One book one community

An appeal to Nocturnal Librarian readers — what book has your community read that worked particularly well for discussions and programming? I’ve been on the Concord Reads community for a few years.  We’re starting earlier than usual on the book selection process for next fall’s community-wide read, which is good. But we have floated well over a dozen titles without any one gaining consensus so far.

So I thought I’d ask the blogging and blog-reading community. Has a recent “one book one community” read worked well in your town? What made it so great? Was there a flop?

The committee chair recently told me that our core demographic in recent years has been 50-something women. I’ve been advocating for a title that will appeal to teens as well as adults (not a YA book, but one that has crossover potential). Does your community read offer programming for various age groups? Are your area high schools participating? Do you get as many men as women turning out for your events?

For several years the committee in our city seemed to coalesce around a theme and then on a book. We’ve read about the locavore movement, refugees, and low wage jobs, for example. Does your group pick a theme or a book first?

Weigh in by commenting — and thanks for your input!

 

 

 

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All Hallow’s Read

It’s strange to me what a big deal Halloween has become. It’s now a major holiday for retailers, with a 2011 survey by the National Retail Federation estimating Americans spend $7 billion on the holiday (we’re not the only ones; this Ottawa Sun article notes Canadians spend about $300 each on Halloween).

I’m not that into it myself. But I like Neil Gaiman‘s idea, which he first posted on his blog in 2010: “I propose that, on Hallowe’en or during the week of Hallowe’en, we give each other scary books. Give children scary books they’ll like and can handle. Give adults scary books they’ll enjoy.”

This “modest proposal” has grown into All Hallow’s Read, a movement to give and read books for Halloween. If you’re not sure you like scary stories, widen your horizon a bit and read something that scares you but might not be filed under horror (political ads are certainly both plentiful and scary this year). For fans of teen dystopia, why not share Shirley Jackson‘s short fiction, including “The Lottery,” published in 1948. In 2010 The New Yorker called it  “perhaps the most controversial short story” the magazine has published. It won’t scare you in the slasher-film way; it’s thought-provokingly disturbing and something Hunger Games fans might appreciate.

Gaiman has posted lists of suggested books from various sources and for various ages as well as printables for celebrating All Hallow’s Read’s. One cool link:  print a mini book version of The Raven to fold and share. Which brings me to New Hampshire’s Big Read, organized by the NH Center for the Book as part of the National Endowment for the Arts Big Read program, and focused on the works of Edgar Allan Poe this fall. Find out more about Poe programming at libraries around the state here.

Sunshine on Book Mountain

Mountains in ancient times were considered the homes of gods, or places where man could draw near the divine. My brother sent me an article about a book mountain in the Netherlands which looks like heaven to me. 

Architecture firm MVRDV explains the way the 10 year project, actually named Book Mountain and Library Quarter Spijkenisse, ties into the town’s history and setting. They plan to release a book, Make Some Noise, in late 2012 that will be a “photo novel” about the project. The Library Quarter includes 42 apartments from studios to large family units. Can you imagine living here?

There are many more photos at both links above and at inhabit. Several comments at these sites mention sun being bad for books. On the project’s website the architects anticipate criticism on this point, noting, “damage to the books by sunlight is off-set by their normal 4 year life-span due to wear and tear from borrowing.”

Wow. Really? My unscientific research reveals that library books have expected lifespans of 25-50 check-outs (which shows that there isn’t much consensus on this topic). Mending keeps some books going longer. I am pretty sure 4 years is a low estimate. Does anyone know the average shelf-life of  books in your local library?

I don’t have any idea how much the sun damages books. But I looked up average annual hours of sunshine and Rotterdam, near Spijkenisse, averages 1542 hours, versus 2519 where I live in New Hampshire. For reference to notoriously rainy and sunny places, I found that London averages only about 1600 hours of sunshine a year and Seattle, 2019 hours; Miami, 2900 hours; San Diego, 2958 hours; Honolulu, 3041 hours.

Even New York City, which I would have guessed wasn’t particularly sunny since its weather is quite variable and it’s roughly in the middle of U.S. latitudes, averages 2677 hours. So if sunlight is detrimental to book life-span, Book Mountain might work better in Northern Europe than in many parts of the United States. I am stepping away from this post now, rather than spending the rest of my afternoon finding out which places in the U.S. have the least hours of annual sunshine. Because I’m tempted to look into that.

Movies and books

Last week’s Shelf Renewal web crush of the week is “Based on the Book” — a terrific project of the Mid-continent Public Library in Missouri. Last year when I worked in a college library I lamented the number of students who came to the reference desk asking for the movie versions of books they’d been assigned. I love movies, but I worried students were seriously missing out by not reading the books.

I still believe that, but of course it works the other way too — people read things they might not have because of interest in the adaptation.  I picked up Cloud Atlas like many other people after the film’s previews caused a buzz and a boost in the book’s sales. Both my teens are very excited about The Hobbit film and one of them is reading the book now. Both my husband and my daughter have read Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories as a result of enjoying adaptations of Sherlock Holmes on television or at the movies.

Sometimes I’ve sought out a book I hadn’t read before because I’ve enjoyed the Masterpiece version — for example, The Cranford Chronicles by Elizabeth Gaskell. I hope lots of people tuning in to Half the Sky on PBS this week will also read that very interesting, shocking, and uplifting book.

Even younger kids can enjoy the film-book connection and sometimes, a movie might be a fun incentive for encouraging a reluctant reader to finish a book. Kidsread.com’s “Books on Screen” is a good resource for the younger set.  For film buffs, arguing the merits of movies based on books is endless fun; this blog post by Beth Carswell at AbeBooks is a starting point for a discussion.

My town’s community wide read and our state Center for the Book’s “Big Read” based on the NEA program both incorporate films related to the book selection. I’ve often thought a summer program inviting teens to create short films (book trailers? 15 min. versions of classics? ) might be fun. Younger kids might like to make book/movie posters.

How does your library use films to drive interest in books? Do you create displays related to popular films? Host film/book discussions?

Books as social glue

Last week I attended a dinner and left with two book recommendations from the guest seated across from me. Today I had a physical; the nurse practitioner and I chatted about our teens and their reading habits. Yesterday my son told us about reading essay responses to his freshman class’s community read. He was amazed that professors at his new college disliked the book, as he did, and one of them swore.

Earlier in the summer at two different parties I discussed my disinterest in reading Fifty Shades of Grey (too many good books in my “to-read” piles to spend time on a fad). During summer shifts at my local indie bookstore, Gibson’s, I talk about books with everyone I meet. At my local library today I checked out The Art of Racing In the Rain and got into a discussion with two of the staff about books with dog narrators. Last weekend when we FaceTimed with our nieces and nephew, they told me what books they’d checked out at their library.

After church, in line at the grocery store, on a walk in my neighborhood, in doctors’ office waiting rooms, really anywhere, reading is easy to discuss. Books break the ice with someone you don’t know well, connect you with friends you haven’t seen in awhile, and work as conversation starters that transcend age, gender, experience, or other differences we humans use to define each other.

So if you, like me, find Facebook and Twitter interesting but not as much fun as talking to people, try the original social media: conversation. And for starters, bring up a good book.

A traveler’s tales

My family visited England and France with our son, who’d been in England on a Gap Year. Our 11 day whirlwind tour included London, Milton Keynes/Bletchley Park, Paris, Bath, Hayward’s Heath (West Sussex), and Brighton. Two days after we returned, my daughter and I headed to Washington, D.C. for a homeschool version of the 8th grade pilgrimmage to our nation’s capital, plus a visit with her young cousins, aunt, and uncle.

Along the way, I tried to note what people are reading and how. American and British readers have embraced Ipads and Kindles, although many are playing games rather than reading. I saw roughly 50% e-readers versus books.

In Paris, people were reading actual books. The parks were of French and international readers. An afternoon event at Shakespeare and Company drew a small crowd. I didn’t see a single e-reader all day.

In both the London Underground and the Paris Metro, poster-size ads for books were as prevalent as those for shows or films. Many of the London ads were for literary fiction. Fiction was the top choice of readers on trains and planes; people on e-readers are harder to spy on. I saw lots of adults reading The Hunger Games.

Train station and airport shops are heavily promoting the Fifty Shades of Grey books. In England, Diamond Jubilee titles celebrating Queen Elizabeth and books about the Olympics are also prominent. In Holland Park, where we stayed, Daunt Books had an enticing window filled with books I recognized and some I didn’t, and inside, one of the best selections of travel titles I’ve ever seen.

I visited a Waterstones, England’s biggest chain (which just agreed to carry Kindles). The staff there was knowledgeable and the display included some local authors and staff picks. Everything was clearly designed to feel like an independent store.

I also enjoyed popping into some of the ubiquitous charity shops selling used books (Oxfam, for example) and a half-price remainders bookshop in Bath. I wish I’d had time to check out libraries as well. In fact, I could plan an entire trip around libraries and bookstores . . . .

All the news that is fit to e-read

As a bibliophile and technology skeptic (hold your fire: I see many benefits, I’m just not convinced it’s always better), I was never very excited about e-books. I love the look and feel of physical books. I love owning books that belonged to earlier generations.

When e-readers became popular, I tried reading a few library books on an iPad. I wasn’t really impressed. Other than the fact that I could read without a book light, I didn’t really understand the appeal.

I fall firmly on the side of those who, like Canadian author and librarian Ian Colford, feel books are already good technology and that their existence as enduring objects is worthwhile. As Lev Grossman wrote so beautifully in the New York Times Book Review last fall, the codex, which allows nonlinear reading, is in many ways superior to the e-reader, which works more like a scroll.

But I am now e-reading daily. After a number of delivery problems and some number-crunching, I gave up home delivery of the New York Times in favor of a digital subscription. I don’t love it, but I can see a number of advantages beyond the obvious physical and financial benefits.

Although I’ll have fewer papers for mulching my garden, I can read news as its published, and it won’t be late, missing, or wet. From within an article, I can take links to videos and slide shows or read related blogs. I’m saving trees (although there is evidence that the environmental and human impact of iPad production isn’t so great), but I’m still supporting a newspaper whose writing I admire.

I realize my attachment to newsprint is partly sentimental. If you know of a good “clipping” app, please leave a comment. Meanwhile, I’ll be sipping my morning coffee, tapping a touch screen, missing the rustling of paper and my cat’s attempts to lie on whatever page I’m reading.