What We’re Reading

After buying a house and moving in May, I feel like I haven’t had nearly enough time to read.  I consoled myself by listening to Sonia Sotomayor’s memoir My Beloved World on audio as I packed and unpacked. Rita Moreno’s narration is wonderful, and it peppers the narrative with the richness of Hispanic accents I wouldn’t get if I were reading it in print. Now that everything object has a home, I’m really enjoying trying out every possible reading nook in our house. I’m currently enjoying Sheila Heti’s genre-defying How Should a Person Be? It’s delightful and frustrating and beguiling.–Carrie

I’ve spent my reading time this month split between two very different books: Hero of Dreams by Brian Lumley and The Weight of Silence by Heather Gudenkauf. Hero of Dreams was a bit of a nostalgic choice for me, as I had read it many, many years ago, when it first was released. A fusion of fantasy and horror, Lumley’s story tells of a world parallel to ours that exists beyond the deepest reaches of our dreams, and follows the adventures of one man, Hero, as he navigates this dream realm. I found the book to be just as engaging and adventuresome as I remember from all those many years ago. The Weight of Silence is a mystery revolving around the disappearance of two young girls one summer morning. The story dips into the lives and minds of many characters- the parents, siblings, police officers, and even with the girls themselves- exploring all angles of what really happened. In this story, nothing is as it seems, and often the answer lies with what isn’t said. Its a quiet, haunting novel. — Heather

I’m in the middle of Wool by Hugh Howey. I put it down just to write this post. It’s truly absorbing science fiction. Howey first published the book as a self-published ebook. In the post-apocalyptic world of Wool, all the people live underground in a large silo. Everyone has to work to keep the silo running and curiosity of the world outside the silo is punished by death. Juliette, a fearless mechanic from a lower floor of the silo is chosen to become the silo’s next Sheriff. Though she’s tough and nothing gets past her, she’s an unlikely choice for the job. I foresee some serious trouble ahead in the silo! –Emily

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What We’re Reading

Each month we share what we’re reading, which may include everything from magazines and blogs to novels and books for work or pleasure.

This weekend I’m in Nashville for the LOEX conference. I don’t get nearly as much time to read when I’m conferences as I do when I’m home, but I do treasure the time spent on airplanes and in airports to read. I started Murder as a Fine Art by David Morrell, a new historical mystery set in gaslit London on the flights here, and it’s delightful historical armchair travel. Up next: Amanda Knox’s new memoir Waiting to Be Heard, which I just picked up at my public library. –Carrie

This month, I escaped into the pages of Harlan Coben’s latest thriller Six Years. Coben is an expert at tight plotting, cliffhanger chapter endings, and expert plot twists, of which Six Years is no exception. When Jake watched the love of his life marry another man, he promised her that he would leave them alone. He kept that promise for six years, until the day he discovered her husband’s obituary online. What begins as a simple desire to offer his condolences to a grieving widow leads Jake down a winding path of deception, deceit, and intrigue. Coben kept me turning pages and questioning what the next twist would reveal, resulting in an overall fun and entertaining read. –Heather

This week, I read Reconstructing Amelia by Kimberly McCreight. Amelia is a high schooler at an elite private school in New York City. Everyone sees Amelia as a good student headed on to do good things. When she gets caught up in a secret school club, her life changes. Her mother is called to the school one morning because Amelia has gotten in trouble. When she arrives at the school, she learns that Amelia has committed suicide. Weeks after Amelia’s death, Amelia’s mother begins to receive anonymous texts indicating that Amelia’s death wasn’t a suicide, and using Amelia’s text messages, emails, Facebook posts, and interviews with girls in Amelia’s club, she begins to learn more about her daughter’s life, and her own life. This book is a good cross-over teen/adult novel. –Emily

I sometimes review books on language and linguistics for another blog and received a new title this month from Oxford University Press that immediately intrigued me: Holy Sh*t: A Brief History of Swearing by Melissa Mohr. Note that the * is part of the title on the cover; I’m not just being polite. (Interestingly enough, the missing vowel is included in the Cataloging-in-Publication.) As soon as I was done with Throne of the Crescent Moon (A recommended read for any fantasy enthusiasts!), I started in on the new book. Currently well into Chapter 4 (“The Rise of Obscenity”), I have not been disappointed. Swearing seems to enjoy periodic attention in books aimed at a popular audience, and several others have written on the subject including Geoffrey Hughes (Swearing: A Social History of Foul Language, Oaths, and Profanity in English, 1993), Pete Silverton (Filthy English: The How, Why, When, and What of Everyday Swearing, 2009), and even the well-known psychologist Stephen Pinker (The Stuff of Thought, 2007). Mohr’s work appears to be based on her 2003 doctoral thesis at Stanford University (Strong Language: Oaths, Obscenities, and Performative Literature in Early Modern England), but the current work is written in a very accessible and engaging style while at the same time providing intriguing, in-depth research. The book begins by looking at profanity from ancient Rome. Surprisingly, a large volume of written documentation of Roman obscenities survives on walls in the form of graffiti as well as in texts. Mohr then moves from pagan Rome to Jewish and Christian sources in the Bible and how different forms of swearing (both sacred and profane) grew out of that. I’m currently reading through the evolution of obscenities and profanity from the Middle Ages into the Elizabethan and Renaissance eras.The book provides a truly eye-opening, highly-entertaining, and (sometimes-embarrassing) romp through the history of this expressive area of language. If you decide to pick it up, however, be careful where you read it. Mohr acknowledges on the book jacket that she has “recently been dividing her time between writing this book about swearing, and hiding it from her kids.” Absolutely fascinating stuff! –Don

 

What We’re Reading

On the first Friday of each month, we share what we’re reading, which may include everything from magazines and blogs to novels and books for work or pleasure.

It’s been a particularly hectic and busy spring semester, which is at least partly due to the fact that I spent January teaching twenty hours a week rather than preparing for the spring semester. I’m still finding time to read, but I’ve been finding myself craving mysteries more than my usual literary fiction. When my husband and I went to Chicago for a spring break mini-vacation, I continued a long tradition of reading books set in the city I’m visiting. For my trip I picked the first novel in two different Chicago-based mystery series: Clare O’Donohue’s Kate Conway series, whose protagonist is a documentary film producer, and Michael Harvey’s Michael Kelley series, whose protagonist is a thirty-five-year-old disgraced Chicago cop turned P.I. I enjoyed both of them so much I quickly devoured the second books in each series and am about to begin the third Michael Kelley mystery (I have to wait for Clare O’Donohue to write a third Kate Conway book.) –Carrie

I went on a wild and rollicking road trip this month with the delightful novel You Don’t Know About Me by Brian Meehl. When 16 year old Billy Allbright receives a package in the mail from his father, a man Billy thought was dead, his life is turned upside. The package contains the first clue in a wild treasure hunt across America, in search of Mark Twain’s lost sequel to The Adventures of Huck Finn. As Billy travels the country in hunt of his elusive treasure, the people he meets and the adventures he has mirrors those of Twain’s Huck. The result is an amusing and charming tale of adventure and self –discovery, that I thoroughly enjoyed reading. –Heather

On this week’s edition of the Slate Culture Gabfest, Stephen, Dana, and June joked about hating to read books that are over-reviewed and over-recommended. In doing so, they liberated a problem that I’ve always struggled with as a reference librarian: There’s little that makes me less inclined to pick up a book than to hear a chorus of praise, made undoubtedly louder by the fact that I am a known librarian. You must read Lean In! You haven’t read Franzen? You need to now!! To be fair, I’m pleased that people enjoy printed stories enough to spread the word, and I appreciate thoughtful suggestions from avid readers. It is in this spirit that I would like to complement the authors of Chasing Reference for their off-beat recommendations. I also wish to beg their forgiveness for promoting an excellent collection of short stories called I Want to Show You More by Jamie Quatro It’s really well reviewed, everyone is talking about it, and I loved it to pieces. I immediately reread several of the stories after finishing them. Stephen, Dana, and June will resist this one, but you must read!  –Amy

I’ve just started reading Helene Wrecker’s forthcoming fantasy novel The Golem and the Jinni. I’m usually don’t read fantasy, but this book has me hooked. The golem was created in Poland and brought to the United States. Her owner dies during the crossing shortly after he wakes her up. She arrives in New York City literally quite new to the world. In a parallel story a tinsmith, while rubbing a scratch out of a flask, awakens the jinni living within it. The jinni, a Syrian over a thousand years old, suddenly finds himself living in New York City at the turn of the century. Of course the golem and jinni are going to meet up. The book is a lovely mix of fantasy, folklore, and historical fiction. –Emily

Being the new guy on the block, I felt some pressure to be all professional and “I’m reading [fill in the blank with a dense, academic tome concerning librarianship].” Well, the book I’m actually reading right now is Throne of the Crescent Moon by Saladin Ahmed. It’s been on my must-read list for a while, but I’ve finally just picked it up recently. While it is firmly in the fantasy genre, it has some intriguing twists. The world in which the story takes place draws its inspiration from Middle Eastern and North African influences rather than the stereotypical medieval-European milieu. The protagonist is not a young unsuspecting wizard or peasant with a secret past but rather an old experienced “ghul hunter” who is ready for retirement but gets dragged back into an adventure due to circumstances beyond his control. The book has won wide recognition: Reddit Fantasy’s Debut of the Year for 2012, multiple “Best of” lists, and Nebula and Hugo Award nominations. I’m very much looking forward to diving into the Crescent Moon Kingdoms! –Don

Chasing Reference: One Year Later

This week, Chasing Reference is celebrating our first anniversary. After meeting in person and beginning to plan this blog in January 2012, we quietly launched in April 2012 by posting about what the typical day is like for each of us. (Want to reminisce? Check out what Carrie, Heather, Amy, Sarah, and Emily were up to this time last year.)

In celebration of this anniversary, we’re taking the entire month of April to celebrate. Today we’re highlighting some of our personal favorite posts from the past year. It’s no surprise these also proved to be some of our most popular posts too. On Friday we’ll share our monthly What We’re Reading post. Starting Monday, we’ll be writing brand new Day in the Life posts each Monday and Wednesday. How much has changed in a year? Here are a few teasers:

  • one of us changed jobs (you can read all about her new job on April 17!)
  • there’s now a brand new Chasing Reference contributor (look for his introductory post on April 24!)
  • you’ll also be treated to a special guest post from our fearless adviser on May 1!

April will be full month of posting here, and May will mark a return to regularly scheduled programming with posts each Wednesday, as well as the first Friday of the month.

We’re also always looking for guests posts. If you’d like to contribute, send us an email with your idea(s).

Without further ado, here are some of our favorite Chasing Reference posts from the first year:

Last but not least, do you remember how we came to call ourselves Chasing Reference? It all began with C-H-A-S-E.

Thanks for reading. We hope you’ll continue on this journey with us for many more years to come.

Breaking the Ice: Attending a Non-Library Conference

by Carrie Dunham-LaGree

As a librarian, I wear a lot of proverbial hats. For the most part, though, I’m a librarian and a professor. Both of those roles have numerous sub-roles, but in their simplest terms, it’s what I do. I have both a title (Librarian for Digital Literacy and General Education) and a rank (Assistant Professor of Librarianship.) My job description outlines my credit-bearing teaching responsibilities: a three-credit first year seminar each fall and a three-credit information literacy course each spring. This teaching load separates me from most of my librarian peers: only three of us are responsible for teaching credit-bearing courses (although others have in the past and are certainly welcome to in the future.) My teaching load also separates me from most of the non-library faculty, as most teach three three-credit courses a semester. Most days, I feel like both a librarian and a professor. Some days I feel like ‘just a librarian.’ This weekend, I’ll be ‘just a professor.’

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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

“What’s Up Doc?” or my January teaching adventure

by Carrie Dunham-LaGree

This week, Drake began its inaugural January term (J-term). For these three weeks, I’m embarking on the greatest teaching challenge of my career so far: teaching a 3-credit course over fourteen class days (rather than fourteen weeks.) I’ve developed a new information literacy course based around documentary film. As a believer in a catchy, yet informational title, I named it, “What’s Up Doc?”: An Information Literacy Exploration of Documentary Film. I teach from 11-3 five days a week for three weeks (excluding the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday.)

The idea seemed obvious as soon as I thought of it: each day, watch a documentary. Then I only have a two-hour time block to fill, and I can do that! I designed the course around a broad scope of films. We then use the films as a vehicle to explore a variety of information resources, examine bias and think critically.

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