Ace by Angela Chen

“The words are gifts. If you know which terms to search, you know how to find others who might have something to teach.” 

In the world of relationships and identities, asexuality is relatively unknown, but it’s vitally important. To understand why, read Ace: What Asexuality Reveals About Desire, Society, and the Meaning of Sex by Angela Chen.  Journalist Chen uses her own experiences as well as those of a diverse group of asexual people to explain what asexuality is and how it feels, and also to expose some hidden truths about ourselves and our societies.

First things first: what DOES it mean? To put it simply, someone who is asexual doesn’t experience sexual attraction. There are as many different ways this works as there are asexual people, but that’s the main point to remember: no sexual attraction. If you’re puzzled, have never heard of this before, and are wondering if I’m just making this up, check out this book, or The Invisible Orientation by Julie Decker, another vital text on the subject, available through interlibrary loan.

To paraphrase the publisher: Both highly readable and unflinchingly honest, Ace uses a blend of reporting, cultural criticism, and memoir to address the misconceptions around the “A” of LGBTQIA and invites everyone to rethink pleasure and intimacy. I personally think that description is spot-on: Chen clearly conducted rigorous research to write this book, but she balances the academic language with personal stories that bring the theoretical ideas and big words into the real, practical world. This makes it easier to understand the tough concepts she introduces, like how gender and race intersect with sexual orientation. Most importantly, she makes it clear that her goal is acceptance and freedom for EVERYONE to build the life and relationships they want, without judgment, pressure, or shame.

You don’t need to be asexual yourself to benefit from this book; you just need to have an open mind. My hope is that if you don’t already know about this word and the diverse and beautiful community it represents, you’ll be intrigued, validated, or at least better informed by learning more about it.

Book Club – The Library Book on January 27th

Cure the winter blues and join us for a book discussion on Wednesday, January 27th at 6:30p. We will be discussing The Library Book by Susan Orlean. Copies of the book are available at our Eastern Avenue location for patrons to borrow for this book club. This program will meet virtually using GoTo Meeting. No registration required. Information about how to join is listed below.

Curious what The Library Book is about? Check out the following description provided by the publisher:

On the morning of April 29, 1986, a fire alarm sounded in the Los Angeles Public Library. As the moments passed, the patrons and staff who had been cleared out of the building realized this was not the usual fire alarm. As one fireman recounted, “Once that first stack got going, it was ‘Goodbye, Charlie.’” The fire was disastrous: it reached 2000 degrees and burned for more than seven hours. By the time it was extinguished, it had consumed four hundred thousand books and damaged seven hundred thousand more. Investigators descended on the scene, but more than thirty years later, the mystery remains: Did someone purposefully set fire to the library—and if so, who?

Weaving her lifelong love of books and reading into an investigation of the fire, award-winning New Yorker reporter and New York Times bestselling author Susan Orlean delivers a mesmerizing and uniquely compelling book that manages to tell the broader story of libraries and librarians in a way that has never been done before.

In The Library Book, Orlean chronicles the LAPL fire and its aftermath to showcase the larger, crucial role that libraries play in our lives; delves into the evolution of libraries across the country and around the world, from their humble beginnings as a metropolitan charitable initiative to their current status as a cornerstone of national identity; brings each department of the library to vivid life through on-the-ground reporting; studies arson and attempts to burn a copy of a book herself; reflects on her own experiences in libraries; and reexamines the case of Harry Peak, the blond-haired actor long suspected of setting fire to the LAPL more than thirty years ago.

Along the way, Orlean introduces us to an unforgettable cast of characters from libraries past and present—from Mary Foy, who in 1880 at eighteen years old was named the head of the Los Angeles Public Library at a time when men still dominated the role, to Dr. C.J.K. Jones, a pastor, citrus farmer, and polymath known as “The Human Encyclopedia” who roamed the library dispensing information; from Charles Lummis, a wildly eccentric journalist and adventurer who was determined to make the L.A. library one of the best in the world, to the current staff, who do heroic work every day to ensure that their institution remains a vital part of the city it serves.

Brimming with her signature wit, insight, compassion, and talent for deep research, The Library Book is Susan Orlean’s thrilling journey through the stacks that reveals how these beloved institutions provide much more than just books—and why they remain an essential part of the heart, mind, and soul of our country. It is also a master journalist’s reminder that, perhaps especially in the digital era, they are more necessary than ever.

This book is also available in the following formats:

‘The Library Book’ by Susan Orlean book discussion
Wed, Jan 27, 2021 6:30 PM – 7:30 PM (CST)

Please join my meeting from your computer, tablet or smartphone.
https://global.gotomeeting.com/join/402755917

You can also dial in using your phone.
United States: +1 (872) 240-3212

Access Code: 402-755-917

New to GoToMeeting? Get the app now and be ready when your first meeting starts:
https://global.gotomeeting.com/install/402755917

Stranger Planet by Nathan W. Pyle

“Bright, colorful, and whimsical—yet charmingly familiar—Stranger Planet is out-of-this-world fun.”

One of my major habits as a reader is balance – I always need to balance out the heavy with the light, the sweet with the salty. It’s how I stay sane, ESPECIALLY when the sweet, light books are like Strange Planet and Stranger Planet by Nathan W. Pyle. There’s nothing like a book of comics as a palate cleanser, and there’s nothing like Pyle’s comics, period.

Stranger Planet is the second book of Pyle’s comics (originally shared on social media) and a worthy successor to the first. In both cases, it’s a pared-down world of bright pinks, blues, greens, and purples, where genderless aliens navigate a strangely familiar world of “cohesion” (marriage), “mild poison” (alcohol), “offspring” (kids), “elastic breath traps” (balloons), and much more.

These comics are charming for me because I love the quirky, gentle humor of examining everyday activities through a fresh perspective. I’m also a huge sucker for wordplay, which doesn’t hurt. Basically, if you’re looking for a quick break or to rediscover a sense of wonder about the world, I definitely recommend you check out Stranger Planet by Nathan Pyle.

The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab

A life no one will remember. A story you will never forget.

The tagline for V.E. Schwab’s latest book The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue is one of the best I’ve seen at perfectly distilling a book down to its essence. V.E. Schwab is mostly known for her children’s and young adult fiction that she published under the name Victoria Schwab, but The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue  is a wonderful addition to historical fantasy for adults that you’ll want to cozy up and read as soon as you can get a copy.

France, 1714. Addie LaRue is desperate. Growing up in a small town in France, Addie thought she had successfully avoided marriage until she is promised to a man with young children. Knowing if she marries him she will be live and die in this same small town, Addie manages to slip away before her wedding. Stumbling in her desperation, Addie kneels in the woods and prays for freedom to a god who only answers after dark. This god, or is he a devil, answers Addie’s call and makes a deal with her that she so desperately wants. Over time, Addie learns the limits of the deal and regrets it: she will live forever, but she will be forgotten by every single person she meets. Every time they turn away, every time they close a door, Addie will slip from their memory, a person or a thought always just out of reach. She will spend her years traveling the world, never quite feeling at home anywhere, and never able to make her mark on the world. Addie must get creative in order to leave her legacy as she visits artists of all types and notices that the seven freckles that dot her cheeks can be found throughout history, like a scattering of stars.

Flash forward 300 years. Addie is searching for something new, anything new that will shake up what she’s already discovered in her 300 years. Walking the streets of New York, she yearns. Suddenly, Addie finds a bookstore that she has never seen before. In it, a boy named Henry will change her life with three little words, ‘I remember you’.

Those three words. How is it possible? Did Luc, the god who made her deal, mess up? He must have. She yearns to be remembered, yearns to belong to someone. She has found the one her soul has been searching for after 300 years. Both Henry and Addie have been yearning for years to not be alone, though Henry’s life has been considerably shorter than Addie’s, but his desire is just as strong. Wanting to feel that connection while they have been alone for all this time is something pressed deep into their souls. Addie and Henry are fearful of what they’ve discovered, that fear running strong in Addie as the anniversary of her deal approaches. Knowing that Luc may show up at any second, whenever the mood hits him, Addie is desperate that Henry remember as much of her life as he can before Luc makes him forget.

This novel tore me apart. It’s not a thriller or a swift ride through the characters’ lives. Instead Schwab introduces both Addie and Henry’s lives in a wonderfully leisurely way, one where readers get to know the characters as they work through whatever newness they uncover. Schwab mixes the past with the present, switching between long stretches of Addie’s 300 years with Henry’s exquisitely awkward and painful shorter life. These moments are presented in a way that tugs at your heart as you wish for peace and comfort for both Henry and Addie in the end.

This book is also available in the following formats:

January Celebrity Book Club Picks

Jenna Bush Hager has selected Black Buck by Mateo Askaripour for her January #ReadwithJenna book club pick.

Curious what Black Buck is about? Check out the following description provided by the publisher.

For fans of Sorry to Bother You and The Wolf of Wall Street—a crackling, satirical debut novel about a young man given a shot at stardom as the lone Black salesman at a mysterious, cult-like, and wildly successful startup where nothing is as it seems.

There’s nothing like a Black salesman on a mission.

An unambitious twenty-two-year-old, Darren lives in a Bed-Stuy brownstone with his mother, who wants nothing more than to see him live up to his potential as the valedictorian of Bronx Science. But Darren is content working at Starbucks in the lobby of a Midtown office building, hanging out with his girlfriend, Soraya, and eating his mother’s home-cooked meals. All that changes when a chance encounter with Rhett Daniels, the silver-tongued CEO of Sumwun, NYC’s hottest tech startup, results in an exclusive invitation for Darren to join an elite sales team on the thirty-sixth floor.

After enduring a “hell week” of training, Darren, the only Black person in the company, reimagines himself as “Buck,” a ruthless salesman unrecognizable to his friends and family. But when things turn tragic at home and Buck feels he’s hit rock bottom, he begins to hatch a plan to help young people of color infiltrate America’s sales force, setting off a chain of events that forever changes the game.

Black Buck is a hilarious, razor-sharp skewering of America’s workforce; it is a propulsive, crackling debut that explores ambition and race, and makes way for a necessary new vision of the American dream.

Want to make sure that Jenna’s picks are automatically put on hold for you? Be sure to join our Best Sellers Club.

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Reese Witherspoon has selected Outlawed by Anna North as the January pick for her book club.

Curious what Outlawed is about? Check out the following description provided by the publisher.

The Crucible meets True Grit in this riveting adventure story of a fugitive girl, a mysterious gang of robbers, and their dangerous mission to transform the Wild West.

In the year of our Lord 1894, I became an outlaw.

The day of her wedding, 17 year old Ada’s life looks good; she loves her husband, and she loves working as an apprentice to her mother, a respected midwife. But after a year of marriage and no pregnancy, in a town where barren women are routinely hanged as witches, her survival depends on leaving behind everything she knows.

She joins up with the notorious Hole in the Wall Gang, a band of outlaws led by a preacher-turned-robber known to all as the Kid. Charismatic, grandiose, and mercurial, the Kid is determined to create a safe haven for outcast women. But to make this dream a reality, the Gang hatches a treacherous plan that may get them all killed. And Ada must decide whether she’s willing to risk her life for the possibility of a new kind of future for them all.

Featuring an irresistibly no-nonsense, courageous, and determined heroine, Outlawed dusts off the myth of the old West and reignites the glimmering promise of the frontier with an entirely new set of feminist stakes. Anna North has crafted a pulse-racing, page-turning saga about the search for hope in the wake of death, and for truth in a climate of small-mindedness and fear.

This book is also available in the following format:

Want to make sure Reese’s picks are automatically put on hold for you? Be sure to join our Best Sellers Club.

Key Changes: New Classical Crossovers

I grew up listening to a lot of classical music because of my parents, and only developed a love for pop music later. This has given me a unique perspective on music, and a love for a genre that’s a bit obscure but super fun if you’re a music nerd like me. It’s usually called Classical Crossovers, and it’s what happens when instruments and groups that typically play classical music play… NOT classical music, whether that’s pop music, rock music, soundtracks, etc. How this works depends on the group and the music they’re covering. I like it because the different instrumentation puts a unique twist on a familiar melody. Here are a few examples of this genre, recently ordered for the library.

Disney Goes Classical by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra is an album where a symphony orchestra plays beloved Disney songs, from movies like The Lion King, Moana, Frozen, and more. It also features guest artists who are some of the best classical musicians today, including Matteo Bocelli,  Renee Fleming, and more. If you’re looking to relive your childhood or experience the magic of Disney in a different way, check out this album for a classy journey down memory lane.

10 by the Piano Guys probably needs no introduction; The Piano Guys have been an Internet sensation for a long time with their amazing covers of popular songs and mashups with both popular and classical tracks. In this album, they celebrate 10 years of making music with new covers as well as some of their greatest hits. They always adapt the original song to work perfectly with their instruments (piano and cello) and the songs on this album are no exception.

Alive by David Garrett is the newest album from an acclaimed violinist known for his violin covers of rock and popular songs. In this album, he has created a collection of his favorite soundtrack music, which runs the gamut from Disney songs like Beauty and the Beast and Let it Go to dramatic hits like Shallow, all the while staying true to his roots as a classical musician.

One By One by Ruth Ware

Ruth Ware is one of my favorite authors writing primarily mysteries and psychological thrillers.  With many titles being published in this genre over the last few years, Ware is unique among authors with her innovative twists and turns.  Her titles are always among the best.  If you are intrigued by this genre and don’t know where to start, I highly recommend Ruth Ware.  Each of her books is a stand alone title and any would be a good place to begin, including her latest release, One By One.

When One By One  opens, we meet Erin and Danny, caretaker and chef respectively, of a picturesque chalet in the French Alps.  They are preparing the chalet for a new tech start up group who will be arriving from London and will be renting the chalet.  The CEO has rented the house for the inner circle of the company with the intention of team building, presentations and strategizing.

As voyeurs to the group and the changing dynamic between its members, Erin and Danny soon sense tension as old secrets start to emerge. The group conducts their annual business meeting and during the meeting a faction of employees announce their intention to take a buyout deal that would make millions for a select few.

After the tense meeting, the guests try to settle in at the chalet.  Just as they start to relax, an avalanche quickly and violently destroys the chalet’s access to the outside world.  To make matters worse, one of the guests was on the slopes when the avalanche hit and did not return to the chalet.  With the group being isolated, Erin and Danny frantically try to keep the guests calm while simultaneously trying to contact the authorities for help.  They soon realize that help may not be coming and the most dire threat may be from one of the guests as their numbers start to dwindle one by one in a variety of suspicious circumstances.

The book wraps up with a thrilling ski scene that makes you feel like you are right on the slopes of the French Alps.  Again, another winner from Ruth Ware!

One By One is also available as an eBook and eAudiobook on Overdrive.

Book Club @ Night – ‘Miracle Creek’ on January 20th

New year means new book clubs! Book Club @ Night is back and we’re reading adult fiction! On the Third Wednesday of the month through May 2021, we will be meeting at 6:30pm to discuss adult fiction. On Wednesday, January 20th, Book Club @ Night is reading Miracle Creek by Angie Kim.

Books are available at our Eastern Avenue curbside location for patrons to borrow for this book club. Registration is not required. This program is meeting virtually using GoTo Meeting. Information about how to join is listed below.

Curious what Miracle Creek is about? Check out the following description provided by the publisher:

How far will you go to protect your family? Will you keep their secrets? Ignore their lies?

In a small town in Virginia, a group of people know each other because they’re part of a special treatment center, a hyperbaric chamber that may cure a range of conditions from infertility to autism. But then the chamber explodes, two people die, and it’s clear the explosion wasn’t an accident.

A showdown unfolds as the story moves across characters who are all maybe keeping secrets, hiding betrayals. Was it the careless mother of a patient? Was it the owners, hoping to cash in on a big insurance payment and send their daughter to college? Could it have been a protester, trying to prove the treatment isn’t safe?

This book is also available in the following formats:

Book Club @ Night – ‘Miracle Creek’ by Angie Kim
Wed, Jan 20, 2021 6:30 PM – 7:30 PM (CST)

Please join my meeting from your computer, tablet or smartphone.
https://global.gotomeeting.com/join/699077461

You can also dial in using your phone.
United States: +1 (669) 224-3412

Access Code: 699-077-461

New to GoToMeeting? Get the app now and be ready when your first meeting starts:
https://global.gotomeeting.com/install/699077461

Finna by Nino Cipri

Not to be melodramatic, but Finna by Nino Cipri is the book I’ve been waiting for my whole life. It reads in many ways like an American version of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – one of my all-time favorite books. The deceptively thin volume is the story of Ava and Jules, a young couple that just broke up a week ago and now has to find a way to continue working together at a Scandinavian big box furniture store. As if the horrors and indignities of working retail AND a breakup  weren’t enough, they then discover a wormhole to a parallel universe has opened inside the store — and a customer has wandered through it. It falls to Ava and Jules, as the employees with the least seniority, to go through the wormhole and try to bring the customer home. While trying to survive a perilous multiverse, they must also walk the perilous path from breakup back to friendship.

I fell in love with this book almost instantly, and there’s many reasons why. For one thing, it’s a slim and unintimidating 137 pages, and the writing style and brief chapters make it a quick and addictive read. The humor is dry and wry, realistic about the cruelties and frustrations of both working retail and navigating relationships. Both characters are honest about their own good and bad qualities and while the hurt and defensiveness is real, they don’t flinch away from taking a long, hard look at what went wrong in themselves and in their relationship. Moreover, meaningful as the relationship between the characters is, the book doesn’t get bogged down in it, balancing out the heartfelt discussions with lots of frankly wacky adventures in parallel universes both beautiful and sinister. Finally, this book is one of a very rare type: a novel, with a genderqueer protagonist, that doesn’t focus exclusively on that individual’s gender. In fact, Jules’ gender identity and the social difficulties that come with it are treated as established and routine, mundane everyday details compared to the rest of the plot. As a genderqueer person myself, it is so refreshing to read novels where gender-diverse people exist, live their lives, and do things other than obsess about their gender identity.

If you love slice-of-life sci fi, Welcome to Night Vale, Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, or are craving some light-hearted LGBTQ representation, I 100% recommend you check out this book.

Conditional Citizens by Laila Lalami

“Conditional citizens are people who know what it is like for a country to embrace you with one arm, and push you away with the other.” 

In the recently published title Conditional Citizens: On Belonging in America, Laila Lalami reflects upon what it means to be an American citizen as an Arab, Muslim woman who immigrated from Morocco after studying abroad in the United States. In this book, she designates individuals such as herself as “conditional citizens,” or those who are unable to participate and share in the traditional liberties and equalities promised upon becoming a citizen due to their race, nationality, religion, or gender.

In this collection of essays, Lalami explores her place in America by focusing on different spaces in which she experiences conditional citizenship, spanning from allegiance and faith to caste, inheritance, and assimilation. She considers how conditional citizens are all too often attributed a collective narrative based on race, gender, nationality, and religion, which can lead to demeaning stereotypes, dehumanizing rhetoric, and destructive notions of “the Other.” Lalami also elaborates upon how the very foundations of the United States are upheld by a caste system supporting white supremacy, in which white males are upheld at the top of the social order. All in all, this account asks the monumental questions of what it means to be an American and what it means to truly belong in the United States of America.

Overall, this deeply personal and moving narrative provides a vital perspective and addresses a variety of undeniably important topics in short, insightful essays. For me, this was not only an extremely enlightening read, but also a disheartening one as Lalami illuminates the hardships many people experience in the United States each and every day, despite being citizens. One of the most poignant experiences Lalami recounts is when a white woman asked her about the formation of ISIS at a book talk for her novel The Moor’s Account, which is a fictionalized memoir of the first black explorer in the United States. In other words, a work that has absolutely nothing to do with ISIS, but asked based on an ignorant, collective narrative drawn solely from her nationality and appearance. Unfortunately, these generalizations are by no means uncommon and can be extremely dangerous for so many people, which is why I especially recommend this title to everyone.

This title is also available in the following formats:

Overdrive eBook

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