Reader's Exchange

June 2013 - Posts

Triple-digit scores for trio

Oh, good.  The annual Triple Digit Temperature Anticipation is over.  We can proceed to more vital topics, say, air conditioning and novels. 

On weekends when I interrupt yard work at intervals to duck inside for a hat or water, to check on the dogs or whatever (because overtly preventing heat exhaustion sounds wimpy) I appreciate the cool respites.  I also resent adding minutes to the completion timeline.

Only when finished do I allow myself to open one of those tempting ARCs from Book Expo America

Compelling novels and AC are optimizers of sorts.  Climate control sustains us so we accomplish more; great stories broaden our experience so we understand each other better.

And these three just-read forthcoming picks are superior; I recommend them for richly developed characters and distinctive points of view.   They're for grownups, particularly the latter two:

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion (October 1), observes its most revelatory scenes not in iconic terrain (it's set in Australia) but in contemporary urban venues--academic conferences, restaurants, apartment balconies, habitats of brilliant thirtysomething genetics professor Don Tillman.   Don (Big Bang Theory fans, think Sheldon), variously termed "almost robotic", "socially inept", and "awkwardly charming", appears capable of greater interpersonal sensitivity, but even he would set that bar low.

Unlike Sheldon, Don has prioritized the acquisition of a life partner.  The obvious approach (if you're Don):  precisely calibrated criteria packaged in a lengthy application--The Wife Project.  Ah, romance.

Don's unvarnished (and oft-mistaken) impressions are relayed in terms meeting his high standards for factuality--and yours for poignancy and comedy.

Amy Tan's The Valley of Amazement (November 5) also views proceedings indoors--at first: the elegant confines of a courtesan establishment.  At BEA, Tan sharedScenic vista in China the story's genesis:  her discovery that the ensemble worn by her grandmother in a favorite photo matched styles in pictures documenting turn-of-the-century Chinese courtesans. 

Tan's latest revisits themes prized in The Joy Luck Club:  legacies of mothers and daughters, resourcefulness and persistence in the face of transplantation, explorations of ethnic identities and boundaries.  Spanning fifty years from San Francisco to Shanghai, Valley fascinates even before it ventures outdoors into truly amazing territory.

Charles Palliser's Rustication (Nov. 4) involves none of the calm, bucolic, self-directed existence you'd expect.  This Gothic with a Capital G tale denotes the more specific (British) term for suspension from school.  In the mid-1860s, 17-year-old Richard Shenstone finds himself "rusticated" from Cambridge (sadly, not his chief worry).  Having learned of his father's death via the newspaper--though mother and sister are alive and well and could have written--he's entertaining apprehensions about what and why he wasn't told more. 

Arriving "home" to his family's recent relocation, a dank, creaking outpost whose closest neighbor is a quagmire (literally), Richard encounters villagers seething with gossip and ill will, a depraved series of threatening letters, and all manner of unwholesome goings-on.

Poor Richard has no idea whom to believe, nor will you.  Your only recourse is to keep reading...

Solid proof that readers are winners

Guess what we figured out?  People of all ages appreciate free stuff (interesting, high-quality free stuff).  Who knew? 

The library's youth summer reading programs have long been identified with favorite performers, activities, story times.  Oh, and prizes, prizes, prizes. 

Adults, we reasoned, didn't require as much incentive to read.    

We weren't incorrect.  We hear daily about our grownup customers' impressive reading portfolios.  However, they are busy people.  Taking time to document preferences and list which library activities and databases they find relevant--that's what demands recognition AKA prizes.

We now have really nice drawing prizes (two words: iPad Mini) for our Brain Food campaign for adult cardholders.  Our Summer Readers' Bonanza (which all grownups can enter, regardless of cardholder status) features an enviable drawing prize and several spontaneous giveaways each week through August 5.   Acquisition of these perks was achieved thanks to Friends of the Round Rock Public Library, the good fortune of collecting publicity items at Book Expo America, and the aid of publishers (a box of new giveaway donations, including Inferno, arrived from our Random House rep just yesterday.  Thanks, Robert!). 

We acknowledge the irony of this lesson.  Who in Round Rock enjoys closer proximity to the latest books and articles on motivation?  Even if we were tardy in making the adult reader-prize connection, we knew all along that this topic, particularly relating to the workplace, greatly interests local business owners, managers, and savvy employees.

A quick search of the library catalog with "motivation" or "employee motivation" yields so many titles that everyone will relate personally to one: The Power of Consistency: Prosperity Mindset Training...; The Five Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace; The Wisdom of Bees: What the Hive Can Teach Business about Leadership and Growth; The 20% Doctrine: How Tinkering, Goofing Off, and Breaking the Rules at Work Drive Success in Business; All In: How the Best Managers Create a Culture of Belief and Drive Big Results; and many more.

You can mine current articles about motivation from our online resourcesMasterfile, Academic Search Complete, Business Source Complete, for starters.

I haven't encountered a motivational trend yet that couldn't claim merit to some degree.  But these approaches are numerous and frequently contradictory.   No wonder commercial wall art illustrating easily-recalled nuggets of encouragement sells so briskly; adhering to a personal mantra enables one to assimilate the best of the best.

But why purchase a slogan when World Book Encyclopedia and popular culture already yield these gems? Empty frames on wall

  • Oklahoma state motto: "Labor conquers all things."
  • North Carolina: "To be, rather than to seem."
  • For anyone whose work culture operates in a continual state of flux, consider Connecticut's motto: "He who is transplanted still sustains."
  • Classic C&W song "The Gambler": "You gotta know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em..."
  • Bumper sticker for Longhorn Rentals: "Roll with us."

Finally, from the theme song on the Crazy Heart soundtrack:  "This ain't no place for the weary kind.  This ain't no place to lose your mind..."

Heaven and Hell's Kitchen

"Such an amazing place," the customer observed dreamily.  "But I don't suppose I could ever get in." 

Nice to know that the Book Expo America photos I posted online conveyed the energy and special-ness of the event--noted authors by the score, acclaimed presenters, book giveaways, direct access to publishers.  But (except for the new Power Readers option on the last day) you must be in the book trade to get in.

"For a serious reader," I confided to the library patron, "BEA is pretty much like Heaven." 

I should note that BEA's venue, the Javits Center, lies solidly within the confines of Hell's Kitchen (explanations for the district's name abound).  Newer appellations for the area--"Clinton" or "Midtown West"--just sound namby-pamby, don't they?

My accommodations were also located in HK.  Frankly, I reveled in the opportunity to begin each day descending 51 floors by elevator, thanking the doorman for his aid (God forbid I should have to open the door), scooting into the Starbucks next door, and embarking on a ten-minute stroll to Javits with my favorite sissy beverage.

But somehow, claiming that I daily traversed half of the breadth of Hell's Kitchen on foot--alone--still sounds a little tough.  Grit credit would be as undeserved as my dumb luck in having lovely relatives with a spiffy Manhattan condo. 

But good fortune doesn't count toward Heaven.  And a few other aspects of BEA align with the earthly realm, as well:

BEA bag logoYou can take it with you. You have to; of all the amenities offered by the huge convention center, none include secure, free places to leave your handbag or briefcase while you stuff tote bags with advance copies and other swag. You'll juggle three or four carryalls and the iPad or smartphone you're using to snap photos. If your arms aren't stretched a couple of inches longer after a day at BEA, you're just not trying.

Controversy is encouraged (if it's literary). Former U.S. Poet Laureate Robert Pinsky drew spontaneous applause several times during the Poetry Opens Doors panel discussion. His most memorable observation was provoked by earnest suggestions from librarians exhorting others to "push" poetry at every conceivable opportunity (e.g., displays at checkout stations in the manner of National Inquirer stacks at the grocery checkout). Pinsky objected, challenging the notion that poetry is "something to take care of as if it were sick."

Covetousness is (if not admired) part of the fun. Tote bags are serious business at BEA (check out one clever blogger's 2013 BEA Book Bag Awards--June 3).  At some point, most attendees succumb to Bag Envy. The array of distinctive giveaways--massive red leatherette carriers, elegant black Hobbit bags adorned with a stylized dragon (I got one; it's a summer drawing prize), limited edition carryalls channeling LL Bean--is noteworthy. Even when you've acquired enviable bags yourself, your eye wanders to The One That Got Away.

Round Rock Public Library's Summer Readers' Bonanza begins Monday, June 17 (details available then), and you, too, might claim one of our divine BEA swag giveaways!

Sharing: an Empire State of mind

I don't have a photo of Dr. Ruth on my phone.  But the gentleman behind me in the Sue Grafton autograph line at Book Expo America (New York City, last week) does.  He'd spotted her in the cavernous Javits Center exhibit hall, asked if she could spare a minute, and--voila!  (See my celeb photos on the library's Facebook page.)

Before we could share other sightings (Elizabeth Gilbert, Diana Gabaldon, Nathaniel Philbrick, Mo Willems, Julianne Moore, Amy Tan, Susan Mallery, Sylvia Day, Lemony Snicket, Tim Conway, David Baldacci, Paul Harding, Jonathan Lethem, Bill Bryson, (even Grumpy Cat), and dozens of other notables made appearances) Ms. Grafton breezed in ahead of schedule.   Assessing the enormity of her queue, she checked in at her booth before embarking on a whirlwind tour of the line to greet all, especially those who'd be standing for the foreseeable future.   She charmed all present and equipped us with enviable volumes (W is for Wasted won't be out until September.)

Empire State BuildingWhy would publishers distribute freebies that the recipient now doesn't have to purchase and even risk major spoiler potential? 

Libraries aren't the sales-killers you might imagine.  When librarians render enthusiasm for forthcoming books, and when libraries offer access that builds interest in an author, title, or series--everybody profits.  And we respect our readers too much to divulge what we shouldn't.  (But it's OK to hint that Amy Tan's The Valley of Amazement--due out in November--is worth the wait.)

When I sent my daughter a photo of an epic queue threading around the ground floor, up the escalator, and onto the show floor, she responded, "So, is it pretty much like a Con except with fewer people dressed as Jedis?"

Probably.  But BEA attendees likely demonstrate more consideration than most, and the rumors are more frequently substantiated--Diana Gabaldon's contract for an Outlander TV series, Brad Pitt's production of the TV drama based on Jason Mott's The Returned.  I bagged an autographed advance copy of The Returned, published by Harlequin, due out in September, and expected to generate major buzz.

And speaking of consideration:  choosing Ann Romney's autograph line meant missing out on Helen Fielding's session.   But Ann arrived 25 minutes early and instantly settled in to chat with readers and sign pamphlets.   Thanks to her solicitude, some of us could meet and photograph both authors--and be doubly impressed.

Book giveaways (limited quantities, first come-first served) I was especially gratified to snag include Jessica Stilling's Betwixt and Between (said to be "The Lovely Bones meets Peter Pan"), Elizabeth Kelly's The Last Summer of the Camperdown, Elinor Lipman's I Can't Complain, Lee Smith's Guests on Earth and poet Billy Collins' latest,  Aimless LoveBut then those copies of Elizabeth Gilbert's The Signature of All Things, Bill Bryson's One Summer: America, 1927, and A. Scott Berg's Wilson are calling to me, as well.

Next time, I'll post more details about upcoming library prize and giveaway opportunities for exciting BEA books and swag (because librarians always share).

We may even overthink that whole fairness thing.  Late Thursday afternoon, the young librarian just ahead of me sighed exhaustedly, revealing that she had one more "duty" line before calling it a day.  She'd promised a co-worker a particular autographed Romance book.

I had that very book in my bag and believed it to be replaceable the next day.  So I offered it to her.  She brightened for a moment, asked, "Are you sure!?" and began to reach for it.  Then her Sense of Obligation kicked in, and she shook her head mournfully.  "I just couldn't," she confessed.  "I've got to earn it."