Nevinsbuzz

Engaging Methuen Readers


Leave a comment

Bookish Confessions: the right book at the right time

I checked out Lev Grossman’s The Magicians from the library five times.  Not because I loved it so much and wanted to re-read it, but because it just didn’t “take” on tries one through four.  What kind of an idiot wastes their time trying to read a book, voluntarily, over and over again without getting into it, especially when there is access to an almost infinite number of other interesting books?  A book nerd.  A very determined book nerd.  A book nerd who is studying readers’ advisory and has had the famous phrase “the right book for the right person at the right time” drilled into them.

When it came out in 2009, The Magicians garnered rave reviews from professional journals and readers alike, as a noteworthy literary fantasy for adults.  That sounds great, said I, and picked up the book, only to return it largely unread.  Maybe it will catch my attention more if I read it in the winter, I thought?  Nope.  Over the years, several friends and colleagues suggested it to me as a book I would like.  Yes, but no. I guess it was just the wrong time.

Cut to the pandemic of 2020 and stay-at-home orders…I’m working from home and have The Magicians at hand.  With no reading pressures on me and time to spare, I finally found the right book at the right time.  I am a little over halfway through the book and all indicators point to a satisfactory finish in the next week.  All I had to do to get into the book was wait for a world-wide pandemic.  Who knew?


2 Comments

Cleaning Your Refuge

Cover image for Making space, clutter free :There’s nothing like a quarantine at home to get you motivated to do some Spring cleaning!  One book on this topic that I have found to be inspiring is Making Space, Clutter Free by Tracy McCubbin.  I have read many books on this subject.  What I like about this one is that McCubbin addresses the reasons behind why we clutter in the first place, both psychological and societal.  She is also refreshingly honest about decluttering being a process rather than some magical, one-day affair.

Some other books that I have found to be helpful are:

The Clutter Cure by Judi Culbertson also addresses the root causes of clutter.

Essential: essays by The Minimalists by Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus.  This collection of short essays from their website, The Minimalists, is great for dipping in and out of.  This one encompasses an entire lifestyle,  including technological and financial clutter as well.  Or, you can listen to their podcast about living a more meaningful life with less.

Soulful Simplicity by Courtney Carver.  Like The Minimalists, Carver is advocating for simplifying your entire life so that you can focus on your personal priorities.


Leave a comment

Books + Poetry + Rainy Day = Book Spine Poetry!

Poetry springs eternal, pandemic  be darned!  The month of April can mean many things to different people, but to me, April Showers and the National Poetry Month designation stand out.  So, on a recent rainy day stuck at home, I ransacked my personal library collection to create poetry from book spine titles.   Let these following examples be a springboard for your own book spine poems. Gather the family round and get creative.   See how many poems you can create by throwing in cookbooks, graphic novels, manuals and children’s books to the usual fiction and non-fiction mix.

Take a photo of your book spine poems, include the text, and email it to us at contactcirc@nevinslibrary.org.

For more inspiration, view past years’ book spine poetry from the Nevins Library.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Check out our Instagram for other poems from our creative library staff. 


Leave a comment

Books to Take You Away

For those of a certain age, you may remember the classic commercial for Calgone brand bubble bath  from the 1980’s.  Beset by heavy traffic, a difficult boss, and a crying baby, a working woman voices the famous plea, “Calgone, take me away!”.  Cut to the woman luxuriating in a bubble bath, her problems slipping away in this moment of bliss…

During this time of uncertainty and stress, my “Calgone” of choice is immersive books that take me away to a different place and time.  Here are three of my recent favorites:

Cover image for Virgil WanderVirgil Wander by Leif Enger (2018)

“Virgil Wander survives a car crash with some speech and memory problems, and encounters a kite-flying stranger searching for information about his long-lost son. Enger explores and intricately layers the feelings and stories of an entire town full of people, each trying to survive their own life-changing experiences.” — Elizabeth Isabelle, DeKalb County Public Library System (October 2018,  Libraryreads.org)

The small Minnesota town in which this story is set feels like one of its quirky characters, broken-down and ready for rebirth.   A touch of magical realism, whimsy, and engaging characters make this an uplifting reading experience.  The audio book, narrated by MacLeod Andrews, is mesmerizing and casts a cozy, homey spell.

Cover image for With the fire on highWith the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo (2019)

“In a distinct, perceptive, and vulnerable first-person narrative, Emoni, a young single mom being raised by her grandmother while raising her own daughter, relates the story of her last year of high school in vignettes and short chapters, trading off between sharing bits of the story and her musings about her life and her future. Emoni has a gift for cooking, and her food, like magic, conjures emotions in people she shares it with. Her teachers, friends, and family are all ready to support her when the subject of culinary arts schooling comes up, but the one Emoni needs to learn to trust is herself.” –Kristina Pino (Reviewed 3/15/2019 for Booklist)

This book has beautiful writing (“Acevedo’s keen, stirring prose reads like poetry and demands to be read slowly”), interesting and complex characters, realistic depiction of a young woman juggling her responsibilities and opportunities, and most important for me, a warm embracing atmosphere.  Though complicated at times, the love between ‘Buela, Emoni, Angelica and Baby Girl, is visceral and I find great comfort in being included in their extended family.  The audio rendition is read by the author.

Cover image for The lost manThe Lost Man by Jane Harper (2019)

“Meeting at the remote fence line separating their cattle ranches on an isolated belt of the Australian outback, two brothers navigate the haunting realities of the isolation that ended their third brother’s life.” (Novelist)

This is a gritty, dark rural noir that vividly transports you to the harsh and unforgiving Western Australian desert.  Even though the outback setting conjures images of stocking up and hunkering down that may provide eerie parallels to our current situation, it is appropriate to the dramatic landscape so evocatively brought to life here.

 

All the titles described above may be downloaded in either ebook or eaudio format through the free Overdrive app.

 

 

 

 


1 Comment

A Valentine for President Lincoln

Lincoln:  a photobiography by Russell Freedman Cover image for Lincoln : a photobiography

Many years ago when I was a student pursuing my Master’s Degree in Library and Information Science, I was introduced to Russell Freedman’s stellar non-fiction and biographical accounts for young people.  One of Freedman’s books that made a lasting impression on  me was his Newbery award-winning photobiography of President Lincoln.  Freedman presents a well-rounded portrait of Abraham Lincoln, the very real and complicated man, not just the legends and myths previously spun for children’s literature.  Lincoln was a man of great contrasts:  he had a rollicking wit and sense of humor as well as terrible bouts of depression; he had little formal “eddication” but became an eloquent public speaker and a great writer whose words continue to live on; even though he is venerated and honored today as a hero, he was vilified during the war years.

With clear prose and with photographs and other primary documents, Freedman takes the reader through Lincoln’s tumultuous life from his humble beginnings,  to his presidential ambitions, the complex issues surrounding the Civil War, and finally, to his assassination.  One touching part among many shows four portraits taken of Lincoln during the war years.  You can see how the pressure and anxieties of that terrible time become etched into his craggy visage.  Freeman concludes with a “Lincoln Sampler” of quotations and letter excerpts, a listing of historic sites, a bibliography and an index.

Although published 20 years ago, this title still remains a very relevant, well-organized, and thoughtful biography that both children and adults may enjoy.


2 Comments

Clutter – the new four letter word

On a recent snow day when our library was closed, I had a chance to get back to de-cluttering my house.  In the fall I had started to seriously think about how my clutter was affecting my life.  Does physical clutter make for mental clutter?  Would I be able to clear my head and focus more if my house looked like a clean, bright magazine spread?  Being a librarian I immediately looked for a book on the subject to read.  Clutterers tend to procrastinate so maybe this was a stall before actually doing the dirty deed of getting rid of stuff?… At any rate, I became fascinated with the psychology of hoarding and found the below two books most instructive on the reasons why one clutters and how to address the underlying issues of it to guard against the accumulation of more stuff while clearing the present detritus.

For a more personal account on dealing with the mess in our lives, I started reading Barry Yourgrau’s account of his struggle.  Uh, oh! I, too, have a bag (or two) of plastic bags I acquired from trips abroad that I am quite sentimental over…
In his memoir, Yourgrau refers to Randy Frost’s book for the science and psychology of hoarding. The Frost book is in our library stacks, so now that’s on my “to be read list”.
Well, since I already have a “to be read” list, there’s no harm in adding one more title to the collection… That’s not “hoarding” talk, is it???

Continue reading


Leave a comment

Bookish Confessions: Reading Resolutions

Ah, the start of a new year and traditionally, a time of reflection.  So, where am I at in my reading goals and trends?  Last year I participated in three reading challenges and this is how it stood at the close of 2017:

Classics Club 50 Book Challenge in 5 years — year 3 out of 5; 6 additional titles read this year for a grand total of 11 out of 50.  Have to step up the pace!

Pop Sugar 2017 Reading Challenge — 26 out of 40 categories read.  I didn’t really look at the list during the year, so not bad…

GoodReads 2017 Challenge — set at 100 books, with 108 read.  Yippee!

Although I continued to use my handwritten book journal citing the title, author, genre, and summary of the books I read, I did not track the place setting (state, country) like I did in 2016.

My reading goals for 2018 are to:

  • read 9 more classics this year (I really have to up the ante this year in order to reach the 50 book challenge by 2020.  Right now I am listening to Dickens’ David Copperfield which is 27 CD’s long (!), so it’s a good thing I find it humorous and am enjoying it.  
  • read more diversely and keep track of such things as setting, genre, author and characters’ nationality, ethnicity, gender, etc.   Rachel Manwell from Bookriot created a comprehensive reading log that I may use to track this data.
  • read 100 books in the year
  • keep PopSugar’s 2018 Reading Challenge book prompts in mind just for fun!

What are some of your reading goals for 2018?


3 Comments

Bookish Confessions: No awkward pauses between books!

I noticed recently that my husband is nearing the end of a book he’s been enjoying.  Watching closely as the unread pages quickly dwindled down, I anxiously asked him what book was next in line to read.  He didn’t know.  “BUT, but, you have to have a book ready and waiting for you,” I exclaimed!  “What would you DO during that awful, dreadful, awkward pause between books?”  Wanting to save him from that fearful state, I explained my simple but effective way of always having a book at hand.

First, since I work at a library, books, book reviews, and book lists come across my hands often.  I quickly add all those titles that catch my eye onto my  “suspended holds” list on my library card account.  With a constant count of over 80 items, I have a book on the list for every mood!  So, that is my backup reading list.  My reading schedule works like this:  I have a book for  quick 15-minute break times, usually a YA/teen read, or a book that is broken down into short chapters.  For lunch, I have another book that I can read at a more leisurely pace.  On the way home from work, I listen to an audio book. The audio book alternates between being a classic and a more contemporary, soothing pick.    When I am home, I want to leave work behind, so of course I need a new fresh book that stays at home and can be read while curled up on the couch with a dog on my lap.  That brings us to bedtime… No dark, pessimistic book can enter this peaceful domain, so I go for children’s middle grade books that may have serious themes, but always with a ray of hope for the future.  That’s it–no problems, no awkward pauses between books!

Hmmm, after explaining my wonderful book schedule to him, my husband is looking at me with concern, pity and a little fear.  Oh well, I guess this system isn’t for everyone…


Leave a comment

Bookish Confessions: summer and dystopian fiction

I don’t know if it’s the summer scorchers when the grass is dry and crunchy and all the vegetation looks desiccated — or the heavy humidity which leads to languidness, violent thunderstorms,  and sudden heavy downpours — but it all  drives me to read futuristic dystopian books featuring cataclysmic climate changes.  The heat waves that break all existing records, and the super storms in unlikely places, make these books with their dysfunctional world settings seem quite palpable.

As I sat down to read Gold, Fame, Citrus by Claire Vaye Watkins, this summer’s post-apocalyptic book about a destroyed and drought-ridden South California, I reflected on other books with similar themes I’ve read over the last few summers.  Last year I read Emily St. John Mandel’s beautifully constructed Station Eleven, involving a flu pandemic and a unique theater troupe.  This book had gotten rave reviews from both the public and the review journals, even winning some awards along the way, but I was never interested in it…until the following summer, filled with crazy weather, when anything seemed possible!  Other post-apocalyptic summer reads have included California by Edan Lepucki, World Made by Hand by James Howard Kunstler,  The Water Knife, Ship Breaker, Windup Girl, all by Paolo Bacigalupi.

Happy summer reading (even about disasters)!


Leave a comment

Bookish Confessions: My Ideal Bookshelf

Cover image for My ideal bookshelfBeing a book nerd, I couldn’t help checking out the delightful book My Ideal Bookshelf edited by Thessaly La Force, with art by Jane Mount.   In My Ideal Bookshelf, more than one hundred leading cultural figures (writers, musicians, chefs, designers and other creative types), share the books that made an impact on their lives.  Not only am I a self-professed book nerd, but I am a curious one at that, so I absolutely delight in seeing what people are reading and what books they have on their shelves.  I find that one’s personal book collection can be revealing and say a lot about their owner. Jane Mount’s colorful paintings of the book spines, occasional objets d’art  and arrangements of the books are not only delightful, but can be very telling as well.

Perusing this book and checking out what inspired writers that I admire, I started to think about the books that have contributed to my life so far.  When I look back on my book journals, I can tell where  I was in my life at that point.  (I wasn’t surprised when I saw that a former job I was struggling with corresponded with reading a slew of books about women who decided ‘enough was enough’, gave up their jobs and took off across the globe to figure out what they really wanted out of life.)

After some contemplation, these are some books I have compiled, so far, for my ideal bookshelf :

 

Cover image for Italian folktalesCover image for The chronicles of NarniaCover image for One hundred years of solitudeCover image for The Autobiography of Malcolm XCover image for Without reservations : the travels of an independent womanCover image for Animal, Vegetable, MiracleCover image for The clutter cure : three steps to letting go of stuff, organizing your space, & creating the home of your dreams

Huh…I’m primarily a fiction reader, but I just listed several non-fiction titles as my treasured reads.  Time to see what my books are telling me!

What titles do you have in your ‘ideal bookshelf’?