Books That Shaped America

A new exhibit – Books That Shaped America – opens today at the Library of Congress.  A good friend alerted me to this celebration of reading through Michael Dirda’s article in The Washington Post – Library of Congress Wonderfully Diverse List of Books That Shaped America.

Books date from 1751 with Benjamin Franklin’s “Experiments and Observations on Electricity” to “The Words of César Chávez” in 2002, and the list includes 88 titles – 27 published before 1900.

Some recognizable classics include:

  • Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “The Scarlet Letter”
  • Herman Melville’s “Moby Dick”
  • Louisa May Alcott’s “Little Women”
  • Mark Twain’s “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn”
  • L. Frank Baum’s “The Wizard of Oz”
  • Upton Sinclair’s “The Jungle”
  • F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby”

Some that might not make a classics list were included too:

  • Irma Rombauer’s “Joy of Cooking”
  • Dale Carnegie’s “How to Win Friends and Influence People”
  • Benjamin Spock’s “The Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care”
  • Dr. Seuss’s “The Cat in the Hat”

Among the modern entries:

  • Carl Sagan’s “Cosmos”
  • Toni Morrison’s “Beloved”

Read the complete list – here.  How many have you read?

An Ark Full of Books

Library of Congress Reading Room

Although the Library of Congress stores over 100 million copies of books, journals, and films, the collection does not house every book published.  In his article for the New York Times – In a Flood Tide of Digital Data, an Ark Full of Books and Film – David Streitfeld describes Brewster Kahle, a wealthy entrepreneur with the determination to create his own repository, a back-up collection in case of disaster.

Comparing the fledgling project of 500,000 volumes to the Svalbard Global Seed Vault in Norway, Kahle hopes eventually to collect 10 million books in his archive from donations of books discarded from libraries, universities, and individuals. The Burlingame public library donated three hundred linear feet of Scientific American, Time, Vogue, and other periodicals to create space for their computer lab.

Preserving the physical books is Kahle’s way of offering a time capsule for future readers; as a man who made his money by digitizing Web pages, he has more faith in the real book than electronic versions.  What does that say about the future of e-books?

National Book Festival – Reading and Listening

This weekend the 11th National Book Festival, sponsored by the Library of Congress, is on the Mall in Washington, D.C.   Meet authors and illustrators – or just celebrate the festival theme, “Celebrating the Joys of Reading Aloud,” by reading a book to someone.  Even adults like to listen to a story sometimes.

Jim Trelease first published his Read Aloud Handbook in 1979, listing resources for reading aloud – now in its sixth edition.  Skip the narrative and go straight for the lists at the back of the book.  The lists range from picture books to short and full-length novels, anthologies, and folk tales.   He includes the number of pages for each, as well as a short summary, and grade level recommendations (which you should override for interest level).  If you like the book, he also offers others by the author and books on related themes.  For each section, Trelease also includes a list of his favorites.

If you can’t get anyone to read to you, Katherine Powers of the Washington Post suggests listening to Scaramouche, for 12 hours of “swashbuckling adventure,” narrated by Simon Vance, sometimes known as Robert Whitfield.  For me, the voice of the narrator is more important than the content.  Vance’s mellow tones and characterizations create a whole other experience, and I look for audiobooks with his “Golden Voice.”

What’s your favorite audio book?

National Library Week

Celebrate National Library Week  – visit a library.  USA Today’s travel section includes 10 great places where libraries turn a page from Seattle to Boston.

My favorite library is the Trinity College Library in Dublin – it looks like a movie set, and smells old and musty.

But the library that still impresses me the most is the Library of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C.  It’s not just for Congress; I have a Library of Congress library card in my wallet – although it’s been awhile since I’ve been in its hallowed halls, waiting for my slip of paper request to become a book traveling down from the stacks.

These days I am a regular visitor to my community library, usually picking up the books I pre-ordered on line – no more lingering for me.

Books to Read:

  • I Took My Frog to the Library
  • This Book is Overdue: How Librarians and Cyberians Can Save Us All – check out the Review Here