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Peanut butter finds its jelly, again

In September, I didn’t write about the horrific blow that was dealt– the loss of my co-librarian, partner-in-crime to budgetary cuts due in part to the pandemic. The 2020-21 school year would have been our sixth year together making magic in the library with our high schoolers.

I didn’t write about it because it was a painful experience which didn’t happen directly to me and I wasn’t going to write her story. Maybe a future post will be a guest post of hers.

I’m writing about it now because tomorrow the reset button will be hit. She will be back in the building, in the library, and with me. It will look different because we’ve lost of our teaching assistant, all of the students are not back in the building, and there are serious renovations happening right outside the library as part of a massive construction project projected to finish in another five years.

Though we will fall into the same routines of planning, prepping, teaching, and booktalking because we’re peanut butter and jelly, Bert and Ernie, pen and paper, thunder and lightning (you get the idea)– better together. For our students. For our professional selves. Personally.

But I will also be different.

As I’m sure she will be. Changed by a pandemic, institutional choices, money.

How have you been changed by the items above? What stories do you have to tell?

 

Outstanding book of the month for March 2021

Is it that time again? Looking at my calendar, it is! My outstanding pick was a recommendation from a kindred book friend who said I must listen to the audiobook. Now I’m recommending it to anyone who will listen that you must listen to the audiobook.

I was crushing on Barrie Kreinik and Peter Ganim who narrate Nancy Wake and Henri Fiocca. Kreinik brought the French accent by way of New Zealand perfectly along with the zest and spunk of the real-life Nancy Wake that Ariel Lawhon presents to readers in Code Name Helene. Wake was a woman on a mission of resistance living many lives at once at the onset of World War II. And Fiocca was the man she fell in love with and married. Ganim brings the sex appeal to their romance through the ears from the pages.

It’s not often that I feel a certain way about narrators as my friend Stacey Rattner does, but when they’re good, I can see how it can happen. Yet their presentation can only be built from the impassioned foundation of Lawhon herself to approach this subject matter. I was lost in the details, the adventure, the romance, the espionage. It was dangerous and it sometimes had to be funny. It needed to be bawdy but also indulgent. And the treachery!

If I’ve said nothing that has stuck, remember this: listen to Code Name Helene by Ariel Lawhon.

 
 

Dolly, country music, and books

Before it went defunct, I contributed to the local newspaper’s books blog online and had shared my recent audiobook recommendations under the title Audiowalking. This title sums up when I’m often listening to audiobooks as was the case today with Dolly Parton, Storyteller: My Life in Lyrics. I don’t think there could be a better way to engage with the book other than the audiobook spoken by Dolly herself. But this post isn’t only about recommending the audiobook but my realization in listening to her explain her life’s experiences and turning them in to poetry and songs that the reason I’m a reader and a country music listener is for exactly that reason: it’s all about the story.

Yes my first exposure to country music was from my parents, but I loved it all the same. And, I was an avid reader from the get-go remembering fondly my insistence in re-reading Heidi, the American Girl books, and The True Adventures of Charlotte Doyle. And, I also started my first two books when I was in fourth and fifth grade- one about a pirate ship and one about an Indigenous girl and her younger brother. Then I became a librarian. And all of these have a commonality- storytelling.

Even now when I read, I often take pictures of the text or Post-it a passage to keep in a folder on my computer to revisit when the mood strikes me because words have power. But the story the words create is stronger. Dolly knows it. Country music creates it. I get lost in it. Dolly’s audiobook re-centered my gratitude to authors and songwriters for being able to weave the magic of words into the stories that embed in our lives. Aside from asking everyone to listen to her audiobook, I’ll also leave you with one of my favorite country songs. You be sure to let me know if you missed the story in this song.

 
 

With all those books

Yesterday’s post was a celebration of reading at least a book a day for 365 straight days. I’ll continue though the rigidity will likely wane, but not today where I was able to finish an audiobook and read two additional books. It got me thinking, how many books did I read over 365 days? That answer was 852 which meant I averaged 2.3342 books per day. What were my favorites? See below. How to you find the time? Well, I have my ways. Therefore, a summary post was in order because I like a good listicle. Here are some mini-listicles about “my year of reading a book a day”.

Locations for reading

  • Car (audiobooks, people!)
  • Wherever I have to wait– an office or a long line for example
  • Anywhere in the house from the kitchen table to standing by the stove waiting for my hot water to boil but also most definitely when I’m cleaning or cooking
  • The lunch table at work (I often post with the hashtag #literarylunchbox)

Twenty favorites (in no particular order)

  • Punching the Air by Zoboi
  • You’re Not Listening: What You’re Missing and Why it Matters by Murphy
  • Poisoned Water: How the Citizens of Flint, Michigan, Fought for Their Lives and Warned the Nation by Cooper
  • Witch Hat Atelier by Shirahama
  • Skyward by Henderson
  • The School of Essential Ingredients by Bauermeister
  • All Thirteen: The Incredible Cave Rescue of the Thai Boys’ Soccer Team by Soontornvat
  • The Girl from the Other Side by Nagabe
  • My Life in Dog Years by Paulsen
  • The Midnight Library by Haig
  • That Way Madness Lies edited by Adler
  • Humble Pi: When Math Goes Wrong in the Real World by Parker
  • The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by Baum
  • Sigh, Gone: A Misfit’s Memoir of Great Books, Punk Rock, and the Fight to Fit In by Tran
  • My Life in France by Child with Prud’Homme
  • The House in the Cerulean Sea by Klune
  • Fighting Words by Brubaker Bradley
  • Jane Against the World: Roe v. Wade and the Fight for Reproductive Rights by Blumenthal
  • End of Days: The Assassination of John F. Kennedy by Swanson
  • Up All Night: 13 Stories Between Sunset and Sunrise edited by Silverman
  • The Beauty in Breaking by Harper
  • Lives of the Stoics: The Art of Living from Zeno to Marcus Aurelius by Holiday
  • A Song of Wraiths and Ruin by Brown
  • Chicken Every Sunday: My Life with Mothers Boarders by Taylor
  • Fangs by Andersen

But how did you do it?

  • Read (and by reading I mean eyes on a page or ears open) every day
  • Always have a stack of books in the house or in a queue online
  • Sometimes reading won out over straightening up the house, for sure
  • Encourage a household of readers (because it’s easier to read yourself when everyone else is doing it too)
  • Participating in events like the Dewey’s 24-hour Readathon and the #24in48 readathon

What genre or category do you favor? (but really this is like asking me to pick a favorite child)

  • Nonfiction
    • Food memoirs
    • Animals especially histories, discoveries, and celebrations of
  • Young Adult short story collections
  • Verse novel and graphic novel formats
  • Fiction
    • Historical
    • Realistic

Who were your cheerleaders? (whether they knew it or not)

  • Stacey Rattner, a school librarian colleague who I often co-present with at conferences with her own blog and the co-host of the pandemic-inspired Author Fan Faceoff with Steve Sheinkin
  • My kids, readers in their own right, who read at the table for almost every meal and so many other occasions and places too
  • Reading communities big and small

Was there a question that I missed? If there was, ask me in the comments.

 

My year of a book a day

People will be writing posts about one year of the pandemic. I will be writing a post about one year of reading at least a book a day. And I’m damn proud of that. As a school librarian, Friday, March 13th wasn’t about teaching, it was waiting to see what New York State would say about schools come Monday. By 5pm, they told everyone to stay home. By Saturday morning, I challenged myself: read a book a day. It would keep me focused on a task when the future was unknown.

I didn’t make any specific rules other than that I would share what I read on my bookish Instagram account reserved for my reading life (and dresses). It wouldn’t matter whether it was a picture book or audiobook, a graphic novel or poetry. Whatever I finished that day would be ‘the book’ for the day and if I read more than one, well that was a bonus; there were plenty of bonus days.

The formats varied. I downloaded galleys from Edelweiss and Netgalley and I borrowed digitally and brought home books from my public library and school library. There were stacks of graphic novels and digital holds for popular picture books. Audiobooks were in abundant supply and listened to while housecleaning, baking, or walking. I participated in my favorite readathons. Reading was never in short supply because the books were never in short supply. On any given day I have a stack of physical books at least five deep. And there’s an equal if not larger number waiting on my devices.

Some planning was necessary (at least in my mind) because I wanted celebratory reads for specific days. For instance, recently I waited to read The Three Mothers: How The Mothers of Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, and James Baldwin Shaped a Nation by Anna Malaika Tubbs until my sons’ birthday. Or Hood Feminism: Notes from the Women That a Movement Forgot by Mikki Kendall on International Women’s Day. Or the need to finish the book I was reading, My Life in France by Julie Child with Alex Prud’Homme, on August 15th, Julie Child’s birthday.

When others couldn’t focus on reading, I celebrated the victories each day varying the formats and audience since I read widely anyway. It kept me from getting stale and it certainly saved my eyesight. I learned about American buffalo and Stoicism, but entertained myself with horror fiction and Dorothy and her friends Tin Woodman, Cowardly Lion, and Scarecrow. Often one book would lead to another– Philbrick was telling me about the Essex survival tale when I decided I would finally read Moby Dick.

Challenges are an internal motivator be it making every sandwich in Deering’s book or reading twenty-four hours in a forty-eight hour weekend for a reading event. And this is what I learned:

  • I love books!
  • I appreciate the authors that write those books and the illustrators that create the artwork
  • Audiobooks are a gamechanger and I prefer listening to nonfiction rather than fiction in audiobook form
  • If I had to buy every book I read, I wouldn’t have a roof over my head or food in my belly- thank God for libraries (and it’s not only because I work in a school one, but that helps)
  • George R.R. Martin’s quote “A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies. The man who never reads lives only one” is truth. My life has been fulfilled in ways that can only be felt for the adventures I’ve been on and the things I’ve learned through books
  • It was as much about the books as it was about finding a purpose during pandemic
  • Everyone should read what gives them pleasure be it celebrity biographies or fairytales simply because it gives them pleasure. Plus that passion is infectious and a model for others to do the same and never feel shame for it
  • It doesn’t matter the time of day, the beverage you’re drinking, the outfit you’re wearing, or the location itself, reading is always fashionable, timely, and necessary and therefore goes with anything
 
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Posted by on March 14, 2021 in Librarian Life, Reflections

 

He spoke to me

The local newspaper this weekend featured a human interest story about a horologist. For the uninformed, including me until I read the article, a horologist is the someone who studies time as it relates to watch and clockmaking and repair.

This slice of life story made me stop and think about all of the ways that people contribute and what they find worthwhile, including creating a career out of it. And he made a comment

“I restore memories and that’s an awesome thing.  Bringing back someone’s cherished memory means I’ve contributed something to this other person’s journey.  That makes me feel like I matter.”

Aren’t we all looking for that opportunity to contribute to one another’s journey and feel like we matter? And yet I was also silently smiling a little as a school librarian when the article writer explained,

Once in a while, he’s had to deliver some brutal honesty, informing a potential client that what they’ve got is beyond repair or just not worthy of the cost. 

I felt this. Because I spend some portion of the year pulling books off the shelf to donate to a location that might have an audience that would appreciate them or truly pull them off the shelf and discard them. That’s a hard conversation with others who see the books in the recycle bin or trash and want to save them. I have my ready-made reply that both understands where they’re coming from but explaining that everything must come to an end, even a book’s life.

Are horology and library science the same? No, but there are connections to be made. Emotions to be had. Feelings of the books from your childhood that you want to preserve. I shared the epic moment on Instagram that I gifted my boys with my copies of Calvin and Hobbes that I had been collecting since I was a child. What are those items– clocks or books– that have cherished memories?

 
 

Outstanding book of the month for February 2021

Why does this not get easier? Too many amazing books, that’s why!

Without further delay, here is my pick for the outstanding book of the month read in February 2021. Unlike my Top 10 lists at the end of the year that focus ONLY on books published within that year, my outstanding book of the month picks are anything that I’ve read in the month that may be a little older or yet-to-be-published.

Lives of the Stoics: From Art of Living from Zeno to Marcus Aurelius by Ryan Holiday and Stephen Hanselman

This book is a game-changer. I would add this to my list of books that changed me (a post for another day) because I didn’t really know Stoicism. I knew of the oft-quoted men (and none of the women) in the book. I had read quotes shared on social media that they had written or spoken, but I didn’t know it was a life philosophy. This is my life philosophy and I didn’t know it, until I read this book. Now I’ve got others coming from the library both from the Stoics themselves and by the authors to do a deep dive. And isn’t that the way the best kind of learning happens?

Like my colleague always said, it’s like pulling the thread of the sweater. I pulled the thread… and I’m excited to see what I discover next.

 
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Posted by on February 28, 2021 in Adult, Book of the Month, Nonfiction

 

Color

Book Riot question: What colors did you find on your bookshelves? Any surprises?

My answer: Blues, yellows, and some greens. Was I surprised? Not really. Based on the descriptions that reds typically represent romance, I’m not surprised that I don’t see a lot of red on my bookshelves. And I take it as a compliment if it’s true that blues tend to be cerebral fiction and nonfiction.

What about you?

 
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Posted by on February 16, 2021 in Miscellaneous

 

The February friendship tour

This time last year I was beginning my friendship tour. Seriously, that’s what I called it. And it seems prescient upon reflection. I spent my February break from school visiting each of my closest friends be it for tea, a meal, or a stop at the house to catch up. And I made sure I saw everyone on that mental list even if I had to track down the last of them after she returned from Spain in a supermarket. And it filled my cup in ways that are immeasurable.

I also made sure to take a picture with her too because all too often, I have my phone tucked away with good friends and don’t get pictures. When I think about my friendship tour now, I get goosebumps. I saw everyone and got the picture to prove it. 

I was hoping to include a review of a book on friendship with a post about the power of friendship and my favorite books that highlight the bond. Unfortunately the book was less focused on human friendship and more about animal friendship from an evolutionary standpoint so instead I’m going to share my six recently-read favorite titles featuring unique or strong friendships and spare you a review of the other book:

  • Go With the Flow by Schneemann and Williams 
  • Heavy Vinyl by Usdin and Vakueva 
  • The One and Only Bob by Applegate
  • The House in the Cerulean Sea by Klune
  • Pumpkin by Murphy (not yet published) 
  • In the Wild Light by Zentner (not yet published)

Who are your favorite friendships in books you’ve recently read? It’s important when recommending books to teens to talk about friendships, so a few years ago I created a bookshelf on my Goodreads account to capture this. 

Equally important is to keep in touch with those that you’ve formed friendships with whether you’ve been connected since middle school or met as coworkers and connected. Who are your closest friends? What do they give you? Whether you’re celebrating Galentine’s Day today, tomorrow on the 14th, or every day. Cheers to friendship in literature or in life. 

 

#24in48 whirlwind

I often post about my participation in the Dewey’s 24-hour readathon. It’s a break from reality which involves snack planning and stack prepping in addition to the amazing experience of focusing on your reading life for 24-hours (or as close to that as you can get).

Well from great ideas come more great ideas. One of the participants was inspired by her participation in Dewey’s but also knew that 24-hours straight was an unrealistic expectation for her so she created #24in48 in 2012 which expands upon the concept: in this one you strive for reading 24 hours over a 48 hour weekend that begins at 12am Saturday morning and ends at 11:59pm on Sunday night. 

This was my first participation and I’ll now keep these events on my calendar alongside Dewey’s. Did I manage at least 24 hours this weekend? Yes, I managed more than 25 and probably could have done more but I did take the time to enjoy the Superbowl on Sunday night. I filled the time with audiobooks and unadulterated print books throughout the weekend which included finishing two audiobooks and several e- and print books.

What I liked most was the inclusion of social media posts to include in an Instagram story centered around current reads and progress but my favorite was the “quotables” where readers could share a quote from a book they were reading with the book cover. I’m a quote lover, so it’s something I’m going to take from the readathon and share more of on social media: quotes that resonated with me in the hopes they lead to discussions with other readers.

Here’s what I read:

  • The Cadaver King and the Country Dentist by Balko and Carrigan
  • Wintering: The Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult Times by May
  • Witch Hat Atelier #7 by Shirahama
  • Hunting Whitey: The Inside Story of the Capture and Killing of America’s Most Wanted Crime Boss by Sherman and Wedge (audiobook)
  • Reef Life: An Underwater Memoir by Roberts
  • A Song of Wraiths and Ruin by Brown
  • Troop 6000: The Girl Scout Troop that Began in a Shelter and Inspired the World by Stewart (audiobook)
  • The Low, Low Woods by Machado and DaNi 

Are there reading events that you participate in? If so, which ones and why do you love them?