NYTimesBookReviewMore often than not, the Sunday New York Times Book Review contains a passage that you wish you’d written, or that you’d like to save somewhere to inspire yourself about the importance of books, reading and libraries.

For example, this was part of a July 5th interview with Anthony Doerr. By the Book is a recurring feature in which writers are quizzed about their reading life. Here’s an excerpt:

“Have you ever gotten in trouble for reading a book?

Gosh, I’m not sure. Last year I bought an Eliot Weinberger essay collection to my son’s lacrosse practice and took a wayward ball to the shin because I was sitting too close to the field. I did read “The Sheltering Sky” when I was 11 or 12 years old. (“Mom, what’s hashish?) But I don’t think I got in trouble for it.  On the contrary, I was incredibly blessed because neither my mother nor the local librarians ever said ‘This is outside your age range, Tony.  You can’t handle this.’  They trusted us to make our own paths through books  and that’s very, very empowering.”

From Anthony Doerr: By the Book, New York Times, p. 8, July 5, 2015.

Or sometimes, it hits a little close to home. To quote Judd Apatow:

“My buying-to-actually reading ratio is 387 to 1. …I have actually convinced myself that buying books is the same as reading…”

This is in answer to the question: “Whom do you consider the best writers – novelists, essayists, critics, journalists, poets – working today?,” he says, “I am the last person you should ask because I don’t read that much.”

From Judd Apatow: By the Book, New York Times, p. 7, June 14, 2015

I intend to browse through back issues at the Main library, and look for Carl Hiaasen, Neil Gaiman, Anne Lamott, Alain de Botton, Marilynne Robinson, and Michael Connelly, among others (you can also browse the archives online to see a list of featured authors).  These are folks that I’m guessing are going to be both witty and not so very full of themselves.

So, how would you answer the By the Book questionnaire?

The Imperfectionists by Tom Rachman is a series of narratives by different people affiliated with a newspaper in Rome.  Each odd-numbered chapter is told by a different character, like struggling freelance writer Lloyd, hated CFO Abbey, and longtime reader Ornella.  The even-numbered chapters are devoted to the history of the newspaper, starting with its founding by millionaire Cyrus Ott and ending with its downfall in the current Internet age due to declining readership.

My big complaint about the book is that because it is subtitled “A Novel”, I was expecting a novel.  But what we get is individual chapters that tell the stories of different characters, and those characters’ lives don’t really intersect except that they all happen to work at the same newspaper.  Because of this, it feels much more like a collection of short stories, which I’m not uaually a fan of.  That’s not to say that this book isn’t well done, it just wasn’t what I was expecting.  If you’re interested in the topic and like short stories, you should give it a try.  There are aspects of it that I really did enjoy, especially seeing the history of the paper unfold throughout the book.  At its heart, The Imperfectionists is a book about people trying to get by despite the fact that their careers seem doomed.  It seems especially relevant when we hear so much today about print journalism going by the wayside in favor of getting our information online.

Do you like to read the newspaper at one of our branch libraries? What could be better than sitting in front of the fireplace at the Fairmount branch and catching up with news around the world? Or enjoying the view of the north woods at the Eastern branch?

Not only do we carry the local and regional papers, but also The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and more.

Please take one of our surveys (actually a small bookmark) the next time you’re at one of the branches and make a checkmark next to the newspapers you read.

We’d also like to know if there are titles that you wish the library carried. We look forward to your feedback!

A recent Wall Street Journal article reports that newspapers and magazines still are alive and kicking.  Magazines Team Up to Tout ‘Power of Print” describes a campaign by publishers to promote the value of  print magazines. “The Internet is fleeting. Magazines are immersive,” according to an ad to run in May issues of selected magazines.

Jann Wenner, the man behind the campaign, says that “just as TV didn’t kill magazines, the Internet was a threat only to publications that lost focus on what makes magazines unique. “In a certain way, this campaign is aimed at the magazine business itself.”

Magazine readership has actually been rising. Similarly newspapers are trying to get the word out that the readership of daily papers is up.

Michael Phelps is headlining the ads, so if you see his goggled face, check out the copy. It may surprise you.