Sure, you can resolve to make 2016 the year to lose 10 pounds, run a marathon or learn to speak Spanish. Those are all fine goals. But here at the library we like our resolutions literary, and book challenges fit the bill quite nicely.
What’s a book challenge? Basically, you read books according to a certain set of guidelines and share your reviews of those books with other readers. There are food writing challenges, debut author challenges and “to be read pile” challenges, just to name a few. Continue reading “Your New Year’s Reading Resolution: Read Harder Book Challenge”
New books for the New Year! Here is the latest LibraryReads list, the top 10 books publishing in January 2016 that librarians across the country recommend. The list includes new novels from Elizabeth Strout (“Olive Kitteridge“) and Melanie Benjamin (“The Aviator’s Wife“), as well as nonfiction from the incomparable Bill Bryson (“A Walk in the Woods“)!
“My Name Is Lucy Barton” by Elizabeth Strout
“Set in the mid-1980s, Lucy Barton, hospitalized for nine weeks, is surprised when her estranged mother shows up at her bedside. Her mother talks of local gossip, but underneath the banalities, Lucy senses the love that cannot be expressed. This is the story that Lucy must write about, the one story that has shaped her entire life. A beautiful lyrical story of a mother and daughter and the love they share.” – Catherine Coyne, Mansfield Public Library, Mansfield, MA Continue reading “Top 10 Books Librarians Love: The January 2016 List”
“The color of springtime is in the flowers; the color of winter is in the imagination.” – Terri Guillemets
Winter reading is vital to my well-being, a respite from what can feel like eternal night. I was happy to discover December 21, the shortest day of the year in the northern hemisphere, is Celebrate Short Fiction Day. If you’d like to join the festivities, I can give you a few book suggestions:
“Nothing Gold Can Stay” by Ron Rash. This collection of stories centers around the people of Appalachia. “The Trusty” is the kind of tale that can haunt you long after you finish reading it. Set in Depression-era North Carolina, it follows the efforts of a prisoner to escape his chain gang by enlisting the help of a young farm wife who supplies water to the laborers. But all is not as it seems. “Cherokee,” a contemporary story of a young couple trying to win enough money at the casino to pay off their truck, had me holding my breath several times. Rash uses concrete words to explore spiritual and emotional depths, providing vivid mental images of the landscapes and people. Continue reading “Celebrate Short Fiction”
Welcome to the latest entry in the sporadically occurring series Better Know a Genre. Like many people, I find the holiday season to be more stressful than festive. I have to cook, shop, wrap and plan the order in which I will see all the branches of family (which always means somebody feels disappointed). It doesn’t help my mood that there are about 30 minutes of sunlight in the winter. So, to help lift my spirits, I try to keep my pre-solstice reading light-hearted and funny. Humor is a genre that is both easily defined and broad. It can be fiction or nonfiction. It can run the spectrum from gentle to raunchy (brown chicken brown cow). What one person finds witty, another person can find offensive (that’s the title of my autobiography). Laughter can be intended or unintended, but to be included in the humor genre, the author must be actually attempting to amuse the readers of the work. Here are some funny titles to get through the month: Continue reading “Better Know a Genre: Holiday Humor”
Like most people, I find new books by reading library blogs, or visiting askjeeves.com and typing “please show me a good book,” or perusing the shelves at my local library until I find a book with a cover that seems sufficiently gravy resistant. Occasionally though, a human will recommend a book. Such is the case with this month’s recommendation: a colleague said “Bats of the Republic” sounded like one of the weird books I like. I tipped my hat, gave my monocle a friendly shake and asked Jeeves about this weird book. (I’m compelled to note that while I do often enjoy literary oddities, in general my tastes lean to the conventional, and I have the crystal decanter collection to prove it.) Jeeves obliged and showed me a picture of the author’s tremendous mustache (or perhaps the mustache’s tremendous author?). I swooned, such was my joy at finding a novel so presumably suited to my tastes. After a quick trip to the market for a crystal decanter or two, I eagerly set to reading the words birthed by such an inspiring swatch of follicles. Continue reading “The Gentleman Recommends: Zachary Thomas Dodson”
LibraryReads is a monthly top-ten list of forthcoming books librarians across the country recommend. This December, the organizers compiled a “favorite of favorites” list, asking librarians to vote on their top picks from the more than 100 titles appearing on LibraryReads lists over the past year. If you didn’t read these books the first time they were recommended, now is your chance! Check them out to read over the holidays, or use the list for gift ideas when shopping for the readers among your friends and family.
Topping the list is “The Girl on the Train” by Paula Hawkins – no surprise there. The holds list at the library for this book was miles long, and everyone seems to be seeking the next “Gone Girl.” This dark, psychological thriller fits the bill.
Here’s the rest of the best – happy reading! Continue reading “Librarian Favorites of 2015”
Whatever your feelings about Black Friday, today kicks off the holiday shopping season. Personally, I like to spend the day after Thanksgiving in my pajamas, reading and recovering from a hefty pie hangover. However, I realize others enjoy that bargain-hunting buzz. Here are some books that can help us all.
For the readers on your list, give them the gift of inspiration and pick up one of these uplifting titles. Or, if you are staying home the Friday after Thanksgiving (or visiting the library – we’re open), check out one of these books for yourself. These moving and motivating books provide stories of perseverance and advice for living – both serious and humorous – and may just inspire you to write that play or start that business. Or at least get up off of the couch. (Book descriptions provided by their publishers.) Continue reading “The Gift of Inspiration: Books for the Readers on Your List”
Like many readers, I was charmed by Tina Fey’s “Bossypants.” Though it’s already a cliché, I’ll admit that my favorite part of the memoir was “The Rules of Improvisation that Will Change Your Life and Reduce Belly Fat.” Sadly, I have not experienced a reduction in belly fat, but the falsity of that claim was disclosed in the footnote, so the period of jubilant hope was a short one. Fey exhorts us not only to say yes but also to say “Yes, and.” I know that I can always use a reminder to contribute, whether to an improv set, a project at the office or dinner plans.
On that note, yes, “Bossypants” was a delightful read, and here are a few other memoirs by female comedians that I found delightful as well. Continue reading “Comedy Club: Memoirs by Female Comedians”
Keen readers might notice this is the second time I’ve recommended Patrick deWitt’s work. Some will exclaim, “Sir, are there not a practically infinite number of worthy writers to recommend? Why recommend an author twice?” I will respond, “Indeed, there is a seemingly endless sea of writers deserving of my endorsement, but several factors conspire to cause a repeat recommendation of his work. I’m particularly enamored with Mr. deWitt’s writing. His newest novel was published subsequent to my previous recommendation and it is amazing. And while some quick and dubious math tells me I read upwards of 8,000 books a year, I cannot read everything, but I did recently read “Undermajordomo Minor.” Furthermore, as I saunter around town twirling my cane and mustache, my query of, ‘Have you yet mined the depths of Patrick deWitt’s talents?’ is nearly always met with either confusion, averted eyes or a non-sequiturial admonishment to ‘be careful with that cane, you nearly hit my baby.’ (I’ve said this countless times, but I will reiterate here: I never twirl my cane with anything less than utmost precision, and your baby could stand to toughen up.) Clearly, I have not been sufficiently persuasive. So until passersby respond to my deWitt-centric interrogations with a tip of their headgear and an enthusiastic, ‘Yes. And by the way, you are rather precise in the manner with which you twirl both your mustache and your cane,’ I must continue to espouse the virtues of Mr. deWitt’s work.” Continue reading “The Gentleman Recommends: Patrick deWitt (again)”
I know, I know. We just turned the calendar page to November, and bookish types are already making pronouncements about the best books of 2015. We can’t help it. As a book person and a list-maker, this time of year makes me positively giddy.
Before sharing some of the year’s best titles, we want to hear what you think was the best book of 2015. Specifically, what book did you read this past year that you think would make an excellent selection for next year’s One READ program? Our reading panel is looking for books that will appeal to adults of different ages and backgrounds and that have numerous topics for discussion. Pop on over to oneread.org, nominate a book, and then come on back to this list. I’ll wait.
Back? Okay. Here we go.
Publisher’s Weekly is one of the first out of the gate with its best books of 2015 list. The lyrical and important “Between the World and Me” by Ta-Nehisi Coats, previously reviewed here on the blog, tops their list. Other stand-outs (and their publishers’ descriptions):
“Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life” by William Finnegan
This memoir describes the author’s experiences as a lifelong surfer, from his early years in Honolulu through his culturally sophisticated pursuits of perfect waves in some of the world’s most exotic locales. Continue reading “Best Books of 2015: Early Bird Edition”