What We’re Reading: December 2012

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.

As 2012 comes to a close, I’ve been frantically trying to read all of the books I’ve been meaning to read all year, particularly those I’ve purchased and those I’ve been on the library’s waiting list for months. I ended November with what turned out to be my favorite read of 2012 (so far): These Days Are Ours by Michelle Haimoff. It’s set in the spring of 2002 and follows Hailey, a recent college graduate trying to figure out what ‘normal’ is. It helps that Haimoff’s characters are the age I was in 2002, but this novel is smart, affecting, and an intimate portrait of both adulthood and post-9/11 New York City. Next up for me: The Clan of the Cave Bear by Jean M. Auel, which has been languishing on my Kindle for over a year and Colm Toibin’s newest, The Testament of Mary. –Carrie

This past month, I immersed myself into two very different books. The first was Gillian Flynn’s very dark and twisted Gone Girl. It was an unsettling account of a woman’s disappearance on her five-year wedding anniversary. Her husband is the main suspect and as well as the novel’s narrator and his story is interspersed with her diary entries.  Nothing and no one in this book is what it seems, and it is an exploration of the dark side of humanity. It was truly chilling. Following Gone Girl, I delved into the strange and complex world of Crewel by Gennifer Albin. Crewel is a world of Spinsters, women who have the power to weave the very fabric of reality around them. With their power, they control every aspect of life in Arras. It is considered a great honor to be chosen as a Spinster, yet Adelice Lewys wants nothing to do with that life- she spends her days in dread of being chosen. When the inevitable happens, and she is chosen as a Spinster, she discovers that her vague misgivings and suspicions barely scratch the surface of the twisted reality of life as a Spinster of Arras. Albin’s creates a world that is fascinating, engaging, and compelling, weaving together a truly engaging story.  –Heather

After a month spent with agricultural fiction (“Neighbour Rosicky,” O Pioneers!, A Thousand Acres, etc.) , I forced myself leave the farm so that I could read Andrew Solomon’s brilliant book, Far from the Tree: Parents, Children, and the Search for Identity. I go into raptures thinking about the originality, scope, and importance of the arguments posited by Solomon. This book is about so much, including reproduction, diversity, identity, and tolerance. It’s kind of a big deal. Best of all, there’s a book trailer on vimeo. –Amy

This month, I enjoyed Rachel Maddow’s Drift. While I expected the book to be well-written and entertaining, as well as thoroughly researched (after all, Maddow has PhD in Politics from Oxford), I didn’t expect to end up thinking so much about the role of privatization in military decision-making and how the balance of power among the three branches of the U.S. government has shifted over the past 30 years.  I’ve also gone back and reread some classics in International Relations, as well as Jack Snyder’s “One World, Rival Theories,” which offers a broad perspective on the major strands of IR theory, and more interestingly, makes some excellent arguments for the ways in which theory can illuminate real-world events.  On the fiction side, I gave into my weakness for books about record stores and music fans, and have Michael Chabon’s Telegraph Avenue next on my list. –Sarah

I’m reading Tobias Wolff’s Vietnam War memoir In Pharaoh’s Army: Memories of the Lost War. It’s a welcomed addition to the well-trodden genre of the Vietnam War memoir. Wolff is unflinching and brutally honest as he recounts his time in Vietnam—a time when he’ll take desperate measures to watch the Thanksgiving Bonanza special on a color television. Wolff’s gallows humor pushes me through the most sobering moments of the book. I often find myself thinking about this book when I’m not reading it. I’ve also been reading lots of email this week from the fascinating RUSA-CODES discussion about genre fiction. –Emily  

Now tell us: what books are you squeezing in before the end of 2012?

Advertisements

‘Tis the Season for Lists, Awards, and Nominations

by Emily Hamstra

I always look forward to this time of year for many reasons–spending time with family and friends over the holidays, the end of a busy semester is approaching, and of course, lists and awards galore. I was delighted by this year’s National Book Award winners. Yesterday, The New York Times released the 100 Notable Books of 2012.

As you scour your favorite lists and anticipate your favorite award winners this year, I want to remind you to add RUSA’s lists and awards to your list of lists and award to watch. The RUSA awards are given out yearly to honor outstanding librarians, stellar books, and forward thinking publishers and editors. The RUSA awards are something that I look forward to. I always find the winners inspiring and encouraging, and I learn about exciting resources through the awardees.

The nominations for the RUSA awards are due December 15th. There certainly isn’t better way to honor your colleagues, someone who inspires you, or your favorite resource than by putting forward an award nomination! Do you know of a library or librarian who has developed a resource or guide to literature to meet the unique needs of patrons? If so, consider recommending them for the Gale Cengage Learning Award for Excellence in Reference and Adult Library Services Award. The winner of this award will receive $3,000. Where do you go to find a good book review? Do you have a favorite book reviewer or book blog you follow? If so, consider nominating an outstanding book reviewer, book review medium, or an organization for the Louis Shores Award. The winner will be recognized at the RUSA Awards Ceremony at the ALA Midwinter Conference. There are too many awards to mention them all, so read about all the awards on the RUSA Awards website.  

New Resource! American Influenza Epidemic of 1918: A Digital Encyclopedia

by Julie Judkins

The American Influenza Epidemic of 1918: A Digital Encyclopedia (AIE) is an undertaking by the University of Michigan’s Center for the History of Medicine (CHM) in partnership with the University of Michigan Library’s MPublishing division, to create an open source, digital collection of archival, primary, and interpretive materials related to the history of the 1918 influenza pandemic in the United States. The materials in the AIE collection originated as research for two commissioned reports for the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (2005) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2007). This virtual collection documents the experiences of diverse communities in the United States in fall 1918 and winter 1919 when influenza took the lives of approximately 675,000 Americans. The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) awarded the project a prestigious “We the People” designation for its contribution to the teaching, study, and understanding of American history and culture.

The AIE collocates an estimated 50,000 pages of digitized reproductions of archival materials gathered by CHM staff at over 140 national institutions. It is intended for a wide-ranging audience that encompasses high school and college students, historians and social scientists, epidemiologists and public health practitioners, journalists and writers, as well as casual internet users interested in the period.

Continue reading

“You Must Love to Read!” well, yes, but….

by Carrie Dunham-LaGree

When I meet people and have the traditional, “where do you work?” conversation, my answer of “I’m a librarian” is usually followed with “Oh, you must love to read!” I do happen to love to read (as evidenced by our first Friday What We’re Reading series–we all do!), but my day-to-day job as an academic reference and information literacy librarian has very, very little to do with reading. That small sliver that does–I’m in charge of my library’s browsing fiction section–is something I absolutely adore doing. It’s not written in my job description, but it falls under that favorite catchphrase of job announcements: “other duties as assigned.” Our browsing collection is small. Typically, we display about 100 titles at a time. Because it’s a small part of my job, I can’t fully devote my time to keeping up on new fiction titles. Here’s how I keep up with new fiction and discover the kind of titles our faculty, staff and students are most interested in. Continue reading

Imagine: extra-creative nonfiction

by Emily Hamstra

John Lehrer’s book Imagine: how creativity works didn’t slowly creep off the bestseller list, it just disappeared. First, Lehrer admitted that he “recycled work” from articles he previously published. Then, he admitted he fabricated the quotes from Bob Dylan included in Imagine. The Christian Science Monitor summarizes some of the false quotes. Imagine has been pulled from bookstore shelves, and it’s vanished from the the bestseller lists it dominated a few weeks ago. Meanwhile, at my library, the hold list on this title has grown. Whether the interest in the book relates to the controversy surrounding the book, or simply the lack of supply in bookstores, I’ll never know.

Continue reading

Olympic Resources

by Emily Hamstra

I can’t get enough of the Olympic Games. Whether you love the Olympics or are already growing weary of the coverage, we all have patrons who will be asking for resources related to the Olympics. I pulled together some resources related to the Olympic Games to help as you put together displays, and answer readers’ advisory and reference questions.

Online resources:

The Olympic Studies Centre has a library of resources related to rules of the Olympic Games, history of the Olympic Games, champion records, and funding opportunities for those interested in Olympic studies, to name a few.

The International Olympic Committee Library (IOC Library) contains Olympic publications. Search for your favorite sport to read about the events at the London Games brochures, and to see brochures from Olympic games of the past.

The LA84 Foundation has made available an interesting collection of journals, bulletins, oral histories with Olympic athletes, and results from Olympic games.

If you’re interested in images, the Guardian has collected some photos of the Opening Ceremonies from 1924-2008. Library as Incubator has a post about images from past Olympic games.

If your library has a subscription to the database SPORTDiscus, search there for more comprehensive coverage of scholarly journals and trade publications related to sports, kinesiology, and fitness.

Continue reading

Why Use Reference Books?

by Emily Hamstra

When I was in high school, one of my favorite books was M. C. Strong’s The Great Rock Discography. From The Great Rock Discography I learned how different bands were connected, which albums to listen to, and which albums and bands to skip. It was the age of dial-up internet, and I built a record collection using a reference book and my parents’ expert knowledge.

In instruction sessions I often teach undergraduate students about reference books. When I ask undergraduates what they think of when they hear the word “encyclopedia” they often say, “Wikipedia and World Book.” This gives me an opportunity to tell them about the fabulous world of subject encyclopedias. I explain not all encyclopedias provide us with general information like World Book does. So often in first-year classes students are just getting a grasp of a particular concept or topic for the first time. They don’t always need to use an article database to find the latest article on metaphysics. Sometimes what they really need is an encyclopedia article from the Encyclopedia of Philosophy on metaphysics explaining the main concepts, arguments, major scholars, books, and articles in the field. Just like I needed those foundational albums to start my record collection, students often need a subject encyclopedia to find the foundational elements of the topic they’re researching.

Continue reading