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Category Archives: Adult

Whatcha been reading?

WhatchaBeenReading

March is a month of uncertainty– between weather in upstate New York (a fourth Nor’easter possible next week?!) to party schedules with numerous birthdays (including my own two sons’) and things to plan and schedule. Yet no matter what, I manage to squeeze in some reading. This is certainly not a “six sensational” list nor a glowing review of a five-star book I recently read, instead a snapshot of what I’ve been reading just in case you were about to ask.

 

  • Some true crime… The Girl on the Velvet Swing: Sex, Murder, and Madness at the Dawn of the Twentieth Century by Simon Baatz
    • Who doesn’t love true crime, honestly? Give me documentaries, podcasts, and books about real life crime dramas and I’m hooked!
  • Some middle grade… Hello, Universe by Erin Entrada Kelly
    • Read this award-winner so that I can meet up with some librarians and eat some pizza and discuss some books #mykindofparty
  • Some re-tellings… The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty by Anne Rice writing under her pen name A.N. Roquelaure
    • Ask me to tell you this story in person
  • Some nonfiction… Noah Webster: Man of Many Words by Catherine Reef
    • Who doesn’t love someone who loves words? And to know that many people disliked him made it even more fascinating
  • Some graphic novels… Speak illustrated by Emily Carroll based on Laurie Halse Anderson’s 2001 classic and another The Breadwinner: A Graphic Novel based on Deborah Ellis’ series of the same name adapted from the animated film available on Netflix that I literally watched a week before this book was shipping to our library through Junior Library Guild
    • I get that visual content appeals sometimes to a different audience, but I’d say both graphic adaptations captured the mood of the original books in a way that makes me adore them both.
  • Some feel-good humor and hijinks that never gets old… Lumberjanes: The Moon is Up by Mariko Tamaki
    • Three words: hecka heart eyes
  • Some more “love and madness”… Mary’s Monster: Love, Madness, and How Mary Shelley Created Frankenstein by Lita Judge
    • I’ve already tweeted my adoration for the mashup of beautiful black and white images and the captivating story Judge shares about our favorite haunted woman who created a horror classic
  • Some women’s empowerment for Women’s History Month… What Would She Do?: 25 True Stories of Trailblazing Rebel Women by Kay Woodward
    • With a vivid cover and a unique voice, it stands above others being published in recent years focusing on women who made an impression

While these are just a handful, it’s a taste of the wide-ranging reading that I do daily because I follow my interests and passions, want to be sure I have books in my back pocket to recommend to my students, and heck, there’s just awesome books being published every day by awesome authors. If you want to follow every book I read, you can find me on Goodreads.

 

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Let me profess my love

Let me profess my love

So far, I have read “The President Has Been Shot!”: The Assassination of John F. Kennedy, Chasing Lincoln’s Killer and now finished the newly published Chasing King’s Killer: The Hunt for Martin Luther King Jr.’s Assassin. Yes, James L. Swanson has written adult novels about similar topics, but as a high school librarian I’m more interested in the young adult novels or adaptations, though have it on my list to read the adult ones. I can only imagine how engaging the adult content is if the young adult content is any indication.

ChasingKingsKillerImage

What do I mean? Swanson writes the real life dramas as if they were heart-stopping tragic adventure stories, not real life acts of terror and rampage. In the case of each of his books, the parallel stories of (at least) two men on a collision course with one another is riveting. It’s the engaging prose and pictures. Swanson does not distract readers with footnotes or text boxes, instead it is the essence of wonderful narrative nonfiction because it flows seamlessly, uses the elements of story with command, and connects with readers.

 

As I finished Chasing King’s Killer, I thought out loud to anyone who would listen how tragic this decade must have seemed and hopeless Americans felt: In the span of a handful of years, there were assassinations of John F. Kennedy, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King Jr., and Robert F. Kennedy. Anyone who was standing up for something was torn down by violence. And, like an encyclopedia, I repeated “did you know?” facts to anyone in earshot.

  • Did you know that James Earl Ray was actually a prison escapee when a year later he took Martin Luther King, Jr.’s life?
  • Did you know that Martin Luther King, Jr. was stabbed with a letter opener at a book signing years before his assassination by a mentally unstable woman? He literally could have sneezed and died but in true calm fashion, he asked that the opener not be removed from his chest until he was at the hospital. Good thing because it was a hair away from nicking his aorta.
  • Did you know that James Earl Ray left the country (and went to more than one) before being apprehended?

I could go on. But it’s the presentation of the information in a balanced way that makes readers appreciate Swanson’s skill. You forget the history you know in order to be swept away by Swanson’s captivating storytelling.

Swanson is a much-recommended author in my high school library because of it’s content equal to it’s beauty. I hope to get a few minutes to meet him in less than a week at the American Library Association’s Midwinter conference where he’ll be on stage with a panel of authors celebrating Martin Luther King, Jr. But I’ll have to get back my already lent copy of the most recent book from the people I’ve shared it with because he’s one author I’d love a John Hancock from.

He’s unforgettable and makes his stories this way as well. Post-It count: high.

 
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Posted by on February 2, 2018 in Adult, Authors, Nonfiction, Young Adult

 

Brothers Heath

Brothers Heath

This post was originally published on the Times Union Books Blog

This past October Chip and Dan Heath, brothers and co-authors published their fourth book called The Power of Moments: Why Certain Experiences Have Extraordinary Impact. It was a book that had a powerful impact on me like Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age by Sherry Turkle (2015) did when I read it over a year ago. These kinds social psychology books shed light on everyday topics and encourage conversation around why people do the things they do, but provide examples and context for understanding it on a deeper level and making changes or becoming more aware. Both of the books are regular references in conversation for me. And with The Power of Moments, there was a relatable opportunity to use the book in my work as well as personal life. (You can see my post about that here).

Then I went on a binge; I downloaded through the public library or borrowed the print copies of their other three: Decisive: How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work (2013), Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard (2010) and Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die (2006). And again, I was either ferociously highlighting on my eReader or Post-iting the print book when a concept or example struck a chord. There was full engagement with each of them.

Why are the books important? First and foremost, there is a relaxed humor that shows the personality of the brothers. Every now and then you get a taste of it and smile. Second, the books are well-organized. Each has a formula that makes them accessible to every reader. There’s the identified issue that they’re discussing, a quick acronym or mnemonic device to remember the steps, then subsequent chapters that dive into the steps individually. Within the chapters are subchapters that highlight tangible examples. Think businesses like Southwest or the military. Usually it’s followed by a clinic or “what should you do?” that you can investigate (or skip) to apply your newfound knowledge. And then the ever-present summary of the main points. Like I said: well-organized and comforting when moving from book to book. Third, the examples are succinct and useful. Nary is there a long-winded bad example. They’re inspiring which is why the books have received awards from business and leadership fields. Fourth, there is plenty of backmatter like additional reading material and their website with one-page cheat sheets of the concepts, podcasts, and “how to” manuals: they’re not hiding their genius but spreading it around.

What did I learn from Moments? That any moment can use one to all four of the concepts of EPICness, so think 1) elevation, 2) insight, 3) pride, and 4) connection. What did I learn from Switch? That self-control is an exhaustible resource and that if you 1) direct the rider, 2) motivate the elephant, and 3) shape the path you can work toward change. What did I learn from Decisive? To WRAP: 1) widen your options, 2) reality-test your assumptions, 3) attain distance before deciding, and 4) prepare to be wrong. And, what did I learn from Stick? Achieve SUCCESs for ideas by 1) keeping it simple, 2) unexpected, 3) concrete, 4) credible, 5) emotional, 6) through stories and again, keep it 7) simple.
Whether you pick up one of the books or all four like I did in a two-week span, you won’t regret the added insight you’ll gain, especially if you’re a fan of social psychology. Have I steered you wrong yet? Right now, the only question you should be asking is which one you’ll start with. And if you’re thinking that, you might want to pick up Decisive first.

 
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Posted by on January 27, 2018 in Adult, Authors, Blogging, Nonfiction

 

Find a moment

Find a #moment (1)

A while ago I wrote about Sherry Turkle’s Reclaiming Conversation that I marked up and continue to think about and reference in conversation almost daily. The Power of Moments by Chip and Dan Heath will be another book that I continue to think about and reference in conversation. Published in October 2017, this is the latest collaboration between the brothers and their other book topics include decision-making, ideas, and changes. The Power of Moments deals with memorable moments in our lives.

PowerofMomentsAs I started to shape what I wanted to share in this post, I also remembered that a fellow New York State librarian, Sue Kowalski, often uses the hashtag #momentsthatmatter when she posts to Instagram, usually when sharing pictures of her mother, but friends and family. She knows the value of a moment. I wonder if she could have contributed to the book? In essence, the Heath brothers set out to demonstrate to readers how experiences in our lives have an “extraordinary impact” and drill down to the four elements of powerful moments: Elevation, Insight, Pride, and Connection. They reluctantly share the acronym to easily remember it as EPIC.

They walk through the four elements and hone in on succinct examples and scientific research about how moments can be orchestrated (but recognize they’re hard work to create) and when they occur naturally. I can share that I used about two pads of Post-its as I read the book feverishly taking notes. Especially for educators, there is commentary on how we can create moments that matter using the four elements in schools.

In addition, anyone who wants to think deeper about their own lives can use the book as a tool too: a) creating milestones (using the Couch to 5K example), b) that purpose trumps passion in work, c) that courage is contagious, d) that transitions are natural moment-makers, e) that employees strongly agree that “full appreciation of work done” is the best gift they can receive from bosses, f) that variety truly is the spice of life. And I could go on, but I’m putting it to others to read the book. Read deeply and openly.

I want to “turn up the volume” on moments in my life. There are already elements that I’ve used without understanding the reasons that the book lays bare. And, it’s also why apps are revolutionizing moments– they are creating moments in our lives when we didn’t know there were milestones to celebrate (think: You’ve walked 10,000 steps today! Or, congratulations, you’ve sampled 100 beers from 13 different states!)

If you haven’t read the book, read it. I’d love to form a book group about the topics Chip and Dan Heath present. I know librarians who create these moments for students every day (ahem, Stacey Rattner) and sparkling personalities that savor human interaction (ahem, Sue Kowalski) and apps that helped me run a 15K (ahem, Runkeeper), so let’s work toward creating more of these moments.

 
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Posted by on January 19, 2018 in Adult, Authors, Nonfiction, Research

 

Covers to keep you warm or make you cold

CoverstoKeepyouWarmorMakeyouCold

Books covers to warm you up… 

AmericanPanda

Who doesn’t love hot chocolate with heaps of whipped cream?

American Panda by Gloria Chao

Patina

Running will certainly keep you warm.

Patina by Jason Reynolds

SunnySideUp

So will basking in the sun while sitting on a pool floatie like our title character, Sunny!

Sunny Side Up by Jennifer Holm

Invisible

But a flame can only do so much, I’m sure you’d rather than a heater than a match. Invisible by Pete Hautman

90DaysofDifferent

And there’s only one thing that will get anyone thinking of summer and that’s ice cream. 90 Days of Different by Eric Walters

Book covers to keep you cold… 

AndWeStay

Even in tights, wearing a skirt in winter is it’s own kind of chilly. And We Stay by Jenny Hubbard

TheSnowChild

A little girl with snow in her her bones and beautiful (but still cold) lashes lined with frost running around the Alaskan wilderness.

The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey

Peak

I make sure I’m bundled up on my way to the car, but Peak Marcello needs more to summit Mount Everest, that’s for sure.

Peak by Roland Smith

Winterdance

And speaking of extreme sports, what about the Iditarod that Gary Paulsen ran and wrote about several times?

Winterdance: The Fine Madness of Running the Iditarod by Gary Paulsen

IfYouComeSoftly

It looks beautiful, only if you’re not standing out in it.

If You Come Softly by Jacqueline Woodson

 

Best of 2017: Six sensational adult titles

As promised, I’ve drilled down my picks for the six sensational adult titles of 2017. What will 2018 bring? I can’t wait to find out.

ReasonYoureAlive1. The Reason You’re Alive by Matthew Quick

I have read his young adult novels but have never read his adult ones… until now. I’ve recommended this title to more than a few people immediately after finishing it since the cyclical story about redemption is the human story. Do not read if you do not like some tragedy with a side of hope. Well, a lot of tragedy. And the grittiness of the main character is at times difficult to swallow, yet the story is significant: a Vietnam veteran rehashing a lifetime of darkness. But the arc of the story is why Quick is known for his writing acumen.

Saga2. Saga by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples (artist)

You’ll see me in line for volume eight of this graphic novel series that should be hitting stores in a few days, but volume seven came out in April. I was already late to the game since Vaughan and company has been giving readers the science fiction soap opera for years, but I had only just discovered it while sitting on a graphic novel committee for teens and a discussion of Saga came up. I read the first volume, then tore through all available volumes until I was fresh out. Is it filled with sex? Yes. Is it genius? Yes. I wish I could take credit for the ingenuity of the sci-fi characters but the story line at its very core is Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. But much more contemporary. And with more sex. Did I say that already? I know I’ve convinced you, so see you in line on the 27th and not a minute before because you’ll be catching up if you haven’t already been following it.

FromHeretoEternity3. From Here to Eternity: Traveling the World to Find the Good Death by Caitlin Doughty

Yes, still obsessed with Doughty’s one-woman effort to transform the death industry. If you didn’t subscribe to her Youtube channel, you will after watching just one episode. She’s fascinating and funny with a side of serious. And this book (one of very few I bought the first day it came out) was no different. The subtitle tells you what you need to know: she traveled around the world and explains the process of death in other countries. In some cases her vivid descriptions led me to Google and also got me thinking, more than she already has, about my own death preferences. She’s a storyteller with a message.

DifficultWomen4. Difficult Women by Roxane Gay

This was my first read of Gay’s and I’ve quickly put myself in line for her past work. The collection of stories were a mix of haunting and dark (my favorite kind), serious, realistic, sad, and powerful. They pack a punch to the gut and peek behind the curtain of the lives women lead.

DearFahrenheit4515. Dear Fahrenheit 451: A Librarian’s Love Letters and Breakup Notes to the Books in Her Life by Annie Spence

You don’t have to be a librarian, but you do have to have some kind of book sense to appreciate Spence’s humorous approach to writing love letters and breakup notes to books. In fact, you might be inspired to write a few of your own. And I can tell you I fell in love from the moment she professed her undying love for The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides- it easily makes my favorites list. Though Spence also makes it okay to not like a book because sometimes it’s just not the right time, just like the boyfriend or making a career move. It’s a light read and an easy gift for a bookish friend, but you’ll want to buy a second copy for yourself.

SunandherFlowers6. The Sun and Her Flowers by Rupi Kaur

I’m riding the bandwagon of Kaur fans and I’m not ashamed of it. She’s one of a handful of poets that share their poetry via Instagram and it has made them more popular. I own milk and honey and went out to buy her second collection the day it came out. I waited a week and by the end of the sitting had both finished and had about twenty Post-its sticking out of the book. This one felt more personal than her first as readers got to know more about her background and feelings. The sketches are just as important in this one as the first that add a flair unique to her work. Often without capitalization, some poems are mere lines, while others fill the page and she can pack a punch with either.

FallinLovewithyourSolitude

 

The drive

As part of the #edublogclub year-long challenge to blog on education. While the official club has ended, they have shared posts to continue the journey through 2017. This week’s prompt was to describe your commute to work.

Ah, my commute. Not too long, not too short. I judge how the day will go by whether my favorite songs end up being played on the radio. If it’s a special day, I’ll plug my phone in and play a specific playlist, but those days are few and far between.

Unfortunately I do what most others in our capital city do, I drive in to the city to work and leave the city (to return to my pint-sized home city to the north). If it’s my late day, it aligns more perfectly with this heavy traffic pattern but I frequent the interstates that run the smoothest, though I’ve had my fair share of stop-and-go or completely halted traffic. I often think that everyone who causes an accident during rush hour should be fined and that money disbursed to those that have driven by to relieve the annoyance. A thought– certainly never going to be a reality– but it makes me temporarily better.

And my usual route follows a river, so while it is a busy route, it’s lovely to look over at the peaceful water. This fast stretch of interstate is punctuated by city-driving which includes an awareness of pedestrians and traffic lights.

TrafficWhether I’m coming or going, my home city is always a sight and was actually the center of quite a lot of media attention recently due to a stupid mistake and a windy day. It is devastating to see the aftermath, but we’re a strong city and will recover. Work and home are two of my favorite places and I enjoy the journey between the them.

 

But the best thing about sharing this post with you is that I remembered about a book a librarian friend shared years ago that I never go around to reading, a book called Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do (And What It Says About Us). It’s now in my queue, maybe it should be in yours too?