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

 

Research Library: A Day in the Life

I’m Emily Hamstra, Learning Librarian and Kinesiology Librarian at the Shapiro Undergraduate Library, University of Michigan Library. I support undergraduate students and the School of Kinesiology by building great collections and teaching how to use the collections for research. No day in any library is ever typical, but this is what I did at the library on Friday, April 19th.

9-10am: I’m at the Library Public Services Meeting. This meeting is a giant meetup of U-M librarians who work the reference desks, circulation desks, and our technology centers. Staff often present projects they are working on or we discuss issues related to library public services. This month we had presentations from another unit on campus discussing how they support faculty technology needs related to research. The second presentation was from librarians from the Ann Arbor District Library about collections and services available for students at the public library. Of course, we all had lots of questions. Librarians love questions.

10-10:15: I’m on the RUSA Reading List Committee this year. My first shipment of books arrived today! I’m reading like a mad woman this year for the committee. It’s been great to read outside of my usual genres. I’m reading some really great books.

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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.

Talking about Race

Every year the cities of Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti join together for their community read programs. This year I am on the Ann Arbor/ Ypsilanti Reads Outreach Committee. The committee is made up of librarians from the public libraries and local academic libraries, booksellers, individuals from area nonprofits, and community organizers. Our job is to market the community read, and to promote events related to the read. It takes a lot of people to create the list of potential books for the community read, the final list, and then market the read. Every year a non-fiction book is chosen for the Ann Arbor/ Ypsilanti Read based on the theme of the University of Michigan’s winter theme semester. Piggybacking on the theme semester allows the Ann Arbor/ Ypsilanti Reads program to share events with the University of Michigan. The theme semesters are broad themes that can be incorporated across the disciplines. Past themes have included language, astronomy, and water. This winter’s theme semester is race.

A selection committee narrowed down a long list of titles to three finalists; Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow, Sherman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian and Paul Kivel’s Uprooting Racism: How White People can Work for Social Justice. The New Jim Crow was chosen as the 2013 Ann Arbor/ Ypsilanti Read.

Continue reading

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.

This month, I giggled my way through Meet Me at Emotional Baggage Claim by Lisa Scottoline and Francesca Serritella. This collection of essays is a delightful treat, full of love and laughter. Scottoline and Serritella, mother and daughter, write stories of everyday life that are charming, witty, and insightful. Their voices are warm, and reading them feels like you are sitting down and chatting with a good friend.  This is their fourth collaboration together, and each one is simply a joy!– Heather

A dear friend asked me to join her book club. In the past and for many good reasons, I have made it a rule to politely decline all invitations to join book clubs. For this woman, however, I will break rules, which is why I am now plodding through Arcadia by Lauren Groff. I badly want to love this novel, a lyrical tale told in three bumpy acts. Narrated by Bit, the first child born on a hippie commune in upstate New York, the story is two parts coming-of-age and one part dystopian fantasy. The prose is lush, but the characters don’t seem round to me. Nevertheless, I better finish it by Sunday! –Amy

One of my book clubs read God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy this month. It’s a heartbreaking novel. Each character in the novel has a deep love for someone, but the love is barred by tragedy. The story jumps from the present to the past, so you know the outcome of the tragedies before you know how the tragedies happen. It’s lovely and sad, with moments of childlike humor. During our discussion we listened to the BBC’s World Book Club interview with Arundhati Roy. This is a book that you need to talk about after reading. –Emily