Monday, February 29, 2016

Seasons (of Life) Through Stories

Hydrangeas already coming back up!

February can be a such a tease! Here in the NW we can have days of endless rain but low and behold, sometime by mid-month we have a few days of warm weather and we are all ready for spring. Especially the flowers! For a few days I can ditch the coat, dream of potted plants and outdoor furniture, and actually sit outside and enjoy the sun! But not for long.....within a week I'm back in front of the fire, curled up under a blanket with a book.

This was one of those weekends. So, I was back inside with a stack of books. I've been reading so much lately. This shouldn't come as a surprise, I am a librarian after all. But, honestly, finding time to read during the last year has been SO HARD. When you work long days reading emails, reports, articles, it's not always the first thing you want to do when you get home. But, I vowed that this year I would make time for the things that are important to me, that fill me up. And reading is my therapy.

I see new books every day. Part of my job is to decide which books head to the new book shelf and which ones get interfiled with the rest of our collection at the library. January, February, and March are quiet in the publishing world so fewer books are debuted before spring when things pick up again. That doesn't mean there aren't ANY new good books, just fewer of them. (Summer and Fall are the sweet spots in the world of books!) And January 2016 did not disappoint. Last month I read When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi. I love a memoir sometimes for the shock value, but mostly because I appreciate the human spirit and the reassurance that we are all going through life together. I am grateful when someone has the courage to share their experience. This book broke my heart and then put it back together with the story of a dying man who spent his limited time looking at and living life in ways I could never imagine. Life is precious and beautiful. Wow.

My Name is Lucy Barton is another brand new book, this one a novel about the relationship between a mother and daughter and life's disappointments. The book takes place in a hospital overlooking the Empire State Building as the narrator, Lucy Barton, lies in a hospital bed recounting her childhood and life while her mother looks on. While it sounds depressing, it wasn't. Elizabeth Strout is a wonderful writer and I appreciated the human element in her words.

Speaking of the fragility and beauty of life...I also read this (older) memoir which had me from the cover. It's the story of strength and courage and faith in the face of something unthinkable. At once  sad and inspiring, Heaven is Here by Stephanie Nielson amazed me with her ability to more forward from a tragic accident and continue to realize dreams for herself and her family.  She writes to this day as the author of  NieNie Dialogues.

When pickings are slim I have to get creative when looking for something new to read that isn't necessarily hot of the press. I recently discovered Instagram as a wonderful source for interesting reads. There are so many beautiful vignettes of books and photos of books I've never even heard of! Book Musings is one of my favorite feeds. Not only does she have a beautiful home library, but she introduced me to the New York Review of Books Classics and Persephone PressModern Mrs. Darcy, a book(ish) blogger, writes a little about life and a lot about books and makes recommendations of new and older titles alike. She also has an Instagram feed AND a podcast about books called "What Should I Read Next?" She's lovely really.

Did you know that the New York Times Book Review has a podcast? Reviews from the weekly publication AND author interviews. Perfect for a commute.

The Millions is a blog about books. It's been around since 2003 and has an archive. Ever heard of it?

BookPage is a publication available to libraries (and maybe also bookstores?) with an online companion site.

Looking for something sort-of recent that might actually be available at your local library? Kirkus Reviews, the venerable publication trusted by librarians everywhere, offers a Best of 2015 list for fiction, nonfiction, and children, among others. (Truthfully, they have great reviews, but the magazine is text heavy and black and white so the website is WAY better!)

And then there's Book Club Girl. Book Club Girl actually works for Harper Collins, but her reviews are good, there's a podcast, and plenty of links to other reading sites.

Finally, if you like to judge a book by it's cover perhaps you'll enjoy Book Browse. This online magazine for book lovers covers fiction and non-fiction which includes a read-alike page where you can find recommendations based on popular books.

Happy Reading!

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