I only read 56 books in 2013

I know most individuals would never be ashamed at a number like that. And it’s not that I’m ashamed, per say…but in 2012 I read 77. Granted, in 2012 I didn’t get married, open a new library, write a column for School Library Journal Teen online, or otherwise stay pretty busy…but I digress. I’m a bit surprised at the low number, but I have the rest of my life to read. And besides, books aren’t going anywhere.*

To see the books I read (more than just what I put on this here blog) check out my LibraryThing account. Where do you log your books?

Other 2013 news, hmm…

ape

Like I said, I got married. This pic was taken as part of our post-bridal shoot which was completely stress-free. Seriously, couples that sneak away to take pics on the wedding day? How stressful must that be?! Post-bridal is totally the way to go. Not to mention, you get to wear your pretty dress again.

I was busy in library land devising and hosting programs; as a member of the 2014 Summer Reading Program committee and the 2013 1Book 1 Community committee; and reading and reviewing books. (Reading and reviewing doesn’t take place during work time because there is never time for that. Despite what my sister thinks. No seriously – she was convinced I was lying to her when I said I didn’t read during work hours. She then became even more impressed that I read 77 books in 2012. HA!)

A couple things I struggled with:
– Honestly, some days I just plum didn’t want to review a book. Not because I was lazy, but because I had other things to do. Dare I say more important? Summer Reading was busy, so my reviews over the summer dropped. The winter months were scarce in terms of number of books read, so I didn’t review much then, either. And I won’t review just for reviewing sake. I need to care – one way or the other. So I just didn’t.
– Did people even care? Were people even reading my blog? Quite a few times I had to remind myself that writing is first a personal thing, a public matter second. If I wasn’t fulfilled personally, how would I fulfill anyone publicly? So I stopped kicking myself in the butt and said, “I care.”

What did you do in 2013? What are you most proud of? What did you struggle with?

*Unless you’re living in Alena Graedon’s world in her 2014 debut novel The Word ExchangeIt’s set in a time when the printed word is completely obsolete and those who want to continue writing words are doomed to an untimely fate. Can April, 2014 arrive NOW so I can get my hands on this?

Meeting Authors and NOT Saying Something Dumb

Once I met an author by running into him on the exhibit hall floor at ALA. (Literally, body against body. Followed by stuttering an apology and the realization that it was Jay. Asher. standing in front of me.) Four times authors have visited my library as part of a speaking tour, organized by the Programming Division manager. By tweeting reviews from this here blog, I have had brief exchanges with many authors – each time as thrilling as the last, but not as surprising. Authors are real people, and some enjoy communicating with their readers, even if just to say “thanks for the kind review”.

Suffice it to say that I am getting better at interacting with the same folks I once considered as untouchable as Johnny Depp or Gavin Rossdale (who are, unfortunately, still untouchable).

I had a little more practice this past weekend when I visited One More Page Books in Arlington, Virginia. As part of George Mason University’s annual Fall for the Book festival, a panel of YA authors was speaking about their books. Elisa Nader, Elizabeth Scott, and Valerie O. Patterson all spoke about their characters, about writing such difficult scenarios, and about writing for YA readers.

The panel started with a bang when the authors were asked about writing such difficult topics – death, the Afghanistan war, PTSD, extreme religion – for a teen audience. Patterson said something I wasn’t expecting; “Writing to the teen audience is writing to the teen I once was.” To think that an author writes for its cathartic capabilities struck me as both surprising and obvious…it’s what I do, but I guess I never saw it that way. Then Scott chimed in, revealing that while writing her most recent book Miracle – about a girl suffering from undiagnosed PSTD – she herself was dealing with undiagnosed PTSD. Her therapist actually made her read her own book (which she said she never, ever does) because it could help her overcome her stress.

I appreciated the authors’ congruous message of “teens are already dealing with difficult topics so let’s talk about them”. I find it insulting to the entire age group when adults try to keep them safe from reading about such themes, when really we should be preparing them for how best to deal with the difficulties that they will likely face at some point in their lives.

I recently had a cousin go away to college. In the first card I sent to her I wrote two things I regretted about my freshman year, and one thing I am still thankful for. Not because I wanted to scare her, but because I wanted her to know that if she experiences something challenging or difficult, she has someone to talk to. Teens, young adults, they want to badly to be adults, but they can’t be until they’ve lived just a few more years. Some of those years will be incredibly trying, but if we can provide literature for them to read, and God forbid have a candid conversation with them about the issue, perhaps we can help make that transition a bit easier.

 

 

 

If 1 more boy asks me for a read-alike to Alex Rider…

…I’ll read the series.

Okay, that’s a lie. I am not going to read the series. When I read books for professional purposes only (as opposed to books I want to read personally that just to happen to support my professional need), I do it to understand the story or the author. There is no reason for me to gain a better understanding of Alex Rider (no offense to Anthony Horowitz) because most of the teen boys in my library already read the books. What I need to read/research are books that are similar to Alex Rider so that I can do more than direct teen boys to the next one in the series…I can book talk similar titles and hopefully interest them in reading more. This is similar to the Twilight series circa 2007-2009. This got teen girls back into reading for fun, and by golly librarians were not going to let an opportunity like that slip through their fingers.

So here I am, having just recommended Michael Vey: the prisoner of cell 25, Higson’s Young Bond series, and James Patterson’s Maximum Ride series for the upteenth (yes, that’s a real number) time today. But having recommended each of them so often in the past week that school has been out, they are gone and the hold list for each is growing! 

I need more read-alikes! I need ideas!

My coworker (who is getting a master’s degree in public policy but should seriously reconsider majoring in social media prowess) is developing an Excel spreadsheet for the Teen Center librarians to use in cases like this. The tabs along the bottom of the spreadsheet will be genres, and next to the titles will be descriptions of the books and color-coded boxes to denote sex, violence, appropriate age-levels (9-12 is a whole lot different than 14-19). I cannot wait for her to put this project on our shared drive so we can begin collaborating. There are fantastic reader’s advisory (RA) resources out there in the wild Internet, but sometimes a nice in-house program is even better. It’s titles we know, that we recommend, that we have read (or at least one of us has), and that we can share with others.

I’ve been wanting to start a teen-generated book review binder in the Teen Center for teen readers to sift through at their leisure, to see what their peers are reading. But alas, I haven’t yet. Perhaps it’s a lack of desk space to keep said binder. Perhaps it’s my fear of it totally failing.

No, I’ll do it.

Tomorrow.

Someone check on me tomorrow to make sure I’ve started it.

Meanwhile, I have just taken on a new annual Performance Objective that reads “Compose four lists of materials to give to Collection Management Services”. That means that I will be recommending to our purchasing librarians which titles I think they should purchase. “The newest John Green” and “you know, that one by Libba Bray” won’t do. I should be able to support my suggestion on it’s appropriateness for our collection. Meaning, I must do my research. In my first library job (2007-2009) I read review journals and recommended books for purchase, but it was only when my branch manager asked, which wasn’t too often. So I have never done this kind of thing religiously. I guess now is as good a time as any to begin! Bring it on, Library Journal, VOYA, and Booklist!

I Quit

I’m sorry, but I’ve done it again. I have quit reading books without finishing them. Back in May I posted a list of 4 books that I just hadn’t been able to finish reading, be it for the narrator’s annoying voice (it can make or break an audiobook), the author’s pedantic attitude, or just the plain boring-ness of the plot. Here again are a couple books that I just can not bring myself to finish. I’m sorry books. It’s not me, it’s you.

Drowned Cities by Paulo Bacigalupi. I want to apologize to Paulo. It is NOT him. It’s me. I just don’t have it in my to read another science fiction/dystopic novel right now. So let me say that I am putting it aside, not leaving it behind. Is that okay? Paulo? Paulo?

The Information: a history, a theory, a flood by James Gleick has been on my bookshelf since returning from ALA Annual Conference in late June. It was one of the 3 nominees for the (first ever) Carnegie Award for Excellence in Adult Non-fiction, so I knew it had to be worth a read. And it IS great! But it is just so heavy, so esoteric…it takes me 30 minutes to read just a few pages. So, I will not continue reading. But below are a few passages (in the epilogue; I figured reading the “wrap up” of the book would give me an understanding of the book’s contents) I found to be just inspiring and fascinating:

“Even in the nineteenth century mystics and theologians began speaking of a shared mind or collective consciousness formed through the collaboration of millions of people placed in communication with one another.”

“Language maps a boundless world of objects and sensations and combinations onto a finite space. The world changes, always mixing the static with the ephemeral, and we that language changes…from one moment to the next, and from one person to the next. We can be overwhelmed or we can be emboldened.” *I am confused by the idea that we can take language and make it mean one thing or another. I get that it is “up the the interpretation of the reader”, but what about the author’s intent? Does that count for nothing? This argument can be found in a lot of contemporary conversations, especially those regarding the Constitution and the Bible. Its authors are not here to ask, “What, exactly, did you mean by that?” so we take it upon ourselves to guess…and hope that we get it right.