I love the long winter nights of December and January for reading. You can start a book at dusk, and if you’re lucky and don’t get distracted, finish it before bedtime. It’s also a good time of year to discover new authors, subjects you’ve never investigated, and different formats. (Power up that e-reader!) Magazines, newspapers, and websites also offer their best book lists this time of year.
Librarians have the advantage of being able to browse the stacks and the new book section often. Frequently, they employ the magic of serendipity, accidently discovering that dynamic cover that draws one inside a book, or they notice a title on the cart they’ve seen reviewed, or find themselves staring at a never-read classic that’s been on their lists for years. It’s also a great place to overhear book gossip, “That’s the best book I’ve read in months.”
In the spirit of sharing new authors and titles, I asked our staff members to recommend a favorite book of the year. Most recommended fiction but the nonfiction reads looked just as interesting--everything from visual essays about daily life in Christoph Niemann’s Abstract City to Susan Cain’s account of introverts in a book titled appropriately enough Quiet: the Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking. Also, recommended was Ian Frazier’s On the Rez, an absorbing description of current life on an Indian reservation. Not to be left out is the terrifying Escape from Camp 14--a young man’s account of growing up in a brutal labor camp in North Korea and after living through countless horrible events, he escaped and experienced an outside world that he did not even know existed.
There are plenty of Young Adult books that portray the difficulties of being a teenager. Some are funny, some serious, and some are pretty dark. There's even a name for ones that focus on a specific issue – the problem novel (you've got your teen pregnancy, drug abuse, suicide – you name it). Some are great, but often times the more one topic takes center stage, the less realistic these books seem. It's never just one problem in real life, is it? For pretty much anyone at this age, times are hard all around. Paul Griffin writes about hard times. Read more »
I love making lists, reading lists and cross referencing lists. I especially love December when many journals publish their year-end best-of lists. The New York Times has a top ten list, as does Publisher's Weekly and Amazon's Editors chose 20 books that they considered the best for 2012. The only book to make it to all three lists? Bringing up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel. This is the follow up novel to Wolf Hall, about Thomas Cromwell and Henry the VII. Both books won the Man Booker Prize and a third book is in the works.
Other than Mantel's struck-it-gold novel, there isn't a whole lot of other crossover. Publisher's Weekly and the New York Times both list Building Stories by Chris Ware. This graphic novel is really an unusual collection of printed material, collected in a large box, which shares the stories of the residents of one building. Tackling a wide range of themes, the New York Times calls it "simultaneously playful and profound". Read more »
Because they seem so personal and individual, I’m attracted to novels written in blogs, diaries, and letters. You really feel as though the writing comes directly from the blogger’s heart. Ceci Radford’s wonderful first novel A Surrey State of Affairsprovides hundreds of delightful escapades while involving you with a cast of peculiar though mostly likeable characters.
Here’s the plot in a nutshell: on the advice of Rupert, her IT consultant son, a middle-aged married suburbanite named Constance begins a blog where she tells of exciting and not-so-exciting events in her life. She doesn’t work outside the home and has a surly eastern European housemaid named Natalie. Constance’s main hobbies are throwing dinner parties (including faux detective ones), visiting her Mom in a nursing home, and improving her skills as a competitive church bell ringer. (Who knew Brits even competed at this?)
Pretty soon, you discover that she is also heavily involved in matchmaking: the aforementioned son with the minister’s daughter and also with a bell-ringer’s child. Did anyone accidentally give out her son’s address to a gentle stalker?
While Constance learns the nitty gritty of posting blogs, she entertains her husband’s burly Russian guest who has nasty spats with Natalie, and then takes off with Sophie. Oh Sophie! I failed to mention Constance’s 18 year old surly daughter who is on her gap year counting fish in France but comes home often for non-talking visits with Mom. Read more »
Just released today (so new, it isn't even in our catalog yet!) is The Twelve Tribes of Hattie, the debut novel by Ayana Mathis. This book has gotten some good reviews, including a glowing review from the often hard to please New York Times reviewer, Michiko Kakutani. But what makes this book especially noteworthy? One word: Oprah.
Yep. In case you missed it, last year Oprah renewed her book club, renamed Book Club 2.0 and chose Wild, Cheryl Strayed's memoir of her redemptive and inspring through hike of the Pacific Crest Trail.
This year Oprah chose something completely different, but no less interesting sounding. The Twelve Tribes of Hattie is about a young African-American woman who during the Great Migraration leaves Georgia and settles in Philadelphia. Hattie's struggles and those of her children are interwoven in twelve narrative threads coming together to paint an intimate picture of a singular family, but also that of a greater nation. Sounds great. I can't wait until it hits the library shelves!
What if everyone in our local community all read and discussed the same book? Earlier this spring we read the excellent Room by Emma Donoghue and I am certainly looking forward to next year's selection as well.
As in the past, we are asking the community what they want to read together in 2013. It's time to vote!
Anytime before December 15, you can cast your vote for one of six titles that are nominated for the 2013 One Book One Bloomington and Beyond community read. All of the nominations this year are books that have been banned or challenged. The winning title will be announced in January and book discussions and related programs will happen throughout the Spring of 2013. Read about each nomination and cast your vote on online!
What a cool (pardon the pun) idea for a book. We read so much about men who have conquered the poles or Everest but hardly anything about the women who have explored alongside them or have waited patiently at home. The author knows both how it feels to travel to remote places on dangerous missions and also the anxiety and deep worry that comes with being left at home—she’s the daughter of two explorers, Wally and Marie Herbert. She conceived the idea for this book while camping with her father in a tent on a Greenlandic glacier thirty years ago.
Many of the famous arctic and Antarctic explorers’ wives are featured here beginning with Lady Jane Franklin, the powerful and persistent lady that pushed for rescue expeditions to find her husband’s ship. Also included are portraits of Jo Peary, Eleanor Anne Franklin, Eva Nansen, Marie Herbert (the author’s mother), Emily Shackleton, and Kathleen Scott.
What struck me most reading Polar Wiveswas how talented the woman were in their own right, for instance, Eva Nansen was a leading singer in Norway while Kathleen Scott was a very talented British actress. In addition, Eleanor Anne Franklin, first wife of Sir John, was a Romantic poet who died young at age twenty-nine. Sir John then married her dear friend, Jane.
Imagine how it felt to watch your spouse ship away for a three, four, or five year journey to the coldest and most inaccessible parts of our planet. In the chapter “An Eagle in the Backyard” the author describes the feelings of both Emily Shackleton and her husband Ernest on the British docks. To make matters even worse, many explorers died on these journeys as Sir John Franklin and Robert Falcon Scott did.Read more »
“Books are the plane, and the train, and the road. They are the destination, and the journey. They are home.” Anna Quindlen spoke about the importance of books in How Reading Changed My Life.
Whether you’re reading about Antarctica or Vinegar Hill, Bloomington, Indiana, books teach us about the world and its interesting and quixotic people. Through books we expand our horizons and experience many lives in one. We’re captivated by each of these created worlds for a few hours.
So please come to our annual Books Plus Holiday Tea and Open House on Sunday, December 2nd. The Friends of the Library will provide delectable treats, and we will also have two booklists to hand out: one of nationally recommended books of 2012, and another of library staff’s favorite books of the year. Whether you’re giving gifts, choosing next year’s reads for your book club, or just want to gather a batch of good books before winter storms slam in, these lists will help.
You can meet and chat with other book lovers. Please come and share your favorite books of the year with us and each other.
You don’t have to be in a book club to be touched and inspired by this generous, warm-hearted account of a son helping his mother through her last year of life with the help of books. Former teacher and refugee worker, Mary Anne Schwalbe, had always been close to her son, Will, who was an editor and worked in publishing. Not only did they constantly share books and recommend titles to each other, but they also had many discussions--some heated--about these same books.
After his mom was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, Will spent a lot of time with her in hospital waiting rooms before her doctor visits and chemo treatments. On one of those trips they decided to pass the time by exploring the same books. “But how can we have a book club without food?” Mary Anne asked.
But The End of Your Life Book Clubis so much more than analyzing contemporary literature àdeux. Will also chronicles his mother’s illness, her acceptance of her forthcoming death, and the effect these changes had on the family.
In one chapter Mary Anne and her husband revisit her favorite foreign city, London, where she lived as a young student. The book that mother and son shared that month was Felicia’s Journeyby Will Trevor. In another section, Mary Anne, Will and his brother discuss Russell Banks’ Continental Drift while sharing a table with Mary Anne’s birthday-bash barbecued pig. Will had stayed awake the night before regretting that he had encouraged his mom to read such a depressing book, but at the party, he heard her recommending it to many people. Read more »
Scott Hutchins’ first novel A Working Theory of Loveis a wonderful spoof of California’s trendiness. It also pokes fun at its computer geek population, but more importantly it’s also a tender love story. In my experience few novels by men focus on love and relationships, so it’s especially nice to explore this landscape from a male writer’s perspective.
Recently divorced Neill Bassett just barely copes after his wife Erin leaves him shortly after their honeymoon (at least he can keep their charming San Francisco apartment). Each day begins with the same breakfast taco. Also boring and routine are his homemade dinners. He allows himself a glass of wine several times a week. The mission of Neill’s day job at Amiante Systems is to give voice to his dead father who left thousands of pages of journals when he committed suicide. A non-geek himself, Neill has become the family representative at this small business working to perfect artificial intelligence and give voice to a dead man.
Why did the techies choose Neill’s Dad? For years, Neill’s father wrote long and extremely detailed journal entries about his life. This gave the engineers a large amount of material to parse and code into computer memory.
Hutchins knows enough about artificial intelligence to portray life at a small tech company. He also succeeds at exploring the weirdness of a character asking his own dead father questions and then having him both listen and analyze the simulated answers. Talk about father and son issues! Read more »