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Director's Column

PLSJC Director Alan Hall writes a weekly column discussing library and community news, history, and other interesting subjects.

The Book on my desk

By Alan Hall, Director, PLSJ
Publish Date - Sunday, July 13, 2014


[library article 13 JULY 2014]


By Alan Hall




Every day, advertisements for new books arrive in my incoming mail tray, along with e-mails from publishers and authors nationwide.


All public library Directors in Ohio are part of the statewide communications system, and our work e-mail is public information, which increases the number of e-mails promoting new books that we receive.


Of the approximately 2 million new books published last year, 20 percent were eBooks; a number that is increasing every year.


Another growing category of books is “self-published” titles, where the author pays a production company to print the book rather than have a traditional publisher edit, review, and produce the book with royalties to the author.


Last year, nearly 400,000 books were “self-published.” 


I heard a best-selling author address a library conference many years ago, and she said that in order for your book to be a best-seller, you have to have “a great story to tell, and have the ability to write it.”


Lots of people want to write a book, but fewer numbers of people have the ability to successfully write a book.  Lots of new books end up in flea markets and bargain book sellers.


In June, I was sent a complementary book by the author, and as I glanced at the title, A MENTAL MEAL OF MAGICAL RHYMES AND POEMS I pushed the book to the corner of my desk for “later consideration.”


My thought was that this book, indeed, was self-published by a well-meaning author who is now sending it to libraries across the nation hoping it would attract some interest.


Some time passed before the paperwork around the book disappeared and it emerged again, and I wondered who author Arthur Weil is, and if his poetry was worth the time to read it.


I chuckled at the little poem on the last page, “This book may someday be valuable, Or it may sit on the shelf, Sold at a flea market for 10 cents, Soon to be recycled.  Can’t you save me?  Share me?”


That alone made the book worth some reading time, so home it went beside my living room chair.


He placed his introduction on a corner of page 9, and it states, “Please do not attempt to read this book in one fell swoop.  That would be torture.  Rather, absorb a few pages here and there, as appetizers to savor, a treasure trove to be discovered…..Don’t try to figure me out, even I haven’t been able to do that myself, and I am 88 years young…..Go to it, eat a few pages, but beware, they may bite back.”


Who in the world is this man?  His biography is delayed until page 360 where we find that he was born in Germany and turned over to the “Kindertransport” that helped Jewish children escape before World War II.  He lived in foster homes in Chicago until joining the U.S. Army in 1943 and serving in London as an interpreter.


He taught History and German in the public schools of California for 27 years after attending Roosevelt University, DePaul University and the University of California, Berkeley.


The nearly 400 page book has 36 chapters that usually start with a text, and move into poetry that you may like or not.  Topics move from emotions, to nature and aging.  His life of observations and learning are spread out before the reader, and as he told us in the beginning, you have to put the book down and pick it up later  ----- no reading from start to finish.


It is a librarian’s love to read words like, “To read is to enrich, Words – meaning – retention, Have their coy retention.  So many tongues, so many phrases, In truth, most go to blazes.  The gift to share from mind to find, What greater pleasure can you find?’


The prose and poems rattle your mind, from titles like “Cut the crap” to “Down to Earth again.”  A great endorsement of the arts is contained in Chapter 25, and a constant swipe at technology is contained throughout the book, “We gabble incessantly on cell phones, But say so little.”


He discusses his friends, with a photo of stuffed animals around a table.


It probably won’t become a best seller, but it will bring satisfaction to the author that his book is in our little corner of the world.


I e-mailed the author to say that we joined the Findlay-Hancock County Public Library in our system in cataloging the book and placing it on our shelves.