Creating a Culture of Reading In Rochester

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img_0427Recently, local reporter Erica Bryant wrote about a “reading crisis” in Rochester, expressing outrage and alarm over the apparent lack of reading skills among Rochester residents. Bryant proposed creating a “gigantic youth literacy initiative” as a gift in honor of Frederick Douglass’ 200th birthday coming up in 2018.

Speaking as the Director of the Rochester Public Library and Monroe County Library System, and as a member of Mayor Lovely Warren’s Senior Management Team, I will argue that our reading crisis will be solved not by a huge “initiative” or another “blue ribbon panel” but by small, community based actions such as those put in place by the City and by community members over the last few years which demonstrate and promote a culture of reading.

It will be solved by average citizens modeling reading behavior to children and low-literate adults.

It will be solved by creating more and more opportunities to get books into people’s hands and homes, and by helping those who are learning to master the act of reading discover the beauty and power of the written word.

The City of Rochester and the Rochester Public Library have implemented many small-scale reading programs and projects in the last few years. Some of those include the library’s popular Raising a Reader program which focuses on reading as a family activity. Partnering with ABC Headstart classrooms and daycares, Raising a Reader provides new books to participating families every week over the course of several months. Staff works with the parents to help them understand the importance of reading with their children every day, and that the act of reading together as a family can be very intimate and special, both for the child and the parent.

41038A34-AEF9-4E59-9EFC-C8BF5107701ARaising a Reader has been successful in introducing young children to reading for pleasure, but it has also opened doors for parents who are ready and eager to improve their reading skills. As reading becomes important to the parent, it also becomes important to the child.

Recently, Raising a Reader families reported that their children more frequently asked to look at and read books at home, that they had more books in their homes, and that the average length of time the children and parents read together increased by more than 50% since last year.

Mayor Warren and her staff understand the importance of having books in the home, and have rolled out several programs and projects that help get books into the hands of community members, especially children.

Storytime with Style has distributed more than 2,000 books through twelve barbershops and beauty salons in the City. These books are placed on special shelves for people – adults and children – to read while waiting for a haircut, and then take home when they’re finished. The stylists, by having the books in their salons, demonstrate the value and importance of reading to children and adults alike. They make reading part of the community culture.

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Mayor Warren has also created an online community which encourages reading in the home. Rochester Families Read is a Facebook group where information about reading and education is shared with more than 300 group members. Reading recommendations, information about educational events and activities, and inspirational messages about reading are frequently shared in this group, which is open to anyone.

Distribution of books to children, teens, and adults has become an important part of the library’s outreach efforts. You will often find one of the library’s Books By Bike stations at area farmers markets and community events, giving books away. Our riders regularly report they are constantly flagged down on their way between stops by people who are anxious to get a book.

In addition, you will find shelves of free books in many locations throughout the City, maintained by community volunteers and by library staff. Since 2015, the library distributed more than 2 million free books through nearly 200 locations in the City, including WIC sites, Family Court waiting rooms, corner stores, and laundromats.

The most frequently requested books? The Bible and cookbooks.

Through a partnership with Monroe County, the library has placed Americorps volunteers in DHS offices to engage families in literacy activities while they wait, and to introduce them to the library system. Families can apply for library cards in DHS offices, and are welcomed to their local library once they receive their library card in the mail.

Other community led efforts to distribute books can be found in the dozens of Little Free Libraries located throughout the City. Some were built and distributed by City staff, but many were provided through a grassroots, citizen-led group called The Snowball Effect, which raised over $9,000 and distributed 20 pre-built little libraries several years ago. These libraries are maintained by their “stewards,” usually a homeowner or community member. They operate on the “take a book, leave a book” principle and are free to access. By installing a Little Free Library in your neighborhood, you’re telling the world that you are a Reader and that reading matters.

Perhaps the most impactful method of book distribution is the Books and Bears program begun by the Mayor’s Office of Constituent Services and the Rochester Police Department. With supplies collected entirely through private donations, this program provides RPD officers with teddy bears and a books to give to children who are caught up in a traumatic experience. The bear and the book provide a small amount of comfort in a difficult situation, creating an experience for the child that equates books with something good.

Many community partners like Literacy Volunteers of Rochester provide programs for low-literate adults throughout the region. Adult literacy is critical to solving big issues such as unemployment, poverty, and crime. Bob Mahar, Director of Literacy Volunteers, recently shared these statistics:

  • 43% of adults with the lowest literacy skills live in poverty
  • 50% of the chronically unemployed are functionally illiterate
  • 76% of adults on public assistance are low literate  or unable to read more than simple text
  • Public assistance recipients with the lowest literacy skills stay on assistance the longest
  • Parents who can’t read are likely to have children who can’t read well
  • 75% of prisoners fall into the lowest two levels of literacy
  • 85% of juvenile offenders have reading problems

Clearly, low literacy affects ones ability to learn, work, and prosper, underscoring the critical need to address literacy first. Literacy Volunteers is always looking for volunteers to help deliver their services. Give them a call at 473-3030!

The number of children, teens, and adults who use our libraries every day are one indicator that we are making some progress in solving the “reading crisis” Bryant wrote about, but it is not enough.

Every person in our City who can read should embrace that skill and share it with others.

  • Model reading behavior by carrying a book with you and pulling it out while you wait in line.
  • If you’re a digital reader, comment to those around you that you just can’t wait to find out what happens next as you open your e-reading app on your phone.
  • Make a habit of talking about what you’re reading.
  • Add a line to your email signature about what you’re currently reading.
  • If you tweet, use #Recommendsday and #RocReads to recommend a book to your followers every Wednesday.
  • Become a Literacy Volunteer and teach someone to read.
  • Use your local libraries and encourage everyone you know to use them!

Solving this crisis is up to us. Read early. Read often. Read everywhere.

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I’d Rather Be Reading by Guinevere de la Mare


12E9413C-CB5C-4D22-BE60-5E1584801C69Here’s an unusual factoid about Readers: not only do we love to read, we love to read about reading. There’s all sorts of books about books and reading, but Guinevere de la Mare has produced one of the loveliest little books-about-books I’ve seen in quite some time. She alternates a luscious variety of images – drawn, painted, collaged, photographed – with three heartfelt and earnest essays by Maura Kelly, Gretchen Rubin, and Ann Patchett. The images and essays blend into one delightful little book (and it is small enough to slip into a pocket or purse).

Maura Kelly writes about her “Slow Books Manifesto” in which she posits that we should all turn to literature, to books that take some time to read and will become our companions for weeks at a time. Books we savor and think about when we’re not reading. Books that we remember and books that change our way of thinking. I like it….

Ann Patchett writes a short essay explaining how she answered when asked to name her 25 favorite books. She gave it a lot of thought, and produced an eclectic list ranging from Jane Austen to John le Carre to Alice Munro to John Updike. After giving us her list, she went on to answer questions similar to those I pose in the Reader Profiles I feature in this blog. All in all, an intriguing insight into one of our most prolific and successful contemporary authors.

Gretchen Rubin writes about how she tries to organize her time so she can read more. She gives advice such as “Quit Books” – don’t force yourself to finish a book you’re not enjoying, There are too many other things to read out there! Other tips include watch recorded TV, skim, keep a big stack of books to be read, plan time to read more difficult books, and always have something to read.

The art here is engaging and lovely, and includes a colored rendering of a shelf of books that looks very much like it came from the Ideal Bookshelf, one of my favorite bookish artists. There are memes here, along with simple drawings of books, detailed renderings of books and readers, and some nice photography.

This would make a sweet gift for the Reader (with a capital R) in your life. It’s a quick read, but could become a book your favorite Reader goes back to again and again. Highly recommended.

Publisher: Chronicle Books
Publication Date: August 15, 2017

Hunch by Bernadette Jiwa


97FEF938-BD16-459A-B93F-FE3609A18274The subtitle of this book is a bit more descriptive: “Turn Your Everyday Insights Into the Next Big Thing.” Jiwa packs a decent amount of information into this short book that is all about trusting your gut and taking risks.

We’ve all had hunches – those times when we’re pretty sure something is going to happen, or that this way is the right way. Jiwa delves into what distinguishes a hunch from a guess, and boils it down to three things: curiosity, empathy, and imagination. She devotes chapters to each, but provides a half-page summary that everyone should print out and hang on a wall where they see it every day. It’s on page 81; below is a synopsis.

Curiosity = Interest + Attention – notice things and think about how to make them better.
Empathy = Worldview + Understanding – be able to put yourself in the shoes of someone experiencing a problem.
Imagination = Context + Experience – learn how to think about what already exists in a different way.

The most consistent theme throughout the book is the directive to pay attention – to your own experiences and to those of the people around you. There are several sections with activities the reader can perform to hone those paying-attention skills. Several years ago, I developed a set of observational exercises to examine and learn how people were currently using my library. Those exercises were grade school work compared to what Jiwa suggests. My mind was flying, imagining all the places I could use those exercises and what I wanted to learn from them. So much potential there…

Hunch is a slim book, and can be read in an hour or two, but it will leave you thinking about it for a very long time. If you are looking to change up your career, or are beginning any planning work within your organization, set aside some time and absorb this little gem.

Many thanks to Seth Godin and Niki Papadopoulos (Penguin Random House) and altMBA for sharing this book with me.

 

Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor


667421B5-924F-4182-94A9-07CB4F318AE1Sunny, an American girl, finds herself transported to Nigeria when her family decides to move back to their home there. Being American is the least of Sunny’s challenges. Sunny is albino, which means she can’t go out in the sun without an umbrella to protect her skin. Sunny also experiences odd visions which thoroughly frighten her. She becomes friends with a boy in her class who then introduces her to another girl, who puzzles Sunny with her secretive behavior. Eventually, Sunny is revealed as a powerful witch, and she goes on to explore her heritage and powers.

This book was described by multiple sources as a “new Harry Potter” which is what made me request an advanced copy from Netgalley. The premise is similar – a young outcast discovers she has magical powers and must use those powers to defeat a powerful enemy. That’s about the only similarity to HP, and I think it is a mistake to compare these two richly imagined stories because they really are nothing alike.

Akata Witch introduces a whole new world of magic, raw and powerful, and a new cast of characters who (Hallellujah!) are young Africans, two of whom are girls! The language and culture of the story and the characters provided a palate cleansing freshness, and an intriguing, clever plot. There is nothing here not to love and I predict kids will devour this book. Highly recommended.

 

A Treacherous Curse by Deanna Raybourn


63015F11-62D8-4D94-AF5D-84294F64F38EThe Veronica Speedwell I came to admire in A Curious Beginning is back and as fierce as ever! The semi-acknowledged, illegitimate daughter of the Prince of Wales, Veronica is an independent “modern” woman (or as independent and modern as one can be in 19th century England) who collects and studies butterflies, and has a healthy appetite for sex. She lives and works with Revelstoke Templeton-Vane, a rake of the highest order.

I was left a bit disappointed in the second book in this series, A Perilous Undertaking, and I wrote then that I felt the chemistry between Veronica and Stoker was missing. Well, no more. The sparks literally flew off the page in this one, and I was quite taken with the restraint with which Veronica comported herself during the most stressful scenes with Stoker. Raybourn has done a skillful job of slowly developing both main characters, revealing bits of their past lives in each entry in this series. Readers are kept waiting and anticipating how and when the author will achieve the coupling we are all hoping for in the future, although I am wondering if the Viscount Templeton-Vane will throw a wrench in the works of that happening.

All that speculation aside, A Treacherous Curse is a rollicking good adventure, riffing off the “Egyptian curse” trope so popular in fiction set in the late 19th and early 20th century, but not relying on the curse to move the action forward. Here, Veronica and Stoker are engaged to find the crown of an Egyptian princess which disappeared from a a dig in the Valley of Kings. Matters are complicated by the fact that a member of the dig has also disappeared, who just happens to be the man responsible for the break up of Stoker’s marriage. As usual, the author has introduced some colorful characters and trotted in old favorites from past stories (Lady Wellie is a favorite). The story is not a new one (you will find similar characters and plot elements in many of the Amelia Peabody books by Elizabeth Peters), but this series is really all about Veronica and Stoker. Raybourn can set them down inside any story and have a successful novel if she keeps focused on their relationship. Recommended for fans of blended mystery-adventure-romance-historical-fiction. Well done!

Reader Profile – Dr. Anne Kress


Anne_KressDr. Anne Kress is President of Monroe Community College in Rochester, NY. She serves as Chair of the Finger Lakes Regional Economic Development Council and is well-known nationally for her work in higher education. Dr. Kress is also a Reader. Here, she shares her views on everything from a life-changing book to why she reads.

Fiction or Non-Fiction, or both?

I read much more fiction than non-fiction.

Is there a book that you re-read again and again?

No. There’s so much to read and so little time that I almost feel that I can’t re-read a book. But, sometimes when I find an author I love, I just read everything he or she has written. I’ve read all of Austen and Hardy; all of Eudora Welty’s and John Cheever’s short stories; the novels and stories by Fitzgerald. When Lauren Groff or Helen Oyeyemi writes something, I’ll read it. It’s not all high lit, though: this summer, I powered through all of Kevin Kwan’s Crazy Rich Asians series like they were candy.

Can you identify a book that changed your life?

Yes. I remember reading Susan Faludi’s book Backlash: the Undeclared War Against American Women in hardback when it came out and thought, “Yes!” It made me realize that I was not alone or crazy, and it was empowering. That was in 1991, over a quarter of a century ago, and sadly, her book is as current now as it was then.

What are you reading right now?

I just finished Allegra Goodman’s The Chalk Artist, which is frightening and beautiful. I just love her novels; they’re at once timeless and timely. I’m about to start Min Jin Lee’s Pachinko.

What book should everyone read?

I should say something profound, but reading is very personal. For example, I don’t read mysteries or crime novels, so even if you told me that one was the best book on earth, I’d probably never read it. I’ll just say, everyone should read—and throw in a poem every once in a while to remind you of the power that comes from concision.

Is there a book you wish you never read?

No, but sometimes I quit a book when I just can’t push through and never feel bad about it.

Are you a solitary or a social reader?

Solitary. I get lost in reading. I’m most likely to read on planes, and when I do, the entire crowded, noisy plane disappears, and all that I’m aware of is the world of the book. I’ll sigh, cry, and laugh, so if you sit next to me, beware. The words on the page become a place and people and sounds and life. Because I studied literature for so many years, I can easily summarize, analyze, and critique, but that is not the magic of reading. The magic of reading is that it wraps me up and takes me away.

Is there a book that you hated and the world loved, or a book you loved that no one else appreciated?

There are lots of books and authors that I just do not get at all that are considered central to the canon of American literature, works by James Fennimore Cooper to Kurt Vonnegut to Cormac McCarthy. I used to call them “boy books.” In college, I convinced an Early American lit teacher to let me develop an alternate syllabus with all women authors: he hadn’t read most of the books I found, so it was enlightening for both of us.

Would you rather meet your favorite author or your favorite character?

Favorite author. I like the way the characters are in my head, and it would be odd and unfamiliar to see them out in the world.

Why do you read?

Horace wrote that the goal of poetry and drama was to delight and to instruct, and I read for both. I find true delight in reading: it brings light to my life. I also learn when I read: it makes my world bigger, deepens my understanding. Growing up, I lived in a small and narrow world. Reading let me know that a brighter, wider universe of possibilities was out there. My ticket out was a library card; my ride out was a bookmobile. I owe the life I have now to reading.

Bear & the Nightingale and Girl in Tower by Katherine Arden


82F05A68-C6D8-4CBF-9BE8-79BC4F3D83F7Folktales speak to us of ancient people, places and things. Dark caverns, spooky forests, mysterious voices that carry on the wind, power over life and death, and so much more. All these things confounded our ancestors, so they created stories to explain the “why” of things like snow, waxing and waning moons, flight of birds, and luck. Those long ago ancestors also believed that there were guardians, or house gods, or chyerti who protected the family from evil…as long as they were fed and cared for and believed in. And that’s where Katherine Arden’s glorious Winternight Trilogy begins.

In Book 1, The Bear and the Nightingale, we meet Vasilisa, the youngest daughter of Pyotr of Lesnaya Zemlya. Vasya, as her family calls her, can see the chyerti who are beginning to fade as the new Christian religion takes hold in Russia. Warned to always care for the chyerti, who keep evil away from the family and village, Vasya continues to practice the “old ways” until her father brings a new stepmother home from Moscow. Anna is a devout Christian who sees evil at every turn, but especially in Vasya, making it hard for Vasya to honor the chyerti. As the chyerti are neglected, an old evil awakens in the form of a monstrous Bear and terrible things begin to happen in the village. Vasya invokes Morozko, the Winter King, to help save her family and village from the Bear and his horrible minions, but also to save herself from a vengeful priest who seeks to burn her as a witch.

Girl in the Tower picks up where Bear & the Nightingale leaves off – with Lesnaya Zemlya safe, and Vasya setting off on her own with the magnificent horse Solvey, gifted to her by the Winter King. Her only wish is to see as much of the world as possible, but she quickly comes to realize just how difficult that will be without assistance. She seeks out the Winter King, who reluctantly helps her on her way, disguised as a boy. Along the way, Vasya stumbles upon her older brother, Sasha, and their cousin Dmitri, the Grand Prince of Moscow and joins forces with them to defeat a greater evil, Kaschei the Deathless. Their quest takes them back to Moscow, where Vasya is reunited with her older sister Olga, the Princess of Serpukhov. Olga lives in Moscow with her husband and children, one of whom has inherited the ability to see the chyerti. Vasya’s adventures in Moscow end in a thrilling showdown with Kaschei, and a very satisfying ending which foreshadows the final entry in the series.

Throughout both novels, Vasya struggles with her intense desire to be free. She doesn’t want to marry, nor does she wish to enter the convent which are the only two options for young women of her time. She relishes the danger and thrill of her relationship with Morozko, the Winter King, and Arden has done a masterful job of creating tension and attraction between the two. Arden has created interesting characters in Bear & the Nightingale, and has spent considerable time fleshing them out in Girl in the Tower. Vasya, Sasha, Dmitri, Olga, and now Marya create a world that will pull you in and envelop you with their spirit. While the story is captivating on it’s own, Arden’s writing is icing on the cake. Lyrical, lush, and full of magic and mystery, it will keep you reading well into the night. Truthfully, I haven’t loved a series as much since I first read Harry Potter. Highly recommended.

Ghosts of Greenglass House by Kate Milford


EE9F519E-E2AB-403F-A09B-3E3937C398BDMilo is back in a new adventure in Greenglass House, the coolest place in all of Nagspeake. Some of the characters from Greenglass House return (Georgie, Clem & Addie) in a similar setting. Milo is desperate for a quiet Christmas break with his family, but their lone guest just won’t leave. Milo just knows his vacation is going to be ruined as, once again, more people show up. The plot is similar to Greenglass House in that unexpected guests show up, get stranded, and are all looking for something special. What makes Ghosts different is the fascinating introduction of the concept of the Raw Nights performers, a troupe of “actors” who travel around performing and telling stories during the “raw nights” before Christmas when magic is wild. As a lover of folklore, this aspect of the story totally sucked me in. The usual hijinks ensue as Milo, Addie, Georgie, Clem, and the others search for hidden treasures in an effort to find a famous device created by a notorious smuggler that maps the Nagspeake shoreline.

Milford continues to build the fictional world of Nagspeake and it’s colorful inhabitants and ancestors, even going as far as creating a whole gorgeous website on Nagspeake tourism. The story is very similar to the first book in the series, but Milford continues to develop Milo in a really intriguing way. Milo has some issues with anger (e.g. feeling the scream building inside him) and Milford uses that aspect of his personality to let readers know it’s okay to be angry and that there are lots of ways to express that anger. In that way, this story can easily be labelled “bibliotherapy” (if you’re the kind of reader who likes to label things!). This will definitely appeal to middle grade readers. Highly entertaining and recommended.

October Micro-Reviews


CE38AF4E-3FC8-4A20-B43A-1CDEF146C375Clue in the Trees by Margi Preus – Second in what is shaping up to be a nice little YA mystery series, Clue in the Trees finds Francie from the author’s earlier Enchantment Lake, settling in to life in Minnesota. She’s a senior in high school, and is living in a sweet apartment paid for by her grandfather who seems to think she’s safer in Minnesota than in New York. How little does he know! Francie starts school, thinking she’s in for a quiet, uneventful year but is right away blindsided by the return of brother Theo AND the discovery of a dead body at a local archaeological site. Of course, Francie gets involved in solving the mysterious death, but she’s also drawn into a bigger mystery surrounding her mother, who may or may not be alive. The writing here is straightforward and uncomplicated, perfect for upper middle grade and reluctant teen readers. The story is compelling and suspenseful, and full of all the things you expect in high school. There is some subtle humor here as well, which adds a nice kick to the story, and the reveal of the villain was wonderfully creepy. I was reminded a bit of my own early teen years reading Nancy Drew and thought more than once that Francie and her friends are Nancy and the Gang for the 21st century. Recommended.

11395661-1E1A-4C57-B4EC-091CACFAB9EAA Plague of Giants by Kevin Hearne – I love immersing myself in a well-constructed world, and Kevin Hearne took me there in A Plague of Giants, the first in a new fantasy series, Seven Kennings. No stranger to world-building, Hearne begins his story with the story of how the kingdom was invaded by giants and introduces us right away to the characters who will carry to story forward. For sure, this is dense, epic fantasy replete with unusual place and person names and people blessed with special gifts. The complex language and landscape alone will likely put off casual fantasy readers, but die-hards will lap this up. I look forward to the next entry in the series. Recommended.

C07C629F-BB62-42E3-B240-8333A651B957The Grave’s a Fine and Private Place by Alan Bradley – The prospect of a new Flavia de Luce book has always quickened my heart, but the last two books have been slightly disappointing. I had high hopes for this one, which were somewhat met. I think that Bradley has had a hard time transitioning Flavia from precocious child to teenager and that the last two books were awkward in the way real life is awkward when that transition happens. With The Grave’s a Fine and Private Place, I feel as though Bradley is finally starting to bring Flavia out of that awkward stage. While this was not the kind of clever, multi-layered mystery we’ve come to expect from the author, it was interesting and fun. Most importantly, it was a bridge to the next chapter of Flavia, her sisters, Dogger, and Buckshaw. I really enjoyed the bigger role here for Dogger, as well as the peek into his past, and I am totally looking forward to the adventures of Arthur W. Dogger & Associates – Discreet Investigations.

1C9872DA-530D-451E-9810-C9C73F270F8FThe Witches’ Tree by M.C. Beaton – Speaking as one who has not been a fan of the Agatha Raisin series I thought I’d give it a try again after watching the hugely entertaining series on Acorn.TV. I am very glad I did. The series is formulaic, to be sure, but the writing is witty and crisp, and the characters are a hoot. Recommended for fans of British cozy mysteries.

 

24C3B8AD-F453-45C0-A09F-337ED24E82B1What the Hell Did I Just Read. By David Wong – This is the first David Wong novel I’ve read and, OMG, it was fabulous! The action started immediately and never let up, and the writing is that kind of weird, twisty style I associate with graphic novels. Usually, that kind of writing doesn’t translate to a full blown novel, but it does here with no problem. The adventures of Dave, John, and Amy, residents of Undisclosed, reminded me of the cast of Eerie Indiana, all grown up. The monsters were irreverent and terrifying, and the trio of monster-hunters was hilarious and not as incompetent as Dave would like us to believe. I seem to be reading a lot of middle entries in series, and this is another one where I’m going to have to go back and read the earlier books, with pleasure. I would *love* to see this in movie or TV series form. Recommended.

Reader Profile – Chad Cunningham

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Chad for blogChad Cunningham is Head of Circulation Services at the Gates Public Library and is most definitely a Reader. Chad probably knows more about the Monroe County Library System than anyone, and he is known for his eclectic and varied reading recommendations. If you’re in the mood to talk books, go visit him at Gates!

Write a one-sentence description of yourself as a Reader.

My name is Chad and I read because the alternative is not reading and that just doesn’t make any sense to me at all.

What are you reading right now?

  • Chasing the Moon by A. Lee Martinez
  • Tales of the Dying Earth by Jack Vance
  • Promethea by Alan Moore and J.H. Williams III
  • Thief of Time by Terry Pratchett
  • Truants by Lee Markham
  • The Silence of the Flans by Laura Bradford

It is entirely possible that I read too many books at one time.

The desert island question – What 5 books would you have to have with you if you were stranded on a desert island?

  • To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis
  • A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
  • Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver
  • The Invisibles Omnibus by Grant Morrison and various artists
  • Wonder Boys by Michael Chabon

Are you a finisher? In other words, are you compelled to finish a book even if you hate it? What are some books that you’ve had to force yourself to finish, or which you’ve bailed on?

Absolutely not. Life is too short to finish books I hate. One of my favorite Dorothy Parker quotes (and I think the fact that I have multiple favorite Dorothy Parker quotes says something about me) is

This is not a novel to be tossed aside lightly. It should be thrown with great force.

My all-time least favorite book of all-time for all of time is Moby Dick. I hated every single letter of it that I read. I was forced to read it for an English class, I skipped 100 pages, and I still did well on the test. That was the book that taught me that is perfectly acceptable to not finish a book.

The last book I decided not to finish was one of those incredibly silly cozy mysteries. This one featured a librarian as the main character. Her library was in a lighthouse. 20 pages in I realized that I was criticizing all the library-related information and that this book was going to be nothing but a headache. I mean, who puts a library in a lighthouse.

Do you ever read the end of a book first? Why or why not?

Nope! Never! That takes away the fun of following the story! Noooooooooo!

I have skipped to the end when I am ready to quit a book and I have vague curiosity about how it will turn out.

What is the funniest or strangest thing you have ever found returned inside a library book?

I once found an old postcard with nothing written on it. It had a picture of a woman standing in front of a storefront. It was in black and white. There was nothing overly unusual about it, but it really creeped me out.

What is at the top of your TBR pile?

Séance Infernale by Jonathan Skariton. One of my friends recommended it to me.

Who is your go-to author when someone asks you for a recommendation?

I recommend Madonnas of Leningrad by Debra Dean a lot. Jacqueline Winspear is another author I recommend a lot. If someone has even a slight interest in science fiction I recommend my favorite sci-fi author: Octavia Butler.

Would you rather be your favorite author or your favorite character?

Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm…probably my favorite character. My favorite character is Granny Weatherwax from Terry Pratchett’s Discworld books. I would love to be able to unabashedly revel in my stubbornness the way Granny does.

What book do you wish you’d never read?

Have I mentioned that Moby Dick is a monstrous abomination and should be erased from history?

Has any book defined your life, as in you would be a different person if you hadn’t read it?

There are three books that have helped define me as a person:

  • A Wrinkle in Time (which I read at exactly the right time when I was a kid) helps me to see that our unique qualities are what give us the power to truly love one another.
  • Weetzie Bat inspired me to indulge my imagination and to embrace the fantastic all around me.
  • The Invisibles (which is a comic book series that is one very long story) really encouraged me to believe that anything is possible and that it’s perfectly acceptable to live a life of glamorous rebellion.

Is there a genre or type that you are over and wish would just go away?

Are they still making teen dystopian fiction books? If so, then that.

Describe your favorite place to read.

My absolutely favorite reading experience happens early on a Sunday morning. I sit at my dining room table with bagels and a cup of coffee and quietly read for an hour or so. That’s the most fulfilling reading experience of my week.

Book or movie? Is there a movie that you think was better than the book?

I usually prefer the book, but there have been times when the movie was better. I think the movie version of The Talented Mr. Ripley – the one with Matt Damon- was an excellent complement to the book and I liked it a touch better.

Jurassic Park was also better as a movie- but mostly because you could see the dinosaurs.

What is your preferred format? Hardcover, paperback, digital, audio, doesn’t matter?

I don’t do audio books- they usually put me to sleep- but otherwise I’m good with whichever format. I just really love to read. There’s a character in Wonder Boys who loves to read so much that if she runs out of books she’ll read the back of cereal boxes. That’s me in a nutshell.

If you were to get a bookish tattoo, what would it be?

Mrs. Who’s glasses from A Wrinkle in Time.