Alchemical Thoughts

Posts Tagged ‘reference

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This is the list of books I reviewed at The Itinerant Librarian for September 2017. If you missed any, or you find any of interest, feel free to check them out. Comments are always  welcome.



The list of books I wish to read some day keeps growing, but the time to read them does not always grow to match. Still, I do enjoy making these posts so I can keep track of things I find interesting. In sharing them, I hope it helps a bit in terms of reader’s advisory for folks looking for ideas on books to read.

Items about books I want to read:


Lists and bibliographies:





You  know the drill folks. These lists keep growing, but I still hold on to hope. I just keep finding interesting books I would like to read some day. These are also books I think some of my readers may find of interest. If any of you out there do read any of these, please feel free to comment and let me know your thoughts.

Items about books I want to read:

  • I remember reading a while back the book Freakonomics (link to my review of the book) where it discusses how local drug dealers often lived with their moms and were not doing as well as many people think. However, like in many other major businesses, the guys on top usually do pretty well. NPR now highlights a new book that suggests that drug cartels are run a lot like Walmart and McDonald’s. The book is Narconomics.
  • Also via NPR, a cookbook on Korean food. The book is Koreatown.
  • I often remember seeing the ads for various tricks and pranks on the backs of comic books. Wink Books reviews a book looking at one of the companies that made such products: the S.S. Adams Company. The book is Life of the Party.
  • Another art book reviewed by the guys at Wink Books. This time it’s one of my favorite artists: Frank Frazetta. The book is Testament: A Celebration of the Life and Art of Frank Frazetta .
  • OK, one more from Wink Books because I really like the subject of this one: vintage postcards. The book is Postcard America: Curt Teich and the Imaging of a Nation, 1931-1950.
  • Joshua Kim wonders why people are not reading Move: Putting America’s Infrastructure Back in the Lead. It is an important topic in the United States, and you likely will not hear about it from any single mainstream politician in the 2016 election (Democrat or Republican).
  • Let’s put in a little something related to work. Via The Decolonized Librarian, a review of The Dialectic of Academic Librarianship.
  • Via Marion Nestle’s Food Politics blog, a note that the book Forked is out. The book is about low wage restaurant workers. As the book summary states, this book deals with “what we don’t talk about when we talk about restaurants: Is the line cook working through a case of stomach flu because he doesn’t get paid sick days? Is the busser not being promoted because he speaks with an accent? Is the server tolerating sexual harassment because tips are her only income?” and other questions that not only we should be asking but addressing.
  • Via Arabic Literature (in English) blog, a novel about Lybian dictator Muammar Ghaddafi. The novel is The Dictator’s Last Night. I have not read it, but it reminds me of Vargas Llosa’s La Fiesta del Chivo (The Feast of the Goat), which is about Dominican Republic dictator Trujillo.
  • This could be interesting. It alleges to be a history of the reference shelf; this is something that appeals to the librarian in me. The book is You Could Look It Up, and it was reviewed on NPR.
  • Why are people fleeing Central America? The violence is a big reason according to a new book discussed at In These Times.  The book is A History of Violence: Living and Dying in Central America.
  • Via Manga Report, a review of the first volume of Bloody Mary.
  • A Case of Suitable Treatment looks at Shigeru Mizuki’s Hitler. This made me think of the five-volume series Adolf by Osamu Tezuka, which I read a while back. (Link to to my review of the first volume).
  • Apparently Tim Burton draws even in napkins, and someone put some of that art in a book. The book is Things You Think About in a Bar (link to Amazon, since as of this post, WorldCat does not have it) and it was reviewed at Blogcritics.
  • Via Based on a True Story, a review of a new book on the rise of coffee behemoth Starbucks. The book is Starbucked.
  • On the one hand, this sounds like one of those hipster mixology books where the cocktails are made with all sorts of ingredients the average person will never find in a lifetime. On the other hand, the story of the bar that inspired the book sounds interesting, so there is just enough to catch my attention. The book is The Dead Rabbit Drinks Manual, and it was reviewed at Drinkhacker.


Lists and bibligraphies:



Ooh, we made it to 55 lists, nice number. Once again welcome to this semi-regular series in the blog where I keep expanding my TBR list. As always, comments are welcome.


Items about books that I want to read:

  • Let’s start this post with something nice and cute. I am a fan of Jeffrey Brown’s Star Wars children’s books. Thus, I am looking forward to reading Star Wars: Jedi Academy. It was featured in San Francisco Book Review.
  • This one, even though the review was mixed, still sounds interesting. And given recent events, such as the SCOTUS decision on marriage equality, it may be a bit more of a relevant read. The book is How Not To Be American, and it was featured in San Francisco Book Review.
  • I will be honest on this next one. I am not quite sure what the deal is, but the idea of yeti-hybrids controlling society sounds just crazy enough to get my attention. The book is Behold!!! The Protong, and it was featured in Wink Books.
  • Though I do not foresee myself getting a tattoo anytime soon, I do find good tattoo art fascinating, and I do admire those who have good quality ink work done on their bodies. So, books about tattoos are something I find interesting. Here is a book about tattoos of folks into science. The book is Science Ink, and it was also featured in Wink Books.
  • To many people, books of quotations may seem like anachronisms. Aside from people looking for a quote to fix up a speech a bit, who reads them? Well, I do. I do enjoy and browsing quotation books, especially quotation books around a specific topic. In this case, we have the Oxford Dictionary of Humorous Quotations, 5th edition. I discovered it via San Francisco Book Review.
  • Next, a little erotica with Best Women’s Erotica 2014. This line from the reviewer at San Francisco Book Review may say what you need to know, and it is a sentiment I concur with: “If your only experience with erotica is that ‘certain trilogy,’ you deserve better.” Need help finding similar books so you can get better, ask your local friendly librarian. Your librarian turns out to be a prude (or worse, a fan of that “trilogy”)? Find another librarian.
  • Some manga titles via A Case for Suitable Treatment:
    • High School DxD, Volume 1. From the review, ” It’s your classic harem comedy, with lots of added fantasy this time, where the goal is to see how many different types of women you can have fall in love with the hero without any actual fornication occurring. . . “. I had no idea this was a “classic” genre, so I am curious now.
    • Phantom Thief Jeanne, Volume 2. The review is for volume 2, but I will naturally seek out the first volume as well so I can read the series in order. The premise, according to the description of the first volume is: “Seemingly normal high school student Maron Kusakabe spends her nights sneaking into art collections to steal paintings haunted by heart-devouring demons. . . “.
    • Servamp, Volume 1. According to the review it’s about a vampire servant, who happens to be a very lazy vampire.
    • Tokyo Ghoul, Volume 1. The reviewer writes, “The premise is simple and easy to understand. Our hero is a bit of a nerd with a crush on a gorgeous girl who reads the same erudite horror novels he does. On their first date, however, he discovers she is a ghoul out to kill him and eat his flesh.” You can take it from there.
  • I was reading this list of “7 Common Tequila Myths, Debunked.” I do drink tequila now and then, and I always find trivia related to alcoholic spirits to be interesting. The article also mentions a book: How the Gringos Stole Tequila. With that title, it sounds like a book to read.
  • I have been wanting to read this, and I thought I had added it to my TBR a while back. However, on searching this blog’s archive, I find that I did not add it previously, so here we go. The book is Secret Identity: the Fetish Art of Superman’s Co-creator Joe Shuster, which was mentioned at Wink Books.
  • I don’t read much romance other than some to keep some degree of cred as librarian and readers’ advisor when it comes to that genre. However, much like the reviewer at Erotica for All, I also “was totally intrigued by the unique premise of Keira Andrews’ novel, A Forbidden Rumspringa – an Amish M/M erotic romance. ” I usually favor full erotica over erotic romance, but this one has me curious, so if I manage to get my hands on it, expect a review down the road. Keep in mind, this one is an e-book, so it may not be as easy to find in your local library.
  • I do like pulp art, so I am adding Pulp Macabre to my list. It was reviewed at Bookgasm.


Lists and bibliographies:

I consider myself a fairly open-minded individual. So, when some close-minded asshat decides to accuse me of not being open-minded because I won’t accept his/her baseless claims of sky fairies, creationism, right winger politics, etc. I do find it irritating. You less than bright folks need to figure out that being open-minded means being willing to consider new ideas. It does not mean I have to buy your (often bad) ideas wholeheartedly, nor does it mean acceptance. Once your idea is found wanting, it can be rejected after said consideration. So, in other words, learn some logic.

This video does an excellent job in explaining that, much more eloquently than I could. It needs to be shared with a lot more people, especially those who really need to be watching it.

One of the workshops we are offering at my library this semester is on Advanced Google techniques. As I was preparing for the workshop, news came about Google Instant, and then I saw the item on Google Books.

  • On Google Instant, Phil Bradley gives us his take on it. I am not particularly thrilled with the feature, and I turned it off on my computer. I don’t feel a need for Google to try to tell me what I want to find. Here is another take on it, from the Free Technology for Teachers blog. I usually like FTFT, but this time I don’t agree with them saying this is good for school kids. Basically, I see this as lazy searching (and I don’t think, contrary to Google’s claim, that it is a timesaver).
  • On Google Books, Salon has a pretty good piece that I think deserves more dissemination on the problems and errors of Google Books. Stephen Abrams, who points to the article, conveniently breaks down the issues presented in the Salon piece into a nice list. I know a good number of librarians go ga-ga over Google Books, and I would think they would be interested in this issue.
My two readers might know that I write a semi-regular feature for our library blog entitled "Reference Book of the Week." What I usually do is look over a specific reference book, see what makes it useful, and highlight why someone would want to use it. Here is a sample post, the one I wrote for the Digest of Education Statistics. I was going to write a post for the DSM IV, but I came across a few issues. Anyhow, while I chose not to publish the post in the library blog, I still wanted to make a note of my observations about the book and share them. Do note that while I link to the Wikipedia article on the DSM IV for convenience here, it is something I would not do on the library's blog (even though I think that at times Wikipedia can have its uses for quick ready reference).

One of the prominent issues with the book is that it is not terribly intuitive. It is meant to be used by trained practitioners. This probably explains why I get the occasional student complain about how difficult it is to use. It takes some time to go through it and learn how to find what you need.

What follows is the draft I started for the library's blog:

* * * *

The DSM IV, currently in its fourth edition, is the classification manual for mental disorders. It is used by clinicians and researchers in various fields such as biology, social work, psychology and psychiatry, counseling, etc. This manual is the result of a long journey to classify and define mental disorders and illnesses that started with a desire to gather mental health statistics. When did the effort start? According to the manual's introduction, "what might be considered the first official attempt to gather information about mental illness in the United States was the recording of the frequency of one category– 'idiocy/insanity' in the 1840 census" (xxv). Over time, the American Psychiatric Association, in collaboration with other groups, developed the vocabulary and definitions that eventually became the DSM. The DSM basically provides criteria to diagnose a mental disorder, and the clinician doing the diagnosis would follow that criteria using a specified assessment system (the multiaxial system) to reach a diagnosis.

* * * *

Next are other things I wanted to write about or include in the draft:

  • The manual has become a medical billing tool. Government and many insurance companies often require a specific diagnosis to approve payment for treatment. This issue does raise some questions about the use of the manual for things other than its stated purpose, and I think it is something that students should recognize. I think it may also make for a good information literacy lesson in terms of questioning a source.
  • The compilers of the manual have been very inflexible in terms of making changes. In addition, there have been and continue to be controversies over the DSM. For instance, the notable inclusion of homosexuality as a disease; homosexuality was not removed until 1974, and to this day a lot of religious and political interests, which have nothing to do with science, continue to grouse over the 1974 removal of homosexuality from the DSM. In addition, the most current edition, the DSM IV TR (text revision) still includes sex-related diagnoses on the basis of sexual paraphilias (fetishes) for instance. I am sure any consenting adult who enjoys a little fetish play has a thing or two to say about that. Overall what this illustrates is that there are political and religious interests trying to bring influence to the scientific endeavor, plus keep in mind that those compiling the book have had their own interests as well. This is definitely the kind of thing that I think should be discussed with students, but I could not bring myself to write about it in the library blog, which is considered an official forum, and given certain community sensibilities, bringing up something like sexual paraphilias, even to make a point, could get me in hot water. I have to choose my battles.
  • In the end, what I would want students to take away from this is that the DSM IV is a very specific reference book, to be used mostly by trained professionals, but that it is not without controversy. The book is not infallible. In fact, it has been edited and changed over time as we gain new knowledge or realize that something should not have been labeled a mental disease in the first place.

And there are my thoughts as I learned a bit about this manual.

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April 2020


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