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?

What We’re Reading: June 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.

Earlier this year I read Silver Sparrow, the most recent novel by Tayari Jones, and I utterly adored it. I’m still recommending it to people. I’ve been eager to read her two earlier novels, and I just started her first novel, Leaving Atlanta, which is about the Atlanta child murders of the late 1970’s and early 1980’s. Like Tayari, I grew up in Atlanta and have long been fascinated by these murders. Tayari, who is ten years older than I am, was a child herself at the time of these murders, so I’m particularly enjoying her perspective on these tragic events. — Carrie

This month, I was swept away by an amazing fantasy novel: The Name of the Wind: The Kingkiller Chronicle, Day One by Patrick Rothfuss. The world Rothfuss creates is rich in detail and wonder, and the characters seem to leap off the page. The Name of the Wind is the story of Kvothe, known in the world of Four Corners by names such as the Bloodless, the Arcane, and Kingkiller. His story is that of a man turned legend, the truth inside the myth. It is an engaging and suspenseful story, one that grabs you from the very first and keeps you breathless until the end.  Truly, this is fantasy writing at its finest. The follow up novel, A Wise Man’s Fear: The Kingkiller Chronicle, Day Two, is equally engaging and finely written, a brilliant follow-up to a truly incredible first novel. — Heather

I’m reading Elisabeth Badinter’s controversial polemic, The Conflict: How Modern Motherhood Undermines the Status of Women. Badinter, a celebrated French feminist, makes a case against “natural” or attachment parenting (e.g. breast-feeding, constant skin-to-skin contact, co-sleeping, and cloth diapers), arguing that these all-consuming activities limit women’s professional mobility, independence, and personal fulfillment. Though I have little interest in reading this year’s popular mothering books, such as Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother and Bringing Up Bebe, I was drawn to Badinter’s book for its use of historical and anthropological perspectives. I don’t even have children, but I feel less shameful and guilty for having read it. — Amy

I’ve been mostly reading shorter pieces lately.  Some recent favorites include a great article on women’s health from the Dissent website and the latest issue of Doris, a zine I’ve been reading for years.  I read a few thought-provoking posts on the blog Working Class Perspectives, which is run by the Center for Working Class Studies at Youngstown State University in Ohio.  And I’ve also been enjoying articles from Religion and Politics, which is an online news journal “dedicated to the two topics thought unfit for polite company.”  — Sarah

I’m a third of the way through Jane Eyre. What is going to happen between Jane and Mr. Rochester? Their banter is quite something. Since I bought my Kindle a year ago, I’ve been reading more books that are in the public domain. I guess the allure of a free book is irresistible even to those who spend most of their day in a library! — Emily

What We’re Reading: May 2012

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

This week I finished Toni Morrison’s remarkable new novella Home, which will be published on Tuesday, May 8. It’s the story of a black Korean War veteran and his reacclimation into a racist, divided society.  I read it in a single sitting, and its structure was so perfect, I started it over as soon as I finished it and gained better appreciation for the literary journey she takes her readers on. Her talent is extraordinary. I’m still reading my way  through the twenty titles on this year’s Orange Prize longlist. I’m nearly done with Esi Edugyan’s Half Blood Blues, the story of a black jazz band in Paris in 1940, and it’s exquisite. This novel has already one the Scotiabank Giller Prize and was shortlisted for last year’s Man Booker Prize. My only regret is waiting for it to make the Orange Prize shortlist to read it. I have six titles left to read. The winner will be announced May 30th in London. – Carrie

This month, I have been enjoying Christopher Moore’s Sacre Blue: A Comedy D’art. It is a wonderfully rich, imaginative and funny exploration of the late French Impressionist movement, infused with magic and mystery. It focuses on the death of Vincent van Gogh, the investigation into that death by his friends baker-turned-painter Lucien Lessard and painter Henri Toulouse-Lautrec, and the strange and exotic world of color- paint color- especially the ever enigmatic blue.  Moore’s novel is rich with historical information and exquisite descriptions, and his characters, both real and imagined, are achingly human.  Moore did extensive research in creating this novel and has provided, both  online and as an app ,a reading guide, filled with all the fascinating information and details regarding the history of the French art movement- including pictures and paintings- that he couldn’t fit within the confines of his book. A truly remarkable read. -Heather

I’m raiding the oversize stacks this week. Katy Grannan captures portraits of strangers, bathed in the unforgiving light of California at high noon, in Boulevard. Find Grannan’s book, or take a peek at the online exhibit. Japanese photographer, Rinko Kawauchi, published her twelfth book, Illuminance, in a binding so beautiful that it will remind you why you love real books. James Casebere: Works 1975-2010 presents a mid-career survey of this playful and important artist-photographer. -Amy

I just started reading From the Folks Who Brought You the Weekend. This book gives an illustrated overview of the history of labor in the US. I’m only a few pages in but am already intrigued by Priscilla Murolo and A.B. Chitty’s framing of the changing relationship between organized labor organizations, individual workers, and the US government. And it seems like an appropriate reading choice for Mayday!  My Instapaper queue is full of articles on the French election and a Lifehacker article promising a method to learn languages remarkably quickly.  -Sarah

I recently finished reading Await Your Reply by Dan Chaon. The book was nearly impossible to put down. The novel is three interconnected stories; a high school history teacher runs away with one of his students, a man searches for his missing twin, and a college dropout discovers that his criminal uncle is really his father and goes to work for him. As the novel progresses, the stories start to collide in strange and unexpected ways. It’s fabulous.- Emily

Now tell us: what are you reading this month?

What We’re Reading: April 2012

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

I am somewhat obsessed with the Orange Prize, a British literary award given to the best novel written by a woman in English each year. I’m currently making my way through the twenty titles on the 2012 longlist, which was announced in March to coincide with International Women’s Day. So far, I’ve read eleven of the twenty and am currently enjoying Island of Wings by Karin Altenberg, a debut novel set on the St. Kilda islands in 1830. The six-title shortlist will be announced Tuesday, April 17th.

Currently, I have been burning my way through Cassandra Clare’s Mortal Instruments series. The 5th book is being released on May 8th, and anticipation is running high among my teen readers.  An intense series featuring demons, angels, vampires (not the sparkly kind), werewolves, and more, it is easy to see the appeal. Clare has a deft writing style, and each story is packed with action and drama, filled in with likable and realistic characters. I’ve also been brushing up on the Vampire Knight manga series by Matsuri Hino. Lush illustrations and an intriguing vampire mythology make this a series not to be missed! Of course, since its storytime season, my reading roster is filled with picture books, too.  Most recently, The Cow Loves Cookies by Karma Wilson and Farmyard Beat by Lindsey Craig have charmed me- both are great reads with wonderful rhythmic story lines and delightful illustrations.

I’m reading Wendy Wasserstein’s Shiksa Goddess: Or, How I Spent My Forties (2001). In this collection of essays, the Tony and Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright earns her reputation as “a vicious dumpling,” thrusting the private lives of friends and family into the spotlight, to reveal the humor, sadness, and injustice of the human experience. Wasserstein’s personal essays confirm the thesis of Julie Salamon’s poignant biography, Wendy and the Lost Boys (2011): Though Wasserstein was quick to share the secrets of others, she worked hard to disguise herself, both literally (she hid her pregnancy) and figuratively, from the many people with whom she shared her bizarre, compartmentalized life.

I read mostly non-fiction (albeit with a weakness for good YA novels).  Right now, I’m nearly finished with The Information Diet by Clay Johnson.  Johnson makes an interesting comparison between nutrition and information consumption, arguing that poorly-chosen media consumption has negative effects on the mind and body (similar to eating a diet based on junk food).  He makes a case for what librarians would call information literacy skills without mentioning the concept by name (so far).

I just started reading the novel Vaclav and Lena by Haley Tanner. It’s been on my to-read list since Nancy Pearl put it on her “7 Books with Personality” list on NPR’s Morning Edition in December.  I’ve also been geeking out over Pew Internet’s “The rise of e-reading” report.

Now tell us: what are you reading this month?