might be willing to read but it’s just not a priority and with so many other things, they are not going to pick up a book.
Julie Dina: So for adults, it’s best to say make more time and then you become willing to read? Would you say that?
Barbara: Well, not necessarily. I mean it would be nice if that’s easy but maybe for some people, that will happen but often it’s a problem of finding the book that appeals to you that’s going to turn you on in some way and make you want to keep reading.
David Payne: Well, Barbara talking about books and appeal, what kind of books do you think have the potential to really sparkle up a reading inn somebody who doesn’t have it already?
Barbara: Well, I think that’s a really, really hard question. It’s very tough to know what’s going to appeal and what’s going to appeal to which reader. So since I’m a children’s librarian, I’m going to talk more about that. We found that there is a big cache with the super popular books that kids will be enthusiastic about reading Dork Diaries or Big Nate because all their friends are reading it. I think we all remember when Harry Porter came out, kids who had never touched a book in their life suddenly had to have all of those books and they actually did read them and that was clearly peer pressure. But in addition to choosing the most popular books, there are other ways to determine that you are meeting the needs of that particular kid and the first thing that I would look at is reading level. It’s really important to have a book that a child can have success with. If you give them something that’s too hard, it can be really discouraging. So often, especially at the lower grades I’ll show a child a book and say, “Does this look too easy, too hard?” But you want to make it easy for them, so that’s the first thing that we are looking at.
Julie Dina: How do you motivate a reluctant reader? What set of questions do you ask them and how do you go about matching the reader with a book?
Barbara: As I said, we started with the grade level and then we are looking at what’s popular. You know you can’t always suggest Captain Underpants or Dork Diaries. We are also looking at the format that the child wants to try a graphic novel or a ‘comic book,’ something that has more illustrations than texts. Sometimes kids and again especially the boys want nonfiction, books about sports or animals or science, something like that. So that’s the way to go. Sometimes we are asking them if they had a book that they read before that they liked, can we follow up on that somehow? So there’s a lot of ways to go at it and hopefully we are going to find something that really just lights up those eyes and get that kid into the idea that this would be a fun thing to do.
Julie Dina: Could you share with our listeners and tell us about some o the MCPL programs that will be actually helpful for reluctant readers and their parents or caregivers?
Barbara: Sure, I’m happy to do that. The first thing that comes to mind is our summer reading program and of course we are pretty far from summer right now and I know at spring you have a podcast on summer reading but that is a great way to encourage reading that kids actually get prizes for doing activities and for reading books and it’s a big encouragement for them to come to the library and look at different kinds of books and complete their books. So that’s just a wonderful program but during the school year, there are other programs. We have Early Literacy Story Times which are important. For the older kids, there is a Read to the Dog program which is really fun. It’s held at several different libraries and the kids come in and an adult has a dog that sits there and the child picks up a book and actually reads the book to the dog and that’s terrific because will give you no judgment. A kid who might be shy in a class or with another adult, may find it a little bit easier to read to a dog. Similarly, we also have a Grand Reader program where kids are able to read to an older adult who again may be a little bit less judgmental and a more comforting presence. Also, there are several book discussion clubs for kids and that’s a wonderfully motivating activity because kids who talk about a book are really learning more about it and it will encourage them to read more and to get more out of it.
And of course there are other programs. At lots of different libraries we have author visits, we have STEM activities, and there are just so many programs. I also want to talk a little bit about resources for reluctant readers and for any readers. One thing that I learned recently is that one new technique is to encourage kids to read large print books. They are finding that that is somehow less intimidating to a child to read than a book where all the print is kind of squished together and every page looks so dense. A large print book has more wide space, the word are a little bit further apart. It’s easier for many children to navigate and to have MCPL. We have a pretty good collection of children’s books in large print and of course there are also lots of adult large print. Another thing that can be used in a similar kind of way is e-books. We have again a huge collection of e-books that can be downloaded and read on a device or a computer. Again, you could make the print larger. Some kids might feel more comfortable just to read on a computer than to pick up a book, so that’s a good thing. And also for younger kids, we have two programs, read-along books and so that’s another resource that can be used. In addition, on our website we have all kinds of subject book lists. We have graded book lists, so if you want to know what your second grader might like you could print out the second grade list. If you want to know books on nature or history or whatever, you could print out that list. There’s a lot of great resources.
Julie Dina: I knew it, we worked for MCPL.
David Payne: Something – we had lots of readers.
Julie Dina: Yeah, we would cover everyone.
David Payne: And now, a brief message about MCPL services and resources.
Female Speaker: Looking for your next favorite book? MCPL can help. Fill out our what do I check out next online form and tell us what you like to read. You can find the link to the service on our homepage. We will email you a list of three to five books that are library chosen just for you, happy reading.
David Payne: Now back to our program. Well, Barbara let’s talk about a few books, in particular let’s say you have a first grader who says they don’t like reading. What would be your automatic go-to book for them? What about for a third grader or a fifth grader or a ninth grader? What are some of the automatic choices that you go to in those situations?
Barbara: Okay, well I’m going to answer with of course more than one because being a librarian, we always like to pile all these books on you. For a first grade reader, if they are below reading level we have a series called Flip a Word and it’s basically phonics. It’s really clear graphics, very simple, basically again phonics, rhyming words and it’s super easy and very appealing to kids. So that would be my first choice for somebody who’s not quite at first grade or struggling with it. If they are a little better reader but just not enthusiastic, I like to suggest funny books so I might say Fly Guy by Ted Arnold or Williams Piggy and Elephant books. I think humor gets kids reading. For the third grader, again the lower level maybe Mercy Watson books by Kate DiCamillo.
Again they are pretty easy, they are funny, they have humor, they have large print, it’s a pretty easy book to read but it’s thick. So that’s nice, that gives them a sense of accomplishment. For somebody more on level, we might do Captain Underpants, Geronimo Stilton, Baby Mouse, those are all good choices I think. For the fifth grader, again if they are below level I might go to some of those third grade suggestions if they are more on level something like Dork dairies, Wimpy Kid, Big Nate, those are all – again, they have the humor that encourages kids. They have lots of illustrations, they are very popular. So usually when a kid sees that, they are pretty willing to give it a try. The ninth grade is a little harder, I thought. If they are below grade level, I might suggest Hatchet by Paul which is a great adventure story but again it’s short, it’s easy text but it moves really quickly, might be one of those fifth grade books that I mentioned. If they are more at grade level, I might suggest Alex Rider or Hunger Games, a lot of excitement, they move quickly. So I think those books have a fairly good chance to encourage a kid to get reading.
Julie Dina: Could you tell me about a story where you were able to actually get a child who was reluctant and had sworn “I’m never ever going to read again” but you turned it around?
David Payne: Okay. So for this we are going to my family members because what’s a good podcast if you are not embarrassing someone in your family? And I’m going to start with my son and then if you want I can give you a story too about my niece. So my story is in middle school – well actually elementary and middle school, one of my sons really did not like reading and he has never become a huge fiction fan. But his summer reading for middle school one year was to read a novel, so I thought that should be pretty easy, how hard can that be? And I kept bringing home books and he kept saying “No, I don’t like it. It looks stupid.” So finally I brought home the book Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson and something about it appealed to him. It’s the story of a girl who witnesses something horrible happening at a party.
The writing is very spare, it’s powerful, it’s not a long book and something in that book just appealed to him and he read it and then later in the year, his school or his class had a contest to design a new book cover for any boo that you had read and he did the cover for Speak and he won the contest. So I thought that was pretty good reinforcement for reading. The other story was also a summer reading story. My niece had to read a huge amount of pages one summer, that was the assignment, read – I don’t know 500 pages or 1000 pages or 200o pages for your summer reading and again I kept handing her all these young adult novels and she kept “No, I just don’t like it. I don’t know, it’s just –” and finally somebody – and I’m not sure I could take credit for it because it could have been one of her friends said – handed her Twilight and that was when that book was hugely popular. And she read the whole thing and that book is like 500 or 600 pages. I just couldn’t believe this girl who wouldn’t open a 200-page novel, but again there was something about it that just appealed to her. It moved quickly, it was fast, it was popular and so she made her 1000 pages by reading all the books in that series. So that’s my story.
Julie Dina: I love them all.
David Payne: So Barbara, for any parent listening who may be concerned that their child doesn’t like to read, what advice would you give them?
Barbara: Okay, I think it’s a really fine line between encouraging your child to read and pushing them too hard and you have to be really careful. So probably the best strategy is to offer books but don’t force them. You want to make sure that there aren’t learning disabilities that are causing the problems but once that’s been dealt with, again offer the books. If there is a specific problem, you want to maybe work with the teachers to get them to encourage reading. But again, have a choice of books, do the nonfiction, do the graphic novels, do the popular things, and make sure that there are some good options for the child.
Julie Dina: Well, still on the same line of what you just said, because you know many parents are concerned for their reluctant readers and some parents actually would prefer their kids to read above their grade level. What would you say to such parents who keep trying to give a child a book that they are not really interested in and it’s below, well the parents consider this book being below the child’s reading level?
Barbara: Well, we do see that a lot with these many arguments between many parents and many children at the library, but again, we are at that fine line. I do think there are kids who need to be pushed to move away from their comfort level and stretch a little, but some kids need to have the positive reinforcement of reading success at the lower level. So sometimes I do say to parents, “Look, it’s the reading that’s important, not so much the format or the level.” And again, this is something if they are finding it hard to get the child up to the next level, this is something more that a teacher might be able to do more effectively. At the library, we really want to make sure the child is enjoying and that it’s not becoming a chore or an effort. So if a kid is happy reading, you don’t want to mess with that too much.
Julie Dina: So we want a joyful child?
David Payne: That would help?
Julie Dina: Now we’ve talked a lot with regards to children but there are some adults who would mention and say, “I really don’t have time to read this long book.” Do you have any solutions as to what would be good for them?
Barbara: Yes. I think that’s absolutely a valid thing. Sometimes people just don’t want to commit to a huge book. In my old age I’m finding that to be more the case for myself. I’m just like, “Oh no, I have many pages.”
Julie Dina: So what would you recommend for yourself?
Barbara: A shorter book. There are lots of very good books that are 300 or 400 pages or less, fiction, nonfiction, whatever. So you don’t have to go the huge novel route but also there are short stories, there are novels or – I’m sorry, short stories or novellas, there are graphic novels, magazine articles, again the nonfiction is always an option. If you have a nonfiction book sometimes you don’t have to read the whole thing, you kind of skip around a little bit or leave out the chapters that you are not interested in. Another option which actually we didn’t talk about for kids but many people enjoy listening to a book, so that’s another way to deal with the lack of time and possibly the lack of commitment. So if you are on a long trip it doesn’t really matter how long your book is, you just listen for as long as it goes. Also I had another idea and that is that adults can also read young adult books or children’s novels. There are a lot of books that are so well written and have interesting themes and characters, but it’s usually a pretty quick read and that’s a great option.
Julie Dina: Well, finally before we let you go, it’s our tradition here o Library Matters to ask our guests to tell us about a book they have enjoyed reading recently. Could you share that with us?
Barbara: Okay. So I’m going to tell you about a book that I just finished a week or two ago and following my own advice for an easy read, it was young adult, nonfiction. The book is called Survivors Club and the author is Michael Bornstein. And this was an amazing story of a young Jewish boy from Poland who was sent to a concentration camp with his family. At the time he was only four years old, but he managed to survive and even more surprising, almost everybody in his extended family survived. Some survived by hiding, some survived by escaping, some seemed to survive just by luck. So even though it was a sad story and it was pretty awful to read about the violence and the trauma that he went through, I felt like it was so inspiring to learn about where everybody did survive and how he was reunited with his family.
Julie Dina: It sounds wonderful. Well, once again, thank you so much Barbara for joining us for this podcast episode.
David Payne: And being an inspiration to the many young children and the parents who are looking to get that boost into reading. Thank you for sharing your wisdom with us.
Julie Dina: You are very welcome.
David Payne: Don’t forget, keep the conversation going by following us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest. Don’t forget to subscribe to the podcast on the new Apple Podcast app, Stitcher, or wherever you get your podcasts. Also, please review and rate us on Apple Podcast, we’d love to know what you think. Thank you for listening to our conversation today, see you next time on Library Matters.
Recording Date: October 11, 2017
Hosts:Julie Dina and David Payne
Episode Summary: Children's Library Associate Barbara Shansby talks about why some children, and adults, are reluctant to read and how to foster an appreciation for reading among reluctant readers.
Guest: Children's Library Associate Barbara Shansby
Featured MCPL Service: What Do I Check Out Next? Tell us what you like to read through our What Do I Check Out Next? form. Our librarians will e-mail you 3 -5 personalized book suggestions.
What Our Guest is Currently Reading: Survivors Club: the True Story of a Very Young Prisoner of Auschwitz by Michael Bornstein. The incredible story of Michael Bornstein, who at 4 years old, was one of the youngest people to be liberated from Auschwitz.
Books and Authors Mentioned During this Episode:
Alex Rider by Anthony Horowitz: In this thrilling series, 14 year old Alex Rider is coerced into working for British intelligence after his uncle is killed on a mission.
Babymouse by Jennifer and Matthew Holm: An imaginative mouse learns life lessons in this graphic novel series.
Big Nate by Lincoln Peirce: Chronicles the life of Nate Wright as he resists the confinements of middle school.
Captain Underpants by Dav Pilkey: The humorous books recount the adventures of an unlikely super hero.
Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney: This series, formatted as a journal, recounts the life of middle schooler Greg and his best friend Rowley.
Dork Diaries by Rachel Russell: Humorous book series written as a diary with lots of drawings and doodles. It chronicles the life of middle schooler Nikki Maxwell.
Fly Guy by Tedd Arnold: Funny book series about a fly and his best friend, a boy named Buzz.
Geronimo Stilton: This series features the adventures of Geronimo Stilton, the scaredy mouse editor of The Rodent's Gazette, who is constantly being dragged into adventures by his pushy, boisterous family.
Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling: Harry Potter's fantastic adventure in this 7 book series starts with 4 simple words, "You're a wizard Harry."
Hatchet by Gary Paulsen: Brian Robeson is the sole survivor of a plane crash in the Canadian wilderness.
Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins: In this popular dystopia, teens from twelve oppressed districts are forced to fight to the death in a futuristic arena.
Mercy Watson by Kate DiCamillo: In this series, a buttered toast loving pet pig named Mercy Watson has all sorts of adventures in her neighborhood.
Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson: A traumatic event near the end of summer has a devastating effect on Melinda's freshman year in high school.
Twilight by Stephanie Meyers: This series chronicles the romance between a teen girl and a vampire amidst growing conflict within the secret world of vampires.
Other MCPL Resources and Services Mentioned During this Episode:
Early literacy storytimes prepare our county's babies, toddlers, and preschoolers for a lifetime of reading and learning.
Grandreaders: Children can practice reading aloud to our specially trained older members of the community.
Library Matters recorded an episode about MCPL's Summer Read and Learn program in May, 2017.
Read to a Dog: Children can build confidence in their reading skills by reading aloud to one of our trained therapy dogs.
Small type can be a barrier for some readers, including kids. Check out MCPL's large type books for children.
Lauren Martino: Welcome to Library Matters, I am your host Lauren Martino.
Julie Dina: And I am Julie Dina.
Lauren Martino: Turn on the lights, make sure your cell phone has reception, lock the door to the basement and whatever you do, don’t say, "I'll be right back". We have the librarians Heather Wright from Olney Library and Tom Palmer from Silver Spring Library with us today and we are about to explore the world of horror fiction and horror movies, what they are, what they do to us and why we keep coming back for more, Tom and Heather, welcome to the show.
Heather Wright: Thank you.
Tom Palmer: Thank you for having me.
Julie Dina: So let's begin the show, with getting a clear understanding or the definition of a horror book or film.
Heather Wright: It's literature that reminds us that the world is not safe and that we need to have a healthy caution at all times.
Tom Palmer: I like that.
Heather Wright: Such as now.
Lauren Martino: It sounds like — yes, is that from Neil Gaiman?
Heather Wright: Possibly.
Lauren Martino: Yeah it sounds like something he'd say. So we called you in here today, I know Tom — I was sitting next to Tom on the desk and asked him if he would do this with us and he said yes, but said he was going through a horror kick recently and had also taken a class in horror fiction in college.
Heather Wright: Cool.
Lauren Martino: What draws you to — why now, what's fueling this horror kick of yours?
Tom Palmer: So I recently started reading Stephen King and I am huge fantasy nerd and I read his dark tower series which is kind of like a mash up of horror and fantasy.
Lauren Martino: Everything he does is a mash up or horror, like whatever else he is writing about, yes.
Tom Palmer: I would say that is about right, and so then I went on, I am reading "It" right now by Stephen King, I have read the classics, Shelley and Dracula, but I think what I like about it is it explores themes that are sort of universal to people but are maybe taboo in other genres, whether it's something like revenge, repressed memories or just fear in general. It might be part of a book in another genre, but in horror it's really sort of the focus and you can sort of dig deep into those and sort of — it almost makes you feel introspective about things you don’t normally think about, who wants to think about when they are afraid? But it can be fun in the same way people like being scared in movies and what not.
Heather Wright: I agree, I think one of the things I like the most about horror and I don’t read a lot of horror but —
Tom Palmer: I don’t either.
Heather Wright: But I started reading Stephen King when he first came out with Carrie and was hooked ever since but what I like about a good horror novel is not that it scares me, that sort of is the secondary thing but that if it makes me think and ponder about something, that is a little bit deeper, and they often do, like what is the meaning of life or what's out there, that could be out there that we don’t think about and is there something evil and inhuman in nature that sometimes comes out under certain circumstances, that's the kind of thing I like.
Lauren Martino: Or even what is precious that we might be losing if an evil clown gets set loose on the world.
Julie Dina: So with that being said, what would you then say makes a good horror story?
Heather Wright: Well, a couple of things, first of all it needs to have that "What if?" And I will put that in quotation marks, "What if" scenario. What if an evil clown reached out of the sewer and grabbed children, what if a vampire came to your town, what if something that ordinarily wouldn’t happen combined with two other things. I think you need the feeling of suspense as you are reading it, what is going to happen next, it's got to be a real page turner and an element of surprise, there has to be something that makes you think, whoa that just happened, I didn't see that coming, those three things I believe are necessary.
Tom Palmer: And I completely agree, the what if, the fear of the unknown is a huge aspect of horror movies and books but for me first and foremost any book has to be readable, it has to have a good flow, I have to sort of be drawn in and then I've read books before where the what if, the hook was interesting but I just sort of couldn’t get into the story and I think people like Stephen King do a good job of making it readable and sort of universal and relatable and then of course you’ve got to have a little bit of fear and that introspective feeling that you were talking about. But really it's the basic, is like any other genre, just a good book with horror elements added in I think.
Julie Dina: I've always wondered why do people want to be scared though, why?
Heather Wright: Well not everybody does want to be scared but there are interesting theories about those that do want to be scared, why they want to be scared and I will tell you what research says and then I will tell you my theory my — armchair psychologist theory — to see if Tom you agree with me.
Julie Dina: Listen up.
Heather Wright: Okay so way back in our ancestor days, the days of the cavemen they lived in constant fear that they were going to be eaten by a wild animal and so —
Lauren Martino: A justifiable fear.
Heather Wright: Yes. That was a justifiable fear and so ingrained in each human being was this fighter flight aspect of life, it was the surge of adrenaline that they immediately had to decide do I run away and escape this animal who is going to eat me or do I fight this animal and eat this animal? So that went on for a few millennia and then came civilization and things calmed down a little bit and there were fewer wild animals out there that were going to eat us but we still have that fight or flight instinct physically and we still need that rush of adrenaline. So at that point people started telling each other stories around a camp fire, stories with evil spirits that were going to take them off somewhere and that was sort of the beginning of the horror genre to sort of satisfy that the need for adrenaline, and now I am going to add my armchair psychologist aspect of it. In modern times, there is a ton of stuff out there that could scare the hell out of you that really is happening. We have weather phenomena, we have terrorist threats, we have crazy shooters if you start thinking about this you could really go crazy with fear. So we don’t want to think about this, so what our subconscious does is create fear out things that probably are not going to happen, things like clowns reaching up out of the sewer, things like vampires in our bedrooms and if we can be scared of that for a little while and see that we can vanquish that, then our need for adrenaline rushes is satisfied, I rest my case.
Tom Palmer: Well way to leave nothing for me to say —
Heather Wright: Oh I am sorry.
Tom Palmer: But I completely agree with you, I think the sort of primal reason is people like that shock to the system endorphins feel good, not everyone likes that shock but it's that if you are going through life and things are dull, dreary, it can feel good to sort of be jolted and think and reexamine life. But I would agree it can help to sort of experience fear in a way that you know is probably not going to happen. For instance, like I don’t really like realistic horror, I am not a big fan of serial killer stuff because that happens and it's not something I want to think about but I think we are safe from demonic clowns so that is something I don’t mind reading about… hopefully.
Lauren Martino: Yeah hopefully, what's that under the table?
Tom Palmer: Right, but yeah basically I think it boils down to that fighter flight and that feeling alive I think.
Julie Dina: So some would go bungee jumping and some would just go for a horror book.
Heather Wright: Exactly.
Tom Palmer: I think that is exactly right.
Lauren Martino: Have either of you been unable to finish a book because it was too scary, too gruesome, too troubling?
Tom Palmer: This actually happened to me for the first time recently.
Lauren Martino: First time?
Tom Palmer: If you would have asked me three months ago, I would have said no, I don’t know what that says about modern media and the way I grew up but I'm pretty desensitized to like, just to movies, video games, violence but I actually read American Psycho recently by Bret Easton Ellis and there was a part in the book involving a rat, if you have read it before you will know what I am talking about.
Heather Wright: No.
Tom Palmer: It is just awful and it was sort of — it seemed to me like violence for violence sake and I sort of felt like, why am I reading this, I know this isn’t fun and so I think that is the one and only time that a book has been a little too much for me, I never finished it.
Heather Wright: I have one that I did finish but I kind of didn’t want and this was a recent Stephen King book called Revival, this came out a few years ago and it’s about a preacher who stops being a preacher because his family is killed in a horrible accident and he doesn’t believe in God anymore so he decides not to be a preacher but he develops this ability to cure people, did you read Revival?
Tom Palmer: I haven’t, I've heard, but I have read about it though.
Heather Wright: Okay and he uses a form of electricity, he calls it special electricity that somehow can cure people, but after they are cured, they have seizures where they see visions of a strange landscape that can't be explained. So to make a very long story short, he uses this electricity and hooks it up to someone who is dying, with the theory being that as they die, he can get a vision through this electricity of what they are seeing and what they are going through. So it happens and it's horrible and it's just horrible, it's the closest thing to hell that I can imagine, that immediately you are led away by huge monsters that look like ants and you are beaten and tortured for the rest of your existence and I kind of — I didn’t want to finish but I had to finish and I stayed away from Stephen King for a while after that.
Julie Dina: Where would you say he gets his inspiration from?
Heather Wright: Stephen King has said that he was inspired in his writing by a fellow named Richard Matheson who wrote one of the first zombie stories which is called "I Am Legend" which some of you may have heard of and some other modern horror writers have also said Peter Straub I believe and Dean Koontz have also been influenced by this guy who writes a lot of psychological suspense into his horror.
Lauren Martino: What is the point of zombies if they are not suspenseful? Actually, I grew up in Peachtree City which is not far away from Senoia Georgia, which is where The Walking Dead is filmed now, so my whole town is pretty much like overrun with zombies and zombie actors and like it's kind of strange.
Heather Wright: Yeah that would be a great vacation site, do they market that it's there?
Lauren Martino: Oh they do, oh my goodness, like there is like a little downtown with the cute little shops that have zombie soap and zombie candles and I am not making this up.
Heather Wright: Wow, it could have an amusement park, zombie rides.
Julie Dina: That might be next.
Lauren Martino: I am sure it's coming.
Heather Wright: I'd like to go.
Lauren Martino: It's like I never thought this would happen in my hometown. The book that I read that I could not finish — and I don’t know if this quite counts because it is a true story but there is a graphic novel called My Friend Dahmer by Derf Backderf.
Tom Palmer: Okay that doesn’t sound good already.
Lauren Martino: Yes, no it was written by a friend of Jeffery Dahmer's from high school and exploring like why — what may have gone wrong or you know what happened in high school that may have — and you know I was pregnant at the time so I was already queasy all the time and you know there is something about the drawing of it that it's just — the drawing just looks gross, even if it's not portraying anything gross like Ren and Stimpy or you know like —
Tom Palmer: Oh boy.
Lauren Martino: Or you know, Beavis and Butthead, there is something with —
Julie Dina: Beavis and Butthead —
Lauren Martino: You know, you just look at the drawing and it just kind of grosses you out and the whole book is like that even when nothing gross is happening and of course gross stuff does happen, so yeah that — so yeah I just was like I am feeling too queasy, I can't do this.
Julie Dina: And now, a brief message about MCPL resources and services
Lisa Navidi: Are you afraid…afraid of running out of fascinating, gripping, thought provoking, books? Well MCPL has a solution for you. It’s called Librarian’s Choice! Real librarians write articles about the books they enjoy, just so they can share it with you! Want to find out more? Check out Librarian’s Choice from our homepage. Happy reading!
Julie Dina: Now back to our program.
Lauren Martino: We talk about why people are into this, why some people just can't stop being scared and I've known kids that inexplicably like it was like all he wants to read is horror books, should I be giving them all these horror books? What do you think about that? I mean because really young kids sometimes, they've got this craving and how much —
Heather Wright: Well I think if a kid has a craving for any kind of book, being a children's librarian, you give them that kind of book.
Lauren Martino: Yes.
Heather Wright: Yeah I mean with some exceptions probably but children have the same feelings that adults have about being afraid, even stronger, I think if a child faces something frightening in a book or a movie that has conquered them, you have to make sure that the good does conquer for children and it often does in a children's book then that makes the child feel a sense of power that good does conquer evil and that I think a child gets a feeling of self-confidence from this so I would not steer a child away if they are interested but I also wouldn’t force a child to read horror.
Lauren Martino: Do you think it makes a difference if it's a movie or a book? Like would you feel the same way about exposing your child to a horror movie versus it in writing?
Tom Palmer: I think a movie is another level these days, some of the horror movies that are made, I mean, now but going back to the 70s are just — no I would not like my child seeing that. I think a book, there is a little more leeway but I tend to — other genres I might let them read a bit of an older book like a science fiction something, drama but horror can have some really disturbing aspects to it and I think it's very much an adult thing. I mean there can be their Coraline horror-ish fiction and —
Lauren Martino: And that is scary enough.
Tom Palmer: And it is scary.
Lauren Martino: Oh my gosh, the audio book, the singing rats, well about the bones —
Tom Palmer: So I think children are interested because anytime you say don’t read this and don’t look at this, of course they are going to say why I want to look at that? But I have vivid memories of seeing movies as a child and thinking I shouldn’t be watching this, I'm going to get scared but you can't help it and you want to see what the big deal is and of course I was frightened later and so maybe I would try to avoid that with my own child, I am sure he will see it, you know but.
Heather Wright: Well part of the problem is that movies don’t necessarily end happy.
Tom Palmer: Oh no, very rarely.
Heather Wright: Definitely not, I will tell you about a movie that my parents took me to, this may have been the first movie that I ever saw in a movie theater, I was five years old and they couldn’t get a babysitter so the first movie I ever saw was, Psycho.
Lauren Martino: Oh my goodness.
Heather Wright: Oh my goodness is right, so I still — I remember this day, I don’t remember much from when I was five but I remember turning around and crying and not facing the screen at the end, not the shower scene, I didn’t care what was going on and a five year old wouldn’t care about that but at the very end when the rocking chair turns around and you see sitting in this rocking chair, this rotting corpse of an old woman, still years afterwards, every window, I would see this face in the window, it was really hard for me to get to sleep and I can still picture it vividly so my parents were good parents except for that day.
Julie Dina: So have you stayed away from windows now?
Heather Wright: That’s hard if you are actually. And plus I have seen Psycho a few more times.
Julie Dina: Oh okay, you’ve conquered.
Heather Wright: I have toughened up.
Julie Dina: Yes, you've conquered your fear.
Lauren Martino: But that didn’t keep you away from showers though I think that would have really taught your parents a lesson.
Heather Wright: That is true, “Well honey Heather is really smelling bad today, it's your fault.”
Julie Dina: It’s funny you brought that up because I was going to ask you, what would you consider the scariest movie, book or film that you have ever seen or story?
Heather Wright: Well I gave this one some thought and I am not going to say Psycho, because — I am going to say it's the book and the movie, both scared me, see if you agree with me, The Exorcist.
Julie Dina: Oh yeah I will never forget that one.
Heather Wright: Wow, well in the movie, the imagery I thought was so realistic at the time, probably now, people would laugh at that but what really scared me about The Exorcist, was then later I did some research being a librarian you know, a future librarian at the time and this kind of thing really happens. The Exorcist was based on a true story in Prince George's County.
Tom Palmer: Yeah absolutely.
Lauren Martino: Where in Prince George's County?
Julie Dina: What?
Heather Wright: I forget but you can look it up and I mean that’s just one example, these things happen all the time, so that is what scares me when I think whoa, this could happen to me anytime, but it hasn’t. How about you Tom?
Tom Palmer: Well I will state up front that I'm a pretty big wimp when it comes to movies, I actually don’t love horror movies and my wife is even a bigger wimp so we are not a big horror movie family. I actually think one of the scariest books I have read is Frankenstein and it's just so different from the movie — the book. So you sort of have in the movie this big stupid monster and then in the book, he is very much intelligent and has emotions and struggles with those and I don’t know if it scared me but I remember feeling sort of, my God I can't imagine knowing who created you and then immediately they say you are disgusting and I hate you and go away and then he grapples with those feelings and it's actually a very heartbreaking book but I was amazed at how scary it was for a book that was written a long time ago and the fact that Mary Shelley was 19 years old or something when she wrote that, it's just unbelievable to me.
Lauren Martino: I bet there's 19 year olds out there that —
Tom Palmer: Yeah but I —
Lauren Martino: Given the right training, yes.
Tom Palmer: Yeah so that’s true.
Julie Dina: So would you then say that the horror genre has developed or changed over time?
Heather Wright: Yeah. Well like I think I said before, horror stems back to when people started telling each other stories around camp fires, there has always been an element of horror. I think horror fiction as we know it now probably started to develop during — when Shelley wrote Frankenstein and this was the 19th century and a lot of classic horror books came out then, Dracula and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and the stories of Edgar Allan Poe and this used to scare people which is interesting because things were written very differently then, there weren’t things where people jump out behind things and scare people, it was much more atmospheric and using your imagination. A lot wordier as time has gone on, things have changed I think, modern horror. People say really Stephen King was one of the first who created the kind of horror fiction that we have now where besides just supernatural things, he uses things that scare us in modern society, things like call phones that can — it can cause a plague if anyone has read Cell.
Tom Palmer: Viruses yeah.
Lauren Martino: Yes.
Heather Wright: Okay or just evil lurking in the most unlikely places and now actually in modern horror things have changed even more, just in the last couple of year I think there's — since the teen series Twilight by Stephenie Meyer that came out, it was kind of the only thing like it at the time but there's just been a glut of things for teens and then spreading down to children and for adults on vampires and werewolves and zombies and it's just kind of everywhere you look now.
Tom Palmer: Yeah I would agree with everything you are saying, I think horror film has sort of — I think there's still good horror films but a lot of it is, in my opinion just sort of upping the antique with the violence and with the —
Lauren Martino: You have to have somewhere to go.
Tom Palmer: Yes and just sort of I would say shock tactics and that is one of the reasons I am not a huge fan, there is not a lot of subtlety these days but fiction, Heather said it pretty well, it's just sort of tamed by today's standards but I think authors can be more creative now with what they write. I think back then it was maybe ghosts or someone, a killer or something and now it can be anything, Stephen King uses what he calls the Macro verse, that’s creatures from other universes and I think that would have been maybe unpublishable back in the 20s or something like that. So I think —
Lauren Martino: Those imaginations hadn’t quite stretched that far.
Tom Palmer: Exactly but —
Heather Wright: Isn't the clown from It from that universe?
Tom Palmer: He is; he is not from our universe right.
Heather Wright: Well thank goodness for that.
Tom Palmer: Yeah.
Julie Dina: Do you think some of this is expanding into TV shows too these days?
Lauren Martino: You know I have seen more and more of — you know I sat through Stranger Things and it was —
Heather Wright: Loved it.
Lauren Martino: It was hard, oh my gosh but I couldn’t stop, like I just couldn’t stop and I feel like we are seeing more and more of that too where you get the chance to really develop.
Heather Wright: Yeah I've been trying, I love horror TV, I grew up with The Twilight Zone and absolutely loved it and I have been trying to find something that rivets me the way that — I tried stranger things absolutely, I am a fan of that "Bates Motel", see that is a Psycho thing. The Bates Motel series which is the origins or Norman Bates and how he got be the way he is and his relationship with his mother, it's all very creepy. I've been trying to watch American Horror Story, I don’t know if anyone has watched that, the first two seasons were fantastic, it's gotten very strange with the addition of Lady Gaga which is in itself somewhat horrific.
Lauren Martino: That is strange yeah.
Heather Wright: I know but I keep trying and then I used to watch The X-Files and there's so much of it out there now, I think it goes along with the literature, there is just — there seems to be a glut of it now.
Tom Palmer: Have you tried Penny Dreadful?
Heather Wright: No but I have heard about it, is that good?
Tom Palmer: I can't recommend it enough, it's got sort of a lot of the classic characters from horror, it's got Victor Frankenstein, Dracula but sort of a different take on — it's only three seasons but so good, you should definitely try it.
Heather Wright: Oh I will, I will tonight, how about Black Mirror, it's on Netflix, it's sort of… it's horror from a very modern perspective taking into account the way technology is going and then they take the "What if technology turns in this direction, kind of in a twisted way" how would that affect what our lives are like? It's fantastic.
Julie Dina: Since a lot of these scary movies or books or stories have tricks in them — would you say or could you tell us of a book that you know is actually very scary but isn’t marketed as a horror book?
Tom Palmer: It's hard because the book I have in mind, it's not that of a stretch but it's The Road by Cormac McCarthy and it's sort of in a post apocalyptic book so it's not a huge stretch but it's not marketed necessarily as a horror book but it's very intense in the sense of, should some sort of environmental disaster happen and society broke down, you know some of the things that is in the book, you can see humans doing and it's very disturbing, because it's again that idea of this could happen, humans can behave this way and it's very scary so that would be mine.
Heather Wright: And I am going to say a book called Geek Love, G-E-E-K.
Julie Dina: I've seen that book.
Heather Wright: By Katherine Dunn.
Lauren Martino: Is it — please tell me more, why is this a scary book?
Heather Wright: Okay it's not marketed as horror but it's so horrible, oh my God, it's about a couple who run a carnival and they want their carnival to be more popular, so you are not going to believe — so what they do is the woman takes drugs and chemicals into her system in order when she is pregnant to create fetuses that have abnormalities on purpose so that these will be oddities in their carnival and so they've got Siamese twins, they've got a son who has no arms and legs and he's got flippers instead and their whole family is made up of — well I don’t want to say the word but the book says of geeks. So it is about this carnival that they have and the son who doesn’t have arms or legs and has flippers is also very handsome and women fall in love with him when they see him floating around in his tank and so he starts a cult and in order to be a part of the cult and come to the meetings and get to hang out with him you have to cut off a body part so that you are like him and the more body parts that you cut off, the higher in this cult you get to rise. Now we were down to hardly any copies in the Montgomery County library system, maybe this is a good thing, but I just read an email about new books that they are buying and that is one of them.
Tom Palmer: Oh my.
Lauren Martino: Oh Gosh.
Heather Wright: So other people must like this book, well not like — it isn’t the word, but must read this book other than myself.
Lauren Martino: I can't let go of Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro, like I am totally slaughtering his name. He just won the Nobel Prize right, Kazuo Ishiguro which is basically — and spoiler alert, here is your chance to stuff up your ears because as you go further in the book, like they never say it outright but you keep being like oh my gosh, that's what this book is about but they just keep hinting at it until the very end. But yeah we are living in this world where people are cloned pretty much for the purpose of donating their organs and like right around maybe 30 or so, they complete or something to that effect where it's like you know, congratulations, you are done, and they take everything and that is the end of you and it's just — it's the most horrific thing and I mean the whole book is about trying to find humanity and meaning, leaving like this. So I mean it's much more than just the disturbing part of it but it's just like I'm still to this day haunted by some of the images and what happens in this book, I just can't let it go.
Julie Dina: So there you are at the Information Desk and someone approaches and your heart starts racing and your palms grow sweaty because it is somebody from a book or movie you've read recently, it's the last person you wanted to see, who is it and what do they ask for?
Tom Palmer: That's a tough one; I'll give it some thought, possibly Hannibal Lecter asking for a copy of how to cook everything, maybe a wine guide.
Lauren Martino: A wine guide.
Tom Palmer: That is what I came up with.
Heather Wright: Pennywise the Clown from It he is a really very gross clown who kills little children and the more frightened they are the better they taste and he would come up to the service desk and he would say to me where is the children's room? I don’t know, we don’t have one.
Lauren Martino: So do you have anything you'd recommend for somebody looking for some of these items and interested in learning more, where should they go on our website or among our resources to find out more?
Tom Palmer: In terms of resources we always have the Reader's Café online and What Do I Check Out Next which is a great function on our main webpage so that has plenty of good recommendations for horror books.
Lauren Martino: And you are one of the recommenders for that aren’t you Heather?
Heather Wright: Yeah, yes and I have recommended horror books to people, not a lot.
Julie Dina: But some.
Heather Wright: But some, yes. What Do I Check Out Next is a service provided by Montgomery County librarians where you email in a question, what type of books you are interested in and within three to five days, one of our librarians who do this will email you back with a list of three to five books and a little description of each and why we think that book would be interesting to you.
Julie Dina: And finally it's our tradition here on Library Matters to ask our guests, to see what they have enjoyed reading recently would you guys share with us what books you have actually enjoyed reading recently?
Heather Wright: Well the book I am reading now and almost done, I am going to finish it tonight, is called The Motion of Puppets and this is kind of horror, it's by Keith Donohue, who is actually a local writer, I think he lives in Bethesda. This is about a couple who are recently married and she works for a circus and one day on her way home from the circus to her apartment she goes into a toy store, that she has always admired the toys in the toy store especially the puppets in the window. Let's see where this is going and she goes in at night after hours and for some reason the door is open and the proprietor of the toy shop assaults her and turns her into a puppet. Takes out her organs, stuffs her with stuffing and she becomes one of the puppets that live in the toy store. Now for some reason the puppets in the toy store are also alive, they can come alive at night and talk to each other. So the story then alternates between her life as a puppet and her husband who doesn’t know what happened to her and he is trying to find her and one day he sees on TV a parade of puppets that this toy store has done and he sees a puppet that looks just like his wife. So he's got a clue now how to find her and where I am now is he's just found the shop where she is but he hasn’t found her yet so we'll found out what happens when I get home tonight.
Lauren Martino: That sounds a lot like —
Tom Palmer: That sounds very exciting.
Lauren Martino: It sounds like Splendors and Glooms by —
Heather Wright: Yes which I have also read, yes.
Lauren Martino: I love that park, that’s the —
Heather Wright: Yes that's the same theme but with a child — a little girl turned into a puppet yeah which is a very spooky creepy thing really when you think about it.
Lauren Martino: Yeah.
Heather Wright: So don’t think about it.
Julie Dina: Tom?
Tom Palmer: Well my recommendation and the book I just finished was It for the reasons I said before. Before that I read American Gods by Neil Gaiman, not really horror-ish but fantasy. It is about — the concept is the old gods that were worshiped in ancient times Thor and all these different ones trying to stay relevant in today's world where people either don’t believe in God or tend to believe in a God and this is the whole pantheon of old gods trying to find followers because that's where their powers comes from basically. So it is very interesting and it is also a TV show now which is good.
Heather Wright: Everything is turning into a TV show.
Julie Dina: Yes.
Lauren Martino: They've got to come up with their ideas somehow.
Julie Dina: Well thanks Heather and Tom for joining us on this episode of library matters, we appreciate all the wonderful scary information you’ve given us, don’t turn off the light. Let's keep the conversation going by following us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest. Don’t forget to subscribe to the podcast on new Apple podcast app, Stitcher or wherever you get your podcasts. Also please review and rate us on Apple podcasts, we'd love to know what you think, thank you for listening to our conversation today and see you next time.
Recording Date: October 11, 2017
Hosts: Julie Dina and Lauren Martino
Episode Summary: We talk with horror fiction fans Tom Palmer and Heather Wright about horror books and movies. Why do people find such fiction appealing? What’s the scariest book they’ve read? Have they ever had to stop reading a book because it was just too scary or horrifying? Join us in our exploration of this gruesome genre, if you dare!
Guests: Tom Palmer and Heather Wright
Featured MCPL Service: Librarian's Choice, reviews of recent books our librarians have enjoyed.
What Our Guests Are Currently Reading:
Tom Palmer: American Gods by Neil Gaiman. The old gods of ancient mythology weaken as belief in them declines while the power of new gods, manifestations of modern technology, grows.
Heather Wright: The Motion of Puppets by Keith Donahue and Splendors and Glooms by Laura Amy Schlitz. In The Motion of Puppets, a circus acrobat becomes trap in a toy store when she’s transformed into a puppet. Splendor and Glooms is a childrens’ book about a girl who is kidnapped by puppeteers who perform at her 12th birthday party.
Books, Movies and Authors Mentioned During this Episode:
American Horror Story: A television series about a family that the moves into a Los Angeles area house that is haunted by demonic forces.
I Am Legend by Richard Matheson: The story of the last man alive, who is attempting to survive amidst hordes of the undead. This classic sci fi/horror book has inspired several films, including one starring Will Smith.
It by Stephen King: A shapeshifting evil feeds off the fear and death of children in a small town.
Stephen King: American author of horror, fantasy, and suspense.
Dean Koontz: American author of thrillers with frequent horror elements.
My Friend Dahmer by Derf Backderf: A high school friend of the infamous serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer explores Dahmer’s complex formative years.
Never Let Me Go by Kauzo Ishiguro: Three childhood friends reunite, but soon the dark secret of their old school forces them to confront a horrible truth.
Penny Dreadful: A psychological thriller series set in Victorian London featuring classic literary characters such as Dr. Frankenstein and Dorian Gray.
Edgar Allan Poe: A 19th century American writer, best known for his mysteries and horror stories.
Revival by Stephen King: A disillusioned preacher discovers a horrific world of torture and fear awaiting those who die.
Stranger Things: A sci fi/horror television series about the disappearance of a young boy and the supernatural events that occur in his small town.
Peter Straub: American horror novelist.
The Twilight Saga by Stephenie Meyer: Teen series about vampires and werewolves.
The Walking Dead: Television series about survivors of a worldwide catastrophe who must survive in a world filled with flesh eating zombies. Several seasons of this show have been filmed outside Senoia, Georgia, which is near host Lauren Martino’s hometown.
X-Files: FBI agents Fox Mulder and Dana Scully investigate paranormal phenomena.
MCPL Resources Mentioned During this Episode: