Tag Archives: books

That one book…

I was struggling to come up with a topic for this blog post, so I started perusing previous posts to try and spark my creative writing. Many of our posts are about items we recommend, because they have stuck with us, had an impact and/or meant something to us (and that’s great!). It made me wonder if anyone else had experienced a book or movie, that afterwards you couldn’t remember what you had just seen or read?

There have been a couple of books that I have had that experience with, and I don’t think it’s because they are poorly written. They just don’t have the same impact that so many other books have had. I mean, I have 773 books on my Goodreads list — I joined it in 2012, so that’s about 200 books a year on average — and sometimes when I scroll through, I see a title and can’t remember what happened or how the book ended. Like at all. I see the title, and I think “Did I really read that? What the heck is that book?”

Here are the top three books that I’ve read … apparently … but cannot remember:

Mystic City by Theo Lawrence
mystic city

In a Manhattan where the streets are under water and outcasts called mystics have paranormal powers, Aria Rose is engaged to Thomas Foster and the powerful Rose and Foster families—long time enemies—are uniting politically; the only trouble is that Aria can not remember ever meeting Thomas, much less falling in love with him.

What I do remember about this book is that it is part of a series, and it is in the dystopian realm. If you like series because you know exactly what you are going to read next, then give this one a try. I know it seems weird that I’m recommending a book that I don’t (entirely) remember, but I gave it 3 stars!

City of Falling Angels by John Berendt
city of falling angels

An intimate look at the “magic, mystery and decadence” of the city of Venice and its inhabitants.

I remember I wanted to read this book because it was about Venice (I’ve traveled there), and it was about a fire that destroyed a historical part of Venice (I was also a history major). I’m not a HUGE fan of nonfiction though. I’ve always struggled getting through them for some reason (I’m working on it).

The Dante Club by Matthew Pearl
dante club

In 1865 Boston, a small group of literary geniuses put the finishing touches on America’s first translation of “The Divine Comedy.” When a series of murders erupt throughout Boston, only the scholars realize that the style of the killings are stolen directly from “Dante’s Inferno.”

 

What books have you forgotten?

-Abbey

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Seven Thousand Miles

As a child of the eighties and nineties, my life consisted of the following:

  • A warm breakfast before school, preferably sausage and pancakes with a mountain of syrup.
  • A snack after school, preferably the sugary kind.
  • Nickelodeon
  • Skip-it.
  • More Nickelodeon
  • Rollerblading down the hill in front of our apartment.
  • Trips to my great-grandparents house on visits to Kentucky.
  • Grassy fields.
  • Fried meals.
  • Comfort.
  • More Nickelodeon

As a child of the eighties and nineties I assumed that others like myself were enjoying a similar childhood. Perhaps my neighbors weren’t making trips to see their great-grandparents in Kentucky, perhaps they weren’t playing Skip-It, or rollerblading down hills, but without a doubt they were experiencing a childhood. In the bubble of my mind and the shelter of my childhood, this experience was being had by all. It was not.

While I was watching cartoons and eating Cinnamon Toast Crunch on Saturday mornings, children seven thousand miles away in Sudan were experiencing a childhood that I, at 8, could never have fathomed.

While I was playing Aladdin on my Sega Genesis, there were children being pulled from their homes during the day or night, fleeing for their lives from men with guns and men with machetes and men with machinery. These children wondered and worried about their brother or sister or cousin or aunt or uncle or mother or father. They worried and wondered about family they might or might not see again. They wondered and worried about life and death and not if, but when they would be next.

While I enjoyed the comfort of light up sneakers, these kids walked for hundreds of miles, barefoot against scorching hot land.

Cinnamon Toast Crunch.

Starvation.

Reading stories about children who managed a strength to survive that I can’t even fathom has begun to put life into perspective for myself. Not everything and not everyone begins with a warm breakfast or Nickelodeon or roller blades. Not everyone’s reality is coming home to a warm bed, or coming home at all. The Second Sudanese Civil War (1983-2005) consumed the lives of two million people. Children were not immune to the chaos that this war and strife brought.

TheRedPencil

The Red Pencil, written by Andrea Davis Pinkney, tells the story of Amira, a 12 year old Sudanese girl living a normal life until the Janjaweed arrive. Torn from her village, she not only loses the person she is closest to, she also loses her voice, until a woman arrives with the gift of a red pencil.

ALongWalkToWater

A Long Walk to Water: Based on a True Story, written by Linda Sue Park, alternates between the two stories of eleven year old Nya and eleven year old Salva. Although they are experiencing life decades apart, their stories intersect when the life changing force of water brings them together.

brothersinhope

Brothers in Hope: the story of the Lost Boys of Sudan, by Mary Williams, describes eight-year-old Garang Deng’s determination to lead himself and 34 other Lost Boys from Sudan to the safety of a refugee camp in Ethiopia. Their journey continues from Ethiopia to Kenya, where (years later) they are given the opportunity to seek safety in America.

Fiction or non-fiction, these are the books and the children within that have stuck with me. These are the authors who help us to not forget.

-Brittany

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Bibliotherapy and Me

I’ve become intrigued with the field of bibliotherapy, having been the recipient of a few recent articles forwarded from Facebook friends who have told me that I should consider becoming a bibliotherapist when I grow up.*If you’re unfamiliar with bibliotherapy, it involves much more than suggesting a good book to someone going through a difficult time. Our colleagues at the American Library Association (ALA) offer the following description and background:

“The use of books selected on the basis of content in a planned reading program designed to facilitate the recovery of patients suffering from mental illness or emotional disturbance. Ideally, the process occurs in three phases: personal identification of the reader with a particular character in the recommended work, resulting in psychological catharsis, which leads to rational insight concerning the relevance of the solution suggested in the text to the reader’s own experience. Assistance of a trained psychotherapist is advised.” —bibliotherapy in ODLIS, Online Dictionary for Library and Information Science.

In 1966, the Association of Hospital and Institution Libraries, then a division of the American Library Association, issued a statement on nomenclature accepting the following definition:

“Bibliotherapy: The use of selected reading materials as therapeutic adjuvants in medicine and psychiatry; also guidance in the solution of personal problems through directed reading.” (AHIL Quarterly, Summer 1966, p. 18.)

For as long as I can remember, books have always been a source of comfort for me during times of personal struggle.  Like many teenage girls who grew up in the ’80s, my formative years were spent with Judy BlumeMargaret and Deenie made me feel less alone and Davey (Tiger Eyes) showed me that life can go on after the death of one’s father. Other books were transformative during our infertility journey, parenting a child with autism and many other life challenges.

novelcureI’m a believer in literary kismet, the happenstance of discovering the right book at precisely the right time.  And nothing makes me happier than matching a reader with a book that gives them new knowledge or insight — or simply some comfort or respite from the problems and worries at hand.

Bibliotherapy is more than this, of course. It involves specialized training and knowledge. Still, it’s a concept that I find fascinating and interesting to ponder.

In the meantime, while my job here at CLP isn’t one of a librarian, I love that I’m able to participate in opportunities to share my favorite books.  Those of you who have visited one of our neighborhood locations may have noticed that some books (and DVDs and CDs, too!) have slips of paper tucked inside as bookmarks, indicating that it’s a “Staff Pick.”  Displays in the libraries often highlight books that staff have selected as especially noteworthy. (My personal staff picks will be on display at the Main Library in Oakland next week. If you have a chance to visit, I’d love to know what you think!)

Who knows?  Someday when I grow up, I might explore the possibility of pursuing bibliotherapy more seriously.  (* Note to my bosses: I’m perfectly happy in my current job, thank you.)

And if I do, then I know I’m in the right place.

For more on bibliotherapy, check out our catalog offerings here.

What are some of the books that helped you through a difficult or challenging time in your life?

-Melissa F.

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The Beauty and Cruelty in Displacement

goodindiangirlsI first stumbled upon Ranbir Singh Sidhu’s short story collection Good Indian Girls on the First Floor at the Main Library. I am a short story junky, and I needed my next fix. The title, and the cover, featuring three sets of penetrating eyes grabbed me. So I took it home.

After reading the first story, (which reminded me of the best aspects of Flannery O’Connor’s classic “A Good Man Is Hard to Find”), I knew I was dealing with an author who knows how to put a sentence together for maximum impact. Sidhu’s prose is never like punch in the gut or a kick in the teeth–it’s more like a scalpel carving out your heart.

I loved the collection so much, and admired his writing so much, that I filled out the contact form on his website and asked if he wouldn’t mind answering a few questions. I just had to know how he managed to write those killer sentences.*

And so, it was with great pleasure that I had the chance to read an advanced copy of his novel before its publication date in mid-March.

deepsinghbluecoverDeep Singh Blue tells the story of an immigrant Punjabi family living in rural California in the 1980s. The action centers around the teenage Deep Singh, who has already begun taking college courses and finds himself in an affair with a married woman in her twenties.

His life at home is not without complications, either. His brother, who has been showing ever-more disturbing behavior, has just told Deep to die after not speaking for over a year. His father moves the family every time they begin to get settled and make friends. His mother refuses to acknowledge her older son’s oddities and is always playing matchmaker for both boys, in hopes a marriage will solve their problems.

With a starting point that off balance, things only get worse for Deep. The reader is compelled to read on as each pillar of the teen’s life slowly crumbles and turns to dust. The catastrophes that befall Deep aren’t huge at first, but build to a wrenching crescendo at the end.

And all the while, Sidhu’s sentences are there, the scalpel cutting out your organs.

This is a novel about the immigrant experience, but it’s completely without nostalgia or sentimentality. It’s a beautiful portrait of displacement and the things we find in displacement’s wake, and I can’t recommend it enough.

Reserve Deep Singh Blue or Good Indian Girls here.

-Kelly

*Here’s his answer, by the way: “At university, I studied with the avant-garde French novelist Monique Wittig, who placed enormous significance on working at the sentence level. She taught me a great deal, though usually very quietly. She would look at a whole page, then very softly bring the point of her finger down on a single word, and say, that in her opinion, this one word needed to be “suppressed.” She would, invariably, pick the one word that would have ramifications throughout the text, and it would be a lesson I could apply to the rest of my work. Those tiny “suppressions” of hers were incredibly important for me—they were like small bombs that went off in my mind, which sent shudders throughout all my work—and they helped teach me how to write powerful and taut sentences.”

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March Recap

March contains some great celebrations: It’s Women’s History Month, there’s St. Patrick’s Day and International Women’s Day, March Madness, spring flowers start blooming and, of course, all the great posts we put up here on Eleventh Stack!

Cover of All About Love by bell hooksFor Women’s History Month, Natalie looked at women in the workplace and guest blogger Adina wrote about Emma Watson’s feminist book club Our Shared Shelf.

Ginny highlighted the many wonderful volunteers and organizations that were nominated for our Community Advocate and Outstanding Partner Award and shared resources that helped her become a better mentor. Guest blogger Ian shared his experiences running and how you can help raise money for the Library with the DICK’S Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon.

Amy E. reviewed The Witch of Lime Street by David Jaher, and explored America’s flirtations with spiritualism in the 1920s, while Scott M. explored popular philosophy and Suzy shared some silly picture books.

We didn’t write about basketball at all, but Abbey covered The Tournament of Books, and Jess continued her reading challenge with the third title in the Red Rising trilogy.

bookcoverOn the literary front, Leigh Anne wrote about accomplished female poet C.D. Wright, Kayla questioned Tessa Hadley’s The Past and enjoyed The Girl in the Red Coat. Melissa remembered the late novelist Pat Conroy.

Ross really appreciated actress Brie Larson in her many roles, and looked at Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, and geeked out over Batman v. Superman. Joelle gave props to character actors, Whitney recommended the television show Outlander, and Tara explored the world of foreign TV.

Megan shared her love for cooking, and Ginny updated us on her 50 cakes project.

Happy Spring!

-Team Eleventh Stack

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A Month of Tournaments

March is tournament time. This is the time of the year that March Madness takes over. I mean, clearly, it’s called March Madness for a reason. Many people will be waiting for the NCAA Tournament to begin on March 17th (St. Patrick’s Day! Woo!), fill out their brackets, and root for their favorite team (Let’s Go PITT!) What some people may not know is that there is more than just the NCAA Tournament occurring in March.

The Tournament of Books hosted by The Morning News has been occurring during March as well since 2005. In this tournament, two books compete (are pitted) against each other in each round. One judge picks a winning book per round, except for the final; that round is judged and voted on by each person. Although I have not been able to read each book in the tournament (yet…I will one year), it’s fun to follow, read why the judges selected each book, and to see who comes out as the winner each year. Last year, it was Station Eleven.

station eleven

Last (but not least) there is the School Library Journal Battle of the Books. (I know, I know I said these were tournaments, but SLJ has the same style as the other two tournament brackets and has judges like the Tournament of Books, so I think I get to call it a tournament, not just a battle.) This battle (*cough* tournament *cough*) is focused specifically on kids/middle grade/teen books. I’m definitely excited to see the winner of this tournament as well, especially with some non-fiction books on the list that I’ve been really interested in reading (maybe this will push me to read them sooner) like The Boys Who Challenged Hitler.

boys who challenged hitler

Which tournament are you most excited to follow this month?

-Abbey

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January Recap

January has been marked with loss—the deaths of David Bowie and Alan Rickman, the closing of a favorite restaurant. But good things have happened, too: David Bowie’s newest and last album, Blackstar, came out. We celebrated Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. And we read a lot of books, listened to a lot of music, and watched a lot of movies.

Big MagicWe once again set our reading resolutions for the new year, and Melissa F. helped us start off right with Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert.

Kayla gave us a list of her favorite R&B and hip-hop albums of the decade so far, suggested songs to go along with Between the World and Me and shamelessly plugged the television show Shameless.

Leigh Anne introduced us to poet Gregory Pardlo, and Whitney celebrated Lewis Carroll’s birthday. Ginny wrote an excellent and thorough book list on body positivity.

bookofunknownamRoss summed up his reading accomplishments from 2015, and Natalie got a head start on her 2016 resolution to cook better meals for her family. Scott M. suggested some good reads from Latin America, and Jess began her 2016 reading challenge with a play. Kelly resolved to get in trouble, and Joelle explored Brian Eno’s music.

In February, we’ll be writing about books, movies, music and more by our favorite African American artists. We hope you’ll join us!

-Team Eleventh Stack

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