October 10, 2016 is World Mental Health Day, a day designated to raise awareness of and organize support for mental health issues. Millions of Americans (let alone the rest of the world’s population) are affected by mental illness; it is so prevalent that either we are affected ourselves, or we know family members and/or friends who struggle with mental health issues.
This year’s theme is psychological first aid. What is psychological first aid (PFA), you ask? PFA is an approach used by mental health care providers and emergency/disaster response workers to help people function and cope in the immediate aftermath of natural or man-made disasters (for example, devastation from hurricanes, tornadoes, fires or mass shootings). Interventions are designed to offer support and practical assistance to those who are affected and can come in the form of providing food, water, shelter and counseling, among other things. These interventions help reduce the initial distress caused by traumatic events, addressing the physical, psychological, behavioral and spiritual effects suffered.
A few months ago, a shock of red caught my eye as I walked past a display of oversize books at the library. “Cover” by Peter Mendelsund collects in stunning fashion the artwork he has created for book jackets, both new works and reissued classics. If you think you don’t know his work, you actually do. Steig Larsson’s “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo,” Jo Nesbo’s “The Snowman” and current bestseller “The Girls” by Emma Cline all have covers created by Mendelsund. Reading about his creative process provides a window into a world readers often wonder about. Just how does the artwork for a book get selected? Does the author have a say? Who makes the final call? And also, why are so many book covers similar?
William Shakespeare may have been gone for 400 years, but his cultural influence still looms large today. How do modern people react and interact with his work? Check out these documentaries that explore Shakespeare’s works in a modern context.
“Shakespeare Behind Bars” (2005)
Convicted felons at Kentucky’s Luther Luckett Correctional Complex rehearse for the Shakespearean production, “The Tempest,” as part of the Shakespeare Behind Bars Program. The play’s underlying theme of forgiveness parallels themes in the lives of the prisoners.
I love FALL! One of the reasons I love fall is that the American Library Association (ALA) celebrates Banned Books Week the last week of September. This year, the celebration is from September 25 – October 1, and the theme is “Celebrating the Freedom to Read.”
These days when we talk about banned books, we aren’t usually talking about bans by the government; however, there are countries that do still actively ban books, and our government used to be one of them. “Fanny Hill” holds the distinction of being the last book banned by the US government. It was banned in 1821 and again in 1963, and the ban was lifted after the Supreme Court decision of Memoirs v. Massachusetts in 1966. “The Satanic Verses” continues to be banned in many Islamic countries.
Not one of these recommended books is pumpkin spice flavored, but any would pair well with your favorite fall beverage. Break out the decorative gourds, and enjoy this list of books publishing in October that librarians across the country love.
“News of the World” by Paulette Jiles
“Readers fortunate enough to meet Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd, an old ex-soldier who makes a living reading the news to townspeople in 1870s Texas, and Joanna, the Indian captive he is charged with returning to her relatives, will not soon forget them. Everything, from the vividly realized Texas frontier setting to the characters, is beautifully crafted, right up to the moving conclusion. Both the Captain and Joanna have very distinctive voices. Wonderful storytelling.”
– Beth Mills, New Rochelle Public Library, New Rochelle, NY
Great satirists thrive when stuff in the world is goofy or evil. So, given the idyllic nature of the world these days, it’s hard to imagine that there’s much good satire out there or that satirists would manage to earn enough to keep themselves fed and sheltered rather than wasting away in the gutter where they probably belong. But, even with our utopia’s total lack of need for satirists, Gary Shteyngart has managed to keep himself fed, sheltered, gutter-free and, as you’ll see if you google “Shteyngart + vodka,” frequently drunk.
Shteyngart has earned the sustenance and drunkenness. That satire is pointless in our current climate is inarguable, but we still have a few years left before hilarious literature in which nearly every sentence contains a delightful turn of phrase becomes the province only of those who attempt to produce it. He’s a funny guy and a great writer, and I hope he’s able to eat comfortably at least until he’s no longer of any value to our society. (You’ll notice I linked to a picture of him being funny rather than pick from the bountiful text examples of his hilarity. I do this because, as the GlobalTeens social network from his brilliant novel “Super Sad True Love Story” says in one of its many helpful tips, “Switch to Images today! Less words = more fun!”)