The American Library Association recently released their picks for notable books in 2015. I’m adding pretty much all of these to my “To-be-read” pile (and putting them on hold at the library) – maybe you’ll want to, too! Here are a few that I found especially intriguing:
All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
Several patrons and friends have told me that this is one of the best historical fiction novels that they’ve read this year – I’m excited to find out for myself.
The Children Act by Ian McEwan
Sadly, I have yet to finish an Ian McEwan novel, despite his reputation as a masterful storyteller. I think I’ll have to give another try with this book, though.
The Crane Wife by Patrick Ness
I love Ness’ other books (especially A Monster Calls) but I’ve never read one of his adult novels. I will probably listen to the Decemberist’s album of the same name while I’m at it.
Station Eleven: A Novel by Emily St. John Mandel
I love everything apocalyptic, and this one has been described to me by other BPL colleagues as “apocalypse light.” I can’t wait to see what that means!
Are there any other books on ALA’s list that you’re looking forward to or have already enjoyed? Leave us a comment and share your thoughts!
“The Martian” opens with a freak dust storm, forcing manned Mars Mission Ares 3 to cut its journey short. Astronaut Mark Watney is pierced by debris while his crew scrambles to the safety of their spacecraft. When his vital signs flat-line, the crew makes the difficult decision to embark for Earth without him. But after a miraculous turn of events, Watney recovers to find himself alone on the red planet. Traveling to Mars takes years, so it’s likely that he will starve or succumb to the harsh, unforgiving conditions of his new home before a rescue mission arrives. No danger of that, though, because why would NASA rescue a dead guy?
Through a series of journal entries riddled with humorous commentary, readers learn that Watney is the mission’s fix-it man, in addition to a botanist and a snarky (yet cautious) optimist. Watney overcomes setbacks with the resourcefulness of TV’s MacGyver, using his meager assortment of supplies and raw materials to improve his chances of survival. From supplementing his food by farming potatoes to making water out of thin air, Watney shows again and again that while he was one of the first astronauts to walk on Mars, he’s not ready to be the first to die there. That is, if he doesn’t die by overexposure to the cheesy 1970s sitcoms and disco music that the crew commander left behind.
Watney’s sense of humor turns this tale of survival into something new and unique. It’s more lighthearted than one might expect, and while some may find that refreshing, the cheerful quips occasionally struck me as unrealistic given the circumstances. Author Andy Weir’s language and format make the scientific elements comprehensible to nonscience geeks (like me), although I found myself skimming through lengthy descriptions to get back to the action.
Overall, excitement and laugh-out-loud dialogue make this novel an excellent pick for general fiction readers as well as thrill-seekers. Die-hard science fiction fans will especially appreciate Weir’s technical writing. (Please note that strong language laces Watney’s journal entries and may not appeal to everyone.)
It’s something of a miracle that Weir, a computer programmer by trade, crafted a debut novel that crawled its way from self-published anonymity to the desk of director Ridley Scott. Scott’s proven success with “Alien” and “Gladiator” foretells that the forthcoming film may prove to be a 2015 blockbuster. Don’t wait for the movie release, though; get your hands on the book everyone will be talking about before it hits the big screen. In the meantime, check out these similar titles available at Skagit libraries: The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury; The Martian Race by Gregory Benford; and I Am Legend by Richard Matheson.
Note: I originally wrote this review for On Our Shelves, a weekly column in the Skagit Valley Herald. Read the Sunday edition to check out what library staff around the county are reading.
I may be biased, but I can think of no better way to relax than getting lost in a great book (I am a librarian, after all). However, in a world full of distractions, social media notifications, and text message pings, the traditional way of reading may be suffering – and so is one’s ability to comprehend and enjoy text.
According to an article in the Wall Street Journal, silent reading parties are springing up around the world in an attempt to return to uninterrupted reading. Readers such as those in Wellington, New Zealand turned to the idea after realizing how fractured their reading habits had become due to technological distractions. Research of screen reading patterns reveals that skimming and skipping through text (as one often does when reading an online source) results in lower rates of comprehension. When we bring these habits to the page, we are losing out on many of the benefits and pleasures of reading.
Research also shows that an action as simple as turning off a cell phone and reading for just a half hour can help readers reduce stress, enhance concentration and comprehension skills, and build empathy. This article spoke to me as I considered the New Year and the practice of making New Year’s resolutions. Does cutting stress and making time to relax resonate with you and your own goals for 2015? It certainly does for me.
The Library invites you to take a step to reduce stress and escape the distractions by sitting down with a book on Saturday, January 24 for National Readathon Day. Readers around the country will be slowing down between the hours of noon and 4pm and enjoying quiet time with a book. Tell us what you’re reading on Facebook or Twitter (when you’re done reading, of course) with the hashtag #timetoread for a chance to win a gift certificate to Easton’s Books. What better way to relax, connect with a community of readers, AND add some books to your to-read pile?
National Readathon Day is the first in a series of events for adults to participate in during the Winter Adult Reading Months (W.A.R.M.). Throughout January, February, and March, participants (age 19 and over) are invited to take on reading challenges, review books, and attend talks on comic books, political cartooning, and more. Participants are eligible for prizes including a Kindle Fire, gift certificates to Easton’s Books and Chuckanut Manor, and book gift baskets. All W.A.R.M. events are offered at no charge thanks to support from the Friends of the Burlington Library. Don’t let the dreary winter months get you down – warm up with books and more at the Burlington Public Library.
Wishing you a year of happiness and great books!
Whoever said that reading books is relaxing didn’t realize how much effort it takes to hold your book open. When I really get into a book, I won’t put it down for hours in a row, and holding the pages open for that long gets tiring for my fingers!
A book enthusiast from Madrid was getting tired of the strain, and came up with a crafty solution! She made a ring that goes around your thumb, and supports the pages on either side while you read.
What do you think? Is this something you’d try? Would you ever consider using a tablet to reduce the finger-strain?
Filed under Books, Reading
With or Without You, by Dominica Ruta
This best-selling memoir is being compared to Jeannette Walls’ The Glass Castle, A Girl Named Zippy, by Haven Zimmel, and James Frey’s A Million Little Pieces. Ruta grew up north of Boston, with a mother that began sharing her addiction to Oxycontin with her when Ruta was a teenager. If you like the reading about the challenges of dysfunctional family and addiction, this is one to watch for.
Untouchable, The Strange Life and Tragic Death of Michael Jackson, by Randall Sullivan
What is it about Michael Jackson that continues to fascinate us? Here is a hefty tome “of unprecedented depth” by a former editor for Rolling Stone magazine. Pages of photographs completes the work.
How to Travel the World on $50 a Day, by Matt Kepnes
Can’t afford to travel, you say? Learn the tricks of free airfare and much more in this book by a long-time travel blogger. Great way to stoke your daydreams.
I admit it: I have a bias towards browsing (for books, not for web content). When a patron bustles up to the desk, asks for and is given the one title they’ve come to get, and speeds out the door, I feel a little melancholy. Of course I’m glad they came to their library, wanted a book, and found what they needed. But…. whatever happened to coming to the library and leisurely grazing your way through shelves familiar and new? The surprising find in subjects you’d never thought to look for. The new favorite author discovered you’d never even heard of. The synchronicity of a book seeming to spring from the shelf and land in your hand, which turns out to be exactly what you needed at that moment in life.
To me, browsing is a veritable act of faith in a universe conspiring for your benefit. It speaks to a different age, in which we moved less quickly and were more receptive in general.
All these nostalgic thoughts were prompted by a lovely article in The New Yorker by Claire Barliant called The Art of Browsing. She says “Browsing is fundamentally an act of independence, of chasing your own idiosyncratic whims rather than clicking on Facebook links or the books recommended by some greedy algorithm.”
How about you? Are you a browser, past or present? Do you teach your children to look through bookshelves with an open mind and heart?
Here are a few books we have on order for you to look forward to:
Lifesaving Lessons: Notes from an Accidental Mother, by Linda Greenlaw
You may recognize this author’s name: she’s the first female swordfish boat captain in the U.S., and was made famous in The Perfect Storm. In this book she faces another sort of storm, when an abused teenager shows up on her island and she ends up taking the teen in.
Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Industry Hooked Us, by Michael Moss
New York Times Pulitzer-winning reporter takes on America’s most widespread addiction. How did it start, what are the results, and what can we do? If you can’t keep your hands off those french fries or Snickers bars, this will show you why.