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Librarian Blog

At the top

I'm a sucker for Top 10 lists.

And I guess I'm not alone. The featured article in Sunday's The New York Times Magazine will be one of its best read, I'm betting, just based on the popularity of The Times' best-seller lists themselves.

The story is about popularity and those fleeting factors that go into things that go to the top of whatever list you're making.

It's interesting to note that popularity isn't what it used to be. "That's because we've turned off Top 40 and loaded up Spotify; we've clicked away from NBC and fired up Netflix; we, thanks to the increasingly concierge-style delivery system of the Internet, are each sheltered in our own cultural cocoon," Adam Sternbergh writes.

I knew the world was going to change for the better when I first loaded a tape into a videocassette machine and realized that I could pick my own music or TV show or movie without reliance on the disc jockey or producer.

But, that aside, it's fascinating to see what really is No. 1. Like: Snickers is the No. 1 candy bar. "Duck Dynasty" is the highest-rated reality cable-TV show ever. The most frequently visited national park in 2012 was Great Smoky Mountains National Park. And there's more.

The best-selling book so far this year? Dan Brown's "Inferno." It has sold 1.2 million copies.

Here at the Wimberley Village Library, "Inferno" is not No. 1, however.

That honor belongs to David Baldacci's book entitled "The Hit," which has been checked out 30 times so far this year.

By the way, "Cuckoo's Calling" by J.K. Rowling, writing with a pen name, has been checked out only 9 times. It is No. 1 on The New York Times best-seller hard-back list.

I have no idea what that says about Wimberley.

What's that sound?

It's the world as we know it crashing down around us.

Random House announced this week that classic books by Dr. Seuss will be published as e-books and made available later this month.

Among them: "The Cat in the Hat," "Green Eggs and Ham," "Oh, the Places You'll Go!", "Horton Hears a Who!" and many, many more.

More by Dr. Seuss will come out in that format in October and November.

These are the gateway books for new readers.

And as Kobo noted in a report issued last spring called "The Children's Digital Book Market: The Future Looks Bright," this makes the future look even brighter.

Brighter, that is, if you make e-readers or yearn to see the world head in that direction.

Maybe not tomorrow, and maybe not the day after, but just right on down the line, e-books will be standard.

Making it even better

In the overall realm of food, this is an absolute truth: Bacon makes any dish better.

I realized this early in life because my dad cooked with bacon grease -- almost everything with bacon grease.

He cooked bacon for breakfast in his big cast-iron skillet, then poured the grease off into a coffee can that he kept on the back of the stove.

With spinach, bacon.

With collards, bacon.

With fried potatoes, bacon.

With fried okra, bacon.

I will probably die early because of all that grease.

But I still love bacon, just as much as all those folks who line up at Burger King and McDonald''s and Wendy's to get bacon cheese burgers.

It never crossed my mind, though, to put bacon into the deconstructed Hatch chile rellenos that I wrote about recently in this space.

David Morales, a regular volunteer here at the library, thought about it, though.

He e-mailed me right after I posted the recipe, wondering about how the casserole would taste with bacon.

YES! I wrote back, figuratively slapping my forehead.

I figured it might work best to fry the bacon crispy, then crumble it on top before putting the dish into the oven.

Before I could get a chance to try it, David beat me to the test.

He reports that it was wonderful.

How on earth could it not be?

What sells novels

Would the publisher have sold more than 1 million copies of "The Cuckoo's Calling" if readers had not found out it was written by J.K. Rowling?

No, they and all kinds of other experts say. Not anywhere close.

Rowling wrote the book under a pseudonym, and sales were tepid, according to a Saturday story in The New York Times.

Then -- oops -- it slipped out that the real author was Rowling, of Hogwarts fame.

Then sales soared.

The Times spends way too much space getting to the bottom line of this bottom line: In publishing as in just about everything else, it's all in the name. Or, the brand, as they say.

Of course, Rowling runs the risk of putting out mediocre stuff and seeing the brand erode.

However, that does not seem to have hurt Tom Clancy, who churns out encyclopedic claptrap and still sells well.

Enabling bigotry

That summer and fall of 1963, I was working at Uncle Zeke's Pancake House in Wolflin Village in Amarillo.

I had worked my way up from bus boy through the dishwashing station and the grill and was a host, greeting people as they came in the front door and then seating them at the right booth or table, depending on which waitress was up next, and then giving them a menu, a glass of ice water, a placemat and silverware.

One night after the dinner rush, I heard a sound coming from the front door that I had never heard before. Someone was knocking.

Perplexed, I pushed the door open.

And standing there, hat in hand, was a black man dressed in a brown suit. Beside him were a woman and two children.

"Excuse me," he said, "but do you serve Negroes in this establishment?"

I had no idea, and the owner was gone for the day.

So, I answered him in the way I had been raised.

"Yes," I said. "Come in."

After I had sat the family in a booth in the southeast corner of the restaurant, I went to the back to find the waitress.

When she turned the corner to enter the dining room, she stopped dead in her tracks and turned to me with a face redder than her hair.

"I'm not waiting on no niggers," she hissed. "Get them out of here. Now."

I wanted to be anywhere in the universe at that moment but in Uncle Zeke's Pancake House in Wolflin Village in Amarillo.

But, I had no choice.

I can only imagine how humiliated these nice folks felt as they walked out the door and into the night -- all those fifty years ago right now.