Girls, Girls, Girls! Coming to a book title near you

Post I wrote for Seattle Public Library’s Shelf Talk blog …

Shelf Talk

Girls Girls Girls sign glows in racy pink neon against dark night backgroundI made just one new year’s reading resolution this year: Read no books with the words “girl” or “wife” in the title.

A few days into 2016 and I failed with American Housewife by Helen Ellis (a pure delight to read and sure to be one of my favorite books of the year), followed shortly after by The Forgotten Girls by Sara Blaedel (Denmark’s “Queen of Crime”). Now All the Missing Girls by Megan Miranda and The Girlsby Emma Cline are stacked on my nightstand. In the 12 months prior, my reading list included: Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll, Girl Waits with Gun by Amy Stewart, The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins, Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girlby Carrie Brownstein and Not That Kind of Girlby Lena Dunham.* So. Many. Girls.

In the fiction world, publishers are still riding high on the success of

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Five ways to climb out of a reading slump

What if I told you that being a librarian had ruined me as a reader? Well, it would be a lie. Mostly.

About four times a year, I suffer a bit of a reading crisis. You could call it a reading slump if you’d like, but given that my day job involves connecting people with books, I consider it a full-blown bookish crisis. I feel an obligation to be up on what’s new; plus, shiny new books! If I’m preparing for a community book talk program, I’ll spend weeks and weeks of late-night reading specifically for what that audience might like. It starts to feel like an assignment.

Luckily, this happens only occasionally. Seasonally, in fact. And, luckily, I’ve found a few ways to climb out of the plotless, character-void abyss of a reading slump that comes after required reading. Here are five ways I’ve found to connect with books again, along with my personal book prescriptions.

2015-09-21-1442808647-13262-amyfallsdown.jpegChoose a different format. I’m not just talking e-book versus print here. I most often read new releases (hardcover, checked out from the library) or soon-to-be-released (which means digital advance copies on an ereader). My favorite format, however, is trade paperback. The size is great for bus commuting and couch reclining, the weight feels good in my hands, and I plain and simple just like this type of book best.

  • Rx: Amy Falls Down by Jincy Willett (2013). A novelist hits her head right before a reporter interviews her, and whatever she said (she can’t quite recall) has made her a literary darling in great demand for her wisdom on writing and publishing.
  • Prescription notes: I had checked this out twice in hardcover, but returned it both times unread. I was attracted to the redesigned cover (a basset hound!) and a blurb from super librarian Nancy Pearl.

2015-09-21-1442809231-1206812-mebeforeyou.jpegShop differently. I work in a building with close to a million books (Yes, I know! Bliss.) Yet I do most of my browsing online from reviews and Twitter. I’ve lost the “serendipity in the stacks” that lead to some of the best discoveries. Sometimes I just need to get out of my regular book selection space — computer screen and my workplace — and visit a book store or another library.

  • Rx: Me Before You by Jojo Moyes (2012). A rom com with an unlikely relationship between a quadriplegic and the young woman hired to help him.
  • Prescription notes: That description didn’t exactly pull me in, which is why I hadn’t placed it on hold at my own library. It also was one of those books that I didn’t need to read, because it was so widely shared and read. Then one day, three years after it was published, I came across the book — a nice, clean trade paperback version of the book — on display at a different library branch. Sold.

2015-09-21-1442809077-7921702-weliveinwater.jpegRead short stories or essays by a favorite author. I was going to say “pick up a collection of short stories.” But what I’ve found is that to come out of this particular slump, I need assurance that an author’s style and voice will keep me going. I stick with authors I know I enjoy, but look for their shorter work.

2015-09-21-1442808911-9667220-alittlelife.jpegBase your next book on its appeal characteristic. Do you read for character, story, setting, or pure love of the language of writing? Sure, it’s possible you read for all four, or for different ones depending on your mood. But what’s the common appeal among your favorite books? For me, it’s character.

  • Rx: A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara (2015). I’m still reading this one, immersed in the lives of four friends who first met at college. I don’t ever want to come out of this book.
  • Prescription notes: This character-rich novel is such a satisfying reading experience for me, reminiscent of my other favorite character novels: The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer, The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach, and A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving.

2015-09-21-1442808998-9907064-bellweatherrhapsody.jpegAsk a professional. Talking to a librarian or a bookseller is the truest form of reading therapy. A good one will get you talking about what you like in books, and give you a book match based on clues you’ve given when talking about books you love AND the mood you’re in at the moment. Ask a friend for a book recommendation and you’ll often get one of her personal favorites; ask a librarian or a bookseller and you’ll get a suggestion tailored just for you.

  • Rx: Bellweather Rhapsody by Kate Racculia (2014).
  • Prescription notes: A librarian friend handed this to me, knowing I’d first be intrigued by the cover art and then enticed by the set up. If Glee and Heathers had a baby — and added a mystery — it would be this book. I read it in two sittings, and was back on my way to being the reader I am.

My quarterly slump is behind me now, and I’m off for a great reading season. Here’s hoping you are, too.

19156898As soon as there is a goal or an assignment, I am among the first to sign up — and the one who knows all along that I won’t meet the goal. I’m pretty sure I have this all figured out, but this post is about READING, not about therapy. So let me say that I hate book clubs because I hate required reading, I hate that Goodreads encourages readers to set a number goal for reading (a happiness algorithm based on emotions when reading would be a better goal, I think), and I hate feeling like I’m letting library patrons down by not reading what they do. So hello 2014 — and goodbye to all that other silliness and guilt about reading.

Each year I read a lot of middle grade, but I go through it so quickly and read so much that I rarely keep track of titles. I lead a library book group that meets twice a month to talk about the books we’re all reading, and I’ve sadly stopped talking about children’s and YA in this group because I see people check out as soon as I say it’s not an adult book. I love this book group format and the people who participate, but I somehow let it stop me from reading what I want to read.

This year my focus is going to be on middle grade (no afterthought) and I’ll track it on goodreads with this middle grades read in 2014 shelf. As of today, there’s only one book on the shelf, but that’s okay because it’s the fantastic The Fourteenth Goldfish by Jennifer L. Holm. (It’s not out yet, but you can see the cover reveal and read all about it in this blog post from Mr. Schu.)

Several years ago, I read  100 middle grade novels in a period of a few months. I was immersing myself in children’s literature not only as an aspiring writer (this was pre Hannah West mystery drafts) but as someone toying with the idea of going to grad school to be a children’s librarian. THAT, my friends, was the best reading year of my adult life. And this year is off to a great start.

Short review: ‘Fangirl’ by Rainbow Rowell

FangirlFangirl by Rainbow Rowell
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A YA novel with the characters in college is the first big draw on this one. Cather and her twin sister Wren are freshmen at University of Nebraska, struggling to establish their own identities and pushing each other away in the process. Great voice throughout this novel, with a fascinating look at the world of fanfiction. I loved everything about this book and have already been recommending it to John Green fans. What a great year 2013 is with two books (Eleanor & Park published earlier) from Rainbow Rowell!

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My favorite books of 2013 — so far

Halfway through the year and I have 11 favorite books published this year. It’s simply been a great year for books. Or at least for books that I like and can enthusiastically recommend to readers. Here the list of My favorite books of 2013 (so far)  in my library’s catalog, with the books in no particular order, but still looking all pretty and official (shiny book covers and it being in a library catalog and all).

Here’s the list as a list, with some order to it. By age group and then alphabetical:

Two middle-grade novels:
Better Nate Than Ever by Tim Federle
A Tangle of Knots by Lisa Graff

Two YA novels:
Hattie Ever After by Kirby Larson
Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

Seven general fiction:
Bad Monkey by Carl Hiaasen
We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler
Truth in Advertising by John Kenney
The View from Penthouse B by Elinor Lipman
Tenth of December by George Saunders
We Live in Water by Jess Walter
The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer

I truly do love nonfiction, but this first half of the year was solidly fiction.

Short review: “Prep School Confidential”

Prep School ConfidentialPrep School Confidential by Kara Taylor

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Well-plotted YA mystery with attitude (publisher says “Twin Peaks meets Revenge” — and that’s not far off….). After Anne is expelled from a prep school on the Upper Eastside, her dad buys her a way into an exclusive boarding school outside of Boston. A murder on campus, an administration that buries secrets, and no one believing Anne means she’s on her own to track the murderer. A couple of red herrings AND steam tunnels!!! (All campuses and mysteries should have steam tunnels.) Recommended for fans of Ally Carter’s “Heist Society” series.

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