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Winter break: Getting away from it all without leaving home

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Catherine W. Idzerda
February 25, 2008

By our reckoning, this winter has been going on for about 12 years.


If it’s not blowing icy drafts up our pant legs, it’s sleeting car doors shut. For something different, it gives us buckets of rain followed by abrupt drops in temperature.


And the snow, the relentless snow, the all-consuming snow; the burdensome, the backbreaking, the exasperating snow.


We asked local librarians for book and movie recommendations to help us hold on until spring (Remember spring? It’s that season when the ground and air grow warmer, and green things, called plants, start to come up).


Librarians understand the effect of winter on the human condition.


“Oh yeah, when the weather’s going to be bad we know it,” said Kathi Kemp, director of the Eagar Free Public Library in Evansville. “People check out a lot of books and DVDs.”


On Saturday, Feb. 16, the day before the rain-ice-sleet storm, people checked out 334 items in four hours. During a normal, 10-hour day, the library checks out about 250 items.


People were hunkering down.


Librarians know that patrons need something delicious and satisfying, something so engaging they’ll forget the piles of crusted-over snow blocking the driveway.


Not surprising, many librarians recommended Florida.


“It’s Florida, after all, so it’s warm,” said Kathy Whitt, Edgerton Public Library’s director.


Florida is also home to a new genre called “Florida Noir.” It features smart and edgy detective-types who foil corrupt real estate developers, construction companies, politicians, aldermen, city bureaucrats, lawyers and other sleazy dealers.


They often are very funny, too.


Almost all of the librarians recommended Carl Hiaasen, the king of the Florida Noir genre. Hiaasen’s characters find themselves in situations where they are forced to hit bad guys over the head with frozen lizards or skewer them with marlin fins.


Hiaasen is the kind of writer who makes you laugh unexpectedly so that milk—or whatever you were drinking—comes out of your nose.


Hiaasen also has written a series of books for young adults.


Tim Dorsey, a former reporter and editor of the Tampa Tribune, comes in close second with his hero, Serge A. Storms, a grade-A lunatic who wants to save the world—or at least the parts in which he’s most interested. It’s a pleasure to watch his deranged schemes unfold.


He’s harmless if you’re harmless. But if you think you’re going to pave over part of the Everglades for a upscale development, prepare to die in a mysterious and awkward way.


If you want something tougher, with a hardboiled detective, try Randy Wayne White’s Doc Ford series. Set in Florida, and regions south, marine biologist Doc Ford solves mysteries, tracks down missing people and foils the bad guys. It’s intense reading.


The American Independent Mystery Booksellers Association picked White’s novel “Sanibel Flats” as one of the Hundred Favorite Mysteries of the 20th Century.


Getaway recommendations

We all could use a trip to Florida about now. Just think of it: A place where the sidewalks aren’t covered with icy puddles, where there’s no such thing as slush and road salt isn’t part of the public works’ budgets.


But here’s the fabulous thing: One trip the public library and we can be in fictional Florida.


Fictional Florida is a place where you no longer are thinking of winter because you are so engaged in reading or watching something you’ve check out of the library.


We asked local librarians for recommendations, and they gave us some patron favorites and some favorites of their own.


From Kathi Kemp, director of Eager Free Public Library, Evansville:


“Merle’s Door: Lessons From a Freethinking Dog” by Ted Kerasote. It’s a biography of a dog and reflections on the canine-human interaction.


“Why the Allies Won World War II” by Richard Overy. The book takes into account all the factors involved in the victory, dispelling many of the traditional historical myths.


“In the Heart of the Sea” by Nathaniel Philbrick tells the story of the whaling ship that inspired the story of Moby Dick. “I couldn’t put it down,” Kemp said.


“The Other Boleyn Girl” by Philippa Gregory. The book, which is coming out as a movie, tells the story of Anne of Boleyn’s sister, who was the king’s first lover.


Anything from Elinor Lipman. Lipman is a funny and clever writer with an eye for dialogue.


“The Heartsong of Charging Elk” by James Welch. The novel is based on a true story about a Native American who went to Europe with Buffalo Bill’s variety show. He’s injured and left behind at a French hospital. The book is about how he adapts and survives.


Non-fiction picks from Kemp:


“A Girl Named Zippy: Growing Up Small in Mooreland Indiana” by Haven Kimmel.


“Postville: A Clash of Cultures in Heartland America” by Stephen G. Bloom. What happens when a group of Hasidic Jews move into a small town in Iowa.


“Last Child in the Woods” by Richard Louv. Are kids suffering from nature-deficit disorder?


Movies: “Harvey” with Jimmy Stewart; “Diary of a Lost Girl,” a silent film; “Lost in Translation”; “After the Wedding,” and BBC productions such as “Prime Suspect,” “House of Cards” and “The Duchess of Duke Street.”


Kathy Whitt, director of the Edgerton Public Library, and several other library directors recommended any of the “Pride and Prejudice” movies or series.


Donna Gregus, Edgerton Public Library staffer, recommended “Premonition.”


Michelle Dennis, director of the Clinton Public Library, said that movies such as “Oceans 13” and Bruce Willis’ “Live Free or Die Hard” have been flying off the shelves.


She suggested movies such as “Hairspray” or one of the classic Audrey Hepburn movies such as “Roman Holiday” or “To Catch a Thief.”



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