Talking to Strangers (About Books) Part 1

I know I’ve said this before but here it is again: we are living in the golden age of reading. Never before (at least in my lifetime) has it been so cool to be caught reading. It’s not unheard of to encounter people walking around town sporting vintage Vonnegut T-shirts or Jane Austen cell phone cases. Literary tattoos are plastered all over social media; chances are you know someone with at least one. We have Kindles and tablets and ebooks and downloadable audiobooks and so many ways to read a book without having an actual book in hand. Instagram has a whole community dedicated to books and readers known as #bookstagram, celebrities like Emma Watson have their own Goodreads book clubs that gets thousands of people across the world reading the same book at the same time, a new app for readers called Litsy has recently gone viral, and it seems like anyone with something to say about books has a blog–us included!

So it’s no wonder that I have been spending a lot of time lately on bookish social media. I manage some of the library accounts but most of my time on these platforms is when I’m acting as a private citizen. Goodreads, Instagram, and Litsy are populated with passionate readers who love to talk about their favorite topic: books! Today I’ll be talking about some of the different types of conversations/experiences one can expect to have on bookish social media.

when harry met carol on litsy
Conversation #1: OMGZ THIS BOOK IS AH-MAY-ZING!
These are straight-up unadulterated fangirl or fanboy posts. Often initiated because of the acquisition of a long-awaited book, or one currently hot and trending. Sometimes it’s even more special, a rare first edition of a classic work of literature. People posting these photos have so much enthusiasm for what they’re talking about that their excitement practically makes the screen vibrate. Often it doesn’t take long for someone to reach out to the poster and let them know how they also have that book, or how they also want to read it so badly they just can’t hardly wait any longer. The bonds made over these posts can result in actual friendships.
Best platform(s) for this type of conversation:
Goodreads, Instagram and Litsy

mindy kaling pin on instagram by bildungsromans
Conversation #2: Look at this incredible cute/useful/rare bookish accessory I acquired!
Most often populating your feed during book/library/comic conventions, these posts can spark instant jealousy–but in a good way. With the rare exception, the bookish communities lurking on these social networks tend to be a welcoming bunch with nary a troll among them. So when I say jealousy, I mean in the kind of supportive way you’d expect from the nicest person you know. And often the person replying just wants to know where he/she can acquire similar because they love it so much. Much like a bargain hunter, bookish people love to show off their newest prizes and are happy to share the shop/convention where they got such a rad thing.
Best platform(s) for this type of conversation:
Instagram and Litsy

harry potter morsmordre bookflip by bildungsromans on instagram
Conversation #3: Photo challenges.
If you use photo-centric apps you are probably familiar with photo block. It’s like writer’s block but for ideas on what to photograph. When you feel like there’s nothing new going on in your reading life to post about, you can always jump in with one of the many photo challenges floating around. Usually run by book bloggers, these challenges are meant to give inspiration and also to bring people together. Each day there is a different photo prompt, sometimes based around a central theme for the month, like Harry Potter. By following the hashtag associated with the photo challenge, you can see what everyone else is doing. I have connected with some majorly creative people through photo challenges, though I do find that if I take a month to do a photo challenge I will skip the next month. I can only take so much structure. I blame my Bohemian ancestry!
Best platform(s) for this type of conversation:
Instagram and Litsy

a review by carol of headstrong on litsy
Conversation #4: Sharing actual quotes and illustrations from the book as I’m reading it.
What’s better than happening upon a truly insightful, inspiring, hilarious, or thought-provoking quote while reading? Sharing it instantly with strangers! You might be amazed at how many strangers you’ll connect with by sharing these quotes. I have witnessed spontaneous book clubs sprout up, and reading buddies unify. A reading buddy is someone who reads the same book as someone else at roughly the same time, like a two-person book club. Usually these are planned, but there’s something truly beautiful when you see two people connect halfway through reading the same book and then finish it out together. It can also be very satisfying to get validation from other people when you get to a particularly frustrating or profound part of a story. Even better when you have a differing opinion and opposing voices discuss it. Remember how I said nary a troll lives in the bookish part of social media? I meant it, and here’s where the proof lies.
Best platform(s) for this type of conversation:
Goodreads, Instagram, Litsy

giant days post on litsy by carol
Conversation #5: If you like that book, you will love these other 10.
How many of you have ever gotten a book recommendation from a librarian? A friend? A dentist? I have received great suggestions from all three, but it seems especially magical when this recommendation comes from someone I’ve never met and probably never will meet. In conversation #4 I talked about connecting over a book that someone is currently reading and continuously posting about as he/she goes along. Conversation #5 is often the result. You just discovered this way cool read? Here are a bunch of others by the same author/in the same genre/in the same weird literary niche. Not only will this help you travel down the particular reading rabbit hole you’d stumbled across, it will often get you to read outside your comfort zone or discover authors you’d never have found if you had been left to your own devices.
Best platform(s) for this type of conversation:
Goodreads, Instagram, Litsy

And that brings us to book discoveries as a result of bookish social media. Unfortunately I’ve run out of space, so this will continue with Part 2. Tune in next time for the exciting conclusion!

Two by Liz Moore

Liz Moore has produced two of librarian Sarah’s favorites in recent years. Enjoy her reviews of both of them.

The Unseen World

unseenworldAda Sibelius was home-schooled by her father David. A prestigious scientist, David ran a university research laboratory and raised Ada to think independently and embedded her love of cryptography. The pinnacle of David’s work is an artificial intelligence program named ELIXIR. When David begins to show the beginning signs of Alzheimer’s, Ada is sent to live with one of his colleagues and her three adolescent boys. As David’s past starts to unravel, it’s determined that he may have not been forthright about his childhood and upbringing. As Ada struggles with her own teenage turmoil, she attempts to uncover the truth about her father and the ELIXIR program. Moore does a superb job of bringing together smart characters and emotionally charged circumstances. A truly graceful story about identity, love and science.

Heft

heftArthur Opp used to be a successful university professor. But things are different now. He lives alone, in the house he inherited from his parents. He doesn’t venture outside and has all of his meals and necessities delivered. Morbidly obese at over 500 pounds, Arthur is trapped in a cycle of overeating, anxiety and depression.

While he was teaching, he befriended a young student, Charlene. They developed a close relationship and remained pen pals for years. Arthur misrepresented himself in his letters and when Charlene proposes to meet up, he is forced to reconcile his surroundings and lifestyle. Nervous about the condition of his house, Arthur turns to a maid service and young, energetic Yolanda shows up on his front doorstep. Arthur hasn’t let anyone into his life for years and they develop a special friendship based on mutual acceptance and openness.

Liz Moore does a magnificent job of harnessing the human desire to connect. She does an outstanding job of conveying social anxiety, embarrassment and shame in her characters, without making them seem weak or hopeless.

Did You Know? (Pigeon Edition)

That the pigeon Cher Ami was awarded France’s Croix de Guerre Medal with a palm Oak Leaf Cluster for bravery after saving the ‘lost battalion’ in 1918?

flycheramiI found this information on page 67 in the book When Hitler Took Cocaine and Lennon Lost his Brain by Giles Milton. This book has lots of ‘the rest of the story’ stories from accounts in history.

Fly, Cher Ami, Fly! by Robert Burleigh tells Cher Ami’s story with a suspense that illustrates all the drama of the situation. Top Secret Files: World War 1 by Stephanie Bearce and Animals with Jobs: Carrier Pigeons by Judith Janda Presnall both talk about the famous pigeon as well. There are a few small details that differ from version to version, but I believe we can all agree that Cher Ami is a hero that deserves his place in history and the Smithsonian!

coldwarpigeonWhen we think of spies we don’t usually think of animals, but they have been used to spy for longer than you can imagine. 24/7 Spy Files: the Cold War Pigeon Patrols by Danielle Denega explains how dogs and dolphins were also used as spies. In Everything World War 1 by Karen L. Kenney you can even see pictures of a horse and a dog with specially fitted gas masks helping out behind enemy lines. Of course there are all kinds of animals that are ‘working’ animals: service dogs, plow animals, and trained animals acting in all kinds of TV shows, commercials or movies. Animal Stars by Robin Ganzert gives you the stories of some famous animals you have probably seen on TV or in the movies. You may even get some tips on how to train your pet and make them famous.

pigeon

Mo Willems writes a very popular series of books about a pigeon that the kids love! Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the BusThe Pigeon Wants a Puppy and The Pigeon Finds a Hot Dog are just a few of the titles available.

comebacksalmonHere in Everett, we have Pigeon Creek #1. The book Come Back, Salmon by Molly Cone tells the story of how the kids at Jackson Elementary cleaned up the creek so salmon could come back and spawn there. The project started in 1984. Today it remains a healthy creek thanks in big part to those dedicated fifth graders.

Lastly, some people are said to be ‘pigeon toed’ (also known as metatarsus varus, metatarsus adductus, in-toe gait, intoeing or false clubfoot). This is a condition which causes the toes to point inward or outward when walking. The Good Foot Book by Glenn Copeland DPM tells us what can be done to correct that problem. It makes me wonder if a pigeon that has its feet turned incorrectly would be ‘human toed?’

Rockers in Walkers

We humans are fascinated by car wrecks on the road of life, and aging rock stars provide a plethora of accidents for our viewing pleasure. It is with eager anticipation that we await the release of a new album by a dozing giant, hoping against hope that it’s a flop. Or maybe I just speak for myself.

It’s difficult, improbable even, for an artist to make a good album 30 to 40 years after their heyday. The Sonics were an exception in 2015. So it’s with morbid fascination that I search for albums by former stars or stars-on-the-decline, and 2016 has provided more than its share. Today we look at an ancient rock group, an ancient ex-lead singer and a slightly-less-ancient pop star.

Group1

Cheap Trick hit the big time with the release of Cheap Trick at Budokan in 1979. Although they continued to create high-quality albums for the next 30 years, the band’s success peaked soon after Budokan. 30 years later, 2009’s release, The Latest, showed that the lads … er, gentlemen, could still create amazing songs in their trademark power pop/hard rock wheelhouse. But following this album the band entered the longest silence of their career and seven years passed before the release of another album, 2016’s Bang, Zoom, Crazy… Hello.

So the question is: Do they still have it? And the answer is an unqualified, Yes! Bang, Zoom is not without a clunker or two, but overall the songs are very well-written, performed and produced. I’m not a huge Cheap Trick fan (although, wait for it, I do like their early stuff), but this is an album I could see listening to repeatedly. These fogies fellas have passed the litmus test of time, presenting fans with another gem.

Group2

Aerosmith first came into the public eye in 1973 with the release of Aerosmith. They are a rare band, one that has maintained a high level of success over the decades. At nearly age 70 it’s no longer so easy to Walk this Way (pause for laughter), but the fellows are still performing, be it somewhat sporadically. And over 40 years after the release of Aerosmith, lead singer Steven Tyler has released his first solo album, We’re All Somebody from Somewhere, an alleged foray into the country music world.

Many times over the years aging rockers have released country albums, so it would be easy to assume that Mr. Tyler is going down a well-trod path. However, to paraphrase a review of his album: country is no longer a genre, it’s a marketing scheme. If I had not read that We’re All Somebody was country before listening to it, I never would have suspected. The songs are power ballads, pop and some bluesiness, with a bit of mandolin, pedal steel, banjo and fiddle thrown in for that country feel. But in reality, there are no songs that could even remotely be classified as country. However, the album is well-done and if you like Aerosmith and Tyler’s voice you will probably enjoy it.

Group3

Cyndi Lauper exploded on the scene in 1983, which some of us think of as recently, others as 33 years ago. Spokeswoman for a generation of female music fans, actress and activist, Lauper released nine more albums after her debut, the last in 2010. Then in 2016 at 63-years-old, a time when singers’ voices often change for the worse, Lauper returned with a (wait for it again) country album.

Unlike Steven Tyler’s latest, Lauper’s album Detour uses immortal songs from the annals of country music. Since the songs are already beloved, this leaves the success of the album in the hands of her voice (so to speak), which is a brilliant concept since the voice in question is still going strong. The mix of beautiful interpretations with classic country repertoire results in an album of highly listenable music.

So, no roadkill or dismemberments for today. Maybe next time. We are simply left with a trio of good-to-great albums by a collection of geezers. And I mean that fondly, as a near-geezer myself. As Ringo Starr said in Honey Don’t, “Rock on George, for Ringo, one time!”

Which clearly doesn’t apply to this review.

Listen Up! August New Music Arrivals

New Music Arrivals Collage

August seems to be the month for the rowdy and the thought-provoking; most of my picks this month deliver some pretty strong messages. Get involved – place your holds now!

Laura Mvula – The Dreaming Room (Sony Music Entertainment) – A strong follow-up to Mvula’s highly-acclaimed debut, Sing to the Moon. Enjoy rich vocals backed by a delightful mix of orchestral accompaniment, neo-soul rhythms, and a range of powerfully-moving songwriting.

Anohni – Hopelessness (Secretly Canadian) – Down-tempo alt rock/electronic pop with strong political themes. Vocals that shift from dreamlike to a hypnotic drone at times, even lilting.

Michael Kiwanuka – Love & Hate (Interscope) –  First and foremost a soul album, but with hints of rock, blues, gospel, and even a kind of classic rock feel at times. Very beautiful, grand, and political. I loved this album.

Audion –Alpha (The Ghostly International Company; !k7 Records) – The kind of club-friendly techno you’ve come to expect from Matthew Dear’s more driving and gritty alter ego.

Fantasia – The Definition Of… (RCA Records) – RnB with a little bit of rock, soul, and electronic influence. This is a great pick for anyone looking to dance around to some great harmonizing with the occasional dose of humor. It has a throwback feel that makes me think of a lot of early 90s RnB.

Mitski – Puberty 2 (Dead Oceans) – Gritty, beautiful, and packed with raw emotion. Mitski Miyawaki explores love, loss, anxiety, and depression in her 5th wonderfully-complex and vibrant indie rock offering.

White Lung – Paradise (Domino Recording Co.) – Vancouver punk trio dips a toe into new songwriting territory in their 4th release. The album remains unflinchingly confrontational and provocative, but they have embraced a hint of new pop sensibility that makes this release perhaps a little more accessible to a wider audience without much compromise.

Xenia Rubinos – Black Terry Cat (Anti) – A deeply-satisfying mix of funk, rock, electronic, RnB, jazz, and hip hop styles that explores how women of color move through today’s social landscape.

Eating History

If you want to live, you gotta eat. A pretty basic truth and one we tend to take for granted. While gourmands argue about what wine to pair with what fish and health gurus debate the merits of protein vs carbs, a lot of the interesting questions about food go unanswered: Why do we eat what we eat? Why do certain peoples and regions eat different things? What the heck is a ‘square meal’ and where did it come from? Luckily, if you want to find answers to these questions and more, the Everett Public Library is the place to be. There are actually a large number of works on the history of food and eating that are fascinating and help you appreciate this seemingly basic human need. Read on for a few choice examples.

EH1

A History of Food in 100 Recipes by William Sitwell
Taking a pleasingly micro approach to the history of food, Sitwell lays out a fascinating chronology, based on actual recipes, that demonstrates the evolution of food preparation and our eating habits. Everything from Ancient Egyptian bread (1958-1913 BCE), Dried Fish (800 AD), Soufflé (1816) and Rice Krispies Treats (1941) are covered. Far from just a collection of eccentric dishes, however, this work is full of interesting insights into why and what we eat.

Consider the Fork: a History of How We Cook and Eat by Bee Wilson
Instead of focusing on the food itself, this work tracks the history of cooking through the technologies used to create the dishes we eat. While we tend to take for granted many seemingly simple kitchen implements (like the knife, the rice cooker and the egg timer) Wilson describes the surprisingly complicated and significant histories behind them.

Sweet Invention: a History of Dessert by Michael Krondl
Whether you believe dessert is the last part of a meal or a meal in itself, this book will prove entertaining and informative reading. Part history and part travelogue, Krondl travels the globe talking with confectioners and examining the dessert traditions of different cultures and countries and how they evolved over time.

British Food: An Extraordinary Thousand Years of History by Colin Spencer
One of the most vilified cuisines deserves an extraordinary and entertaining history; Spencer does not disappoint in this engaging work. The ups, yes there were ups, and downs of Britain’s food reputation are lovingly cataloged. Interestingly, the author charts the most recent downturn to the Victorian period when raw food was frowned upon and every foodstuff imaginable was boiled.

EH2

Three Squares: The Invention of the American Meal by Abigail Carroll
More than a history of breakfast, lunch, and dinner in America, Carroll traces the evolution of eating habits in the United States from the colonial era to the present day. As with much U.S. history, the one constant appears to be change itself. The biggest change turns out to be the industrial revolution and its regularization of the workday, leaving dinner as the only time available for a proper sit down meal with the family.

Mastering the Art of Soviet Cooking: A Memoir of Love and Longing by Anya Von Bremzen
A fascinating memoir and history told through classic Soviet dishes. The author was raised in a communal apartment with 18 other people and one kitchen before immigrating to the United States with her mother in the 1970s. Now the author of several international cookbooks, this is the tale of her upbringing and the food so closely associated with it.

Rice, Noodle, Fish: Deep Travels Through Japan’s Food Culture by Matt Goulding
Part travel guide and part food history, this book explores the deep and complicated food culture of Japan. Goulding travels throughout the country visiting the many different restaurants (including ramen, tempura, soba and sushi shops) exploring the food and history of each. The author is also not shy about giving recommendations of which restaurants to go to and which to avoid.

Dining with the Famous and Infamous by Fiona Ross
Taking food history to a personal level, Ross sets out to discover the eating habits of many interesting contemporary and historical figures. From George Orwell to Marilyn Monroe, the individual eating habits of the great and no so great are explored. This collection of food voyeurism is a guilty pleasure but impossible to ignore.

I hope you have enjoyed this small sampling of the many great works available on food, dinning and their history here at the library. Reading might actually burn calories so no need to worry about overindulgence.

It Felt Like Love

thegirlsThe version of the post you’re reading didn’t exist until a couple hours ago. I wrote the first draft last week, read parts of it and thought: ‘Yeah….no. I can’t let that go out into the world. It’d probably invite something evil in. Or a lawsuit.’ So I started rewriting, and by rewriting I mean watching YouTube clips of people falling down. That always cheers me up. I’m looking forward to the Olympics not because I like ice skating but because I like watching the skaters go spinning over the ice on their butts. As the immortal Amy Winehouse said “You know I’m no good.”

This might be a goofy post on a library’s blog, but like a lot of writing it’s kind of like therapy even if I’m just writing about a book. I swear I was one “The power of Christ compels you!” away from pushing a priest out a window while writing this one. But like a good morning scratch, this post drew a little blood in places but that’s what band aids are for.

I was a late bloomer when it came to falling in love. Or what felt like love. I now know that falling in love is 38% wonderful and 62% doing a face plant into a big pile of excrement. I was 30 and seriously lacking some judgment when it came to an older man, a friend of the family. I fell in love with a man I’ll refer to as Il Douche (because seriously, this guy was the biggest douchebag on the planet) who was already juggling a couple different women. I was a goner. I worshipped him. I was so lost I would’ve pulled a Mary Magdalene and washed his feet with my hair. It was like that. That bad. That good.

Tell me you love me

I bought him lunches I couldn’t afford. Over drew my bank account a couple of times. And all I got in return was him complaining about how crazy his girlfriends were. I let him hold my own feelings against me like a gun to my temple. He used those feelings and I was inexperienced enough to think that’s how it was all supposed to go.

Tell me you love me

So when I dove into Emma Cline’s The Girls, I felt that gut-wrenching strangle hold a persuasive man has over some women. But in Cline’s book, that love takes an even darker turn.

Picture it: California, 1969. Evie is a 14-year-old girl on the cusp of something. She just doesn’t know what that something is yet. She’s bored out of her mind. Her mother and father are divorced and her mother is entering an ‘It’s all about me’ phase, barely noticing her daughter and dating some sketchy dudes. Evie’s father lives elsewhere with his much younger girlfriend. Come September, Evie is going to be shipped off to boarding school.

The summer unwinds in a slow furious rhythm. Nothing is happening; nothing is ever going to change. You remember what 14 felt like. Nothing is happening fast enough. But then Evie sees a group of girls in the park who are the epitome of ‘Dance like no one is watching.’ One girl, who is a few years older than Evie, attracts her. Evie is lonely. She and her best friend are drifting apart and she’s on her own a lot. She watches the girls dumpster dive for food. They’re feral and beautiful and frightening.

Evie doesn’t think she’ll see the girls again but by chance she meets Suzanne, the dark-haired girl who first caught her attention, in a drugstore and decides to prove she’s a badass by stealing toilet paper for Suzanne. Practical thieves, huh? At the age of 14 I knew girls who were stealing makeup and hair clips (not me, not because I’m a goody-goody but because I don’t have a good poker face) but in 1969 ragamuffins needed toilet paper. Evie steals the TP and her part in the sordid ‘Family’ begins.

Suzanne takes Evie to an abandoned ranch where a group of young people have been squatting and worshipping a douchebag named Russell. The girls tell Evie: “He sees every part of you.” They all have sex with him and all I could imagine was a giant chore chart nailed to the wall with Venn diagrams showing whose night it was to sleep with Russell. A famous musician named Mitch has promised Russell that he’ll be rich and famous with his musical skills. He’s going to be FAMOUS.

There’s a load of drug taking, snorting, smoking, a bunch of uncomfortable sounding sex and nobody has a stick of deodorant but hey, it’s the 60s. In a moment of clarity, Suzanne asks Evie is she wants to go home. Evie thinks about her empty house, her mother out on dates or going on diet cleanses and realizes there’s no way she’s going home. She’s hooked on the Family. I can believe that at the age of 14 (or 30) if someone older showered me with affection it would be addictive.

Evie begins to steal money for the Family. The ranch is all love and freedom and blah, blah, blah but the shine begins to wear off and it begins to take on a sinister glare. Mitch, the man who told Russell he was going to make him famous, backs out citing money troubles. Everything becomes a sign. The very stars in the night sky become a portent of things to come. The heavens whisper something harmoniously relevant to members of the Family. But remember the amount of drugs these people were ingesting.  You’ve read about my sordid relationship with Benadryl. I can’t imagine doing hard drugs and trying to tie my shoes. Maybe that’s why hippies never wore shoes.

The ‘we love and support everybody’ feeling at the ranch sours. Evie’s still grasping at the feeling of being wanted and being shown love. One evening the Family packs into a car and heads into the night. They’re going to pay Mitch a ‘visit.’ Russell stays behind at the ranch. Evie knows something bad is about to go down. Suzanne is not herself or maybe she’s more of the self Evie doesn’t know.  Suzanne demands the car be stopped and tells Evie to get out in the middle of nowhere. The car speeds away to make gruesome history.

What would have happened to Evie had she gone along that night? Who would she have become?  This book delves into what could have been and what was.