Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Rereading for Fresh Perspective

“A good reader, a major reader, an active and creative reader is a rereader.”

These are the words of Vladimir Nabokov, reminding us that not only is it ok to re-read old favorites, it's downright necessary to becoming critical readers. This is comforting to me, since lately I find myself in the habit of re-reading old familiars rather than exploring something new. It's always slightly embarrassing when someone asks me "What have you read lately?" and my only answer is, "Ummm... nothing new."

This isn't to say there aren't plenty of new books and authors that seem interesting to me-- there certainly are. But I find myself being more drawn to books that fall into two categories: books I was forced to read in high school and college that I didn't particularly enjoy, and books that I did deeply connect with and am feeling nostalgic for. The former, I consider giving them another chance. Maybe with a fresh perspective and more life experience, some of them won't be completely boring and unrelateable. I'm about to start Like Water for Chocolate again, which is one I did not care for in the slightest when I read it in 11th grade, and I am hoping that this time around, it'll be less groan-worthy to me. In the case of the latter, I approach these books with caution, partly looking forward to visiting an old favorite spot, and partly worried that through the eyes of an adult, these old favorites won't seem as appealing (like when I realized what a rude jerk Mr. Darcy is).

But usually I discover that these old favorites are something better than just appealing. I discover that they're relateable in a completely new way. Let's take an old childhood favorite as an example-- Harry Potter. As a kid, all I wanted was to have magical powers and go off to Hogwarts with my wizard buddies to fight Death Eaters. As a teen, Harry, Ron, and Hermione's crashing and burning young romances sounded horribly familiar to me. As an adult, I can read these books again, and it's like reading an entirely new book. I feel and pick up on things that I would have completely ignored ten years ago. This time, this series was about the deep parental love and protection that Harry's mother and nearly every parent in the series (yup, even the Malfoys) had in order to do whatever was in their power to save their children and their society at large. When Harry's mother tells him he's been brave, I completely lose it and start sobbing. That, I can assure you, is a very recent development.

Are there any books you find yourself gravitating toward time and again? When you wait a while between readings, do they feel the same or is it like reading a completely different book? Do they take you back-- or do you pull the story forward to you?

Friday, June 21, 2013

Yes, We Have Polish Music CDs!

Years ago, comedian and actor Paul Reiser had a routine in which he poked fun of Americans for the speed with which they change the radio station when a song in a foreign language comes on. The American radio listener, he said, will be happily bopping along to the radio, enjoying the instrumental section of a song, only to change the station the instant the singing commences.

Since then, World Music has become increasingly popular, and I like to think people aren't as quick to change the station when they hear songs in other languages. Here at the library we have a World Music collection that encompasses music from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe. Polish CDs are among the most popular, and the Polish CD collection includes pop and rock performers as well as more traditional Polish music.

Here's a partial list of the collection:

Polish Music on CD

Do you have a favorite artist or group that performs in a language other than English? Feel free to chime in!

Photo: http://www.zakopower.pl/galeria.php

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

"You Will Not Be the Same"

photo by Manfred at thisfabtrek.com
This year's theme of Summer Reading Clubs at DPPL is Have Book Will Travel. I think this an excellent concept to associate with reading: not only can you visit faraway lands and learn about new cultures inside a book's pages, but you can also embark on a journey within yourself when you become engaged in a book. There is a terrific exchange between Bilbo and Gandalf in the film The Hobbit: An Expected Journey where Gandalf mentions that Bilbo might have a tale or two to tell when he comes back from his upcoming quest. Bilbo asks, "Can you promise that I will come back?" Gandalf responds with great gravitas, "No. And if you do... you will not be the same."

Do we ever return to who we were when we finish our reading journeys? In most cases, this question may seem a bit melodramatic, but in a very few cases it is incredibly appropriate. For any avid reader, there has been at least one book, one quest undertaken, that has transformed their perception and expectations of the world (and books) going forward. Stephen R. Donaldson provided one of those moments for me.

A gigantic turning point in my reading life was the first time I went through the double trilogy of Donaldson's the Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever. The titular character was in constant flux and a complete moral mess - bitter and heartbroken, defensive yet defenseless, making despicable choices and eschewing forgiveness. Covenant's depth was stunning and I was captivated from the start. After finishing those books, I was hungry for another greatly conflicted, angry-at-the-world-yet-angrier-at-himself type of character. I found one in Severus Snape, who made me rip through the Harry Potter books one by one, just to see if he actually ended up being a good guy or a bad guy. I still enjoy majorly-flawed characters (one of my later discoveries has been Jack Taylor in Ken Bruen's mysteries) but the watershed moment for me remains my experience with Donaldson's Covenant books.

What biblio-journeys have you been on recently? Has your life, reading or otherwise, been irrevocably changed by what you've read?

Incidentally, Adult Summer Reading is humming right along here on the third floor of DPPL. We have a trivia contest that awards weekly prizes as well as a reading program where you can fill out a free contest entry for every book you read. The grand prize is an iPad Mini which is funded, along the weekly trivia prizes, by the generosity of the Friends of the Des Plaines Public Library.

Incidentally Part II, the Return of Incidentally, we also have a Teen Summer Reading Program for teens entering grades 7-12. Sign-up for that is online or here on the third floor as well. We will be showing a movie for teens, the aforementioned The Hobbit: An Expected Journey, this Thursday, June 20 at 5.30pm in Meeting Room C on the first floor.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Unexpected Book Sequels 2013

This seems to be the year for authors writing unexpected sequels to extremely popular books. I have Lauren Weisberger's Revenge Wears Prada sitting next to me as I type, and I am already on the waiting list for Stephen King's Doctor Sleep. I tend to prefer standalone novels, especially given the agony of watching people wait for the next book in George R.R. Martin's A Song of Fire and Ice.

Weisberger, Lauren
Weisberger, Lauren

Here are some blockbuster books with sequels coming out this year. Be sure to refresh yourself if need be!

Do you tend to read standalone books or series?

Friday, June 7, 2013

Armchair Travel... to Thailand

Where in the world will summer reading take you?

Have book, will travel is the theme this summer. In the pages of a novel we can explore places we may never venture to in real life. This summer, pull up an armchair (or a hammock) to visit Thailand.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

What to Listen to on that Road Trip


Summer is here. The kids are out of school (or will be soon). It's time to hit the road. The library theme for the summer is "Go!" and our summer reading clubs all have a travel theme. And I am taking my family on vacation soon. 

With hours in the car I always look for that perfect audiobook that we can all enjoy. It might be a futile effort but I try. This year there will be three generations traveling together in with ages ranging from 7 to 70. Here are a few titles that appeal to a wide range of people.

The Bad Beginning by Lemony Snicket
Coraline by Neil Gaiman (also Gaiman's the Graveyard book)
The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman.
Hatchet by Gary Paulsen
Hoot by Carl Hiaasen

As you can see, most of these are kids books that or good for adults too. What I would really like is a couple of adult books that would still be appropriate and also engaging to a kid. Got any ideas?