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

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 We’re Reading: January 2013

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.

After spending the last month of 2012 frantically reading all of the books that had been lingering on my physical and virtual shelves for months (and years in some cases), I’m devoting January 2013 to reading books being published in 2013. I’m currently enchanted with Level 2, the debut dystopian novel by Lenore Applehans (out January 15th). After that, I’m also hoping to dive into Me Before You by Jojo Meyers and The Midwife’s Tale by Samuel Thomas. –Carrie

This month, I found myself lingering over the delightful book Pinned by Sharon Flake. Pinned tells the stories of Autumn, a star wrestler but struggling student, and Adonis, a model student, and the year they spend circling around each other, learning more about each other and themselves. Autumn knows her way on a wrestling mat, can calculate what moves she needs to make to win on that mat, but when it comes to school, and particularly reading, she feels lost, that her brain just doesn’t work right. Adonis has always strived to be the best; born without legs, Adonis has sworn that it will never hold him back, and he is consistently the top of the class, the most sought after student. As they each deal with private troubles- failing at school for Autumn and overcoming a past trauma for Adonis- they slowly find understanding in each other. Both Autumn and Adonis are richly drawn and fully realized, with unique and distinctive voices, and their stories compelling. I found myself lingering over the pages, enjoying the richness of their voices, the truth of their stories. Truly, a delightful read, and I look forward to reading more of Sharon Flake’s engaging work. — Heather

During the holiday season, I spent a good deal of time entertaining at home with family, friends, and colleagues. I enjoy cooking very much, but what I really love is reading about food. When it comes to food writing, my go-to sources include The New Yorker and Gastronomica: The Journal of Food and Culture. However, when I need to get down to the practical business of roasting, sauteing, and baking, I troll my favorite recipe blogs, such as Smitten Kitchen or Lottie + Doof. And, of course, I browse my cookbook collection. One of my favorite new cookbooks is David Lebovitz’s Ready for Dessert (2012). Yes, the desserts are amazing–I’ve already put about half of them on the table– but also the writing is hilarious; he introduces each recipe with either droll humor or a bizarre anecdote. To ease the burden of cooking all day, the authors of Bistro Cooking at Home (2003) and The Newlywed Cookbook (2011) offer details about how to prepare some of their dishes in advance. Lastly, in 2013, if you find yourself making dinner for foodies or guests of Mediterranean origin, then I would recommend Simone Ortega’s The Book of Tapas (2010) or The Silver Spoon New Edition (2011), a classic! –Amy

Like Amy, I’ve spent a lot of time lately browsing cookbooks and trying out new recipes. Mostly I’ve been baking up a storm.  My two favorites are the cinnamon scrolls from Yvette van Boven’s Home Made and layered biscuits from Heidi Swanson’s Super Natural Every Day.  When not cooking, I’ve been really enjoying Jeffrey Toobin’s The Oath. Toobin’s book focuses on the often contentious relationship between the Roberts court and Obama administration, and between competing ideas about how the Constitution should be interpreted and applied to the legal questions faced today. If you’ve read The Nine, you’re already familiar with Toobin’s accessible writing style and extensive knowledge of the Supreme Court, both of which are on display in The Oath. –Sarah

Over the holiday break, I read Barbara Kingsolver’s page-turner Flight Behavior. The main character, Dellarobia is a smart and young mother of two who doesn’t have the opportunities you want her to have. Her parents died young, she got pregnant in highschool which thwarted her chances at college, and propelled her into an early marriage to a man she never would have married otherwise. Now, the mother of a kindergartener and a toddler, Dellarobia feels trapped. When monarch butterflies migrate to the mountain near Dellarobia’s home in Tennessee instead of migrating to Mexico, her life changes. The novel is equal parts domestic drama and environmental drama. I found myself rooting for the butterflies and for Dellarobia. –Emily

Now tell us: what are you reading in the New Year?

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.

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Lexiles, Genres and Page Counts, Oh My!

Like most librarians, we at Chasing Reference love to read- just take a look at all our What We’re Reading posts. Reading and sharing books is one of the joys of librarianship, and the art of Reader’s Advisory (RA) is a vital part of nearly every librarian’s position. RA can be a wonderful puzzle, carefully pulling together the threads of a reader’s interest to find just the right book for them.  When you work with children, as I do, RA becomes a fascinating blend of both reference and RA, as children sometimes need help finding a book that meets certain homework and school criteria. Continue reading

Welcome back from ALA Annual!

by Emily Hamstra

Conferences are always a great time to learn from each other. Here are just a few of my highlights from this conference:

RUSA President’s Program: Mobile Technologies for Exchanging Information with Patrons

Joan Lippincott gave an overview of different studies, trends, and apps. Kristin Antelman talked about innovative projects at NCSU. I was totally impressed by WolfWalk, a guide to campus with photos from the NCSU archives. David Lee King suggested setting up an alert on twitter for “library” within 10 miles of your library’s location. Chime into the conversation.

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Insta.zibit*

by Amy Barlow

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*Insta.zibit /ˈin(t)-stə ˈzi-bət/ n. An exhibit created in under 30 minutes using Instagram. [Latin instans – urgent, end of the semester, pressure, get it done].

What you need to make an Insta.zibit:

  1. Physical or virtual real estate, on which you may mount an exhibit of images and books.
  2. iOS device or Android and the Instagram app.
  3. Students willing to have their images plastered all over the library and online (easy!).
  4. Publicity release forms, at the ready, to authorize the use of the images. I always keep a stack of blank forms in a folder near my desk.
  5. 30 minutes.