TBR Challenge, 2015 wrap-up

The Official TBR Challenge, hosted by the Roof Beam Reader.

We’re nearing the end of December now and I don’t anticipate reading the rest of the books on my official TBR challenge list before the 31st, so here’s the wrap-up. I read 9.5 books out of the fourteen (twelve and two alternates) that I chose at the beginning of the year.

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Link to LibraryThing TBR tag.

Of those that I read, Graceling was far and away my favorite, but I also enjoyed (and would recommend) Kitchen Confidential, God’s Hotel, The Art of Fielding, The Starboard Sea, and Between Shades of Gray (not to be confused with Fifty Shades…).

I haven’t decided definitely not to read the remaining books, but I’m clearly not that excited about them or I would have read them already. I may pick up Quiet before the end of the month, but we’ll see. Sometimes, a book loses its appeal the longer a book sits on the shelf, through no fault of its own. Part of the reason I did this challenge this year was to read or get rid of books I owned that I hadn’t yet read – a way of pushing them to the front of the queue, ahead of library books, which have due dates.

While I didn’t read all twelve of my original choices, I did get to read several books this year that were on my unofficial TBR list, i.e. books I’d been wanting to read for some time but hadn’t gotten around to until this year. I enjoyed all of the following:

  • And the Dark Sacred Night by Julia Glass
  • Seraphina by Rachel Hartman
  • A Land More Kind Than Home by Wiley Cash
  • Far From the Tree by Andrew Solomon
  • Good Omens by Neil Gaiman & Terry Pratchett
  • Breasts by Florence Williams
  • Don’t Make Me Think by Steve Krug
  • Howards End by E.M. Forster

What did you read this year that you loved? What are you looking forward to reading next year? Will you be signing up for a challenge, inventing your own, or letting serendipity be your guide? Do you have a TBR list, in your mind or on paper (or Goodreads or LibraryThing)? Maybe this will be the year that I finally pare down my TBR list…or scrap it altogether.

Quotes from books, III

I’m continuing to run with this Top Ten Tuesday idea from The Broke and the Bookish; here’s a third installment of quotes from books I’ve read (semi-)recently. (See Part one | Part two.) This set spans my reading from June 2015 back to January 2015 (I’m going in reverse chronological order). Most of these are from adult literary fiction, but there are two from children’s books (actually three, there’s a bonus one from Harriet the Spy), one from a memoir, one from a classic, and one from a nonfiction book about the Finnish educational system.

  1. He wanted to travel but lacked any desire to arrive.The Waterproof Bible, Andrew Kaufman
  2. “The hardest part of making a sacrifice isn’t the moment when you do it. That’s the easiest. You’re too busy being proud of yourself for being so noble. What’s hard is the day after that and the following one and all of those days to come. It’s needing to make that sacrifice over and over again, the rest of your life, while in your mind, you can still taste that which you lost. Or what you think you lost.” Mambo in Chinatown, Jean Kwok
  3. I remembered my memory of the moment, because after so long that’s what memory is: the replaying of a filmstrip that’s slightly warped from having gone through the projector so many times. I’ll never know what actually happened and what distortions I added.The Children’s Crusade, Ann Packer
  4. What we read as adults should be read, I think, with no warnings or alerts beyond, perhaps: enter at your own risk. -“Little Triggers,” Trigger Warning, Neil Gaiman
  5. She never minded admitting she didn’t know something. So what, she thought; I could always learn. 5.5 Is everybody a different person when they are with somebody else?Harriet the Spy, Louise Fitzhugh
  6. People who called her a pest did not understand that a littler person sometimes had to be a little bit noisier and a little bit more stubborn in order to be noticed at all.Ramona the Pest, Beverly Cleary
  7. I can’t imagine a better example of Things to Be Wary Of in the food department than bargain sushi.Kitchen Confidential, Anthony Bourdain
  8. Disappointed a hundred times, she still hoped. Howards End, E.M. Forster
  9. I did not think I had rooms enough in me for this kind of love.Vanessa and Her Sister, Priya Parmar
  10. It is better to have a dream of your own than to rent one from others.Finnish Lessons, Pasi Sahlberg

Do these quotes stand alone, or do they need context? Which one(s) do you like best?

Coding in libraries

Does your library offer coding programs for kids, teens, or adults? These programs are becoming more popular in libraries (e.g. Girls Who Code). If your library offers, has offered, or has considered offering a learn-to-code program, take this quick 4-question survey to help the developers of a webinar for LITA (the Library Information Technology Association) understand the state of coding programs at libraries.

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For most people, it’s not necessary – and may not even be useful – to learn any one particular coding language, but having an understanding of how code works can be really helpful. More and more, how stuff works is becoming opaque and mysterious. We have a culture of obsolescence that encourages consumers to replace rather than repair something when it breaks. In addition to being wasteful, this can have dangerous implications, especially for privacy. Also, I believe that user experience will improve when the people who write the code behind the tools, platforms, and services we use are more diverse. People tend to design things with themselves in mind as the typical user, which often leads to poor design (this is why usability testing is so important!).

What do you think of offering coding programs in libraries?

A book about wizards

Book recommendations work in funny ways, or perhaps I should say that people’s responses to recommendations are variable. I tend to react with either enthusiasm or skepticism, depending on (a) who is doing the recommending, (b) what they’re recommending, and (c) how they describe it. If two or three trusted fellow readers all tell me I have to read a certain book, I’m quite likely to add it to my list or bump it to the head of the queue. But if a book is riding a wave of popularity, and the buzz is inescapable, I’m likely to go the other way and avoid it, figuring that no book could live up to the hype. (I’ve been wrong about this in a number of cases – Life of Pi comes to mind – but often books really don’t deserve the hype surrounding them and I don’t regret missing them.)

cover image of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's StoneHere’s a case where my initial skepticism gave way to devoted enthusiasm: Sometime in 1997 or 1998, my mom brought home a hardcover copy of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. “Aw, Mom, I don’t want to read a book about wizards,” I said.

Let the record show that she was right and I was wrong.

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!