book life

Reading Habits

I just finished reading Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead. I have an anecdote for Ayn Rand from my bookselling days: I worked at a chain bookstore in Utah, and one summer there were a large number of teenagers fresh out of high school or entering senior year who came in asking for either The Fountainhead or Atlas Shrugged. It happened so much that I finally started asking if it was a summer reading assignment. Nope, these kids were simply interested in tackling Rand. It was a little weird.

But I’ve been curious to read Rand ever since. There’s a joke on the internet that you should never date someone who says they like Atlas Shrugged, so when a dear friend of mine mentioned that he loved The Fountainhead I had to laugh but be relieved it wasn’t Atlas Shrugged. But I also didn’t want to judge Rand until I had given her a shot. And what I found was that I really enjoyed reading The Fountainhead! I totally fell for the characters and got wrapped up in the story and found ways to relate to it that I didn’t think I would find. Granted, I didn’t always get the Randian philosophy that she hits you over the head with – either I didn’t follow the logic or I didn’t agree with it – but for me that didn’t take away from the story and the reading of it. And now I can say that I’ve read Rand and actually kind of liked it.

I had another friend tell me recently that I was one of the most widely read people he knows. I think a lot of that had to do with me reading enough academic books that he has also read, but it still made me feel good. When I was in library school I took a Popular Fiction class where we read a different genre every week. I read Amish romance, urban fiction, Harlequin romance, and others I normally wouldn’t have read. Our instructor was a local public librarian who was PASSIONATE about making sure that as librarians we follow the law of library science that every person has their book and every book has its reader. We should read widely to know what our patrons may like. And I took that advice to heart.

At my second public library job in Georgia I was in charge of purchasing all the adult fiction (to clarify: fiction for adults as opposed to teens or children, not the X-rated stuff. People have gotten confused). I started to participate heavily in LibraryReads and got a few reviews published on their site, and tried reading outside my usual comfort zone to participate even more. I discovered that while I had never considered myself a romance reader, I tried out a few that I soon discovered that I LOVED a few romance genre writers and wanted to read any series they came out with. (Currently I’m in love with Alyssa Cole’s Reluctant Royals series. Like, I love it so much that when I hear of a new installment I jump for joy in my desk chair.) I aim to read at least 50 books a year so I can squeeze in not only the titles I want to read but others that are different and might be of interest to others that I can recommend. And I might even find a new genre or author or story that I can love and enjoy.

What all this boils down to is that I recognize that while I may not enjoy certain genres and kinds of books, those genres have their fans. Don’t ridicule. What matters is that the person is reading and has found something they enjoy that takes them out of real life for a time. Taking some time to read outside of your comfort zone with give you a chance to see what others may like and allow you to read in their shoes so to speak, and you might even find that you love a genre you weren’t aware of before, and how fun is that??

Advertisements
library life

Public Librarianship – the downlow

I’ve had a mixed reaction from people I’ve known for years when they find out I’m a librarian. Most go, “Oh, that makes sense!”, but I did run into a high school buddy who had assumed I would end up an accountant. Anyway, a Public Librarian is what I am, and probably will be for the foreseeable future. And while most librarians are not of the “shushing old lady with a hairbun” type (and can we PLEASE move away from that already!), I am not of the “dye my hair a funky color, dress steampunk, and have lots of Twitter followers” librarians either. I’m far more middle ground. I’ve been in the profession a solid two years, and have been reflecting on my career expectations. While I am pleased with the position I am currently in (and very lucky to have it), it has occurred to me that my job is quite different from what I had initially anticipated. And while some of it has to do with the kind of library I work it, some of it has to do with the profession at large.

  • I rarely talk books with the public. My library keeps track of the “reader’s advisory” interactions we have at the desk (when we talk books with a patron and hopefully make a good suggestion to them of what to read next), and in the past few months we’re still in single digits for the grand total. Which, seeing as many librarians enter the profession because of a love of reading and books, is super sad. I’ve been proactive about reading ARCs (advance reader copies of books), and spend some of my work hours creating book lists for patrons, and practically BEG patrons to talk books with me, and it almost never happens. A lot of this has to do with the community I’m in, and the size of the library. We’re not big enough to have a specific reader’s advisory department, and though we do have some voracious readers for patrons, they tend to be old ladies who have specific interests for what they read, and they don’t need me to help them out. So I find myself brainstorming about ways I can use this book knowledge I’ve curated, channel it, because IRL I tend to only talk about what I’m reading with my library director.
  • Libraries in general are moving towards a more “community center” kind of mentality, what with the different kinds of programming, MakerSpaces, and things of that nature. But at least in the two communities I’ve worked in thus far, the library is pretty much just the place where harried moms can take their children for a short break, unemployed people can apply for jobs and force me to realize how little they know about computers, and where the odd community organizations will hold some function in our meeting rooms and then maybe one of them will wander into the rest of the building, be impressed, but never set foot in here again. Also, where middle-aged women can get ALL the mystery and romance novels they desire, all by well-known authors or specialty publishers who publish frequently. People in my demographic don’t use the library, and everybody knows that. So many people don’t use the library because they don’t read much, and if they do, they buy the books. Most people don’t even realize they can check out eBooks from the library for free! (This has become my life’s mission, to tell the masses about free eBooks at the library.) In general, college students don’t come here. Professionals don’t come here. My demographic, my people, don’t come here.
  • When I tell people I’m from the library, I usually get a glazed-over look from them. To a lot of people, I have a super boring-sounding job. They don’t know how much work I put into a program that hardly anyone shows up to. They don’t know all the different kinds of books I buy that nobody checks out. They don’t know that I went to grad school to get this job. They don’t know that I am a creative person, looking for ways to have the library help them. The especially annoying interaction will involve the other party saying something along the lines of, “Oh, I never read. I bet you hate me! Har har har!” When I meet someone new and learn their profession, you can bet I’m already thinking about ways to use your skills in a library program. But some people just brush me off because they think my job is boring.

I’ve been thinking that I may want to get back into book retail someday, since that’s where my interests lie. Maybe I’ll change what kind of library I work in. Maybe I’ll go for another degree and end up in a completely different field. I don’t know yet. But I do know that sometimes it’s really hard to be a librarian.

book review, library life

Favorite Books of 2014

Happy New Year!! I rang in the new year by myself – super enjoyable because I watched disaster films! (It’s sort of become a family tradition.) Airport, Airport 1975 (which is one of my favorite films of all time now, simply because it’s so over-the-top and if you grew up watching Airplane! you’ll recognize where the gags came from), and the original Poseidon Adventure. So many famous movie stars in all of them, too!!

Anyway, back to bookish things. In 2014, I read 74 books, for a total of 24,542 pages. 27% male writers, and 63% ebooks. Not too shabby. I set my Goodreads 2015 Reading Challenge to 60 books because if I read more, great! If I don’t, no matter!

This was the first year in a long while where I actually kept track of what I read (honestly, I think the last time was middle school where you could win prizes based on how many books you read), and the first year since becoming a librarian that I read so voraciously! I’ve enjoyed what I’ve read, and I’ve dipped my toe into some genres I don’t normally read. I’m looking forward to lots of great reading to come. But I did want to document my picks for 2014:

1. Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel. Hands down, my favorite book of the year. If anyone asks me for a book recommendation, this is the first one I mention. It’s categorized as science fiction, and is set in a dystopian society of sorts, which had initially turned me off, but the reviews were so good, and the premise so intriguing I threw caution to the wind and dove in. I stayed up very late to finish this book. It’s an intense emotional roller coaster that follows a few different story lines, and will make you sit and think about the book long after you’ve read it. It starts with a famous actor dying on stage during King Lear, and all the characters we follow throughout the rest of the book are connected to that one night. We see what life what like before that night when the pandemic flu came, and what life was like after, up to 20 years later. It’s absolutely fascinating, and heartbreaking, and utterly beautiful.

2. The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters. I had not previously read any Waters, but won this book from a Shelf Awareness giveaway and gave it a try. DUDE. First off – it’s historical fiction, very evocative of the era just after World War I. Not quite Downton Abbey level, but that connection may still draw you in. The relationships in this book are complex and heart-wrenching, and will appeal to many. And there’s a murder in it, and once you reach that point in the book, you can’t put it down. I was told to set aside a weekend to read this, and that was definitely the case. You’ll get sucked in and won’t let up until the very end.

3. As You Wish by Carey Elwes. Like most people, I LOVE The Princess Bride! When I heard Elwes (“my sweet Westley”) was publishing a book about his experiences with Princess Bride, I was overjoyed. Elwes definitely delivers! The book is SO SWEET. You can tell this man had the time of his life making this movie, and loved the cast and crew for enabling this silly little film to be made. He’s utterly charming as he tells about how he got the job, what working with Rob Reiner was like, his relationship with Robin Wright, and a number of fun stories about Andre the Giant. Plus he gets fellow cast and crew to tell short asides about their version of events. An absolute delight to read, and you’ll want to watch the film again immediately after reading.

4. The Forgotten Seamstress by Liz Trenow. I read this earlier in the year, and once I finished it I immediately had to write an aunt of mine to tell her she should read it. The MacGuffin (if you will) is an old family quilt. A modern English woman is going through her own daily troubles, and is trying to find out more about this quilt that was passed down in her family. Meanwhile, we alternate to a young English woman in the past who might have connection to the quilt, and we follow her sad life after a very Downton Abbey run-in with a man of means. Not quite a cozy mystery, but if you’re into family history, upstairs/downstairs stories, and mysteries that don’t necessarily involve a murder, this one may be for you.

5. The Ice Cream Queen of Orchard Street by Susan Jane Gilman. This was one of the first books this year that I flipped out over. We follow a young immigrant Russian girl go from rags to riches over the course of her life. She is badly injured after her family comes to America, and is taking in by an Italian family who make gelato. She grows up with the family, learning the business, and gaining shrewd business practices that will help her continue to climb the economic ladder. The woman is like a more humorous Scarlett O’Hara, who finds herself involved with so many 20th century milestones it’s a little like Forrest Gump, too. A hefty book, but a mighty entertaining story of a woman determined to make her life better than what she was handed.

Plenty more on my list of great reads, but these particularly stood out, and were ones I found myself recommending to friends, family, and library patrons alike. Onward in 2015!

book life, library life

Reading Lists

Book-Journal-Books-to-Check-OutUp until recently, I have not kept track of my reading. No completed lists, occasionally a list on a lone page of my Moleskine notebook of “To Be Read” (TBR), but nothing formal for sure. Once I became a librarian, I started to think that perhaps it would be a good idea to keep track so I could recall certain titles during reader’s advisory chats – that is, when someone comes up to me and asks what book they should read next.

I’ve had a GoodReads account for a few years, but for awhile didn’t take advantage of it, and it wasn’t exactly fitting my needs. Plus I wasn’t reading a whole heck of a lot at my last job, so it didn’t seem necessary to keep a reading list anyway. (I have since started updating it more regularly. We’ll see if I can keep it up.)

That changed when I assumed my currently position, where one of my primary job duties is ordering the adult fiction titles. Something shifted, and suddenly I was reading voraciously again! I started to keep a running list on Google Docs, the most recently read on top, formatted into four lines:

Title
Author
tags/keywords
a short summary/who I would recommend it to/my reaction

So far this year, I have found this running list super helpful. It’s available online so I can access it at home or at work, and occasionally I’ll print it out so I can have quick access to it at my desk. (As much as I like the Cloud and digitizing, there is something to be said for having a print copy of something.) I also highlight the titles of certain books that I feel have a wider appeal that I could recommend to a variety of patrons.

Book Riot recently posted about how managing editor Amanda Nelson tracks her reading. She uses a Google Docs spreadsheet (available to download though the link) and uses it to also track the diversity of her reading habits. I contemplated switching over to this method, but ultimately decided I’d rather have my little bit of metadata to jog my memory. But I do applaud the effort. For someone in her position, I think it’s very valuable to be aware of the diversity of a reading list.

Related to all this, last year a new program called LibraryReads got started. I love it – librarians from around the country contribute to a monthly list of the top 10 best books being published in that particular month. It’s a great collection development tool, and is great marketing for our patrons. I’m a big fan. The program hinges on librarians reading digital galleys, or digital advance reader copies of books (ARCs) – publishers put these out either in print or digitally so reviewers can read the book ahead of time, and then tell people about it so there’s a certain amount of hype for when the book is actually published. I got my iPad mini at Easter, and so I finally had an eReader device I could use to take advantage of this program and read some ARCs!*

LibraryReads asks that all nominations for the list be made the month before they’re actually published. So if I wanted to nominate a book being published in November, I would have to read and submit my nomination by October 1. Then a few days after October 1 the list of top 10 books for November is compiled, and I can order the books on that list, and put out the marketing materials provided by LibraryReads so my patrons know about those titles. Hopefully I’ve read a book off the list, and can get the conversation rolling with that!

I quickly discovered that I was having trouble keeping due dates for these nominations together. I had been keeping a print planner, but a few months ago decided to switch completely over to Google Calendar (one less thing to carry, and my calendar is accessible on my laptop, iPhone, and iPad). So I started to keep a list of ARCs to Read as a task list on Google Calendar. And then it was only natural that I finally have a formalized (or, at least, collated) list of TBR that I also make a Google Calendar task list. I add in the notes area a quick summary, or reason why I want to read a particular book. My TBR list is quite long, at least 70 titles at the moment, so having a little reminder is especially helpful. (No, I doubt I’ll read all those books, as my TBR will continue to grow. But it’s good to have a deep well to draw from when I’m picking my next read.)

I use the app GoTasks so I have all these task lists at my fingertips. So far I have been ENORMOUSLY pleased with it – all of my reading logs are in one place, I don’t misplace book recommendations, and when I’m thinking about what to read next, I have a handy dandy list I can refer to, all ready to go.

So that’s how I keep track of all my reading! How about you?

*They don’t have to be digital ARCs, but those are the easiest to get ahold of, at least through the LibraryReads set up. I also win ARCs off GoodReads, or other mailing lists I’m on. Those print copies of ARCs are usually reserved for book reviewers and booksellers, and they do pile up fast! I’ll be doing a post at the end of the months of the print ARCs I acquired this month alone – quite a number!