You know how sometimes (or fairly often) it can be hard to settle down and read? I’ve found a variety pack of options to entertain myself, and maybe some of these ideas will appeal to you as well…
Magazines! From HGTV to Gourmet to bite sized articles in How it Works that help me learn something new, I’ve been enjoying flicking those pages until something catches my eye.
I’ve also been reading from the Diverse Voices for Younger Readers collection. I 100% think books for teens and younger readers can be as good -or better!- than adult books as they tell stories that are compelling but tend to be shorter (aka don’t get bogged down in wordy, unnecessary extras). Why not give it a try?
Sometimes I just listen to music while I clean or do some crafting…
How often have you had the discussion about which was better -the book or the movie? All the time, right? And how often do you pick the movie over the book? Not as often as you pick the book, right? Well, I’ve got a win/win for you this week! You can read the book *and* watch the movie, in any order, and walk away thinking, “that was great!” Are you curious yet?
Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson blends his personal experiences and life journey with his drive to create social justice and encourage us all to get involved. I read this book when it first came out, and have enjoyed it as an audio book as well, and I think part of what makes Mr. Stevenson’s book so special is how a reader can emotionally connect to experiences, feeling his pain and his joy, while breaking down those systemic issues surrounding the inequality of our justice system. Founder of the Equal Justice Initiative leading force in the creation of the Legacy Museum as well as the National Memorial for Peace and Justice, Mr. Stevenson is changing our World for the better!
“But what about Just Mercy as a movie?” you ask. This movie focused in on how Mr. Stevenson became Mr. Walter McMillian’s lawyer over other experiences in the book. Sometimes it’s that trimming that can leave a reader feeling like something was missing, but I would be surprised to hear that after you watch this film. Instead, I’d guess you might also think of this as an additional chapter to the book?
I hope you read *and* watch Just Mercy, and then -please, let me know what you think!
There is no escaping the news and racism, policing, and protesting are currently the main headlines for most news outlets. More and more I have been hearing a cry to defund the police, an idea that I did not fully understand. Naturally, I took to the intern to begin my research, where I came across the book The End of Policing by Alex Vitale. I found it to be a quick read and interesting read.
Alex S. Vitale is a professor of sociology at Brooklyn College. He is also the coordinator of The Policing and Social Justice Project, an organization that “…advocates and supports organizing against harmful law enforcement strategies and has provided guidance for social justice and criminal justice reform efforts across the country.” Vitale has studied and written about policing for 25 and consult both police departments and human rights organizations.
The End of Policing is a broad history and analysis of the policing system in the United States. Chapters address police in schools, the policing of our borders, the homeless, the addicted, the mentally ill, and sex workers. He discusses theories of policing such as warrior policing and broken window policing. Vitale clearly outlines the roles that presidents and politicians on both sides of the aisle have played in contributing to the problems of policing. From union-busting to the war on drugs, from ICE to three strikes, from stop and frisk to closing mental institutions, our modern presidents have all enacted polices that have resulted in harmful policing practices. Vitale cites as a major issue with policing the idea that we rely on police to solve all of our problems, despite police not being qualified to do so. Police are expected to perform the jobs of mental health providers, social workers, addiction specialists, and more without the proper skills and at great cost to society. The author details how special courts, diversion programs, and jails are all more expensive to run than social services programs. His conclusion is that training and reform are not enough. Vitale argues that diverting funds into programs that work to prevent social problems, ie, mental health care, affordable house, access to jobs, etc can reduce crime an the need for policing.
This is an interesting, informative, and well-researched book that I found helpful in understanding the idea behind the call to defund police.
As regular readers of my ramblings know, my focus during this quarantine has been on anxiety and uncertainty. As we are slowing transitioning back to library for some of our shifts there will still be anxiety and uncertainty, but I am looking forward to seeing familiar faces in a familiar setting. So I want to use my final Your Library Staff at Home post to present readers with a list of books that I have found helpful in my own personal quest to learn more about race and racism in America. It is by no means a comprehensive list, but I have found them to be easily accessible.
If you only have time for one book, I highly recommend it be White Fragility: Why it’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racismby Dr. Robin DiAngelo. DiAngelo coined the term white fragility to refer to the tendency for white people to become defensive when confronted with their racial advantage. I appreciated this book so much that after listening to it I ordered a print copy to have to refer back to. It IS hard to talk about racism. This book can help make it easier.
So, you’re ready to talk about race. That’s a great start. Yes, it’s just a start. This next book was an eye-opener for me. How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi is another fantastic social justice read. Kendi asks readers to think of what an antiracist society looks like. He digs into history and science as he outlines many different types of racism. He thoughtfully examines his own past thoughts and behaviors that he deemed to be racist. This is an engaging look at race and provides many excellent topics of discussion as well as practical ideas to implement in order to create an antiracist society.
Finally, I recommend Tears We Cannot Stop: A Sermon to White America by Michael Eric Dyson. Dyson, a professor of sociology at Georgetown University, argues “The time is at hand for reckoning with the past, recognizing the truth of the present, and moving together to redeem the nation for our future. If we don’t act now, if you don’t address race immediately, there very well may be no future.”
These are just a few of the nonfiction titles that have had a profound effect on me. One of the things I love about books is that they are a safe way to confront tough topics and they can give us the tools we need to grow.
We are all in this together. Let’s be kind to one another.
Ooo! What happened? Somewhere over the past few weeks, I’ve realized my attention span has gotten very short. I’m guessing you know exactly what I’m talking about, right? It’s a good thing I’m already a fan of making lists -and checking items off the list. Now I need to figure out how to remember where I put my most current list… heh heh. (I also need to remember to recycle that finished list-geez,)
So maybe you’re on the same page as I am (book humor on purpose!) and you’d like to listen to an entertaining book or podcast right now? Great! May I suggest the following podcasts: Stuff You Should Know-covering a wide variety of topics, the length varies by episode, Flash Forward -possible futures based on current ideas, Imaginary Worlds-mostly SF topics but also plenty of general appeal, or NPR’s Life Kit -nicely compact discussions of truly helpful tips for navigating everyday life. May I suggest an older nonfiction book: Mozart’s Starling by Lyanda Lynn Haupt -I learned so much about European Starlings and Mozart (of course?) plus musical moments were included in the audio book! And how about an older mystery/dark comedy series: Izzy Spellman Series starting with The Spellman Files by Lisa Lutz -you too might fall a little in love with this seriously loving and dysfunctional family like so many of us have!
Or if you want to fall down a rabbit hole of what? who knew? I need to try that! nope. Yes! May I suggest checking out #recipes on TikTok? (If you can figure out a good way to limit your time on this one -please send that good tip my way?!)
And please, don’t forget to be kind to yourself, okay?
It was such fun to look back on what I’ve read this past year and pick my favorites! Below you’ll find mostly adult fiction titles, including some standout graphic novels, as well as a stellar young adult novel (Wilder Girls!). 2019 was also the year I dabbled in reading outside my comfort zone of generally weird and spooky, venturing into the land of romantic fiction and true crime. Much to my surprise, I was so utterly charmed by a romance novel that it ended up on this list (I’m looking at you Chloe Brown). I hope that if you haven’t read one of these titles you will be inspired to stop by and check it out this winter. Maybe you will also find yourself pleasantly surprised by broadening your reading horizons *wink*. Wishing you a joyful holiday season and happy reading!
If you check out some of my previous Top Ten lists -you might notice I like to go for bonus titles.. heh! This year I split my list into ten fiction and a bonus nine nonfiction… double heh! I’ll also mention, this year I was part of the Andrew Carnegie Medals for Excellence in Fiction & Nonfiction Committee -and the entire list is worth a look! You’ll also notice some of the titles on that list are also on mine, so maybe that counts as a double Top Ten suggestion?
This list is *not* in order of preference but does follow the Librarian Tradition of Alphabetical Order:
Fiction Fleishman is in Trouble by Taffy Brodesser-Akner
No one in this story is perfect, and that’s what makes it such a fun book to read!
Here and Now and Then by Mike Chen
Time travel is a key feature, but it’s really about family and finding a place you belong.
The World That We Knew by Alice Hoffman
A magical, emotional, thoroughly engaging story!
The Jane Austen Society by Natalie Jenner
You don’t have to love Jane Austen to love this book.
The Swallows by Lisa Lutz
A mystery set in a boarding school with plenty of surprises.
Tuesday Mooney Talks to Ghosts by Kate Racculia
Like The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin -for adults.
Normal People by Salley Rooney
Teens growing into young adults -set in Ireland.
Save Me From Dangerous Men by Eli Saslow
Gritty and graphic, and all kinds of grrl power.
The Grammarians by Cathleen Schine
If you’re a word nerd -this one’s for you!
The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead
Ah -all the feels.
Nonfiction Elderhood: Redefining Aging, Transforming Medicine, Reimagining Life by Louise Aronson
We should all rethink how we think about aging.
Catch and Kill by Rowan Farrow
Fascinating and well-researched look at decades of misconduct by men in power.
Becoming Dr. Seuss by Brian Jay Jones
Theodore Geissel was more than the creator of children’s books, and this book will tell you that story.
Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland by Patrick Radden Keefe
While telling the story of one woman’s disappearance (and likely murder), readers will also get a clear background on The Troubles in Ireland.
Underland: A Deep Time Journey by Robert Macfarlane
A beautifully written look at the natural world and how it’s changed, and continues to change.
The Library Book by Susan Orlean
Not just a book about libraries, but also a great “true crime” mystery!
Invisible Women: Data Bias in a World Designed for Men by Caroline Criado Perez
Ladies, be ready to be annoyed and then -let’s change the world!
An Elegant Defense by Matt Ritchel
Do you know how your immune system works (or doesn’t work)? You will after you read this!
The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee: Native America from 1890 to the Present by David Treuer
How do we not talk more about some of the topics in this book?!
I hope you find something you enjoy -and- that you have a happy, wonderful Holiday Season!
This is a story about isolation and resilience. Kya, also known as the Marsh Girl, was abandoned by her family in the marsh lands of North Carolina. Alongside the story of her survival in the marsh as a child, an alternate timeline of a murder is unwound throughout the story. The writing is lyrical and descriptive which drags you deep into the marshes of North Carolina. The book is both heartbreaking and triumphant. Beth
American poet A.R. Ammons taught creative writing for years at Cornell, and recently a two-volume collection was published. I’m working my way through the first volume and hope to read the second as well. His poetry is a very intense exploration of the relationship between the natural world and the metaphysical. His voice is charming and unforgettable, and he is able to be funny and profound at the same time. Ammons grew up in rural North Carolina, and some of his most affecting poems (for me) are about his memories as a child, taking care of the animals on his family’s farm. A good, slow, enjoyable and worthwhile read. Andrew
In Palaces for the People, Klinenberg makes the argument that social infrastructure is fundamental to both the physical and social health of a community. In using the phrase “social infrastructure,” Klinenberg is referencing community places that cause human contact and social connections to form, including libraries, places of worship, parks, and schools. The connections made at these locations create social safety nets and allow for exposure to others; this imparts tolerance and understanding in a society often becoming more divisive. An interesting read; the frequent mentions of how libraries are valuable resources for communities may have influenced my appreciation and enjoyment. Trent
This is a fictionalized account of the real life Pendle Hill Witch Trials. It’s 1612, Lancashire, England and young noblewoman Fleetwood Shuttleworth has yet to bear a child after four years of marriage. Each of her pregnancies have ended in miscarriage and the doctor has made a dire prediction-Fleetwood will not survive another pregnancy. And yet, she once again finds herself with child. When she meets Alice Grey, she begins to believe that both she and her baby might survive. Fleetwood places all her trust in her new midwife, who prescribes various herbs to treat Fleetwood’s ailments. While her health improves and her pregnancy progresses Alice finds herself being accused of witchcraft. Can Fleetwood save the only woman who can save her? Megan
Kindred was pushed up in my reading priorities in February, but as is often the case I don’t usually read books based on monthly themes. I am now part way through listening to it being read by Kim Staunton on my commutes. It has some similarities to the Outlander series, but this book was written 12 years earlier in 1979. Dana is a black woman living in the 1970s who is mysteriously pulled back in time to the early 1800s. The book is a bit more fast paced with back and forth time travelling. Dana must learn to survive living on a plantation in the slave state of Maryland where she has no rights. She meets a couple of her ancestors and learns about her surprising black and white family tree. She experiences physical trauma similar to the women of several generations past. There isn’t really a science fiction device for the time travelling, so it is more fantasy based. Sometimes time travel stories can be full of loopholes and anachronisms, but Butler has very carefully constructed the plot based on history that the hero Dana cannot so easily change for the better. Byron
This is the story of Alice, the daughter of Theodore Roosevelt. Alice is just 18 years old when McKinley is assassinated and her father becomes president. Rebellious Alice is in constant conflict with her father and stepmother. She soon marries Congressman Nick Longworth and must deal with his infidelity and heavy drinking. Alice gives birth to Paulina, who is believed to be the daughter of Senator William Borah. When Paulina dies young, Alice raises her granddaughter. This is an epic story of a strong independent woman way ahead of her time. Emma
George Washington Black, Wash as we come to know him, is a ten year old slave on a sugar plantation in Barbados in the mid 1800s. When the eccentric brother, Titch, of the exceedingly cruel master, Eramus, comes to stay, Wash is taken under the wing of Titch. Wash is both confused and terrified by such an unlikely kindness extended to him. Titch is a scientist, inventor, explorer and abolitionist. Wash is swept up in the life of such a diversified, yet strange young man. This is a story of friendship and betrayal, love and redemption. The author deftly talks about slavery, racism and identity. It reads like both historical fiction and adventure. Have patience with this novel, at times, it seems disconnected, but well worth it. Mary
Nine people join at a remote health resort in Australia for different reasons. Some are hoping to lose weight, some are getting over broken hearts, and others have heard it is just the most amazing experience ever. As each of them are cut off from the outside world and required to follow a rigid, individualized schedule prepared for them by the spa’s extremely eccentric owner/director, they begin to wonder what they have gotten themselves into. Should they stay and experience the promised life-changing experience, or should they run while (and if) they still can? Not as good as The Husband’s Secret or Big Little Lies in my opinion, but still a good read with some interesting twists and turns. Sara
This memoir is about a woman who grew up in a very religious yet impoverished rural Virginia community and becomes an atheist. As I read it, I could not help but think of Tara Westover’s Educated. Even though there were many similarities in their stories, When I Spoke In Tongues dealt mostly with the complicated, painful process of leaving one’s faith. The most interesting aspect of the author’s journey away from faith was the way her relationships with family members changed. Jessica Wilbanks holds an MFA in creative non-fiction, and the writing in this book is haunting and beautiful. This book would be important for anyone who decides to depart from the faith tradition they grew up with, as well as anyone who wants to know more about Pentecostalism as a movement. Lyndsey
I went back a few years and revisited a 1994 E.L. Doctorow novel, The Waterworks, because it was recommended. Set in post-Civil War New York, the book is narrated by a world-weary newspaperman, McIlvaine, whose freelance writer, Martin Pemberton, has disappeared. Pemberton, smart, rebellious, and scion of the wealthy and recently deceased Augustus Pemberton, had confided to McIlvaine that, though his father had died, he believed he recently saw him passing by in a carriage. McIlvaine enlists the help of Donne, a rare honest police officer during the Boss Tweed era, and the two search for Martin, discovering his half-dead body in a facility where the genius Dr. Sartorious is trying to defeat mortality. Doctorow starts off well, lyrically capturing New York and its inhabitants, the poverty, wealth, power and industry, but eventually the plot becomes too gothic and the characters stereotypically good or evil. Maybe this isn’t one of his best? Dori