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Monday, December 21, 2015

RIP Great Authors

Besides the obligatory “Best of” lists, there are also the “Famous People Who Died” end of year lists. These lists are always awkward because whose deaths do you highlight and whose do you ignore? The awkwardness is especially apparent during award season when higher profile celebs who have died get a thunder of applause, while lesser known people in the industry, usually someone like a “gaffer” or “best boy,” get only a polite smattering of claps.

This year, the world lost many amazing authors. Some, like historical fiction genius E.L. Doctorow and Nobel Prize winners Guenter Grass and Doris Lessing, were technical masters. Others, like “The Thorn Birds” author Colleen McCullough and everyone’s 1980s dirty secret Jackie Collins, were just hugely popular.

All authors leave a lasting impression on the world, because they leave their thoughts behind as books. But several authors who passed in 2015, forever changed how we read. Here are some of them:

·        True crime is one of the very most popular genres checked out at the library. People love to read the gruesome details of real crimes, and one of the very most talented authors was Ann Rule, who died in July at 83 years old. Rule shot to fame in the true crime world with her 1980 autobiographical crime story, “The Stranger Beside Me,” which detailed her friendship with and the murders by Ted Bundy. For the next 25 years, Rule ruled the NYT bestseller list with her more than 30 books.

·        Ruth Rendell, best known for her 24 book Inspector Wexford series, is credited with the changing the face of modern mysteries from gentle cozy reads to psychological thrillers. Rendell, who died in May at 85 years old, has inspired many mystery and horror writers, including Stephen King. Rendell published over 60 books, including those under her pen name, Barbara Vine.

·        Swedish author Henning Mankell died in October at 67 years old. He was writer of the dozen fabulous Inspector Kurt Wallander mystery series books. His series, and its popular translation onto TV, was a major influence in making Swedish mysteries so popular in the U.S.

·        Before readers lost themselves in the sprawling worlds of Hogwarts and Westeros, there was Discworld. Terry Pratchett’s comedy series transported readers into another world over the course of 41 books. Pratchett was the master of serialized fantasy and his success is likely one of the reasons we always get at least three and four books for every story, rather than just one. Pratchett dies in March at the age of 66.

RIP to all of those brave enough to put themselves on paper.


Tuesday, December 15, 2015

The Best List

It is the time of the year that the “Best of” lists come out. I like these lists because it helps me find good books that I might have otherwise missed. Some of them, though, sort of miss the mark on what will interest the general reader. Luckily, there are plenty of lists from which to choose.

Many times we look to the New York Times to tell us which books were the best, but I find many of the items on its list to be somewhat inaccessible and a tad, or a lot, too literary. So, what were probably the very best “written” books this year? The fiction titles include “The Door” by Magda Szabo;A Manual for Cleaning Women: Selected Stories” by Lucia Berlin; Outline by Rachel Cusk; The Sellout” by Paul Beatty; and “The Story of the Lost Child (Book four of The Neapolitan series) by Elena Ferrante.

The NYT’s 100 notable books of 2015 is also out. I find that list to be more appealing to my tastes, while still being sufficiently literary to make what I read meaningful.

A list I really do like is Publishers Weekly’s Best Books of 2015. PW names a top 10 list which is fine, but I like its ancillary list that includes the top books in an array of fiction genres and non-fiction topics. Readers get a chance to see titles in topics they enjoy and to be exposed to great books that would never get top 10 attention. Incidentally, Ferrante’s novel is the only fiction title repeated on both the NYT and PW very top lists.

The list at the top of MY list is LibraryReads’ Favorite of Favorites 2015. This list is compiled by librarians and the title of the list really says it all. These are librarians’ “favorite” books, not necessarily the “best,” which is a huge distinction. Just because something is technically excellent does not mean that it has “soul.”

However, it is nice to read something that really is the “best” sometimes, so why not mix it up and try a bit from all of the lists. For more “Best of 2015,” see our webpage compiling different lists at Then, hop onto our Facebook page and tell us which book you thought was the best of the year.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

The library anytime, anywhere

This past year, Stillwater Public Library has been working to make it easier for you to use the library when you are outside of it. Several elements have been added so that you can better access the library 24 hours a day, anywhere.

The first change will be a relief to eBook users who have encountered an expired library card at the most inopportune times. The nightmare of being on a long trip with no reading material, then trying to download a book at night, only to find your card is expired, is over! You can now renew your own card anytime and anywhere just by logging into the library catalog. 

When your account appears, you will see an option on the right side of the screen that will allow you to renew your library card. Please keep in mind, that if your contact information has changed, then you must email or later call the library, so that we can update your account. And don’t forget you can also renew your hardcopy library material in the space place. The easiest way to get to your account log-in is to click “RENEW” on our homepage at

The second addition will be a big help for mobile device users, especially those who use the library on a phone. While you can certainly see our catalog on a small phone, it hasn’t always been very easy. However, we have now added the BookMyne app, which will display a simple, streamlined view to look up books, check your account, and even download eBooks right from our catalog.

Be sure to check our Apps page which provides information about other library services that can be used through an app. Just scroll to the bottom of our homepage and click the “Apps” link under “Online Tools.” You’ll find apps for magazines, learning a language, car repair and more.

Last, everyone will be excited to hear that we are currently working toward online bill pay! We do not yet have it, but are looking for services that will let us provide that option.

If you have suggestions that would make using the library remotely easier for you, we want to hear them! Just email, click the “Comments” link on our homepage or call the Help Desk at 405-372-3633 x8106. Your opinions matter to us.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Supernatural Stillwater

Halloween has become one of many people’s favorite holidays, especially over the last ten years. Several suggest that Halloween’s increasing popularity is due to the chaos happening in the world around us. As we perceive the world becoming scarier and more out of control, we escape through the one night when we enjoy being afraid, knowing that our fears will disappear at the end of the night.

Another way of controlling the unknown is to investigate it. Instead of fearing strange occurrences, many people have started investigating them. One of those groups is the Oklahoma Paranormal Investigation Syndicate (OPIS). On Halloween Day, from 2-4 p.m., OPIS founder, Clint Hancock, will be at the library to present “Paranormal Investigation 101.”

Clint will be teaching supernatural enthusiasts how to track ghostly activity, while demonstrating how to accurately collect information using specialized equipment. He and other investigators from various paranormal research teams in Oklahoma will share stories about their scariest experiences in the field.

Obviously, most of us want to know if there is any paranormal activity going on here in Payne County. Clint says there are several “hot spots” right here in the area, including one particular place just outside of town—somewhere that most of us have visited.

If you are interested in these types of phenomena and want to learn more about investigating their origins, then sign up now for the class at, or you can call the Help Desk at (405) 372-3633 x8106.

If you’d like to read more about paranormal investigation, check out our display filled with books on the subject.

“The Perfect Medium: Photography and the Occult” provides photos from archives and museums across the world that seem to have captured a paranormal presence. Most of the photos are from the 1800s to the mid-1900s. Of course, even then, before Photoshop, photographers were experimenting with ways to alter what was captured on film, but the volume still provides a fascinating chronicle of paranormal photography through history.

Another good choice is “The Oxford Book of the Supernatural,” which provides some of the best writings on ancient and modern phenomena across the world. All items in the displays are available for check out.

When I first started working at the library, one of my colleagues told me that the north building was haunted. It’s true that when we go over to close the meeting room wing, we hear strange creaks and unexplained noises. I don’t believe that any paranormal activity is going on, since the building is, after all, very old. But, when I am alone over there late at night and those clicks, pops and creaks start up….well, let’s just say I don’t mind having my radio with me, just in case. I’ll be interested to see if we can learn a little something about our own library “ghost.” I hope you’ll join us.

Monday, September 21, 2015

The Surprising Sherlock Holmes

We are so excited to be celebrating Sherlock Holmes throughout the month of October. You grow up watching and hearing about certain characters so much, that you think you know all about them. However, I never actually read any of Doyle’s work. To prepare for the series, I dove into the Sherlock stories and some interesting articles and found that a lot of what I thought about our second favorite detective (everyone knows Nancy Drew rules) was not even true (well, “not true” in the sense of not being in the original stories, because of course we all know that Sherlock is fictional)!

For Sherlock buffs, the info below is old news. But others, here are some interesting tidbits:

·   Real-life Sherlock - Doyle was inspired to create his famous character by his medical school professor. University of Edinburgh’s Professor Joseph Bell was said to possess the ability to diagnosis his patients’ illnesses, nationality and occupation solely through observation. Sound familiar?

·   Cruel addiction - I was vaguely aware of Sherlock’s predilection for drugs, but I did not realize its severity. At times when his intellectual ability failed him, Sherlock turned to morphine and cocaine. In “The Sign of the Four,” Doyle describes the detective as having forearms scarred up and down with needle marks. But, in 1890 England, the use of these drugs was legal and even Queen Victoria was said to partake now and again.

·   Not the man we thought he was – We all think we know how Sherlock looked, acted and sounded, but most of what we think we know was born in the movies, not the stories. For example, Sherlock’s most famous exclamation never appeared in a Doyle story. It was in P.G. Wodehouse’s 1915 novel that we first read the line, “Elementary, my dear Watson!” And! Sherlock hardly ever wore his ubiquitous deerstalker cap AND his pipe was straight, not curved---I feel as though I never even knew the man!

·   Not too good at the book learnin’ – Get Sherlock a library card quick, because this genius (“experts” guesstimate his IQ at 190) did not hit the books in school. In “A Study in Scarlet,” Watson describes meeting Sherlock, and in part, grades the detective’s knowledge thusly: 1. Knowledge of Literature-Nil. 2. Philosophy-Nil. 3. Astronomy-Nil. 4. Politics-Feeble. 5. Botany- Variable. 6. Geology-Practical, but limited. 7. Chemistry-Profound. 8. Anatomy-Accurate, but unsystematic. 9. Sensational Literature-Immense. Watson is especially astonished to find that Sherlock has no idea the earth circles the sun. Astounding!

If you have more fascinating facts to add, then I highly encourage you to email ( or call (405.372.3633 x8106) us for an invite to join our SPL Sherlock discussion board at There, you can discuss your favorite Sherlock stories, show-off your Sherlock trivia, argue over symbolism and themes and talk Sherlock 24/7 through the entire month.

The Sherlock series starts Oct. 1 at 7 p.m. with an English Tea and Costume Kick-off hosted by scholar Dr. Bill Hagen. To see all of the events, visit or pick up a program listing when you come to the Used Book Sale Sept. 24-27.