Tis the Season for Book Recommending

Being a librarian (and an outspoken one, at that) I am often hit up for book recommendations. More often than not, it’s not even for the person I’m talking to, but for someone the person I am talking to knows/is related to/likes/doesn’t like/wants to get a gift for/is obligated to buy a gift for but refuses to spend more than $15 and wants it to be semi-personalized. I have a few fail-safe titles, books that I know anyone will love (and if they don’t, they should probably give up reading and maybe even all hopes at being my friend). They are:

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. Orphaned teenager Liesel is taken in by Mr. and Mrs. Huberman, an oddly-matched couple who hide a young Jewish man in their basement as a last favor to the boy’s dead father. This story of death is full of life.
I have yet to meet a human* who did not fall in love with that book upon reading it, nor is it ever available at my library. Ever. As of right now, all 17 copies are checked out and there are 9 people on the hold list. The book came out 5 years ago and still maintains a significant wait list. Buy it. Read it. Your soul will thank you.

Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card: Ender Wiggin is a mere 8 years old when he is tasked with saving Earth from the Buggers, but to his knowledge he is only in a simulator. The harsh realization of what he did is the basis for the 15 other books in the Ender and Shadow series, as well as the short stories and prequels.
I only read this is 2009, but regret not reading it upon birth (the book was first published in 1985, the year I was born), and then re-reading it every year after that. When it comes to re-reading books I actually have to put a limit on myself (and to date I have only done so with the Harry Potter series, Gone with the Wind, and Ender’s Game.) I get to re-read Ender’s Game in 2013 and cannot wait. Oh…and then there’s the whole finally-becoming-a-film thing

Favorite books aside, let me give you a few Christmas 2012 book suggestions:

For the teenaged boy in your life, give him the first three books in Jonathan Maberry’s Rot & Ruin series, as well as the graphic novel series of The Walking Dead. Are they graphic? Yup. Is there murder? Absolutely. But if you’re a good adult, you’ll have a conversation with them about it, about reality and morals. Just like you did when you bought them Halo last year, right? Right?

For your dad, One Second After by William H Forstchen. What would happen to a small town in NC after an EMP attack? What would happen to the United States? This book will tell you, and it’s realistic as if you were watching it on the news. If nothing else, this may convince him to finally put together an emergency plan for him and your mom, other than “Eh, just sit tight and wait for the Corps to straighten stuff out overseas.”

For the woman in your life who read 50 Shades of Grey (while you were on a road trip with her…ew), I recommend When She Woke by Hillary Jordan. It has action (not sex. Okay, one scene. But it’s relevant to the plot. It’s isn’t the entire storyline.), deceit, passionate love, and self-hate. Everything that women love in a good (and I use that term loosely) book! Jordan’s book is far better than that other one, and keeps you thinking long after you’ve put it down.

For your sister, you absolutely must buy her an afternoon’s worth of babysitting. No book, you ask? No. She doesn’t need to read. She needs a nap. And a shower. And maybe some low-lights, because she’s been looking rough lately**.

So those are my recommendations. Want more, or more specifically, want to tell me everything about your loved one so I can make a more informed recommendation? Email me at librarian.april {at} hotmail

*as opposed to all the cats I know who enjoy a good book

**A.G.: You don’t look rough, and your hair is stunning!

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Reading Season

It’s been a bit dreary here in the mid-Atlantic this week. That, coupled with my recent road trip from Virginia to Rhode Island, means that I have been reading. A lot. (Apologies to the boyfriend who was completely ignored for the 4 hours he drove from New Jersey to Virginia as I tackled a couple hundred pages of the newest Stephen King. For that he gets my undying love and affection. Oh, what a prize!) This means that I have a few recommendations! They are as follows:

1. Stephen King‘s 11/22/63 is not scary. But it is intense at times; a tad controversial (if you’re a conspiracy theorist); and completely engrossing. I have not even finished reading the book, yet here I am recommending it. That’s because it is that good. Not even 40 pages in I was repeating, “Holy crap!” and “Woah…”, (much to the boyfriend’s dismay, as I was interrupting his NYC radio experience). This book is fast-paced, with short sections in chapters that fly by. 11/22/63 is the story of a Maine English teacher in 2011 who is presented with the experience of time-traveling. His mentor gives him the duty of thwarting Lee Harvey Oswald’s assassination of JFK, in hopes that his staying alive will change the course of other bad moments in American history. Jake’s experiences in the re-lived 1958 lead him to stay a bit longer, then a bit longer, until… Well, I have no “until” because that’s where my bookmark is stuck. (Is it 6:00 yet? Can I go home now?)
I recommend this book to fans of history, though you won’t find historic facts peppered throughout, a la Erik Larsen’s Devil in the White City. Other than the segregation and racial undertones of the South during the time-traveled-to era, King doesn’t dissect history.

2. Machine Man by Max Berry is a dark and realistic tale of what could happen if the right thing happened to the right person. And vice versa. Dr. Charles Neumann loses his leg in a work accident, and decides to build his own prosthetic leg (because that’s what scientists do). He quickly learns how poorly designed his biological leg is, and feels that it is hindering his body from being productive. His hands are worthless, too. And his arms. Charles and his team of young, enthusiastic interns work long, restless hours to create improved body parts for their company Better Future. Little do they know, the company is going far beyond the field of prosthetics.
I recommend this book for techies (there is enough detail into the making of the parts that would interest any techie), those who think corporations are evil, and anyone interested in reading a well-written book that might make you squirm a bit. I cannot wait to get my hands on another Max Berry book.

3. The Ranger’s Apprentice by John Flanagan is a young adult book that takes place in Medieval Europe. Will is an orphan, and a ward of the castle. He is chosen, reluctantly it seems, to be the apprentice of Ranger Halt. Will, at first begrudgingly, follows the orders and teachings of Halt, but quickly comes to love the work of the Rangers. The plot thickens over halfway into the book, when the kingdom is threatened by the return of the evil former Baron, Morgareth. The ensuing battle is short, but whets the reader’s appetite for the remaining books in the 11-book series.
I recommend this book for young readers who enjoy adventure. There isn’t too much filler, so it maintains the attention of even reluctant readers. I enjoyed getting to know (and respect) the character of Will, Halt, and Horace.

As always…more to come.

A Sad Day

When the book-selling giant Borders closed some of its stores earlier in 2011, thousands lost their jobs. Many were relocated to other Borders Stores, and others found employment elsewhere. This was amidst a recession. Well, it’s happening again, a month after another terrible bought of rising unemployment. Another 11,000 people are going to be losing their job at Borders, some as early as this Friday. As in, they have 3 days to find a new job or they will be standing in the unemployment line*. That is just sad and I pray that all of them find gainful employment elsewhere.

Books wise, this is even more sad. I am sad that the healthy competition between Borders and Barnes & Nobles is gone (which means B&N can do almost whatever they want with the price of print books- because if you desperately need a book today, and the library’s copy is checked out, and you cannot wait for it to be shipped from Amazon, they can charge you whatever they would like). I am also sad because my boyfriend will likely want to, once again, spend a weekend book-shopping and spending over $300 on books that have yet to be read (3 months later). I know, you’re shocked that a librarian doesn’t want to go book shopping. Well that’s because I believe in renting books, not buying them just because it looks good. There are very few books I actually want to own; mostly ‘favorites’, classics, or just incredible books that I feel must be on my shelf. (I only have 2 book cases worth of books, if that gives you any idea.)

Back to Borders…

Here is an interactive map of the Borders that are closing (thanks, WSJ!). I ask that no one forward that to Shane…

*Unemployment lines barely exist anymore. Most of it is done online, as any public librarian will tell you. This is called e-government. A few years ago numerous social services offices closed and unemployment (among other services) became a mostly online service, causing people to go to libraries in waves looking for free Internet access. This in turn created e-government specialty degrees within the library science degree, because we have to be prepared to help those in need of government services (but who are largely unable to do it themselves, whether due to lack of computer skills, no home internet access, or confusing paperwork).
I dare you to ask me how many libraries were given government support/funding when this happened.

National Book Festival and Suzanne Collins, or, why military brats rule

So this past Saturday the boyfriend and I went to the National Book Festival in Washington, DC.

We only stayed for a little while, as we had a birthday party (for a one year old! squee!!) and a family dinner to attend. So we first saw Spike Mendelsohn of Top Chef fame in the Contemporary Life tent, where he was discussing his cookbook, two DC restaurants, experience on Top Chef, and his upbringing in a family of chefs and restaurateurs. He was funny and interesting and actually got Shane interested in going to his restaurant. After Spike, Shane and I went our separate ways, he to the book sale tent, and I to the Teens & Children tent where Suzanne Collins, of The Hunger Games fame was within 50 feet of me. (Double squee!!) A little about Ms. Collins:

1. She, like me, is a military brat. Her father fought in Vietnam when she was only six years old. She was sheltered from the truth of war until someone forgot to turn off the TV before the nightly news. At that moment she knew that her dad was not in a jungle with George and Ape. She spent the rest of her childhood and teens years moving around the world with her family.

2. The voice of Katniss is supposed to have a futuristic Appalachian accent. I really hope she enforces that in the upcoming films. I really need to hear what that sounds like. Furthermore, she made it seem as though she had some rights to the film. Like, she mentioned the great work of the casting crew, which she wouldn’t know about unless she were being consulted. By the way, I like fan fiction and fan art; Katniss Everdeen, the girl on fire.

3. The Hunger Games “was always first and foremost a war novel.” That is clear, especially in the third book, but it is nice to hear that from her. Knowing her personal history really gives her credibility to write a war novel. This is not to say that only military folks can write war novels, but I do believe it makes a person more trustworthy. I know that Collins did not embellish just for the sake of a story. She knows the truth about war and wanted to start a dialogue between young readers and adult readers alike.

4. That being said…She said, “My stories are dark…but they create a dialogue.” When I tell people about the series they seem taken aback. Even Shane’s recently-graduated Soldier cousin scoffed at the theme of the novel saying, “This is a kid’s book?” Yes it is, and here’s why: kids are not stupid. They watch the news, the see their parents reactions, they overhear discussions and arguments about this thing called war. If they walk through Starbucks on a Saturday morning they see images of war. Kids. Are. Not. Stupid. Kids. Are. Not. Blind. So we need to stop treating them as if they were. Instead, have a discussion about the themes presented in The Hunger Games, such as child soldiers (Africa, Afghanistan, anyone?), starvation, imperialism, nuclear terrorism, and more.

I am very glad I got to see her speak, even if only for thirty minutes. The best part was, after having told the crowd, “Please do not ask questions with spoilers”, someone said, “So about the ending of the third book…” and the entire crowd yells “NO!!” Hysterical! Oh, and the largest pile of books in the sale tent? That would be Mockingjay.

On a related note: do not carry a pocket knife or mace with you while attempting to get back into your parking garage at the Reagan Building. You will be asked to leave the building.
…just saying.