Monday, December 30, 2013

Charities That Encourage a Love of Reading

Around this time of the year, many people are in an especially charitable mood. There is just something about the holidays that pushes people to give to causes they believe would make the world a better place. One thing that would surely make the world a better place is if everyone knew how to read.
Photo via the Love of Reading Foundation's Facebook page.

Quite a few charities exist that promote literacy and, in turn, foster a love of the written word. In an article for GalleyCat, Dianna Dilworth highlights "10 Charities That Encourage Reading." Among these 10 charities, the best known is Reading Is Fundamental (RIF). Anyone who grew up in the United States in the 1970s and '80s has seen the widely aired "Reading Is Fundamental" television commercials and thus were made more than aware of the RIF campaign to push for child literacy. According to its website, RIF "is the largest children's literacy nonprofit in the United States. We prepare and motivate children to read by delivering free books and literacy resources to those children and families who need them most. We inspire children to be lifelong readers through the power of choice. RIF provides new, free books for children to choose from and make their own."

In addition to Reading Is Fundamental, Dilworth shines a spotlight on:
  • Books to Prisoners ("Books to Prisoners is a Seattle-based, all-volunteer, nonprofit organization that sends books to prisoners in the United States")
  • Books Not Bars ("Books Not Bars organizes the largest network of families of incarcerated youth and champions alternatives to California's costly, broken prison system")
  • World Literacy Foundation ("World Literacy Foundation is an independent not-for-profit charitable body, founded in Australia in 2003. We acknowledge education as a basic human right, and believe that literacy unlocks the door to a life of learning")
  • Reading Hamlets ("Reading Hamlets is a nonprofit organization that's dedicated to ending the cycle of poverty through literacy by providing books to children, particularly girls in rural Nigeria")
  • Room to Read ("We work in collaboration with communities and local governments across Asia and Africa to develop literacy skills and a habit of reading among primary schoolchildren, and support girls to complete secondary school")
  • Love of Reading Foundation ("Our mission is to encourage a love of reading in every child and give them the chance to reach their full potential")
  • ProLiteracy ("Our answer at ProLiteracy is simple. To solve all of these socioeconomic problems and more, we must start by building a more literate adult population")
  • World Reader ("We start early using e-readers in primary schools. Kids begin reading thousands of local stories together with great international books that we've curated into the largest, most culturally relevant library of books")

If you would like to read more about these pro-literacy organizations - and donate to them - then click on any of the hotlinks above.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Non-Library Jobs for Library School Graduates

Whenever I tell people that I'm attending library school, they almost always ask me, "So, you're going to be a librarian?" Maybe. Or maybe not. You can go in so many different career directions with a Master of Library Science (MLS) degree that librarian is not your only job option.
Heather Halpin Perez, archival consultant for Boardwalk Empire, at work.
Image via

Take, for instance, Heather Halpin Perez. Her position at the Atlantic City Free Public Library in New Jersey led to her being a consultant for the hit HBO show Boardwalk Empire. The producers of the cable television show seek out Perez for her archival expertise in order to ensure that the show is as historically accurate as possible. Ed McGinty, lead researcher for Boardwalk Empire, told the Atlantic City Free Press, "Heather is just so knowledgeable. Whenever I need some specifics, say a photograph...anything I can't find anywhere else, I call her."

Being an archival consultant like Perez is just one career you could have as a graduate of a library science program. Mia Breitkopf has come up with sixty more. In an article for Information Space, a blog of Syracuse University's School of Information Studies, Breitkopf compiled an eye-opening list of nontraditional jobs for MLS degree holders. In coming up with the list, Breitkopf said she was struck by the "many postings out there for jobs that demand the skills and knowledge of MLS degree holders but aren't traditional librarian jobs." This caused her to wonder: "How many human resources folks are posting non-librarian jobs that require MLS skills and knowledge?"

Here is a partial list, in no particular order, of non-librarian jobs for library school graduates, as compiled by Breitkopf:
  • Web analytics manager
  • Information resources specialist
  • Curator, media resource center
  • Head of access services
  • Metadata analyst
  • Digital manuscripts project manager
  • Intelligence associate
  • Research coordinator
  • Records and information manager
  • University archivist/professor
  • Automation coordinator
  • Teaching and services learning coordinator
  • Acquisitions team leader
  • Business researcher
  • Digital archives system administrator
  • Documentation specialist

To see the complete list of nontraditional career options, go to Mia Breitkopf's article "61 Non-Librarian Jobs for LIS Grads" at THIS LINK.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Bon Voyage!

Image via

"To travel far, there is no better ship than a book." 
~ Emily Dickinson

Friday, December 20, 2013

Music Books You Don't Want to Miss

My red bookshelf is filled with music books: autobiographies of Joan Baez, Pattie Boyd, Cynthia Lennon, Patti Smith, Quincy Jones, Chris O'Dell, Ben Fong-Torres, and more. There are also biographies of Marianne Faithfull, Cass Elliot, Janis Joplin, Linda McCartney, Yoko Ono, a Rolling Stone, and a Beatle.
Johnny Cash: The Life by Robert Hilburn.
Image via

For me, it's exciting to get the inside scoop on what really happened backstage, in the back of the private plane, and behind closed hotel-room doors. Currently, the memoir of Cyndi Lauper, co-written with former Rolling Stone journalist Jancee Dunn, is on my bedside table.

However, because I'm in library school, most of my reading as of late has not been music-oriented. And I'm sure I missed some notable music book releases in 2013 as a result. Luckily, music blog BrooklynVegan has put out a list of notable music books that were published within the past year. Of course, plenty of people knew about Morrissey's Autobiography going on sale. But how many of us were aware that another book on the Man in Black had come out, Johnny Cash: The Life by Robert Hilburn? Also released was a book on one of the underrated bands of the late 1980s/early '90s Pacific Northwest rock scene, Mudhoney: The Sound and the Fury from Seattle by Keith Cameron.

An "unconventional memoir" from Questlove.
Image via

Much has been written about Paul McCartney, especially during his years as a Beatle. But what about the man during his time with Wings? A book about that was published this year, Man on the Run: Paul McCartney in the 1970s by Tom Doyle, and I want to read it. It'll look nice next to my copy of the photography book Wingspan: Paul McCartney's Band on the Run. I also want to pick up Mo' Meta Blues, which BrooklynVegan calls an "unconventional memoir" from Questlove, drummer for The Roots and bandleader on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon. (Also worth mentioning is Questlove's Soul Train: The Music, Dance, and Style of a Generation, which Harper Design published in October.)

For more notable music book releases of 2013, including Yeah Yeah Yeah: The Story of Modern Pop by Bob Stanley and Bedsit Disco Queen: How I Grew Up and Tried to Be a Pop Star by Tracey Thorn, see BrooklynVegan's list at THIS LINK.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Tom Hiddleston Recites W.H. Auden Poem

Earlier this year, I watched The Hollow Crown, a miniseries of adaptations from William Shakespeare's history plays (Richard II, Henry IV Parts One and Two, and Henry V). The TV production was lavish and the acting was stellar, but I more or less tuned in to ogle the lovely Ben Whishaw, who portrayed King Richard. Also starring in the miniseries was Tom Hiddleston. Although Hiddleston was marvelous as Prince Hal, he didn't have as much of an effect on me as Mr. Whishaw.

I finally get the whole Tom Hiddleston thing.
Image via

In recent weeks, however, I have come around to realizing the charm of Tom Hiddleston, in large part due to this spectacular GIF that I stumbled upon one night. Hiddleston most recently earned the distinction of "Sexiest Man Alive," based on an poll. I wouldn't go as far to say that he is sexy, but I do admit that Hiddleston has gorgeous eyes and a great smile, and he seems to be sweet, quite playful, and a lot of fun. Overall, I find him adorable. Of course, it doesn't hurt that he has an alluring English accent.

You can enjoy Hiddleston's wonderful accent as he recites the 1937 W.H. Auden poem "As I Walked Out One Evening." First published in Auden's 1940 volume, Another Time, the poem "is a variant of the ballad form, made up of fifteen quatrains. It's a meditation on love and the remorseless of time, told in three voices: the narrator, a rapturous lover, and the reproachful clocks that speak back to the lover," according to Open Culture. I think Hiddleston reads the poem beautifully. Hear so for yourself by clicking on the YouTube video below.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Friday, December 13, 2013

Le Guin Imagines Library of the Future

In one of my library courses this past semester, the professor assigned us to read an excerpt from Always Coming Home, by Ursula K. Le Guin. The excerpt touches on some chief aspects of librarianship, such as deciding what to keep and what to get rid of from a collection and the democratization of information.
Ursula K. Le Guin, the author of Always Coming Home.
Image via

Yes, it's science fiction, but Le Guin's book explores some very real issues, and it's done in a way that captivates the imagination. The action takes place in the far distant future, at the library of the Madrone Lodge at Wakwaha, in what is now California. Here is an excerpt from the excerpt (Pandora, a stand-in for the author, is conversing with the archivist of the library):

PAN: How do you decide what to keep and what to throw away? The library really isn't very large, when you consider how much writing goes on here in the Valley--
ARC: Oh, there's no end to the making of books.
PAN: And people give writings to their heyimas as offerings--
ARC: All gifts are sacred.
PAN: So the libraries would all get to be enormous, if you didn't throw most of the books and things out. But how do you decide what to keep and what to destroy?
ARC: It's difficult. It's arbitrary, unjust, and exciting. We clear out the heyimas library every few years. Here in the Madrone of Wakwaha the lodge has destruction ceremonies yearly, between the Grass and the Sun dances. They're secret. Members only. A kind of orgy. A fit of housecleaning--the nesting instinct, the collecting drive, turned inside out, reversed. Unhoarding.

I love how Le Guin gives the mundane process of weeding a library's collection an air of mysticism and paganism. If I find myself working full-time at a library one day, I think I'll suggest having "destruction ceremonies yearly, between the Grass and the Sun dances." It sounds much more exciting than a book sale.

Image via

In another section from what we were assigned to read for class, the archivist asks Pandora: "In a State, even a democracy, where power is hierarchic, how can you prevent the storage of information from becoming yet another source of power to the powerful--another piston in the great machine?"  Even though Always Coming Home was published in 1985, the issue of the democratization of information is still very much relevant today, especially considering the closing of public libraries; the cutting of libraries' hours in a way that's inconvenient for working people; and the growing digital divide, where people of lower economic classes are less likely to have computers and/or Internet access at home and are less likely to be skilled in matters of information technology. The democratization of information is discussed in the following excerpt:
ARC: Well, you know, people who live in cultures that have an oral literature as well as a written literature get a good deal of practice in rhetoric. But my question wasn't just a trick. How do you keep information yet keep it from being the property of the powerful?
PAN: Through not having censorship. Having free public libraries. Teaching people to read. And to use computers, to plug into the sources. Press, radio, television not fundamentally dependent on government or advertisers. I don't know. It keeps getting harder.

Indeed it does keep getting harder, with city and state "budgetary restraints"; the monopolization of mainstream media outlets; the rise of corporatization (and the money and influence that come with it); the growth of the "nanny state"; and the embrace of anti-intellectualism. All of these forces make the democratization of information a continuing challenge, especially when it comes to the current situation of public libraries. Ursula K. Le Guin was amazingly prescient in her description of these issues in Always Coming Home, and reading these excerpt from class makes me want to read the entire book. I'm sure it will be worthwhile.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Have Book, Will Travel

Twenty-fourteen is looking like it will be a year of travel for me. I'll be attending at least one national library conference, and I may be spending some time North of the Border over the summer. By year's end, I hope to see at least three U.S. cities. I'm truly excited about exploring more of the country and the world. 

Image via

No matter what town I visit, I'll be sure to seek out its independent bookstores, used bookstores, and comic stores, in addition to its usual tourist attractions. And if there's a local zine library, I would try to check that out, too. But what other literary attractions would be of interest to a book lover like myself who's keen to travel? Book Riot has the answers.

Book Riot is pointing out places of interest to traveling bibliophiles in its new series, Literary Tourism. With the first installment posted on October 27, 2013, starting with the city of Fredericton, New Brunswick, Literary Tourism is highlighting scholarly hotspots across North America (so far). Already, Book Riot has given the tour guide treatment to Portland, Oregon; Austin, Texas; New Orleans, Louisiana; and Atlanta, Georgia, in addition to Fredericton, NB.

Being that Portland and Austin are two cities I hope to visit, Book Riot's Literary Tourism pieces are right on time. Now I know that while in Portland, I should stop by Cosmic Monkey Comics and Bitch Magazine's lending library in addition to Powell's City of Books and In Other Words, the latter gaining notoriety for being the location of the fictitious women's bookstore in the television sketch-comedy show Portlandia. And while in Austin, I'll know to go to BookWoman and Austin Books & Comics in addition to Book People.

Literary Tourism not only points out bookstores and libraries, but it also recommends restaurants, coffee shops, and bars where book lovers will feel right at home. Of course, cultural attractions are also mentioned, such as the Beverly Cleary Sculpture Garden and the Wordstock festival in Portland and the O. Henry Museum and Texas Book Festival in Austin.

For more on what to see and do as a well-read traveler, get to Book Riot's Literary Tourism site at THIS LINK. No passport required.

Friday, December 6, 2013

But I Love Rock 'n' Roll, Too

Rocker Richard Hell in his younger years.
Image via 

"F*ck rock 'n' roll (I'd rather read a book)," notoriously sang Richard Hell while in the proto-punk band Television, which arose out of the downtown New York rock scene in the early 1970s.

Hell recently released a book, titled I Dreamed I Was a Very Clean Tramp: An Autobiography, in which he talks about Television and more. You can buy it HERE.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Morrissey's Memoir Specially Edited for U.S. Audience

Many of my friends are huge fans of The Smiths, an English alternative-rock band that had a string of hits in the '80s. So when it was confirmed that the frontman of the band, Morrissey, was releasing an autobiography, they were beyond excited.
Morrissey as a young man.
Image via

Adding to this excitement was that no one was even aware that he was writing a book. The music blog BrooklynVegan called it the "Morrissey autobiography that you didn't know was coming." But when it came, it immediately became a best seller. According to the Belfast Telegraph, it outsold the new Bridget Jones novel, Mad About the Boy, the first week it was released in the United Kingdom. (First-week sales figures for the book were 35,000 copies, compared to 32,000 copies of the Bridget Jones novel, reported the Belfast Telegraph.) Further fomenting my friends' hysteria was that the book only seemed to be available for purchase in the UK. Desperation led a few to buy it through Amazon's UK website.
A display of Autobiography, by Morrissey.
Image via

Finally, on December 3, the publisher of the book, Penguin Classics, allowed for it to be released in the United States through G.P. Putnam's Sons. Flipping through the U.S. edition of Autobiography, fans began to notice that something was missing from Morrissey's recollection of his childhood, adolescence, time with The Smiths, subsequent solo career, public court battles, and private life. There was little-to-no mention of his long-term relationship with photographer Jake Owen Walters. This significant relationship, homosexual in nature, was edited out for the U.S. audience. Meanwhile, details of another long-term relationship, this one with a woman, have remained in the book. 

Anyone who is a fan of Morrissey and thus would purchase the book is well aware of his sexuality. So why not leave the details concerning Morrissey's male partner in the book? Was Penguin Classics - and by extension, G.P. Putnam's Sons - afraid that the mere mention of homosexuality would offend U.S. readers of the book? Would prevent it from being stocked in chain stores across the United States? Would adversely affect U.S. sales? If that's the case, like typical corporate suits, they haven't a clue. And they definitely don't know the fans of Morrissey and of The Smiths. Even those who aren't fans still love a juicy story: it's human nature to flip through a book to get to "the good part." The publisher would have done well to leave Morrissey's story alone.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Librarian: 'I don't hire based on school'

As you already know, I'm in library school. It's accredited by the American Library Association (ALA), but it's not the most expensive library school in the region. That's good for my wallet, but my classmates and I wonder if that's good for our future job prospects. After all, for many people, most expensive equals best quality. This goes for cars, clothes, and even schools. Fortunately, where you went to library school won't be a big factor when librarians consider you for a job.
Library work experience matters more than where you went to library school.
Image of Lego library via

At least one librarian has gone on record saying where you went to library school won't matter. In an interview posted on the Hiring Librarians website, an academic librarian who has been a hiring manager and member of a search committee was asked, "Which library schools give candidates an edge (you prefer candidates from these schools)?" In response, the librarian said, "I don't hire based on school." When further probed with the question "Are there any library schools whose alumni you would be reluctant to hire?," the librarian said, "No."
What skills and experience do you need to get a job at a library?
Image of Lego library via

So if the librarian doesn't hire based on school, what DOES matter when you are up for a job? For the academic librarian, who works with 10 to 50 staff members at a library in the Midwestern United States, it matters that you have:
  • Library work experience
  • Conference presentation
  • Other presentation
  • Student organization involvement
  • Teaching assistant/other instructional experience

Talking about library work experience, the librarian admitted, "I think most skills are learned on the job." But that's not to discredit the skills and knowledge acquired in the classroom. What's learned in the course of a library school education can be quite relevant. Some coursework is even considered as crucial by many hiring managers. When asked "What coursework do you think all (or most) MLS/MLIS holders should take, regardless of focus?," the librarian replied:
  • Cataloging
  • Budget/accounting
  • Grant writing
  • Project management
  • Collection management
  • Reference
  • Outreach
  • Instruction
  • Field work/internships

This is very good to know. Past courses have given me an introduction to cataloging and reference, and the entirety of library school thus far has been a lesson in project management. Next semester, I'm taking a class in collection management. And although I don't have the daytime hours for fieldwork or an internship, I have volunteered (and will continue to volunteer) at archival institutions in my free time in order to gain current work experience.

To read the full interview with the academic librarian, which includes advice for students who want to make the most of their time in library school, see the Hiring Librarians post at THIS LINK.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

How Did It Get So Late So Soon?

How did it get so late so soon?
It's night before it's afternoon.
December is here before it's June.
My goodness how the time has flewn.
How did it get so late so soon?

~ Dr. Seuss

Obama Shops Bookstore on Small Business Saturday

Today is Small Business Saturday here in the States. Taking place every year on the Saturday that follows Thanksgiving, Small Business Saturday is a fairly new shopping holiday - it was started in November 2010. On Small Business Saturday, consumers are asked to shop at small businesses, which tend to be overlooked in favor of big chain stores, especially during the holiday shopping season.
U.S. President Barack Obama shopping at Politics & Prose on Small Business Saturday.
Image via

The president of the United States, Barack Obama, did his part to support Small Business Saturday today by shopping at an independent bookstore in Washington, DC. Joined by his daughters, Sasha and Malia, President Obama went to Politics & Prose, located in the Northwest neighborhood of the District. Founded in 1984, Politics & Prose Bookstore and Coffeeehouse is widely considered a significant part of the District's culture, attracting big names in the arts, literature, politics, and other fields. Earlier this year, First Lady Michelle Obama attracted a standing-room-only crowd to the bookstore, where she signed copies of her book American Grown: The Story of the White House Garden and Gardens Across America.
Politics & Prose Bookstore and Coffeehouse in Washington, DC.
Image via the Washington Post

Giving his patronage to Politics & Prose today, President Obama bought two shopping bags full of books, judging from press photos taken of his appearance at the bookstore. Bookalicious, a Tumblr blog that reports on "all manner of geekery surrounded around pop culture and literature," revealed precisely what books the president bought. The list of books, as officially reported by the White House and succinctly presented by Bookalicious, are:

  • Half Brother, by Kenneth Oppel
  • Heart of a Samurai, by Margi Preus
  • Flora and Ulysses, by Kate DiCamillo
  • Jinx, by Sage Blackwood
  • Lulu and the Brontosaurus, by Judith Viorst and Lane Smith
  • Ottoline and the Yellow Cat, by Chris Riddell
  • Moonday, by Adam Rex
  • Journey, by Aaron Becker
  • The Lowland, by Jhumpa Lahiri
  • Red Sparrow, by Jason Matthews
  • Harold and the Purple Crayon, by Crockett Johnson
  • A Constellation of Vital Phenomena, by Anthony Marra
  • The Sports Gene, by David Epstein
  • Collision Low Crossers, by Nicholas Dawidoff
  • Ballad of the Sad Cafe, by Carson McCullers
  • My Antonia, by Willa Cather
  • Ragtime, by E.L. Doctorow
  • The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini
  • Buddha in the Attic, by Julie Otsuka
  • All That Is, by James Salter
  • Wild, by Cheryl Strayed

Today wasn't the first time that President Obama supported an independent bookstore on Small Business Saturday. In 2011, he shopped at Karmerbooks & Afterwords Cafe, located in the Dupont Circle neighborhood of Washington, DC. Last year, he took his daughters to One More Page Books, just across the river from DC, in Arlington, Virginia.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Explore Tolkien's Middle Earth with Google Maps

More than a few of us, I'm sure, have used Google Maps to look around our old neighborhoods, college towns, and of course, current locales. Many have also used Google Maps to virtually walk around prospective places to travel or live. But how many have used this popular Google feature to explore the map of Middle Earth?
A map of J.R.R. Tolkien's Middle Earth.
Image via

In advance of the December 13 theatrical release of The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, the second in the trilogy of film adaptions of The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien, Google and Warner Bros. Pictures have collaborated on what is being called a "Chrome Experiment." This experiment allows fans of Tolkien to visit the actual physical locations that comprise Middle Earth, the fantastical setting for The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings adventures.

It's basically a guided, interactive tour of Tolkien's Middle Earth, with the current destinations being Rivendell, Trollshaws, and Dol Guldur (more locales will be added later). Out of curiosity, I opened Google Chrome, went to Google Maps, and alternatively typed in "Rivendell," "Trollshaws," and "Dol Guldur," just to see what would happen. Well, it turns out that you can't explore Middle Earth in that way. You actually have to go to a particular link in order to do so. It's Going to this link will take you to the following screen:
Image via

Clicking on "Begin" will take you to a screen showing an aerial view of a map, from which you can choose to explore "The Wild Upland Woods: Trollshaw," "The Elven Enclave: Rivendell," or "The Once Great Fortress: Dol Guldur." Venturing further into each you will find that you need to use a compass point in order to navigate the terrain, just like you do in Google Maps. I found the graphics within each realm to not be as cool as those on the realm's cover page. Maybe they're still working on that. Still, being able to explore Middle Earth in this way is such a novel idea that Tolkien fans will be intrigued and perhaps pleased.

"In addition to the interactive map," reported Alexandra Cheney of the Wall Street Journal, "there's a 3-D explorable rend of each place designed to work on Chrome and Android. The project marks the first time Chrome Experiments have brought 3-D to a mobile device."

To get an idea of what it is like to take a "Journey through Middle-earth, a Chrome Experiment," check out the brief YouTube video below:

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

My Future Child(ren) Will Hate Me

An in-store display at Lorem Ipsum Books in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Image by rockcreek on Flickr.

Great Literary Twitter Feeds to Follow

I'm on Twitter more and more these days, not tweeting but following the feeds of favorite music venues ("Just announced! Your favorite band playing a show - win tickets!") and library career sites ("New full-time position available not in a city near you!"). I also enjoy reading the random musings and observations that are shared, such as this one from the Toronto Zine Library:

Twitter is actually a pretty excellent medium for keeping up with places like zine libraries and other literature-oriented establishments. I mentioned Housing Works Bookstore Cafe in my last post. I have a soft spot for Housing Works because the proceeds from all sales go toward assisting those living with AIDS.

In addition, the bookstore is staffed almost entirely by volunteers. So for the staff there, working at Housing Works Bookstore Cafe - sorting through bags and boxes of donated books, selecting books to sell and shelve, hosting a string of in-store concerts and other events, and preparing food and beverages at the in-store cafe - is a complete labor of love. As if Housing Works Bookstore Cafe couldn't be more awesome, it also has a great Twitter feed.

The Twitter feed of Housing Works Bookstore Cafe is among the "30 Essential Literary Twitter Feeds to Follow," as chosen by Virginia K. Smith at Brooklyn Magazine. The others include Melville House, an independent publisher of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry; Mellow Pages Library, an independently run library and reading room located in the Bushwick neighborhood of Brooklyn; Bookslut, a litblog and webzine founded and maintained by Jessa Crispin, who is based in Berlin, Germany; Literary Rejections, a site that shares writers' personal experiences with rejection; and Greenlight Bookstore, an independent bookstore that's in the Fort Greene neighborhood of Brooklyn. And this is just for starters!

Check out all "30 Essential Literary Twitter Feeds to Follow" at THIS LINK.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Reasons to Love Local Bookstores

There are so many reasons to love bookstores, especially independent ones. They provide a warm and inviting atmosphere that welcomes browsing, enabling you to discover great books that you may never have come across otherwise.

Image via seventyone12 on Flickr

Indeed, the "luxury of browsing" is one of the "10 Lovable Things About Brick-and-Mortar Bookstores," according to BuzzFeed. Another is author events, where you can see big names in person for the cost of a book...or oftentimes for free. I've lost count of how many shining stars in the fields of music, literature, photography, stage, and screen that I've seen at local bookstores, including Lou Reed, Norman Mailer, Joan Didion, Annie Leibovitz, and Alan Cumming.

Bookstores also provide a sense of community. This is especially so with the smaller, more specialized booksellers, such as feminist, LGBT, and activist bookshops. Typically, they cultivate a sense of community by offering in-store volunteer opportunities, meeting space for like-minded people, and events of interest to those who frequent such neighborhood establishments. For a while, I volunteered at a women's bookstore, and I was embraced by a wonderfully diverse and immensely friendly group of people. It was definitely one of the more gratifying experiences in my life.

Image via Project Latte on Flickr

Another alluring aspect of brick-and-mortar bookstores is the cafe. Normally I don't patronize the cafe in bookstores because I'm too busy browsing the shelves (and once I find a book, I buy it and then I'm gone). Although for a brief time, a local bookstore had this hard-to-pass-up special where if you purchased books totaling X amount, you could get lunch from its cafe for free - and I'm talking about a full-sized sandwich, chips (or crisps, if you're in the UK), and a beverage. You better believe I went to the bookstore cafe then! But if you go to almost any area bookstore, you'll find that the cafe is the most popular place in the store.

Browsing, a sense of community, and the cafe are just three of the "10 Lovable Things About Brick-and-Mortar Bookstores." To find out all 10, see the BuzzFeed article HERE. And go to your local bookstore to discover more to add to the list!

The above photos are of Housing Works Bookstore Cafe in New York City.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

I Now Want to Read This Book

 "...and now all the halves wander the world over seeking one another. Love is the longing for the half of ourselves we have lost."
from The Unbearable Lightness of Being, by Milan Kundera

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Best Things About Being a Book Lover

To me, this is always a very welcome sight: the discounted books cart. Bargain!

Bargain books are my catnip.

Ambling around the city, perhaps killing time before meeting someone, I'll come upon a bookstore and see the discounted books cart just outside its door. The lure of cheap books, usually priced at $1 each, is just too strong for me to resist. So I'll walk over and crouch behind the cart, looking over paperbacks that have seen better days in hopes of finding my next read for next to nothing.

Happening upon book sales is #20 on the list of "The 23 Best Parts of Being a Book Lover," compiled by Arianna Rebolini for BuzzFeed. Spotting a book you've been waiting to buy priced at half off, or seeing paperback classics you've long wanted to read being sold at a deep discount, is definitely one of the small joys of being a bibliophile. However, impulsively buying books that are too cheap to pass up leads to another aspect of being a book lover, and I would hesitate to say that it's one of the best parts: Buying books faster than you can read them (#22).

My bookshelf is slowly (d)evolving into this one.

Already, my red bookshelf has become too small to hold all of my books. So I've begun to do that thing where you place books on their sides on top of books that have been shelved upright. Sure, it's not aesthetically pleasing - I would even say that it looks cluttered - but books do belong on the bookshelf, right? You tell yourself that it's only temporary until you weed your collection (not likely to happen) or buy a bigger bookshelf (likelier to happen, but not anytime soon).

Other parts of being a book lover, as listed by BuzzFeed, are a little too hard-core for me: midnight release parties (#17), sniffing old books (#15), and picking out the perfect bookplates (#10), for instance. And I'm hardly opinionated about which editions of the classics are the best (#8) - as long as they don't use a photo from the film adaptation for the cover. Speaking of film adaptations, it's usually with some reservations that I see "beloved characters come to life on the big screen" (#13). Yet I do get excited when one of my favorite authors releases a new book (#21), I enjoy book clubs (#6), and I geek out at book festivals (#4).

To find out all of "The 23 Best Parts of Being a Book Lover," many of which I'm sure you will relate to, see Rebolini's BuzzFeed article HERE. Bonus: The article's excellent use of GIFs, including the one of Sawyer from Lost reading Judy Blume's Are You There, God? It's Me, Margaret.

All above photos from

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Library Cats Get Their Time in the Sun

Waiting for an event to start at a local bookstore, I walked around browsing the shelves. I came upon a section on animals, and a book caught my eye: Dewey: The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World. Its cover featured a pert-looking orange tabby, staring out at the reader from behind a stack of library books.

Browser is eager to greet patrons at the Pine River Library in Minnesota.
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I was intrigued because I had never heard of a cat being in a library before. (Since then, I've learned that a library in Russia has hired a bowtie-wearing cat to be its assistant librarian.) I certainly have never seen a cat in a library in all my years of going to libraries. At bookstores, yes. But libraries? No. I found the idea of a "library cat" to be a novel one, so I began to flip through the book about Dewey.

Although Dewey's story is unique (he had been abandoned as a kitten in the night drop box, was discovered and taken in by the head librarian, and became beloved by the townspeople, ultimately becoming an international celebrity), his post as library cat is not. Apparently, many libraries across the country have cats, and Flavorwire profiled some of the most popular.

Along with Dewey, who was the longtime mascot at the Spencer Public Library in Spencer, Iowa, there is Browser at the Pine River Library in Pine River, Minnesota; Pages at the Valley Center Public Library in Valley Center, Kansas; the noble Sir Eli at the Los Robles Elementary School library in Porterville, California; and the elegantly named Porter C. Bibliocat (the "C" stands for "Catalog") at the Anna Porter Public Library in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, among others.

Sure, all of these library cats may be in small towns, but they are far from being small-time. As mentioned before, Dewey was an international celebrity that even had a film in the works (starring Meryl Streep, no less). Browser, Pages, and Tober at Thorntown Public Library in Thorntown, Indiana, have blogs. Browser has even been featured in a documentary film. Shadow at the Arkansas School for the Blind in Little Rock, Arkansas, works at fundraising events. Sir Eli visits hospitals and hospices, where he brightens the day of patients. Isn't that fabulous?

To see more "Famous and Fabulous Library Cats," go to the Flavorwire link HERE.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Unusual Objects Found in Used Books

Being fond of used bookstores, I have browsed many used books. Yet all I have found flipping through their pages have been grease, coffee, or water stains or nondescript scraps of paper that were used for bookmarks. Michael Popek has been far luckier in uncovering forgotten treasures tucked away in used books.
It sure would be nice to find money in an old book.
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Of course, it helps tremendously that he goes through up to 600 used books a day to select books to sell at his family's used bookstore, which he operates. In the process of sorting through hundreds of books, including cookbooks, vintage works of fiction, and children's classics, Popek often comes across items of real interest.
Monopoly money, not so much. But it'd still be a fun find.
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Much of what Popek finds are handwritten recipes and notes; old photographs of families, friends, and sweethearts; postcards; letters; ticket stubs; receipts; advertisements torn or clipped from newspapers and magazines; and pressed leaves and flowers. However, he has also discovered decades-old Valentine cards, award ribbons, maps, money, marriage certificates, invitations, song and poetry lyrics, drawings and sketches, microscope slides, and even 78 RPM records.
Anyone who played Operation as a kid remembers these.
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Popek takes his most interesting finds and displays them on his blog, Forgotten Bookmarks. "I'm a used and rare bookseller," he says in the blog's header. "I buy books from people every day. These are the personal, funny, heartbreaking and weird things I find in those books." Looking through his blog, which he updates frequently, I saw many forgotten items that made me smile (family photos taken at Christmastime), gasp (a book used for target practice, the pellets still lodged in it), or laugh out loud (comic books cleverly tucked inside news magazines).

When asked about his most favorite thing that he's found in a used book, Popek responded, "My favorite item is probably the optometrist bookmark. There's something really corny about it, but it's fun. I've even made it my Twitter avatar, @forgottenbkmrks. Overall, however, I really enjoy the old letters. They give us a glimpse into the past, how people talked and wrote and thought."
My mother had a Mystic Grip Disc, and it totally worked.
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To glimpse the many old letters, photographs, pamphlets, postcards, inscriptions, and much more, go to Michael Popek's Forgotten Bookmarks blog HERE.