Wednesday, November 18, 2020

The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu


The Hidden Treasures of Timbuktu

By Laurie Allee
For those of you reading this via email, click here to see the accompanying video
This post contains affiliate links.  Click here for more info!

It sure feels like the world is bereft of heroes right now.    With that in mind, I have a wonderful book recommendation to offer hope: The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu.   

Author Joshua Hammer tells the true story of how, during a time of great unrest, a mild-mannered book archivist named Abdel Kadel Haidara smuggled 350,000 priceless texts out of Timbuktu, saving them from certain destruction by Al Qaeda.  This heroic heist is one of the most exciting adventures I've ever read, and moving testimony to ordinary people and their ability to change (and save) the world.  I don't want to give too much away because you need to dive into this rip-roaring adventure and experience it yourself.  

It is an exciting page-turner, worthy of a Hollywood treatment, but it's also a beautiful testament to our higher angels, and what happens to us when we heed them.  Hammer's prose is thrilling -- part reportage, part history, part travelogue and all wonderful.  Haidara's patience and bravery will restore your faith in people.  Bookworms will adore this book, but everyone can enjoy the adventure.  

Read a sample here.

Listen to a sample here.

To watch a slew of videos about the lost libraries of Timbuktu, click here for my curation.

Watch Joshua Hammer discuss his book here.

Every month I embed a bookish film to watch for free!  See this month's selection here.

Friday, October 30, 2020

Great Books on Pandemics: Non-Fiction Edition

The Books With Laurie 
Pandemic Reading List
Non-Fiction Edition!

By Laurie Allee
For those of you reading this via email, click here to see my accompanying video.
This post contains affiliate links.  Click here for more info!

Let's Be Real...

As we head into our 9th month of the global Covid-19 pandemic, it's hard not to feel overwhelmed and hopeless.  Is this ever going to end?  Will life ever go back to any recognizable kind of normal?  Will we ever be able to see our friends in person? Go to a theatre?  Stop disinfecting packages?  

"History doesn't repeat itself" Mark Twain reportedly once said, "but it often rhymes."  Although the Covid-19 pandemic feels uniquely awful, we don't have to look too far back to see that it resembles other disease outbreaks from our not-too-distant history.  Over the last few months I've tortured myself   read some interesting books about past epidemics, how people dealt with them, and what we (supposedly) learned from them.  I can't say that these books make me feel better about our current global crisis, but they point toward hope, and offer insight into the profound resilience of the human spirit.   

With that, I give you my Great Pandemic Reads, Non-Fiction Edition:

Friday, August 21, 2020

The Booksellers

If you're reading this via email subscription, be sure to click here to see the accompanying video trailer and recorded interview with the film's director.

by Laurie Allee

Click above to watch the film.
Do you miss browsing used bookstore stacks?  

I found the next best thing!  The Booksellers, directed by D. W. Young, is a documentary film made especially for bookworms. 

Antiquarian booksellers are a weird bunch.  Part collector, part obsessive, part sleuth, part entrepreneur and totally, completely, ALL book nerd.  The Booksellers is a fascinating peek inside a world populated with eccentrics, intellectuals, historians, sentimentalists and the keepers of a medium that is literally crumbling and turning to dust.

While I wish the film ventured beyond the East Coast-centered traditional -- nothing about the equally zealous comic book, hip-hop, manga, pulp and film script collectors, -- I adored getting an insider's glimpse at this dusty, dreamy book world. 

Adam Weinberger gets lost in a library (Film still from The Booksellers)

I also appreciated the diverse group of antiquarian book collectors featured in the film.  If you think they're all old white guys with patches on their tweed jacket sleeves... think again.  Sure, there are a lot of those guys, but you may be surprised at who else is avidly, passionately selling and collecting old books in the 21st Century...and who was a big part of its heyday in the mid 20th Century. 

Watch D.W. Young and Peter Bolte discuss the film below:

Monday, August 3, 2020

Great Books on Pandemics: Fiction Edition

The Books With Laurie 
Pandemic Reading List
Fiction Edition!

By Laurie Allee
For those of you reading this via email, click here to see my accompanying original video.
This post contains affiliate links.  Click here for more info!

Is it one book or a series?

I think it's safe to say it's not a short story.

We bookworms have an advantage when it comes to sheltering in place, staying safe at home and easily handling lockdowns.  My friend (and fellow avid reader) Katey put it this way:

"To be honest, my life hasn't really changed that much under Covid-19."

I can relate.  Even in the healthiest, most social of times I'm used to curling up in a corner of my house or garden, and disappearing into a great read. 

I've been doing a lot of disappearing in the almost five months since California declared a state of emergency.  While I've always said that books change lives...they might actually save them during our current crisis.  If you don't have to go out, then don't go out.  Instead, find your corner and start reading. No mask required.

So, let's put the novel in novel coronavirus.  

I present you with a fiction-lover's list of Great Takes on Pandemics:

Monday, June 22, 2020

Coming Soon: Booklists for Lockdown, Liberation and Life Lessons

by Laurie Allee

Books to the Rescue

It's been a long, weird few months -- and like most bookworms, I've found comfort and guidance  tucked safely between pages.  Stay tuned for my Must Read lists coming in late July, 2020 -- that is, unless the Mayans got the date of their calendar wrong, in which case, I hope future alien extraterrestrial archeologists enjoy browsing my shelves as they comb through the digital detritus of our former civilization.

Stay well, readers, and I'll be back soon.

Go here for inspiration.

Thursday, January 9, 2020

Great Books for Writers

By Laurie Allee
For those of you reading this via email, click here to see my accompanying original video.
This post contains affiliate links.  Click here for more info!

NanoWrimo 2019 wrapped this past November, and if you are anything like I was after my first Nano, you're still trying to decipher the rambling mess you made!

Congratulations to all the now-novelists who finished 50K words in 30 days.  I didn't participate in the madness this year, but I'm an old NanoWriMo-er.   I managed to earn the T-shirt in 2014 and 2015, finishing two halves of a (really really long) first novel in those two intense marathons.  Yes, I'm still editing that book.  We can talk about the editing process later.  Right now, let's talk about writing...

I love what my old friend and prolific playwright friend Mark once said.  He told me that he didn't necessarily like writing but he loved having written.  Can you relate?  I find nothing more satisfying that finally finishing a manuscript.  But getting there?  All the way to the end?  Sometimes we need a little help.  (My very first published short story was called Lifesaving.  It was about a bunch of characters who joined together and haunted the dreams of a writer because she never managed to finish their stories.)

With that in mind, I want to recommend a few of my favorite books for writers.  Deadlines for paid gigs are excellent motivators, but we don't always have an external impetus to finish our passion projects.  (And, to be honest, sometimes we need a little inspiration for those paid gigs, too.)

Friday, October 4, 2019

Books for #SlowTech Living

By Laurie Allee
For those of you reading this via email, click here to see my accompanying original video.
This post contains affiliate links.  Click here for more info!

How do we live a life less digitally saturated?

You've probably figured out by now that I'm a big fan of turning devices OFF.  (Or, at least to airplane mode.)  I've got an entire website dedicated to my quest for a more analog life.

As I've struggled to find a balance between online and real life, I've read a lot of books.  Here are the ones I've found the most helpful.  (Some of them are downright revolutionary!)

Monday, September 9, 2019

Books For Film Buffs

By Laurie Allee

For those of you reading this via email, click here to see my accompanying original video.
This post contains affiliate links. Click here for more info!

Cinephile Reading...

I had such a lovely response from readers who enjoyed The Movies Books Make in Your Head.  I appreciate the enthusiastic welcome!  I love getting email from fellow bookworms (and film lovers) so please continue to reach out with your thoughts and recommendations.  (And make sure to let me know if you want to be included in my upcoming Book Club!)  

Since several of you mentioned loving books about films, I thought I'd put together a list of a few of my favorites you might not have read.  (My film bookshelf has a lot more, so be sure to check it out.)

Bookworms and film buffs tend to get along really well.  (Except for the fact that those pesky filmmakers often ruin a great book ... but that's the subject of another essay.)  Below, you'll find my picks for those who love to read about movies almost as much as they like to watch them:

Saturday, August 24, 2019

Love Librarians? Nominate Your Favorite!

(It's amazing what you can find digging around film archives...)
Could YOU have been a librarian in 1947?  

by Laurie Allee 

The fine folks at I Love Libraries are sponsoring the I Love My Librarian award, and I want everyone to know about it.  I once heard someone say that librarians are superheroes without capes, and I think that is the best description I've come across.

The I Love My Librarian award is your chance to shine a light on the achievements, service and all-around goodness of your favorite librarian -- from public, school, college, community college, or university libraries.  Each year ten librarians are chosen to receive $5000 cash, a plaque and a travel stipend to attend the awards ceremony and reception held in their honor.  

Nominate the librarian who means the most to you!  Nominations for the 2019-2020 award are open through October 21.

Go here to learn more, sign up for notifications and even spread the word with the I Love My Librarian promotional toolkit.  

Monday, August 12, 2019

The Movies Books Make in Your Head...

My fellow bookworms can back me up on this: the best movies are books.  

I don't mean that the best movies are those made from books, because that is decidedly untrue. In fact, there are some awful films that are fantastic books. (I'm looking at you, Hotel New Hampshire, and to some extent you, French Lieutenant's Woman.  Actually, I have a feeling the reason James Franco took so long to release his film adaptation of Zeroville is because it just couldn't compare to the absurdly spectacular weirdness of the actual book.) Yes, there are bad films made from good books. I suppose the reverse is also true, but I've already listened to enough arguments about Ready Player One and Twilight.

What I mean is this:  the scenes that play out in your head when you read a great book are better than any film.  

I don't say this lightly!  I say this as a cinephile, photographer and avowed film nerd.  I studied film.  I make my own little films.  I watch films with a passion rivaled only by my love of books. 

But... I've yet to see a film (even Bergman, even Spielberg, even Welles, even Tarkovsky or Goddard or Kubrick) who could best the cinema that plays in my mind when I read.

When I was in the fourth grade, I would have told you my favorite book was Harriet the Spy.  A book about a young girl who crawled around her neighbors' houses peeking through cracks and writing down what they said in her notebook was just about the coolest thing I could imagine.  This was no polite Nancy Drew story.  Harriet was tough.  While the vintage Nancy fussed over her hair and worried about offending boys, Harriet wore jeans and cared more about her writing than whether or not she was pretty or popular. And did I mention she snuck into houses? 

Thursday, August 1, 2019

Scroll less. Read more books.

This post includes affiliate links. Click here for more info!

Welcome to Books With Laurie!

You can find out more about it (and also about me, your friendly bookworm) here.

I'm that person -- the one who always has some book they're rambling on about and insisting you must read.  (I'm also the one you call for a recommendation, and the one whose bookshelves you raid for a summer read, or an herbal guidebook, or a weird autobiography, or a volume of leftist history, or a film theory book...)

I'm Laurie Allee, Bookworm in Residence

This blog is my bookish dream world, and I invite you to share it with me.  

I will regularly post new articles and videos on all kinds of readerly things.  Don't worry, you don't have to hit any like buttons or subscribe to anything.  I'm connecting with fellow bookworms, not building a brand.  I'm just a reader (and a writer!) who encourages you to put your phone down, venture away from the social media hive, and get lost in a good book.  Let's look at words that don't blink or flash.

Let's scroll less and read more books.

I'm building a community of fellow reading nerds, so be sure to get in touch if you'd like to be part of my upcoming old-fashioned book club.

You'll find hundreds of book lover resources and links, as well as all kinds of Easter eggs for bookworms hidden throughout the site, so click around and explore. (Hint, no image is ever just an image.)

If I could have a real bookstore, it would look a lot like Books With Laurie.  Enjoy my little oasis away from multitasking, Twitter arguments, selfies, hashtags and memes.  Find great books on all kinds of subjects, explore some of the world's coolest libraries and bookstores, watch interviews with authors and indie book shop owners and book lovers of all sorts, snag deals on books and get other reader freebies, and discover how great it is to reconnect with one of the oldest forms of media.

This is a good place to start.
(When you're finished, head to my place next door.)