Category Archives: Classic Reads

National Novel Writing Month


November is National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo. Come celebrate the writing process at the Macdonald-Kelce Library, where we have a display all about The Novel. Anyone is able to check out the books in the display: books on how to write a novel, books on the history of the novel, inspirational texts for the beginning writer, and all things Novel!

The process begins on November 1, where participants in NaNoWriMo begin working towards the goal of writing a 50,000-word novel by 11:59 PM on November 30. The goal is not to write the Great American Novel – it’s about challenging yourself to accomplish what most people think is beyond their capabilities. If you ever considered writing a work of fiction, why not begin now?

Learn more about NaNoWriMo on their website.

See what some of your favorite authors say about the writing process here.

Meet people around Tampa that are participating in this exciting opportunity!

“The Fine Art of Baloney Detection”

the-demon-haunted-world-q3jfla5kHere at the library we think a lot about research and information literacy. In short, we think about helping students to develop the skills which will empower them to understand an information need, to be able to identify the best sources, and to be able to critically evaluate that information for credibility, reliability, veracity, and to follow where the evidence leads. All of these skills are essential for writing good papers but are equally important to being savvy information consumers as professionals, citizens, and individuals who operate in a world of often dubious if not outright misleading claims.

One could call this skill set and the ability to employ it in your own writing critical thinking ability. But, I prefer to call it  a “Baloney Detection Kit.” The late great Carl Sagan coined this phrase to denote:

“…the means to construct, and to understand, a reasoned argument and—especially important—to recognize a fallacious or fraudulent argument. The question is not whether we like the conclusion that emerges out of a train of reasoning, but whether the conclusion follows from the premise or starting point and whether that premise is true.”

To build your “Baloney Detection Kit” with the tools for skeptical (or critical) thinking proposed by Dr. Sagan check out The Demon Haunted World: Science As A Candle In The Dark from the library.

Classic Reads: The Jungle

the_jungleThe story of workers, increasingly comprised of immigrant laborers, paid low wages toiling long hours in extraordinarily dangerous and often unsanitary conditions with little to no protection or recourse. The story of the American meatpacking industry, where behind the walls of packaging plants the realities of slaughtering and processing animals into meat is anything but appetizing. I could easily be describing a news story or any number of books and documentaries chronicling the current state of American food, in particular meat, but this story is from the book The Jungle which is now 107 years old.

Upton Sinclair wrote the 1906 muckraking novel The Jungle to expose the deplorable working conditions experienced by Eastern European immigrants toiling in dangerous and unsanitary slaughterhouses in the Packingtown District of Chicago. The general public however seized upon the books descriptions of contaminated and rotten meat and consumer demand quickly led to the passage of The Federal Meat Inspection Act and The Federal Food and Drug Act, which in effect established the FDA (Food and Drug Administration).

Not so different than the one Sinclair told, the story of today’s meat industry involves working in a job with one of the highest rates of injury and illness (see, Safety and Health Guide for the Meatpacking Industry and Poultry Processing Industry eTool) , low wages (mean hourly wage of $11.99), and an increasingly immigrant workforce drawn primarily from Latin America who are disproportionately vulnerable to exploitation (Artz, Jackson, & Orazem, 2010). It is the story of the cost of cheap meat involving regular outbreaks of foodborne illness, concerns over antibiotic use in livestock, abuse of animals, and pollution from factory farms. Today it is also the story of the public’s right to know how we get our meat when Ag-Gag laws limit the ability of muckrakers like Sinclair to inform the public to just what is going on behind those factory walls.

Source Cited:

Artz, G., Jackson, R., & Orazem, P. F. (2010). Is it a jungle out there? Meat                      packing, immigrants, and rural communities. Journal of Agricultural and                Resource Economics, 35(2), 299-315.

Check out these other books from the library to learn more about the modern food system.

fast food nationOmnivoresDilemma_fullfactory farming

Movies Worth Watching: Jane Eyre

ImageI first saw the newest adaptation of Jane Eyre at one of my favorite places, the Tampa Theatre. Recently, I checked it out here at the library and watched it again because well, I’m a sucker for period drama. But Charlotte Brontë’s classic nineteenth century novel has stood the test of time inspiring countless film and literary adaptations, along with considerable scholarly analysis and debate because it is about much more than costumes and melodramatic romance.

Some have read Jane Eyre as the first feminist novel for the title characters confrontation with Victorian era patriarchy. This is not however the universally accepted interpretation. The 1966 post-colonial novel Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys challenges the reader to question previously held assumptions. Rhys, outraged at what she perceived to be an Imperial gaze inherent in Jane Eyre, set out to give voice and agency to the silenced and imprisoned “mad lady” Bertha Mason.

Jane Eyre and Wide Sargasso Sea raise questions about gender, race, class, nationality, and ethnicity. How we interpret these texts and re-imagine them over time can provide fascinating insight into historical and contemporary understandings of relationships and differentials of power.

There is a wealth of scholarly articles which analyze these two works available through the library’s databases. Be sure to log-in to Esearch first.

I found the following article in the ProQuest database:

Ciolkowski, L. E. (1997). Navigating the wide Sargasso sea: Colonial history, English fiction, and British empire. Twentieth Century Literature, 43(3), 339-359.

Classic Reads: The Great Gatsby

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald is considered one of the great works of modern literature and an American classic. Many of us first read The Great Gatsby in high school but it is worth revisiting again and again.

Author: Fitzgerald, F. Scott
Title: The Great Gatsby
Publisher: Scribner
Location: Main
Call Number:  PS3511 G74 1953

You may also be interested in seeing the 1974 film version starring Robert Redford, Mia Farrow, and Sam Waterston which is available in the library’s DVD collection.

F. Scott Fitzgerald’s most well-known work offers brilliant insight into the psychology of a generation but remains an enduring study into human nature which transcends time and place. The timeless tale has been re-imagined in another film version set to be released in 2012 by director Baz Luhrmann and stars Leonardo DiCaprio, Carey Mulligan, and Tobey Maguire.