Here’s the 2017 reading wrap-up, with links to all previous years (through 2013). This year, I read a rather astonishing number of books: 597. But let’s start breaking down that number…
Partially-read and Started-didn’t-finish: 19. Some of these I read a few pages of, others a few chapters or chunks; there were some cookbooks, gardening books, and how-to books that I didn’t read cover to cover, as well as a novel I gave up on, a book of essays, and a book of poetry I read parts of but didn’t finish.
Early reader: 35. I created this new tag in LibraryThing this year as I started reading these with my daughter. They have more words than most picture books – certainly more text per page – but they still have illustrations on every page.
Picture books: 359. Yeah, here’s where it gets crazy. Almost all of these I read with my daughter, most more than once (some many times), and I probably used a few dozen in my storytimes.
Now we’re down to a much more reasonable 184 books this year, especially when you consider that a lot of those are middle grade or young adult:
YA/teen: 41. (Some books (8) were tagged both middle grade and YA, because I don’t have a “tween” category.)
Graphic novels: 18. Nearly all of these were middle grade or YA, and thus are included in the numbers above.
Audiobooks: 25. These are also included in other tags, mostly children’s, middle grade, and YA, with the exception of one Agatha Christie (Murder on the Orient Express), Megan Mullally and Nick Offerman’s The Greatest Love Story Every Told, and Morgan Jerkins’ This Will Be My Undoing.
That brings the number down to 107 adult fiction or nonfiction books.
Nonfiction: About 32, including some how-to books on gardening, sewing, quilting, cleaning, and cookbooks, along with Big Biographies and Serious Works of Nonfiction and Critical Essays etc etc etc.
And people said I wasn’t going to be able to read as much once I had a kid!
Math whizzes will notice that the numbers don’t entirely add up; that’s due to overlapping tags.
#WeNeedDiverseBooks: I started using this tag in LibraryThing toward the end of 2017. I use it for books by authors of color (AOC) or about characters who are diverse in some way – their race, socioeconomic status, nationality, immigration status, abilities, etc. In other words, if it’s not straight, white, middle-class America, I’m trying to use this tag.
Five-star ratings: 36! I was much more generous this year than last year. Of these, 16 are picture books or early readers. (Blog post about favorite books read in 2018 to come.)
Re-reading: As a kid, I re-read my favorite books all the time. Now I re-read less, in no small part because I worked in publishing after college and realized how many new books there are, and now I work in libraries and am surrounded by them every day. But I do believe in the pleasures of re-reading, especially after many years have gone by (or not). This fall I re-read the entire Harry Potter series start to finish (including The Cursed Child) and it was delightful to zoom straight through them all without having to wait years for the next one to be published. I also re-read some of Kate Milton’s Nagspeake books this winter, Ghosts of Greenglass Hosue and Bluecrowne. I re-read John Green’s Turtles All the Way Down because I read it so fast the first time, and I re-read Mandy by Julie Andrews, which I barely remembered at all but loved all over again. I re-read Angela Carter’s The Bloody Chamber, which I hadn’t read since my first semester of college, and The Princess Bride by William Goldman, and of course I read many, many picture books over and over.
Another year of reading is off to a great start – 21 books already in January, include Kelly Link’s excellent story collection Get In Trouble, which I’ve been meaning to read for years, Kelly Loy Gilbert’s astounding YA novel Picture Us in the Light, and Laurie Colwin’s 1988 book of food essays/memoir, Home Cooking.
There are some exciting books coming out this year! (I say that every year. It’s true every year.) Here are the ones I’m looking forward to and intend to read, as well as some older books that I plan to move to the head of the queue this year:
Bowlaway by Elizabeth McCracken: I’ll read whatever she writes.
City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert: I’ll read almost anything she writes, and historical fiction is one of my favorite genres; this one is set in New York in the 1940s.
Feel Free by Nick Laird: This poetry collection, his fourth, was slated to come out last year and the pub date got bumped to July 2019. Waiting…
The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern: Will it be as magical as The Night Circus? We’ll see…in November.
The Dreamers by Karen Thompson Walker: Literary fiction, good reviews so far, and I liked The Age of Miracles.
Kid Gloves by Lucy Knisley: Relish is still my favorite of hers; I think I’d like the others better if I was her exact contemporary, or a little younger instead of a little older, but I do like her style, and graphic novels are quick reads.
On the Come Up by Angie Thomas: Also due out last year and then the pub date got bumped. If it’s the same quality as The Hate U Give, though, I’m willing to wait.
Getting toward the end of the list, I’m going to crowd three books into one here, as they all fall under the #WeNeedDiverseBooks/award-winning YA umbrella: Darius the Great Is Not Okay by Adib Khorram, The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo, and The 57 Bus by Dashka Slater. Also Picture Us in the Light by Kelly Loy Gilbert, which is already sitting at the top of my pile.
Walking Home by Simon Armitage: This has been kicking around on my to-read list for ages; this is the year.
Get in Trouble by Kelly Link: I’ve been meaning to read more of her deliciously weird, off-kilter stories.
So that’s adult fiction and nonfiction, teen fiction and nonfiction, a graphic novel, and a book of poems…and that’s just for starters. I’m also looking forward to reading plenty of middle grade, more nonfiction in general (always a goal, and this year I’m broadening it to include TV as well), more recommendations from fellow readers. What books are you excited to read this year?
Edited to add: Also, short stories Tenth of December by George Saunders; nonfiction on climate change (e.g. The Sixth Extinction by Elizabeth Kolbert or Rising by Elizabeth Rush); and more fiction by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (I’ve already read Americanah, so it’ll be either The Thing Around Your Neck, Purple Hibiscus, or Half of a Yellow Sun. Opinions, anyone?).
#Libfaves18 is a Twitter phenomenon in which librarians tweet out their favorite books published in 2018, one a day, for ten days, and someone compiles a list. Librarians love their lists, and in fact we already have a “Favorite of Favorites” list from LibraryReads, but librarians just love talking about books. And also, the year wasn’t over yet when the “Favorite of Favorites” list was published – there’s still more reading time in the year! (By that logic, we should wait till January to make our year-end lists – some of us do.) Another difference is that, to nominate books for Library Reads, you need to get galleys, read, and nominate them ahead of time; with Twitter, anyone can jump in.
Here are my #Libfaves2018:
The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai (adult fiction)
The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert (young adult fiction/fantasy)
The Witch Elm by Tana French (psychological mystery/suspense)
We Don’t Eat Our Classmates by Ryan T. Higgins (picture book)
Transcription by Kate Atkinson (adult fiction/historical/suspense)
The Boy From Tomorrow by Camille DeAngelis (middle grade fiction/fantasy)
I Am, I Am, I Am by Maggie O’Farrell (memoir)
Julian Is A Mermaid by Jessica Love (picture book)
Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson and Emily Carroll (young adult graphic novel)
Call Them By Their True Names by Rebecca Solnit (nonfiction essays)
This list may look quite different from my list (coming soon-ish) of best books I’ve read this year, because many of those were published before this year. For example, I just finished listening to the audiobook of Liesl & Po by Lauren Oliver, narrated by Jim Dale, and it was magical, but it’s from 2011 and therefore doesn’t qualify for #Libfaves18.
What are your favorite books that you read this year? Published in 2018 or not?
Updated 12/19/2018: The blog RA for All has a more thorough explanation of #Libfaves18, and past lists are hosted at EarlyWord.
My first event on Friday was another stop at the PLA Pavilion for “Early Literacy Enhanced Storytimes: Intentionality is the Key” with Saroj Ghoting, an early childhood literacy consultant (earlylit.net). Presenters packed a lot into these 20-minute sessions; Ghoting addressed the challenge of keeping adults engaged during children’s storytimes, and provided several specific examples* to make storytimes more interactive. She also noted the different types of interaction during a storytime: librarian-children, librarian-adults, children-adults, and adults-adults. Adults value time with and advice from each other, and if they’re engaged during stortytime, they’re more likely to do the same activities with kids at home. Adult-child interaction also supports rich language development for children.
*Examples included books that lent themselves to two call-and-response parts, like Too Much Noise (kids make animal sounds, adults say “too noisy!”),The Cow Loves Cookies(adults say “but the cow loves…” and kids say “cookies!”), and Jump, Frog, Jump (adults say “how did the frog get away?” and kids say “jump frog jump!”).
After the “Enhanced Storytimes” session, I went over to the Children’s Book Buzz on the other side of the exhibit hall to hear about more upcoming children’s and teen titles, but left in time to get to the first morning program, “The Path to U.S. Citizenship Can Start at Public Libraries.” Laura Patching from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) spoke first, giving a short history of the service and talking about its work in and with libraries: sending community relations officers to do naturalization workshops, including mock interviews; setting up “Citizenship Corners” or “New Americans Corners”; and the “Bridges to Citizenship” program. Community relations officers will visit any library; find your local one by e-mailing email@example.com.
Next, Tiffany Nardella and Nate Eddy from the Free Library of Philadelphia (“Start here. Go anywhere”) spoke about their work welcoming new Americans in the library, in partnership with USCIS and with other partners, like the Office of Adult Education and the Welcoming Center for New Pennsylvanians. And Michelle Gordon of the Fresno County Public Library in California said that naturalization ceremonies in libraries are “the best thing that I do,” and “If you don’t work with USCIS yet, do it! It’s worth it.” She suggested inviting local representatives to these ceremonies – new citizens are new voters! Elected officials might come or not, but it’s nice to invite them.
After the citizenship program, I followed a tweet from @NYPLRecommends and chatted with the hosts of the New York Public Library’s “The Librarian Is In” podcast, Gwen Glazer and Frank Collerius, who were delightful. I rarely listen to podcasts, but I am sure I would enjoy theirs.
I ate my lunch sitting on the floor and listening to the Adult Book Buzz, and then it was time for the afternoon programs. The first one I attended was “Refuting the Idea of ‘Neutral’: Supporting Civic Engagement & Information in the Library,” presented by Amy Holcomb, Amy Koester, and Mimosa Shah, an enthusiastic team from Skokie, IL. As the title of their program indicated, they refuted the idea that libraries are neutral: “If your library adheres to the Library Bill of Rights, you are not neutral.” Being neutral, however, is not the same as being nonpartisan; the library can have a stance (being in favor of access to good information) without taking a political position.
The Skokie Public Library started a Civic Lab to promote and facilitate citizen engagement by increasing awareness of issues, facilitating conversation, and providing access to quality information. They hoped to achieve several goals: to have patrons participate, not just passively consume; to offer more active, participatory experiences; and to have patrons engage with information so they feel confident and can make decisions based on that information. “We don’t want to get them to a particular point of view, we want them to have a point of view. If you have bad information, whoever gave you that information is making up your mind for you.”
The Civic Lab is a pop-up event in the library four times a month, addressing topics planned in advance as well as those that are timely and topical . Library staff at the pop-up station facilitate discussion between patrons, and each pop-up has a banner, display crates, media, books, and an activity. They suggest having “multiple access points [e.g. reading, listening, viewing]….There isn’t a right way to engage, it’s whatever is comfortable for the patron.”
Skokie also offers news discussion groups, which are scheduled events about quality news sources and how to navigate through the many news outlets. These cover news literacy in general as well as specific topics. They employ the reflective listening model for discussion.
There were also some good strategies for engaging kids and teens, from gamification (activities and questions that are more like trivia than quizzes) to clever program titles (“The media wants your brains” for teens). To get adults – patrons and staff alike – engaged, have them bring experiences from their own lives and family histories; “help people understand how much they can learn from each other.”
“The library is a place for difficult discourse.”
Programs like these can be equally inspiring and intimidating; you might want to do something similar in your library, but you’re already doing many other programs and displays. “Don’t add ‘civic engagement’ [on top of] everything you’re already doing,” the Skokie team suggested; rather, “Apply a civic engagement lens to what you’re already doing….Do a civic engagement audit of what you already offer.”
During the Q&A after the panel, someone asked, “How do you keep it to a discussion and not regurgitation of strongly entrenched opinions?” The Civic Lab team advised, “As a facilitator, restate what they’re saying and then ask to hear from someone else.” You can say, “You obviously believe this very strongly. How did you come to hold that belief, what are your sources? Tell me more, where can I find more information?” They said, “Opinions are fine, we want people to have informed opinions based on facts.”
“We want people to have informed opinions based on facts.”
For the final program of the day, I went to “The Information Needs of Citizens,” presented by Lee Rainie of the Pew Research Center. Lee Rainie is a regular at library conferences; he is an excellent speaker, with excellent data which, it just so happens, supports the value of libraries. Although the country is experiencing “a crisis of truth, a crisis of trust, a crisis of democracy,” there are a few institutions and professionals that the public still trusts: librarians, teachers, and the military.
It’s no surprise that someone from a “fact tank” still believes that “facts matter.”
“Facts are the atomic unit of truth.”
“Facts drive outcomes for individuals and societies.”
“Facts underlie justice” – they are the cornerstone of democracy.
Facts are democratic. Facts are tied to trust – when trust grows, good things come from that. Trust in a culture binds people together, to overcome vulnerability and uncertainty. Trust cements interdependence.
Librarians, Rainie said, are in the vanguard of people who are going to help us solve these problems. Libraries are a free, open, trusted institution for learning. Research shows that people are glad that libraries are still here and providing access to information, helping bridge the digital divide and navigate the information environment online, and serving people and communities and on issues like net neutrality.
The next library will be built around five new insights:
People seek personal enrichment and entertainment in new ways
People seek knowledge and reference expertise in new ways (reference questions have gone down in number, but up in complexity)
Some groups especially need and want access to technology through trusted institutions (library as tech hub, tech support, wifi)
Learning is a social process, an ongoing process (learning happens in networks)
Where they fit on these continuums (PDF: ALA’s Confronting the Future report) physical/virtual, individual/community focus, collection/creation, archive/portal, everything for everyone/specialized niche
Rainie concluded, “A day spent with librarians is a better day.”
Despite “winter storm Toby,” PLA went more or less as planned. Over the next week or so, I’ll be condensing and revising my sixteen (16) pages of notes into a more easily readable, digestible format to share here, but for now, here is an outline of my conference activities:
Wednesday: Drove from the Boston area to Philly. Definitely not the worst weather conditions I’ve ever driven in, but bad enough to keep lots of people off the road, so no traffic! Arrived safely and in good time, checked in at the hotel, and went to the convention center to sign in and walk through the exhibit hall. Met some friendly vendors (especially from Charlesbridge and Candlewick), and picked up several Advanced Reader Copies (ARCs).
Thursday: Started bright and early with the morning’s “Big Ideas” talk, with author Elizabeth Gilbert. The exhibit hall opened up after her talk, and I was able to meet a few authors and pick up a few more galleys (Bob by Wendy Mass and Rebecca Stead!). Then I caught a quick (20-minute) talk at the PLA Pavilion about “Every Child Ready to Read (ECRR): Play in the Library,” and – on the other side of the exhibit hall – caught part of the AAP Children’s Publishers Book Buzz, where we heard about upcoming titles.
For the first program of the day, I chose “Talking is Teaching: Opportunities for Increasing Early Brain and Language Development,” where we heard about a partnership between the San Francisco Public Library and Too Small to Fail. Then I zipped back into the exhibit hall to meet Simon Winchester and pick up his upcoming book, The Perfectionists. Lunch, and then the first afternoon program, “Push Comes to Shove: Supporting Patrons of Color in Your Institution.” At the break between that session and the next, I caught some of the AAP Adult Publishers Book Buzz. Finally – and this was the hardest time slot to choose a program, because so many looked so good – I went to “Lost in the Library? Never Again with User-Centered Design.”
Friday: Another visit to the PLA Pavilion for a quick session on “Early Literacy Enhanced Storytimes: Intentionality is the Key,” then over to sit in on part of the Children’s Book Buzz. (I ran into an old acquaintance from publishing, Juliet Grames, who is now working for SoHo Teen!) The morning program I had planned to go to, “Re-envisioning the Library: Engaging Staff and Building Capacity for Change” with Maureen Sullivan had been cancelled, so I went to “The Path to U.S. Citizenship Can Start at Public Libraries” and learned about U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
Following a tweet from NYPL Recommends, I went to visit Gwen and Frank to talk about books, and I might have been on a podcast. (Do you listen to NYPL Recommends? Let me know!) They were excellent to talk to (and they were handing out neat “The Librarian Is In” buttons). I grabbed a quick lunch from Reading Terminal, then sat on the floor to listen to some of the Adult Book Buzz before it was time for the afternoon programs: “Refuting the Idea of ‘Neutral’: Supporting Civic Engagement & Information in the Library” and “The Information Needs of Citizens: Where Libraries Fit In,” the latter with Lee Rainie of the Pew Research Center.
Saturday:Started the day early with the final “Big Ideas” speaker, Tim Wu, at 8:15. Two more sessions after that – “How to Adult: Teaching Life Skills to Teens” and “AAP Crossover Appeal: Books That Work for Teens and Adults” – and we were packed up and on the road back home.
Throughout the conference, I met library people from all over. I tried to strike up conversations everywhere, and met people from Grand Forks, North Dakota; Peterborough, New Hampshire; The Portland (ME) Public Library; Arkansas; New York (the Brooklyn Public Library and the NYPL); and Calgary, Canada. The Convention Center itself was also great: easy to navigate, pretty temperate (many conference centers are either overheated or like refrigerators), and full of art. And the section of Philly where it’s located is on that lovely, lovely grid, which makes it so easy to get around. Overall, a great conference!
Audiobooks: 15, mostly children’s and YA, and including three of the partially-read books (though one of those was a Neil Gaiman short story that I realized I’d already read in another collection)
Nonfiction: 34, including a couple of nonfiction picture books and a few of the partially-read books. Also, one entire book about compost.
YA/children’s (middle grade) books read: 31
Picture books: 104, including an unspeakable amount of Maisy
Partially read books: 16, including a few cookbooks and gardening books (i.e. not necessarily designed to be read cover-to-cover)
Books read in 2017, excluding picture books and partially read books: 120
Average number of books read per month (excluding picture books and partially read books): 10
Five-star ratings: 13
Total page count: Too damn annoying to calculate from LibraryThing exports. A lot.
Looking ahead (well, further into) 2018, I haven’t set any specific goals and am not participating in any challenges.* Some of my favorite authors are publishing new books this year, and I’m looking forward to those, of course – Gayle Forman, Maggie O’Farrell, Jo Walton, Curtis Sittenfeld. Like last year, I’m aiming to read even more in the #WeNeedDiverseBooks area, for myself and for the little one. (Lately, she’s really liked Jabari Jumps, Thunder Boy Jr., and A Different Pond.)
Books that have been recommended to me by more than one person (triangulation: not just for fact-checking anymore!) usually move up on my to-read list. I’ve already made a dent in the to-read list I made in November: I’ve read Fun Home, The Hate U Give, Rebecca; I have Far From the Tree checked out from the library, and my book club just chose The Bear and the Nightingale for February. (I have the cape, I make the whoosh noises!Note: that’s a link to a Cyanide & Happiness cartoon panel.)
*Okay, not entirely true: I do plan to read all of the “Reading Rocks” books [PDF] for the 4th- and 5th-graders in Winchester, where I am now working. Proper blog post about this change to come! So far I’ve really liked Ghosts by Raina Telgemeier and am listening to the excellent audiobook of Stella By Starlight.
I do occasionally read things other than books, though I don’t get credit for it in LibraryThing: most days I read at least one article from The New York Times, and most weeks I read a few pieces from the LitHub (“the best of the literary internet”) email newsletter. I read most of the Library Link of the Day links, and occasionally will find a good piece in The Atlantic, The New Yorker, or somewhere else (Teen Vogue!) via Twitter or Publishers Lunch.
So that’s the 2017 wrap-up. How was your year in books?
Once again, I’m borrowing a co-worker’s Top Ten Tuesday list to inspire my own. Hers was “Top Ten Books I read the first year I had my blog“; because my blog is not specifically a book blog, I looked to my Goodreads and LibraryThing accounts instead. I started my Goodreads account in 2007, though I didn’t start reviewing each book consistently until later.
What was I reading, then? Out of college (no more assigned reading) and into the publishing world (okay, sometimes assigned reading), bombarded with more novels than I could ever read, my reading choices fell into a few categories:
Contemporary fiction about which there was “buzz,” e.g. Michael Chabon’s The Yiddish Policemen’s Union, which I loved, and Ian McEwan (I tried and hated Saturday and Atonement; I liked On Chesil Beach better but decided that everyone else could just go ahead and continue loving him, but I was done).
Classics I didn’t read in school: No matter how good your education was, there’s no way you could read ALL the classics, but I had missed some key ones. I actually think this was for the better; I loved Pride and Prejudice much more in my early twenties than I think I would have as a teenager.
Nonfiction: Left to my own devices, I read barely any nonfiction for almost a year; then I realized I need to read some, so I made it a goal to read one a month. I started with a lot of memoir and biography (Audrey Hepburn, Jeannette Walls, Augusten Burroughs, Alice Sebold, Ann Patchett) and pop psychology (Malcolm Gladwell, Daniel Gilbert), but I sought out some feminist books as well, though I didn’t use that term at the time – I discovered Katha Pollitt (Learning to Drive) and read This Common Secret and The Girls Who Went Away. I caught up on classic nonfiction too, from Capote’s In Cold Blood to Joan Didion’s essays.
Poetry: I discovered Nick Laird’s poem “On Beauty” in Zadie Smith’s novel by the same title, and Laird’s To A Fault is still one of my favorite poetry collections.
But of course it was mostly fiction. I was just starting to separate out the authors I thought I should read from the ones I actually liked; there was some overlap, of course, but there was also Ian McEwan and Special Topics in Calamity Physics. So here’s the list part – what did I read then (mid-2007-early 2009) that I still love now?
Call Me By Your Name by Andre Aciman
To A Fault by Nick Laird (poetry)
In the Woods and The Likeness by Tana French
Ursula, Under by Ingrid Hill (I feel this one was overlooked, and I often put it on my Staff Picks shelf at the library, hoping others will discover it)
The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society by Annie Barrows and Mary Ann Shaffer
Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert (the right book at the right time)
The Magician’s Assistant by Ann Patchett
An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination by Elizabeth McCracken
Magic for Beginners and Stranger Things Happen by Kelly Link
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
The World Without Us by Alan Weisman (nonfiction)
Overture by Yael Goldstein (found this on a remainder table at the Strand; overlooked in the same way as Ursula, Under)
Stardust by Neil Gaiman
Touchy Subjects by Emma Donoghue
It’s more than ten. Of course it is. And this is not to be confused with my all-time Top Ten list (either the one from 2007 or the one from 2017).
What books have stayed with you over the years? Which authors do you follow faithfully, which ones have you parted ways with?