So, how did you do with our first Favorite Quote? Too easy? Too hard? Ready to try again?
Here is a favorite line taken from a contemporary book.
“As he read, I fell in love the way you fall asleep: slowly, and then all at once.”
Need a hint?
It can be argued that we love to read books because we love the written word. Whether it comes to us by electronic device, or letters on a page, words fascinate us, inspire us, amuse us. A well-chosen quote from a favorite book has the power to evoke fond memories and take you back to that joy of first discovery. Join us as we explore some of our favorites. Do you know what book this quote is from? (we started off with an easy one!)
“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.”
Not sure? Find the answer here!
This probably won’t surprise you, but most librarians are voracious readers. We read books in the areas that we select, we read books that we think our patrons might be interested in, we read about books and publishing trends and we even read books for our own pleasure (if only we were allowed to read books at work…..!) Because we’re so immersed in books, we can often be a great resource for finding your next great read. But when your favorite librarian isn’t available, LibraryReads, a monthly list of librarian recommendations is the next best thing.
With contributions from librarians across the country, LibraryReads presents a curated list of ten about-to-be-published books that are worth reading. They cover all genres and various interests including literary fiction, romance, non-fiction, young adult, and mysteries and authors famous and unknown. This list bypasses the publisher hype and finds real gems, read and enjoyed by readers just like you – people who love to read. Be sure to check it out each month for more great titles!
Believe it or not, I don’t usually seek out libraries while I’m on vacation. I’m a big fan of libraries, of course, but when I’m visiting a new place I’m usually preoccupied with non-Iowa sites, like skyscrapers and world famous museums and mountain vistas. However, I was lucky enough to be in New York City earlier this month and my friends and I made it a point to stop in at the New York Public Library; it was a visit that was both fun and inspiring.
At the main entrance you’re greeted by the library’s famous lions, named Patience and Fortitude, and the grand facade of the beautiful Beaux-Arts building which opened in 1911. The building is very museum-like, with it’s marble columns and sweeping staircases, murals painted on the ceilings, fine art decorating the reading rooms, glittering chandeliers and ornate windows. It is also very library-like, with it’s bustling crowds (it was very busy), rows and rows of reference books and public computers, busy families in the Children’s Center and hushed silence in the research rooms. It is obviously a much-used, much-loved building.
We were lucky enough to be visiting while a special exhibit was on display, “The ABC of It: Why Children’s Books Matter.” Beautifully curated, the exhibit was a walk down memory lane for the child in anyone – an Alice with a neck (made from books) that slowly expanded, then retracted, a charming re-enactment of the web Charlotte made to save Wilbur as well as recordings of E.B. White reading passages from his famous book, a cut-out of the Wild Thing to climb on, a life-size room from Goodnight Moon, the original Winnie-the-Pooh and friends (who are usually on display in the Children’s Center), an umbrella donated by P.L. Travers just like the one Mary Poppins carried, an original watercolor by Eric Carle and many more treasures.
Another fun attraction was the NYPL Photo Booth in the soaring main lobby. Anyone can answer a few simple questions, then have your picture taken to commemorate your visit. The photo is later emailed to you and are also on view on the NYPL Facebook page and Flickr account. It’s a wonderful blend of old and new, something libraries all over the world practice every day.
In My Ideal Bookshelf, dozens of leading cultural figures share the books that matter to them most; books that define their dreams and ambitions and in many cases helped them find their way in the world. Contributors include Malcolm Gladwell, Thomas Keller, Michael Chabon, Alice Waters, James Patterson, Maira Kalman, Judd Apatow, Chuck Klosterman, Miranda July, Alex Ross, Nancy Pearl, David Chang, Patti Smith, Jennifer Egan, and Dave Eggers, among many others.
With colorful and endearingly hand-rendered images of book spines by Jane Mount, and first-person commentary from all the contributors, this is a perfect book for avid readers, writers, and all who have known the influence of a great book. (description from publisher)
Numeric resolutions: I will read X books in 2013.
Making your resolutions real
*For math purposes, a “book” is 275 pages or 8 hours of audio recording. Bonus points for reading something longer!
May is “Get Caught Reading” Month. How does one celebrate? Well, you could read, or take a picture of a friend or co-worker reading and post it on a bulletin board. (You can email firstname.lastname@example.org to get the logo to make your own “celebrity” poster).
You can order an actual celebrity poster on www.getcaughtreading.org. Rob Lowe anyone? Supported by the Association of American Publishers, other celebs are Iowa’s own Shawn Johnson, Sebastian Junger and Emma Roberts.
Some schools and libraries are designating a spot for kids (and adults) to read for fun during the day. Can you think of a better way to take a break?
Don’t judge this wonderful book by its covers, which are egregious. Laura Kinsale’s Flowers from the Storm is, by a wide margin, the most intelligent and engaging romance I’ve ever read. It proves what romance readers have known for generations: a love story with a happy ending can be just as powerful and thoughtful as any other literary novel. The heroine, Maddy Timms, is a devout Quaker: she speaks in a thee-thou manner that other characters remark upon as often you inevitably will. It’s infuriating, it’s different, it’s overly pious and hard to understand. It marks Maddy as a person who lives apart, in a smaller and humbler world than her Anglican peers. Her religion is restrictive and judgmental, but it’s also warm and forgiving and kind – just like Maddy herself. Christian Langland is a standard romantic hero (a strapping, handsome, fabulously wealthy Duke who happens to be a well-known rake), until a neurological illness strikes out of nowhere, shattering his ability to communicate. Only Maddy recognizes that he is not incompetent, an idiot, a savage struck down by God for his immoral ways: he is a sick man. And she is led by God to restore him to health.
There are layers upon layers in this book. Christian is mad; Maddy is a Christian. Flowers and storms pop up in significant junctures throughout the story, bolstering the plot as well as reminding you of the central theme: there is always a way to find something beautiful, something wonderful, even in the darkest and most harrowing times. The point of view alternates between Christian and Maddy, and Ms. Kinsale does an absolutely phenomenal job of illustrating Christian’s rapid mental decline and slow recovery both from inside and outside his fuddled mind. She very rarely writes the same moment from both characters’ perspectives, so you only know what Christian can piece together or what Maddy has been present to see. The scenes inside the lunatic asylum in the immediate aftermath of Christian’s illness are heartwrenching, as we watch him struggle to make even the simplest thought understood by his doctors. Maddy is the first and only person to truly understand him, to know that his intelligence is as fierce as ever but his ability to speak and to understand has been compromised. As their love blossoms, Maddy struggles with her religious convictions and Christian struggles with his illness, his family, and his legal obligations. I’ve never been moved to root for a romance novel couple as I was for these two.
If you’re a romance reader and you’ve never read Flowers from the Storm, do so right away! You won’t regret it. Then, pass it on to a skeptical friend who thinks romances are cheap, tawdry, worthless, or sub-literary: I’ve never read a book more likely to change their mind.
I have always had a soft spot for retellings of fairy tales; growing up enthralled by animated Disney movies that did just that (Snow White! Sleeping Beauty! The Little Mermaid! Aladdin! Mulan!), I suppose it was inevitable. This sub-genre of fantasy has obvious appeal to kids and YAs as a convenient segue from Disney princesses to fiction and fantasy, but there is lots of adult appeal as well.
My favorite is Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier. In this romantic, atmospheric adventure, teenaged Sorcha faces down incredible odds with the lives of her six older brothers on the line. An evil stepmother has transformed them into swans, and Sorcha must spend years in magically induced silence weaving them shirts out of a prickly, punishing plant that bloodies and blisters her fingers. The fairy tale is Celtic and the book is beautiful, with as much historical and mythical appeal as romance.
A close second is The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly. In this deceptively mature tale, a young English boy slips into the world of fairy tales – but not everything is as his storybooks told it. There are some gruesome moments but it’s never unduly gory; teen readers as well as adults (and even mature tweens) should be comfortable with the scares. Connolly is a thriller writer by trade and that style is evident in The Book of Lost Things, which is tense and atmospheric. A chilling and very unique take on familiar fairy tale motifs.
Finally, if you love fairy tales and Disney princesses, don’t miss out on Robin McKinley. Her retold fairy tales have been popular with teens and adults for decades; Spindle’s End, her spin on Sleeping Beauty, involves a sleek magical realm that’s familiar without being at all boring. Princess Briar Rose (Rosie) is spirited away from the evil fairy Pernicia’s curse to be raised in secret as the daughter of a village fairy. Rosie’s ability to speak to animals and her perfect golden curls cling to her, the gifts of her fairy godmothers, despite her average looks and un-princess-like interest in blacksmithing and animals. In Beauty and Rose Daughter, two distinctly different but related books that retell the story of Beauty and the Beast, McKinley reinvents Belle and all the other familiar characters and fills in the missing details of the story.
Hearty praise for Bill Bryson isn’t new to the Info Cafe blog (both Lynn and Ann have gushed about him in the past), but he is new to me! The audiobook of At Home: A Short History of Private Life, read by the author, was the first Bryson book I’ve read, and one of the most entertaining nonfiction books I’ve ever encountered on any subject. Part of the appeal comes from the irresistible subject matter: Bryson deals with the everyday, but elevates it beyond the mundane into something fascinating. The greater part of the book’s success is Bryson himself – dry wit that had me laughing and quoting passages to friends, great writing that’s both intelligent and accessible, and (crucially) excellent narration.
No matter what you’re interested in, there is something for you in At Home: architecture, cooking, engineering, etymology, inventing, transportation, medicine, sanitation and hygiene, social history, entertainment, a dash of politics, and mostly, British and American history. If history isn’t your thing, don’t be intimidated – though much of the book deals with historical matters, it never feels stuffy or boring (with the possible, arguable exception of a lengthy chapter on British architecture that suffers from a lack of the visual aids present in the printed book). The comforts we’re accustomed to – bright lights, running water, soap, sturdy clothing, efficient laundry, regular bathing, doctors who wash their hands, and a reasonable expectation that rats will NOT nest inside your mattress even as you sleep above them – these things are all shockingly new.
I particularly recommend this to anyone who’s a fan of historical novels, from Jane Austen through Diana Gabaldon; once you learn about the privy fixtures and habits of cleanliness in the pre-modern era, your reading of Emma will never be the same!
Super-duper seal of approval: after hearing a snippet while riding in my car, my book-phobic husband insisted on taking it off my hands to listen himself!
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