Stay Home, Stay Reading in October

“October’s bright blue weather A good time to read!” Poster for the WPA Statewide Library Project, Chicago : Illinois WPA Art Project (between 1936 and 1940). Looking for a delightful and free source for autumn and Halloween images? Check out the Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division. The selected items are from the Free to use and reuse resource, unless otherwise noted. This set of copyright free pictures features activities and scenery from late September through early November. Check back often! More images are regularly added.

Big book club announcement! We are changing up the how and when of the library’s virtual book club: Stay Home, Stay Reading. Join us for our monthly book discussion October 26 from 6-7 pm hosted digitally by the Everett Public Library. Starting this month, we will be hosting an open book discussion on the 4th Monday of the month from 6:00 to 7:00 p.m. through 2020. You are free to read any title of your choosing. Instead of focusing on a specific book, each month we’ll invite readers to discuss books around a broad theme.

Aiming for easy to access and fun, we want to encourage more open-ended discussions. It can be a good time for the exchange of reading ideas.  

Here are the themes for 2020: 

October 26: The Unexplained 

November 23: Hope–Books that give us hope 

December 28:  Winter–Books that take place during the winter season 

This month’s connecting theme will be “The Unexplained.” Read a fiction or nonfiction title about which the reason for it or cause of it is unclear or is not known.

Does the idea of a spooky story give you chills? Are you interested in a nonfiction title identifying US lakes known for their monsters (including the Winged Alligator-Snake of Lake Chelan)? Perhaps you are more interested in curling up in front of a roaring fire with a mystery surrounding a baffling legend and a hellhound? Whether you want to learn more about ancient past rituals surrounding afterlife preparation or absorb details about the Witches’ Market in La Paz, the literary possibilities are endless. 

If you need a few more October books to choose from, perhaps consider these titles:

These titles are available through the EPL digital catalog. Just reserve an available copy of the ebook (or eAudioBook) and read it instantly using your library card or consider putting a hold on the title, and picking it up at one of our two Curbside Pickup libraries to get your hands on a physical book or audio book (plays CDs). If you have any questions, just ask library staff for more details at 425-257-8000 o 425-257-8250. 

Whiskey, Charlie and Lucy Barton

Whiskey and Charlie by Annabel Smith

whiskeyOccasionally I’ll come across a book that evokes emotions analogous to my own life in some profound way. Circumstances, time, people, and place differ but the tenor resonates. While reading Annabel Smith’s Whiskey and Charlie, someone I dearly love was dealing with the difficulty and awkwardness of preparing for an in-laws death. The situation was complicated by each individual’s manner of coping with the grief and reality of it. As I lent a listening ear, I couldn’t help but compare the emotional climate to that of which I was reading about in Whiskey and Charlie. Indeed fear and uncertainty heightens one’s sense of helplessness.

 

Charlie’s complacent world is jolted when he gets the word that his brother Whiskey has been struck by a car and is lying in a hospital in a coma. The brothers, once inseparable, have grown apart over the past 25 years.

Smith cleverly begins each chapter by implementing the phonetic alphabet ‘a list of the words used in communications to represent the letters of the alphabet, as in E for Echo, T for Tango’.  Each word or name serves as a metaphor to communicate the heart and soul of the story. Beginning with Alpha: William is the first-born of the twin brothers later to take on the nickname Whiskey he is gregarious, confident, and successful. Charlie tries to emulate his brother in their youth, but struggles to keep up and eventually distances himself. He is shy, introspective, and has difficulty expressing himself.

The timeline flips back and forth from present to past, reconstructing Charlie and Whiskey’s relationship. Though told in the third person, it is impossible to not get caught up in the complexity of Charlie’s struggle to reconcile the past with the present. The boys’ mother works to keep the family together. Both young men have found caring, loving, and supportive women who also share in the pain and tragedy of Whiskey’s unresponsive condition. Nearly a full year passes and decisions about whether to keep Whiskey on life support create a growing tension and fear amongst the family members.

This is a thoughtful, tender story portraying credible characters. It is an honest and thought-provoking read making it an excellent book club pick.

My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout

lucybartonElizabeth Strout and Anne Lamott  are two of my favorite authors because they are able to say the things that most of us only think in our heads but may never admit providing rich insight and illumination on the human condition.

I loved The Burgess Boys, so it was with much anticipation that I dove into Strout’s latest book My Name is Lucy Barton. To be honest I wasn’t quite sure if I was reading part of Strout’s own story at first. There is no prologue and the chapters aren’t numbered; the story simply begins.

An intimate setting emerges. Lucy is confined to the hospital for nine weeks when a surgery leaves her with a nasty infection.  Lucy could be a portrait of many women: A wife and mother of two young girls, she is vulnerable and lonely. Her husband has an aversion to hospitals and rarely visits. He hires a woman who will later become his lover to care for their young daughters and arranges for Lucy’s estranged mother to visit her in the hospital.

In the five days that Lucy’s mother stays by her bedside conversations between mother and daughter transpire; gentle at first graduating to raw and revealing. Lucy craves to hear her mother say the words she will never hear. The years of poverty and the chains of shame have left scars and schisms. Desperate for mother’s affection and approval, Lucy emotionally lapses into the child hanging on her mother’s every word. She even reverts to calling her ‘Mommy’.Lucy also yearns for her mother to ask about her life, her family, her career. She never does.

Lucy is writing ‘her own story’ taking advice from a successful author whose workshop she once attended. As Lucy reviews moments of her life, we come to love and sympathize with her. Strout masterfully depicts life’s mundane and ordinary events and casts sentiment and compassion upon her characters: People who could be us.

Resolutions, Library-Style

Resolutions at Your LibraryEveryone makes them, even if we don’t always admit to it. Resolutions are as ingrained in most people’s New Year’s activities as lasagna and movies at home champagne and midnight kisses. If you made some resolutions you’re not sure you can stick with, you should really take another look at your local library. Here’s a handy guide to some of the big ones:

I want to lose weight. Browsing the stacks in the 613.25 (diet), 613.7 (exercise), and 641.5635 (cooking for weight loss) areas will give you a plethora of support and ideas to help you shed the pounds. Unfortunately, just reading the books isn’t enough (wah wah). You actually have to follow through. Luckily we also have workout DVDs to keep you moving through our gloomy winter days. You can also learn about the obesity epidemic in Snohomish County at the Evergreen Branch Library on January 13th and at the downtown library on January 19th.

I want to read more/differently/with others. If you feel like you’re stuck in a reading rut, I think the best thing to do is to talk to other people about what they read, and joining a book club is a great way to branch out right away. You get to meet new people who also love books, and you get an added bonus of having a shared reading experience. Who could ask for more? Thankfully here at EPL more is what you’ll get. Our Main Library discussion group meets monthly. Their January pick, The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd, will be discussed January 25th. On the other end of town, the Southside Book Club meets every other month at the Evergreen Branch. Their next selection, Caleb’s Crossing by Geraldine Brooks, will be discussed February 9th. And if you want to delve into Northwest history you should check out the NW Room’s quarterly book group. They’ll be meeting March 28th at the Main Library and discussing Skull Wars by David Hurst Thomas. Can’t make a book club commitment but still want to discover great books? If this blog isn’t enough for you, check out Novelist. You can easily slip down this rabbit hole of book recommendations, read-alikes, and more.

I want to start a new hobby. If you’ve always wanted to learn how to knit or crochet, my girl Linda has got you covered! She hosts regular meetings of the Crochet & Knit Club at the Evergreen Branch Library a couple of times a month. Beginners just need to bring a ball or skein of plain 3 or 4-ply yarn (not the fuzzy stuff) and a J or H crochet hook size 8, 9, or 10 knitting needles. I have no idea what any of that means, but Linda is a pro and has the patience of a saint. You’ll find in her a fabulous instructor as you learn your knits from your perls.

I want to learn to appreciate a wide range of cinema. You’re in luck, my friend! We screen two different films each month, one downtown and one in South Everett. The downtown library has a monthly screening and the focus is usually an indie or foreign film, usually ones I have never heard of but once I see the promotional materials I get really excited to see them. January 24th we’ll screen the 2013 Italian film Salvo. And our Evergreen Branch is still rolling strong with the Evergreen Cinema Society film series the last Wednesday of the month. Each year has a new theme, and there’s always a lively discussion. They’ve shown comedies, Hitchcock films, and more. This year it’s a lot of love for indie films, starting January 27th with The Squid and the Whale.

I want to learn a new language. What do ESL/ELL, Mandarin Chinese, and Pirate have in common? You can learn all of these languages and more than 60 others with Mango. Access is free, navigation is intuitive, and there’s even a mobile app to take your language learning with you on the go. So really what I’m saying is there’s no excuse to start learning, like, right now.

I want to research my roots. You’ve probably heard of Ancestry.com, but did you know that through the library you can access it for free? This always makes me giddy, telling people that this fascinating, yet typically pricey, resource is ours for the taking. When you’re logged in you have access to over 4,000 databases and 1.5 billion names. One caveat: you can only access Ancestry.com while inside the library. But once you’re here you’re going to want to find a cozy seat so you can get lost in the journey of building your family tree. Did you find some new fourth cousins? Then click over to ReferenceUSA and search out those addresses!

I want to start using this new e-reader/tablet. Through services like 3M Cloud Library and OverDrive you have access to literally thousands of eBooks and eAudiobooks, including some of the biggest bestsellers. If the queue for the print book is overly long, chances are the digital holds list is much shorter, and possibly nonexistent. You also have access to free digital magazines, too, through Flipster. Whether you’re stuck in a waiting room or taking a vacation, you can load up reading material 24/7 with just a few clicks.

I want to learn new tech skills. Microsoft Imagine (formerly Microsoft IT Academy) is where it’s at. Once you create an account you’ll have access to all kinds of classes and resources to improve your computing prowess. Courses cover all sorts of skills and levels of tech-savviness on the user’s part. You can learn the ins and outs of the Windows 10 operating system and Microsoft Office 2010, 2013, or 2016. Or for the more advanced, there are courses for learning HTML5 app development and SQL Server database fundamentals. So really what I’m saying is there’s something for everyone, and who knows? Maybe you’ll impress your boss, get a raise, and be a corporate star. It’s the New Year, baby, and when it comes to dreams the sky’s the limit!

EPL staff aren’t immune to change, either. We’ve come up with our own resolutions specifically related to the library. If you click a photo below you’ll be taken to their original resolution posts on Facebook. I’m the scared-looking one sitting next to a couple of giant stacks of books. That I own. And have never actually read…yet.

sarahs library resolutionlisas library resolutionleslies library resolutionmichelles library resolutioncarols library resolutioneileens library resolution

There’s no denying the appeal of a fresh start in the new year. No matter your resolutions, there’s help among the stacks and servers at your local library. As for me, holy cow. I have a lot of reading to do!

A Dream Come True

January meeting  Boys in the Boat Everett Reads

My dream to start a book club ignited about 6 years ago when my husband and I stepped into a coffee shop in downtown Yakima: the smell of fresh roasted coffee, the inviting ambient atmosphere, the comfortable seating, the ample space to play chess or cribbage OR, as I imagined, ‘have a book discussion.’ As I sat there sipping a good brew my wheels began to spin.

The idea percolated in my head for a year or so, but I couldn’t get past my imagined ‘ideal’ setting. I finally decided to just step out and give it a shot. First I contacted my local Everett Public Library which was extremely handy since I work and live nearby. Anita manages the library’s Book group collection. She walked me through the process of borrowing and loaning out books. Each book set provides the borrower with discussion questions and a sign out sheet to keep track of who borrows which book. Generally a book club will meet every month or so, returning the finished book and picking up the next one.

snowflowerFeeling a boost of confidence and equipped with a set of 10 books, I invited girlfriends to meet at my home. Five showed up and I made the 6th. A good number for starting out. That first auspicious evening I felt nervous; preparing light refreshments was the easy part selling my dream seemed a bit more daunting. My guests arrived. Introductions were made followed by discussion and explanations of how we would work our group. Filled with anticipation and excitement I passed out Lisa See’s, Snow Flower and the Secret Fan a book I’d selected for our first discussion.

We reconvened a month or so later to discuss the story of Lily and Snow Flower set in rural China during the 19th century. I thought this was an exquisite story and was certain everyone would agree, but unfortunately some members were quite disturbed by the traditional practice of foot binding. Sadly within the first year one, then two, then three and four gals dropped out and the book club died. I didn’t count it as a loss. I chalked it up to a learning experience and was able to see the value for what it was at the time. The spark of a dream continued to flicker and I made a few less energetic attempts but eventually shelved the idea.

Then a couple of years ago the thoughts of having a book club here at work surfaced; my manager showed genuine interest and enthusiasm. This new book club idea was flavored with the concept of making food the central theme for discussion. I researched food themed book clubs but decided I wasn’t brave enough to try a strangers cooking. Meantime Alan, our branch manager, had gained a vision for the south Everett library to have a book club and was not quick to give it up.

bookclubbooks

Long story short, with support, encouragement, and the help of co-workers the Southside Book Club launched a year ago. The book club has been dubbed: ‘Terrific books, substantial discussions, and light refreshments!’ Over the last year the library has weathered a year with cut backs and schedule changes, but the Southside Book Club survived! The Southside Book Club is open to the public. Books are made available at the Evergreen Branch reference desk a month in advance or you can check out any available copies from the library collection. Last week we enjoyed a lively discussion of Melanie Benjamin’s The Aviator’s Wife. The remaining books and discussions for 2015 are: Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand August 25th, The Cove on October 13th, and on December 8th The Rosie Project.

Upon reflection I had to let go of my cozy coffee shop with mood lighting ideal and realize the opportunity and potential staring me right in the face. This past year has been exciting: meeting new people, listening and sharing thoughts and ideas and making new friends. A dream come true! In preparing for our last discussion I discovered this great quote by Anne Morrow Lindbergh

It takes as much courage to have tried and failed as it does to have tried and succeeded.

Book Club Adventures

A long time ago, in a job/city far away, I was tasked with forming a book discussion group. As a fairly introverted person whose previous work experience was along the lines of solo archival work with just a dash of librarianship, I found the idea a bit terrifying. Would I have to talk? With real people? Shudder to think. Little did I know that hosting the book group would soon become one of my favorite parts of the job.

The Adventures of Augie March CoverThings didn’t start out all that easy, though the pay-offs tended to be pretty satisfying. On one memorable occasion none of my small group of regulars were able to attend. At the very last minute I had one woman, previously unknown to the group, ask to set up an alternate meeting date to discuss the book. We met over lunch, and she proceeded to rip into everything she disliked about my selection for about 20 uninterrupted minutes (The Adventures of Augie March). She actually told me that she wanted to meet so that she could tell me how much she hated the title. After she’d gotten it all out of her system and my ears stopped burning, we actually settled down to a really great, in-depth discussion of the book. I happened to have loved the book, so there was some really lively back and forth. After that she never missed a meeting.

Girl with the Dragon Tattoo cover imageMy fledgling club didn’t gain much traction until I picked a current bestseller to discuss. Attendance for our Girl with the Dragon Tattoo discussion was triple the usual amount. This was both a blessing and a curse. From the large group that attended we gained many new regulars. On the downside, the group was large and unwieldy and the flow of conversation was a bit awkward. Lesson learned? If you want to kick-start a new club consider picking something that’s new and hot. If you want to ensure success in the long run, pay attention to what your regulars are into and choose your reads wisely.

Mill Town cover imageFast forward to the present day where I find myself, once again, at the helm of a young book club. This time I get the chance to experiment with doing a themed club: local history and literature. Amazingly, our first meeting was well-attended and lively. We decided to do a mixed approach, where we led off with a mini-lecture on a related topic and then launched into the discussion. This worked wonderfully with Mill Town, which tells the story of Everett’s early days up until the notorious Everett Massacre; our group really enjoyed seeing the book’s pages brought to life with images from our archives. Our second title, The Mushroom Hunters, was a more intimate discussion with some folks who were very interested in foraging and the politics surrounding it. We swapped stories and recipes, and everyone left having learned something new. It was a treat to get to talk with people who were genuinely enthusiastic about the selected title.

The Beginning of a Mortal cover imageThis month we host our third discussion in the series: Max Miller’s The Beginning of a Mortal. I’m excited to see how things go. My colleague and I picked Miller’s autobiographical work of fiction because he wrote extensively about his childhood in Everett. I loved the book’s lively vignettes of daily life in Mill Town highlighting the good, the bad, and the ugly with humor and compassion. As an additional perk, the book is sprinkled with charming pen illustrations of the author in his Huck-Finn-like adventures about town. So if you’re like me and have a thing for hobos, shingle mills, and history, come to the Northwest History Room to grab a copy from our book club set. We’d love to see you at our meeting on August 25th, at 6:30pm in the Main Library Training Room.

The Book Club Spectacular

bookclubspectacularHave you been pondering starting up or joining a book club? Perhaps you already belong to a book group and just want some fresh ideas regarding book selections or discussion topics.Either way the Everett Public Library has an event for you.

ahomemadelifeThanks to the Friends of the Everett Public Library, this Saturday, September 21st, the library will be hosting a Book Club Spectacular starting at 10:30 am at the Main Library in the auditorium. Like all good spectaculars, ours will have a special guest star: author Molly Wizenberg.

delanceyMolly is the author of the New York Times bestseller A Homemade Life and the award winning blog Orangette. At the spectacular she will be talking about her forthcoming book Delancey and the first 75 attendees will be receiving a copy. In addition, those attending can enjoy refreshments based on Molly’s recipes from A Homemade Life.

But that’s not all. An Everett Public Library veteran book discussion leader will be there to talk about titles that make for great book club reads as well as tips for leading your own book club discussions. You can also get a sneak peak of the Library’s new online system for reserving book group sets. And don’t forget to bring gently-read books to exchange with your fellow book club enthusiasts. No registration is required and, as always, this library program is absolutely free.

If you need further book club inspiration, check out Leslie’s post Do You Book Club? Whatever you do, don’t forget to mark your calendars and bring your excitement for all things book to the Book Club Spectacular this Saturday.

Do You Book Club?

Belonging to a book club is a very personal thing and you need to ask yourself a lot of questions before you commit to one: Do you enjoy the social element, or would you rather just talk about the plot, the characters, the setting – and not hear about junior’s college applications? Do you want to meet in homes or a restaurant or the library? What kind of books do you want to read? Fiction? Non-fiction? Classics? Biographies? Would you like a diverse group of folks, or people just like you?

To help you answer these questions, I’d like to give you a run down of several different clubs that I’ve participated in or have known about. The first model that comes to mind is the Everett Woman’s Book Club which founded the Everett Public Library way back in 1898. To quote the club’s history:

On June 10, 1894, a group of local women met in the home of Mary Lincoln Brown to form a Women’s Book Club that would have as its broad aim the improvement of the mind through the study of literature, but more specifically, the establishment of a public library.

Here is a photo of the club in 1894:

getimagewobocu_logo

Now, that’s going way back in Everett’s history! This book club still exists today with several different departments.

My own dear mother-in-law is in one of these departments. The ladies meet monthly in their homes. There is a member who is in charge of presenting a program which may be a book review, a visit to a museum, or a guest speaker. After the program, lunch is served. These ladies have formed very close bonds after 54 years of book club friendship.

indexYours truly is also in a department of the Everett Woman’s Book Club. My group of about fifteen members was formed in 1983 and has been a central part of my life. We meet monthly in our homes in the evenings and typically have time to socialize with an adult beverage until someone cracks down and we talk about club business and the book which we were all are supposed to have read. The gal who choose the book leads the discussion. We typically end the gathering by enjoying a dessert together. Currently we’re reading Destiny of the Republic by Candace Millard. This is an excellent history of the short, but fascinating presidency of James A. Garfield. I highly recommend it! The story of his medical care alone was memorable.

indexMy husband, who was prominently featured in my last post, has been participating in a book club for about twenty years which I (tongue in cheek?) call ‘The Everett Man’s Book Club’. Their meetings are about the same as my group’s, except that they seem to focus on non-fiction and they really focus on heavy appetizers instead of dessert. What are they reading now? The suggested read is The Boys in the Boat by Daniel Brown (Not that Dan Brown) which tells “the story of the University of Washington’s 1936 eight-oar crew and their epic quest for an Olympic gold medal, a team that transformed the sport and grabbed the attention of millions of Americans,” according to our library catalog. See? Non-fiction!

indexI also was in a Mother-Daughter book club when my daughter was in middle and high school. There were six mother-daughter pairs and we met just about four times a year as the girls lead very busy lives. What we lacked in frequency, we made up for in consistency: every member was able to attend almost every meeting, which really adds to the intimacy and fluency of the group. The readings were mostly young adult fiction, with some classics thrown into the mix. The library has several books on starting a book club in general, but also one called Book by Book: The Complete Guide to Creating Mother-Daughter Book Clubs which will help you do exactly that.

indexMy daughter has been in a book club led by her high school english teacher for half a dozen years now. Her teacher is an exceptional man who meets about twice a year with a group of his former students. The girls bring food for a potluck and they catch up with their lives and then discuss some sort of reading material: anything from “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” to King Lear. This summer they read Mr. Palomar by Italo Calvino. It’s a short, but pithy read about a man who “is a seeker after knowledge, a visionary in a world sublime and ridiculous,” again, according to the catalog. This book club clearly started with a leader, but it has evolved so that all of the members are now equals.

indexThe Everett Public Library hosts a book discussion group which meets the third Monday of each month at 11:45 AM until 1:00 PM in the Main Library Training Room. No registration is needed. This group is led by our wonderful librarian, Marge Bodre. If you’d like more information, please contact Marge at 425-257-7659 or 425-257-8000. They are currently reading and discussing The Light Between Oceans by M. L. Stedman for their August meeting. It’s an excellent novel.

If you are a member of a book discussion group, or are thinking of starting a group, you might be interested in the library’s Book Group Collection. The titles in this collection are signed out as sets – 10 copies to a set – to any book group member with an Everett library card, to share with the other members of their book group.  Each set includes a discussion packet to enhance the reading experience and discussion.

So, there you have it!  Now you may be better prepared to enhance your reading experience by joining a book club. I hope you do. Enjoy!