online colorWe had some sizzling hot temperatures this month – just right for some indulgent Summer Reads! How did you do? Did you find something wonderful, or did the month slip by too fast?

I read Enchanted August by Brenda Bowen and it certainly put me in a summer vacation mood – four strangers rent an idyllic cottage on a quiet island on the coast of Maine for a month and something magical happens – relationships are repaired, spirits lifted, strangers become friends. Based on the beloved classic Enchanted April (which takes place in 1920s Italy), Enchanted August is a modern retelling that is charming, fun and relaxing to read. I recommend it highly!

For totally unnecessary extra credit, I started reading Picnic in Provence by Elizabeth Bard because who wouldn’t want a summer escape to Provence? A follow-up to her popular Lunch in Paris, this follows her growing family and their move to Provence. It’s lovely, full of evocative descriptions of the gorgeous countryside, the layers of history and, especially, the incredible food. Mostly, when I’m reading this I feel hungry (and a bit envious because – Provence!) I haven’t finished yet, but it’s been a lovely read so far. (I also recommend her previous book because – Paris!)

Now it’s over to you – what did you read this month? And don’t forget to come back tomorrow when we introduce the next topic in our year of Online Reading Challenges!

Books mentioned in this post:

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readersofbrokenwheelI love reading books that take place in Iowa. I find it interesting to see what authors think of my home state.  The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend is set in fictional town Broken Wheel, Iowa.  And this book is unique because the author, Katarina Bivald, lives in Sweden. So, if you are curious as to how someone from Europe views life in the state of Iowa, you should definitely pick up this book.

Sara has traveled all the way from Sweden to meet her pen pal Amy, who lives in Broken Wheel, Iowa.  The plan is that Sara will stay with Amy for two months.  But when Sara arrives in Iowa, she learns that Amy has died.  But the townspeople of Broken Wheel knew that she was coming and they all welcome her to the town.  They tell her to stay in Amy’s house because that is what Amy would have wanted. Sara understandably feels strange staying in the house alone and having people give her food and drinks for free.  She tries to pay her own way but everyone refuses her.

Since she no longer has a hostess, Sara needs to find something to do. And, the town council is trying to think of how they can keep Sara entertained.  Sara and Amy bonded over books.  Both women were avid readers and they even exchanged books in the mail. When Sara ventures into Amy’s bedroom, she finds a room filled with books. Shortly after, Sara learns that Amy owned one of the buildings downtown. Sara decides to clean up the unused store and make it into a new bookstore. Many of the townspeople help her clean and repaint the building. Others find bookshelves and furniture. Soon, the tiny town of Broken Wheel has its own bookstore.

Sara enjoys finding books for the townspeople to read. She is able to match up books with the right person to read it. Soon, people from the neighboring town of Hope come to Broken Wheel to check out the new bookstore. Sara is dismayed to learn that people from Hope look down on people from Broken Wheel. So Sara forms a plan to get the people of townspeople reading. This is when she creates the shelf, “The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend”.

The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend is a very fun book to read. Plus, it has the added bonus of discussing many different book titles throughout the story. Perhaps you will find your next read in the pages of The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend.

Note: If you listen to the audiobook version, you will find the Iowan accent to be very interesting.

 

 

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!

 

Johnny HellerMarley and meHorrible Harry

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Local audiobook aficionados got an opportunity to hear a master narrator at work and to quiz him about his craft. Johnny Heller, award-winning narrator, actor and stand-up comic visited Bettendorf Public Library July 15th to read aloud and take questions from the audience.  A resident of Manhattan, he seemed genuinely interested in learning more about Iowa in general, and the Quad Cities specifically.

Heller is an interesting combination of  the highbrow (trained as a Shakespearean actor) and the low to middle brow (he delights in adolescent humor, which serves him well when narrating juvenile books). He read from several of his books (Marley and Me and  Dave Barry’s Complete Guide to Guys).

He gave several insights into the process. Most fascinating was how he chooses someone (an actor or actress perhaps) to pair with a character, so he can instantly call up that persona. When asked how narrators can seamlessly and quickly move between male and female characters, he says, ideally, he’s in a zone where he doesn’t consciously have to make those decisions. He doesn’t try to do “female” voices. it’s more about their character. He softens his voice for females but doesn’t go several octaves higher.

Other tidbits, he gets paid by the hour – the finished hour of product, not what he puts into it, so as an experienced  narrator, he’s more efficient and the ratio of time spent and actual output is more equal.

His favorite part of the job, though, is to foster the love of books and reading. Mixing with the crowd before and after, Heller clearly enjoys the extensive traveling involved in the job, and doing whatever he can to promote the appreciation of story, in whatever format it may be.

 

 

 

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?

why i readIn Why I Read , Lesser draws on a lifetime of pleasure reading and decades of editing one of the most distinguished literary magazines in the country, The Threepenny Review, to describe her love of literature. As Lesser writes in her prologue, “Reading can result in boredom or transcendence, rage or enthusiasm, depression or hilarity, empathy or contempt, depending on who you are and what the book is and how your life is shaping up at the moment you encounter it.”

Here the reader will discover a definition of literature that is as broad as it is broad-minded. In addition to novels and stories, Lesser explores plays, poems, and essays along with mysteries, science fiction, and memoirs. As she examines these works from such perspectives as “Character and Plot,” “Novelty,” “Grandeur and Intimacy,” and “Authority,” Why I Read sparks an overwhelming desire to put aside quotidian tasks in favor of reading. Lesser’s passion for this pursuit resonates on every page, whether she is discussing the book as a physical object or a particular work’s influence. “Reading literature is a way of reaching back to something bigger and older and different,” she writes. “It can give you the feeling that you belong to the past as well as the present, and it can help you realize that your present will someday be someone else’s past. This may be disheartening, but it can also be strangely consoling at times.”

A book in the spirit of E. M. Forster’s Aspects of the Novel and Elizabeth Hardwick’s A View of My Own , Why I Read is iconoclastic, conversational, and full of insight. It will delight those who are already avid readers as well as neophytes in search of sheer literary fun. (description from publisher)

library readsThis 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!

off the beaten pageOff the Beaten Page by Terri Smith encourages avid readers, particularly those in book clubs and other groups, to leave the security of their living rooms and seek to experience in person the places they’ve read about.This book is ideal for anyone eager to mix their love of travel and quality time with friends or family with their desire for meaningful cultural experiences.

Inspired by years of excursions with her own book club, award-winning journalist Terri Smith offers lively, expert guidance through fifteen US destinations including Boston, Chicago, Austin, and Santa Fe. She describes each destination’s literary heritage and attractions and suggests three-day itineraries that include plenty of lit-inspired excursions – a tour of Santa Monica through the eyes of Raymond Chandler, a Devil in the White City view of Chicago in the Gilded Age, an exploration of Edith Wharton’s elite Newport, Rhode Island – while blending in “beyond the book” experiences such as Broadway shows, Segway tours and kayaking.

Practical, entertaining and inspirational, Off the Beaten Page is the ideal companion for adventurous readers or anyone looking to enrich a weekend getaway. (description from publisher)

my ideal bookshelfThe books that we choose to keep – let alone read – can say a lot about who we are and how we see ourselves.

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)

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 bworthington@publishers.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?