if you find this letterIn today’s world, it’s not uncommon to see many people concentrating more and more on their screens and less and less on the people in front of them. This sad fact hit Hannah Brencher when she moved to New York right after she graduated from college. As she was exploring her new home, she discovered that instead of the warm and welcoming place she expected it to be, she was surrounded by people who knew exactly what they wanted to do, who knew exactly where they needed to be, and who were not the least bit concerned about a young girl who was just trying to figure things out and looking for help.

Feeling somewhat defeated one day at the subway station, she saw an old woman who seemed to be in a similar lonely situation. Brencher was drawn to the woman and could not look away. Staring at her, she remembered how her mother used to write her love letters and how that simple piece of paper always made her feel better because that meant someone else understood and cared about you. She decided then and there to write the woman a love letter. Sitting curled up on the train, Brencher hurriedly scrawled a note to this woman, wrote “If you find this letter, it’s for you…” on the front, and dropped it. Feeling better, she began leaving love notes all over the city and eventually created the blog The World Needs More Love Letters.

Seeking help when her inbox reached over 400 requests for love letters, she created a campaign that you can subscribe to join to write love letters to perfect strangers. If You Find this Letter: My Journey to Find Purpose Through Hundreds of Letters to Strangers is a memoir Brencher wrote describing her love-letter writing journey in her new home, how she began to feel more connected to the people around her, and how this simple letter writing campaign has helped her restore her belief in the goodness of people.

rookie1.cover_webGet this book for any teen girl you know. Tavi’s online zine, Rookie Mag, has been collecting accolades since the fifteen-year-old blogger started it from her Midwestern bedroom. Tavi has been a respected style blogger since 2008, when she began her fashion blog Style Rookie at the tender age of eleven. Since then, she’s been invited to attend and review fashion shows all over the world, but it’s not just clothes anymore; this clever writer and all-around gifted young woman has created a magazine where teens can go for conversations with other teens about school, friends, music and movies, feminism, body image and self esteem, fashion, sex, and all the minutiae of teenage life that seems so monumental to those who are living it. She writes about the problems and the questions that real, modern teens have. She’s frank and funny and I wish I’d been even one-tenth as smart and confident as she is when I was a teenager. What I’m getting at is: here is a great, realistic role model. And a great book!

Rookie: Yearbook One is an ink & paper retrospective of the online magazine’s first year. It contains a lot of writing by Tavi, but it’s been touched by dozens of others; Miranda July, Lena Dunham, Aubrey Plaza, Joss Whedon, Patton Oswalt, and many others make appearances – either in pieces they’ve written for the magazine or as the subject of one of Tavi’s excellent interviews (I love how she is just as comfortable grilling Whedon about his modern-day interpretation of the sexual politics of “Much Ado About Nothing” as she is sharing a laugh with Plaza about how much they love the film “Reality Bites”). These are articles that matter, ideas that resonate, and interviews that are exciting and in-depth; it’s also lighthearted (you’ll love the section on how to cry without anyone catching you), and the graphic design of the book is phenomenal. If you have any taste for collage (and a little bit of the ridiculous) your eyes will pop at the juxtaposition of textures, photos, and hand-drawn illustrations. It’s just amazing, and I wish so much that I’d had it when I was a teenager!

Deb Perelman is one of my favorite nonfiction writers. Her blog, smittenkitchen.com, is one of the most beautiful and well-cultivated on the web. She writes with good grammar, common sense, and maturity: all too rare in the world of blogging. Her photos are sumptuous; her voice is authentic and charming; her advice is encouraging but never preachy. Her recipes range from moderate ease (mixed bean salad) to incredible ambition (Moules à la Marinière) . Most importantly, her lifestyle (which is what any blogger on any topic is ultimately selling) seems attainable, realistic, homey, and good. Now, she has “arrived,” so to speak, by getting herself published in “real life,” aka, a glossy hardcover book published by Knopf.

And what a hardcover it is! I have it checked out now, but I know I’ll be returning to it too often not to make a home on my own bookshelf for it. Most of the recipes are new, which is to say they have never appeared on the website. The design is crisp, the photos delectable, the writing full of warmth. I have no reservations whatsoever about recommending this book to anyone who has a kitchen!

This blog is written by the staff of the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh (the 11th stack refers to the top floor of their library). The posts are quirky and thought-provoking. I love this one, Hot Makes Angry, in which the author likens himself to the Incredible Hulk. During the current heat wave, his emotions were on edge, so he delved into the IH graphic novels (bit of trivia: the original Hulk was gray, not green).

A recent post, Batman. Dark Knight Looming, notes that, last summer, Pittsburgh was the site for some of the filming for Dark Knight Rises.

The staff biographies are as fun to read as the blog posts. If they are anything to go by, this is a fun and diverse library to work at. For example, Holly’s hobby is “thrifting,” (I need to find out what this is), Leigh Ann “practices mad science,” Bonnie likes “gluing and taping things,” Maria, who would “love to meet other Michigan transplants so that she can talk about Michigan without seeming weird (such as using her hand as a map)” and one I’m on board with: Tara, who is into “making soup and napping.”