Selfish, Shallow and Short

Much like Carol, I’ve got a fondness for brevity when it comes to reading. I could blame this tendency on the evil information age shortening my attention span. Really though I’ve liked short reads long before the interweb came on the scene. I’m told that The Snowy Day and The Story of Ferdinand were two of my childhood favorites. Moby Dick they are not. When it comes to brief adult books, short stories are a perennial favorite but I’m also very fond of their non-fiction relative: the essay.

Essays are great for many reasons, but one of my favorites is the way an author can focus in on a specific topic and essentially riff on it. A good essay is often like a good stand-up comedy set, just not necessarily funny. The author can make you think about a familiar topic in a totally different way and challenge your assumptions. There is also the pleasure of cheering them on if you agree with their point of view. Best of all, there is no two drink minimum to start reading.

Here are three newish essay collections to wet your whistle.

Selfish, Shallow and Self-Absorbed: Sixteen Writers on the Decision Not to Have Kids edited by Meghan Daum

selfishshallowWhile the confrontational, yet entertaining, title of this collection might make you think this book is simply a screed promoting the ‘child free by choice’ concept at all costs, the essays are actually quite thoughtful. To be sure there is plenty of material to offend, but unless you take the extreme position that every person must breed, you should find yourself chuckling, cheering, or shaking your head at many of the writers’ positions. All the big questions are addressed (What is natural? Is a child required for a fulfilling life? What is the point of it all?) with wit, style, and humor.

Unruly Places: Lost Spaces, Secret Cities and Other Inscrutable Geographies by Alastair Bonnett

Iunrulyplacesn this collection, the author sets out to explore many of the odd, quirky and downright weird places that dot the globe. Each short essay examines places that are hard to define. There is the Principality of Sealand, an old World War II gun platform off the coast of England that has been declared a sovereign nation. And don’t forget Sandy Island which was placed on maps, even Google maps, for years despite never having existed. The author also explores odd communities, the RV Camp next to the runway at LAX, and strange unclaimed environments, the meridians between major highways, to get you thinking about what a place actually is.

Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay

badfeministThe far ranging topics of these essays, from Sweet Valley High to Django, are served up by cultural critic and novelist Roxane Gay with humor and personal insight. She is a bona fide consumer of popular culture, who lists the Hunger Games and Scrabble as obsessions, but is not shy about pointing out the misogyny and racism that can be lurking in the many books, films, TV shows and albums that we choose to consume. Gay understands the oddly conflicted nature of enjoying and abhorring many aspects of popular culture simultaneously. It is this understanding that makes these essays humorous, confrontational and insightful but never boring.

2015 Summer Reading Program!

Be a super reader and find your hero in a book this summer!

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Everett Public Library has launched the 2015 Summer Reading Program, offering kids and teens a way to have fun and be ready for school come fall. Studies have shown that students who don’t read in the summer come back to school with a lower reading level. If children read just twenty minutes a day, they will return to school at the same reading level. Our program has children reading thirty minutes each day so that they will return to school even better readers!

Pick up a reading log at either the Main Library (2702 Hoyt Avenue) or the Evergreen Branch (9512 Evergreen Way) from June 1 – July 31, 2015.

Start your reading on the first day of summer vacation. The library has special reading programs for pre-readers, readers and teens in which children can read or be read to, in order to earn a free book and other fun prizes.

Choose your path:

  • The Read with Me program is for children not yet able to read on their own.
  • The Children’s Program is for children who are reading on their own and are going into kindergarten through soon to be fifth graders. Select your reading goal: 24 hours of Reading (1 line = 30 Minutes)  or 48 books (1 line = 1 book)
  • The Teen Program is for students going into grades six through twelve. Select your reading goal: 24 hours of Reading (1 line = 1 hour)  or 24 books (1 line = 1 book)

After earning prizes, children and teens may continue reading and earning stickers to their heart’s content. Additional reading sheets are available for these readers, but not prizes.

indexWe will have lots of copies of Wonder by Palacio (and other fantastic reads) available for all of the Everett School District students who are required to read it this summer.

Plan on participating in the fantastic array of programs planned for children and teens this summer: Paws to Read,  Crafternoons, Storytimes and so much more!

A big THANK YOU to our main sponsor, Home Street Bank! If you have any questions about the 2015 Summer Reading Program, please call the Youth Services Department at 425-257-8030 for more information.
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Spot-Lit for June 2015

Spot-Lit

These titles – from established, emerging, and under-the-radar authors – are some of the most anticipated new releases based on a consensus of advance reviews, publisher interest, and bookish social media.

Click the book cover montage below and then the Full Display button beside each title to read summaries or reviews or to place titles on hold.

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Notable New Fiction 2015 (to date) | All On-Order Fiction.

It’s the End of the World or Our Endless Numbered Days by Claire Fuller

ourendlessnumbereddaysThis was one messed up novel. If I were in a group of people and we were standing around talking about this book I would be the one raising my eyebrows, shoving another cocktail weenie in my mouth and shouting “Wasn’t that the most messed up book ever?”

Yeah, because that’s what I do. I go to parties where there are mini hotdogs, multi-colored Chinese lanterns, some hipster crap music playing in the background and me standing in a group of people talking about life. You don’t know me at all, do you? The only way you could get me to one of those parties would be:

1) Horse tranquilizers

2) Promise me an endless supply of mini hotdogs and my own bathroom; I’m not 20 anymore. My stomach doesn’t handle whatever organ meat hotdogs are made from anymore.

3) Promise me I can go through the pockets of all the coats piled on a bed. And keep what I find.

My best friend recommended Claire Fuller’s Our Endless Numbered Days to me. She did her own eyebrow raising thing and cryptically said “The ending is not what you’re expecting. At all.” So when I finished it, I texted her first, demanding that my questions be answered. And did she agree that this was one messed up novel?

Indeed, she agreed. It is one screwed up novel.

And I’m still puzzled about some of the bizarre things that went on in this book. I mean, puzzled to the point where I’m writing this sentence and thinking ‘What did that character mean by that?’ But you know the best part? The screwed uppedness (tell Webster I want this new word in his next dictionary edition) of this book doesn’t hit all at once. It unfolds like a quiet diabolical storm. You’re reading along and thinking ‘Huh, that’s weird. Hmmm…what’s going on?’ and then about 45 pages away from the ending you look up from reading and go ‘Shut the front door! What the frig is going on????!!!’

Here. Let me sell it to you.

It’s 1976 London and 8-year-old Peggy Hillcoat’s father is part of a group of men who are survivalists (yeah, I didn’t know England had them either). Peggy likes to listen to them but her mother, Ute, can’t stand them. Ute was a famous German classical pianist in her youth and spends most of her days like most former uppity musicians: looking at pictures of ‘Way Back When’, playing mournful elegies on the piano and carrying on as if she’s still the bomb.

Peggy’s father James and an American survivalist named Oliver grow close. I didn’t like this Oliver dude from the beginning. He’s not evil or anything. He’s just…annoying. Like ‘I’d really like to punch you in the face’ annoying. Oliver likes to egg James on. James, it turns out, is kind of an unstable fanatic but you can’t really tell which way he’s going yet: is he a fanatic like me with Doctor Who or is he a fanatic with a homemade bomb in a shoe box in the pantry behind the box of instant potatoes?

Ute goes off to Germany to play a gig for a few weeks leaving Peggy and James on their own. They set up a tent at the end of the garden, don’t bathe for days and become wild creatures. So one day James just kind of snaps and says “We’re going on an adventure. Pack some stuff. Let’s go.”

And on an adventure they do go, all the way to a tiny ramshackle cabin in the middle of nowhere. Really nowhere. I’m talking the nearest town is a five-day walk. Carved on the underside of a table in the cabin is the name Rueben. A mysterious name in a mysterious place. It’s all fun at first, hunting and gathering, making the small cabin into their own. But the hot summer wears on and Peggy starts to miss her mother and her home. She misses her best friend and school. Her dad starts showing signs of a complete mental breakdown. He’s good at this survivalist thing but the dude cannot cope with everyday life. He runs into the cabin one day and tells Peggy that the world is gone. The world ended and they are the last two people alive. And damn, she’s eight years old so she believes him.

For the next eight years it is as if they are the last two people alive.

And then someone comes out of the forest.

It’s Time for Summer Reading

Just in case you missed the article in the Everett Herald on Sunday, here is a list, complete with links to our catalog, of titles our writers are looking forward to reading this summer. So many books, so little time.

From Carol:

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Oh Joy! By Joy Cho
A fun DIY book of awesome summer projects by the author of the popular blog Oh Joy!

The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl by Issa Rae
Part memoir, part guidebook for other Awkward Black Girls, laughter and insight in equal measures. I’m halfway through and find myself wishing I had a BFF like Issa!

Mapmaker by Mark Bomback & Galaxy Craze Teenagers
Tanya and Connor stumble on a deadly secret while working at the digital mapmaking company where Tanya’s dead father once worked. Mystery, adventure, and hopefully some romance!

The Sasquatch Hunter’s Almanac by Sharma Shields
A  dark, fantastical, multi-generational tale about a family whose patriarch is consumed by the hunt for the mythical, elusive Sasquatch he encountered in his youth. The author of this novel is speaking at a library conference this fall and I want to read it first!

fileunderFrom Ron:

File Under: 13 Suspicious Incidents by Lemony Snicket
The All the Wrong Questions series features a young Lemony Snicket being mentored in the art of detectiving by a mysterious woman, whilst attempting to unravel perplexing questions in the curious village of  Stain’d-by-the-Sea.

From Richard:

eatingromeEating Rome: Living the Good Life in the Eternal City by Elizabeth Minchilli
The eternal city has culture, monuments and beauty in spades but oh my, the food. If you don’t have the time or money to visit the ancient capital this summer, this book should offer the next best thing with a culinary tour from a local expert.

From Leslie:

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At the Water’s Edge by Sara Gruen
Set during WWII, Maddie, her husband Ellis and his best friend Hank leave their pampered high society lives in Philadelphia after falling out of grace with family in search of the Loch Ness Monster.  This is a moving love story set in an unusual setting.

The Harder They Come by T.C. Boyle
T.C. Boyle’s The Harder They Come is on my list because I loved Tortilla Curtain. Inspired by a true story and set in contemporary Northern California, it explores the volatile connections between three damaged people as they careen toward an explosive confrontation.

The Wright Brothers by David McCullough
As he did so brilliantly in The Great Bridge and The Path Between the Seas, David McCullough once again tells a dramatic story of people and technology, this time about the courageous brothers who taught the world how to fly, Wilbur and Orville Wright.

Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee would be a great summer read and is sure to be popular. Twenty years after the trial of Tom Robinson, Scout returns home to Maycomb to visit her father and struggles with personal and political issues in her small Alabama town.

From Lisa:

lisabks

The Fair Fight: A Novel  by Anna Freeman
Born in a brothel in late eighteenth-century England, homely Ruth escapes an uncertain future in an unlikely place: the bareknuckle prize fighting rings of Bristol.

This Book is Gay (on-order) by James Dawson
Gay, straight, questioning, and everyone in-between and beyond. This book is an instruction manual and question and answer session for anyone interested in learning more about growing up LGBTQ. A funny, honest, and enlightening read for teens and adults alike.

The Subprimes by Karl Taro Greenfeld
In the apocalyptic future, Americans are segregated by their credit scores. Those with bad credit, dubbed Subprimes, inhabit an underground world of unemployment and fear. Follow a Subprime family as they journey east to seek out a better life.

Spectacle:The Astonishing Life of Ota Benga by Pamela Newkirk
After being displayed at the 1904 World’s Fair’s Human Zoo, a Congolese man (dubbed a ‘pygmy’) was moved into the Monkey House at the New York Zoological Society. This is his shockingly true story of racial prejudice.

Brief Reads

Brief ReadsSummer is almost here and soon people in Library Land will start buzzing about beach reads. I say forget the beach reads and pick up some brief reads! Nope, I’m not talking about underpants. I mean books that won’t take you very long to read. And if you’re like me and have been experiencing a series of disappointments, be it books that let you down or ones that were too terrible to finish (looking at you, Ron!), I suggest picking a couple of gems from my list and watch your “books read” page on GoodReads fill up faster than me on margarita night. Pro tip: margarita night can be any night when you’re mixing them at home.

oneI was an Awesomer Kid by Brad Getty
Step back in time and relive life through your eyes. Your childhood eyes, that is. Generously peppered with vintage childhood photographs, Getty brings forth universal truths from our totally awesome childhoods: we wore whatever we wanted, we didn’t hide our emotions, we got paid to do chores, and our prime mode of transportation were Big Wheels. Reading this book won’t take you very long, but be prepared for the inevitable detours that this jaunt down memory lane may cause.

Terrible Estate Agent Photos by Andy Donaldson
Based on the popular Tumblr of the same name, this book is meant to be shared. Bring a loved one in on the reading and spend time laughing together at the absurdity of just how unprepared some homes are to have their photo taken when they’re being put on the market. Trends include toilets in the kitchen (not to be confused with toilet kitchens, ala The League), the Garden Chair of Solitude (that lone patio chair inexplicably left alone in the corner of a backyard photograph), and mysterious and disgusting stains and smears left on walls and floors. I remember when we sold my childhood home. I was 9 and I had to shove all my kid crap under my bed before the real estate agents arrived to show the house. The people who own the properties in this book? Please. They don’t see the need to stage an attractive shot of their home! People will want to buy it based on its location alone. Right? Right?

fourRad American Women A-Z by Kate Schatz
If there’s one thing I wish I could buckle down and read more often, it’s biographies and memoirs. There’s nothing quite like delving into a historical figure’s life and learning all sorts of new tidbits about them, and possibly seeing them in a new light. For some reason, though, I’m never quite in the mood to read a 500 page biography, no matter how fascinating I may find the subject. Thankfully there’s a brief read to satisfy this need of mine. This book gives you exactly one page of information for each of the 26 women featured. Reading these brief bios (how meta: brief in a brief read!) may whet your appetite for more, but if not you can at least say you now have heard of these awesome ladies. Plus, your new-found knowledge may aid you at a future trivia night.

That Should Be a Word by Lizzie Skurnick
Build your vocabulary and knock out yet another book by picking up this one. Amaze your friends and be on the cutting edge of a language revolution with such words as dramaneering (maintaining control by seeming to be in crisis), stardy (setting off late), sharanoia (fear of what people are thinking of your posts), and oughty (guilty but lazy anyhow). These words frequently describe my behavior in procrastinating writing for this blog, so I found the book extremely helpful.

fiveCoffee Gives Me Superpowers by Ryoko Iwata
I honestly don’t think you need me to talk this book up to you. Either you thrive on coffee like yours truly, or you never touch that dark, bitter liquid. The latter may skip this one, but if drinking your morning cuppa sprouts a metaphorical cape onto your back, you’re going to want to carve out the 30 minutes required for this book. Filled with facts and infographics, there is humor peppered throughout and those who read this book shall find a bonus comic in the back illustrated by Matthew Inman of The Oatmeal called If Coffee Were My Boyfriend.

No need to thank me, kids. I know we’re all rushed. Just be sure to credit me back when you publicly eschew beach reads for brief reads. And if you can confuse someone regarding the meaning of briefs (“Not underpants, silly!”) all the better.

Failed Fiction Forays

I don’t usually set reading goals, but at the start of this year I felt that I’d fallen into a bit of a rut. A bit of a rut. A bit… (thud!) So I devised what middle management types call soft goals (unless I made this term up), meaning that it’s not so important whether I achieve said objectives. Mostly I’m looking to stretch myself in new literary directions, hence the vague guidelines for choosing reading materials.

Goal number one is to read fiction books written in 2015. Titles tackled so far include:

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The problem is, other than The Rosie Effect, none of these books have captured my interest enough to finish reading them. This is a bit unusual for me, to hit so many titles in a row that I put down unfinished. And once again I find myself turning to comfort books: detective pulp, cozy mysteries and nostalgic books I’ve read before. Maybe this makes a strong statement about my current psychological state, but for today let’s just look at the books I have abandoned.

Doctor Death:  A Madeleine Karno Mystery (2015) by Lene Kaaberbøl
This book contains a perfect blend of elements I look for in stories: Victorian times, early criminology techniques and a strong female character trying to transcend the role assigned to her. And yet, after about two-thirds of the book, I had no interest in continuing. Perhaps the story itself is not compelling, or a bit confusing, but this is one I really wanted to like but did not. Briefly, Madeleine’s father is a coroner. She assists him but is not allowed to do any of the fun, dirty work that she wants to do. When he’s injured and a murder occurs, she is called upon to do work that would normally fall to father. Finally, she gets a shot at the big league (so to speak). My excitement for the book is rekindling as I type this description, but still I cannot overlook that the story was slow-paced and didn’t seem to move forward.

The Rabbit Back Literature Society (2015) by Pasi Ilmari Jääskeläinen
Described as quirky, even “Twin Peaks meets the Brothers Grimm,” by The Telegraph, this book seemed right up my alley. And there were some odd moments that partially fulfilled my need for the bizarre: classic books in the library rewriting themselves until discovery and destruction by the librarian, an incestuous group of authors bound together since childhood who regularly engage each other in a brutal game, and the supernatural disappearance of their mentor (amidst spontaneous localized weather inside of her house). However, the quirkiness was more sparse than expected and I found this to be another book I wanted to like but ultimately did not.

The Last American Vampire (2015) by Seth Grahame-Smith
The concept – vampire mythology mixed with historical events – is a potentially engaging one, but its realization (being interviews with and narratives by the main character done up in a journal/scrapbook fashion) left me cold. Then again, I have a low tolerance for vampires.

Dorothy Parker Drank Here (2015) by Ellen Meister
What if the ghost of Dorothy Parker spent decades haunting the barstools of the Algonquin, waiting for a worthy partner to spend eternity with? Well, what if? I became interested in Dorothy Parker through a historical fiction series set in early Hollywood, so I thought I might enjoy this book as well. Admittedly I’ve not got very far into the book, but on the other hand I don’t feel motivated to continue reading.

So what have I learned from this exercise? I seem to have entered my dotage. Rereading favorite books and sticking with favorite characters is where I’m currently at in the world of fiction. It’s not a bad place, and I’ll continue to try new titles, but for now … what were we talking about?