Friday, February 17, 2017

How Harry Cast His Spell

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Title: How Harry Cast His Spell: The Meaning Behind the Mania for J.K. Rowling's Bestselling Books
Author: John Granger
Genre: non-fiction, Christian non-fiction

I checked this out at the academic library where I work. I was intrigued that an author that was publishing a pro-Harry book would be published by an imprint of Tyndale House Publishers. Unless you have been living under a rock the past decade or so, you have heard about the concerns and controversy of Harry Potter by some adults, mostly because of the witch and wizard characters. Granger wrote this book mostly for them. When these concerned adults fixated on the witches, wizards, and (fake) spells (if they bothered to read the books in the first place), they missed the Christian symbolism in the books. If you're thinking, "What Christian symbolism?",  than you need to read this book too!

So what are the Christian symbols used in the Harry Potter series? Here are a few examples (I can't tell you all of them, you have to read the book for yourself!):
* the "mascot" of Gryffindor house is a red lion. A lion has been used as a symbol of God in the Bible and throughout English literature (i.e. The Chronicles of Narnia) (pages 19, 106-107).
* the phoenix was a symbol of Christ during the Middle Ages- hence the nickname of "The Resurrection Bird. "The phoenix here, of course, portrays not only the Resurrection of Christ but also the Christian belief that he has intervened for humanity and taken the curse of death upon himself" (102).
*One person, two natures symbolism (concept comes from the Bible) (Chapter 5)

Rowling also uses alchemical symbolism throughout the series to chronicle Harry's journey from boy to man, non-believer of magic to wizard. While we view alchemy today as a pseudoscience where medieval scientists labored in vain to turn objects into gold, in the world of literature, alchemy "can simply be defined as the transformation of something common into something special" (50). So alchemical "writing techniques" are used to highlight the conflict/journey/resolution of a character and they are used to edify the personal life and beliefs of the reader (page 31).

Other positive aspects of the HP series that Granger critiques are the Hero's Journey formula used within each book (Chapter 3), the emphasis on choice and free will (page 86), the dangers of prejudice (Chapter 6), the parallels of Harry's life to King Arthur (page 86), and the spiritual themes of each book (Chapters 11-17).

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Blog Spotlight

Instead of reviewing a book today, I want to spotlight two blogs that belong to friends/coworkers of mine.
  Charley Bears Does Life is an adorable blog written by Charley (with help from his mom). Charley is new to the blogosphere and will chronicle his life with his fur-sister Sky and his human parents. I look forward to reading about his doggie delights and adventures!

Photo courtesy of Charley and his mom is owned by C. Neil Davenport, an aspiring writer, photographer, actor, and film maker who wants to change the world through the art of film. I look forward to reading (and watching) Neil's journey too.

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Photo courtesy of C. Neil Davenport

Saturday, January 7, 2017

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Title: The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace
Author(s): Gary Chapman and Paul White
Genre: non-fiction, leadership, management, work relationships, personality, work issues

This book was recommended reading in one of the librarian Facebook groups I belong to. I decided to read it since I enter a mid-level management position back in July and I co-supervise a staff of 11 who have myriad personalities, ages, and cultural backgrounds. Gary Chapman is most famous for his series of books about The Five Love Languages (a book I make sure to gift to newly married couples). The Five Love Languages are Words of Affirmation, Acts of Service, Physical Touch, Quality Time, and Tangible Gifts. The Love Languages series has focused on love languages between spouses and between parents and children; it was interesting to see how these languages are used and viewed in a workplace setting. As in his other Languages books, Chapman is concise in his writing style and real- world examples are used to drive home the points made in this book.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Title: Me Talk Pretty One Day
Author: David Sedaris
Genre: non-fiction, humor, memoir

I am in the (slow) process of writing a book about my adventures in Library Land. I know what you're thinking: "How can she write a book about shushing people all day." Contrary to popular belief, not all library users treat libraries as the sacred spaces they are. Libraries like all public institutions have to deal with the public, and anyone who works with the public knows that a lot of the public are crazy, irrational, mentally ill, etc. Some library situations are frustrating, others are eyebrow-raising, and most are hilarious.

I attended a writing workshop a few months ago. I sat amongst my peers at the Creative Nonfiction table and we all took turns describing our ideas. My tablemates had great ideas. Serious ideas. Sex trafficking. Horses as therapy animals for autistic children. Miscarriage. Then it was my turn. "I want to write a book about my adventures working in a library and I want it have a funny and snarky vibe." Upon seeing the baffled looks, I started telling them my stories- the funny ones- and they loved it! Now I just have to find the time... The table leader suggested that I read David Sedaris' book Me Talk Pretty One Day to get a feel for writing in a humorous style. This was a homework assignment I enjoyed. Mr. Sedaris writes short essays about his crazy family (comedienne Amy Sedaris is his sister), his childhood in North Carolina, his adventures living in NYC, and his misadventures learning French and living in France. Some stories made me chuckle and others had me laughing out loud.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Title: Wreck the Halls: Cake Wrecks Gets "Festive"
Author: Jen Yates
Genre: humor, non-fiction

I don't remember how I stumbled upon Jen Yates' blog, Cake Wrecks, but I always find her blog post hilarious and entertaining. By now you are probably wondering what exactly is a Cake Wreck? According to the blog's site: "A Cake Wreck is any cake that is unintentionally sad, silly, creepy, inappropriate - you name it. A Wreck is not necessarily a poorly-made cake; it's simply one I find funny, for any of a number of reasons. Anyone who has ever smeared frosting on a baked good has made a Wreck at one time or another, so I'm not here to vilify decorators: Cake Wrecks is just about finding the funny in unexpected, sugar-filled places." Cake Wrecks only make fun of professionally decorated cakes and when you check out the cakes on her blog you'll wonder how some of these professional cake decorators were able to land and/or keep their jobs. On Sundays, Jen posts her weekly "Sunday Sweets" post which are themed cakes that are absolute perfection.

Wreck the Halls is Jen Yates' second book; it's a quick and hilarious read that is perfect for sharing holiday cheer with others. The pictures of these cakes are horrible on their own but the captions and snarky comments take them to a whole new level of hilarity. After reading her blog and two books, you will never look at cake the same way again.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Title: My Father's House
Author: Rose Chandler Johnson
Genre: Christian fiction, inspirational, Southern fiction, Georgia author, takes place in Georgia, women's fiction

Lily Rose Cates had a mostly idyllic, small-town childhood: an older brother who was a ready playmate and with whom she was extremely close to, a loving and protective father, and a mother who suffered from unrelenting grief and depression. Lily's father unexpectedly passes away leaving Lily to emotionally flounder throughout the rest of high school and into college. Unfortunately Lily's sweet nature and sheltered childhood do not prepare her for the harsh realities of the world. She falls head over heels with the first man (Manny) who showers her with charm, attention and romance. Despite warnings from Annie Ruth, the caregiver for Lily's mother and the adopted family matriarch, Lily marries him and eventually regrets it. After suffering Manny's abuse for 2 1/2 years, Lily (with the help of a friend) escapes from Manny, and returns to Georgia, to the house she inherited from her father. With the help of her friends, neighbors, her writing, her faith, and a handsome veterinarian, Lily rebuilds her life. A nice clean read that was a nice, relaxing change of pace after a busy semester. Non-religious readers will be able to enjoy this book as well since it is not too preachy or too sappy.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Title: Being Mortal
Author: Atul Gawande
Genre: non-fiction, medical history, end-of-life issues

I read this book after my boss called it "the best book I've ever read." How can a book blogger pass on a recommendation like that?

In the recent past extended families took care of each other, yet in this same era people tended to die quickly and unexpectedly and had shorter lifespans. Nowadays people can languish in pain for years from the effects of multiple chronic diseases, medications, and medical interventions. When medical knowledge increased, our lifespans increased, as well, but not necessarily our quality of life in later years or when suffering with a terminal illness. While family members could take care of each other in the past, the increased lifespan and effects of multiple diseases means that family members do not have the time, skill, or appropriate knowledge to take care of their loved ones. Dr. Gawande investigated the history of nursing homes and assisted living institutions for this book. The priority of nursing homes is safety of the residents and efficiency for the staff. Personalized quality of care of the residents is never discussed which is why so many of the elderly waste away. Dr. Gawande also toured and interviewed hospice care which provides comfort on the terms of the ill instead of high-tech medical procedures. Hospice allows the terminally patient to prioritize what matters most to them in the end and helps the patient reach those priorities.

This was definitely the best non-fiction book I have read this year. Dr. Gawande writes in a personable and non-intimidating style about a subject that most of us are uncomfortable discussing. Dr. Gawande was also uncomfortable discussing end of life issues with his own parents and all three of them are doctors! Keep the tissues handy- you will need them!