Off the Shelf is your destination for all things BOOKS. If you’re interested in reading recommendations, author interviews or the literary world's secrets, Brooklyn Public Library's bibliophile staff is at your service.

Living for the moment is living for history when whatever tales are told become the stuff of legacy. Walt Whitman was a flaneur, a lover of walking. By his own admission he was a loafer. Throughout his transitory state he continued to hold onto what was dear to him. In time it became dear to others, affecting them and influencing forever what is considered the best of American culture. Such was the power of his poetry, fleeting thoughts that became a tangible reality. Today all of that and more is Whitman’s continuing gift. Brooklyn Public Library has in its collection works that consider the...

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Queer Poets & the Whitman Tradition

Posted in Off the Shelf by Alexandra Wilder on May 14, 2019

Walt Whitman (1887) by George C. Cox We here at Brooklyn Public Library are excited for the opportunity to celebrate Walt Whitman on the occasion of his 200th birthday! Whitman lived and worked for part of his life in Brooklyn and penned “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry,” so, as you can imagine, Brooklynites are eager to claim him as OUR poet (although, Camden, NJ, you can have some too--there’s enough to go around). Yet today Whitman is celebrated not only for his voice or his association with Brooklyn, he is also embraced as an iconic, queer poet—his sexuality being inferred by many...

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Bad Moms and the Hero's Journey

Posted in Off the Shelf by Jennifer Proffitt on May 11, 2019

With even the most cursory overview of the literary canon, it is clear that a curious preponderance of protagonists seem to have survived some pretty bad parenting. It occurs to me that while this condition may be great for their narrative arc it probably makes celebrating Mother’s Day a little uncomfortable. So in honor of these hapless heroes and heroines of some of my favorite works of literature, I submit this list of not-so-great, fictional mothers who are bound to offer some timely perspective to the not-so-fictional, great mother in your own life. Enjoy! Mrs...

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Reading for the Technoskeptic

Posted in Off the Shelf by Melissa Morrone on May 10, 2019

We who work at the library spend a lot of time thinking about technology – not just because we have public computers and thereby get a lot of questions about navigating them, but also since we watch the everyday life of library users as well as our own become transformed by digital environments. Big data? Online surveillance? Platform monopolies? Predictive policing? Algorithmic bias? Attention hacking? Just reading the headlines of the day makes it clear how society is grappling with how policy, law, and social norms are keeping up with (or not) the digital tools that we’ve become so...

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Four Books to Transport You to a Galaxy Far, Far Away

Posted in Off the Shelf by Jason Woodland on May 3, 2019

May the Fourth Be with You...  While the anniversary of the release of the original Star Wars movie is May 25th and all subsequent Star Wars movies released by George Lucas have been around Memorial Day weekend (to coincide with Lucas’ birthday on May 14th), “Star Wars Day” is celebrated by fans on May 4th because of a pun: May the Fourth (May the Force) Be with You. You get it. So let me be the first to say, May the Fourth Be with You this Star Wars Day as you travel to a galaxy far, far away by checking out one of these great books: One of my favorite Star Wars novels is from...

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Quiz: Can You Spot the Real Walt Whitman Quote?

Posted in Off the Shelf by Jennifer Proffitt on May 2, 2019

The Barbaric Yawp by Walt Whitman How well do you know your Walt Whitman? We’re putting you to the test! As we celebrate Whitman’s 200th birthday this year at the library, we want to test your knowledge of Whitman. Can you guess which of the below quotes is legitimate or will you be fooled by our nonsense quotes? Let’s see! (Scroll down to reveal the answers and let us know in the comments how many you got right!) 1. Which quote is from a Walt Whitman poem? A) "These and all else were to me the same as they are to you, I loved well those cities, loved well the stately and rapid...

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The Continuing Relevance of Arthur Rimbaud

Posted in Off the Shelf by Jane Palmer on Apr 26, 2019

Portrait of Arthur Rimbaud at the age of seventeen Étienne Carjat [Public domain] I was introduced to French poet, Arthur Rimbaud in the late 1970’s, during my college-interruptus phase when his poetry was cultural currency in the bar and coffee shop conversations of New Orleans. Rimbaud’s awesome, irreverent voice has renewed and retained its legendary status with each subsequent generation, continuing this tradition of speaking to the alienated and unaffiliated since its initial emergence on the Parisian scene in the 1870’s. Yet Rimbaud became an acknowledged legend even while...

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Four Books to Cure Kitchen Gadget Shyness

Posted in Off the Shelf by Angie Miraflor on Apr 25, 2019

The holidays were four months ago and your Instant Pot/air fryer/slow cooker are still in the box. You’ve tried “winging it” with recipes, but your creations are not what you might call "appetizing". And online recipes are useful, but doing battle with popup ads and sticky hands? That sounds like a recipe for a sticky phone! And you are stuck in this predicament, because before the internet, no technology existed for sharing information about food…. Wait! The Library has literally thousands of excellent books to help with both your gadget struggles and your recipe fails. With pictures...

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Earth Day: Protect Our Species

Posted in Off the Shelf by Margaret Day on Apr 19, 2019

Have you taken a hike recently only to wonder where all the wildlife is, remembering nature walks from your youth that were teeming with animal activity? Is there a certain bird or flower from your childhood that you don’t see anymore, or maybe a tasty variety of vegetable or fruit that is nowhere to be found? According to the Earth Day Network, our planet is now facing an unprecedented extinction of plant and animal species that is directly linked to human activity, from climate change, deforestation, habitat loss, trafficking and poaching, unsustainable agriculture, pollution, and pesticide...

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How to Be a Poet

Posted in Off the Shelf by Izabela Barry on Apr 16, 2019

Many years ago, in the distant 70s of the last century, an outstanding Polish poet of the postwar generation, practically unknown to the American reader, Edward Stachura, wrote, Everything is poetry, everyone is a poet. To form this truth I was slowly led by what I had seen, heard, recognized, noticed, or sensed, what was cursed and blessed, and what I read here and there. Everything is poetry; everyone is a poet. As a young girl, I strongly believed in this statement, which is why I started to write poems. These poems remain unpublished and perhaps that is for the best.  I wrote...

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On November 25, 1960, three of four Mirabal sisters—Patria Mercedes, María Argentina Minerva, and Antonia María Teresa—were assassinated on orders from the long-standing Dominican dictator, Rafael Leonida Trujillo, because of their involvement in underground activities that sought to unseat him. Known as Las Mariposas, their deaths (the anniversary of which is now known as the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women) set into motion a surge in opposition that led, finally, to the assassination of Trujillo. The lives of Las Mariposas is the basis for the novel by Julia...

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New York Picks One Book to Rule Them All

Posted in Off the Shelf by BKLYN Library Staff on Apr 5, 2019

  Finalists Announced for One Book, One New York 2019   Voting is now open for the program that gets everyone to read the same book at the same time: One Book, One New York. You’ve got one month to choose your favorite among the list of this year’s finalists for the citywide book club; the winning book is announced on May 3rd. In consideration of the difficult choice ahead, BKLYN Library staff renounce their customary hushed tones below and declare which of the nominated books should be chosen:   Just Kids by Patti...

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Six Books Heralding the Boys Of Summer

Posted in Off the Shelf by David Diakow on Apr 4, 2019

Spring is here (according to the calendar, if not always the thermometer) and with it also the return of baseball season. Of all the major professional sports, baseball probably has the greatest sense of history surrounding it, going all the way back to the 19th-century when the game was played with what now seem like absurdly small gloves and catchers didn’t even wear masks. Through the years the game has changed in many ways and there can seem to be a world of difference between the days of Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth and Jackie Robinson and the highly analytical game of today....

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The Soundtracks of Our Lives Do you remember where you were when you first heard Stevie Nicks taking her love and taking it down? Or when you realized that the littlest Jackson was all grown up and in Control of her own career? Or when Bill Murray sang “More Than This” in Lost in Translation and you knew you’d heard the song before but couldn’t remember where? If so, then this year’s batch of inductees in the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame will definitely spark joy. On Friday, March 29, Stevie Nicks, Janet Jackson, Roxy Music, Def Leppard, The Cure, Radiohead and The Zombies will recognized...

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Spring's here! Get growing!

Posted in Off the Shelf by Margaret Day on Mar 26, 2019

As the days get longer and the crocuses and daffodils emerge from their slumber signaling the decline of winter, a realization takes hold: it's time to plan your garden!   It's spring time and while we city dwellers may not have oodles of space for growing, plants still play an important role in softening the harshness of our concrete jungle and connecting us to the natural world. Here are a few titles to help inspire your dream windowsill/patio/backyard/rooftop garden.   And once inspiration takes hold, stop by Brooklyn Public Library's new Seed Library, located in...

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Reading for March: Women in the World Claiming Power

Posted in Off the Shelf by Jane Palmer on Mar 22, 2019

Throughout history women have found ways to achieve power even when that power was not granted directly, often finding notoriety, fame, or historic precedence by navigating and negotiating from the limited options available. Women also claimed power through individual resistance, thereby redefining power in roles traditionally and narrowly viewed as the collective actions of men. Including the voices and perspectives of women writers has unquestionably expanded definition of power and Brooklyn Public Library has a wealth of books which explore the dynamics of this experience among women....

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Meet "For Brooklyn"

Posted in Off the Shelf by Brooklyn Public Library on Mar 15, 2019

We are thrilled to share Brooklyn Public Library’s new campaign “For Brooklyn” with you. We just launched the campaign in March, with lots more planned to celebrate and support the library. The “For Brooklyn” campaign seeks to reintroduce the Library to all of Brooklyn’s 2.6 million residents. Brooklyn Public Library’s branches can morph and change in magical ways, depending on the people who visit. There are millions of books and eBooks, and free wifi and computer access in all 59 branches. The Library has offered storytime for over a hundred years, and now has storytime in nine...

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Don't Sleep on These Perfect Books for World Sleep Day

Posted in Off the Shelf by Erik Bobilin on Mar 15, 2019

As someone concerned about his fraught relationship with sleep, I know a considerable bit about the optimal conditions it seems to require--considerably more it seems than I am able to actually implement. In practice I favor a ‘whatever it takes’ approach in which 30 Rock has autoplayed me to sleep more times than I care to count, more effectively than the sheep I care not to count and in full knowledge that it is precisely that type of bad sleep hygiene that Arianna Huffington, et al suggest is keeping me from a sustainably healthy relationship with sleep. No blue light--create for yourself...

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Why Adults Should Read YA and Where to Start

Posted in Off the Shelf by Jane Ekhtman, Librarian of Tomorrow Intern on Mar 11, 2019

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green Rumor has it, John Green’s 2012 novel The Fault in Our Stars reached the bestseller list not by trending within its teen readership, but by its secretly popularity with adults. It’s worth pointing out that it’s usually teens who are embarrassed by adults adopting their media interests. So, why is it when it comes to books it seems it’s often adults who feel ashamed to be caught reading a book published specifically for teens? Why should the nationwide obsession with youth culture not extend to its literature? Or more pointedly, why should anyone be...

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February 23 kicked off a new event series at Central Library, Cool Work x Interesting People (CWxIP). Co-curated by award-winning cartoonist and head publisher at Diskette Press, Carta Monir, and myself, CWxIP features six indie cartoonists leading unique monthly workshops, culminating on June 15, 2019. The series title derives from the Carta-helmed podcast, We Should Be Friends, self-described as a “podcast about cool work by interesting people.” It is in the same spirit that Carta and I organized a lineup of creators who are actively critiquing their own community, as well as forming...

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