What We’re Reading: The Influencing Machine

The Influencing Machine: Brooke Gladstone on the Media. Written by Brooke Gladstone and illustrated by Josh Neufeld

This book was read by Meredith Lewis, the [mostly] Orange County Campus Librarian, and is available for checkout at the Main Campus Library.

Title: The Influencing Machine: Brooke Gladstone on the Media
Author: Brooke Gladstone and illustrated by Josh Neufeld

Genre: Social Science, Graphic Novel, Historical Overview

#ReadGreatThings2019 Category: A social science book; A book about technology; A book that will help you with one of your personal goals [if increasing your media literacy is one of your goals]

Check out our blog post on the Read Great Things 2019 Challenge


Why did you choose to read this book?W

Meredith: Well, Courtney recommended it to me. Since this book is about the history of the press/media and how it gets made and influenced in our modern world, I was especially interested from an information literacy standpoint. I mean, knowing how our news gets made matters, right? [Spoiler: The argument made in this book is yes.]

What did you like about it? 

Meredith: In general, I’m interested in learning about the history and contexts of things and this book really goes into (in a pleasant visual format) how media and government have this push-pull (repeat) relationship. I really like how Brooke Gladstone (an NPR journalist) investigates things that go into our modern media marketplace like money, bias, and information overload. She also calls out problematic practices in journalism. 

What feeling did the book leave you with?

Meredith: It left me feeling optimistic, actually! I genuinely believe that the world is full of the capacity for positive change and being informed and aware of the biases and structures around us matters and can help contribute towards making those positive changes.  

Image from page xxii of Brooke Gladstone's The Influencing Machine (illustrated by Josh Neufeld): Back in 1922, Walter Lippman wrote..."Let him cast a stone who never passed on as the real inside trugh what he had heard someone say who knew no more than he did. For the real environment is altogether too big, too complex, and too fleeting for direct acquaintance. And although we have to act in that environment, we have to reconstruct it on a simpler model before we can manage with it." But now, with most of the media's resources at our fingertips, we can seek beyond mediated interpretations of events. We can choose how much to simplify our worldview. When coverage is contradictory or confusing, we can read the original documents, or track down a dubious claim to its source... ...or seek sensible views outside out comfort zone. It's risky. John Dewey once said, "Anyone who has begun to think places some portion of the world in jeopardy." But, as Spider-Man once said (quoting his Uncle Ben), "With great power comes great responsibility."

Crafternoon Workshops Scheduled for Spring Semester

We’re calling all makers, artists, crafters, and those looking to try something new or have fun, to join us for Crafternoon!  The Library and Student Government Association are looking forward to hosting our craft workshop series again this spring semester for students, faculty, and staff.  Workshops are held in the Library’s Group Study Area room 105A on the lower level of Main Campus Library as well as other campus locations noted below.  Workshops will also be held at the Orange County Campus.  All materials and supplies are provided. Join us for creative fun, team building, and stress relief!

Workshop Dates, Times, and Locations for Main Campus

Wool Felting 
Thurs. Feb. 14  2:00-4:00  Library  5-105A

Mardi Gras Mask Decorating 
Tues. Mar. 12 from 10:00-12:00 Wynn Multipurpose Room

String Art on Wood              
Thurs. Apr. 11, 2:00-4:00 Newton 4-149

Read Great Things: Memoir Admiration

(In which one of your librarians highlights the different categories of the Read Great Things Challenge 2019. Want to know more about the Read Great Things 2019 Challenge? Check out our library blog post about it. All are welcome to participate!)

I like memoirs. A lot. I know this isn’t everyone’s favorite genre, but on the other hand, some people really only like to read memoirs. (You do you, reader.)

If you also like memoirs or just need to fill that “book by or about someone that you admire” box on the #RGT2019 Challenge and want to go the memoir-route, here are a few suggestions for you that are also available through the Durham Tech Libraries. 

Read Great Things 2019: Personal Goals!

For many, January is a time to mindfully start new habits, either just as a new year reset (hello, dry-anuary participants and all of you doing Whole 30 for your very last day today!) or as the start of a new, hopefully enduring habit.

The library surveyed Durham Tech faculty and staff and asked them to anonymously share their goals for 2019. 

Durham Tech Faculty & Staff New Year, New Goals 2019 pie chart-- 35% of those surveyed are interested in Individual Goal Achievement, including learning a specific skill or accomplishing a specific objective. 7% of those surveyed are interested in improving their time management. 10% of those surveyed are interested in self-improvement-related goals. 21% of those surveyed are interested in improving their own self-care. 17% are interested in improving their finances or financial literacy, and 10% have health and wellness-related goals, mostly related to exercising more and eating more healthily.
Results of the faculty and staff 2019 goals survey.

Have similar goals? Why not use the Read Great Things Challenge to help you reach those goals by reading a book to expand your knowledge, and also check off at least one box on your checklist? Just a few on-hand suggestions from your local Durham Tech library locations– 

While there’s a lot of debate about how effective “new year, new you” mentality can be in terms of long-term goal achievement, there’s no debate that goal-setting is valuable. From ACA 122 to our own college councils and committees, goal setting is where it’s at. 


Want to know more about the Read Great Things 2019 Challenge? Check out our blog post about it. 

What We’re Reading: The Nix

Title: The Nix

Author: Nathan Hill

Genre: literary fiction

Read Great Things (2019) categories: A book about or that features college or higher education

Why did you choose to read this book?

book cover: The Nix

I believe it is important to support independent bookstores. Last summer, when I was traveling to western Kentucky, my family and I stayed in Crossville, Tennessee, and found The Book Cellar. After browsing their shelves for the better part of an hour, I selected The Nix. They had a hardcover edition in great condition for around $3. The review excerpts on the dust jacket include one by an author I like (John Irving) and another citing two other authors I like: “as good as the best of Michael Chabon or Jonathan Frantzen.”

Continue Reading →

Read Great Things in 2019: Challenge Yourself!

A new year, a new set of Read Great Things categories. Are you ready to participate?

Durham Tech Library Read Great Things Challenge 2019

What is the Read Great Things Challenge?

The Read Great Things Challenge is a personal reading challenge sponsored by the Durham Tech Library throughout 2019 that encourages folks to diversify and/or increase their reading goals by completing books that fit into at least 10 of the following 12 categories:

  • A book that will help you with one of your personal goals
  • A book by or about someone you admire
  • A social science book [nonfiction books about society and the relationships among individuals within a society, including psychology, sociology, anthropology, economics, political science, history, public health, and communication books, among others]
  • A book published in the decade you were born
  • An epistolary book or a book that contains epistolary parts [a book written using diary, journal, newspaper, or letter entries]
  • A book you’ve been putting off but—you swear!–you really do want to read
  • A reimagining of a classic tale or work of literature
  • A book about or that features college or higher education
  • A book about an immigrant or immigration
  • A book about technology
  • A book by a North Carolina author or that takes place in North Carolina
  • A book suggested by a Durham Tech librarian either in-person or on the Durham Tech Library Blog

We’ll be highlighting a different category on this blog each month. Your can always ask a librarian for recommendations if you can’t think of a book to read for a certain category (which conveniently fills that final awesome category).

How do I participate in the Read Great Things Challenge?

It’s pretty simple –just start reading! You don’t have to sign up and you can start at any point in the year and read the books in any order you like. You will need to choose books that fit into at least 10 of the 12 categories by the end of Fall Semester (December 2019) to complete the challenge.

What kind of book counts as a “great thing”?

All books count–hardcover, paperback, ebooks, audiobooks, graphic novels, comic books, library books, books you own, books you’ve borrowed… If it fits into one (or two) of the categories and you’ve read it/want to read it in 2019, that counts. We’re not here to judge or assign reading levels.

Can I count a book for multiple categories?

One book can count for up to two categories, so if you read strategically, you can complete the challenge by only reading 5 books in total.

How do I win the challenge? (What do I win?)

To win and complete the challenge, you should finish books throughout 2019 that fit into at least 10 of the 12 listed categories. In mid-December at the end of the Fall Semester, we’ll have bookish prizes available for those who bring their completed book list to the library or fill out the completion form.

You’ll also get a personal sense of satisfaction and bragging rights. (And who doesn’t love those?)

Do the books have to be from the Durham Tech Library?

Nope, but we’re glad to point you in the direction of one already in our collection. We have some great books just waiting to make it on your list.

More questions? Email library [at] durhamtech [dot] edu or Orange County Campus Librarian Meredith Lewis at lewisma [at] durhamtech [dot] edu.

View, download, or print a copy of the checklist and challenge guidelines: Read Great Things 2019 Challenge Checklist [pdf]

What We’re Reading: The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs

The rise and fall of the dinosaurs: A new history of a lost world by steve brusatte

This book was read by Meredith Lewis, the [mostly] Orange County Campus Librarian, and is available for checkout at the Orange County Campus Library.

Title: The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs: A New History of a Lost World
Author: Steve Brusatte

Genre: Popular Science, General Dinosaur Awesomeness

#ReadGreatThings2018 Category: A popular science book; A book that takes place during or is about a historical event 50 years or more in the past [this historical event took place a few million years ago]

Find out more about the Read Great Things Challenge here.


Why did you choose to read this book?

Because dinosaurs are awesome?

Seriously though, I have a four-year-old friend who was telling me about all these dinosaurs that I never heard of. When I saw this book was coming out, I thought, “Self, if this isn’t a dragging and dull science-y book, you should pick that up because you’re not interested in watching Dinosaur Train (the PBS Kids TV show), but you do want to learn more about dinosaurs.” It was AWESOME, although I listened to the audiobook, so I missed out on the pictures. [The OCC copy is in print and full of pictures. I’d recommend this format over the audiobook for even more enjoyment.]

What did you like about it?

I’m going to make a list here:

  1. It’s an engaging history book–in this case, the history of the Earth through its prehistoric times and then after the extinction of the dinosaurs, which I knew very little about. 

  2. It goes into all the newer discoveries about dinosaurs that additional fossils have brought to light, especially regarding how dinosaurs differently evolved after the splitting apart of Pangaea. There are even vignettes where the author goes into, based on fossil evidence, that show how the dinosaurs likely interacted with each other.

  3. It has stuff about the fossil record and how paleontologists use it to draw conclusions and also how fossils are/were discovered and used.

  4. It has an international perspective of dinosaurs, which is cool because while T-Rex’s arms actually were used for something (though, yes, very short), a Brazilian big guy actually did have pretty much non-functional arms. Evolution is fascinating!

  5. It highlights a field in science I wasn’t that familiar with and name drops all these cool paleontologists that I’d never heard of before, but I’m super glad I know of them now.

Did it remind you of any other book, or a movie?

Am I allowed to say Jurassic Park here? Because of course. [Yes, I am allowed to say Jurassic Park.]

What feeling did the book leave you with?

Well, I’m really excited about dinosaurs.

Who would you recommend the book to?

Anyone who likes science or scientists and delving deeper into what people who “do” science actually do to gather their research. Anyone looking for a grown-up book about dinosaurs. Seriously. It was great. I’m going to buy it for several people for the holidays (and upcoming birthdays… and all occasions I can think of).

What would you pair this book with?

A continued appreciation of those awesome inflatable T-Rex costumes and how so many layers of knowledge and expertise go into scientific discovery. In honor of the East Coast (not us) getting some of our first snow, I’d like to share the following awesome video of an inflatable T-Rex ice skating in case you haven’t seen it.

[No transcript available, but to summarize: A person in an inflatable t-rex costume and white ice skates performs surprisingly well on an ice rink. Occasionally, the t-rex trips on its own tail. Hilarity insues.]

What We’re Reading: Leaving the Sea: Stories

book cover: Leaving the Sea

Title: Leaving the Sea: Stories

Author: Ben Marcus

Genre: short stories / experimental fiction

Read Great Things Challenge 2018 category: a book you chose for the cover; a book with a supernatural creature, occurrence, or event (maybe)

Why did you choose to read this book?

I was drawn in by the cover art at first. The reviews on the back of the dust jacket also made the stories sound interesting to me. One of my favorite authors, Michael Chabon, has a blurb on the back of the book praising Marcus’s The Flame Alphabet (which I haven’t read).

This “themed” collection is of short stories that feature young-to-middle-aged men in crisis. Otherwise, the stories are not related. A divorcé struggles to keep his job and resolve joint custody issues with his ex-wife; a struggling professor teaches a creative writing class aboard a cruise ship; a young man with a mysterious illness seeks treatment in Germany and examines his relationships with his girlfriend, father and a stranger he meets in a hostel; a man worries about his family during a routine evacuation drill in his community; et cetera.

Many of the stories take place in alternate realities: a world in which one can choose to be a baby for one’s whole life, for example.

What did you like about it?

I did not like reading this book. I was motivated to finish it solely to write a thoughtful review.

I found a lot of the book to be interesting, but in many of the stories I felt like Marcus was playing with language for the sole purpose of doing so. Ranging into pure experimental fiction, this book was often either beyond my understanding or it felt like I was being manipulated into feeling stupid for not understanding what is going on, only because the author omitted details I felt would have improved my access to the book.

Did it remind you of any other book, or a movie?

Another collection of experimental fiction is David Foster Wallace’s Oblivion. The freedom with which Marcus uses language and imagery reminds me a little bit of e.e. cummings’s poetry as well.

What feeling did the book leave you with?

In spite of my frustrations with the most experimental stories, this book is memorable and left me wishing I could write fiction with such imagination and confidence in bending language to my will.

Who would you recommend the book to?

Fans and writers of experimental fiction will appreciate this book. Someone who needs a creative spark and doesn’t mind reading some dystopian fiction might find use in this book.

What would you pair this book with?

Even though I don’t keep one myself, a reading or writing journal would be a valuable companion.

What We’re Reading: Open Mic Night at Westminster Cemetery

open mic night at westminster cemetary by mary amato book cover

This book was read by Meredith Lewis, the [mostly] Orange County Campus Librarian, and is available for checkout at the Orange County Campus Library.

Title: Open Mic Night at Westminster Cemetery: A Novel in Two Acts
Author: Mary Amato

Genre: Fantasy [because ghosts talking and stuff]. Is there a “imagined conversations between ghosts in graveyards” fiction genre? Because this fits that one, too.

#ReadGreatThings2018 Category: A book that contains a supernatural creature, occurrence, or event

Find out more about the Read Great Things Challenge here.


Why did you choose to read this book?

The summary alone did it for me: A teenager wakes up in a graveyard, but instead of the numerous other ways that story could go, she discovers she’s dead… and already in trouble with the appointed rule-keeper of the cemetery due to language (strike 1) and emotional outbursts (strike 2). Lacy is charming and trying to be as self-aware as a new ghost can be while the other inhabitants of the graveyard both rely on their routine and want something more. Oh, and dead Edgar Allan Poe is there. Need I say more? 

What did you like about it?

It was just overall very charming. I also really like books where historical figures show up in some way. Oh, and there’s the whole graveyard fiction thing, which I also like (apparently). But seriously, the characters were engaging and it wasn’t too heavy– sometimes you just need a light read.

Who would you recommend the book to?

Anyone who needs a light read this time of year. Anyone who needs a little whimsy with their spirit of Edgar Allan Poe. Fans of open mic nights. 

What would you pair this book with? 

A little bit of bravery to stand up to “how things have always been done”… and some cinnamon crumb cake. 

How about some book friends (a.k.a. related reading recommendations)?

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Need help finding a book in-library or requesting a book through ILL? You can look it up in our catalog or ask a librarian. Don’t yet have a library card? Ask in the library and be sure to bring your Durham Tech ID.

Happy International Talk Like a Pirate Day!

Did you know that, since 1995, September 19 has been International Talk Like a Pirate Day? Wikipedia gives a brief history of this weird occasion, which originated between two friends playing a game of Racquetball.
So, I know you’re asking, “How do I learn to talk like a Pirate?” Good news! You’ve come to the right place. Your Durham Tech library has just the tool for you: Mango Languages. Continue Reading →