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No one asked me, but

In subscribing to a handful of blogs and reading websites, following hashtags on Instagram, and reading professional magazines for librarians, I spend time each day skimming or deep-reading articles and short snippets of reviews and recommendations. Several days ago, Senjuti Patra published an article “A Brief History of Reading” via Book Riot. Several passages struck me and I wanted to share my thoughts. Yes, no one asked me, but I’m going to share them anyway.

The earliest written texts were meant to be read out loud. The characters were written in a continuous stream, to be disentangled by the skilled reader when reading out loud. Punctuation was used for the first time only around 200 BCE, and was erratic well into the middle ages.

This fascinated me, but it makes sense that the development of writing taken from the oral traditions wouldn’t have been fully formed. And even now, things continue to develop and morph. It truly centered around the reader and a skilled one at that. Someone who would practice ahead of time and deliver it with gusto because it was a form of entertainment or to deliver information that anyone could understand.

Reading from a book was considered pleasant dinnertime entertainment, even in humbler homes, from the Roman times to the 19th century.

Let’s bring this back. Seriously. I’m thinking that once a week, we’ll turn off the news and instead listen to a family-friendly audiobook. What would you suggest?

Once primary education became more accessible and acceptable, younger members of the family read to the elders, in a sweet reversal of the classic grandma’s tales.

The minute I read this sentence I remembered the scenes (I’m sure they were in the book but I automatically conjured the movie in my mind) from Little Women in which Jo was heading to the home of an older relative (her great aunt?) to read and dreading it, but how important it was for the connection between generations. It allowed the youth to practice their skills and benefited the old who might have had failing eyesight but also wanted the companionship. I’m assuming technology has stepped in in some ways and someone older is just pulling an audiobook up, but what a thought that books like card games can bring everyone together.

 
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Posted by on January 11, 2021 in Articles, Blogging, Quotes, Reflections

 

Finding passion

Netflix is the pleasure I reserve for early morning workouts on the elliptical in the garage and Friday and Saturday nights usually. Netflix in the mornings is whatever I want to watch while the weekend watching is usually with my husband and sometimes even the kids. Last night we watched two episodes of two different series: one called The Surgeon’s Cut (episode two “Sacred Brain”) and one Chef’s Table: BBQ (episode two “Lennox Hastie”).

My takeaway from the first series having watched the first episode as well as the second now is that the body is an amazing thing. Having recently read the deeply bibliotherapeutic memoir The Beauty in Breaking by Michele Harper, I can’t help but connect the two. The doctors in the docuseries and of her own memoir are passionate about their work because they can throw themselves into something that helps others when they themselves needed a hero growing up– for each of them, they became their own rescuer and in that metamorphosis, they now fight for others. A powerful message indeed.

My takeaway from the second series you can likely connect to my affinity for reading food memoirs which I’ve shared extensively here and on the other blogs I contribute to. Especially this second episode, Lennox Hastie has created something entirely his own for his own benefit– the love of the heat of an open flame and his restaurant that took a career to open in Australia– is all flame-cooked from the salad to the dessert. Whether it was the crafters of the episode and thus the series or Hastie himself, the episode hit me deep down. His quest for scrumptiousness and his enjoyment in watching others moan with the pleasure of the taste sensations is the chase that he yearns for. But it is more than pleasing others, there is also a deep satisfaction with himself in the process of exploring and creating that should be honed. Everyone should find their passion the way he has. It’s the constant practice that connected me to one of the last books of 2020 that I listened to: James Clear’s Atomic Habits coupled with Eric Ripert’s 32 Yolks.

How do we unlock our passions? How do we keep the drive alive to excel and find our purpose? What is your story?

 
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Posted by on January 3, 2021 in Adult, Authors, Nonfiction, Reflections, Shows

 

Outstanding book of the month for December 2020

The end of 2020 brings a lot of things including the last few days in which I’ve shared my top 10’s. But that doesn’t mean I’d skip an outstanding book of the month– because it’s just my favorite book of the month that doesn’t necessarily have to be published in that month (or year) for that matter.

Linda Sue Park wanted to tell a different kind of story on the prairie than the one that’s been around for quite some time. And tell the story she does. Hanna’s journey from California after the death of her mother with her father to settle in a small Midwest town would be enough for most young girls, but Hanna is half Asian and settlers don’t look kindly on her heritage.

All she wants to do is get her diploma and then make dresses but townspeople are making it hard for her. Everywhere she turns is another micro or macroaggression. In Park’s capable hands a riveting story emerges that has a comfortable pace and a deep message about the experiences of all Americans past or present.

Hanna is a strong female lead who shares with readers the difficult experiences growing up in California and then the Plains.

So many had shared their love for the book, so I was happy to read it digitally during the month of December. I’ve got my last book of the year prepped in addition to my first of 2021. What about you?

 

Top 10 of 2020: The extra edition

It’s not as much about saving the best for last as using it as the last opportunity to highlight the coolest books that came out in 2020 that defy categories. If you’ve stuck with me over the last few days, I appreciate your willingness to read through my picks and share yours with me too. With this, is there anything that you’re looking forward to in 2021?

  • Home Body by Kaur
    • I had it in my hands the day after it was published because Kaur puts it all out there with her poetry and artwork that make you laugh, cry, and just plain feel.
  • Dancing at the Pity Party by Feder
    • This graphic memoir brings up all of the pain that any child who lost a parent young must feel with dark humor and heaps of love.
  • Once Upon an Eid edited by Ali and Saeed
    • One of the first books I read in 2020, the anthology sparkles and shines on Muslim writers and the culture and religion in their celebration of Eid.
  • You’re Not Listening: What You’re Missing and Why It Matters by Murphy
    • It goes without saying that I liked listening to this book about listening. Murphy touches on aspects of our inability to listen that you hope to internalize as a reader to help you improve yourself.
  • Fights: One Boy’s Triumph over Violence by Gill
    • I’ve read his other graphic nonfiction and was surprised that this was his memoir until I got into it and thought that everyone should read it. Gill’s raw demonstration of a boy on the wrong path is a testament to growth and maturity.
  • Girl From the Other Side (Volume 8) by Nagabe
    • I’m ready for volumes nine and ten whenever they get published here in the United States. The haunting darkness of the other side and the saccharine relationship between Teacher and Shiva create a rich atmosphere and intriguing storyline.
  • When Math Goes Wrong in the Real World by Parker
    • This was my book of the month in October. Parker’s humorous approach to serious mathematical issues encourages everyone to pay attention to why math matters. 
  • Dear Justyce by Stone
    • Stronger than her first, this epistolary novel punches you in the gut as Quan and Justyce write to each other. 
  • Go With the Flow by Williams and Schneemann
    • A graphic novel about periods, sign me up. Their approach using female friendship and activism is the kind of story any middle graders should read. 
  • This Book is Antiracist by Jewell
    • The choice of layout and color scheme enhances the message about antiracism that’s a workbook for working on yourself. 
 

Top 10 of 2020: Nonfiction edition

What did you think of yesterday’s young adult fiction list? Anything you agree or disagree with? Up today is nonfiction. I read widely in this genre so it’s not organized in any particular way from children’s through adult, simply my favorite 10 published in 2020 because there’s nothing more spectacular than learning from the people, places, and things that you read about.

  • All Thirteen: The Incredible Cave Rescue of the Thai Boys Soccer Team by Soontornvat
    • I know the outcome but I’m still in the cave with the boys and out of the cave with the rescuers every minute that Soontornvat writes this out.
  • Beauty Mark by Weatherford
    • Most younger readers won’t know Marilyn Monroe, but this verse novel biography is more about her ability to overcome immense adversity rather than about who she was as a celebrity.
  • The Beauty in Breaking by Harper
    • Tugging at every heart string you have, Harper details her life, her work in medicine, and her self care routines while fighting against racism in healthcare.
  • Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You adapted by Reynolds
    • One word: listen. If you haven’t listened to Reynolds read the book, you haven’t really read the book. Then do what I did and read the book too. And then make sure everyone else does too.
  • All Boys Aren’t Blue by Johnson
    • Using essays to share his life’s story was the perfect choice for this new voice in literature about his upbringing as a queer Black man.
  • Lifting As We Climb by Dionne
    • When the whole story isn’t told, Dionne decides to tell it. The story which was important as election season ramped up, she goes back in time to talk about the Black women’s fight for the right to vote.
  • A Most Beautiful Thing: The True Story of America’s First All-Black High School Rowing Team by Cooper
    • You can’t get more inspirational and heartfelt than the story being told by one of the rowers on this first all-Black high school rowing team from Chicago. Sports story with heart.
  • Becoming a Good Creature by Montgomery
    • Creating a picture book from her adult biography in thirteen animals, the artwork compliments the storytelling and makes you appreciate what animals can teach us about being human.
  • Wisdom of the Humble Jellyfish: And Other Self-Care Rituals from Nature by Shah
    • This was a sleeper hit for me and a quick audiobook I listened to during a readathon this summer. Similar to Montgomery’s book, sometimes we have to look toward non-humans to help us be better humans.
  • You Never Forget Your First: A Biography of George Washington by Coe
    • A female biographer’s approach to telling George Washington’s story is equally fascinating to learn it from her perspective as it was to provide the best humor to learning about a founding father with one of the punniest title for a book.
 

Top 10 of 2020: YA fiction edition

There’s nothing like the end of the year lists, pictures, and stories to review the year. If you’re not a fan, then you might as well stop reading now and ignore the next few days worth of posts. First up, my top 10 of young adult fiction, tomorrow is nonfiction that spans all levels, and last will be my “extra edition”. As always, my top 10 lists are not what I read (which was a lot) in 2020 and finding my top 10, this is a true top 10 in which all of the books published were published in 2020. Though the order is not noteworthy. You’re already asking me to pick from the multitudes, I simply can’t also then rank them.

  • More Than Just a Pretty Face by Masood
    • This was my book of the month in June. There’s just something about this hard-hitting story with loveable leads.
  • Fighting Words by Bradley
    • Gut-wrenching situation in which two sisters are feeling their way through the foster care system after experiencing trauma. 
  • Punching the Air by Zoboi and Salaam
    • Captivating drama that could be ripped from the headlines with discussable elements about the prison system and juvenile justice.  
  • Every Body Looking by Iloh
    • Iloh heavily borrows from her own upbringing for this verse novel about religion, family, and growing up and into yourself. 
  • Watch Over Me by LaCour
    • The magical realism coupled with the main character’s loneliness is a whole mood. 
  • Show Me A Sign  by LeZotte
    • Historical fiction? Sounds like the kind of thing more people should know about and that’s why LeZotte works an unimaginable story based on true events. 
  • Crownchasers by Coffindaffer
    • The first in a planned duology, I’m not always the first one to pick up science fiction but the action and a sassy female lead makes it a must. 
  • Cinderella is Dead by Byron
    • This was my book of the month in July. Retellings are imaginative and this one makes sure to infuse fantasy and dystopia. 
  • Darius the Great Deserves Better by Khorram
    • It’s even stronger than Khorram’s introduction of Darius to readers because of the liveliness of Darius’ internal dialogue. 
  • Verona Comics by Duggan
    • An underrated author in YA fiction, this salty/sweet play on Romeo and Juliet delights. 
 
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Posted by on December 26, 2020 in Blogging, Cover Love, Fiction, Young Adult

 

It’s all about the food

I regularly contribute short pieces to other book blogs and sites, especially when I sit on committees or the mood strikes me. Likewise, I write in library land too. I started a new venture this fall as a columnist for the New York Library Association’s bimonthly digital newsletter with the column title– Brain Food: Learning Through Reading which falls in line with my refocused work on the significance of unending learning especially nonfiction.

In December’s article I recommended Julia Childs’ book written with her nephew Alex Prud’homme called My Life in France. And since I’ve penned it, I thought about writing a sister article. One where I can share more books about the celebration of food in our lives since so many have brought me back to my own memories, which is ultimately going to spawn another post about fictional books that do the same thing! Here are some of my favorites with a “Readers Be Advised” advisory note:

Chicken Every Sunday by Rosemary Taylor is advised for those that want to go back in time. I had my indie bookstore find me a copy of this 1943 publication after it was mentioned in another book about it being a popular title among servicemen during World War II. And it does give you those comfy/cozy home vibes.

Save Me The Plums by Ruth Reichl is advised for those curious about the the creation of food and life magazines especially as the internet dawned and people could find recipes outside of those trusty clipped magazine picture-perfect recipes.

First Bite: How We Learn to Eat by Bee Wilson is advised for a bit of social psychology with our food. I’m a big fan of Bee Wilson in general who writes for many magazines and newspapers in addition to her books (plus her Instagram is full of food).

Notes from a Young Black Chef by Kwame Onwuachi is advised for the entrepreneurs out there. How do you make it in the business? Trial and error and blood, sweat, and tears. Onwuachi’s story is amazingly rich with feeling and food.

Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain is advised for those that followed his shows (of which I hadn’t) to understand the underbelly of what keeps kitchens running like well-oiled machines.

The Botany of Desire by Michael Pollan is advised for the thoughtful readers. Who would have thought that the potato is as poetic and magnificent to read about as they are to eat?

Alone in the Kitchen with an Eggplant edited by Jenni Ferrari-Adler is advised for the emotional readers who want a visceral connection to experiences we’ve all had in the kitchen. Being a series of essays make it a special read and one in which I bought a copy to send to a foodie friend.

Maker Comics: Bake like a Pro! by Falynn Koch is advised for everyone young and old. Yes, it’s written for a middle grade and teen audience but Koch is blinding us with science. Kitchen science!

What recommendations do you have for amazing nonfiction books that are food forward?

 
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Posted by on December 14, 2020 in Adult, Authors, Nonfiction

 

Really old things

As much as I’m a homebody, I like a good adventure. Specifically, one that will teach me something. And this likely stems from my childhood since we were not the family whose vacations were vegging out on a beach or waiting in the long lines of a theme park, we were the family that went to places like “the Grand Canyon of the east” and Gettysburg.

Maybe that’s why I became a librarian. Endless learning possibilities.

48 Hudson Ave. What you see is a mockup of the original structure for preservation purposes.

I’ve built my own family and (not ironically), we have the same adventures. I also have a fellow librarian who likes learning adventures that usually also include a good drink or spectacular food too. This past Friday night, we spent a bundled up half an hour touring the oldest Dutch home in our area in desperate need of restoration to return it to its former glory. But not to make it a museum. Instead, the historic foundation would like to make sure it’s used as a soft space appreciating the history and glory while being functional. So often we throw away things that are old or unusable. Heck, I still guiltily think about my first year as a school librarian saying “get it out of here!” to the overpowering but beautiful card catalog holding up a few computers. It was the best decision to find it a new home, but I think about it from time to time. The stories it held, the kids hands who touched it, the years it had seen.

Kind of like the stories that are told in What We Keep: 150 People Share the One Object that Brings them Joy, Magic, and Meaning by Bill Shapiro. Just like this Dutch home that had seen families and industry, been remodeled and redone, only to be discovered again. What stories it holds.

What can you discover around your area, especially the old things, the often overlooked things?

 
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Posted by on December 9, 2020 in Librarian Life, Reflections

 

Outstanding book of the month for November 2020

Is it already the end of November? Didn’t that seem to go by fast? Yet I’m just as excited to share my outstanding book of the month! 

That Way Madness Lies: 15 of Shakespeare’s Most Notable Works Reimagined edited by Dahlia Adler which will hit shelves in 2021. Why am I choosing a book that’s not even out yet for the outstanding book? Well obviously because it needs to be pre-ordered so that you can get it in your hot little hands unless you’re the kind that uses sites like Edelweiss and Netgalley to get a jump on great literature. 

I’ll share that the book was on my TBR list on Goodreads well in advance of the publication and even before it had an actual cover. I exclaimed with glee seeing it hit Edelweiss and read it pretty quickly thereafter devouring each short story contribution. 

YA short story collections have been my jam and with the uptick in anthologies published, I’m always in the market to read more. But it’s a dangerous proposition since each must carry the weight of the theme of the anthology so that even a dud here and there don’t dissuade the appreciation for the whole collection. Then you find the rare anthology where each short story shines individually and collectively. This was that kind of anthology. Each includes a few lines from the Shakespeare work (including one that’s a sonnet!) and the reimagined story with a few author’s notes depending on the story. It’s a thing of beauty. It can inspire reading Shakespeare’s original work or not because the story itself is cleverly plotted. 

Get thee to the local, independent bookstore nearest you to preorder! 

 

Upon reflection, a meaningful change

What better way to celebrate a few tweaks and changes than on a day that’s made for celebration anyway. Birthdays make me reflect, just like New Years, and the first day of each school year, and a few other random times that are ripe for new beginnings– an opportunity to improve, shift, focus, and change. 

I have been thinking for a while about how I want to use the blog moving forward and I’m proposing a small but meaningful shift. I want to focus on the journey of learning. The endless quest to know more. The celebration of curiosity inspired by John Dewey’s quote

“Education is not preparation for life; it is life itself.”

I want to examine the work I do in school librarianship, reading, and life experiences through this lens. One that is similar to Asimov’s “education isn’t something you can finish.” I firmly believe this and look to any adventure I have as an education. 

You’ll see a few changes to what I post and the lens I’m looking through, but it’s still me. The high school librarian of close to fifteen years who doesn’t consider my job work because I’m trying to always have fun. Someone who reads vivaciously. And someone who continually looks to improve through reflection and introspection, which is why I started this blog so many years ago. 

And I’m ushering in this new wave by sharing an amazing piece commissioned by my former student, Maxine. She captures the essence of my being: dressed and in heels among books and baked goods. 

Cheers! 

 
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Posted by on November 22, 2020 in Blogging, Librarian Life, Miscellaneous