Hannah Ralston is still relatively new to “libraryland,” having just about 5 years of experience under her belt. She’s worked in both academic and public libraries, and she considers herself to be the “swing” librarian at Webster (NY) Public Library because she’s happy to assist in the Children’s, Teen or Adult departments (even though technically she’s a grown up librarian – read that as you will). When not at the library, she likes to read. Surprise! She also enjoys yoga, swimming, beach and forest bathing, funny TV shows, and hanging out with her shaggy labradoodle.
Write a one-sentence description of yourself as a Reader.
I read all sorts of things and I read them slowly, taking time to absorb and digest, sometimes getting bored, always following my intuition.
What are you reading right now?
I’ve been reading a lot of poetry this year. Right now, I’m reading The Passages of Joy by Thom Gunn. I usually try to read a mix of fiction and non-fiction at the same time (even though fiction is incredibly difficult for me to stay interested in), so I’m also reading Dubliners by James Joyce.
The desert island question – What 5 books would you have to have with you if you were stranded on a deserted island?
- The first book I would make sure to have is a Field Guide/Plant Identification book specific to that region.
- Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
- Diving into the Wreck by Adrienne Rich
- The Complete Tales of Winnie-The-Pooh by A.A. Milne
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling
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?
Nope! Life is too short, and there is too much to read waste time on a book you don’t like. I recently quit two popular books:The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern and Ready Player One by Ernest Cline. They just weren’t catching my interest. I’ve heard that you should know by page 45 whether or not a book has grabbed you, but I usually give it 70 pages to be more forgiving. I also struggled, really fought with myself, through Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur. I love poetry, and I wrote a lot in college, but it’s been really disappointing for me to slog through the poetry of my peers. Most millennial poetry seems like quick summaries of notes, jotted onto a legal pad during a therapy session. It’s whiny and aggressive, shallow and unskilled. I understand that it’s opened doors for many non-readers to get into poetry, so I’ll let that be the end of my rant for now.
Do you ever read the end of a book first? Why or why not?
Oh, I know that this is such a bad habit… It’s like the one thing that really makes me feel like I’m sinning as a reader. I do have a little bit of “story anxiety,” so every once in a while I’ll peek at the last line. It’s horrible! I wish I didn’t do it. It usually doesn’t help my nerves in any way! It’s been a while since I’ve done that, but I know my weakness.
Who is your go-to author when someone asks you for a recommendation?
It depends what type of book they are looking for… I don’t have a go-to author for non-fiction, but I have a few go-to books like The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks and Tiny Beautiful Things. For adult fiction, I like to recommend Donna Tartt and Sue Monk Kidd. If a teen or adult is looking to try graphic novels for the first time I’ll recommend Bryan Lee O’Malley. There are just too many great recommendations for kids! It really depends on the request.
What book do you wish you’d never read?
I really felt like Milk and Honey, as mentioned above, was a waste of my time and frustration. I’m also going to go ahead and just say it… I’ve read Fifty Shades of Grey, and for me that may have been a life mistake.
Has any book defined your life, as in you would be a different person if you hadn’t read it?
When I was ten years old, my father read the Chronicles of Narnia to me before bed every night. That was a life changing experience for me. I had always been a strong reader, but these books opened up a whole different world to me. It may have been the stories, or it may have been the time with my dad, but something about that ritual made me a life-long reader.
Describe your favorite place to read.
I will forever prefer to read in bed, which, according to The Atlantic (https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2017/05/reading-in-bed/527388/), is dangerous and “depraved.” What can I say? I like to live on the wild side.
What is your preferred format? Hardcover, paperback, digital, audio, doesn’t matter?
I love audiobooks! For the first 2 years that I was working at Webster Public Library, I was commuting from Canandaigua. The long daily drive turned me into a huge fan of the audio format. Surprisingly, I’m not listening to anything right now, but I like to have one audio and one printed book going at the same time when they’re available.
If you were to get a bookish tattoo, what would it be?
I already have some brainstormed! I’ve wanted a Watchmen tattoo ever since I read it about 5 years ago. It would be an owl, with a stopwatch in its talons, and the following quote, which is too long for tattooing: “For you are life, rarer than a quark and unpredictable beyond the dreams of Heisenberg; the clay in which the forces that shape all things leave their fingerprints most clearly. Dry your eyes… and let’s go home.” Someday I’ll also have a Sylvia Plath tattoo. I’d like a bell jar, but I haven’t decided what I want in it yet. It will be slightly open, hovering above its base, ambiguous as to whether or not it will stay that way.