Online Reading Challenge – Mid-Month Check

Hello Fellow Challengers!

How is your reading going this month? Have you had any luck finding a great book about Medicine?

I have a confession to make. I’ve read not one but two books already this month! Ha! (I actually finished the second one on January 6!) “Overachiever” is not a word people usually associate with me, and don’t expect this to happen every (or any other!) month but this time I found two can’t-put-down books. And the month is only half over – maybe I’ll find another!

If you’re struggling to find the right book, or are short on time this month, why not try a television show movie? (Yes, movies are allowed!) Here’s a selection of movies and television shows that might interest you.

The Big Sick

Grey’s Anatomy

The Good Doctor

House

M*A*S*H

There are lots more – medical dramas are always popular. Stop by any Davenport Library location and browse the selection!

Unsheltered by Barbara Kingsolver

Guest blog by Laura V.

I enjoyed the technique of intermingling two storylines in Unsheltered by Barbara Kingsolver but since I listened to the audio version, sometimes it took me several seconds to mentally shift gears into the other story when a new chapter started. One story takes place during the campaign leading up to the 2016 United States Presidental election where a controversial unnamed male candidate is simply referred to as The Bullhorn. After chasing the proverbial brass ring their whole careers, Willa Knox and her husband Iano Tavoularis have both lost their jobs due to closures. They move to Vineland and try to balance life with her super right-wing father-in-law, millennial daughter who Willa doesn’t understand, and her unemployed, Ivy League son’s new baby. All the while, their inherited home is becoming less stable on its crumbling foundation.

The other story takes place in the same location post-civil war. Thatcher Greenwood has a new position in a recently-founded utopian community, Vineland. He brings his new bride and her family back to their old home from before they lost their patriarch and his fortune. He struggles to keep up with his new family’s penchant for the good life, while they refuse to believe their patriarch built a house that was already in dire need of major renovation. Greenwood finds a friend and kindred spirit in his neighbor, Mary Treat. Treat was a fascinating real historical figure who was a frequently published self-taught botanist and a correspondent of Charles Darwin.

In some ways this book is a mirror for our current state of the union. I know many readers besides myself with be able to identify with the confusion and frustration brought on by having done “all the right things” only to be left with a severance package and a new job search at an age where starting over seems exhausting. My favorite characters were Mary Treat and Tig, Willa’s daughter. Mary was able to slyly outmaneuver the barriers against women in science and actually made a living out of it in the late 1800s! Tig seemed to have her feet more firmly planted in the reality that is the state of the world today, while Willa clung to the world as it used to be or should be.

Kingsolver writes beautifully, as usual. Her characters are interesting and have depth. Although I think she oversimplifies some topics occasionally and she made too much use of coincidence in this novel. If you haven’t read Kingsolver, this would be a decent introduction and if you’re a fan, you’re sure to enjoy it.

January Travel Talk – Why Travel?

Welcome to our first installment of Travel Talk. This month, we’re talking about the why of travel – why leave the comforts of home and travel somewhere new? What, if any, are the benefits? Why are some people compelled to travel? Why bother at all?

I consider myself a homebody that loves to travel, which kind of covers both extremes of the urge to travel or not. I’m perfectly happy spending time at home, surrounded by my books and cats and garden. I find that I have to really push myself to get up and get out – it’s a scary world out there! But when I do go I find I love it – seeing new things, experiencing different cultures, trying something that I wouldn’t at home. I come back with stories and memories that add to my life.

The reasons to travel can be as varied as there are people. It can be as fundamental as checking items off a bucket list, pursuing a hobby or interest, seeking the sun or the best snow slopes (depending on your preferences) or just a chance to say “I’ve been there.” And there are a lot of good-for-you reasons to travel too – it can make you healthier, happier and stronger. I think one of the greatest benefits of travel though is that it exposes you to different cultures, opening your eyes to our differences – and our similarities. You become a “citizen of the world” and create a stronger connection to others.

Some great books to get you thinking about the benefits of travel include

Travel as a Political Act by Rick Steves

A Year Off: a Story About Traveling the World – and How to Make it Happen for You by Alexandra and David Brown

Rediscovering Travel: a Guide for the Globally Curious by Seth Kugal

At Home in the World: Reflections on Belonging While Traveling the Globe by Tsh Oxenreider

So why do I push out of my comfort zone and travel? Lots of reasons, of course, but my top three would be:

  1. Creative Inspiration. Whether it’s seeing great works of art or beautiful landscapes, I find lots of inspiration for my creative side.
  2. To Learn. Learning is not just for school children. It’s an ongoing experience for our whole lives. Learning makes me happy and engaged.
  3. To Have Stories to Tell. Travel never goes without hitches or the unexpected. In the end, they all make good stories both to share and to remember.

From Michelle: While in college, I was lucky enough to spend nearly four months in Vienna, Austria on a foreign term. Throughout this trip is where I discovered my love of travel.  The ability to discover different cultures, people and places was life changing and eye opening.   I think I love to travel for a couple of reasons.  One of my first loves is art and architecture and seeing a country’s treasures in person is a passion.  Connecting art and architecture with the larger world and its history puts it in context and makes it more meaningful.  I also love the memories that travel provides.  Reminiscing about seeing a painting that was on your must-see list or remembering a funny scene on the street is a gift.  Travel is something where you never run out of options for your next adventure.

Now it’s your turn – why do you travel? Let us know in the comments!

P.S. Don’t forget to pick up your Travel Talk notebook at any Davenport Library location!

Introducing the Travel Talk Program!

Hello! Today we’re introducing a new program – Travel Talk. With this Info Cafe program we’ll explore many aspects of travel. Each month we’ll focus on another subject with topics such as where to go, how to research your trip, solo travel, preserving travel memories, road trips plus lots more. We’ll also have a couple of special events including a movie in March and a “worst travel experience” contest later this year. Whether you’re a hard-core adventurer or an armchair traveler, you’ll find something to enjoy!

It’s easy to follow along with the program. Be sure to visit the Info Cafe blog on the second Wednesday of each month when my fellow librarian and Info-Cafe-blogger Michelle and I will introduce and discuss a new topic. If that’s as much as you’d like to do – no problem! We’re happy to have you along! But if you’d like to kick it up a notch, simply comment on the post and/or join in any discussion on that post. We’ll keep track of who comments each month and keep a running total. Anyone who makes a total of eight comments throughout the year (only one comment per month will count toward your total) will receive a small, travel-related prize in December!

In addition, we have passport-size, travel-themed notebooks available for anyone in the Travel Talk program. Simply stop at the customer service desk at any Davenport Library location and ask for a “Travel Talk notebook”. These basic little notebooks can be used to jot quick notes, keep track of your books-to-read list or even your grocery list! I’m planning to use mine to keep notes on any tips and interesting thoughts or suggestions I pick up through the Travel Talk program.

So, are you on-board? (haha – travel humor!) Be sure to stop by the blog again tomorrow when we delve into our first discussion – “Why Travel?”

 

 

 

Welcome to the 2019 Online Reading Challenge!

r e a d (reed), v. 1. to look at carefully so as to understand the meaning of something written. 2. to occupy oneself seriously with reading or study. 3. to obtain knowledge or learn of something by reading.


It’s January – that means it’s the start of a new Online Reading Challenge! I hope you join us whenever and however you can. As in the past, this is a low-key, no-pressure book club. Each month we’ll explore a new theme through books. You can read old-fashioned paper books or new-fangled ebooks, listen to audio books, even watch relevant movies! Remember, there are no Library Police! Read whatever catches your interest. There is also no penalty for skipping a month or not finishing a book by the end of the month. The goal of our Online Reading Challenge is simply to find great books to read/listen to/movies to watch!

This year the Challenge is called “r e a d” (although yes, movies still count!). I’ve chosen a variety of general subjects, topics that touch on all of us throughout our lives – like family, art,  and the world around us. Each month I’ll suggest titles (both fiction and non-fiction) to get you started and there will be displays at each building with even more. The topics can be explored from a variety of angles – serious to light, historical to current events. How you approach each month is entirely up to you! And don’t forget to pick up a bookmark/book log at the library to help you keep track of your reading progress.

For a complete list of this year’s topics, check out the 2019 Online Reading Challenge Page.

So, let’s get started! January’s topic is Medicine.

Everyone has had to deal with the medical field at some point, even if you’re healthy as a horse and rarely need to see a doctor, health and fitness is important to everyone. Titles to read in this subject can vary widely – fiction and non-fiction, light or scary, physical health or mental health, the field is wide open. Here are a few ideas to get you started.

For serious non-fiction, take a look at Bellevue by David Oshinsky about the infamous New York City hosipital or the acclaimed book The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot which delves into bioethics and informed consent. Pandemic 1918 by Catharine Arnold looks at the devastating “Spanish Influenza” which killed millions. When Breath Becomes Air is written by physician Paul Kalanithi after he discovers he has terminal cancer while In an Instant by Lee Woodruff looks at how traumatic brain injury affects both the individual and their family. Still Alice by Lisa Genova delves into dementia while Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick examines mental health.

It’s not all grim and scary though; books in this subject are often uplifting and optimistic. Try The Midwife by Jennifer Worth about young nurses working in 1950s London as midwives to the poor. Or read something from the Irish Doctor series by Patrick Taylor about a country doctor living in a small village of eccentric personalities. And James Herriot’s charming All Creatures Great and Small books, set in Yorkshire, England never disappoint (hey, I know he’s a vet treating animals but it’s still medicine!) If you prefer to be kept awake at night, reach for Robin Cook’s medical thrillers.

I’m going to read My Name is Mary Sutter by Robin Oliveira which is about a young woman who dreams of becoming a surgeon. Set during the Civil War, she must overcome the prejudices against women in medicine while working to help the thousands of wounded soldiers. The time period and story line both sound interesting to me and I’m looking forward to reading it!

Now, what about you? Will you be joining us this year? What will you read in January?

 

Library Closed for New Years

The Davenport Library will be closed on December 31 and January 1 in observance of the New Year holiday. All of our locations will reopen on Wednesday January 2 with regular business hours, Main (321 Main Street) 9:00am to 8:00pm, Fairmount (3000 Fairmount Street) 9:00am to 5:30pm and Eastern (6000 Eastern Avenue) noon to 8:00pm.

Have a safe and happy holiday!

Online Reading Challenge – Wrapping Up 2018

Hello Fellow Challenge Readers!

How did your reading go in December? “Present Time” proved to be a little tricky, didn’t it? The topic was pretty general and the time of year was busy, not an ideal formula. I hope you found and enjoyed something good to round out our Challenge year.

I did well – I read The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion. If you are a fan of quick-moving, amusing yet thoughtful books, or if you’re a fan of “The Big Bang Theory”, you’re going to like this book.

Don Tillman lives his life by precise, strict rules and schedules. Any deviation can lead to anxiety and panic and he has trouble reading social cues and emotions. He has found a niche where he’s comfortable – a professor of genetics at a prestigious university – and a group of friends (well, two friends) who accept him as he is.

Although Don is perfectly happy, he decides that he would like a wife and thus begins the Wife Project. Don creates an impossibly detailed questionnaire with the intention of weeding out undesirable candidates. Of course, no one can meet Don’s impossible standards. As a joke, one of Don’s friends (it’s questionable how good a friend this person is!) sends Rosie his way without telling either that a) Don is looking for the impossibly perfect wife and b) Rosie is not looking for a date. A great deal of amusing chaos ensues, which ultimately forces Don to look at his life and his choices.

I found that Don strongly reminded me of Sheldon on the television series “The Big Band Theory”. A somewhat lovable genius but good heavens, he can be annoying. The book is also surprisingly thoughtful. It is framed as a comedy about one man’s peculiar personality, but while doing so, it also examines how we observe others and how we think about ourselves. Are we always honest with ourselves, or do we hide behind excuses and stories? A fun book with lots to say.

That wraps up the 2018 Online Reading Challenge. I hope you enjoyed our reading year! And I hope you’ll join us next year for the 2019 edition for another year of exploring a variety of subjects through books. Be sure to visit again on January 2 for all of the details and a list of Challenge topics. It’s going to be another great year!

Until then, have a great holiday! See you in 2019!

Library Closed for Christmas Holiday

The Davenport Library will be closed on December 24 and 25 in observance of the Christmas holiday. All of our locations will reopen on Wednesday December 26 with regular business hours, Main (321 Main Street) 9:00am to 8:00pm, Fairmount (3000 Fairmount Street) 9:00am to 5:30pm and Eastern (6000 Eastern Avenue) noon to 8:00pm.

Have a safe and happy holiday!

Online Reading Challenge – Mid-Month Check

Hello Fellow Readers!

How is your December reading going? This can be a difficult month to squeeze in some reading time with so many holiday obligations taking up our time and attention. Think of reading as your “me time”, a way to take a break from the stress and chaos that often accompanies the fun stuff.

I am zooming right along with my December pick, The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion. It’s been a fun read so far and I have should have no problem finishing it soon (thus avoiding another Epic Fail!).

Still looking for something to complete the December challenge? Remember, movies are allowed too which opens up a huge variety of choices. Grab a favorite rom-com – While You Were Sleeping, You’ve Got Mail or Love, Actually. Or go for an action movie like Bourne Identity or Ocean’s Eleven. And many current and recent television series are set in the present – check through the library’s collection for titles like Friends and Law and Order and many more.

Just remember – indoor plumbing? Yes. Flying cars? No.

Online Reading Challenge – December

Here we go! The final month of the 2018 Online Reading Challenge! Let’s go out with a bang!

The time period for December is – Present Day! This is pretty vague I admit. After all, isn’t the sentence I just wrote already in the past? Ha! Bit of brain twister, right? Let’s define Present Day as a book written about a time period when indoor plumbing is common but flying cars aren’t. Which gives you a fairly broad range of books to choose from.

This might be an ideal time to read something that’s been on your “to read” list, or a book that got a lot of buzz recently that you haven’t gotten around to reading yet. Remember, there are no Library Police, so if an outhouse or a little magic shows up in your book, no one will come knocking on your door with a court summons. Find something you want to read and enjoy!

Just, no flying cars please.

To get you started here are a few of my favorite contemporary fiction titles.

Where’d You Go Bernadette by Maria Semple is both funny and touching. I read it for last year’s Reading Challenge when we “visited” Seattle and wrote about it here.

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zeven. A quick read about a curmudgeon book store owner finding, to his astonishment that despite his best efforts to avoid everything and everyone, life presents him with a second chance.

Bel Canto by Ann Patchett. Patchett is probably my favorite contemporary author and I would recommend any of her titles. Bel Canto is probably her most well-known, about a hostage situation in South America and how it changed the wealthy people who were held.

A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Bachman. This is a real treat of a book, charming and funny about the importance of connection and finding family in unexpected places. Even if you don’t know how to fix a window. My review is posted here.

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. I cried and I laughed out loud while reading this – sometimes from the same page. It is, in my opinion, a modern masterpiece about love, not giving up and finding meaning and purpose in each life. I wrote more about it a couple years ago on the blog.

This is just the tip of the iceberg – there are lots more excellent candidates. Be sure to look for the displays at each Davenport Library building for even more suggestions.

I’m going to read The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion which I have heard many good things about. A romantic comedy about a socially awkward professor looking for love in a very methodical way, I’m looking forward to something funny and uplifting. Have you read it? What did you think? And what are you going to read this month?

Breaking News – the Online Reading Challenge 2019 begins on January 2! Watch the blog for details, coming soon!