Tag Archives: summer reading

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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The Girl and the Goal

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So, my Summer Reading goal is to read more “adult” books. If you’ve read one of my previous posts, then you know that I mainly read young adult books. One question that the children’s and teen librarians are asking participants when they sign up for the Summer Reading program is: Why are you signing up for the Summer Reading program? One of the answers is “to challenge myself.” That option stuck out to me. I’d like to think that my goal is challenging myself because I’m broadening my horizons. I’m stepping outside of my reading comfort zone.

The book that helped me to get out of this reading comfort zone is The Girl On The Train by Paula Hawkins. One day I was lucky enough to find a best-seller copy and decided to see what the hype was all about. The book is well worth all of the praise. It helped break down the stereotype that I had about adult books being boring. I realize now that I hadn’t come across the right book to crush this stereotype until now. This book was full of twists and turns. I was shocked when I found out who the killer was.

I won’t give away any spoilers. If you’re looking for a good book this is it. I know it’s hard to find an available copy in our system at the moment, so I would recommend looking on OverDrive for an audio or electronic version. Since it’s hard to get a copy in every medium I’m going to suggest some read alikes. They are The Secret Place by Tana French, The First Prophet by Kay Hooper, and Losing You by Nicci French.

Other titles that helped me towards my summer reading goal are God Help the Child by Toni Morrison and Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (and other concerns) by Mindy Kaling. (I can’t wait for her new book to come out in the fall!)

What are your summer reading goals? Let us know in the comments below!

~Kayla

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June 2015 Recap

You’re a busy person with many worthy internet essays to read, so we thought we’d try something new to help keep you in the loop with all things Eleventh Stack: recap posts!

On the last weekday of every month Eleventh Stack will publish  a list, with brief descriptions, of posts you might have missed the first time around. Since it’s never too late to discover a good book, film, or other library item, you’ll get a second chance to make your TBR list even longer. Read on to see the topics we tackled in June!

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Art by MikaylaM on RedBubble.com (click for portfolio!)

If you enjoyed this highlights reel, you’ll love what the Eleventh Stack team has cooked up for July. See you tomorrow with books, movies, and more!

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Ready, Set…. Goal!

Summer Reading has long been the domain of children and teens. In fact, we’re sometimes so focused on getting younger folks to read during the summer, it’s easy for people to forget that Summer Reading is important and exciting for adults, too!

This year, CLP is getting more intentional about Summer Reading by asking adult readers to go a step further than simply logging the number of pages or books they’ve read. We’re asking that you set a Summer Reading goal and let us know how it goes! Throughout the summer, we’ll share tips, book recommendations, supplemental readings and library resources related to your goal.  Your goal can be anything at all related to reading. To prove it, here’s a look at the Summer Reading goals of some CLP volunteers.

Ashley P.:Blue Lily, Lily Blue

I have a problem. I read the first book in a series, love it, plan to continue the series…and then never do! So, to try and combat this problem, my summer reading goal is to finish at least 10 books from series I have already begun but never finished. On my list? Tower Lord by Anthony Ryan, Blue Lily, Lily Blue by Maggie Stiefvater, and Foxglove Summer by Ben Aaronovitch.

Kate:

I’m a mother to an 8-year-old boy who would much rather be playing Minecraft than reading, so one of my goals is to supervise his summer reading program as well as read Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone to him at bedtime in the hope that it will inspire him to begin reading chapter books. For myself, this summer I’m going to read books with a landscape theme. One of these is Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard, another is Montaillou: The Promised Land of Error, the great Annales School historical work by Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie, and a third is The Great Gatsby. I’m going to read Montaillou with an eye to writing a short story featuring a character in Ladurie’s history, the Cathar shepherd Pierre Maury. Wish me luck!

Ehrrin:

After weeks of agonizing over what my summer reading goal would be this year, I decided not to decide. Or rather, to decide on a multi-genre goal since I couldn’t settle on all one category of anything. I’m going to read five books, in no particular order.

Me and My Daddy Listen to Bob Marley

  1. Something self-improvement: The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo. I know so many people who have read and loved this book, and I’m a slob, so I’m hoping this will revolutionize my life. Or at least my apartment.
  2. Something hilarious: Meaty by Samantha Irby. I occasionally read her blog, Bitches Gotta Eat. (Who knew that tales of Crohn’s disease could be so funny?) As you may guess from the title of her blog, the profanity is free-flowing, so not suitable for folks sensitive to that kind of thing.
  3. Something sciencey: The Soul of an Octopus: A Surprising Exploration into the Wonder of Consciousness by Sy Montgomery. Because nothing screams a serious interest in science like using the word “sciencey.”
  4. Something from my culture of origin: Me and My Daddy Listen to Bob Marley by Ann Pancake. I’m a native West Virginian, and have a special affinity for stories about my Appalachian homeland. Also, I was roommates with her brother during college for a while.
  5. Something recommended to me by a CLP librarian: Chasing the Scream: The First and Last Days of the War on Drugs by Johann Hari. I attended the Volunteer Appreciation event in April (which was awesome, by the way!) and Suzy from the South Side branch suggested this based on my special blend of literary nerdiness.

Ashley H.:

I started out with a pretty ambitions reading goal of all the unread books in my Audible collection.  When I actually checked to see how many unread books I had, it turned out to be about 25 books.  After doing some quick math, this translated to over 320 hours of reading or about 3 hours of reading every single day through August 31.  Since I barely get half an hour of free time every day, this seemed like an over ambitious goal.  So, I broke down my books into 3 categories, fiction, education non-fiction, and history non-fiction.  My new goal is to read three books from each category this summer, which I think is a little more reasonable.  My first book this week was Dead Ice by Laurell K. Hamilton.  Hamilton’s Anita Blake series is one of my favorite series books full of horror, action, sci-fi and more.  My next pick will have to be something from non-fiction, maybe The Global Achievement Gap by Tony Wagner.

Ellie:

I’ve got a long list of books on my ‘to-read’ list. Some of them have been there for ages, and keep getting pushed to the bottom (you know how it is….when someone tells you about an especially good, or new book that you just have to read… the list just never ends). So this summer, I’m going to the bottom of my list and challenging myself to read books that I have been putting off. The Fountainhead, by Ayn Rand, as well as Africa: Altered States, Ordinary Miracles,ASR Landing Page Graphic (2) by Richard Dowden are two that will definitely bump their way to the top! Another mini goal I have for myself is to read a couple of nonfiction books. I have a tendency to shy away from nonfiction!

Ready? Set? GOAL: Sign up for Summer Reading at carnegielibrary.org/summer, set your goal, receive encouragement and tips, and be entered to win some awesome prizes.

Happy Reading!

-Ginny

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Tony and Susan’s Nocturnal Animals

How do you choose your next book? Do you read reviews on Goodreads? Ask coworkers what they like? Ask friends what they hate?

Oftentimes, I’ll read about a movie going into production and see it’s based on a book and say to myself, “Hey, self, that’s two of our favorite things. Maybe we should read the book before the movie comes out. Also, are we going on a cleanse this weekend? We’re starting to look a little bloated.”

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Even if you look as spiffy as this guy, don’t talk to yourself. It’s super-annoying for everyone else around you.

That’s how I found out about a new movie from Tom Ford set to star Jake Gyllenhaal (who I’ve gushed about before) and Amy Adams (hot off her Golden Globe win for Best Actress in Tim Burton‘s Big Eyes) called Nocturnal Animals. The movie, scheduled to begin filming in October, is an adaptation of Austin Wright’s novel Tony and Susan.

tonyandsusanFifteen years ago, Susan left her husband, Edward. Now it’s 1993 and Susan is living comfortably as the wife of a doctor. One day a package from Edward arrives for Susan. It’s his first manuscript and he wants her opinion; she’s always been his best critic. On the day after Christmas, she begins reading Edward’s story, titled Nocturnal Animals. Susan is instantly absorbed into Tony’s world and finishes it in three sittings. The story within Wright’s novel follows Tony Hastings, a mathematics professor en route to Maine with his wife and daughter for vacation. Along the way, things take a dark and sinister turn that will change the lives of the Hastings forever.

The story-within-a-story format is nothing new (see: The Odyssey and One Thousand and One Nights), but I was just as riveted as Susan in my own reading. That might be because I started reading it the day before I was set to return from my own vacation. As I read about Tony and his family, I began wondering what evils were waiting for me on the darkly-lit interstates on the way back to Pittsburgh. Fortunately, my merry band of travelers and I only encountered the delirium associated with driving for seventeen-ish hours with infrequent breaks.

Susan feels an “uncomfortable undertow” as she reads. “It nudges a certain alarm in her, a fear whose object she does not know but which seems different from the fear in the story itself, something rather in herself.” She wonders what (if anything) Edward is trying to say with his book. She begins to reexamine her own life but resolves not to waver in it.

She thinks, “There are things in life the reading of no mere book can change.”

Oh, how wrong she is.

While the novel is wonderful at illustrating what happens when we think about our pasts—how we are prone to rewrite our own histories as we’re remembering them, painting things in different shades depending on our moods at the moment of remembering—what it really excels at is how it feels to get wrapped up in a book, how “print fastens ephemeral words to the page.” There are several great sentences that convey the terrible pleasure of a good page-turner, which is exactly what Tony and Susan is.

“She feels bruised by her reading and by life too. She wonders, does she always fight her books before yielding to them?”

Susan goes to the bathroom not out of necessity, but as a deliberate interruption when the suspense is too much.  When the phone rings, it’s described as brutally invading her reading.

“She puts the manuscript down. It’s time to stop for the night, though it seems murderous to quit now. Another painful interruption like divorce, required by the discrepancy between the laws of reading and the laws of life. You can’t read all night, not if you have responsibilities like Susan.”

I, like Susan, have felt the struggle of promising myself just one more chapter. She contemplates Tony’s problems and compares them to hers before realizing that Tony’s are simpler because they are not real.

“She’s caught by the strangeness of what she’s doing, reading a made-up story. Putting herself into a special state, like a trance, while someone else (Edward) pretends certain imaginings are real.”

But aren’t books real for us as we’re reading them? Does the fact that it’s fiction make it any less real in our minds? We go on the journey with the characters and if they’re changed by the book’s end, then chances are we are as well. Who amongst us hasn’t had a moment of silence when finally reaching a book’s end?

“The book ends. Susan has watched it dwindle before her eyes, down through final chapter, page, paragraph, word. Nothing remains and it dies. She is free now to reread or look back at parts, but the book is dead and will never be the same again. In its place, whistling through the gap it left, a blast of wind like liberty. Real life, coming back to get her. She needs a silence before returning to herself. Absolute stillness, no thought, no interpretation or criticism, just a memorial silence for the reading life that has ended. … There’s a shock of terror in the return of real life, concealed by her reading, waiting to swoop down on her like a predator in the trees.”

Honestly, that’s the most apt description of finishing a book I’ve ever read.

There’s an odd undercurrent of civility versus male bravado that runs throughout the novel; mild-mannered intelligence measured against that old alpha male persona. Susan also thinks about civility as she reads; she believes it’s her ability to read that keeps her civilized. Tony, too, is constantly described as objectively good and civil.

“[Tony] felt a kinship with cowboys and baseball players. He had never ridden a horse and had not played baseball since childhood, and he was not very big and strong, but he wore a black mustache and considered himself easygoing.”

Despite that kinship and his mustache, he’s portrayed as less manly, which is odd considering it’s a popular trope to believe that a mustache is the ultimate form of manliness.

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This is the first image that comes up when you search Google Images for “manliness”. Spoiler alert: they all have mustaches. Picture taken from http://www.artofmanliness.com

As for the impending adaptation, I’m hoping it’s better than 2012’s The Words, which had a similar but different premise. If Ford can capture a brutality akin to 2013’s Prisoners for the parts of the film that feature Tony Hasting’s life and juxtapose that with something seemingly idyllic like 2009’s Chloe (the beginning, at least) for Susan’s life, I’d be a happy camper.

While we wait for the movie, which could be at least a year before it lands in theaters, why not read the book? I’ve heard a rumor that Summer Reading is in full swing at the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh.

–Ross

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A Summer Extravaganza of Heroic Proportions

SR banner

Here we are again at the start of another summer of reading. Where did the past year go? Hopefully yours was spent reading, learning about and investigating this wonderful world of ours through books, library related programming and the ton of free resources at your local public library. But if for some bizarre reason that didn’t happen, there’s no better time than the present to dive into all that your library has to offer.

This Sunday, June 7th, is the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh’s 15th Annual Summer Reading Extravaganza!!  Library-loving reading-enthusiastic mobs will gather out front of the Main Library in Oakland to enjoy a variety of activities that the library staff and volunteers have planned for this exciting event. The fantastically fun theme for this year’s summer reading is “Every Hero Has a Story.” We’re hoping that you, your family and friends will learn about, meet or become your own heroes this summer with the help of the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh.

What to look forward to this Sunday, beyond meeting some of your library staff, volunteer and Eleventh Stack blog heroes?! There will be a variety of tents and activities, including but not limited to:

  • The CLP Music Tent, where you can make your own instrument with the superheroes of The LABS
  • The CLP Tech Tent with robotics, 3D printing and iPads for display and hands-on experimentation
  • The CLP Readers Tent, where there will be Reading Games for all ages
  • The CLP Wellness Tent with Gardening Thyme planting activities and cooking demonstrations
  • The CLP Languages Tent, where you can listen to read-alouds of children’s books in non-English languages or try out a few simple phrases in a new language

We’ll also have some of the favorite regular features of our Extravaganza:

  • Library Card Sign-Up
  • HUGE Used Book Sale

And we will be joined by some of our great community partners: Eat’n Park, Balloonatic Fringe, Animal Friends, Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre, Pittsburgh Puppet Works, Pittsburgh Musical Theater, Opera Theater of Pittsburgh, Timbeleza, Geeks Danz, Larry Berger of SLB Radio Productions, Inc., WYEP and Citiparks.

Of course it wouldn’t be a summer celebration without food and drinks, would it? We’ll have snacks on hand, provided by Giant Eagle, and Franktuary, Oh My Grill, Polish Pierogi, and Rob’s Awesome Italian Ice food trucks will be there!

Be a Summer Reading Hero and stop by Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh–Main in Oakland this Sunday from 12-5.

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-Maria J (whose summer reading goal is to get away from the historical fiction and non-fiction she tends to read, and curl up with some cozy mysteries)

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Summer Readin’, Had Me a Blast

Summer Reading Sign-up

Is it me, or didn’t we just kick off the 2014 Summer Reading program at Extravaganza like, five minutes ago?

(Insert your favorite cliché here about summer going faster every year.)

I was one of those kids who lived for my library’s Summer Reading Program back in the day. As a full-fledged grown-up (on most days), I love that CLP has a Summer Reading program for adults.

You know that I signed up the second the link went live on the CLP website. (If you haven’t signed up,  you still have time … but not much.  Summer Reading ends on August 9. There are pretty good prizes to be had, too.)

As of today, I’ve read 16 books for Summer Reading and am in the middle of my 17th and 18th books (the Man Booker Prize nominated History of the Rain by Niall Williams and Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver on audio, respectively).  I’d like to get to 20 by the weekend, but if this is as good as it gets, I’m perfectly fine with that too.

I thought it would be fun to do a Best Of list, Hollywood award show style, for my Summer Reading books of 2014:

Summer Reading Book That Made Me Cry: Borrowed Time: An AIDS Memoir, by Paul Monette

Genre That I Couldn’t Get Enough Of This Summer: Memoir, with poetry and fiction coming in second and third.

Summer Reading Book That I Can’t Believe I Didn’t Read Before Now: The Bell Jar, by Sylvia Plath

Book That I Am Most Likely to Re-Read: Handling the Truth: On the Writing of Memoir, by Beth Kephart

Shortest Book Read This Summer: Woolgathering, by Patti Smith

Favorite Book Read From the CLP-Main Bestseller Table: Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands, by Chris Bohjalian

New Author Who I Read For the First Time and Who I Love: A tie between Paul Monette and Sylvia Plath

Best Nonfiction Book That Taught Me Something This Summer: Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, by Susan Cain

Summer Reading Book That Made Me Wish I Was On Vacation When I Wasn’t: French Lessons, by Ellen Sussman

Did you participate in Summer Reading?  What were your favorite books that you read?  Feel free to play along with these categories at home, at work, or on your own blog.  (And share it with us, because if there’s anything we love here at Eleventh Stack, it’s lists of books and seeing other people’s lists.)

~ Melissa F.

 

 

 

 

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