Daily Archives: September 2, 2015

How I Spent My Summer Reading

Who remembers those first back-to-school homework assignments, asking about summer vacation? One of those terrible things about being in a household composed entirely of working adults is looking back over a summer and realizing that you didn’t really have a break, especially not a gloriously excessive one like you idealize from your childhood.

It wasn’t all business-as-usual at the Library, though. Just a few days ago we finished our summer reading program. And while the children’s department was focusing on superheroes, here in “adult” land we talked about goals. It was a time to deliberately break out of our usual reading patterns (or genres). We all wanted to try something new, even if that something was as simple as setting aside a few minutes a day to be able to read.

That last one is not my particular problem. I read almost compulsively. I read while I eat and while I cook. For years, my exercise regimen has been based around what I can do while reading. I buy purses based on their ability to hold books. I have read during class, work and religious services. I have read throughout parties, sporting events and dental procedures. Books are my security blankets.

Between the shelves at home and the shelves at work, I am constantly surrounded by books I could be reading. Because I have ready access to recommendations, my “to read” list numbers in the thousands. I read more than forty books this summer, including books for this blog, continuations of four different series, half a dozen graphic novels and one personal development project, besides a pile that just seemed interesting.

Despite all this, I didn’t actually meet my declared “summer reading goal.” The challenge I had set for myself was to only read books I had never read before. I made an exception for reference books, including cookbooks, because I rarely devour those in a single pass. But even with the mountains of new things calling my name, I re-read books one and two of a trilogy to prepare for book three, and half-accidentally repeated a John Grisham (by chapter three I was sure it was familiar, but I had already been sucked in too well to put it down).

I did meet some of my less explicit reading goals this summer. More than half of my books had female authors, and the list represented diversity of age, race, religion, national origin and sexual orientation. Most were from my “to read” list, rather than the metaphorical flings that caught my eye across a crowded shelving truck. Many were interesting, a few even useful.

Given all that, does meeting the goal even matter? I mean, if I had declared from the beginning that I didn’t care if I met my goal, I wouldn’t have tried. And I did push myself to avoid some of my “comfort” books because I had set this goal, and discovered a few new lovely things. Perhaps, then, the deeper purpose of the goal—pushing me to actually work through new things, even when it took more effort—was met. That’s something to consider when I set my next goal.

-Bonnie T.

P.S. If you are in need of suggestions, here are a few of my favorites from this summer:

The World Forgot (book three in a ridiculous sci-fi trilogy about teen pregnancy, space travel and alien prejudice)

Superman: Secret Identity (a stand-alone comic book about a man named Clark Kent in a world that already has a Superman)

Men Explain Things to Me (essays about experiencing a gendered world that sometimes doesn’t work)

March: Book Two (part two of a three-volume graphic memoir by Congressman John Lewis about his experiences in the Civil Rights movement)

Roller Girl (a graphic novel aimed at middle schoolers about growing up, changing friendships and roller derby)

Breasts: A natural and unnatural history (this one is kinda self-explanatory)


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My Year of Nonfiction

As I’m taking a look back at what I’ve read so far this year, I realize that my tastes have leaned greatly toward nonfiction. Yes, there has been the occasional mystery book and more than a smattering of graphic novels, but by-and-large I have been reading biographies and memoirs. I’ve already told you about a few of the books in a couple of blog posts and at least one staff pick. Here are some of the others that I have been fortunate enough to pluck from the shelves thus far in 2015:

As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of the Princess Bride by Cary Elwes – Do you love The Princes Bride movie? Of course you do! (If you don’t, I’m not sure we can be friends anymore.) And with these stories from behind the scenes, you can love it even more. Did you even think that was possible?!? The yarns I enjoyed most were about Andre the Giant. He used a pitcher for a beer mug; they provided him with a special golf cart to get around the set; and he once got so drunk that he passed out in a hotel lobby and was too heavy to move, so all the guests had to go around him. Now, there was a man who lived life to the fullest!

Neil Patrick Harris: Choose Your Own Autobiography by Neil Patrick Harris – The fantastic NPH shares his life, up to this point, in true Gen X style – as a “choose your own adventure” book. You, the reader get to decide which decisions Neil makes at critical junctures in his life. Does he take that role and become television’s iconic kid doctor or not? Does he choose to reveal details about his personal life and sexual orientation or stay in the closet? The life of NPH is up to you! (BTW, If you’re like me and the thought of not reading a book sequentially, page-by-page gives you hives — no worries, with very little continuity issues, this book can be read the regular way too.)

Dancing Girls of Lahore: Selling Love and Saving Dreams in Pakistan’s Ancient Pleasure District by T. Louise Brown – It took me about 50 page to realize that I’ve read this book before. It must have really appealed to me, for me to pick it up twice, years apart. But read it a second time, I did. I like using books to explore lives vastly different from mine. (If everyone was like me and had my life, the world would be very boring indeed.) This book is the result of the author spending many months and years visiting and staying among the women in the “red light” district in Lahore, Pakistan. The culture and class system that this book explains are so foreign to my experiences that I can’t get enough of reading about them. And, of course, I want to save everyone.

Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow: My Life by Sophia Loren – I never knew that Sophia Loren grew up in such poverty or without her father in her life. So many hardships were endured by this international film legend. I feel inspired knowing about her childhood during World War II, her journey to stardom and life in general. Sophia Loren is so much more than a pretty face. Her substance and style are more than skin deep. What a classy lady!

And here’s what’s on my TBR pile at home:

Serving Victoria: Life in the Royal Household by Kate Hubbard.

A Spoonful of Sugar: A Nanny’s Story by Brenda Ashford.

Remember the Time: Protecting Michael Jackson in His Final Days by Bill Whitfield.

The Glitter and the Gold: The American Duchess – In Her Own Words by Consuelo Vanderbilt Balsan.

VJ: The Unplugged Adventures of MTV’s First Wave by Nina Blackwood.

Now, go forth and read some biographies!

-Melissa M.


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