Episode Summary: Librarians Amy Alapati and Dana Alsup discuss MCPL's upcoming comic convention, MoComCon. The event will include a variety of panels, workshops, programs, displays, exhibits, and cosplay, all free of charge.
MoComCon will take place at Silver Spring Library on Saturday, January 27, 2018 (weather date is February 10) from 11 AM - 4 PM. Parking, which is free on Saturdays, is available in the Wayne Avenue Garage at 921 Wayne Avenue.
Recording Date: December 13, 2017
Hosts: Lauren Martino and David Payne
Guests: Amy Alapati, a children's librarian at Damascus Library is a member of the committee organizing MoComCon. Dana Alsup, a librarian at Marilyn Praisner Library, is the chair of this year's MoComCon Committee.
Featured MCPL Resource: Free WiFi is available in all MCPL branches, no special encryption settings, user names, or passwords are required.
What Our Guests Are Reading:
Amy Alapati: The Astounding Broccoli Boy by Frank Cottrell Boyce
Books Mentioned During this Episode:
Adventures of Polo by Regi Faller
American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang
Boys of Steel by Marc Tyler Nobleman
Bill the Boy Wonder by Marc Tyler Nobleman
Dog Man by Dav Pilkey
March trilogy by John Lewis
Maus by Art Spiegelman
Nathan Hale's Hazardous Tales by Nathan Hale
Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi
Saints by Gene Luen Yang
Other Items of Interested Mentioned During this Episode:
Cosplay - Costumed roleplaying that involves wearing costumes and accessories to represent a specific character.
Don Sakers - Baltimore/Washington area author and sci fi convention speaker.
Futuremakers - Organization focused on providing training, tools, and materials for makers.
MoComCon - MCPL's comic convention. MoComCon will include a variety of panels, workshops, programs, displays, exhibits, and cosplay, all free of charge.
San Diego Comic Con - The premiere comic convention in the United States.
Recording Date: December 13, 2017
Hosts: Lauren Martino and David Payne
Episode Summary: Guests JoEllen Sarff and Dianne Whitaker, who both have experience selecting books for MCPL, discuss their picks for the best books of 2017, along with a few titles from other years, because, well, we're librarians. Our book love can't be confined by something so pedestrian as time.
Guests: Librarian JoEllen Sarff, from our Collection Management department, and Wheaton Interim Branch Manager Dianne Whitaker, former head of Collection Management.
Featured MCPL Resource: An MCPL library card is your ticket to new worlds, a new life, a new career, and more. MCPL offers fantastic fiction to fuel your imagination, exercise and nutrition books and DVDs to enhance your health. online training to catapult your career, and so much more. Get your MCPL library card today.
What Our Guests Are Currently Reading:
Books Mentioned During this Episode:
American War (2017) by Omar El Akkad
Borne (2017) by Jeff VanderMeer
The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
It Can't Happen Here by Sinclair Lewis
1984 by George Orwell
The Future Is History (2017) by Masha Gessen
Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlenben
Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance
Leonardo da Vinci (2017) by Walter Isaacson
Radium Girls: the Dark Story of America's Shining Women (2017) by Kate Moore
After the Fall (2017) by Dan Santat
Amina's Voice (2017) by Hena Khan
Beyond the Bright Sea (2017) by Lauren Wolk
Clayton Byrd Goes Underground (2017) by Rita Williams-Garcia
Dance (2017) by Matthew Van Fleet
The First Rule of Punk (2017) by Celia C Perez
Hilda Must Be Dancing by Karma Wilson
Pachinko (2017) by Min Jin Lee
Red and Lulu (2017) by Matt Tavares
The Rooster Who Would Not Be Quiet (2017) by Carmen Agra Deedy
Step Up to the Plate, Maria Singh (2017) by Uma Krishnaswami
Wishtree (2017) by Katherine Applegate
Wolf in the Snow (2017) by Matthew Cordell
Harry Potter: a Journey Through the History of Magic (2017) The British Library
Long Way Down (2017) by Jason Reynolds
Other Items of Interest Mentioned During this Episode:
Beanstack: An online service where users can log their reading, write reviews, and get reading recommendations.
Books & Authors: A book discovery tool with read-alikes and suggestions, awards lists, reviews, and reader ratings.
New in Media: Check the left column of our catalog for links to the latest film and television DVD's, as well as adult and children's books on CD, that MCPL has received.
NoveList Plus: Find fiction by series, plot, setting, and read-alikes. Also offers book discussion guides, booktalks, and articles.
On Order Titles: Check the left column of our catalog for links to new books that MCPL has ordered, but have not yet arrived. You can place holds on these incoming books.
Top 4 Checkouts: See the top 4 checkouts for adult fiction and non-fiction, children's fiction and non-fiction, and teen fiction during the last several months.
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.
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: