Quotes from Books, II

Here’s another installment of Quotes from Books I’ve Read Recently (see the first set of quotes here). When I started this series (if two posts thus far can be called a series), I figured most if not all of the quotes I’d select would be from adult literary fiction, but in fact there are several from nonfiction and plenty from YA and children’s as well.

  1. If you see hooded figures in the Dog Park, no you didn’t. Welcome to Night Vale, Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor
  2. …but they wanted someone to blame more than they wanted someone to explain.Uprooted, Naomi Novik
  3. If you think of doing something in New York City, you can be certain that at least two thousand other people have that same thought. And of the two thousand who do, about one thousand will be standing in line waiting to do it. From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, E.L. Konigsburg
  4. …the experience of reading is…our best vehicle to a transformed mind, and, literally and figuratively, to a changed brain….Reading changes our lives, and our lives change our reading. –Proust and the Squid, Maryanne Wolf
  5. What no one sees is the personal and cultural influences that have brought them to their opinions.Our Babies, Ourselves, Meredith F. Small
  6. I believed in her like some people believe in Heaven.Seraphina, Rachel Hartman
  7. [My dad] taught [us] some Beatles songs and told us that whenever we saw [reporters] with cameras, we should just sing those songs. At the time, I thought it was just fun to sing really loud, but then I realized what an evil genius my dad is. To broadcast Beatles lyrics, you have to have the rights to the songs… –Emmy & Oliver, Robin Benway
  8. After enough time it fades and you’re grateful. In the Unlikely Event, Judy Blume
  9. “You have to believe it to see it.”Circus Mirandus, Cassie Beasley
  10. “There are no limits to the ways people you think you know can astonish you.”Bitterblue, Kristin Cashore

She Said, She Said: Quotes from Books

Here’s a Top Ten Tuesday feature from The Broke and the Bookish that I’m going to run with for weeks, months, quite possibly years: Quotes from Books I’ve Read Recently. As usual I read Linda’s Top Ten at Three Good Rats and got inspired. I write down quotes from nearly every book I read and keep them in my LibraryThing account, but I don’t often go back and look through them; here’s a great opportunity to do just that, at a time when saving time by recycling content is the perfect way to avoid complete radio silence on this blog (see: new baby in the house).

Here are ten quotes from books I’ve read recently. I chose these because they struck me as wise or poetic or true or funny, or all of the above.

  1. Every generation assumes that the way it does things is the way things are.Unfinished Business, Anne-Marie Slaughter
  2. What she doesn’t know yet is that ending a relationship cannot be done in one conversation over one evening, that such extrication takes days and months and sometimes years.My Lover’s Lover, Maggie O’Farrell
  3. “Your relatives are famous betrayers,” Penny argues. “There was a time in the 1700s when they weren’t even allowed to sign contracts.”Carry On, Rainbow Rowell
  4. The minute hand of the clock was a terribly slow lever, pushing the hour hand imperceptibly forward.  George, Alex Gino
  5. Memory is strange – part movie, part dream. You can never know if what you remember is the essential thing or something else entirely, a grace note. The Dive From Clausen’s Pier, Ann Packer
  6. There were musicians who never looked up from their hands or their instruments, but she’d seen quartets of straight men gaze at each other like they were making love. -“Cross,” Music For Wartime, Rebecca Makkai
  7. The choices don’t stop….Life is choices, and they are relentless. No sooner have you made one choice than another is upon you. –Being Mortal, Atul Gawande
  8. You could think of promises as a series of nets: some hold for a lifetime; others give way, surprisingly flimsy, in no time at all. –And the Dark Sacred Night, Julia Glass
  9. It is fairly amazing that we don’t get poisoned more often.At Home, Bill Bryson
  10. “There are four things that lead to wisdom….four sentences…[:]I don’t know. I need help. I’m sorry. I was wrong.”-Still Life, Louise Penny

More to come, in reverse chronological order from when I read them. What’s your favorite quote from a book?


Readers’ Advisory: Novels featuring real historical characters

The Massachusetts Library System (MLS) has a new series called “5 in 15 Booktalks,” where librarians talk about 5 titles in 15 minutes or less. I got to work with the excellent MLS staff to put together a “5 in 15 member edition” booktalk, where I talk about novels that feature real historical characters, including:Cover image of Wolf Hall

  • Thomas Cromwell in Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies
  • Edith Wharton in Jennie Fields’ The Age of Desire
  • Mary Mallon (a.k.a. Typhoid Mary) in Mary Beth Keane’s Fever
  • Anne Morrow Lindbergh in Melanie Benjamin’s The Aviator’s Wife
  • Vanessa Bell (nee Stephens) in Priya Parmar’s Vanessa and Her Sister

Watch the video (me talking over slides). It was hard for me to narrow my list down to five titles, so I mention some others during the talk, including The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory, The Paris Wife by Paula McLain, Z by Therese Anne Fowler, Sutton by J.R. Moehringer, and a few others.

What’s your favorite novel featuring a real historical character? Or do you prefer your historical fiction to have a purely invented main character? Share in the comments!

Carry On by Rainbow Rowell

Cover image of Carry OnSimon and Baz, Penelope and Agatha, the Insidious Humdrum, the Mage, and Watford – all born in Rainbow Rowell’s novel Fangirl – have their own story here. Simon’s origin story is similar to Harry Potter’s: he was an orphan living in the “Normal” world until age 11, when the Mage brings him to the Watford School to study magic. Now it’s Simon’s final year at Watford: the Mage has little time for him, and his roommate/enemy/suspected vampire Baz has not returned to school. The Insidious Humdrum still threatens the magical world, which is already divided between the traditional old families and the Mage’s revolutionary ideals.

Simon Snow is the main character, but Penny, Baz, and Agatha each get a turn to narrate, as does Lucy, whose identity (other than her name) isn’t immediately clear. Simon wants to enjoy his last year at Watford, but also to defeat the Humdrum once and for all; Penny (think Hermione with a rebel streak) is his (platonic) best friend and a talented magician whose parents are both professors; Agatha doesn’t want to be involved in dangerous adventures at all, and secretly prefers the Normal world, though she can’t admit it to her parents; and Baz, once he returns to Watford after an unexplained six-week absence, wants to decode the message his mother’s ghost left for him with Simon.

Carry On has plenty of pop culture references – the words “carry on” come from Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” – partly due to the fact that magic, in Simon Snow’s world, is based almost entirely on words: the more often certain words are used in specific combinations, the more powerful of a spell they become. Shakespeare and nursery rhymes, therefore, are quite powerful; cliches and lyrics to pop songs may be powerful for a time, but lose their power when they fall out of fashion. I enjoyed this not-so-subtle reminder of the power of language, as well as Rowell’s hat-tips to other fantasy novels: there are obvious similarities to Harry Potter, of course, but there’s also something Philip Pullman-esque about the way that adults are willing to sacrifice children in service to the what they perceive as the greater good.

Fangirl‘s Cath would be happy with the way that Simon and Baz’s relationship evolves, but I won’t say more than that here. The way that Rowell weaves Baz’s mother’s death and his being a vampire into the plot, however, is quite clever. Carry On absolutely stands on its own as a fantasy novel that anyone can enjoy, and those who liked Fangirl will definitely want to read it. While I prefer Rowell’s realistic fiction (or in the case of Landline, mostly realistic fiction with the addition of a magic-fucking-phone), I thoroughly enjoyed Carry On.


Reading is not something extra. It’s something essential.

One thing about pregnancy is that, at some point, it becomes visible, and therefore public. I’ve heard lots of advice from friends, family, co-workers, and total strangers, most of it unsolicited, though not necessarily unwelcome.

One topic that comes up a fair amount is reading, and how much of it I will or won’t be able to do after the baby is born. I am either “optimistic” or “delusional” about this, depending who you ask. One parent of a four-year-old basically said to forget the whole idea, but another parent of two said, “If something is a priority, you make time for it.” Fewer things may be priorities, he allowed, but if something matters to you, you’ll find a way. Another friend who recently had a baby said she’s been able to read while nursing – a pretty significant chunk of time.

As Jennifer LaGarde just wrote (“Giving Yourself Permission to Read“), “Reading is not something extra. It’s something essential.” Even if I go from reading my usual ten(+/-) books a month down to five, that’s still a lot of reading – and those are just adult and YA books. I’m sure I will be reading a lot of picture books! (Most recently, I loved Mac Barnett’s Leo: A Ghost Story.)

Reading is essential not just for me, but for the baby. Early literacy can’t start too early! Here’s our shelf of board books from baby’s library, including gifts, yard sale and book sale acquisitions, hand-me-downs, and one or two new purchases I couldn’t resist:

Shelf of board books with bee lunchbox on top

Some are old favorites (Goodnight Moon, Pat the Bunny, Eric Carle and Dr. Seuss), some are newer favorites (Hug, the pigeon books by Mo Willems, Orange Pear Apple Bear), and some are brand-new discoveries like the That’s Not My… series, which have a tactile element like Pat the Bunny.

Shelf of board books

Not pictured because they’re already packed in the diaper bag for the hospital: Tana Hoban’s high-contrast Black on White and White on Black (popular with infants, we’ve heard) and Eric Carle’s The Very Hungry Caterpillar (popular with me).

Are you a parent or a children’s librarian? What are your (or your kids’) favorite board books or picture books?

Where do we go from here?: a content audit of library signage

Good signs help library users answer the questions, “Where am I? What can I do here? Where can I go from here? How do I find where I want to go?”-Aaron Schmidt and Amanda Etches, Useful, Usable, Desirable (2014)

Inspired by the idea of a content audit (essentially, an inventory), I went around the public library building where I work and took pictures of every sign. The library has five floors, and I took about 250 photos. I did not include signs in staff-only areas, nor did I take pictures of every single stack end, each of which is marked with the call numbers it holds (e.g. 910-919 for travel books).

Still: about 250 signs, with 100 on the first floor alone. The sheer number of signs is overwhelming, as is the variety: there are a few different “official” styles (gray plastic plaques with white printing; brown text on a cream background in plastic or behind clear plastic), some semi-official styles (laminated or in plastic sheets), and some that are just paper and tape.

The signs serve many purposes, and to some extent they follow Schmidt & Etches’ advice: “Different types of signs (directional, identification, instructional, regulatory, informational) should be visually distinct.” Donors, for example, are acknowledged with brass plaques, whereas programs are advertised on paper in plastic holders, so they can be changed out frequently. However, even the more permanent signage has two different designs (the gray-and-white and brown-and-cream), indicating that it was probably created and installed at at least two different times. The Teen and Children’s areas also have distinct signage of their own – again, not a bad thing, as they are distinct areas of the library.

Laminated sign over post-it over button to open door mechanically

“Please DO NOT bang.” A laminated sign, a handwritten post-it, and the automatic door button itself.

Where do we go from here, with this jumble of excessive signage? Ideally, we’d take a step back and create a “brand manual” for typography/fonts, colors, and logo/wordmark, then create templates for signage, posters, brochures, and the website. (We could even re-design our library card!) Personally, I’d love to see some brighter colors, and I like the idea of using icons rather than words wherever possible; they’re recognizable at a glance (the good ones are, at least), and offer better guidance to more people (especially people whose first language isn’t English, or younger children who can’t read yet).

Do you work in (or frequently visit) a library? What’s your favorite and least favorite thing about the signage there? What other institutions have good signage ideas that libraries could borrow?

Updated 9/22/15: Here’s another great piece from Aaron Schmidt’s UX column in Library Journal, Positive Signs.” In it, he talks about accentuating the positive and eliminating the negative in library signage. In other words, don’t tell people what they can’t do, encourage them to do what they can.

Librarians are also detectives

We received three beautiful framed prints recently, and although they tickled something in the back of everyone’s brain, no one in the group of assembled family and friends was able to recognize them with certainty.

Three framed prints of color illustrations

Naturally I brought them to the library, certain that the librarians in the Children’s department would know. No one recognized them right away, and an image search on the Internet was also fruitless. I turned to Twitter, choosing a few tags (#librarylife, #librarians, #kidlit, #kidlitart) and also sending a tweet directly to Mel of Mel’s Desk, who kindly re-tweeted to her many followers, a good percentage of which must be children’s librarians.

Screenshot of a tweet: Children's librarians, please help. Recognize these illustrations?

In a matter of minutes, I had my answer: not The Steadfast Tin Soldier by Hans Christian Anderson, but Get-A-Way and Hary Janos by Maud and Miska Petersham. According to WorldCat, this is “The story of a worn out toy horse and his friend, a wooden soldier doll, who travel to a land where old toys become new.” I requested it from WorldCat, since there isn’t a copy in my library system.

I’m glad that (a) I have an answer to my mystery, (b) the Internet can’t answer everything, and (c) librarians are awesome detectives.