Reader's Exchange

July 2014 - Posts

Going up?

Right now, our new library building exists in that ideal theoretical dimension in which all things are possible and nobody's dreamed-of architectural vision clashes with anyone else's (or with functionality, for that matter).  Once the project takes shape in more concrete ways, decisions will be informed by studies and observations of customer usage in the current facility and, of course, the additional needs and wants our patrons have mentioned.

Personally, I'd love to see a single-story plan.

With only one floor, we'd have no stairs or stairwells. Staffers are acclimated to the long flight of steps, navigating them multiple times daily, but customers tend to remark about the experience--after they catch their breath.  And cell phone users must not have noticed how sound funnels upward all around the stairwell, amplifying very personal conversations for the benefit of second floor. Especially at the Reference Desk, we are treated to information best left un-broadcast.

Come to think of it, if I took notes, I'd never run short of material for National Novel Writing Month

But comments from below can be delightful.  Take last Wednesday morning: a first-floor mom, hoping to expedite the morning's agenda, focused her child's attention on selecting children's books to take home.   But apparently the son or daughter had spied those stairs and inquired about possibilities overhead.

 "Oh, it's just boring stuff up there", Mom explained, "Grownup stuff." 

Mom anticipated the child's point of view; she doesn't really believe that a floor stocked with dozens of computers, live-person customer service, and thousands of books and magazines is boring.  But if you're among those parents who lovingly devote their entire library visit to the kids' section, how would you even know?

The grownup floor is quieter (well, usually) but hardly a snooze-fest.  Adults ask fewer questions, but those run the gamut of challenges faced by this demographic:  writing research papers for distance learning courses, questioning which credit reporting sites to trust, crafting and updating resumes, and so forth.  (Speaking of grownup issues, did you know that with the library's Law Depot online resource you can compose and print a basic will in about 15 minutes?  Three of us here at RRPL have successfully done this recently.  FYI: my bank's notary wasn't allowed to certify wills, but the UPS Store provides this service at a low cost.) Horrorstor cover

We've even heard adults clapping their hands and otherwise expressing childlike glee when they hear about upcoming releases of books by favorite authors.  These titles are some I predict will be particularly well-received--as soon as we can get our hands on them:

Colleen McCullough's Bittersweet ("epic romance": remember The Thorn Birds? 8/19)

Haruki Murakami's Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and his Years of Pilgrimage (8/12)

Debut author Jessie Burton's historical fiction (17th century Amsterdam) The Miniaturist (8/26)

Quirk Books' latest: Horrorstor by Grady Hendrix (9/23)

Quirk Books products have circulated well at RRPL, and Library Journal gave Horrorstor a good review, but I admit that this one had me at the cover.

All I want is more

Remember when "binge" was a word we didn't take lightly? 

Formerly, it applied to individuals straying into saloons or meeting with bad company and succumbing to more beverages than originally intended.  Despite advice from embroidered samplers or wise elders, Moderation In All Things proved impossible just then.  Such incidents were also called "sprees" (crime sprees were likewise deplorable--unlike shopping sprees, which are somehow cute.  But I digress.)

While admitting the dangers of bingeing with drink or food, we recognize how perfectly that word encapsulates excess.  So we borrow it for blithely self-confessed (thus excusable) overindulgences of all sorts.   At Book Expo America this year, "binge-reading potential" was applied as a compliment for any author whose latest book keeps readers turning the pages well into the night or whose series tempt fans to consume one book after the other, like bon-bons. 

The phrase would be music to authors' ears; for readers, it places us in good company.  At my house, the sampler would read "Moderation Except Books, Chocolate, and Guacamole."  But I don't embroider--I read.  And lately my husband and I have also binge-watched House of Cards, thanks to the library's Season One DVD collection.  The only reason we haven't zoomed through Season Two in a shockingly brief time span is that we're too frugal to buy the set and are waiting to borrow the library's copy. Oliver Twist asking for more gruel

Happily, delayed gratification isn't an issue with two forthcoming novels:  Jane Smiley's Some Luck and Deborah Harkness' trilogy-concluding The Book of Life.  Both copies accompanied me home from Book Expo. 

Those of us fortunate to receive Harkness' book were asked not to comment on the story until July 15, so I won't (just know that you will not be disappointed.)

But here is the irresistible premise of Some Luck:  First of The Last Hundred Years  trilogy, the story spans 1920 to 1953, each chapter depicting one year in the life of the Langdons, an Iowa farm family.  The trilogy will end with 2020: 100 years, 100 chapters.  Incisively viewing social history as the Langdon's five children experience it, the story also brilliantly conveys family dynamics: parental preferences and expectations, implications of birth order, etc.  Smiley's gift for interweaving both telling private moments and large-scale events produces an immersive reading experience.

And that's the problem-at least for me.  Deeply engaged with the characters in Some Luck, I devoured it, staying up late one night and (thank goodness for weekends) resuming reading the next day, finishing before lunch.  I wasn't prepared to part with the Langdons yet, but I couldn't restrain myself from following their fortunes as far as I could as soon as I could.

And now, the interval before the second book will be even longer because this was an advance reading copy. 

What do we learn from my example?  Probably nothing: I defy you to pace yourself sedately when you get your hands on Some Luck (which may happen for you sooner than the October publication; we'll be offering the autographed ARC as a drawing prize on Facebook sometime in the next couple of weeks).