Reading Resolutions

Back in the day I was a mess. I made resolutions each New Year’s Eve and promptly broke them the following morning. After several years of this self-destructive (and totally pointless) cycle I just stopped making them. I’m still a mess, but I stopped trying to annually catalog my flaws and failures.

This year is different.

This year I’m trying a different approach: reading resolutions. I’m going to read. I’m going to read a lot. Why not give myself some goals to broaden my literary horizons? So dear reader, I give to you my 2014 reading resolutions:

  1. Read something a library patron recommends (see below)
  2. Read this year’s Everett Reads! book
  3. Read something difficult, either due to subject matter or writing style
  4. Read an award-winning book
  5. Read something that is super-popular
  6. Read a book that was the basis for a TV series or movie
  7. Read a classic work of literature
  8. Read an annotated classic work of literature
  9. Read something that will help me plan for the future
  10. Read something that will help me reconcile the past
  11. Read a graphic novel
  12. Read an entire series that is new to me

Ask anyone who works in a public library and they will agree: everyone gives us book recommendations. All. The. Time. I’ve been working in public libraries for fifteen years. That’s a lot of book recommendations. After a few years of indiscriminate reading suggestions, you stop trying to tell well-meaning folks that you just don’t enjoy reading that type of book or that you already have a ‘to-be-read’ stack taller than yourself. You just sit back, nod, smile, and maybe write the title down for future perusal. There’s no way we can read them all.

Well I got lucky. I got to talking with a patron who frequents both the brick-and-mortar libraries and our Facebook page. After we bonded over our love of Walter the Farting Dog, she gave me a book suggestion that actually sounded like something I would enjoy. She described it as “funny, a Harriet the Spy for grownups.” Who wouldn’t respond to such a description?

TheSpellmanFilesThe Spellman Files by Lisa Lutz definitely lives up to the hype. Izzy Spellman’s family is odd. Her parents are both PIs and she and her siblings grew up learning the family business. As such, they are completely dysfunctional but love each other very much—even if they have some odd ways of showing it to each other: running a complete criminal and financial background check on your date, following you around town for a week straight, bugging your phone. You know, the little things. One day Izzy snaps and wants out of the family business. Her parents give her one final case: a missing person case that’s more than a decade old and so cold it’s freezing.

Told from Izzy’s point of view, the story jumps through time from the present-day to the distant and then not-so-distant past. The reader really learns what it is to be a tight-knit family with trust and privacy issues. A family whose members will truly fight for those they love and solve a lot of cases together to boot.

The patron who recommended this to me said she had some issues with the lax editing (tenses were mixed up at a few points, things like that) as well as an ending she disliked. Knowing that a bad ending can kill an otherwise enjoyable book for me, I rolled the dice and cracked the spine of this book anyway. And I have to say the patron’s assessment was right on the money, but I feel like I enjoyed the book enough to read the entire series. Who knows? Maybe this will be the start of crossing #12 off my reading resolutions list.

So what I have I learned from this? Through all the static that is the volume of book recommendations library staff receives, I was lucky enough to finally have a book recommendation that was right up my literary alley. I’ll be slightly more likely to actually try the book you suggest to me instead of adding it to that “someday” list from now on. And to the person who recommended this book to me: thank you for taking a chance on this jaded reader.

Use the comments section below and tell me what you’d like me to read. I’m feeling lucky.


What Deane Reads

My husband, Deane, is a voracious reader.  He’s always reading. He reads fast and furiously.  If he’s without a book he begins to twitch and then starts reading cereal boxes, magazines, anything, but is unsatisfied until he gets his hands on another book. Luckily for him I work at a library and can keep him in a constant supply of books, books, books, and more books.

Here is a photo of Deane showing his library spirit at the Everett Fourth of July Parade:


I’ve gotten to know his reading tastes, of course, after 30 some odd years of marriage. I know that he’ll always read what I call ‘boy books':  the newest Tom Clancy, Lee Child, and the like. But he’ll also enjoy what I’d consider ‘better literature’ such as The Orchardist by Amanda Coplin which was on my night stand, but is now in Deane’s hands since he needed a book. In fact, his reading tastes have evolved so much that he thought Where’d You Go, Bernadette? was fluffy and vacuous while I really liked it! Who knew?

indexCA06QR4L       index         index        index

Why am I telling you this? Because perhaps you didn’t know that the librarians at the Everett Public Library are ready and willing to provide reader’s advisory service to you and not just that lucky fellow, Deane. You should already know that you can ask the folks at the reference desk for information on the phone (425-257-8000) or better yet, in person, but they can also recommend fiction to you.  And you don’t have to sleep with them. Bonus!

If you can’t make it into the library but have access to the Internet, you can take advantage of  the Reader’s Corner part of EPL’s website which has loads of resources for readers. We also have a database called Novelist which is a fantastic way to find new reads or books similar to the ones you already enjoy.

I like to use the web site Goodreads as a resource for what to read next and to keep track of what I’ve read. It’s like a virtual bookshelf but also offers ways to explore the world of books such as recommendations and lists.

Also, one of our knowledgable reference librarians points out that another source he finds helpful for people just wanting to quickly identify some good new (and older) books is Bookmarks magazine available for use at the main library only.

So what is Deane reading this summer besides my copy of The Orchardist? He just finished reading Winter of the World by Ken Follett. Deane proclaimed that this was a great book with good characters, though he thought that it was somewhat contrived in places in order to weave all of the plot threads together neatly in the end.

Right now he’s sitting in the sun reading Truth Like The Sun by Jim Lynch. Deane says that Lynch describes a pivotal moment in Northwest history when Seattle came of age during the 1962 World’s Fair in a pretty good novel.

index    index     index     index

I brought three books home from work today for Mr. Deane. He glanced at Barbara Kingsolver’s newest work, Flight Behavior, and said, “Oh, yeah.  I’ve read some of her books”. Deane remembered reading books by T C Boyle when I showed him San Miguel, a novel about the families who inhabited the islands off of Santa Barbara, California. But when he saw John Connelly’s newest, The Black Box, he said, ‘Oh, YEAH!’ and put Lynch down like a hot potato. Well, I guess you can’t change a tiger’s stripes or teach an old dog new tricks or some other such expression, but you can get the books of your liking at the Everett Public Library!


Reading as a Collective Experience

For the past two years, Everett Public Library has partnered with Sno-Isle Libraries to bring The Big Read to all of Snohomish and Island counties. The Big Read is an example of an extremely far-reaching program designed to bring the book back into the cultural center of American life.


This month, I had the privilege of reading Gary Mack’s Mind Gym with my roller derby team. My team is ranked 7th in the West and will be competing at the upcoming regional tournament for an even higher ranking. So in addition to physical training, we have also chosen to prepare our minds to be competitive at a higher level.

Mind Gym isn’t a book that has broad appeal, but it’s a book that is bringing my team and coaches together in ways that simply training for a sport wouldn’t. We discuss the things in the book that inspire each of us and make suggestions from the book to others. This dialogue, in turn, informs the way we play.

Everett Public Library has books like this available in sets for you to use, too. We continuously nurture our Book Group Set collection so that it stays fresh. You can choose from over 60 titles, with about equal selection of fiction and non-fiction. Even if you don’t belong to a formal book group, you may have a circle of friends that would enjoy reading one of these titles together. Reading is immensely enjoyable as an individual experience, but it can also be an experience that you share with your communities, large and small.

In 2011, the library would like to bring a more personalized, local community reading experience to Everett. What would you like to read? What would you like to read with your friends, neighbors, colleagues, and family? Please take a minute to fill out our poll and let us know.


The Girl Who…

I’ve noticed a handful of new books with titles that begin The Girl Who. With no further ado, here’s a “who’s who” of these girls who stop swimming, chase the  moon, fall from the sky, play with fire, and what have you.

book covers

The Girl Who Stopped Swimming (2008) by Joshilyn Jackson
Laurel’s happy suburban life is torn apart when a ghost appears and leads her to the dead body of a girl floating in the backyard swimming pool. This book will appeal to the reader who enjoys southern gothic storytelling, rich ghost stories, and family drama. 

The Girl Who Chased the Moon (2010) by Sarah Addison Allen
Teenager Emily wants to learn more about her elusive mother, Dulcie, and is disappointed that her grandfather won’t help her. But Dulcie’s high school rival, Julia—on her own unlikely quest to find a daughter given up for adoption—takes an interest in Emily. This book is recommended for readers who love family secrets, romantic intrigue, and magical realism.

The Girl Who Fell from the Sky (2010) by Heidi Durrow
Rachel is the daughter of a Danish mother and a black G.I. As the sole survivor of a family tragedy, she moves with her grandmother to a black community where her light skin and blue eyes attract unwanted attention. This autobiographical novel of racial identity, grief, and coming of age is recommended for those who enjoyed  The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison.

The Girl Who Played with Fire (2009) and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest (2010) by Stieg Larsson
These are the second and third books in the late Stieg Larsson’s wildly popular Swedish thriller series. (The first book is The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.) Fans of this series can’t get enough of Lisbeth Salander, the 24-year-old tattooed genius hacker at the heart of these mysteries. (Be sure to listen to The Lone Reader’s review of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo if you haven’t already!)

It’s not just the girls who are featured in new book titles. There are also a handful of interesting new books featuring “boys who” too: The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind (2009) by William Kamkwamba,  The Boy Who Couldn’t Sleep and Never Had To (2010) by D.C. Pierson, and  The Boy Who Loved Tornadoes (2010) by Randi Davenport. 

There are so many girls who and boys who, I bet you’ll want to read about one or two.


Timeless Relevance and Great Craft

There’s a saying in libraries, “Every book, its reader.”* Indeed, every piece of writing is a unique experience for each reader. For me, the beauty of The Things They Carried is its humanity. Tim O’Brien conveys the intensity and subtlety of those who experience war first-hand with powerful descriptions of what lies beyond death counts and political decisions.

Several passages from this book will stick with me for a very long time, such as,

“And in the end, of course, a true war story is never about war. It’s about sunlight. It’s about the special way that dawn spreads out on a river when you know you must cross the river and march into the mountains to do things you are afraid to do. It’s about love and memory. It’s about sorrow. It’s about sisters who never write back and people who never listen” (p. 85). 

This book is exquisitely crafted, expressing at once such depth, beauty, and terror. To write a war story in this way is a great artistic feat and a profound tribute to the service and courage of those who endure the most grueling of circumstances. 


* Ranganathan, S.R., The Five Laws of Library Science, Bombay: Asia Pub. House, 1963.

Gone to the Dogs

Outside of a dog, a book is a man’s best friend. Inside of a dog it’s too dark to read.  –Groucho Marx *

book coverA popular stereotype about librarians is that we’re all cat people. Books like Dewey: the Small Town Library Cat that Touched the World do little to disabuse people of this notion.

I’ve got nothing against cats, but I’m a dog person. I even like reading about dogs. Luckily, there are many wonderful dog-centric books, both fiction and non-fiction at the library. Here are a few of my recent favorites:

book coverThe Dogs of Babel by Carolyn Parkhurst is an odd and oddly captivating story. When Paul’s wife falls from a tree and dies, the only witness is their Rhodesian Ridgeback Lorelei. In his grief, Paul tries to teach Lorelei to speak so he can learn whether her death was an accident or suicide.    

book coverThe Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewsi follows the plot of Hamlet, but in Wisconsin and with a mute protagonist and his family’s special (fictional) breed of Sawtelle dogs. You don’t have to be a dog lover or a Shakespeare lover to be drawn into this thrilling family saga.

book coverIn Travels with Charley: in Search of America novelist John Steinbeck chronicles his 1960 cross country road trip with his beloved French poodle, Charley, and his truck, Rocinante. I fell in love with old Charley and with Steinbeck’s eloquent account of his journey across the changing American landscape.

book coverIn Heroic Measures by Jill Ciment, an elderly couple puts their Manhattan apartment on the market the same weekend that their beloved daschund Dorothy undergoes emergency surgery all while living in a city that is paralyzed by fear of a possible terrorist attack. There are many lovely, quiet moments amidst the drama.

book coverI picked up Temple Grandin’s Animals Make Us Human for the dogs. But Grandin’s unique perspective as an autistic researcher and her insights into the emotional and psychological lives of animals were so fascinating, I stayed for the cats, horses, and other animals she explores in this book.

Have you read any doggone good books lately?


* This quote, and many more, can be found here.

Magical Realism

Magical realism is one of my favorite reading genres. If you’re not familiar with this style of writing, it is not fantasy, science fiction, or escapist fiction. Rather, magical realist stories typically portray the world in ways beyond the objective – life described richly with delight, passion, and wonder.

The House of the SpiritsNancy Pearl describes magical realism as “a style of writing that allows authors to look at our own world through the lens of another world, an imagined yet very familiar one in which past, present, and future are often intertwined.”

Some of the best-known writers of magical realism are Isabel Allende, Jorge Luis Borges, and Gabriel García Márquez

A few of my all-time favorites include Isabel Allende’s The House of the Spirits, Aphrodite, and My Invented Country, as well as Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel.The Lady, The Chef, and The Courtesan

The Lady, the Chef, and the Courtesan by Marisol and Hot House Flower and the Nine Plants of Desire by Margot Berwin are a few you may have missed.Volver

And, of course, Pedro Almodóvar movies are a wonderful accompaniment to these books, especially Volver.