Talking Book News Bulletin, Spring 2012

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Director's Report
Holiday Closings
Memorial Day: Honoring those who died in Nation's Wars

Bard Feature Titles: Biography and Autobiography
Spreading the Word
Unreturned Cartridges or Tapes

Adventure, Cowboys, and Spies!
Book Club News

Friends of Libraries Archives of Texas

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Spotlight on Texas Books
Disability Information & Referral Center
National Library Service for the Blind & Physically Handicapped

Director's Report

Greetings! Here is the latest news:

We want more patrons, and you can help:  As patrons, you know how important this service is to you.  We are happy to serve all of you, and we would like to serve even more people.  We currently have just over 15,000 active patrons enrolled in the program.  We estimate that over 300,000 people living in Texas could be eligible for our services, so we need some help in finding these people and enrolling them in the Talking Book Program.  Would you like to help?

Where are these potential patrons, and why are they not enrolling in TBP? Potential patrons are everywhere, but most do not even know that TBP exists or that the services we provide are free and easy to use. Some think we are the same program as Learning Ally (formerly Recording for the Blind and Dyslexic), which charges an annual membership fee for its services.  Some think that you can only get downloadable books through paid services like Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Audible, etc. Finally, some are hesitant to admit that the program would be helpful to them, or they think the program is only for the totally blind or the very poor.  Anyone who lives in Texas and has a qualifying visual, physical, or organically-based reading disability may enroll in TBP, regardless of age or economic status.

What can you do to help?  Here are five easy ways to encourage people to enroll in TBP.

  • Love your new digital talking book machine?  Show it to your friends and tell them about TBP. Even if the people you talk to are not eligible, they probably know someone who is. 
  • If you know people with macular degeneration, cataracts, arthritis in the hands, or other health issues that makes reading or holding a book difficult, these persons are likely eligible for enrollment. Ask if they’ve considered joining TBP.
  • If you know someone who reads lots of large print books from the public library, complains that the print on everything is too small, or has trouble reading the daily newspaper, this person may be able to use large print books from TBP. Remember to stress that the program is free and that books are mailed postage-paid to and from a reader’s home.
  • If you belong to a group (garden club, historical society, service group, etc.) that is always looking for program speakers, TBP staff are available to speak to groups. We travel all over Texas, so invite us to visit.
  • If someone says that enrolling is too much bother, offer to help. One of the biggest hurdles for any new patron is getting the certifier’s signature on the application. Physical and visual reading disabilities can be easily recognized and certified by librarians, ministers, or many other professionals. Only reading disabilities must be certified by medical personnel. Call us at 1-800-252-9605 if you need assistance and advice about registration.

Helpful ways to contact the Talking Book Program staff:

  • To order books or report a problem with your machine: 1-800-252-9605
  • To request an application or ask about enrollment: 1-800-252-9605
  • To access the toll-free information line: 1-866-388-6397
  • To contact the Disabilities Information and Referral Center: 1-800-252-9605
  • To contact the Public Awareness Office: 1-512-463-5452 or 1-800-252-9605
  • To send email to anyone in the Talking Book Program:

Until next time,
Ava Smith, Director, Talking Book Program


Texas Talking Books will be closed for these holidays.

  • Monday, May 28 – Memorial Day

  • Wednesday, July 4 – Independence Day

Of course, you can leave a message or send e-mail on a holiday.

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Memorial Day: Honoring Those Who Died in the Nation’s Wars

Three years after the Civil War ended, on May 5, 1868, the head of an organization of Union veterans — the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) — established Decoration Day as a time for the nation to decorate the graves of the war dead with flowers. Maj. Gen. John A. Logan declared that Decoration Day should be observed on May 30. It is believed that date was chosen because flowers would be in bloom all over the country.

By the end of the 19th century, Memorial Day ceremonies were being held on May 30 throughout the nation. State legislatures passed proclamations designating the day, and the Army and Navy adopted regulations for proper observance at their facilities.

It was not until after World War I, however, that the day was expanded to honor those who have died in all American wars. In 1971, Memorial Day was declared a national holiday by an act of Congress, though it is still often called Decoration Day. It was then also placed on the last Monday in May, as were some other federal holidays. (

Here are some books that recall the bravery and sacrifice of those who have died in service to our country. To order any of these books, call 1-800-252-9605. All titles are also available for download through the BARD site.

A Rumor of War by Philip Caputo.  Former Marine lieutenant's personal memoir and harrowing account of Vietnam relates the courage, horror, and corruption of men who died in a brutal war.  Violence and strong language.

Breakout: The Chosin Reservoir Campaign, Korea 1950 by Martin Russ.  First-person accounts of what some contemporaries called "one of the greatest retreats in the course of military history."  Describes how the First Marine Division, surrounded by the North Korean army in subzero temperatures, fought its way out with all its dead and wounded.

Citizen Soldiers: The U.S. Army from the Normandy Beaches to the Surrender of Germany by Stephen Ambrose.  An eleven-month World War II chronicle spanning the period from D-Day to Germany's surrender on May 7, 1945.  Using first-hand accounts of combat soldiers, the author depicts the valor and determination of Allied forces who advanced and prevailed in the face of harsh adversities.  Strong language and violence.

Forever a Soldier: Unforgettable Stories of Wartime Service by Tom Wiener.  Veterans recall experiences of battle from World War I to the War in Iraq.  Soldiers' letters, diaries, memoirs, and oral histories provide personal accounts of D-Day, the Tet offensive, heroic actions, and sinking ships.

Hero of the Pacific: The Life of Marine Legend John Basilone by James Brady.  Biography of World War II hero John Basilone (1916-1945) from Raritan, New Jersey. Recounts the marine gunnery sergeant's military career, decoration with the Congressional Medal of Honor for service at Guadalcanal, and the posthumous Navy Cross he received for his actions at Iwo Jima.  Violence and some strong language.


Call the Disability Information and Referral Center toll-free at
1-800-252-9605 for information about disabilities and health conditions.


BARD Feature Titles: Biography and Autobiography

Here are some biographies and autobiographies you can download from the BARD site. 

W.C. Handy: The Life and Times of the Man Who Made the Blues by David Robertson. Biography of William Christopher Handy (1873-1958) traces his Alabama childhood during Reconstruction, his musical training, and his early career performing in ragtime and vaudeville venues.  Highlights Handy's ability to write scores and publish commercially, his relocation to Memphis and then Harlem, and the accident that blinded him.

Paul Newman: A Life by Shawn Levy.  Chronicles the sixty-year career of leading man Newman (1925-2008), whose work included fifty-eight movies, five Broadway plays, and ten Oscar nominations.  Also discusses his race-car driving, camps for ill children, fifty-year second marriage to actress Joanne Woodward, children from both marriages, and battle with cancer.  Some strong language.

My Remarkable Journey by Larry King.  Emmy Award-winning CNN television personality's lighthearted description of growing up in 1940s Brooklyn listening to Dodgers baseball on the radio, breaking into show business in 1957 as a Miami deejay, and interviewing professional athletes, world leaders, and entertainers.  Includes comments from King's friends and family.  Some strong language. Bestseller.

Standing Tall: A Memoir of Tragedy and Triumph by C. Vivian Stringer.  Autobiography of nationally acclaimed women's basketball coach C. Vivian Stringer (born 1948).  Describes her experiences as her high school's first black cheerleader and as coach at Cheyney State College and Iowa and Rutgers universities.  Discusses her daughter's disabling meningitis and her husband's sudden death in 1992.

Clara’s War: One Girl’s Story of Survival by Clara Kramer.  Chronicles the experiences of Jewish teenager Clara Schwarz, who kept a wartime diary while hiding in a basement. Describes her anti-Semitic, ethnic-German neighbor Valentin Beck saving Clara and seventeen other family members and friends after the Nazis took over the town. Violence and some strong language.

Do you know someone who could benefit from TBP?

Spread the word about the Talking Book Program to your friends, family members and neighbors. You may know someone who has macular degeneration, cataracts, or has had a stroke or other physical condition which keeps them from reading standard print. Refer them to TBP at 1-800-252-9605 or

Do you have any unreturned digital cartridges or cassette tapes

As soon as you have finished a book, please return it in its original container with the TBP address card facing outward.  Other patrons may be waiting on books that have not been returned.  Help the Talking Book Program keep the flow of books going to all our patrons by returning books in a timely manner.  If you have any questions, or if you’d like to ask for more time with your books, please call 1-800-252-9605 or email us at:  Thank you!


Adventurers, Cowboys, and Spies

Readers love adventure and intriguing plots about faraway places, daring escapades, and heroic action.  The following books feature fascinating characters in exciting stories. To read one of these books, please call 1-800-252-9605.  These books are also available for download from the BARD site.

Zorro by Isabel Allende.  In the early 1800s, Diego de la Vega leaves California for Spain for his formal education.  He joins a resistance movement and, disguised as Zorro, fights for the oppressed.  Some descriptions of sex and some violence.

March by Geraldine Brooks.  Reverend March, the husband and father from Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women, joins the army as a chaplain during the Civil War.  An assignment to teach freed slaves on a plantation changes March’s view of humanity while hardship hurts his family.  Strong language and some violence.

The Cardinal of the Kremlin by Tom Clancy.  The superpowers are in a race to develop strategic defense systems.  The two men most knowledgeable are Jack Ryan, CIA analyst, and Colonel Mikhail Filitov, of the Soviet Union.  Filitov, nicknamed, “Cardinal,” is the highest-ranking American agent in the Kremlin and is about to be betrayed.  As Ryan tries to rescue him, both of their lives and the fate of the world hang in the balance.  Strong language and descriptions of sex.

The Pilot: A Tale of the Sea by James Fenimore Cooper.  A sea story suggested by an episode in the life of John Paul Jones, a naval hero.

Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe.  Crusoe runs away to sea, is shipwrecked, and leads a solitary existence on an uninhabited island near the Orinoco River for twenty-four years.  He meets the difficulties of primitive life with ingenuity and at length finds a companion whom he saves from cannibals.

The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas.  A sailor, unjustly accused of helping the exiled Napoleon in 1815, escapes from prison after 14 years to take revenge on the four men who caused his imprisonment.  Now wealthy after recovering a buried treasure, he assumes a new identity and plots the ruin of his accusers.

The Key to Rebecca by Ken Follett.  German spy Alex Wolff steals the British army’s secret plans and sends them to Rommel using a code whose key lies in the pages of Daphne du Maurier’s novel, Rebecca.  British major William Vandam sets out to destroy Wolff.  Violence, some explicit descriptions of sex, and some strong language.

Captain Horatio Hornblower by C. S. Forester.  This is a trilogy about the shy, lovable captain in the British Navy during the Napoleonic Wars.  Contents include: Beat to Quarters, Ship of the Line, and Flying Colors.

The Afghan by Frederick Forsyth.  Retired British army colonel Mike Martin impersonates a former colleague, Taliban fighter Izmat Khan, who is locked up in Guantanamo, Cuba.  Multilingual Martin tries to unravel an Al Qaeda plot in Afghanistan before it deploys in America.  Violence and strong language.

Night Soldiers by Alan Furst.  A young Bulgarian, Khristo, is recruited by an elite unit of the Soviet espionage service and becomes an agent.  Betrayed in the Spanish Civil War, he seeks oblivion in Paris but soon leads fresh sorties, this time against his Red spymasters. Some strong language and some descriptions of sex.

Our Man in Havana by Graham Greene.   A spy story about an unsuccessful English vacuum cleaner salesman who accepts a job as a secret agent with no intention of actually doing the job.  But when the reports he makes up begin to come true, he is suddenly involved in frightening intrigue.

Knights of the Range by Zane Grey.  Young Holly Ripple inherits her father’s New Mexico cattle empire.  To protect her spread from rustlers, headstrong Holly hires the region’s most notorious vigilantes, including Renn Frayne.  Renn fights for the ranch and for Holly herself, but eventually his past catches up with him.

Big Sky by A.B. Guthrie, Jr.  Young Boone Caudill from Kentucky heads west after trying to kill his abusive father.  Depicting the brutality and the squalor of life in the American West between 1830 and 1843, Guthrie tells the story of the mountain men who penetrated the wilderness and developed it, spoiling the paradise in the process.  Some violence and some strong language.

Death in the Afternoon by Ernest Hemingway.  The art of bullfighting with description of bravery, cowardice, pageantry, and history are enlivened by the author’s pungent comments of life and literature.  Some strong language.

The Odyssey by Homer.  After the Trojan War, Odysseus begins a ten-year voyage back to Ithaca during which he relies on his wit and wiliness to survive encounters with Poseidon, god of oceans, and other divine and natural forces.

Kim by Rudyard Kipling.  Irish orphan Kimball O’Hara befriends a Tibetan Buddhist lama seeking spiritual redemption and joins him on a journey in colonial India.  British Intelligence recruits Kim for secret-service activities.  Kim attempts to reconcile the opposing cultures and obligations of the spirit and the state.

Comstock Lode by Louis L’Amour.  Cornish coal miner Tom Trevallion uproots his small family and moves to America in 1849 to have a shot at the California gold rush.  But thieves kill Tom, and shortly thereafter kill his wife.  Son Val and little orphan Grita Redaway survive.  Revenge-driven Val becomes a top place-miner in this tale of the world's greatest silver strike.  Some violence and some strong language. 

The King’s Coat by Dewey Lambdin.  Having compromised his half-sister, Alan Lewrie is shipped off to the British navy, with unacknowledged hopes he will be drowned at sea.  Alan flourishes aboard ship.  His adventures include skirmishes with the French and the Dutch – as well as amorous dalliances with the daughter of the Jamaican governor.  Strong language and descriptions of sex.


Talking Book Program Book Club News

Thanks to all joining us on April 26th for our 1st Talking Book Program book club, discussing A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year!
TBP Book Club is currently a call-in format. We will give you a phone number to call and join us via conference call. The only technology you need to join the Book Club is a telephone!
When you are ordering a title for TBP Book Club, let us know so we can get the title out to you as soon as possible. All selected titles are also available for download from BARD. Whether ordering or downloading, please let us know if you plan on joining our book club discussion.

Please contact Shannon at 1-800-252-9605 or at with any questions.

The next TBP Book Club selections will be:

Thursday, July 26, 2012 (RSVP by July 5, 2012):
The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak.  Death narrates the tale of nine-year-old Liesel from 1939 to 1943 in Nazi Germany. Liesel copes with a foster family, air raids, her friend Rudy, and a hidden Jew, sustained by the books she steals.  This title contains some strong language and some violence.  To read this book, please call 1-800-252-9605You can also download it from the BARD site.

Fall Selection Date TBA (More details to follow in the Summer Newsletter):
Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything by Joshua Foer.  Science journalist and 2006 U.S. Memory Championship winner describes the year he spent working to improve his memory.  Explores ancient philosophers' and medieval scholars' techniques such as the memory palace, an imagined spatial construction used to organize recollections.  Discusses savants and amnesiacs--and why memorization still matters.  To read this book, please call 1-800-252-9605 You can also download it from the BARD site.

Thursday, January 24, 2013 (RSVP by January 3, 2013):
No End in Sight: My Life as a Blind Iditarod Racer by Rachael Scdoris.
Twenty-year-old author discusses her Oregon childhood, her experience with low vision, and her determination to become a professional sled dog racer.  Describes being introduced to the sport by her father, becoming the youngest athlete to win a five-hundred-mile race, and the obstacles she overcame to qualify for the Iditarod. To read this book, please call 1-800-252-9605You can also download it from the BARD site.

We look forward to reading and discussing these great books with you.

Friends of Libraries Archives of Texas

Who Are the Friends?

Lovers of learning, libraries, books, archives, genealogy, and Texas history — in fact, all who believe in the preservation of and promoting access to Texas’ rich history for all generations. The Friends is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that supports the Texas State Library and Archives Commission.

What Do the Friends Do?

  • Advocate and promote the Talking Book Program and other statewide services and collections of the Texas State Library and Archives Commission
  • Fundraise to expand the services and collections of the Texas State Library and Archives Commission and support the efforts of its staff
  • Foster the development of local groups in support of local libraries and archives in Texas

The Friends raised funds for the Capital Campaign for the Lorenzo de Zavala State Archives and Library Building, including Talking Book Program furnishings and equipment, and co-sponsored the Meet the Narrator! Talking Book Program event.

Friends of Libraries has membership Options that include: $10 Student; $10 Senior (65+); $35 Affiliate Organizations; $25 Individual; $40 Family; $100 Business Friend; $1000 Life Member, or any generous donation is greatly appreciated.

Please mail your check payable to:
Friends of Libraries & Archives of Texas
P.O. Box 12983
Austin, TX 78711




Talking Book Program
Texas State Library and Archives Commission
PO Box 12927
Austin TX 78711-2927
1-800-252-9605 (in Texas)
512-463-5458 (in Austin)
512-936-0685 (fax)


Page last modified: August 7, 2012