ReadingChallengeBWHere we go folks! Welcome to the first month of the Davenport Library Online Reading Challenge!

This month’s theme is Journeys. How you define “journey” is entirely up to you. The most obvious interpretations are travel memoirs, but there are also journeys of the mind and spirit. The best books combine a bit of both – interesting locations and new awareness from the writer. The Merriam-Webster definition of journey is:

1 : an act or instance of traveling from one place to another : trip. 2 chiefly dialect : a day’s travel. 3 : something suggesting travel or passage from one place to another <the journey from youth to maturity> <a journey through time>

Journeys, big or small, long or short, have the potential to fundamentally change how you see the world and traveling alongside someone on their journey is the next best thing (plus, you get to do it from the comfort of your own chair!)

Here are a few titles to get you started. Remember, you don’t have to read any of these from the list – you are free to pick anything that fits the theme of Journey.

A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson – Tramp along the Appalachian Trail with local boy Bill Bryson (he grew up in Des Moines) and his crazy friend Stephen Katz as they set out to conquer this classic American journey. This book is very, very funny, (although the chapter about bears might make you think twice about walking anywhere less settled than Eldridge), but it is also full of insights about the beauty of nature, the oddity of human beings and the rewards of perseverance. Bryson has written several books about travel, all excellent, but this is the best (so far)

Miles from Nowhere by Barbara Savage – This is the book that woke up the wanderlust in me. A young couple sell everything and spend two years bicycling around the world. Their adventures and mishaps make for can’t-put-down reading and their journey is a testament to how far dreams and determination can take you.

Wild by Cheryl Strayd – After the death of her mother and after making multiple poor life choices, Cheryl decides to hike the Pacific Coast Trail. What she learns about herself along the way – to trust yourself and your own strengths, to ask for help from others, to believe in the healing power of the outdoors, to put one foot in front of the other again and again, are both life lessons and travel memoir.

The Geography of Bliss by Eric Weiner – In search of the happiest place on Earth, Eric Weiner travels the globe. Each chapter focuses on a new location, with many witty insights into the culture of each place. Some psychology, a dash of science and lots of travel and humor make for an engaging read. And maybe a few ideas for your next travel destination!

This is just a tiny sample of the many books about journeys that are out there. I’ve picked fairly recently published titles; the motif of a journey in literature is nearly as old as storytelling (The Odyssey anyone?), and has been used many times – Huckleberry Finn, Travels with Charley, On the Road. The possibilities are nearly endless.

My choice for this month is The Road to Little Dribbling, Bill Bryson’s newest travel book. He is back in England, moving from south to north, exploring and observing as only he can. What about you? What will you be reading? Tell us in the comments!

Look for Online Reading Challenge bookmarks at each of the library buildings in a few days – they’re designed to be a handy way keep track of the books you’ve read as part of the 2016 Challenge. We’ll put them out as soon as they’re available.

I’ll be back in a couple of weeks to report on my progress and to check up on how you’re doing.  Have fun and Happy Reading!

Check here if you need to more information about the Online Reading Challenge.

 

 

stacks of booksGreat news! Starting next week, the Davenport Library will unveil our very own Online Reading Challenge!

Would you like some help finding a good book? Maybe a little structure to keep you on track reading and not spend so much time online? (that’s my problem!) Ready to break out of a reading rut? Book Clubs are great – you meet new people, eat some fancy desserts, get into some passionate discussions – but they can be difficult to squeeze into a busy schedule and, horror of horrors – what if you have to spend your precious, limited reading time on a book you hate? Enter the DPL Online Reading Challenge!

This will be a no-pressure, let’s-share-some-great-books kind of challenge – there are no finishing prizes but, on the other hand, the Library Police aren’t going to show up on December 31 and drag you off to Library Jail if you don’t finish all of your books! (Hint: there is no such thing as Library Police) The idea is to introduce you to some new books/genres/themes you might not have tried before, to have fun expanding your reading horizons and to read one book a month (more or less – totally up to you.)

So here’s how it’s going to work.

There will be a different theme each month. The themes will cover a wide range of subjects and areas of interest. You may already be a fan of some of the themes, but leery of others (Graphic Novels, I’m looking at you!) At the first of the month I’ll talk about that month’s theme and give you a list of 4-5 curated titles that I think are great starter books for that theme. I’ll also link to any online lists of recommendations if available and invite you to chime in with any titles you suggest.

I’m going to be right there with you, reading a book a month. Some of the themes are favorites of mine but several of them are completely new to me so I’ll be tapping the expertise of our resident librarians (in case you didn’t know this, we have a lot of passionate readers on staff!) I’ll check in with you sometime in the middle of the month to see how everyone is progressing and list more titles I might have come across. Then at the end of the month I’ll tell you how I did and, most importantly, ask you to update us on how you did. You’re encouraged to add comments and recommendations via the blog throughout the month.

The rules are pretty simple; basically, there are no rules. If the theme-of-the-month is abhorrent to you, skip it (although I would encourage you to give it a try at least). If you don’t finish, no problem. If you’re impossibly busy that month, try again the next month. You are not restricted to the titles I’ll be listing; they’re just a starting point. The book itself can come from any source – the library, a bookstore, your own bookshelves at home (in fact, this might be a great opportunity to read some of those books on your “to read” list that you never seem to get around to!) You can read paper or digital or listen to it (if available) but please, no Cliff notes or watching the movie instead! You don’t even have to belong to the Davenport Library – anyone is welcome to join us!

Here is the Theme Line-Up for 2016:

February – Journeys (travel)

March – Magical Realism

April – The Good War in Fiction (WWII)

May – Graphic Novels

June – Summer Reads

July – Time Travel

August – Games We Play

September – Books about Books

October – Young Adult

November – Other Lives (fictional biographies)

December – Happy Holidays

Like I said, there are no finishing prizes (except for a glowing sense of satisfaction), but I do plan to have a few little extras available for you. Bookmarks listing the monthly themes and with room to write in what you read will be available in a couple of weeks as well as a display at the Fairmount Library with pertinent titles. I’m also working on a downloadable Reading Log that you print out and use to keep track of all the books you’ve read (a fun and valuable exercise), which we hope to launch in a few months.

Any questions? Thoughts? Suggestions? Please leave a comment or shoot me an email at ahetzler@davenportlibrary.com! Hope to see you right back here on February 1st!

 

mlkdayThe Davenport Public Library will be closed on Monday January 18 in observance of Martin Luther King, Jr Day. All of our buildings will reopen on Tuesday January 19 at their regular scheduled time – Main and Eastern Ave at 9:00am and Fairmount at noon.

Have a safe and enjoyable holiday!

indestructibleNow that winter seems to have finally arrived, the Iowa gardener is forced indoors. How does the avid gardener get their quota of poking around in the dirt and watching green things grow? Houseplants of course! It may not be quite the same as a perennial border or a vegetable patch of edibles, but houseplants can get you through the darkest months and have their own charms and rewards any time of the year.

The Indestructible Houseplant by Tovah Martin will set you on the path to a lifelong happy obsession with indoor plants. Martin lists dozens of tough, easy-to-grow houseplants by family, giving lots of tips and growing advice and pointers to the best varieties. Each plant family has a simple-to-consult growing basics charts, but the real value of this book is Martin’s charming, fun-to-read detailed descriptions. The acknowledged current leader in houseplant cultivation, Martin is not afraid to admit to failures or less-than-spectacular results (although I doubt those happen to her very often!)

The photographs in the book are spectacular and prove that “indestructible” is not synonymous with plain or boring. Most of the plants are grown strictly for their foliage (often very colorful foliage such as with the bromliads and begonias) but there are several flowering varieties – geraniums, kalanchoes, African violets – as well. Most of the plants are easy to find (check the local nurseries – we have several excellent ones in the area and winter is when they have the best variety of houseplants); some are common outdoor container plants (such as geraniums and ferns) that enjoy a summer vacation outdoors, decorating your porch in the summer and your living room in the winter (I’ve done this with geraniums and begonias for several years – it’s a great way to keep your favorites and also save a few dollars in the spring)

Martin finishes the book with good, practical advice on how to care for and display your houseplants. I love the variety of containers she uses – colanders, trays, cast off metal dishes, unique and beautiful pots – all of which enhance but do not overwhelm the plants. She even discusses how she trained her cat Einstein to stay away from plants (he shows up in several of the photos). This book is the best combination of eye-candy, inspiration and practical advice. Highly recommended!

 

happynewyearThe Davenport Public Library will be closed on December 31 and January 1 in observance of the New Years holiday. All three locations will re-open on Saturday January 2nd, from 9:00am to 5:30pm.

Wishing everyone a safe and happy holiday!

More favorite books of 2015!

small nightingaleAnn has two favorites that she read this year. “I loved Kristin Hannah’s The Nightingale which is set in small boys in the boatFrance during World War II, following the two very different paths that two sisters take. One joins the Resistance while the other stays in the countryside at the family home. Both face unimaginable danger, great risk and terrible sacrifice. My other favorite was The Boys in the Boat, a non-fiction account of the 1936 US rowing team that went to the Olympics. Against almost impossible odds, a group of hard-scrabble individuals come together as a team, beating every obstacle and hardship in their path. Both books offer unique viewpoints, both are nearly impossible to put down and both stay with you long after you’ve finish reading.”

 

Here’s Stephanie’s favorite:

small cinderOne of my favorite books this year was Cinder by Marissa Meyer. This is the first book in her Lunar Chronicles series. I loved this book because it was a mix of fairy tales and dystopian fiction, two genres that are sure to capture and hold my interest. This first book tells the story of Cinder, a cyborg, who also is a gifted mechanic. Because she is a cyborg, she is treated as a second-hand citizen. Her stepmother hates her and blames her for her stepsister’s illness. Cinder meets Prince Kai very early in the book and we quickly see that in order for him to avoid war with the Lunars, he may have to marry the evil Queen Levana. This book has everything in it that I wanted and expected: fabulous world building like you find in dystopian fiction and really thorough character development that actually gives her stepsisters and stepmother full personalities and doesn’t just leave them as hateful people. I also thoroughly enjoyed the fact that Cinder wasn’t the typical heroine! She was a mechanic and knew how to fix things, no matter what was wrong. Such a breath of fresh air when it comes to young adult fiction.

 

There you have it, some of best loved books of 2015 from our bloggers. What about you – what was your favorite book that you read in 2015? And what do you plan to read in 2016?

More favorites from our Blogging Librarians!

Rachel nominated two books as her favorites for 2015.

tamingHer first choice is The Taming of the Queen by Philippa Gregory.  “This novel is based on the life of Catherine Parr, the sixth and final wife of King Henry VIII of England.  I never really thought about how brave Catherine Parr was to be the sixth wife of a tyrant.  Literally unable to refuse his proposal, she had to live out the remainder of his life walking on egg shells making sure she did nothing to provoke his anger.  She had constant reminders of what happened to his previous wives when they disobeyed him.  Even so, Catherine Parr managed to reunite Henry with his daughters Mary and Elizabeth and son Edward and to influence the religion of the King of England.​”

 

 

 

dogs giftRachel’s second choice is a non-fiction book,  A Dog’s Gift: The Inspirational Story of Veterans and Children Healed by Man’s Best Friend by Bob Drury.  “This book is about a father and daughter team that operate the group Paws4People.  This organization raises and trains puppies to be helper dogs for military veterans and children with disabilities. The dogs are trained in prisons by inmates which helps the inmates gain job skills.  One thing from this book that stuck with me is that the dogs choose their people; the dogs are not assigned to anyone by the organization.  This books is a great example of how an organization can help and touch so many people’s lives.​”

 

It’s the end of the year and that means taking a look back at some of our favorite books. Here are some favorites from our blogging librarians.

Allison nominated a series of Marvel titles as her favorites:

hawkeye“This year, I have really enjoyed the Marvel NOW!/All-New Marvel NOW!/Avengers NOW! relaunch that started in 2012, and sadly ended this year with the launch of Secret Wars. My favorite titles from the run are “Black Widow” by Edmonson and Noto, “Deadpool” by Posehn and Duggan, “Ms. Marvel” by Wilson and Alphona, “Thor” by Aaron and Dauterman and my very favorite, “Hawkeye” by Matt Fraction and David Aja. All feature witty, crackling dialog, plots explore each character while never slowing the action down, and fantastic art (especially “Black Widow”). You certainly don’t have to be a comic book nerd to enjoy these titles!”

 

 

Lynn’s favorite book would make a great summer read or anytime read!

august“Enchanted August by Brenda Bowen was my favorite book this year. It will always bring back memories of how I read it on the back deck on sunny afternoons this last summer. Views of Iowa’s muddy creeks may not be as sought after as those  of the Atlantic, but the two converged when I read this book. It’s about three women  whose lives and relationships came together in a guest house on an island off the coast of Massachussetts. It’s fun to read this before or after viewing Enchanted April.

happy holidaysThe Davenport Public Library will be closed on December 24 and 25 in observation of the Christmas holiday. All three buildings will re-open on Saturday December 26, from 9:00am to 5:30pm.

Wishing you all a safe and happy holiday!

boys in the boatIt’s hard to imagine now, in the relative comfort of our modern age, the devastation and poverty brought about by the Great Depression. The combination of a crashing economy and violent weather destroyed lives and businesses. People lost their livelihoods, their homes, their families – it was not unusual for parents to abandon or leave one or more children to other family members or orphanages. To live through this time would inevitably shape and influence a person for the rest of their lives. The Boys in the Boat brings this era and the people who lived it vividly to life.

The Boys in the Boat focuses primarily on Joe Rantz, one of the boys who will become part of the team that goes to the Olympics. Dirt poor, abandoned by his family when he was a teen, he was representative of the make-up of this group of rowers. Scrapping for everything they had, they were unafraid of hard work and impossible challenges. Being part of the rowing team allowed Joe to attend the University of Washington but it also gave him a family – teammates, coaches, supporters – of like-minded, honest people and it opened up the world to him.

The rowing team comes together and coalesces over the four years leading up to the Olympics. They raise the previously dismissed Washington rowing team to a contender, beating their rivals at the University of California Berkeley and then the East Coast giants of the Ivy League to earn the right to represent the United States at the Olympics. Most of these boys had never been out of the state of Washington – some not outside of Seattle – before they began going to rowing competitions with the team and now they were headed to Europe. It was almost unimaginable.

When I read this book I was surprised by how much of a page turner it was – I couldn’t wait to see what happened next. The gritty details of living through the Great Depression made the story come alive and the story of the Berlin Olympics – so carefully planned (and rigged) by Hitler and the Nazis was eyeopening, an early warning sign (if it hadn’t been carefully hidden by the Nazis) of the horror to come.

Filled with amazing stories both humorous and heartbreaking, peopled with vivid, unforgettable characters and set against the backdrop of great historical events all seen through the lens of the sublimely beautiful sport of rowing, The Boys in the Boat is a must read. Highly recommended.