It’s a new month, a new year, with Winter and the long months of January and February providing a time to either snuggle in for contemplation and calm, or to go outdoors for a chilly adventure. Either way, here are a few books, tips, and links that can guide your journey.
Self-care is essential right now: burn some scented candles, enjoy a bubble bath, drink tea and read (always recommended), try a few puzzles (come and get one at the library) or word games. You just need a blanket, and some fuzzy slippers. It’s also time for some resolutions – they don’t need to be about change, but can just be about learning – taking on a new hobby, signing up for an online class, participating in a book club, or starting seeds from scratch.
The next time it snows, go take a look at snowflakes up close. Then return inside, snug with a cup of hot chocolate, and read the book Snowflake Bentley, a lovely book about the man who first photographed snowflakes.
The Winter might be long, but there is so much to do!
Find all the books above on our ebook services Overdrive or Hoopla. All you’ll need is your library card number and PIN to start reading! Some of them are also available in the physical library, and if you’d rather have a copy to hold, you can search the catalog here.
Yikes – what a year, right? I’ve been caught between not being able to focus on reading at all, with my concentration as slippery as an eel, and total and complete immersion in a book, with a desire to never leave!
What that means in terms of the quantity of books read is that I did not read a lot, but those that I did read I sunk into and they felt like the perfect book to read at the time. Lots of historical fiction, a graphic novel, essays about nature and climate change, and an endearing fable all provided me with an outlet, an escape, or an insightful way to get through this year. I hope you found similar ways to take your mind off 2020. Here’s to getting to 2021!
Hamnet: a Novel of the Plague by Maggie O’Farrell: a story about the family of William Shakespeare and the death of his young son, Hamnet, from the plague. The best of historical fiction, O’Farrell tells us the story from multiple perspectives, focusing on Shakespeare’s wife, Agnes.
The Mirror & the Lightby Hilary Mantel: sad, but expected, the fascinating trilogy about Thomas Cromwell had to end, but it was a riveting journey.
Weather by Jenny Offill: I read this early in pandemic shutdown time and it just was a perfect fit – a meditative look at a woman and her family and her future; funny and prescient.
Optic Nerve by Maria Gainza: this is the kind of book that I love – it’s narrated by an art historian in Argentina and each chapter she talks about a piece of art that she’s affected by and weaves the story of the artist and artwork into stories about her life and family in Argentina.
Perestroika in Paris by Jane Smiley: ok, this may seem like a silly book, a book with talking animals, but it’s not at all cheesy, or sickly sweet. It’s Smiley writing well, a lovely story about what all of us need, love, freedom, respect, and to dream.
Run Me to Earth by Paul Yoon: I love Yoon’s writing; his latest is set in Cambodia and we see the effects of the U.S. bombing of Cambodia during the Vietnam War through the eyes of the 3 friends.
Triesteby Dasa Drndic: I picked this up because it was on my list to discard from the collection, then I read about it and took it home and became immersed in the story. I have read many things about the Holocaust, but this one has a new perspective – it’s fiction, but uses historical facts to tell the story of the Holocaust in Northern Italy and children removed from their parents. Challenging but worth it.
Writers & Lovers by Lily King: King’s Euphoria was a favorite of mine a few years back; this one is altogether different – set in the present, a woman writer finding her way.
Vesper Flights by Helen MacDonald: MacDonald’s H is for Hawk took the world by storm and this new book of collected essays continues with her focus on the natural world and climate change, with glorious writing to boot.
Who better than the experts in the RRPL Children’s Department to guest host our blog sharing holiday gift ideas! Below you’ll find new book titles, Christmas titles, and a few non-book items as well. Enjoy!
It’s the last day of November and the Black Friday sales are behind us, but there is still plenty of time to shop for holiday gifts. At Rocky River Public Library, we’re in the business of recommending books and movies, music and audiobooks, so we thought we’d spend the next couple of weeks sharing with you some titles we’d like to give, or get, for the 2020 Holiday season.
Below I’ll mainly talk about 2020 books and link them to our catalog so you can read a longer description. If you’re interested in buying the book, go to bookshop.org and they’ll find you a local, independent bookstore to order from. We want to support our independent bookstores!
For lovers of historical fiction, Hamnetby Maggie O’Farrell is a fascinating look at the family of William Shakespeare, particularly his wife, Agnes, an expert in nature and cures. It’s perfect for a winter lie-in (the audiobook is also very well done). I’m going to give my daughter an oldie, but one of my favorites, The Known Worldby Edward P. Jones, the story of a former slave who becomes a slaveholder; it’s become a classic.
For scifi/fantasy fans, I’ve recently read The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab and this story of a woman who makes a deal with the Devil will mesmerize you. Again, the audiobook is stellar, so hop to it! Becky Chambers, author of the Wayfarer Series, has a new addition to the series coming out next year, so now’s the time to buy your space-loving, fantasy adoring giftee the 3 previous volumes – it’s fun, character-rich, and so so good!
If your recepient is interested in the state of the world, politics or, searing experiences, please give them Homeland Elegies by Ayad Akhtar. I also really love the writing of Paul Yoon, who’s Run Me to Earth follows a group of 3 friends in Laos during and after the Vietnam War. If non-fiction is their bag, try Casteby Isabel Wilkerson, described as, an “Instant American Classic”.
I love a good crime novel or thriller. The Searcher by Tana French brings a Chicago police detective to Ireland, where all is not fairies and rainbows. The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman is altogether different, a funny murder mystery starring retirees. Both would make great gifts for your mystery loving pals.
I’ll finish up with some more books that I’d like for Christmas, as well as a few I’m going to buy for family and friends.
I gave my daughter Say Nothingby Patrick Keefe last year, and she then took a deep dive into “The Troubles” and Irish politics. I thought I’d add Big Girl, Small Town by Michelle Gallen to her gifts this year; it’s lighter, , about an autistic young woman who lives in a town in Northern Ireland still affected by “The Troubles” For my son, who has been reading Anna Karenina, but also loves Murakami and history, I will buy the 2020 National Book Award Winner for Translated Fiction, Tokyo Ueno Stationby Yu Marie. Or maybe the non-fiction award winner, The Dead are Arising, a Life of Malcom X. Wait, I think he’d really like Vassily Grossman’s, republished classic, Life and Fate. Oh what to buy?!?
Beginning in September, we invited patrons to join us in a reading challenge. It’s not too late to get started, however! First, join Beanstack, or sign in if you’ve already created an account. Then read any book that fits within the following 10 topics: African-American Voices, Asian-American Voices, Diverse Abilities, Female Voices, Hispanic-American Voices, Immigration, LGBTQ+ Voices, Native American Voices, Social Injustice, and Voices Experiencing Poverty and Homelessness.
Why democracy? This is a question that has been wrestled with since the Greeks first introduced a system of political reforms called demokratia, or “rule by the people” (from demos, “the people,” and kratos, or “power”). Today, we think of democracy as giving each person a voice, but in Ancient Greek only males had a voice, and, of course, only males with a certain amount of property and social status.
We’ve come quite a long way since some Ancient Greeks gathered to discuss their fates in the square of Athens. Modern democracies help to ensure that oppressed groups who would otherwise be excluded from politics have their voices heard – they can vote for policies and people they believe in. Modern democracies are also flexible; they have built-in checks and balances forcing regular electoral turnover and are able to adjust as society changes.
American democracy, due to geographic and population limitations, was formed as an indirect, representative democracy – we elect representatives who we think will give us a voice in our government. This however, means that we have to participate as citizens. At the very least, we have to vote, but citizenship also requires being aware of who is running, not just in the national elections, but in our local school board or city council elections. Democracy functions best when citizens are involved.
Why democracy? It gives us a voice – but to have that voice, we have to put in the work. National Voter Registration Day just passed, but you have until 10/5/2020 to register to vote before the November 3rd election. You can do that online here, print a blank form here or stop in at your local library to pick up a form. For additional information on voter registration or mail-in voting, check out RRPL’s 2020 General Election information page – or give us a call – we’ll be glad to answer your questions.
To get started researching who is running, try Ballotpedia; it’s a great source for non-partisan election information. It allows you to look up your ballot, find candidates in national and local elections, and take an in-depth look at candidates’ positions. Judge4Yourself provides independent non-partisan ratings of judicial candidates before every election. If you want to dig a little deeper, here are some other ways to participate in our democracy (from AARP.com):
Check out candidates’ websites – see what their stances are on issues you’re concerned about.
If one of the candidates is an incumbent in the House of Representatives or Senate, go to Congress.gov and research their voting records, find out what issues they concentrate on, and how to contact them.
Attend campaign events, including town halls (or participate in them by phone or online) and informal coffees and other stops the candidates might be making in your community. Local party offices, public libraries and other community organizations usually have information on such events.
Find the campaign office and call or drop in. Candidates want your vote. Make them work for it. Ask to speak to the candidate or her or his representative and get your questions answered about the issues that matter to you.
Check the candidates’ answers on important issues. Factcheck.org, which is run by the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania, keeps track of candidates’ statements and claims.
Why democracy? Our democracy will work best if all Americans can have full and equal access to participation – and if all Americans participate fully.
The official Rocky River Public Library summer reading season has come to an end, but, of course, summer reading continues! Many of you participated this year, though our format required some flexibility on your part – and we really appreciate it! Winners will be announced soon – stay tuned!
In the meantime, what have you been reading? Do you feel like it’s hard to focus on reading in the pandemic or just the opposite? I started this pandemic out poorly – I just couldn’t concentrate – but then slowly, a few books caught my attention and hit the sweet spot of what I needed to read.
Back to Optic Nerve. First off, this book is not a plot driven story; it’s a series of reflective vignettes that center around a piece of art, a painting, a drawing, etc. The author is an art critic, and so is the narrator, so I’m sure there are biographical influences – each chapter she talks about a piece of art that moves her – and the artist’s life – and weaves it through something happening in her life. Some of the artists are well-known, but the works of art are not, because they’re generally in museums in Buenos Aires. I loved her writing, her reflections; someone describes it as ‘deeply felt’ – yes – it’s just one of those books.
I also just finished reading Night Boat to Tangier by Kevin Barry – I read it in one day, it’s that engaging. The story of two middle-aged Irish gangsters, waiting in a Spanish port for the next boat from Tangier – doesn’t sound too thrilling, I know. But their conversations in their Cork accent, their flashbacks, their relationship – comic, but deeply sad as well.
What’s next? – well, I just started listening to Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell – it’s about the death of Shakespeare’s 11 year old son during the plague – sounds timely. And I’m hoping to read some galleys of books coming out this Fall – I’ve got Jess Walter’s The Cold Millions on my iPad. I loved his book TheBeautiful Ruins, and I’m hearing great things about this one as well.
Hope everyone enjoyed their holiday weekend and got to spend some time with loved ones. Though many community fireworks displays were cancelled, it seems like there were numerous backyard fireworks that more than made up for the cancellations, though my dog was not happy about it!
Princeton Review Strategy Session– Teens Tuesday, July 7, 3-4:30 pm The experts at The Princeton Review cover everything you need to know about the SAT in this virtual seminar. Learn how the test is built and structured and what that means for you as a test-taker. Catch up on the content tested on the SAT and how the test is scored. Get a sense of how one prepares for the SAT as well as the range of resources available. Registration required at https://www.princetonreview.com/product/offerings/463903
Introduction to Computers II – Part 1 – Adults Wednesday, July 8 and Thursday, July 9 10-10:45 am Already know how to use a mouse and keyboard? Continue learning about computers in this two-part class where you will discover the functions of different computer components and delve into more comprehensive functions of Windows 10. Class is in two parts: Wednesday, July 8, and Thursday, July 9, 10:00-10:45 am. Registered students will be given information on how to attend the class online. Topic Level: BeginningPrerequisite: Attendance in Intro to Computers I or equivalent experience is expected for this class Register online or call us at 440-333-7610, extension 5503. Registration opens on July 1, 2020, at 9:00 am.
Princeton Review Free Practice SAT– Teens Saturday, July 11, 9:30 am – 1:00 pm Come take a free online full-length SAT practice test with The Princeton Review! Familiarize yourself with the format and the content you’ll see on the actual SAT and get in-depth feedback question by question with a comprehensive score report that helps you identify areas of weakness and evaluate your current performance. Registration required here: here: https://www.princetonreview.com/product/offerings/463950
For additional July program information, click here.
Check out the Information Kiosk in front of the library for more information, including Summer Reading, Summer Events and Summer Reading Slips. Return those Summer Reading Slips to our new Summer Reading Mailbox right outside our door.