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When I was first learning to love reading, I stumbled upon the book TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD. As I was reading about Scout and her experiences, I realized that the world needs people who are not afraid to stand up and state their opinions. I decided I wanted to be like Atticus Finch or Scout in that I wanted to look for truth and talk about it. But how could I find truths and figure out what to actually stand up for and say? For that I turned to reading.

By reading books I learned about other people, cultures, ideas, and thoughts. I was able to see different perspectives and decipher reasons as to why people or characters did what they did. By devouring books—both fiction and nonfiction—I learned about thought process, consequences, and influence. I didn’t become an expert at stating my opinions right away. One of the best ways I developed this skill was by practicing talking about the books I was reading. I did this in book clubs, with friends or family members, or in class discussions at school. The more that I talked about character’s actions or motivations the better I was at discerning my own actions and motivations, which in turn helped me become better at stating my own opinions on various topics. As I read I began to see what type of person I wanted to become—how to react in certain situations or how to step back and see a broader perspective when I feel a certain way. The more I read and talked about books the better I became at not only discovering myself but showing who I wanted to be to the world. Reading helped me not only discover who I wanted to be but it also helped me share my truth with the world.

The Provo City Library has something to facilitate this journey of discovery and insight—to help people learn how to stand up and state their opinions: We have a collection of book club sets. In this collection, you can check out 15 copies of a book and a discussion guide to help you get going. When people read and talk about books, they discover that they too are leaders—Because Readers are Leaders.

tech savvy

Sometimes I feel like I bridge some interesting gaps in my marriage. My husband, a lover of all things technological, has fully moved into the 21st century and never looked back. While I try to join him in this brave new world, occasionally I fall behind and he likes to tease me for still belonging to the age of analog. Why buy sticky notes when you can just create a task list on your phone? Why are we keeping the kids’ school papers in binders when we can just save them to the cloud? Why are we turning on the lights with switches like animals when we could just get Alexa?

While some might think that libraries also belong in the bygone era, more and more I realize that the library is evolving right along with the rest of the world, in ways that surprise my tech-embracing spouse and others I tell. Here are a few examples of sarcastic questions my husband has posed over the years, and the surprising ways the library continues to solve our problems:

“Why are people still making CDs? Who even uses CDs anymore?”

Yeah, this one is irking, since I purchase all of the music CDs for the library’s collection, and I know that people are definitely still using CDs thank you very much. I may have uttered this last statement with my arms folded petulantly, to which he reluctantly agreed.

But then of course I remembered the library has also subscribed to Freegal, an online music streaming website where you can even download a few songs every week FOR KEEPSIES. Even if you don’t want to use CDs anymore, the library still has a way to bring you music for free.

“Why didn’t you just send me a link to the article… like a normal person?”

This one came after I brought home a photocopied article I had thought he would find interesting. He held the papers like I had handed him a discarded banana peel and asked me this question sarcastically. My husband is still alive because I knew he was joking (although he probably suffered a smack to the arm), but then I realized: I could have done just that.

The library subscribes to dozens of databases, including several that have newspaper articles and access to magazines. And even if I did find the article in one of our print magazines, I could have used the library’s scanner to quickly scan the article and email it to him for free. He could potentially never touch a paper again!

I heard about this cool book that Neil deGrasse Tyson wrote, do you think we have time to stop by Barnes and Noble?

He has only been married to a librarian for THE PAST 10 YEARS where I have access to free books on a daily basis, and I still get questions like this. But even when I have brought home books for him, too often I see them resting by the bed while he is off listening to a podcast and washing dishes (he may be snarky, but the man does dishes and laundry, I’m not complaining).

But of course, the library has an answer for even this situation with OverDrive, our database of downloadable e-books and audiobooks. You can download books anytime, day or night, and play them right from Overdrive’s new app, Libby. Now he can keep up with the latest books right alongside his podcasts and Reddit threads.

I hope I didn’t make him sound too snarky in this post, because he is actually delightful and these things he says are always meant in jest. But hey, if I can convince him that the library can still be a relevant part of his life in this new digital world, I can convince anyone!

book club 2

I recently shared my top five reasons for starting or joining a book club in 2018, and, as promised, I’m here today to share how to keep that club going strong. 

As I thought about things that help a book club succeed, I realized I had tips both for getting started and for keeping things going, so today we’ll focus on the former. It’s all too easy for a book club to drift out of existence when schedules, reading preferences, and inconsistency get in the way. Making these few key decisions ahead of time can make all the difference.

Decide ahead of time:

  1. Who to include in your book club
    This is probably the most important component of a successful book group. In my opinion, it’s best to keep things small if you want a lasting club, as larger groups tend to fall apart more easily because people don’t feel responsible to participate. My club, Team Don't Read Crappy Books, has ended up with nine members, which works well for us. As harsh as it sounds, it’s okay to bump people from the group if by the third meeting they haven’t read any books or participated in any meetings. You can always let them back in at a later time if they want to recommit (do I sound like a book club snob yet?).

    If your group is tight-knit, be sure everyone in the group is on board if you want to invite someone new to join later on. Longterm friends are your best bet, especially if they know multiple people in the club. Our group member who joined later is a cousin and roommate of one group member, an old friend of another, and had already met several of us. She's been a great addition who we were all comfortable with adding.

    More than anything, I encourage you to choose group members who are comfortable with similar levels of language and adult content as you are. It’s not at all necessary to have the same taste in book genres, but you’ll have a frustrating time trying to agree on books if some of your club members want only squeaky clean reads while others are comfortable with some dark or adult content. Think about what you’re comfortable reading (and what you aren’t okay with reading), and find group members who feel similarly. I promise it will make things easier. 

  2. How often you’ll meet
    My book club definitely struggles with this (balancing schedules is hard!), but we aim to meet every other month. It might help your group to have a set day of every month or every other month when you meet. If you’d like to use the Provo Library’s book club sets, you’ll want to meet every six weeks so that it’s easy to rotate sets. Whatever you choose, consistency is key. 

  3. How books will be chosen
    There are a few options for choosing what book you should read. Team Don’t Read Crappy Books rotates hosts, and the host chooses what we’ll read. This has worked well for us and has led to more variety in what we read. Another option is to choose as a group what you’ll read, which can work especially well if you’re checking out book club sets, as the more popular sets need to be reserved months in advance

    Like I mentioned above, it’s a good idea to know ahead of time what your group is comfortable reading. Lay the ground rules of what content you’re okay with in your very first meeting. It’s also a good idea to have a page number limit so that club members have enough time to finish the book before meeting. We’ve found a 500 page limit to be a good guideline, but we’re flexible about it. 

  4. How club members will get copies of the book
    Will one member of your club reserve, pick up, hand out, collect, and return a book club set from the library? Will that club member change each time or always be the same person? Will each member be responsible for buying or checking out their own book? Decide ahead of time how you want this to work. 

  5. How your club will communicate
    Team Don’t Read Crappy Books has a private Facebook group that is a perfect means of communicating for us. We use it to announce what we’ll be reading next, share pictures and happy news (book related or not), and decide when to meet. The polls feature is especially useful when we’re trying to figure out a meeting time that works for everyone. Facebook works for us, but group texts and emails are also good options.

podcasts

In The Best Book Related Podcasts—Part 1, I listed the best podcasts that discuss the book world such as buzzworthy new books, what to read next, and book club podcasts. For part two, I will be discussing podcasts that focus on stories. 

Storytelling has been around since the dawn of man. We all love stories. Stories ignite feelings and emotions without having to go anywhere or do anything. They appeal to the power of our imaginations, to our curiosity, and to our desire to know more. 

Unlike in Britain where the audio drama has been going strong for nearly a century, the audio storytelling resurgence in the U.S. has taken a while to get here—previously American audio dramas hit their high point between the 1920s and 40s before television took over. But with the innovation of the podcast and the ease with which we can now access them, the format has provided a platform for creators to produce compelling new audio dramas. Great audio storytellers don’t need an image because they possess an incredible ability to make you feel like you are there. Podcasts give us opportunities to revel in stories whether they are new creations or discussing our favorite printed stories such as Harry Potter or The Lord of the Rings. 

Below you will find a list of some of the best podcasts that appeal to our love of stories. Though, if none of these appeal to you, there are hundreds more out there! 

black tapesThe Black Tapes

Schedule: Bi-monthly 

The Black Tapes is a fictional, docu-drama podcast brought to you by Pacific Northwest Stories, a former radio show that now functions as a podcast network. Hosted by Alex Reagan, The Black Tapes is a serialized story about “one journalist’s search for the truth, her subject’s mysterious past, and the literal and figurative ghosts that haunt them both.” 

This podcast is just finishing up its third season, so you may want to go back and start at the beginning. 

If you like The Black Tapes, be sure to check out their other productions like Tanis

 

harry potter and the sacred textsHarry Potter and the Sacred Text

Schedule: Weekly 

The world just can’t get enough of Harry Potter since the first book was released 20 years ago. People have grown up loving these stories. In Harry Potter and the Sacred Text podcast, hosts Vanessa Zoltan and Casper ter Kuile reread a chapter of the series each episode (beginning with book one) and then discuss in relation to a theme or moral issue they have picked out. Themes include concepts like commitment, loyalty, hospitality, forgiveness, escape, belonging, shame, control, and more. It’s the meaningful conversations you didn't know you craved about Harry Potter. 

So far the podcast is in its fourth season with each season devoted to one book. Start at the beginning or dive right in. 

If you love Harry Potter, but this doesn’t sound like your cup of tea, then be sure to check out MuggleCast, the most listened-to Harry Potter podcast on the web. 

 

home frontHome Front

Schedule: Daily 

Home Front, produced by BBC Radio 4 is a British radio drama that began August 4, 2014 which was exactly 100 years after the beginning of World War I. Each episode is set exactly one hundred years before the day of the broadcast and tells the story of World War I from the perspective of those affected by it in wartime Britain. Part of the BBC’s World War I centenary season, the radio drama is planned to run until November 11, 2018, one hundred years after the Armistice. 

Each episode is about 12 minutes long and focuses on a single character's point of view as they progress, day by day through the war. Though, the characters and stories are fictional, it is firmly rooted in the actual events of Great Britain during the First World War. 

 

the messageThe Message

8 episodes published in 2015
Schedule: Weekly 

Looking for something a little shorter to test the podcast waters? The Message is an eight episode scripted podcast in the style of an old radio drama. It follows “the weekly reports and interviews from Nicky Tomalin, who is covering the decoding of a message from outer space received 70 years ago. Over the course of 8 weeks, listeners follow a team of top cryptologists as they attempt to decipher, decode, and understand the alien message.” 

The Message is a science fiction podcast co-produced by Panoply and GE Podcast Theater. If you subscribe to the podcast, you will also get bonus production, LifeAfter, a 10 episode scripted show. 

 

selected shortsSelected Shorts

Schedule: Weekly

Produced by Symphony Space, a multi-disciplinary performing arts center in New York City and distributed by Public Radio International, Selected Shorts is a carefully curated selection of spellbinding short stories written by established and emerging writers which take on a new life when they are performed by a variety of recognizable stars of the stage and screen. The show is recorded live at Peter Norton Symphony Space in New York City and also goes on tour. 

 

there and back againThere and Back Again

Schedule: Weekly 

Originally produced by StoryWonk and now transferred to Point North Media, story expert Alastair Stephens dives deep into the pages of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. Delightful, insightful and funny, this podcast is great for both lifelong fans and those new to the fantasy series. 

Point North Media also offers Dear Mr. Potter, an extremely close reading of the series. You might also want to consider StoryWonk’s back log of podcasts dedicated to Pride and Prejudice, Star Wars, Outlander, and more. 

 

the truthThe Truth

Schedule: Bi-monthly 

One of the longest running podcasts on this list, The Truth was ahead of its time in 2012 when it set out to revitalize the audio drama for a new generation. The show features dramatic short stories that combine great writing with feeling performances and subtle sound effects. Its tagline is “movies for your ears.” Every story is different, and they're usually around 10 to 20 minutes long. From an alternative history trip to the moon, to the death of Edgar Allen Poe, The Truth’s subject matter has always been very eclectic. 

 

welcome to night valeWelcome to Night Vale 

Schedule: Bi-monthly

Taking the form of a darkly funny radio show, Welcome to Night Vale is a serial podcast about the fictional desert town of Night Vale where every conspiracy theory is true. The town plays host to ghosts, aliens and a whole host of other shadowy characters. 

Where other audio dramas usually contain a full cast of actors, Night Vale is performed by one narrator with some sound effects. If you like suspense and horror mixed with humor, Welcome to Night Vale is the podcast for you. The show has also been converted into two novels, WELCOME TO NIGHT VALE and IT DEVOURS! which can be checked out from the library. 

 

wynebago warriorWynabego Warrior

Schedule: Monthly 

In one of the only audio comedies on this list, this is the tale of John Waynnabe who yearns to live in the old west he remembers from the silver screen of his youth. One day he decides to trade in his old beat up Pinto and hit the road in search of that life, heading west, in a Winnebago R.V. where he looks for people in need of help. The story is full of peril and danger, redemption, and renewal and is sure to appeal of fans of adventure stories and westerns.

 

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