What We’re Reading: February 2013

Like so many of you, I’m quite enamored with Downton Abbey. After watching the first two seasons during the semester break, only getting a new episode once a week has left me wanting more. I’ve found it with the delightful new young adult novel Summerset Abbey by T.J. Brown. It’s the first in a series and follows the lives of three young women: sisters Rowena and Victoria, plus Prudence, who is like a sister to them. Prudence is the daughter of their governess, who died several years ago. The girls’ father mostly ignored class conventions, but when he dies, all three girls must go live with Rowena and Victoria’s uncle, who is a traditionalist. Rowena and Victoria insist Prudence must come with them, and thus Prudence shifts from sister and best friend to lady’s maid, where she feels like an outcast with both the upstairs and downstairs crowds. I rarely read young adult fiction, but this coming of age novel has the perfect background when England itself is at a fascinating time of change. If you’re looking for a fun, escapist tale in the style of Downton Abbey, Summerset Abbey is a good one. –Carrie

This month, I was delighted to read Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis, the first book to ever receive both the Newbery Medal and the Coretta Scott King Author Award in 2000. Bud, Not Buddy whisks readers away to a Depression-era Michigan, soaked in the sound of the blues. We follow the adventures of Bud Caldwell, as he searches for Herman E. Calloway, bandleader of the Dusky Devastators of the Depression and the man who just might be his father. Bud’s journey is full of excitement and memorable characters, and Bud himself is a charming narrator, optimistic and imaginative. Christopher Paul Curtis’s writing is infused with warmth and life, creating a story that draws you in and makes you feel welcomed. Truly, it was a wonderful read! Reading this former Newbery Medal and Coretta Scott King Author Award winning book has left me eager to read this year’s newest selection of  books on the Youth Media Awards list  announced just this past week at ALA Midwinter. — Heather

James Woods’ New Yorker piece on the fiction of Elena Ferrante drove me into the stacks of my public libraries to track down her books. Elena Ferrante, a pseudonym adopted by an unknown contemporary Italian novelist, writes stories about the inner lives of women in crisis. Though the word has been ruined, I would describe her work as intense. In the novels that I read, The Days of Abandonment and Troubling Love (both translated by Ann Goldstein), I would describe the prose, narrative, and setting as claustrophobic and demanding. Time seems suspended, even warped, by dramas that dredge the grounds of second wave feminism. Ferrante’s most recent novel, My Brilliant Friend, is the first in a planned trilogy. –Amy

Lately, I’ve been working my way through David Foster Wallace’s essay collection Both Flesh and Not.  I never thought I would care so much about professional tennis as I did while reading Wallace’s essay about Roger Federer. I’m also reading Critical Library Instruction: Theories and Methods, a collection edited by Maria Accardi, Emily Drabinski, and Alana Kumbier. The pieces in this work grapple with the social justice and information issues that (among others) drew me to librarianship in the first place. If you have ever cringed at the uncritical use of the phrase “authoritative source” (or if you’d like to explore how Oscar Wilde’s aestheticism relates to enlivening library instruction), you will probably appreciate this book as much as I am. –Sarah

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