Women’s History Month

March 8 was International Women’s Day. RCLS has so many great resources to remind us of the contribution women have made to our society. Check some out!

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Bold & brave : ten heroes who won women the right to vote Gillibrand, Kirsten

From United States Senator Kirsten Gillibrand comes an inspiring picture book about ten suffragists who fought for women’s right to vote. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand was inspired by her own great-grandmother, grandmother, and mother to be bold and brave–to stand up and fight for what she believes in. But who inspired them? The long chain of women before them who spoke out for what’s right–women who taught each generation that followed how to be bold and brave. Here are the stories of ten leaders who strove to win the right to vote for American women–a journey that took more than seventy years of passionate commitment. From well-known figures, such as Susan B. Anthony and Sojourner Truth to lesser known women such as Alice Paul and Mary Church Terrell, these are heroes who dreamed big and never gave up.

100years100 years of the Nineteenth Amendment : an appraisal of women’s political activism McCammon, Holly J.

The year 2020 will mark the 100th anniversary of the Nineteenth Amendment giving many women in the United States the right to vote. The struggle for suffrage lasted over six decades and involved more than a million women; yet, even at the moment of the amendment’s enactment, women’s activistsdisagreed heartily over how much had been achieved, whether it was necessary for women to continue organizing for political rights, and what those political rights would bring. Looking forward to the 100-year anniversary of the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment, this collection of original essays takes a long view of the past century of women’s political engagement to gauge how much women have achieved in the political arena.

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For colored girls who have considered politics Brazile, Donna

The four most powerful African American women in politics share the story of their friendship and how it has changed politics in America. The lives of black women in American politics are remarkably absent from the shelves of bookstores and libraries. For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Politics is a sweeping view of American history from the vantage points of four women who have lived and worked behind the scenes in politics for over thirty years–Donna Brazile, Yolanda Caraway, Leah Daughtry, and Minyon Moore–a group of women who call themselves The Colored Girls. Like many people who have spent their careers in public service, they view their lives in four-year waves where presidential campaigns and elections have been common threads.

 

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Women of the blue & gray : true Civil War stories of mothers, medics, soldiers, and spies Monson, Marianne

Hidden amongst the photographs, uniforms, revolvers, and war medals of the Civil War are the remarkable stories of some of the most unlikely heroes–women. North, South, black, white, Native American, immigrant–the women in these micro-drama biographies are wives, mothers, sisters, and friends whose purposes ranged from supporting husbands and sons during wartime to counseling President Lincoln on strategy, from tending to the wounded on the battlefield to spiriting away slaves through the Underground Railroad, from donning a uniform and fighting unrecognized alongside the men to working as spies for either side.

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Fly girls : how five daring women defied all odds and made aviation history O’Brien, Keith

The untold story of five women who fought to compete against men in the high-stakes national air races of the 1920s and 1930s — and won Between the world wars, no sport was more popular, or more dangerous, than airplane racing. Thousands of fans flocked to multi‑day events, and cities vied with one another to host them. The pilots themselves were hailed as dashing heroes who cheerfully stared death in the face. Well, the men were hailed. Female pilots were more often ridiculed than praised for what the press portrayed as silly efforts to horn in on a manly, and deadly, pursuit. Fly Girls recounts how a cadre of women banded together to break the original glass ceiling: the entrenched prejudice that conspired to keep them out of the sky. O’Brien weaves together the stories of five remarkable women: Florence Klingensmith, a high‑school dropout who worked for a dry cleaner in Fargo, North Dakota; Ruth Elder, an Alabama divorcee; Amelia Earhart, the most famous, but not necessarily the most skilled; Ruth Nichols, who chafed at the constraints of her blue‑blood family’s expectations; and Louise Thaden, the mother of two young kids who got her start selling coal in Wichita. Together, they fought for the chance to race against the men — and in 1936 one of them would triumph in the toughest race of all. Like Hidden Figures and Girls of Atomic City , Fly Girls celebrates a little-known slice of history in which tenacious, trail-blazing women braved all obstacles to achieve greatness.

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Little leaders : bold women in black history Harrison, Vashti

This beautifully illustrated New York Times bestseller introduces readers of all ages to 40 women who changed the world. An important book for all ages, Little Leaders educates and inspires as it relates true stories of forty trailblazing black women in American history. Illuminating text paired with irresistible illustrations bring to life both iconic and lesser-known female figures of Black history such as abolitionist Sojourner Truth, pilot Bessie Coleman, chemist Alice Ball, politician Shirley Chisholm, mathematician Katherine Johnson, poet Maya Angelou, and filmmaker Julie Dash. Among these biographies, readers will find heroes, role models, and everyday women who did extraordinary things – bold women whose actions and beliefs contributed to making the world better for generations of girls and women to come. Whether they were putting pen to paper, soaring through the air or speaking up for the rights of others, the women profiled in these pages were all taking a stand against a world that didn’t always accept them. The leaders in this book may be little, but they all did something big and amazing, inspiring generations to come.

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She caused a riot : 100 unknown women who built cities, sparked revolutions, & massively crushed it Jewell, Hannah

Meet the bold women history has tried to forget…until now! Women’s stories are often written as if they spent their entire time on Earth casting woeful but beautiful glances towards the horizon and sighing into the bitter wind at the thought of any conflict. Well, that’s not how it f**king happened.When you hear about a woman who was 100% pure and good, you’re probably missing the best chapters in her life’s story. Maybe she slept around. Maybe she stole. Maybe she crashed planes. Maybe she got shot, or maybe she shot a bad guy (who probably had it coming). Maybe she caused a scandal. Maybe she caused a riot . . . From badass writer Hannah Jewell, She Caused a Riotis an empowering, no-holds-barred look into the epic adventures and dangerous exploits of 100 inspiring women who were too brave, too brilliant, too unconventional, too political, too poor, not ladylike enough and not white enough to be recognized by their shitty contemporaries. Daring and gift-worthy, this is a bold tribute to the powerful women who came before us.

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The woman’s hour : the great fight to win the vote Weiss, Elaine F.

Thirty-five states have ratified the Nineteenth Amendment, twelve have rejected or refused to vote, and one last state is needed. It all comes down to Tennessee, the moment of truth for the suffragists, after a seven-decade crusade. The opposing forces include politicians with careers at stake, liquor companies, railroad magnates, and a lot of racists who don’t want black women voting. And then there are the “Antis”–women who oppose their own enfranchisement, fearing suffrage will bring about the moral collapse of the nation. They all converge in a boiling hot summer for a vicious face-off replete with dirty tricks, betrayals and bribes, bigotry, Jack Daniel’s, and the Bible. Following a handful of remarkable women who led their respective forces into battle, along with appearances by Woodrow Wilson, Warren Harding, Frederick Douglass, and Eleanor Roosevelt, The Woman’s Hour is an inspiring story of activists winning their own freedom in one of the last campaigns forged in the shadow of the Civil War, and the beginning of the great twentieth-century battles for civil rights.

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Wonder women : 25 innovators, inventors, and trailblazers who changed history Maggs, Sam

Ever heard of Allied spy Noor Inayat Khan, a Muslim woman whom the Nazis considered “highly dangerous”? Or German painter and entomologist Maria Sibylla Merian, who planned and embarked on the world’s first scientific expedition? How about Huang Daopo, the inven-tor who fled an abusive child marriage only to revolutionize textile production in China? Women have always been able to change the world, even when they didn’t get the credit. In Wonder Women, author Sam Maggs introduces you to pioneering female scientists, engineers, mathematicians, adventurers, and inventors-each profile a study in passion, smarts, and stick-to-itiveness, complete with portraits by Google doodler Sophia Foster-Dimino, an extensive bibliography, and a guide to present-day women-centric STEM organizations.

Coming soon to a theater near you – Pt 2

Check out these titles that will be hitting the big screen beginning in April 2019!

APRIL 5, 2019

Pet Sematary by Stephen King

petDon’t miss the classic tale from King of Horror and #1 New York Times bestselling author Stephen King, described by Publishers Weekly as “the most frightening novel Stephen King has ever written.” When the Creeds move into a beautiful old house in rural Maine, it all seems too good to be true: physician father, beautiful wife, charming little daughter, adorable infant son–and now an idyllic home. As a family, they’ve got it all…right down to the friendly car. But the nearby woods hide a blood-chilling truth–more terrifying than death itself–and hideously more powerful. The Creeds are going to learn that sometimes dead is better.

APRIL 29, 2019

The Aftermath by Rhidian Brook

aftermath1946, post-World War II Hamburg. While thousands wander the rubble, lost and homeless, Colonel Lewis Morgan, charged with overseeing the rebuilding of this devastated city and the denazification of its defeated people, is stationed in a grand house on the River Elbe. He is awaiting the arrival of his wife, Rachael–still grieving for their eldest son–and their only surviving son, Edmund. But rather than force the owners of the house, a German widower and his rebellious daughter, out onto the streets, Lewis insists that the two families live together. In this charged atmosphere, both parents and children will be forced to confront their true selves as enmity and grief give way to passion and betrayal, to their deepest desires, their fiercest loyalties, and the transforming power of forgiveness. This courageous new novel from award-winning author Rhidian Brook tells an emotionally riveting story of two families, one house, and love grown from hate.

MAY 17, 2019

The Sun is also a Star by Nicola Yoon

sunThe dazzling new novel from Nicola Yoon, the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Everything, Everything, will have you falling in love with Natasha and Daniel as they fall in love with each other! Natasha: I’m a girl who believes in science and facts. Not fate. Not destiny. Or dreams that will never come true. I’m definitely not the kind of girl who meets a cute boy on a crowded New York City street and falls in love with him. Not when my family is twelve hours away from being deported to Jamaica. Falling in love with him won’t be my story. Daniel:  I’ve always been the good son, the good student, living up to my parents’ high expectations. Never the poet. Or the dreamer. But when I see her, I forget about all that. Something about Natasha makes me think that fate has something much more extraordinary in store–for both of us. The Universe:  Every moment in our lives has brought us to this single moment. A million futures lie before us. Which one will come true?

AUGUST 9, 2019

Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer

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Twelve-year-old Artemis Fowl is a millionaire, a genius-and, above all, a criminal mastermind. But even Artemis doesn’t know what he’s taken on when he kidnaps a fairy, Captain Holly Short of the LEPrecon Unit. These aren’t the fairies of bedtime stories; these fairies are armed and dangerous. Artemis thinks he has them right where he wants them, but then they stop playing by the rules.

 

OCTOBER 4, 2019

The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn

windowA twisty, powerful Hitchcockian thriller about an agoraphobic woman who believes she witnessed a crime in a neighboring house. It isn’t paranoia if it’s really happening . . . Anna Fox lives alone–a recluse in her New York City home, unable to venture outside. She spends her day drinking wine (maybe too much), watching old movies, recalling happier times . . . and spying on her neighbors. Then the Russells move into the house across the way: a father, a mother, their teenage son. The perfect family. But when Anna, gazing out her window one night, sees something she shouldn’t, her world begins to crumble–and its shocking secrets are laid bare. What is real? What is imagined? Who is in danger? Who is in control? In this diabolically gripping thriller, no one–and nothing–is what it seems. Twisty and powerful, ingenious and moving, The Woman in the Window is a smart, sophisticated novel of psychological suspense that recalls the best of Hitchcock.

OCTOBER 11, 2019

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

goldfinchWINNER OF THE PULITZER PRIZE ” The Goldfinch is a rarity that comes along perhaps half a dozen times per decade, a smartly written literary novel that connects with the heart as well as the mind. Theo Decker, a 13-year-old New Yorker, miraculously survives an accident that kills his mother. Abandoned by his father, Theo is taken in by the family of a wealthy friend. Bewildered by his strange new home on Park Avenue, disturbed by schoolmates who don’t know how to talk to him, and tormented above all by his longing for his mother, he clings to the one thing that reminds him of her: a small, mysteriously captivating painting that ultimately draws Theo into the underworld of art. As an adult, Theo moves silkily between the drawing rooms of the rich and the dusty labyrinth of an antiques store where he works. He is alienated and in love–and at the center of a narrowing, ever more dangerous circle. The Goldfinch is a mesmerizing, stay-up-all-night and tell-all-your-friends triumph, an old-fashioned story of loss and obsession, survival and self-invention, and the ruthless machinations of fate.

Read More in 2019

PART 2 – Keeping a Book Journal

Tracking is a great idea if for no other reason to remember what you thought of a particular author’s writing or where you left off in a book series.

blog2Modern Mrs. Darcy blog actually has a class on book journaling.  From what I can tell, she recommends keeping it simple with Who, what & why, along with the date read.

She also has a free downloadable journal for those who follow her blog.

blog1Book Riot’s Read Harder Book Riot’s READ HARDER journal is a smartly designed reading log consists of entry pages to record stats, impressions, and reviews of each book you read. Evenly interspersed among these entry pages are 12 challenges inspired by Book Riot’s annual Read Harder initiative – so book challenges within your journal!

Scattered Squirrel blog has free printable pages for readers of all ages, from adults to elementary school readers.  So just print them out, use a 3-hole punch and a binder and you have a low-cost book journal. Check Pinterest.com, you will get oodles of choices and can find one that works for you.

Want to go even more low-cost?  

My dad has used a spiral notebook for the past 10 years! There’s no way to search except by paging through, but he likes it.

And I keep my list on GoodReads.com, which is free.  

IF you DO use a physical book and carry it with you – please put your name in it!  How many have we found in the stacks at RCLS? Lots. Some found their way home, but others did not.  How sad to lose that history!

READ MORE in 2019

Part 1 – CREATING YOUR GOALS

I imagine that most people’s bookish New Year’s resolutions revolve around an amount of reading such as “read x number of books” or, more broadly, “read more.” Here are some creative ideas on that theme:

When you set your goal, make the number attainable. Reading should be enjoyable and you don’t want to end your year feeling bad about not making your goal. You can even break it up into something more manageable, such as “Read two books per month.”

Concentrate on forming a habit of reading, such as “Read a little bit each evening” or “Only listen to audiobooks when driving or while at the gym.”

Focus on reading more diversely, like taking part in Book Riot’s annual Read Harder Challenge, There are lists for your favorite author and even your favorite band!  There are challenges like this one from Bookish that let you pick and choose.  So if you’re a speedy reader you might hit all 52 suggestions; but if you struggle to find time to read, you could pick out 10 of them for all of 2019.  And you can simply make your own reading challenges, such as, “Read a book from every section of the library,” “Read 3 books received as gifts that I’ve not yet read,” or “Reread a book from my childhood.”

Don’t forget to mix in shorter books, graphic novels, picture books (if you have little ones or have little ones to whom you gift books), and audiobooks.

This reading is for YOU, so remember to have fun.  Keep track of your titles, use a notebook, app or journal to list the books you’ve read and rate them, maybe even write reviews.  Don’t be afraid to quit books you don’t like. I know that, for me, if I’m reading a book I’m not enjoying, I read much more slowly or find excuses to do other things. You’re not some kind of hero for reading a book you don’t like. You’re not going to get any award at the end of it!  Read because you love to read.

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Dewey Decimal System

by James Rucker 

Thus far, we haven’t focused on non-fiction in our blog. So, broad though it may be, our topic today is the Dewey Decimal System (DDS). As the subtitle of this entry suggests, I spent some time griping about it. I actually still do, for a variety of reasons. The DDS reinforces the unhelpful belief that practical skills and projects (600s) are fundamentally separate from artistic (700s) or scientific (500s) endeavours. (For example, vegetable gardening is 635, while decorative gardening is 712, and botany is the 580s.) It gives overwhelming space to Christianity (220-289.x) when compared to the space given to every other religion in all of human existence (290-299.x). It gives a lot more space to the United states (973-979.x) when compared to Mexico (972.x), Canada (971.x), or the various indigenous groups of North America (some fraction of 970.x).

However, such problems are relatively minor compared to our topic for today: the DDS does not know where to classify history books.

Actually, I should say that the DDS doesn’t know how to categorize any books at all. History books simply show the problem in sharp relief. Of course, this isn’t just a problem with the DDS. No categorization system is ever going to be perfect, or even objective; they will always require subjective judgement for one simple reason: books can be about more than one thing at once, and this problem will persist for as long as books continue to insist on containing more than one word.

For the uninitiated, the DDS is a set of 1000 digits, each associated with a different topic. (They continue to divide past the decimal place, but we’ll get into that later.) It is first divided into ten different areas, with 100 points each:

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“Now wait a minute!” my esteemed readers all shout at once. They then proceed to object, somewhat hyperbolically, “Are you mad? Or are you simply oblivious? You said it didn’t know where to categorize History books, yet right there, as plain as day, it says ‘900-999: History and geography’. How could you have missed something so obvious?”

I did notice, actually, but the word Geography should really be first, because, as you’ll see below, the ten sets of 10 are assigned (mostly) to more specific geographical regions. (Make a mental note that the 920s, for the most part, have fallen into disuse.):

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To emphasize my point, we should look at how the 940s divide:

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How would one categorize history that crosses borders? Where do we put the history of the Atlantic slave trade for example? *Searches RCLSTN catalog for “slavery” and “atlantic slave trade”* Apparently, 306 (mostly). Not in the 900s at all! What about history of art, history of science, history of sports? For a clue, let’s look at the 90x.x region:

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Note how 901 is “philosophy and theory of history” while philosophy in general, as we saw earlier, is the 100s. Could it be? Does philosophy have this problem too? (Spoiler warning: Yes, it does.) The important clue is that they are both making use of the digit 1. On further investigation, you’ll find out 501 is philosophy of science and 701 is philosophy of art. In fact, 301 is philosophy of sociology, 401 is philosophy of language, 801 is philosophy of literature… yeah, and 101 is philosophy of philosophy (because that’s an actual thing, believe it or not). Well,  909 is world history… Which, in a way, is the history of all history. This pattern holds for other subjects: history of philosophy is 109, history of science is 509, history of art is 709, and so on.

This is because Melvil Dewey gave his system a recursive structure, where the patterns of classification echo into one another. In other words, if you take one classification number and attach it at the end of another, you might (just maybe) have a working classification that somehow combines the two topics in some way. History is the most obvious example of this. If you look under a subject’s call number, and you see either “9” or “09” tacked on the end, you are probably looking at the history of that subject. For example, 629.4  is space engineering, and Deborah Cadbury’s 2006 book, Space Race: The Epic Battle Between America and the Soviet Union for Dominion of Space, is shelved at Linebaugh under 629.409.

Biographies receive a similar treatment. As I pointed out above, the 920s used to be where biographies were categorized (actually, at Linebaugh, we still have a fair number of older biographies there). But if the 920s are generally unused, where did the books go? Well… in a way, they went everywhere. If you know what such-and-such a person is known for you’ll frequently (though not always) find biographies of that person under that topic with either “92” or “092” tacked on the end. For example, 520 is Astronomy, and so David Wootton’s 2010 book, Galileo: Watcher of the Skies, is shelved under 520.92. Similarly, 780 is music, so 780.922 is where you’d find The Lives of the Great Composers by Harold C. Schonberg.

You can use the same method for Geographical locations:

These examples have mostly been art history, but as Galileo’s biography shows, it applies to other disciplines as well. Initially, I found this quite frustrating. After all, this speaks to an ideological assumption that I’ll revisit in future posts concerning what counts as historical and what does not. From the Dewey Decimal System, one would conclude that history is all about nations, geographical regions, borders, and the wars fought to change them. And if you look at the history of the U.S. in the DDS, you’ll see that it is organized according to presidential terms. Are we then to conclude that presidents are the only important Americans? Are the only important dates those when power changed between them? I’d like to exclaim, “Of course not! History isn’t just names and dates!” But that is exactly what many people assume it is.

The causes for this popular opinion are themselves historical. When academic history began in the 1800s, nations, borders, names, dates, and (last but not least) wars were the only topics historians tended to emphasize. Mainstream historians didn’t begin exploring other areas of life in much depth until after World War II. Melvil Dewey first published the DDS in 1876 and so his system reflects the assumptions of his time. The non-academic press still lives under this assumption, and the popularly-consumed history books they publish reflect this. In addition, the political interests who dictate school curricula carry this attitude as well, and high school history classes reflect this. The general view that history is mostly the memorization of names and dates is the unfortunate result. My hope is that my blog entries, in time, will convince some hearts and minds otherwise.

Throughout the 1900s, academic historians expanded their interest from the study of politicians, generals, and diplomats to the study of industry, agriculture and trade, topics that customarily are shelved under the 300s and 600s. In other words, they helped bring historians’ attention to the doings of regular people in their practical lives. Others later broadened history’s scope further to consider the effects and changes in language and culture. It has become clear that, in a very real sense, everything humans do is historical, and therefore everything we do has a history of how we did it. Not just art and science, but gardening, beer,  and religious practice. But all these other topics are shelved apart from what the DDS considers “real history,” and that used to sadden me.

So how did I learn to stop worrying and love the Dewey Decimal System? Because of times like when I was walking through the stacks today, trying to find the books I mentioned above. In my search, I stumbled upon this:

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It was a whole row of books in the 385s, which is where we shelve our books on trains, and I noticed most of them were under 385.09 and its subordinate points. Sure enough, I had discovered a little island of history books. 385.0957 was a history of Siberian railroads. 385.097, 385.0971 and 385.0973 were histories of railroads in North America, Canada, and the U.S. respectively. It was a magical moment. Despite supporting a narrower view of history on its surface, beneath that, the Dewey Decimal System contains the truth that all human endeavours are historical.

What’s the upside? If you’re ever in your little corner of the Dewey Decimal System, let’s say 641.5 (cooking), and you find a section with books under 641.5944 (French food), 641.5952 (Japanese food), or 641.5973 (“American” food), you’ll know you’ve found a little island where you’ll find the history books written just for you.

Hitting the Books: A Memory

by Brittney Reed-Saltz

It will probably surprise no one to learn that I was an incorrigible nerd in school. I mean, I went on to become a librarian, and while our experiences vary, a common thread tends to be that we are incorrigible nerds. And as such, when I look back on my education, I feel a great deal of fondness for assigned reading. This was not always the case.

Throughout elementary and high school, I had a sometimes contentious relationship with assigned reading. Bookish I was, but I also had a rebellious streak and interests that often conflicted with curricula. I knew my own tastes and my own reading level, so why (went my childhood and adolescent logic) would I want to waste my time reading what someone else told me to so I could pass a test? (There were notable exceptions, and I could often be enticed to love a book about which I was initially skeptical: The Outsiders, Fahrenheit 451, Night, The Scarlet Letter.)

That attitude changed somewhat when I entered college and had conferred upon me the heady power of choice. Sure, I had a list of prerequisites and major requirements, but within that list was so much freedom. I could flip through my course catalog and read through the listings for upper-division English and order as though from a menu, each course unique in flavor and theme.

My favorite day of the semester was always the first. I like beginnings, I always have, and I place much stock in making sure that they are auspicious. In college I would pick my outfit to set the tone I wanted, pack up my new notebooks and pens that smelled of potential, and head off to the Humanities building eager to get started.

I loved the well-worn format of the first day, each professor going through the syllabus and revealing their personalities in how they chose to communicate their expectations, in tones either nurturing or apocalyptic. And I loved getting my list of assigned reading. I would have already ordered the books, having the lists in advance, but there was the structure of the order of the assignments, and of course, some surprises. The Norton Anthology is huge; there’s no way to cover it all in a semester, so being told which selections to read for the next class was like being handed a map to guide me through a vast, unfamiliar wild.

It didn’t matter that I was, despite being an ambitious A student, an inveterate procrastinator. It didn’t matter that I would invariably dislike some of my assignments or get overwhelmed by the volume of reading that comes with taking 20 credit hours of literature classes. By November I might be staring wanly into my copy of Julius Caesar wondering how I was ever to discuss it in an original and substantial manner for 10 pages and considering escape plans, but on the first day of the semester, all was new. Hope tinged everything with a rose-gold glow that had yet to fade into the harsh, dark reality of essays finished at 2:00 AM (and prayers that the printer works, oh please, please don’t jam, please let me have added enough money to my printing account, please…).

I miss those days now. Because they were frustrating, and there are some assignments that I detested and still do to this day. (Those authors will retain their dignity in anonymity.) But along with the stress there were moments of transcendence, when I discovered authors I had never read before and who left me changed. Back then, every word had meaning and weight, and even the most confusing poem would be unraveled in class to reveal a core of diamond at its center, clear and pure and precious.

We’ve reached the conclusion. If I were older, I might adjust the lapels of my tweed coat and bite my briar pipe thoughtfully and admonish the students trooping reluctantly back to class, reminding them of the passage of time and encouraging them to drink in everything their education has to offer. But I don’t have a pipe, or the years of perspective. So I’ll just say to those students: I envy you.

To be young and unsuspecting and arrogant, not knowing how a book that you don’t even want to read can reach right between your ribs and touch a heart still soft enough to feel things sharp and deep. What a misery and what a joy.

Have a great school year, everyone.

 

Why Tracking Your Reading Is a Good Idea–And Some Ways to Do It

by Brittney Reed-Saltz

It’s a dilemma familiar to many avid readers: You’re browsing the stacks at your local library, searching for a new book to read. It feels like you’ve read everything, and you teeter at the brink of despair, when finally, a title catches your eye. You read the blurb, and it sounds like something you would love! You proceed with excitement to the circulation desk and check the book out. Back home, you settle in for a night of literary escape. You read the first few pages, and immediately you’re sucked in… Until you realize that things sound familiar. Too familiar. You’ve already read this book.

Despair! Angst! Worse… Nothing to read! Nooo!

During the years that I’ve worked in libraries, I’ve frequently encountered patrons stuck in this dreaded cycle. And I get it. When you read multiple books each week, it can be hard to remember what you’ve read.

That’s why I’m such a proponent of keeping track of every book that you read. I’ve been doing it for years, and here are some of the ways I’ve accomplished this task.

The Pen-and-Paper Method
This is exactly what it sounds like: you write down the books you read. Looseleaf paper, notepads, fancy notebooks, it’s all up to you. The same goes for any other information you want to include: dates started and finished, genre, markers of diversity, inclusion in book challenges, etc.

You can expand this idea way beyond a simple list. Bullet journals have been a big thing for awhile now, and there are so many articles and ideas on Pinterest for finding your own bookish bojo bliss. Keep it simple, or go as wild as you like… After all, this could be a great excuse to buy multicolored pens and whimsical washi tape.

The Social Method
Maybe pen and paper isn’t your style. You don’t want to keep track of a bunch of lists or have to remember to bring your journal with you when you’re out and about. If you want an easy and portable way to track your reading, book-oriented social media sites are the way to go.

Goodreads lets you create custom shelves, set goals, and share reviews with friends, and it is probably the most popular site to track your reading. The mobile app even lets you scan barcodes to quickly look up books and add them to your shelves! There is no end to the book recommendations that you’ll get on Goodreads, so expect your Want to Read shelf to overflow almost immediately.

LibraryThing is another option that allows you to catalog your personal library with as much specificity as you want. However, the site is only free for the first 200 books you enter; after that, you’ll need to pay a subscription fee or buy a lifetime membership.

Another fun option is Riffle, which allows you to create and share curated lists of books. If you’re the kind of person who loves recommending books to your friends, you can have a lot of fun coming up with your own custom reading lists. Riffle is also great for discovering new books or finding your next read when you’re craving a specific type of story.

The Privately Techy Method
Maybe sharing everything you read with the general public–or even just your friends–doesn’t appeal to you, but you like the ease and portability of a digital option. In that case, try a reading spreadsheet! With Google Sheets, you can have your list right on your phone. You can also customize your spreadsheet as much as you would like. It’s easy to track genres, page counts, audiobook lengths, and more. If the idea of an over-the-top spreadsheet is appealing, but you doubt your prowess, never fear. Book Riot has one that you can copy to your own Google Drive and use for free. 

So, which one do I use?
I have dabbled in each of these methods, and have experienced firsthand the pros and cons of each. When I first started tracking my reading in middle school, I made a simple pen-and-paper list. That evolved into a Word Perfect doc (hey, it was the early 2000s) that I kept for each school year and summer, printing them off for record-keeping. Sometime around the end of college I discovered Goodreads, and I used it off and on for several years before I decided that I wanted a more private way to track my books.

That’s when I started my Google Sheet reading log. I adore being able to track genres, color-code my reading by months, and easily sort my data. (It’s possible that I even make charts at the end of each month. And by “it’s possible,” I mean that I definitely do.)

Sometimes I still miss the social aspect of Goodreads, though, which is why I’m on it nearly every day, and why I still periodically review books there. Sometimes I just really need to talk to other people about a book that I’ve loved–or one that made me facepalm myself unconscious–and besides, I love making disastrously long lists of books that it will take me years to get through.

Ultimately, every reader has their own interests and needs, and there is not one method that will work for everyone. If you’re new to tracking your reading, try out different options and see which one feels natural to you and best fits your lifestyle.

Track your reading carefully and consistently, and you’ll free yourself from accidental re-reads forever!

 

A Season in the Life of a Mood Reader

By Brittney Reed-Saltz

I am a mood reader, which is the literary embodiment of that Robert Burns poem about the best laid plans of mice and men. Even if I make a nicely-organized TBR list, those plans go oft awry.

Being a mood reader means that it might take me years–literal years–to get around to a book that has been recommended to me or that has been gathering dust on my shelf, but I don’t think it’s an entirely bad thing. My fickle nature leads to plenty of fun detours and pit stops that I wouldn’t get to enjoy if my attention span were more linear.

Often I find that these detours turn into pleasant little journeys, when a book contains a reference to something else that I then simply must read. Spring is a fertile time for these excursions, which is appropriate. What better time to explore and discover new things than when the earth is waking up and starting over fresh?

In Spring 2017, I had a thrilling season of mood reading, when connections abounded and every book that I finished pointed me in another direction. It all started when I read Bird by Bird: Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott. That put me in mind of another book about writing that I had originally read in college: A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf. mood read 1

Revisiting Woolf’s analysis of women’s place in the world and the obstacles they must overcome to write reminded me of how much I enjoyed Woolf’s writing in college. It also made me think about all the Woolf novels I had yet to read. So I went on a little trip through some of her work and life, reading a biography, devouring To the Lighthouse and Orlando.

From Orlando, I became curious about its inspiration, Woolf’s lover Vita Sackville-West. So I read one of her novels, All Passion Spent, and whiled away some violet-scented hours with Virginia and Vita’s collected correspondence.

All Passion Spent features a French housekeeper and long passages of French, which I mood read 2had to translate with help from Monsieur Google because I do not speak the language. That planted the subconscious urge in my mind to take a detour, this time to France. I read two fun advice books, Polish Your Poise With Madame Chic by Jennifer L. Scott and the tongue-in-cheek delight How to Be Parisian Wherever You Are: Love, Style, and Bad Habits by Anne Berest, Audrey Diwan, Caroline de Maigret, and Sophie Mas.

Well, can you spend any time reading glamorous French books without taking an existential turn? I couldn’t. I ended up reading Sarah Bakewell’s illuminating study of the existentialist movement, At the Existentialist Café. mood read 3

Bakewell’s discussions of Albert Camus reminded me of reading his novel The Stranger in high school. I realized that I remembered almost nothing about it, so I made it my next project. And then, I couldn’t get enough of Camus! I fell in love with him through A Happy Death, The Fall, The Plague, and a good chunk of the essay collection Resistance, Rebellion, and Death.

I had time for a couple more French-related interludes before my mood turned. Although Samuel Beckett was Irish, he spent most of his adult life in Paris, where his play Waiting for Godot premiered. I read it sitting on my back porch one night, wondering why I hadn’t mood read 4read it before. And American essayist David Sedaris made for witty company through Me Talk Pretty One Day, never more so than when he was recounting his faltering attempts to communicate in French.

(What happened after that? A complete departure into horror novels that lasted all summer.)

As the daffodils and pear trees bloom and the equinox approaches, I wonder what moody reading detours this Spring has in store for me. I know that no matter what catches my attention, my library will indulge my quirks and save my wallet with every book I discover.

Books for Galentine’s Day

by Brittney Reed-Saltz

It’s no secret that February (and most of January, to be honest) is dominated by Valentine’s Day. With the emphasis on romance, other kinds of love get buried under avalanches of mushy cards and more chocolate hearts than anyone could possibly eat.

That’s why I love Galentine’s Day.

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Created on the TV show Parks & Recreation and celebrated on February 13, it’s a day for, in the immortal words of Leslie Knope, “ladies celebrating ladies.” It’s a time to appreciate and treat your friends, and to recognize the power of women’s friendships.

So this February 13, text your friends some heart emojis. Bake some cupcakes for your work pals. Take your bestie out for brunch. Maybe watch some Parks & Rec. And read about some of my favorite fictional female friendships!

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Everyone focuses on the romantic elements of Austen’s work, often ignoring not only her wry social commentary, but her depictions of friendship. I love Elizabeth and Jane Bennett’s sisterly bond, and the book simply would not be the same without their conversations and their support for one another.

The Color Purple by Alice Walker
In this novel, Celie endures unbearable abuse, but her friendship with her sister  Nettie helps sustain her, and her more-than-friendship with the glamorous Shug Avery helps her to find her own way.

The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants by Ann Brashares
How could I not include this book? Carmen, Lena, Bridget, and Tibby prove that sometimes our differences make our friendships even stronger. Plus you have to love the body-positive magic of a pair of jeans that different body types feel equally great in.

The Princess Diaries by Meg Cabot
When you learn that you’re the princess of a small European country, you need a reliable BFF to keep you down-to-earth. Mia Thermopolis has that and more in the passionate, take-no-prisoners Lily Moscovitz. Although their friendship encounters obstacles and setbacks, it ultimately endures.

Giant Days by John Allison
This graphic novel series follows Susan, Esther, and Daisy through the trials of starting university. They have their fair share of squabbles as roommates, but they are always there for each other with laughter, advice, and tough love. You really see their friendship grow over the course of the series, and it’s a funny, heartwarming thing.

Phoebe and Her Unicorn by Dana Simpson
Phoebe is granted one wish by a unicorn, and uses it to make said unicorn her best friend. But she gets a little more than she bargained for in the vain but charming Marigold Heavenly Nostrils. I freely admit to loving this comic as an adult, even though it’s aimed at a middle grade audience, and I think everyone can find something in these stories to love.

Cinder by Marissa Meyer
Linh Cinder and Iko have one of the most unique friendships that I’ve ever read: Iko is an android who loses one body and spends quite a bit of time inhabiting the “body” of a spacecraft, and Cinder is an cyborg. I still need to finish this series–I understand that Iko undergoes even more transformations–but I loved the interactions between the practical-minded mechanic Cinder and the girly, ebullient Iko in the first and second books.

Who are your favorite literary BFFs? Let us know in the comments!

Series Recommendation: The Winternight Trilogy by Katherine Arden

by Brittney Reed-Saltz BEAR AND THE NIGHTINGALE

Toward the beginning of 2017, Jessica recommended The Bear and the Nightingale to me. Because I’m terrible about procrastinating when it comes to reading new releases, it was only in December that I finally read it. Now that the sequel has been released, I’m here to tell anyone else dragging their feet about this book: It’s worth it. You should read it.

In truth, I don’t regret my procrastination too much, because any time in winter is a perfect time to read The Bear and the Nightingale and The Girl in the Tower. Set in medieval Russia, they spin a story of rough winters, political marriages, the clash between old and new religions, and fairy tales.

Vasilisa Petrovna (Vasya to her family) spent her childhood gathering around with her siblings to listen to their nurse, Dunya, tell tales of heroes and of the beings who inhabit the dense forest. As she grows up, her family tells her that she is too old for fairy tales… in direct opposition to the unseen reality around them. Only Vasya speaks with the domovoi who lives in the oven and protects their home, or the vazila who lives in the stables with the horses. Only Vasya can understand the language the horses use with one another, and learns to ride under their tutelage. Although her stepmother, Anna, glimpses enough of these beings to fear them, only Vasya understands them.

When Konstantin, a young priest, arrives from Moscow, he inflames the people’s fear of God and works to stamp out the old ways. No longer do the people leave offerings of bread for the domovoi or the vazila, and so the beings who share their world, and who protect the order of things, weaken. When a one-eyed sleeper in the forest awakens and the dead begin to stalk the living, only Vasya is aware enough to help. But how long can she protect her family and the beings of the forest, when her stepmother conspires to send her away and the entire village whispers that she is a witch?

girl in the towerOf all the things Arden does well, she excels in two areas: description and conflict. Her settings come to life, sparkling with the glimmer of newly-fallen snow and redolent with the scent of baking bread. And the plot brims with conflict. There is hardly a character without an internal struggle or a disagreement with their family, or societal expectations, or the demands of religion. As a reader, I love when an author packs so much tension into a novel. It gives me the feeling that anything could spark a fire at any moment, and I can’t stop reading until I see how everything plays out.

If you’re at all familiar with Russian folklore, the name Vasilisa probably caught your eye immediately, and the Winternight Trilogy will certainly appeal to anyone who loves fairy tales and folklore. Arden writes highly detailed and immersive fantasy that does not bog itself or its readers down with info-dumping, and that is literary while maintaining approachability even to audiences who are not avid readers of historical fiction. You don’t need to know anything about Russian history to understand this series, to lose yourself in it, and to love it.

The Bear and the Nightingale and The Girl in the Tower both are available through your local RCLS branch.