We are now in the third installment in the Mark Zuckerberg list of Zuckerbooks, and the overall theme of getting the world to read books that will open their eyes to new ideas and ways that the world works persists. The book Gang Leader for a Day by Sudhir Venkatesh fits into this theme perfectly, and while it shares some themes with the last book, as a reader, it was nice to have something a bit (ok, a lot) shorter with a narrative feel. I read the first 100 pages of this book in one, quick sitting, completely engrossed. This book proves old adage of the truth being stranger than fiction.
Venkatesh tells his own story as a brand new Sociology grad student at the University of Chicago in the mid to late 1990s. His field is one that requires in-depth studies of human existence, and he chooses to study the African American populations in the housing projects just outside the realm of the university, though they might as well be on a different planet for how similar they are to each other. He begins his study by awkwardly stumbling into the Robert Taylor Homes with an ill-conceived survey for the residents, and is held there by local Black Kings (BKs) gang members as they try to figure out which rival gang he might be from and what his motives are in visiting them (mostly because they cannot conceive that he would be so naïve as to wander into unfamiliar gang territories). It is during this time that he is introduced to JT, the leader of the local branch of the BKs, and the man who would be his guide into how not only how gang members live, but also those in the Robert Taylor Homes whose lives are intertwined with the BKs.
By getting to know the leader of a gang, Venkatesh hopes that he will be able to learn more about the economic structure which gangs use to operate, viewing them as a business model. It is this desire to know the structure and inner workings of the BKs that leads him to eventually be “gang leader” for a day (hence the title), and spend the day with JT and his associates as they go about a normal workday. It is this research that made Venkatesh stand out among his peers, and get him a featured spot in the book Freakonomics later in his career. It is a hidden side of gang life, and fans of shows like The Wire will appreciate the many different layers of the BKs that we are shown.
We are presented a world of drugs, violence, and desperation, as Venkatesh writes that all are “hustlers”, himself included. I appreciated Venkatesh’s battle with himself to remain an impartial observer of their actions. The language is rough and uncensored, and anyone who is sensitive to such things would be advised to avoid reading. Regardless, we are given a glimpse into the end of the Robert Taylor Homes and into the lives of the residents in a way that few have been before, all because Venkatesh won the trust of those around him by genuinely caring about them and being interested in their lives. This is an important, empathetic read for all.
posted by Adam Sockel, Collection Development for Overdrive
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The other day a reporter asked me who's to blame for the growing epidemic of identity-related tax fraud. I almost replied, "the government and the bad guys," but I caught myself before committing to that inaccuracy. "We're all to blame," I said.
We live in a very connected world where convenience continues to trump security -- often in the name of innovation. We've also learned the hard way that no system is more secure than its weakest link and that humans are the weakest link. Bad practices and lousy data-hygiene is the enemy.
Everyday Security Failures
But while we're pointing fingers, I would be remiss were I not to suggest that each of us stand in front of a mirror. No one is blameless here. We expose our most sensitive personal information any time we:
- pick up a phone, respond to a text, click on a link or carelessly provide personal information to someone we don't know;
- fail to properly secure our computer or mobile device (smartphone, tablet or laptop);
- discard, not shred, a document that contains PII;
- respond to an email that requests we call a number we can't independently confirm, or complete an attachment that asks for our PII in an insecure environment;
- save our User ID or password on an app as a shortcut for future logins;
- use the same User ID or password throughout our financial, social networking and email universes;
- answer quizzes that subtly ask for information we've provided as the answers to security questions on various websites;
- take pictures with our smartphone or digital camera without disabling the geo-tagging function;
- fail to replace a manufacturer's default password with a long and strong one of our own on any "connected" appliance or electronic device that we put in our homes;
- permit our email address to be our User ID, if we have the option to change it;
- use easily decipherable PINs or passwords;
- fail to annually obtain, review and correct our credit reports;
- choose not to do a daily review of our bank and credit card accounts to make absolutely sure that every transaction we see is familiar;
- put off enrolling in free transactional monitoring programs offered by banks, credit unions and credit card providers that notify us every time there is any activity in our accounts;
- use a free WiFi network, without confirming it is correctly identified and secure, to check email, or financial services websites that contain our sensitive data.
In each of these instances, we leave ourselves vulnerable to those who consider the theft of our identity as their day job. We are also contributing our personal data to folks who are hoping to someday launch the equivalent of a denial of service attack on our economy to take us down.
The bottom line is that we're all in this together. In the ever-evolving connected world, it's impossible to duck, bob or weave your way past the bad guys. Even a proactive measure to protect your identity like monitoring your credit regularly is no guarantee your identity won't be stolen or used in a way that won't show up on your credit report, like medical identity theft. (You can get your credit reports for free once a year under federal law and you can see your credit scores for free once a month on Credit.com to spot any identity theft red flags.)
It should go without saying that government and businesses should have to protect our PII by law, and if they fail to do their duty, they should be held accountable. That said, each of us has a responsibility to minimize our risk of exposure, to be as alert as possible to signs of an identity-related problem and to have a damage control program to put ourselves back together in the event we are compromised.
---written for the Huffington Post by Adam Levin, former Director New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs; Chairman of Credit.com and Identity Theft 911
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The Heist by Janet Evanovich and Lee Goldburg
Book 1 of the Fox and O-Hare series.
FBI Special Agent Kate O’Hare is known for her fierce dedication and discipline on the job, chasing down the world’s most wanted criminals and putting them behind bars. Her boss thinks she is tenacious and ambitious; her friends think she is tough, stubborn, and maybe even a bit obsessed. And while Kate has made quite a name for herself for the past five years the only name she’s cared about is Nicolas Fox—an international crook she wants in more ways than one.
Audacious, handsome, and dangerously charming, Nicolas Fox is a natural con man, notorious for running elaborate scams on very high-profile people. At first he did it for the money. Now he does it for the thrill. He knows that the FBI has been hot on his trail—particularly Kate O’Hare, who has been watching his every move. For Nick, there’s no greater rush than being pursued by a beautiful woman . . . even one who aims to lock him up. But just when it seems that Nicolas Fox has been captured for good, he pulls off his greatest con of all: He convinces the FBI to offer him a job, working side by side with Special Agent Kate O’Hare.
Problem is, teaming up to stop a corrupt investment banker who’s hiding on a private island in Indonesia is going to test O’Hare’s patience and Fox’s skill. Not to mention the skills of their ragtag team made up of flamboyant actors, wanted wheelmen, and Kate’s dad. High-speed chases, pirates, and Toblerone bars are all in a day’s work . . . if O’Hare and Fox don’t kill each other first. – From book cover.
Janet Evanovich is the author of the Stephanie Plum series.
- Notorious Nineteen (2012), Explosive Eighteen (2011) and Smokin’ Seventeen (2011)
Lee Goldburg is the author of the Mr. Monk series.
- Mr. Monk Gets Even (2012), Mr. Monk Is A Mess (2012) and Mr. Monk On Patron (2012)
information provided by C. Ford, Collection and Computing Services (Calcasieu Parish Public Library)
You can’t spell Chromebook without eBook: OverDrive and Chromebook
With the increasing popularity of Chromebooks, especially in schools, we have seen a bump in interest from Chromebook owners about the best way to enjoy OverDrive eBooks and audiobooks on their device – and we’re here to help!
If you are just getting started or need assistance with OverDrive on your Chromebook, there are OverDrive Help articles that walk you through the process of setting up the OverDrive app on your device to read eBooks and listen to audiobooks and how to enjoy streaming video titles and more in your Chrome web browser.
article by Melissa Marin, Marketing Specialist at OverDrive
The Top 10 Ways Your Library Can Help You Keep Your New Year's Resolution
Every January millions of people make resolutions to improve themselves in some way. Whether it's to eat healthier, volunteer more often or learn a new language many of these people give up after only a few months for various reasons, mostly because it's difficult to change their ways. But did you realize that there is a free resource available in your community that can help you keep your resolution no matter what it is? That magical place is your local library. Here are ten reasons you should resolve to use it every day in 2015:
1) Read more: This one seems obvious enough. Libraries are places you can get physical and digital books to read. What people don't realize though is not only can they find endless rows of books but they can also get recommendations on which ones to select.Librarians are master curators, the guardians of good taste. One of the things they're great at is providing you options on what to read next. No longer do you have to hope for the best with two sentence summaries. Many libraries even have websites set up to help you discover your next great read.
2) Watch less TV: When we get home from a long day of work the easy thing to do is plop down in front of the television. It's mindless and easy. The hours we spend in front of the television though could be spent reading, learning a new language or working out. What's great about libraries these days is you don't have to actually go to the buildings to use their materials. Nearly every library in North America offers digital titles available for you to download on any smartphone, tablet or device. Now you never have to worry about making it to the physical library in time. Whether you're on your couch, in bed or at the office during lunch you can access something to read anytime, anywhere.
3) Exercise more often: Working out is tough. It can be time-consuming, frustrating and even a little embarrassing at first. Those long sessions on treadmills or at the gym can get boring quickly. To make this time more enjoyable download a digital audiobook from your library on your smart phone. Audiobooks are perfect for not only helping pass the time but making you look forward to your time on the elliptical. In fact, digital audiobooks have never been more popular and many people use them to multitask while sitting in traffic, doing mindless work or chores at home.
4) Keep up with current events: Staying up to date with world news can be tough. Subscriptions can be pricey and you aren't always around to catch the nightly news. Did you know you can get the latest editions of countless newspapers and magazines from the library as well? In fact, not only do libraries let you borrow periodicals but you can do it for free on your smart phones as well.
5) Give more to charity: Libraries are free for patrons to use at any time. They are nonprofit, which means that money can sometimes be stretched. Support your Library as this will enable them to purchase newer books, offer more programs and possibly even hire new staff.
6) Learn something new: Ray Bradbury once famously said, "I couldn't go to college, so I went to the library three days a week for 10 years." Libraries provide access to scholarly articles, educational materials, language learning programs and much more to help you better yourself and there's no need to pay for expensive college courses or deal with undergrads trying to find themselves.
7) Spend more time with family: Libraries offer reading clubs for children year round as well as crafts and activities to promote brain growth. Many libraries have even begun providing digital "Kids eReading Rooms and Teens eReading Room" so that young readers have a safe digital environment to discover age appropriate content. This is the perfect opportunity to bond with your kids over the stories you grew up loving.
8) Travel more/spend less: in 2015 it's time to officially abandon the time honored tradition of overpaying for books at the airport because you couldn't fit them in your bag. Now you can borrow titles on your tablets to read in the plane or on the beach. Some libraries, like San Antonio Public, are even putting branches in the airports to provide temporary library cards for travelers who are just stopping through their city.
9) Start a new career: Did you know that libraries will help sharpen and improve your resume while looking for a new job? If you're starting a new company but lack work space they provide business labs, maker spaces to promote creativity and even technology like 3D printers to create models and presentations. If you're an aspiring writer they can even help you publish your novel.
10) Be less stressed: Sometimes you just need to get away from the distractions of everyday life. By carving out time every day to focus only on reading or learning something new you'll form a habit that will reinvigorate your life quickly and, because all these materials are available with just a library card, it won't cost you a dime.
Get started on your New Year's resolution to read more -- read a sample of Cheryl Strayed's Wild instead of going to the movies!
article in the Huffington Post
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Rejected Covers is an ongoing series for which artists reveal their inspirations and unused design ideas for popular titles. Below, Nayon Cho, Senior Designer at Penguin, discusses the process of designing the cover for the latest novel by Mo Yan, a Chinese Nobel Prize winner. Yan's latest book explores the country's family planning policy through the eyes of a zealous midwife.
Frog is a beautifully written, harrowing novel about life in one Chinese village, that starts before Mao's Cultural Revolution and ends in the present day. Nobel Prize-winning novelist Mo Yan does an incredible job tracing the wrenching impact each major historical shift has on individual lives. I had never read any of Mo Yan's books, nor was I familiar with fiction set during the Cultural Revolution, so this was a great opportunity to read such a novel written by a master.
The book is narrated by a man nicknamed Tadpole, who tells us the story of his aunt Gugu, a midwife in their village. Gugu begins the novel as a young, intelligent, progressive woman trained in the most advanced medical techniques. She brings her new skills back to her village, determined to practice as a modern midwife. However, circumstances turn her into a strict Party follower, who is in a unique position to enforce the new One Child policy, and she does so with single-minded zeal. Tadpole narrates her life with compassion, but does not spare us the heartbreaking consequences of her campaign to keep the villagers in line.
I was asked to design a jacket that shows Gugu in a sympathetic light. It was very challenging for me to do so, as I found her actions largely inexcusable. I explored many different options, using many different photographs of women in China in the 1960s, but none of them presented Gugu as a sympathetic enough figure. Here are two examples.
Inspired by the text, I also tried a different direction. With a wonderful four-letter title like Frog, I wanted to take the oportunity to have it play a (literally) large role in the design. I set it in a monumental scale and thought about how it could function as a design element. I took the narrator's name, Tadpole, and found an illustration I thought worked well both as a representation of him, and of a sperm about to fertilize an egg (the "O"), to highlight Gugu's role as a midwife.
The design that was ultimately approved uses the same title treatment, but with different art. One of the central horrors of the book is the danger many unborn babies are placed in by Gugu. I found a great photograph of a peaceful porcelain baby sleeping in a nest. The baby is so fragile, but it also could be a figurine crafted by one of the characters in the book, who creates meticulously realistic porcelain dolls. To show the danger surrounding the village's babies, I perched the nest precariously on top of this tall tall title, thinking of the nursery rhyme lines, "When the bough breaks / the cradle will fall / and down will come baby / cradle and all." I'm happy with this design, and think it succeeds in every important way: the baby represents a key aspect of the plot, the monumental scale of the title signals the importance of the novel, and it is overall a warmer, less abstract design. The author was very happy with the jacket as well, which is always a rewarding end to an important project.
Interested? Start reading the e-Book today!
Lisa Gardner is the New York Times bestselling author of crime thrillers with more than 22 million books in print. As Lisa Gardner, she's written an FBI Profiler series, as well as the Detective D.D. Warren series, and standalone novels. As Alicia Scott, she's written romance novels.
In Crash and Burn, Lisa brings back Tessa Leoni and Sergeant Wyatt Foster. Nicky Frank, a married woman, survives a horrific car crash on a rainy night off a desolate highway in New Hampshire. Though severely injured, she crawls up a steep embankment and flags down help, begging police to find her missing daughter, Vero. A massive search is launched. When Nicky's husband Thomas shows up, he drops a bombshell on the police: there is no Vero. He tells the police Nicky suffers from a brain injury sustained in two previous accidents, and has conjured the child from thin air. But as the detectives investigate, many questions arise. Is the child a delusion, or is she real and in grave danger?
How and when did you begin writing fiction?
I wrote my first book at seventeen. I was very lucky because it was published three years later. I started my career as Alicia Scott, writing romantic suspense novels. There was always a dead body and an investigation. I wrote seven or eight of those novels, and got more and more interested in suspense. I also grew more comfortable doing research and cold-calling detectives, prisons and morgues. The more research I did, the bigger the crimes became.
I came up with the idea for a standalone thriller called The Perfect Husband. It featured a serial killer who broke out of a maximum security prison. His revenge against everyone who put him there included pursuing his ex-wife. So, even back then, I was writing a kind of domestic thriller. That was my first Lisa Gardner book, and I've never looked back.
What made you begin writing at the young age of 17?
I didn't know any better. Seriously. I lived in Oregon. Had never met an author, editor, agent. In other words, I had no idea how hard it is to write a novel, let alone how impossible it is to get one published. On the other hand, I had an idea for a murder mystery. So I wrote it.
How did you manage to get published by age 20?
Once I started telling people I'd written a book, they asked when I was going to publish it. This was a new thought for me. But a good friend helped me find a book on how to get published. This was back in the early 90s when the paperback market was exploding, so demand for new voices was higher. I followed the steps for submission spelled out in the guide. Several years and several rewrites later, my first book found a home! I'd told friends when my book sold I was going to buy a Mercedes! Big successful author, right? First lesson in publishing: my book did sell, and I earned just enough money to buy a computer, and even then I had to wait for the computer to go on sale. But it was still absolutely amazing to hold the finished novel in my hands. It gave me goose bumps.
I understand that while writing your first crime/suspense novel, you were working in the food service industry. After your hair caught on fire a number of times, you decided to focus solely on writing. Tell us about that.
Like many novelists, at the beginning of a career, you're writing for love, not money. It took a good ten years for me to become an overnight success. (Laughter). I had many jobs; one was as a waitress at a Greek restaurant. They had an appetizer called flaming saganaki, which is deep-fried cheese over which brandy is poured and then lit on fire. It was the nineties and a time of really big hair. If you didn't pour the brandy properly, the fire could blow back and get onto your hair. It happened quite often. I got plenty of "pity tips" from patrons because of it. So, I'm really grateful every day that the writing thing worked out.
You once described your writing process as "out of the mist." Tell us what you mean by that?
I'm not a plotter. I do lots of research. It's one of my favorite parts of writing. I may know some key forensic points, but I don't like knowing what's going to happen next. If I already know who the good or bad guys are, then the reader will know, too. For instance, with Crash and Burn, when I began the book, I didn't know if Vero existed. I didn't know if Thomas or Nicky were good or bad. I prefer it when characters can go either way--good or bad. There's more complexity, and there are some secrets. One of the things that keeps me showing up each day and writing is that at some point, I want to know the answer.
You're known for doing a good deal of research. In fact, it's clear from Crash and Burn, you researched Post-concussion Syndrome. But you've also talked about the dangers of doing too much research. Will you comment on that?
I think doing research is the most fascinating part of my job. I get to speak with people who do really cool things for a living. You can surf the Internet and talk to experts, but at the end of the day, you must sit down and start writing. You have to produce a novel--you must tell a compelling story.
Speaking of research, I know you depend heavily on experts in various fields. Tell us about that.
The most fun I ever had doing research was cold-calling a body farm, an anthropological research facility. That was for the first Tessa Leoni book, Love You More. The novel involved skeletal remains, and I spent three days working with a forensic anthropologist. Other kinds of experts with whom I've worked have been physicians; boxing coaches; medical examiners; computer forensics experts; firemen; blood spatter experts; and firearms coaches. I've been to four or five different prisons. For Crash and Burn, I dealt with an auto accident reconstruction expert. Each book I've written has been a learning experience for me.
What would you be doing if you weren't a writer?
Probably some type of criminology. With all the research and consulting with experts, what's fascinated me most is the psychology of crime. What is the nature of evil? Is it inborn or acquired through the environment. Or is it a product of abnormal physiology, such as with the Texas bell tower sniper who had a brain tumor. I write fiction, but if I wasn't doing that, I think I'd be involved in criminology.
You're one of the most successful novelists working today. What has surprised you about the writing life?
It doesn't get easier. With thirty books written, you would think I'd feel proficient, but each book is painful in its own way. To paraphrase Dorothy Parker's observation: I don't know that I like writing. I know I like having written.
I'm always just feeling my way to that other side--the completed novel. I feel I'm forever gnashing my teeth and banging my head against a blank computer screen. (More laughter)
What do you love about the writing life?
I love that magical moment when it all comes together in a way I couldn't ever have imagined. I always think of writing as a giant leap of faith. There's that "Ah ha" moment when things just fall into place. Those days are amazing and precious. The art takes over, it all comes together, and I've actually completed a novel despite myself.
If you could have dinner with any five people, from the literary world or from history, living or dead, who would they be?
One would have to be Stephen King. He's my favorite author and an inspirational voice in my career. I loved his book, On Writing. I think he would be amazing and fun to talk to. I would like to invite Queen Elizabeth I, because she was a woman who ruled at that time in history; and because of everything she accomplished. I'd love to have Grace O'Malley, the pirate queen, and Elizabeth's arch rival at the dinner, too. Ben Franklin would have to be there. He was a great philosopher, thinker, writer and an inventor, too. And then, I'd love to have Sherlock Holmes to round out the dinner party.
Which authors do you enjoy reading today?
Stephen King, Karen Slaughter, Tess Gerritsen, Lee Child, Laura Hillenbrand, Kristin Hannah, and I read a lot of YA with my daughter.
article written by Mark Rubinstein, author of Mad Dog House and Mad Dog Justice for the Huffington Post
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