Shaina

  • 6 degrees header 01

    Ever wonder how librarians hone their recommendation skills? Sometimes, our librarians play a game we call the 6 Degrees of reading. The rules are simple: choose six books, each connected somehow to the book above it, with the last book in the list connecting to the first. Periodically, we like the results enough to share them with you.

    Today's books: Housemaids and housemates. 

    housemaids and house mates

    SHE WALKS IN BEAUTY
    by Siri Mitchell
    (2010)

    In this Christian historical romance set in the Gilded Age, Clara Carter’s father insists that she marry New York’s most eligible bachelor, the De Vries heir.  When Franklin De Vries and his brother return early from Europe, Clara receives a crash course in etiquette and appearances, only to discover that she may not want what her family wants for her.

    MAID TO MATCH
    by Deeanne Gist
    (2010)

    Told from the perspective of a housemaid, this Christian historical romance set in the Gilded Age goes behind the scenes at Biltmore Estate.  Tillie Reese is thrilled to work at the largest private home in the country and aspires to become a lady’s maid, but an attractive footman may get in the way.

    LONGBOURN
    by Jo Baker
    (2014)

    Though readers may think they are familiar with Longbourn and the Bennet family, Jo Baker’s retelling of PRIDE AND PREJUDICE shares an entirely new story.  Told from the perspective of housemaid Sarah, Longbourn goes behind the scenes to explore class issues.

    THE SECRET DIARY OF LIZZIE BENNET
    by Bernie Su and Kate Rorick
    (2014)

    More than just a retelling of PRIDE AND PREJUDICE, this novelization is an adaptation of an adaptation (wrap your head around that!).  For viewers who just couldn’t get enough of The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, Bernie Su and Vlog Brother Hank Green’s Emmy Award winning YouTube series, The Secret Diaries of Lizzie Bennet reveals more about Lizzie’s adventures in grad school, at home with her two sisters, and at Pemberley Digital.

    THE FAULT IN OUR STARS
    by John Green
    (2014)

    John Green, the second half of the YouTube’s Vlog Brothers, based this tale of teen cancer and love in part on the experiences of real life cancer patient Esther Earl.  In THE FAULT IN OUR STARS (which takes its title from William Shakespeare’s JULIUS CAESAR), Sixteen year old Hazel attends a cancer support group where she meets Augustus Waters, a fellow cancer patient who will change her life forever.

    A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM
    by William Shakespeare
    (Sometime between 1590 and 1597)

    One of William Shakespeare’s most popular comedies, A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM describes a series of mishaps during a night in an enchanted forest. Hermia’s father insists that she marry Demetrius even though she loves Lysander.  Her best friend Helena, meanwhile, loves Demetrius with all her heart and is crushed that he has rejected her.  When mischievous fairies interfere, hilarious chaos ensues. 

  • Ever wonder how librarians hone their recommendation skills? Sometimes, our librarians play a game we call the 6 Degrees of reading. The rules are simple: choose six books, each connected somehow to the book above it, with the last book in the list connecting to the first. Periodically, we like the results enough to share them with you.

    So, with no further ado, we bring you 6 Degrees of Reading, Abusive Sisters and Spinsters edition.

    PERSUASION
    by Jane Austen
    (1818)

    Eight years earlier, Anne Elliot’s friends and family convinced her to break off her engagement to Frederick Wentworth.  Now 27 years old and considered a spinster, Anne divides her time between her father and sisters, all of whom use and abuse her.  When Anne is reunited with Captain Wentworth, she feels the full weight of her regret.

    THE HIDING PLACE
    by Corrie ten Boom
    (1984)

    Corrie Ten Boom never expected to be a political prisoner; the youngest daughter in a large, religious family, she lived an uneventful life.  Corrie, a self-described spinster, worked in her father’s watch repair shop and helped around the house.  During the Nazi invasion, however, she and her family leave their peaceful lives behind, joining the Dutch Resistance and housing runaway Jews.

    AUDREY HEPBURN: AN ELEGANT SPIRIT
    by Sean Hepburn Ferrer
    (2005)

    Written by her oldest son, Sean, this biography follows Audrey from her boarding school days in London, through her teen years spent carrying messages and performing fundraising ballets for the Dutch Resistance during World War II, and into her early adulthood as an aspiring actress.  Ferrer understandably focuses in particular on Hepburn’s later experiences not only as a movie star but as a loving mother of two sons and on her extensive work with UNICEF.

    SOMEDAY, SOMEDAY, MAYBE
    by Lauren Graham
    (2014) 

    When I saw that Lauren Graham, known for her roles on Gilmore Girls and Parenthood (two of my favorite shows), had published a book, I knew I had to read it.  Someday, Someday, Maybe follows young, aspiring actress Franny Banks, named after a character in her deceased mother’s favorite book, as she tries to establish her career in New York.

    ROSE DAUGHTER 
    by Robin McKinley
    (1997)

    Robin Mckinley earned widespread acclaim for her first Beauty and the Beast retelling, Beauty, and her Newberry Award Winning fantasy novel, The Hero and the Crown.  Fewer readers are familiar with this second fairytale retelling of Beauty and the Beast, however.  Beauty, whose mother died years before, lives with her merchant father and sisters.  After losing all their money, the family moves to Rose Cottage, where Beauty discovers a deep love for roses and gardening.  Her father sets off to remake his fortune, but he ends up making a terrible bargain with a beast within a hidden castle.

    ELLA ENCHANTED
    by Gail Carson Levine
    (1997)

    In this fairytale retelling, Ella of Frell lives with a terrible curse of obedience placed on her in childhood.  As she befriends elves, conquers ogres, outsmarts the stepmother and stepsisters who use and abuse her, and falls in love, Ella never loses her spunk or her determination to break the curse.

  •  picking favorites

    Today's a very special day, and you might not even know it! It's International Book Lovers Day! Given that this is one of the happiest days of the year, we've been brainstorming the best ways to celebrate. Here are a few suggestions:

    1. Read something, of course!

    2. Read to a child.

    3. Have a child read to you.

    4. Start a book club.

      Book Clubbin
      Source

    5. Reserve a book club set for your brand new club. 

    6. Check out a book from the library.

    7. Donate books you no longer want to the library. If we can’t add them to the library collection, we sell them in our book store and all profits go to library programming.

    8. Write a review of a book you love on Amazon. Reader reviews can make a big difference in an author's career.

    9. If you don't already have one, open a Goodreads account to keep track of what you've read and what you want to read.

    10. Follow our children's or teen and adult staff review blogs.

    11. Fill out a personalized reading recommendation form on our website and we'll recommend books just for you!

    12. Make plans to meet an author and get a book signed at one of our many upcoming AuthorLink events.

    13. Skim a review journal like Kirkus, Library Journal, Publishers Weekly, or The New York Times Book Review to find your next great read.

    14. If you have kids, add story time to your fall schedule. It starts up again on August 28th!

    15. Sniff a book.You know you want to.
      Rory Gilmore
      Source

    16. Have a favorite genre? Check out our adult, teen, and children’s booklists for recommendations.

    17. Visit our Read-alikes page to find authors who are similar to your favorites

    18. Reread a book that always makes you cry. It’s cathartic.

    19. Set up an Overdrive account if you haven’t already! We have hundreds of ebooks and eAudiobooks for you to check out.

    20. Think audiobooks readers are too slow? Listen to audiobooks on Overdrive at whatever pace you’d like – even chipmunk-speed double time.

    21. Download Libby to your smartphone and test it out. Overdrive will be phasing out its old app soon in favor of this new, easier-to-use app.

    22. Don’t feel like you have enough time to read? Try a graphic novel.

    23. Read an award-winning book.
      Newbery  
      Caldecott 
      Printz 
      National Book Award 
      Nebula 
      Pulitzer 

    24. Or, read a Goodreads Choice book selected by fellow readers. Make sure to vote for your 2017 favorites at the end of the year!

    25. Cuddle your pet while reading.

      Gloomy Days are the Best
      Image by Cat Versus Human

    26. Ask a librarian for a book recommendation.

    27. Visit a used bookstore like Pioneer Book.

    28. Learn a new skill from a nonfiction book.

    29. Try your hand at writing a book.

    30. Sign up for NaNoWriMo and commit to write an entire novel in November.

    31. Use Novelist to find books you might like.

    32. Does your place of employment have a waiting room? Stock it with books, including picture books for young readers.

    33. Is the library missing a book you’d like to read? Submit a purchase request, and we might just buy it.

    34. Or, see if we can borrow it from another library for you. It's free!
    35. Some books always seeem to be checked out. Place one on hold to make sure you're next in line!

    36. Take a look at our librarians’ favorite children’s, teen, and adult books from last year, and make plans to attend next year’s Best Books program in February

    37. Set aside a specific amount of time each day for reading.

    38. Give a book as a gift.

    39. Learn about our early literacy workshops for children ages 2-3 and their parents/caregivers.
       
    40. Create a cozy reading spot in your home.

      Reading nook
      Source

    41. Try reading a book in a format you don’t usually use – eBooks, digital audiobooks, books on cd, or maybe even a printed book.

    42. Read a book from an unfamiliar genre.

    43. If you’re a teen, sign up for our Teen Volunteer Board. You can help make the library even better!

    44. Did you know the Provo City Libray and the Orem Public Library have a reciprocal agreement where their patrons can use both libraries? Get a library card at the Orem Library if you don’t already have one, and double your library options!

    45. Plan to bring your children to Library Kids for books and literacy-based crafts and activities.

    46. Make sure your kids see you reading for fun. They're more likely to love reading if they know you do.

    47. Register for Parent/Child Book Clubs in September.

    48. Watch a film adaptation of a great book.

    49. Read the book one of your favorite film adaptations is based on.

    50. Sign up for a library tour to learn about the fascinating history of this beautiful building or about how to use the library more effectively. 

      Library at Dusk Summer 019.2

    51. Know a Provo resident who doesn’t have a library card? Encourage them to get one by sharing what you love about the library and how easy it is to set up an account.

    52. Reread your favorite parts of your favorite book.

    53. Finally pick up that classic book you’ve been meaning to read for years.

    54. Have a struggling reader at home? Have them read to a pet.

    55. Or a stuffed animal.

    56. If you have kids age 4 and younger, pledge to read 1000 books with them before kindergarten

    57. Recommend a book to a friend.

    58. Build your home library by buying a book you love.

    59. Volunteer to read to seniors at a retirement home.

    60. Encourage your children to talk about what they’re reading by asking lots of open-ended questions.

    61. Read the books your children love to make these conversations even better.

    62. Gather friends and family for silent reading time.

    63. Set a reading goal for the rest of the year.

    64. Carry a book with you all day.

    65. Become a #bookstagrammer.

      Essays by E.B. WhiteImage by @oliverskywolfoliverskywolf

    66. Upcycle a book into art.

    67. Buy a book for $2 at our used bookstore.

    68. Revisit a childhood favorite.

    69. Visit Buzzfeed to take endless “which book character are you?” quizzes.

    70. Plan a literary-themed Halloween costume.

    71. Start a little free library.

    72. Tuck a friendly note into a book donation for the person who buys it.

    73. Make a new recipe from a cookbook.

    74. Reorganize your bookshelves.

    75. Run out of shelf space? Buy and set up a new bookshelf. You can never have too many.
      Not Enough Bookshelves

     

  •  Funny Television

    There are a lot of good reasons to read, and many of them are important reasons: it develops empathy, it encourages creativity, it makes you a more informed and thoughtful citizen, it reduces stress, it builds your critical thinking skills, etc. All of that is wonderful, but there's another, often ignored reason why reading a lot is great - it makes pop culture more fun.

    Once you start watching for them, you'll notice literary references all over the place, and one of my favorite feelings is watching a sitcom and catching a joke I would have missed if I hadn't read a particular book recently. These are just a few of my favorite bookish jokes from recent TV shows.

    NEW GIRL (Episode 1.21 "Kids")

    Referencing: BRIDGE TO TERABITHIA
    By Katherine Paterson
    (1977)

    Jess's day bonding with her boyfriend's daughter is ruined thanks to Nick.

     New Girl 2

     
     

    PARKS AND RECREATION (Episode 6.8 "Flouride")

    Referencing: MOBY DICK
    By Herman Melville
    (1851)

    Chris reads too much into Ron's woodworking lesson.

     
     

    BROOKLYN 99 (Episode 1.15 "Operation: Broken Feather")

    Referencing: OTHELLO
    By William Shakespeare
    (1622)

    Amy reveals that she's considering a job in another precint, and Jake feels betrayed.

    Brooklyn 99

     
     

    HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER (Episode 7.3 “Ducky Tie”)

    Referencing: THE MILLENNIUM TRILOGY
    By Stieg Larsson
    (2008 - 2010)

    Ted: Oh, guess who I ran into. A girl from my past. Any guesses?

    Lily: Stella.

    Barney: Zoey

    Marshall: Karen?

    Lily: The girl who beat you up.

    Barney: The girl who ruined a photo with Slash!

    Marshall: The girl who made you get the butterfly tattoo?

    Ted: You make it sound like I've dated a series of Stieg Larsson novels.

     
     

    THE MINDY PROJECT (Episode 1.4 "Halloween)

    Referencing: TINKER TAILOR SOLDIER SPY
    By John Le Carré
    (1974)

    Hoping to impress her new boyfriend, Mindy dresses in a series of punny Halloween costumes.

    Tinkerbell

    Tinkerbell Tailor Soldier Spy  
     
     

    Referencing: HARRY POTTER AND THE SORCERER'S STONE
    By J.K. Rowling
    (1997)

    Dirty Harry Potter

    Dirty Harry Potter
      

    Referencing: LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE
    By Laura Ingalls Wilder
    (1935)

    Lil Wayne on the Prairie

     Lil' Wayne on the Prairie 
     

    THE GOOD PLACE (Episode 1.3 "Tahani Al-Jamil")

    Referencing: The works of Plato and Aristotle

    Chidi spends weeks trying to teach Eleanor the history of philosophy, hoping that an understanding of ethics will help her keep her spot in The Good Place. Unfortunately, it doesn't seem to be sinking in.

    Plato

     

    GILMORE GIRLS (Episode 4.22 "Raincoats and Recipes")

    Referencing: THE LORD OF THE RINGS
    By J.R.R. Tolkien
    (1954)

    Lorelai’s not sure if her “will-they-won’t they” relationship with Luke has actually turned into something after he’s asked her to a movie and to his sister’s wedding.

    Bonus joke: In Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life, Rory has taken on running the Star's Hollow Gazette only to find the staff aren't especially efficient. When Ethel refuses to answer the phone because she's busy with paperwork, Rory replies: “I don’t want to say you’ve been filing that same piece of paper for a long time, but when you started, Nora Ephron felt good about her neck.”

     
     

    FRIENDS (Episode 3.13 "The One Where Monica and Richard are Just Friends")

    Referencing: LITTLE WOMEN
    By Louisa May Alcott
    (1868)

    Referencing: THE SHINING
    By Stephen King
    (1977)

    After Rachel finds Joey's copy of THE SHINING in the freezer (where he puts it when things get too scary), they agree to swap favorite books. She'll read THE SHINING if he'll read LITTLE WOMEN.

    Scary Little

     
     

    Things are going great until Joey accidentally reveals major spoilers.

    Friends

     
     
    Once again, things get a little too scary.

     

    UNBREAKABLE KIMMY SCHMIDT (Episode 1.11 "Kimmy Rides a Bike!"

    Referencing: THE ANDROMEDA STRAIN
    By Michael Crichton
    (1969)

    "Reverend" Richard Wayne Gary Wayne unexpectedly wins over the jury while on trial for Kimmy's kidnapping.

    Good Book

     
     
  •  Book giving 1

    So far we've shared some great reads that came out this year for adults (Fiction, More Fiction, Nonfiction), but we can't forget about the kids! Here are a few of the best new picture books for the little readers you love.

    For the kid (or kid at heart) in your life who:

     

    Is a master at bedtime avoidance-

    12.20 Dont BlinkDON’T BLINK
    By Amy Krouse Rosenthal
    Illustrated by David Roberts

    Have you ever tried that trick of trying NOT to close your eyes as a way to feel sleepy? This clever picture book is built on that idea. Every time you blink, you have to turn the page, and soon enough, you (and any reading buddies) will be fast asleep. 

     
     

    Is working through big feelings-

    12.20 The Rabbit ListenedTHE RABBIT LISTENED
    By Cori Doerrfeld
    (2018)

    When tragedy strikes, Taylor’s friends have all kinds of suggestions on how to feel better – shouting, hiding, rebuilding – but Taylor doesn’t need suggestions. What he needs is company and a listening ear. With sweet illustrations, this picture book is a great primer on helping others (and ourselves) in hard moments. 

     
     

    Is secretly an artist (and doesn't even know it)-

    12.20 SquareSQUARE
    By Mac Barnett
    Illustrated by Jon Klassen
    (2018)

    Barnett and Klassen are a beloved picture book duo, and for good reason. Their spare pictures and text are deceptively simple and always hilarious. SQUARE will have you laughing out loud and wondering what it really means to be an artist. 

     
     

    Sometimes wonders how to make friends-

    12.20 Drawn TogetherDRAWN TOGETHER
    By Minh Lê
    Illustrated by Dan Santat
    (2018)

    A young American boy has a hard time relating to his Thai grandfather; they like different shows, eat different food, and can’t even speak the same language. When they discover their shared love for drawing, however, a whole new world of communication opens up to them. 

     
     

    Loves to chat (but not always listen)-

    12.20 Wordy BirdyWORDY BIRDY
    By Tammi Sauer 
    Illustrated by Dave Mottram 
    (2018)

    Wordy Birdy has lots to say, so much that she doesn’t let anyone else get a word in. When there’s a bear on the loose, that chattiness gets her in trouble. This picture book’s a great reminder that talking is great, as long as we listen too.  

     
     

    Doesn’t usually see their life in picture books-

    12.20 LoveLOVE
    By Matt de la Peña
    Illustrated by Loren Long
    (2018)

    You might expect a picture book called LOVE to be saccharine, but this new release is honest as well as touching. De la Peña and Long show that love has a million faces (some expected, others surprising) and that sometimes it’s pain that reveals them. 

     
  •  Judging a Book By Its Cover 628

    A while back, I shared one of my favorite librarian hobbies – spotting copycat book covers. Since then, I’ve kept an eagle eye out for more, and I’ve discovered a surprising and strangely specific trend in 2017 and 2018 cover art: the shiny bug.

    This past publishing year has produced a handful of gorgeous covers featuring intricate, stylized, metallic insects. It’s an unlikely trend, but a beautiful one.

    10.12 Dreadful Young LadiesDREADFUL YOUNG LADIES: AND OTHER STORIES
    By Kelly Barnhill
    (2018)

     

    10.12 Strange the DreamerSTRANGE THE DREAMER
    By Laini Taylor
    (2017) 

     

    10.12 Bruja BornBRUJA BORN
    By Zoraida Cordova
    (2018)

     

    10.12 The Moth PresentsTHE MOTH PRESENTS ALL THESE WONDERS
    By Catherine Burns
    (2017)

     

    Like just about everything, book cover art follows trends (we’re capitalists, y’all). In the 80s and 90s, chick lit, with its pastel illustrations, dominated YA.  During my teen years in the early 2000s, it was all about bright, solid colors, à la THE PRINCESS DIARIES and SISTERHOOD OF THE TRAVELING PANTS (tangent, but Rachel Hawkins recent book ROYALS seems to harken back to that style). More recently, books like THE LUXE and THE SELECTION spawned a seemingly endless parade of ball gown-centric cover art.

    So where’d all these glittery bugs come from? I see it as part of a larger trend that I’m pretty jazzed about:  a move away from depicting characters and towards gorgeous lettering. I’ve written about a few of my favorite covers in this style before, and I plan to share more soon.

    So, what are some of your favorite book covers? Have you noticed any recent trends in cover art?

  •  Do you love art? Do you love books? Well, then this post is for you.

    In my recent online wanderings, I've stumbled across a variety of incredible book sculptures. By folding, curling, cutting, and reshaping pages, artists transform old books into gorgeous works of art that celebrate literature.

    Since the book sale is this Saturday, I thought I'd share this artform with you. In addition to finding your next read there, it's a chance to buy dozens of inexpensive, used books for craft and art projects. Why not upcycle a dated textbook into a whimsical piece of art?

    Here are a few of my favorites as inspiration:

    PETER PAN
    by MarielleJL

    Sculpture Peter Pan

     

    TREASURE ISLAND
    By PagesReimagined

    Sculpture Treasure Island 2 

     

    A TREE GROWS IN BROOKLYN
    By LitArTure

    Sculpture A Tree Groes in Brooklyn

     

    PRIDE AND PREJUDICE
    by WetCanvasArt

    Sculpture Pride and Prejudice

     

    HARRY POTTER
    By MalenaValcarcel

    Sculpture Harry Potter 1

     

    And a little more HARRY POTTER
    By StorybookSculpture

    Sculpture Harry Potter 2

     

    ALICE'S ADVENTURES IN WONDERLAND
    By WetCanvasArt

    Sculpture Alice in Wonderland

     

    And in case you need a hat for the Mad Hatter's Tea Party
    By WetCanvasArt

     Sculpture Hat

     

    GILEAD
    By WordsInk

     Scupture Gilead

     

    THE LION, THE WITCH, AND THE WARDROBE
    By WordsInk

    Sculpture The Lion The Witch and The Wardrobe

     

    THE KITE RUNNER
    By WordsInk

    Sculpture The Kite Runner

     

    DON QUIXOTE
    By ThePoetTrees

    Sculpture Don Quixote

     

    CINDERELLA
    By StorybookSculpture

    Sculpture Cinderella

     

    And a lovely nook for reading them in
    By MalenaValcarcel

    Sculpture Book Nook

     

    Aren’t they beautiful? In case you’re feeling inspired to try your hand at artistic book upcycling, Provo Library also has several instruction books that can help.

    Altered ArtALTERED ART FOR THE FIRST TIME
    By Madeline Arendt
    (2005)

     

     

     

     

    The Repurposed LibraryTHE REPURPOSED LIBRARY
    By Lisa Occhipinti
    (2011)

     

     

     

     

     

    Art Made from BooksART MADE FROM BOOKS
    By Laura Heyenga
    (2013)

     

     

     

     

     
    Playing with BooksPLAYING WITH BOOKS
    By Jason Thompson
    (2010)

     

     

     

     

     

  •  BB 2017 FB

    One of our favorite events of the year is fast approaching! On Tuesday, February 20th at 7:00, join us to hear our librarians favorite reads of 2017 at our annual Best Books event. We'll have treats and books to give away, and you'll leave with some great recommendations for children's, teen, and adult books.

    While we can't give away our top picks just yet, we wanted to whet your appetite by sharing a few of the reads that just barely made the final list.

    2.15 Lincoln in the BardoLINCOLN IN THE BARDO
    By George Saunders

    Lincoln in the Bardo is just bizarre.  I struggled to listen to the first third and just couldn’t enjoy it.  I was a confused and a bit offended.  But I persevered and actually picked up a physical copy of the book to “quickly scan through to the end”.  Half way through the book I was hooked.  In a nutshell, this is a book about the afterlife and how it intersects with the living world.  It’s curious format and odd characters help the reader explore what it means to let go of life and move on in a way that is a bit breathtaking.  I put it down with a sigh and a smile, but the journey getting there was a bit rough.  I just couldn’t recommend it as universally as I’d like. 

     

    2.15 My Absolute DarlingMY ABSOLUTE DARLING
    By Gabriel Tallent

    This is a fantastically written book about a fourteen year old girl searching for herself.  She runs wild through the woods of the California coast but her social existence is confined to school and home with an abusive, but charismatic father.  A chance meeting in the woods introduces her to a boy and her first glimpses of life with possibilities.  This book is mesmerizing.  It is also extremely violent and I feel a need to be extremely selective of who I recommend it to.  It could be very upsetting to many people, but a gripping novel for those who can stomach the described abuse. 

     

    2.15 A Piece of the WorldA PIECE OF THE WORLD
    By Christina Baker Kline

    I was on the fence for weeks about whether to include this book in my final 25, and ultimately decided to go with another book with a similar premise instead. A PIECE OF THE WORLD is gorgeously written and received rave reviews, which is a big part of why I thought about calling it one of my Best Books of 2017. The deciding factor, though, was that I simply enjoyed reading the other book more. While A PIECE OF THE WORLD is beautiful and meaningful, it isn’t a particularly fun read, and I think I wasn’t quite in the right frame of mind when I chose to read it. 

     

    2.16 The River at NightTHE RIVER AT NIGHT
    By Erica Ferencik

    This was another tough call, because I liked the idea of including a book with adventure and thriller elements to add variety to my Best Books list. It tells the story of four female friends who end up trapped in the Maine wilderness after a rafting trip goes awry. Great premise, right? Kind of a HATCHET for adults vibe? In the end, though, THE RIVER AT NIGHT wasn’t quite what I was hoping for. I struggled to connect with the characters, and I was bothered by the unkind, stereotypical depiction of people who live in more rural areas. Having grown up in Montana in an outdoors obsessed family, that didn’t jive with me.

     

    2.15 The Simplicity of CiderTHE SIMPLICITY OF CIDER
    By Amy E. Reichert

    The Simplicity of Cider didn’t blow me away in a way that earned it a Best Books spot, but I’d still recommend it. If you’re looking for an easy, sweet, clean read with a cute love story, this is an excellent choice. I liked it enough to read from beginning to end in one sitting.

     
  • best boyfriends 01

     

    It’s been a few months since my Worst Boyfriends in Classic Literature list came out, and I’ve been trying to come up with one featuring best boyfriends ever since. The trouble is, there are surprisingly few good men in classic literary relationships. Even the male romantic leads that I like often do deeply troubling things (I’m looking at you and that possible marital rape scene, Rhett Butler). I was also disappointed in myself when I realized that I often find literary good guys super boring (it’s my fault, not yours, Edward Ferrars).

    But never fear, reader dear; there are good men out there, even in the realm of classic literature. Mostly, I have realized, they live in the countryside and children’s novels.

    As with the worst boyfriends list, I’ll warn you there are serious spoilers ahead.

    Honorable Mention: Marius Pontmercy, LES MISERABLES

    Marius

     

    Marius is a good guy, but he’s definitely not my favorite literary romantic lead.

    Bonus points: speaks French, English, and German, courageously holds to his principles, is offended when his friends encourage him to take Cosette as a mistress rather than marry her.

    Deductions: falls in insta-love, has been portrayed by Nick Jonas, does not notice his gal pal is in love with him, loves boring Cosette, initially thinks father-in-law is a murderer, has death wish.

    (photo from the 2012 film, featuring Eddie Redmayne before he decided to become a wizard and go gallavanting after magical creatures)

     10: Joe Willard, BETSY AND JOE

    Joe Willard

    You may not know Joe Willard, but you should. This is especially true if you love the Anne of Green Gables series even a little bit, since this is basically the Minnesotan version. Maud Hart Lovelace’s Betsy-Tacy series, which is loosely based on the author’s own youth in the early 1900s, follows Betsy Ray and her best friends from age 5 to their twenties. Along the way, Betsy meets Joe Willard, who becomes her main school competitor (echoes of Anne and Gilbert, anyone?), her dancing partner, her writing buddy (she’s an aspiring novelist, he’s an aspiring journalist), and ultimately her husband. His succinct agony column apologizing to Betsy is one of my favorite love confessions in literature.

    A Joe Willard line that only a librarian (or possibly only this librarian) would find romantic: “Say, you told me you thought Les Miserables was the greatest novel ever written. I think Vanity Fair is the greatest. Let’s fight.”

    (illustration from the Betsy-Tacy books)

    9: Faramir, THE RETURN OF THE KING

    Faramir

    It seemed appropriate to throw in a little classic fantasy to shake up this list of nineteenth century British and American novels. Faramir is the ultimate good guy. The appendices to THE LORD OF THE RINGS describe him this way:  “He read the hearts of men as shrewdly as his father, but what he read moved him sooner to pity than to scorn. He was gentle in bearing, and a lover of lore and of music, and therefore by many in those days his courage was judged less than his brother’s. But it was not so, except that he did not seek glory in danger without a purpose.” Add to that the fact that he is never tempted by the ring (unless we’re talking about Peter Jackson’s version), and you’ve got yourself a pretty great man. In The Return of the King, Faramir becomes completely devoted to Eowyn, and I love that they fall in love with each other only gradually.

    Basically, if you like your fellows sweet and sensitive but also able to kick butt when necessary, Faramir’s the guy for you.  

    (photo from the LORD OF THE RINGS films, with Faramir portrayed by David Wenham)

    8: Tom, AN OLD-FASHIONED GIRL 

    1870 success OldFashionedGirl byLMAlcott RobertsBros

    AN OLD-FASHIONED GIRL is my go-to read when I’m feeling blue. It’s not as well-known as LITTLE WOMEN, but I can’t recommend it highly enough if you’re looking for something short, sweet, and lovely.

    For anyone who really wanted Jo to end up with Laurie, I give you Tom. Tom is pretty rambunctious when we first meet him, and he loves nothing better than teasing his sister’s friend Polly. It’s clear that he has a good heart, though, and he and Polly become dear friends and confidantes. In the end, Tom goes West, grows a beard, and works hard to make up for the financial troubles he has caused his family. He never confesses his love for Polly until he feels like he has grown up enough to be her equal.

    Favorite butterfly-inducing moment: Before Tom even recognizes his romantic interest in Polly, he finds himself “idly wondering for a minute if she knew how long and curly her lashes were.”  

    (illustration from the book published by the Roberts Brothers)

    7: Professor Bhaer, LITTLE WOMEN

    Bhaer

    All the Laurie/Jo shippers out there are probably up in arms, but please hear me out on this one. I feel like I should note LITTLE WOMEN is my favorite book, and I’ve reread it at least a dozen times. You can trust that I’ve completely overthought this.  

    I love Laurie. Seriously. I LOVE him. Probably more than it is appropriate for me to feel for an imaginary person. He’s playful, sweet, and fun, and he loves the March women with all his giant heart. BUT, I don’t think he belongs with Jo, and neither did Jo. I must confess that I also wouldn’t mind if Jo had never married anyone at all (though 14-year-old me would vehemently disagree).

    Nevertheless, if Jo must marry, Professor Bhaer is ideal. He might be poor and a little paternalistic, but he’s smart and sweet and an adult. He’s well-read. He’s quiet and humble yet direct. He’s wonderful with children (his interactions with little Tina melt my cynical heart). He darns his own socks. He is fundamentally selfless and kind, and nearly every scene that features him is testament to that. Finally, remember that scene with the ball of yarn and the head bumping? Or the proposal scene under the umbrella? I still get the warm fuzzies thinking of those ones.

    Also, I just realized that the old man character I’ve been picturing isn’t even forty, so now I’m having an existential crisis.  

    (photo: Winona Ryder and Gabriel Byrne as Jo March and Friedrich Bhaer, in LITTLE WOMEN, 1994)

    6: Fitzwilliam Darcy, PRIDE AND PREJUDICE 

    The Many Faces of Darcy

    Oh, Darcy. I have mixed feelings about him because he can be moody and aloof, but PRIDE AND PREJUDICE has hands-down my favorite love story of all time. Darcy has his faults to begin with (as does Elizabeth), but he is ultimately humble enough to change. It’s also worth noting that the story progresses largely through Lizzy’s thoughts and dialogue, and, at least initially, she’s not a reliable narrator where he’s concerned. As the story progresses, we learn that Darcy is a kind and loving older brother, a generous employer, and in the end a selfless romantic lead. Best of all, he loves Elizabeth because she is his intellectual and moral equal. That’s my kind of romance.

    In the words of my coworker: “He better be somewhere on there, because he’s my bae.”  

    (photo from so many film versions of Darcy. Seriously. So many.)

    Part Two coming soon! (update: it's here!) While you're waiting, who would you recommend for the top 5 slots? 

  • best boyfriends 01

     

    I’m sure you’ve been waiting impatiently, readers, and the time has finally come. I’m ready to wax eloquent once again on the merits of classic literature’s best men (read part one in this series here). 

    A few warnings: First, this is nearly 1000 words, which is embarrassingly long. Apparently I have very strong opinions about imaginary men. Don’t judge. Second, as always, spoilers abound in my descriptions. 

    And with that, here are my top five literary fellas.

    5. Almanzo Wilder, Little House on the Prairie series

    almanzo

    First of all, Almanzo was mighty fine in real life. Like many of the men on this list, he’s the strong but silent type, and he supports Laura in her goals wholeheartedly. When she tells him she doesn’t want to promise to “obey” in her wedding vows, he’s completely onboard. He also saved an entire town by riding through a blizzard to find food, so that’s just a little bit impressive. Bonus points: builds a house with an incredible pantry, makes excellent pancakes, was an actual, nonimaginary person. Deductions: started courting Laura when he was 25 and she was 15, which, by modern standards, is 100% creepy.

    (photo of Almanzo Wilder by unknown photographer; public domain)

    4. Mr. Thornton, NORTH AND SOUTH

    thornton

    Thornton has a temper and can be awkward in one-on-one interactions. Nevertheless, he is a kind and, much like Mr. Darcy, is humble enough to admit faults and change his views. Unlike Darcy, he has pulled himself up in society through sheer grit. His father committed suicide, leaving the family in horrible debt. Through intense hard work, Thornton reestablishes the family financially and insists on paying his father’s debts long after creditors had given up on payment. He cares for his flighty sister, and he loves and respects his mama.

    Also, he apparently has incredible teeth, “a set of teeth so faultless and beautiful as to give the effect of sudden sunlight when the rare bright smile, coming in an instant and shining out of the eyes, changed the whole look from the severe and resolved expression of a man ready to do and dare anything, to the keen honest enjoyment of the moment.” (I’m now imagining him with one of those little star things they use to show gleaming teeth for cartoon characters.)

    Note: If we’re talking classic literary film adaptations, then Mr. Thornton is without question my favorite male lead. In the 2004 BBC miniseries, Thornton is played by Richard Armitage, a god among men (and dwarves) with the voice to match. “Look back at me…”

    (photo: Richard Armitage. Copyright BBC.) 

    3. Mr. Knightley, EMMA  

    knightley

    Knightley is my favorite Austen hero because he’s Emma’s best friend long before he’s a romantic interest. And he’s a true friend who communicates honestly, even when it might hurt his standing with her. He’s loving and truly a nice guy, but he’s also willing to call Emma out on her crap (and let’s admit it, Emma occasionally makes choices that deserve calling out).

    Although he’s a member of the gentry, he’s not a snob. He respects and befriends farmers and governesses without judgment. He is kind even to awkward Miss Bates, and he continually protects and defends her. He’s also gentle and respectful toward Emma’s father, in spite of his irrational behavior. (Side note, there’s a delightfully zany academic theory that Mr. Woodhouse is the villain of Emma. I swear I’m not making that up.) Knightley even offers to leave his own estate after marriage so that Emma can stay with her father! That’s true love, y’all.

    Favorite warm fuzzies line: “If I loved you less, I might be able to talk about it more.”

    (photo: Jeremy Northam in Miramax's version of the classic. Probably don't look at his current IMDB page; just let him live in this regency getup forever). 

    2. Gilbert Blythe, Anne of Green Gables series  

    gilbert

    Initially, Gilbert is a little bit smug, but then, so is Anne. He’s misguided in his first flirting attempts (carrots, anyone?), but he more than makes up for it. In spite of all of Anne’s prickliness and resentment, he is always kind to her after their initial interaction. I love that they fall in love through friendly academic rivalry (intellectual equality = my kind of romance); they push each other to be better.

    Other things I love about Gilbert: He loves Anne completely but remains her friend when she doesn’t feel the same. He lets her know how he feels and then waits patiently without pushing her for more. He never tries to change Anne, but loves her for all her quirks and foibles. He encourages her to write and offers great advice. He works hard, eventually becoming a caring doctor. He selflessly gives up his teaching spot in Avonlea so that Anne can stay at Green Gables after Matthew dies (*sob*).

    After Anne and Gilbert marry, “their happiness was in each other’s keeping and both were unafraid.” Isn’t that just lovely?

    (photo: Jonathan Crombie in CBC Television's masterful miniseries)

    1. Gabriel Oak, FAR FROM THE MADDING CROWD

    gabriel

    Gabriel is kind, humble, loyal, dignified, intelligent, and incredibly hardworking. When the universe hands him an awful situation (via Bathsheba’s rejection and his dog’s excessive enthusiasm for herding sheep) he doesn’t mope. Instead, he goes right back to work and isn’t too proud to start over again. He loves Bathsheba through all of her rejections and bad choices: “I shall do one thing in this life – one thing certain – that is, love you, and long for you, and keep wanting you till I die.” He never demands that she love him in return, though; throughout it all, he respects her right to marry whomever she chooses or not to marry at all. He also believes in her ability to run a farm, which is pretty impressive considering the book was written in 1874. Most importantly, he brings Bathsheba a pet lamb when he proposes, which totally would have worked on me.

    (photo: Matthias Schoenaerts in the Fox Searchlight Pictures adaptation)

    Writing this list has brought about several revelations, some of them unsettling. It appears that I like my (literary) men intelligent, dignified, hardworking, and pro-feminism. Bonus points if they have a farm or country house. Accents are also a plus. More alarmingly, I don’t seem to be bothered by old men or May-December romances. I also appear to have a thing for pining/one-sided love that is ultimately requited. And for imaginary men. Off to see a therapist now.

    psychiatric help

    What do you think? Who did we miss? Disagree with the top pick? Battle it out (nicely) in the comments!

    Wondering about the scoundrels we denounced in the worst boyfriends lists? Revisit parts one and two of that list. 

     

  • 1) When you're partway through the book and someone shares a major spoiler.

     Cat 1"You are now my greatest enemy, Alan."

    2) Reading so late that you fall into a book-induced stupor.

     Cat 9"Just one more chapter..."

    3) Getting up the next morning.

    Cat 3"At least I know what happened to Megan Hipwell."

    4) When your friend/roommate/child/significant other/public transit seatmate won't stop interrupting your reading.

    Cat 4"Really, Kenneth? Really?"

    5) When the house creaks right at the scariest point of your book.

    Cat 5"It was just the heater. Definitely not a Nazgûl."

    6) Reading in bed while wearing glasses.

    Cats 6"There's gotta be a spell for this. Harry Potter never dealt with this nonsense."

    7) When your favorite character is sick and doesn't seem to be getting better.

    Cat 7"Beth is really, really sick. Jo's there, but I don't think there's anything she can do."
    "You want to put the book in the freezer?"

    8) When you get to a feast scene and realize you haven't eaten in ten hours

    Cat 8"I have no idea what Turkish Delight is, but I'd kill for some right now."

    9) Trying to make peace with an unexpected ending.

    Cat 10"It's fine. Nothing happened. Old Dan and Little Ann are fine. There's no such thing as mountain lions."

    10) When a sticky-fingered friend wants to borrow your book.

    Cat 11"My precious."

     

     

  • Book Trivia

     

    Are you a bookworm? Book nerd? Book fiend? Bibliophile? Literary savant? Reading wunderkind? Maybe you just really love Jeopardy and all things trivia.  If so, this event is for you.

    Join us at 7:00pm on Friday, June 24th for an evening of book trivia.  Create your own team of 4-8 people or simply join a team after you arrive.  Contestants ages 10 and up are welcome, and no prior registration is required.  Play for the glory (and for the prizes)!

    To whet your appetite, we’ve compiled a few sample questions for you.  If you come to our Book Trivia Night with the correct answers to all three questions, you’ll be entered in a drawing for a Barnes and Noble gift card, in addition to having a shot at first, second, or third place game prizes.  No researching or sharing answers, please!

    1. In The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, Edmund betrays his siblings and friends for a taste of what candy?  
    2. Truman Capote was childhood friends with what beloved author who died earlier this year, a few months after her controversial and long-awaited second novel was published?  
    3. After realizing that he could draw things (hint, hint) even if he couldn’t draw horses, Maurice Sendak changed the name of his classic picture book from “Land of Wild Horses” to what?
  • Audrey Hepburn

    May 4th would have been Audrey Hepburn’s 90th birthday, so now’s the perfect time to celebrate her remarkable life. (When isn’t it, really?) We all know Audrey for her classic movie roles (ROMAN HOLIDAY, MY FAIR LADY, WAIT UNTIL DARK, CHARADE) and iconic fashion moments (the little black dresses in BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY’S, the post-Paris ball gown in SABRINA, The lace eye mask and sparkly eyeshadow in HOW TO STEAL OF MILLION, the entirety of FUNNY FACE), but she was so much more than that.

    Though she never thought much of herself, Audrey Hepburn was a woman of compassion, courage, humility, selflessness, intelligence and gentleness. She enjoyed her acting career, but throughout her life she was most passionate about children – both her own two sons and the impoverished children she advocated for through her work with UNICEF (The United Nations Children’s Fund). Audrey spent the last years of her life tirelessly traveling the globe to meet with, serve, and fight on behalf of suffering children.

    Because I loved MY FAIR LADY, I wrote a report on Audrey my sophomore year of high school, and I was blown away by her goodness. Ever since, I’ve been joking that I’ll find a way to become her best friend in the afterlife. In addition to watching her films, I’ve read a number of books about her inspiring life over the years. Here are a few of my favorites: 

    5.1 Audrey Hepburn An Elegant SpiritAUDREY HEPBURN, AN ELEGANT SPIRIT
    By Sean Ferrer
    (2005)

    This biography, written by Audrey’s son Sean, is the one I most often recommend. It features personal memories and gorgeous family photographs that reveal her love for gardening, ballet, animals (she adored her dogs), motherhood, and a quiet life at her home in Switzerland. It also discusses her insecurities and the heartache she experienced when her father left the family and when she experienced miscarriages as an adult. Ferrer makes a special point to emphasize his mother’s work as a UNICEF goodwill ambassador in her later life, and he donated proceeds from the book to the Audrey Hepburn’s Children Fund.

     

    5.1 Audrey at HomeAUDREY AT HOME: MEMORIES OF MY MOTHER’S KITCHEN
    By Luca Dotti
    (2015)

    Audrey’s younger son, Luca, compiled this collection of memories, recipes, letters, and hundreds of previously unpublished photographs. It feels more like a scrapbook than a biography, which is why I recommend starting with Ferrer’s book first if you only know Audrey from a movie or two. If you’re already familiar with her backstory, though, AUDREY AT HOME is charming. I love how intimate it feels, particularly in sharing Audrey’s favorite recipes like Penna alla Vodka. I’m grateful that Audrey’s sons have been so generous in sharing their private memories with the loving fans who miss her.

     

    5.1 Dutch GirlDUTCH GIRL: AUDREY HEPBURN AND WORLD WAR II
    By Robert Matzen
    (2019)

    Though other biographies discuss Hepburn’s experiences living through the Nazi occupation of Holland as a teen, this is the first book to cover those years of her life in depth. Though her father and initially her mother were Nazi sympathizers, an uncle helped lead the resistance in the Netherlands, and as a teen Audrey carried messages for the underground movement and raised funds through secret ballet performances. Matzen reveals that Audrey and her mother even sheltered a downed English pilot for a time. Later in life, the memory of food and medical relief at the end of the war fueled Audrey’s passionate work on behalf of children. Matzen’s new book offers a fascinating glimpse at this formative time in Audrey’s life.

     

    5.1 Audrey and GivenchyAUDREY AND GIVENCHY: A FASHION LOVE AFFAIR
    By Cindy De La Hoz
    (2016)

    If you idolize Audrey for her fashion sense, it’s important to know the man behind many of her most iconic looks: Hubert de Givenchy. When Audrey, a Hollywood newcomer, first went to meet the young designer in the 1950s, he famously expected a different Miss Hepburn at the appointment. That mishap led to a forty-year friendship and collaborative working relationship, however. AUDREY AND GIVENCHY provides wonderful insight into their personal bond and the designs they made famous.

     

    5.1 Just Being AudreyJUST BEING AUDREY
    By Margaret Cardillo
    Illustrated by Julia Denos
    (2011)

    This sweet picture book provides a lovely overview of Audrey’s life, career, and charity work, and the beautiful illustrations by Julia Denos perfectly capture Hepburn’s personality and charm. Readers of all ages are sure to draw inspiration from JUST BEING AUDREY. 

     

    5.1 Gardens of the World with Audrey HepburnBonus: GARDENS OF THE WORLD WITH AUDREY HEPBURN
    Directed by Bruce Franchini
    (1999)

    This emmy-winning documentary series helped make Audrey one of only fifteen EGOT winners in history. She was a passionate gardener, in part because of the deprivation she experienced during World War II; her son Luca said “Her garden in Switzerland which has fruit trees was proof of this – it was beauty in the form of protecting your family.” GARDENS OF THE WORLD reflects her love for the topic. Beautiful shots of roses, tulips, and famous gardens combine with Audrey’s lilting voice for a very relaxing viewing experience. It’s practically ASMR.

  •  Eliza

    May 20th is a special day for me. No, it’s not because it’s World Metrology Day or the feast day of Saint Ivo of Chartres. It’s because it’s Eliza Doolittle Day!

    As any musical or classic film fan knows, Eliza Doolittle is the aspiring “lady in a flower shop” and star of Lerner and Loewe’s MY FAIR LADY. The original 1956 Broadway production won seven Tonys, with the 1964 film going on to garner eight Academy Awards, and a current revival is up for 10 more possible Tonys. It’s an almost guaranteed critic and crowd pleaser.

    MY FAIR LADY has been my favorite film for nearly 20 years now, and as an Audrey Hepburn obsessive, I have a soft spot in my heart for the song “Just You Wait.” Unlike most of the songs, which were dubbed by Marni Nixon, it features Hepburn’s actual singing voice with only a small section of dubbing. Skip to 1:31 for the establishment of this important international holiday.

     

    So here are a few options for celebrating Eliza Doolittle Day:

    Watch the film

    5.17 My Fair LadyMY FAIR LADY
    Directed by George Cukor
    (1964)

    Number 8 on the American Film Institute’s list of the Greatest Movie Musicals, Number 12 on their 100 Years … 100 Passions list, and number 91 on their list of the 100 Greatest American Movies Of All Time. It’s just that good. 

     

    Listen to the original cast recording

    5.17 SoundtrackMY FAIR LADY: ORIGINAL BROADWAY CAST RECORDING
    Music by Frederick Loewe
    Lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner
    (1956)

    Even half a century later, there’s still a surprising amount of controversy over the casting of Audrey Hepburn in the film over Julie Andrews, who originated the role. Luckily, you can still listen to the original Broadway cast recording in all its undubbed glory. 

     

    Play or sing along

    5.17 Piano VocalMY FAIR LADY PIANO/VOCAL/CHORD SELECTIONS
    Music by Frederick Loewe
    Lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner
    (2007)

    Why not try your own hand (or voice) at classic tunes like “Wouldn’t It Be Loverly,” and “I Could Have Danced All Night.” I’d argue that Alan Jay Lerner’s lyrics for MY FAIR LADY are some of the cleverest ever written for Broadway, and Loewe’s gorgeous, sweeping score stands the test of time. 

     

    Read the original

    5.17 PygmalionPYGMALION
    By George Bernard Shaw
    (1913)

    MY FAIR LADY is based on this classic play, inspired by Greek mythology. Nearly every clever line from the musical comes straight from George Bernard Shaw’s original, but be prepared for a very different ending. 

     

    Read about the Elizas

    Though many women have played Eliza, Julie Andrews and Audrey Hepburn are inarguably the women who defined the role. They are fortunately both exemplary role models in their own rights, and these biographies will give you wonderful insight into the women behind the role.

    5.17 HomeHOME: A MEMOIR OF MY EARLY YEARS
    By Julie Andrews
    (2008)

     

    5.17 Audrey HepburnAUDREY HEPBURN: AN ELEGANT SPIRIT
    By Sean Hepburn Ferrer
    (2003)

     
  • christmas at the library

    It’s hard to believe that tomorrow’s the first of December! Did the holiday season seem to sneak up on you too? If it did, don’t worry. We have plenty of holiday cheer to share at the library this December.

    Join us for one of these free, family-friendly holiday programs.

    Movie Night: Elf
    Friday, December 1
    7:00 p.m.
    Young Special Events Room #201

    Come get the holiday season started with this free showing of Elf! Chairs will be provided but feel free to bring blankets, pillows, and snacks to get comfy.

    Elf Gif

    Monday Night at the Library: Utah Valley Handbell Ringers
    Monday, December 4
    6:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.
    Ballroom

    Ring in the holiday season with this annual musical tradition! The 6:30 p.m. performance is targeted toward younger audiences.

    Monday Night at the Library: A Christmas Carol
    Monday, December 11
    7:00 p.m.
    Ballroom

    Many Christmases ago, Charles Dickens would perform a one-man telling of this classic holiday tale, doing all the voices himself. Today, drama teacher Dane Allred recreates that experience with Dickens's original script. Using all of his vocal range, Allred will perform more than 20 voices, letting the audience use their imaginations to create their own versions of these classic characters.

    God Bless Us Everyone

    Monday Night at the Library: A Light in Winter's Dark
    Monday, December 18
    7:00 p.m.
    Ballroom

    An evening of traditional Celtic Christmas carols performed by Rebakah Dunford's instrumental ensemble.

     

  • family night 1

    Monday Night programs at the library are back! For a breakdown of these programs, including children’s story and craft nights, check out Kelly’s post from yesterday. Today, we wanted to fill you in a bit more about our upcoming cultural performances on the 1st, 3rd, and 5th Mondays of every month. These free performances take place at 7:00 in the ballroom, and no tickets are required. Doors open at 6:30 pm.

    Performances to look forward to this fall:

    September 18: Stephen and Teresa Gashler

    This Monday, we’re kicking off the season with an evening of music and stories from beloved local performers Stephen and Teresa Gashler. This multitalented duo have worked as actors, puppeteers, comedians, musicians, and writers, and they got their storytelling start right here at the Provo Library! Stephen has won 1st place at the 2014 National Storytelling Conference Story Slam, the Audience Choice Award at the 2013 Timpanogos Storytelling Hauntings contest, and 3rd place in the 2012 Utah’s Biggest Liar contest, while Teresa’s play “How to Save a Life” won 2nd place for the 2011 Vera Hinckley Mayhew Award.  To get a taste of their talents, check out Stephen performing the tale of The Lady of Utah Lake.

     

    October 2nd: Tom Carr – Just a Ghost Hunter

    Get into the Halloween spirit as professional ghost hunter Tom Carr shares his spooky experiences with the paranormal in this family-friendly program. Carr has investigated many of Utah's haunted places, including Lehi's Hutchings Musem and the Baron Woolen Mills in Brigham City.

    October 16: AuthorLink with John Klassen and Mac Barnett

    Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen are the award-winning author/illustrator duo behind SAM & DAVE DIG A HOLE, TRIANGLE, EXTRA YARN, and more. Join them for the tour of their clever new picture book THE WOLF, THE DUCK, AND THE MOUSE. Watch a quick book trailer below and reserve a copy here.

     

    October 30: Viva El Folklore

    Whenever a fifth Monday rolls around, we offer WorldLink performances, which highlight the history and arts of a particular country. At the end of October, join local Latin American dance group Viva El Folklore for an exciting Day of the Dead performance (just a couple of days early).

     

    November 6th: BYU Young Company: The Glorious Story Emporium

    Perennial favorite BYU Young Company returns to the Provo City Library for their first-ever improvisation show! The whole family can join in for this interactive experience, helping to create a totally one-of-a-kind performance. Get a sneak peek with this album of rehearsal photos.

    November 20: Forever Young A Capella

    This up and coming a cappella group from BYU performs a variety of hit songs, using only their voices to create complex harmonies. Check out more of their videos here

     

    We have a great holiday line up in the works as well, so be on the lookout for concerts and plays when December rolls around.

    Do you know of a performer or performing group who might be interested in doing a program here at the Provo City Library? If you do, have them contact our Assistant Community Relations Coordinator, Shaina at (801) 852-6722 or shainar@provolibrary.com.

  • Hamilton

    Confession: after listening to the Hamilton soundtrack for the first time, I sobbed in my car for ten minutes.

    I had gone back and forth, listening first to the audiobook of the Ron Chernow biography that inspired the play and then to the soundtrack until I caught up chronologically with my reading. By the time I had finished the biography, I was deeply invested in the stories and personalities of early American history, but when the final song shifted focus to Eliza … I was a goner. It was quiet, unexpected, meaningful, and so incredibly moving. I think it’s the best final number in musical theater history, and I will fight you on that.

    There was no going back for me. I was obsessed.

    If you care about musical theater at all, you already know that Hamilton is coming to town. The national tour arrives in Salt Lake City in just a few short weeks, and the digital fight to get tickets was a bloodbath. Whether you were one of the lucky few to get tickets or you’re now considering selling a kidney in order to afford one on craigslist*, the library provides plenty of ways to become the ultimate Hamilton fan.

    1) Read the biography

    3.1 Alexander HamiltonALEXANDER HAMILTON
    By Ron Chernow
    (2004)

    The book that started it all. Lin-Manuel Miranda read ALEXANDER HAMILTON while on vacation in 2008 and spent the next several years gradually crafting the music, lyrics, and book for his musical juggernaut. Even if you’re not a big history buff, rest assured that Pulitzer prize winner Chernow is a master biographer who makes history come alive in an accessible, compelling way. 

     

    2) Listen to the soundtrack

    3.1 SoundtrackHAMILTON: ORIGINAL BROADWAY CAST RECORDING
    Music and Lyrics by Lin-Manuel Miranda
    (2015)

    If you haven’t listened to the soundtrack yet, stop reading and place a hold on it now.

    Seriously. Now.

     

    3) Learn the backstory

    3.1 Hamilton the RevolutionHAMILTON: THE REVOLUTION
    By Lin-Manuel Miranda and Jeremy McCarter
    (2016)

    Now that you’re knee-deep in the world of HAMILTON, it’s time to dive a little deeper. HAMILTON: THE REVOLUTION, also affectionately known as the Hamiltome, gives an insider’s look into the making of the musical. Part of what makes HAMILTON so accessible to so many people is the way it blends hip hop with classic musical theater styling. It has so many subtle nods to rap and musical theater history, and the Hamiltome is the best way to catch them all. 

     

    4) Sing (and play) along

    3.1 MusicHAMILTON: AN AMERICAN MUSICAL
    Music and lyrics by Lin-Manuel Miranda
    (2016)

    Even if you don’t have the velvety voice of Leslie Odom Jr. or the lyrical speed of Renée Elise Goldsberry, you can take your best shot at the music. We have both the standard piano/vocal music and an easy piano version for you to try. 

     

    5) Keep reading

    3.1 I Eliza HamiltonThe popularity of the musical has led to an explosion of Hamilton-related fiction in the past couple of years. For adults, there’s I, ELIZA HAMILTON, THE HAMILTON AFFAIR, and (later this year) MY DEAR HAMILTON, and teens can read ALEX AND ELIZA, HAMILTON AND PEGGY! A REVOLUTIONARY FRIENDSHIP, or ALEXANDER HAMILTON: THE GRAPHIC HISTORY OF AN AMERICAN FOUNDING FATHER.

    Everything you need if you're not quite ready to leave Hamilton behind.

     

    *The Provo City Library does not endorse selling human organs, even for Hamilton tickets.

  • friday faves

     

    I have a confession to make: I’m a reluctant self-help reader. Fiction is typically my preference over nonfiction, and I’ve been especially resistant to self-help books. I thought they weren’t really my thing, and I think I had a vague, unfair assumption that most self-help books would be unscientific psychobabble. Over the last few months, though, I’ve been devouring self-help books, and these favorites have actually improved my quality of life.

     

    willpowerWILLPOWER: REDISCOVERING THE GREATEST HUMAN STRENGTH
    by Roy F. Baumeister and John Tierney
    (2012)

    This book is the one that had me completely rethinking my attitude toward self-help books. You won’t find any pseudoscience or vague personal ideas here. Instead, research psychologist Roy F. Baumeister and science writer John Tierney lay out what scientists have learned about the nature of willpower through decades of research. They offer concrete steps individuals can take to improve their self-control and share fascinating related anecdotes. Best of all, though, they back up every claim by describing the experiments and studies that scientists used to understand how to exercise and build willpower. This was an engrossing read for me, and I have been actively applying its ideas in my life. I also can’t stop sharing interesting details from it with my friends and coworkers.

     

    declutterTHE LIFE-CHANGING MAGIC OF TIDYING UP: THE JAPANESE ART OF DECLUTTERING AND ORGANIZING
    by Marie Kondo
    (2014)

    This book really did change me. I wrote a glowing review of it last summer, so I won’t go into too much detail here. Though The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up isn’t as scientific as some of the others on the list, it is based on the strategies used by the author, a wildly popular professional organizer from Japan. Her basic principle is that you go, category by category, through every item in your home, hold it close and decide whether or not it “sparks joy.” If it doesn’t, you toss it. As hokey as that might sound, it radically changed the way I look my belongings. I now buy less to begin with, get rid of anything I don’t need and love, and keep my home tidier than ever before.

     

    switchSWITCH: HOW TO CHANGE THINGS WHEN CHANGE IS HARD
    by Chip Heath and Dan Heath
    (2010)

    As the subtitle suggests, Switch explains how individuals and organizations can motivate and implement change. Even when we want to change something, human nature makes us resistant. The authors dedicate each chapter to a specific strategy for overcoming that resistance. I loved how organized and easy to follow Switch was.

     

    habitTHE POWER OF HABIT: WHY WE DO WHAT WE DO IN LIFE AND BUSINESS
    by Charles Duhigg
    (2012)

    Even though this book was a bestseller, I didn’t love it nearly as much as the others on the list. The structure was confusing, a lot of the book seemed like filler, and I felt like the authors were defining “habit” as everything and anything. In spite of those frustrations, I’m including The Power of Habit because the first three chapters and especially the appendix were fantastic. If you read just those sections, you’ll come away with a much better understanding of how our habits shape us and how we in turn can shape our habits.

     

    gritGRIT: THE POWER OF PASSION AND PERSEVERENCE
    by Angela Duckworth
    (2016)

    I’ve just started reading this book, so I can’t fully recommend it just yet. I think it’s going to be a good read, though. We often assume that those who achieve incredible things must have some kind of native genius; naturally talented, they were born to be Olympic gymnasts, concert pianists, political masterminds, or exceptional writers. Duckworth argues instead that extraordinary achievements result not from unusual intelligence or talent, but from what she calls “grit,” a mix of passion and persistent effort.

     

     

  • 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.
  • Looking at Books

    A funny thing happens after you’ve worked in a library for a while. You become so familiar with recent and popular book covers that you’re hyper aware of copycat covers, and eventually you start to see them everywhere.

    Sometimes an entire genre will feature similar covers so that you know what the book is before you’ve even read the description (the ubiquitous “girl facing away from you while wearing a fancy period dress” women’s historical fiction cover for instance). Other times, as I suspect is the case for the first pair listed below, a new release tries to capitalize on the popularity of a better established book by using a nearly identical cover. Then there’s the case of stock photos run amuck.

    And sometimes the similarities are simply baffling (do MERE CHRISTIANITY and TWILIGHT really have the same target demographic?).

    Here are a few suspiciously similar book covers we’ve discovered. What have we missed? Share your book doppelgängers in the comments!

    11.9 The Tethered MageTHE TETHERED MAGE
    By Melissa Caruso
    (2017)

     

     

     

     

     

    11.9 Crooked KingdomCROOKED KINGDOM
    By Leigh Bardugo
    (2016)

     

     

     

     

     

    11.9 The Smaller EvilTHE SMALLER EVIL
    By Stephanie Kuehn
    (2016)

     

     

     

     

     

    11.9 UndeniableUNDENIABLE: HOW BIOLOGY CONFIRMS OUR INTUITION THAT LIFE IS DESIGNED
    By Douglas Axe
    (2016)

     

     

     

     

    11.9 Amy SnowAMY SNOW
    By Tracy Rees
    (2016)

     

     

     

     

     

    11.9 A Murder in TimeA MURDER IN TIME
    By Julie McElwain
    (2016)

     

     

     

     

     

    11.9 Rare ObjectsRARE OBJECTS
    By Kathleen Tessaro
    (2016)

     

     

     

     

     

    11.9 The Fitzosbornes in ExileTHE FITZOSBORNES IN EXILE
    By Michelle Cooper
    (2012)

     

     

     

     

     

    11.9 The House of DreamsTHE HOUSE OF DREAMS
    By Kate Lord Brown
    (2016)

     

     

     

     

     

    11.9 A Quiet LifeA QUIET LIFE
    By Natasha Walter
    (2016)

     

     

     

     

     

    11.9 Words to Live ByWORDS TO LIVE BY: A GUIDE FOR THE MERELY CHRISTIAN
    By C.S. Lewis
    (2007)

     

     

     

     

    11.9 TwilightTWILIGHT
    By Stephanie Meyer
    (2005)

     

     

     

     

     

  •  Judging a Book By Its cover

    We all know the old adage about not judging a book by its cover, but cover art nevertheless can make a huge difference in a book’s success. Think about it. When you’re browsing the shelves of the library or a book store, books with distinctive covers or spines are the ones you notice, right?

    Personally, I’m drawn to gorgeous typography. While cover photos and illustrations are all well and good, beautiful print, especially if it has a feminine, vintage vibe, calls me to a book better than anything short of a glowing Kirkus review.

    You know you’re a librarian when you have not only favorite books and authors, but favorite book covers and cover illustrators. These are a few of my favorites:

    9.28.2 Dorian GrayJESSICA HISCHE

    Jessica Hische's work is what first sucked me into the world of cover art, and she's my favorite cover illustrator to this day. I'm a book hoarde... ahem, collector, but I started off just buying paperbacks, not caring what the covers looked like. In an act of youthful folly, I even bought the movie tie-in paperbacks of the LORD OF THE RINGS series many years ago (*shudders*). There was no looking back once I started buying Hische's gorgeous collection of Barnes and Noble leatherbound classics, though. Her work is all about intricate lettering, and in addition to her Barnes and Noble designs, she's created lovely covers for Penguin's Drop Caps series, Audible, and McSweeney's Publishing. Thanks to her, I began buying books for their beauty as well as their readability, and, eleven copies of PRIDE AND PREJUDICE later, it's been a beautiful and expensive path from there.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    9.28.2 The Fox and the StarCORALIE BICKFORD-SMITH

    First of all, we need to acknowledge that Coralie Bickford-Smith's name is AWESOME. With a name like that, she should be either the protagonist of a novel or the lady of an English manor house. Okay, with that out of the way, let's talk about her cover art. 

    Even if you haven't heard Bickford-Smith's name, you've probably seen her work. Penguin has released a series ofclothbound classics which feature her gorgeous and whimsical art and which you've inevitably come across in one book store or another. I'm also a fan of her F. Scott Fitzgerald covers, which have a decidedly Art Deco flair that fits his Jazz Age themes perfectly. My absolute favorite cover of hers, however, is from her very own book THE FOX AND THE STAR. The silver, the swirls, the sweet little fox - like Mary Poppins, it's practically perfect in every way.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    9.28.2 Wink Poppy Midnight

    LISA PERRIN

    Lisa Perrin's work is a recent discovery for me. WICKED LIKE A WILDFIRE by Lana Popovic has been getting a lot of buzz in the YA community lately, and when I first saw the cover, I was immediately curious about both the book and the artist. After researching a bit, I found the cover for WINK POPPY MIDNIGHT, and I loved it even more. Perrin has the same intricate, feminine, and typography-based style that I love from Bickford-Smith and Hische, but she also uses color and weaves in animal and botanical patterns in a way that reminds me of Scandinavian folk art. The result is eye-catching, playful, and absolutely lovely.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

  •  Did you know that May is Mental Health Awareness month? I would guess that, if we haven’t already, all of us will at some point experience our own mental health struggles or have someone very close to us who does. Just like the rest of our bodies, our minds can go through periods of wellness and periods of poor health, and they deserve care and treatment.

    A generation or two ago, these struggles might have been kept quiet. Fortunately, our culture is becoming more accepting of and open about mental health. For instance, you might have heard about the Heads Together campaign, spearheaded by younger members of the British royal family, or about the Campaign to Change Direction. Programs like these aim to reduce stigma against mental illness, to educate, and to provide mental health resources.

    In recent years, memoirs dealing with mental health, including some REALLY funny memoirs, have become common. Their humorous but honest approach can remind us that we aren't alone and keep us laughing. Here are a few of my favorites.

    Hyperbole and a HalfHYPERBOLE AND A HALF
    By Allie Brosh
    (2013)

    Even if you’ve never heard of Brosh or her blog, you’ve probably seen her CLEAN ALL THE THINGS! meme. Brosh blogs about everyday life using a mix of text and crudely drawn webcomics. In addition to sharing hilarious stories about grammar, her childhood, and her dogs, she has also written about ADHD and, famously, depression.

    Whether in book or blog form, HYPERBOLE AND A HALF might just be the funniest thing I’ve ever read.

    I’ve been eagerly awaiting her second book for a couple of years now, but its expected release date has been pushed back from 2017 to 2050. I’ll be impatiently waiting into old age, it appears.  

    Furiously HappyFURIOUSLY HAPPY: A FUNNY BOOK ABOUT HORRIBLE THINGS
    By Jenny Lawson
    (2015)

    Jenny Lawson (a.k.a. the bloggess) is another author who started out in the blogosphere. She writes irreverently about living in a small Texas town with her patient husband, their daughter, and an ever-growing collection of quirky taxidermy. She frequently writes about her experiences with depression, anxiety, and avoidant personality disorder. FURIOUSLY HAPPY is my favorite of her books, but I also love her first memoir LET’S PRETEND THIS NEVER HAPPENED and YOU ARE HERE, a coloring book of the illustrations she creates in moments of anxiety.

     

    Adulthood is a MythADULTHOOD IS A MYTH
    By Sarah Andersen
    (2016)

    This is a book you could easily read in an hour or two. Sarah Andersen, who also gained a following online (I’m sensing a theme here), creates comics about life as a Millennial adult. In simple drawings, she depicts social anxiety, body image struggles, insecurity, and how pets make it all a bit better.

     

    Heart and BrainHEART AND BRAIN: AN AWKWARD YETI COLLECTION
    By Nick Seluk
    (2015)

    Nick Seluck is another webcomic creator who eventually became a published author. He is best known for comics depicting inner turmoil between logical Brain and fanciful Heart, as well as various other organs (I have a soft spot for the adorable Gallbladder). I’ve especially enjoyed his comics about anxiety and insomnia.

     

    Youre Never Weird on the InternetYOU’RE NEVER WEIRD ON THE INTERNET (ALMOST)
    By Felicia Day
    (2015)

    Felicia Day’s life has been an unusual one. Homeschooled as a child, she went to college at sixteen, finished her math degree with flying colors, and then became an actress and web-series developer. She writes about anxiety, depression, and the intense gaming addiction she developed in her twenties.

    YOU’RE NEVER WEIRD ON THE INTERNET is easily the funniest celebrity memoir I’ve ever read (and I’ve read an embarrassing number of celebrity memoirs). Day’s narration of the audiobook is especially hysterical.

     

  •  Learning to Love Fantasy Again 2

    Growing up, I loved fantasy. Authors like Robin McKinley, Gail Carson Levine, Philip Pullman, C.S. Lewis, and, of course, J.K. Rowling captured my imagination and carried me off to magical worlds. I reread their books again and again, loving the immersion and escapism they offered.

    As an adult, I’ve found a few new favorites (Jessica Day George, Shannon Hale, and Cassie Beasley come to mind), but for the most part I’ve moved away from fantasy in favor of other genres. So many of the novels I’ve tried recently have disappointed me due to shallow world-building or a focus on romance at the expense of plot. I was beginning to wonder if, at the ripe old age of 29, I’m just too old and crotchety for fantasy.

    Fortunately, 2017 is changing my mind. This year, three novels in particular have blown me away with their beautiful writing, imaginative and vivid world building, and three-dimensional characters.

    9.7 The Bear and the NightingaleTHE BEAR AND THE NIGHTINGALE
    By Katherine Arden
    (2017)

    This book, the first by author Katherine Arden, draws on Russian folklore to create an utterly engrossing story of a young girl who embraces magic at a time when it is being suppressed. I read THE BEAR AND THE NIGHTINGALE early in the year, but I can still picture the characters and setting with perfect clarity because the book is so beautifully written. Although this is a coming of age story, it is marketed to adults rather than teens, largely because the novel has its dark and creepy aspects. At turns playful, heartbreaking, comforting, scary, and suspenseful, THE BEAR AND THE NIGHTINGALE really is a wonderful book.

     

    9.7 The Black WitchTHE BLACK WITCH
    By Laurie Forest
    (2017)

    This Y.A. fantasy novel is CONTROVERSIAL. Though it received starred reviews from several review journals, it has also been excoriated by a few prominent book bloggers for being racist, homophobic, ableist, sexist, and more. So why is THE BLACK WITCH one of my favorite fantasy reads in years?

    As the book begins, its protagonist, Elloren Gardner undeniable exhibits all of the characteristics listed above, as do her family and the society in which she lives. As the book progresses, however, Elloren gradually comes to recognize that the history and prejudices she’s been raised with are inaccurate and cruel. This may be a book about a racist, but I don't feel like it's a racist book. Quite the opposite, in fact.

    This book may not be for everyone. Particularly for individuals who have been on the receiving end of prejudice, it's perfectly valid to not want to live in the mind of a prejudiced character for hundreds of pages. I believe, however, that THE BLACK WITCH has a valuable message about both how a racist (or homophobe, sexist, ableist, etc.) is made and how they can be unmade. Education and relationships with people who are different from herself are the keys to Elloren’s awakening (which isn’t perfectly complete at the end of the book – this is the first of a series, after all), and maybe through her story readers will confront their own unacknowledged prejudice and privilege. It certainly left me thinking deeply about difficult issues, something that you don’t always expect from Y.A. fantasy.

    On top of that, Laurie Forest is an excellent writer, creating a world with a complex history, fascinating cultures, and a vivid cast of characters. The complexity of the magical society she developed even reminds me of J.K. Rowling's wizarding world. I was riveted from the first page and finished this 600 page book within 48 hours.

    9.7 Strange the DreamerSTRANGE THE DREAMER
    By Laini Taylor
    (2017)

    STRANGE THE DREAMER may just have the most unique, vivid, and gorgeous world-building I’ve ever encountered in a fantasy novel.  Lazlo Strange, a poor, orphaned young man, has fixated on the lost city of Weep since childhood. Though others say Weep is simply a myth, Lazlo pours his heart into researching the mysterious city, desperate to uncover its secrets. The story is difficult to do justice to in a synopsis, but count on this novel for dreams, nightmares, adventure, romance, mystery, and plenty of plot twists.

    Plus, the main character is a librarian, which is certainly a point in his favor. I <3 Lazlo Strange.

     

     

  •  Pills

    I’ve been surprised as an adult by how much I enjoy reading memoirs. Plenty of these have been fluffy or funny celebrity memoirs, but in the last year or so, I’ve been drawn to powerful and sometimes troubling personal stories of people who have survived childhood trauma. Though it would be an exaggeration to call my own childhood traumatic, I’ve found wisdom, inspiration, humanity, and a surprising amount of connection in these stories.

    Famous memoirist Jeannette Walls once said in a New York Times interview, “The best self-help books, in my opinion, are memoirs. If people are honest about what happened to them, those stories are astonishing gifts to those of us grappling with – or just trying to understand – similar situations. I give away my memoirs like aspirins to friends who are going through tough times. Sometimes, it’s easier to have perspective on someone else’s life than your own.”

    So, readers, here are a few of my favorite literary aspirins, memoirs of resilience, all told with compassion and honesty.

    3.22 The Glass CastleTHE GLASS CASTLE
    By Jeannette Walls
    (2013)

    Walls grew up in a family that moved from place to place, descending further into poverty and dysfunction as the years past in spite of their love for each other. Her father’s alcoholism and the mental illness of both parents caused extreme financial hardship and often left the Walls children in danger, but Jeannette and her siblings banded together to work their way out into the world. THE GLASS CASTLE is beautiful, horrifying, and unflinchingly honest, as Walls grapples to overcome her shame and stop hiding her past.

     

    3.22 EducatedEDUCATED
    By Tara Westover
    (2018)

    I've been floored by just how good this recent release is. Tara Westover was raised in rural Idaho by survivalist parents who practice an extreme and bizarre take on Mormonism.  Westover’s paranoid father, convinced the government was his enemy, had the children born at home so they wouldn’t have birth certificates, wouldn’t allow them to attend school, and insisted on home care by their herbalist mother for even the most life-threatening illnesses. A blind eye is turned to any abuse in the home. Westover eventually works her way to BYU, Cambridge, and eventually Harvard where she discovers the full emancipation of an education.

     

    3.22 You Dont Have to Say You Love Me aYOU DON’T HAVE TO SAY YOU LOVE ME
    By Sherman Alexie
    (2017)

    Celebrated author Sherman Alexie has written fiction and poetry for all ages, but this is his first time publishing a memoir.  He grew up on the Spokane Indian Reservation and was raised by an alcoholic father and a recovering alcoholic mother. He recounts the regular abuse, violence, and racism he both witnessed and experienced as a child in a moving mix of essays, letters, and poetry. He also describes the complicated relationship between himself and his mother as they both struggled with mental illness.

     

    3.22 Hillbilly ElegyHILLBILLY ELEGY
    By J.D. Vance
    (2016)

    Vance was raised Middletown Ohio by a family originally from Kentucky. His parents had moved for good factory jobs that temporarily provided them a middle class life, but never quite escaped the culture of poverty. Drug addiction, alcoholism, violence, and verbal abuse continue to plague their lives. Vance, now a Yale-educated lawyer, shares not just his own experiences, but an insightful sociological critique of hillbilly culture.

     

    3.22 Born A CrimeBORN A CRIME
    By Trevor Noah
    (2016)

    This is not your typical celebrity memoir. Comedian Trevor Noah, best known as the current host of the Daily Show, grew up in Apartheid South Africa as the son of a black mother and a white man. His parents’ union was illegal, and Trevor’s visibly mixed heritage meant that he couldn’t be seen with either parent in public without risking their arrest. BORN A CRIME is largely a love letter to Noah’s mother, a powerful, devout woman who fiercely protected her son.

     
  •  LB FB event

    If you’ve visited the library this week, you’ve probably noticed something new – a children’s play area tucked away in a corner of the children’s department! Kids can climb, peer out windows, build a brick wall, and play with paint rollers, but this fun play area is just the beginning.

    Just in time for our “Build a Better World” themed Summer Reading Program to begin, we have a children’s exhibit opening in The Attic. Starting today, the youngest visitors to the Provo City Library will become movers and shakers in the new Little Builders exhibit. Donning little hard hats and construction vests, children ages 2-7 will create, play, and learn as they explore the concepts of construction, motion, and simple machines. Visitors have the exciting opportunity to:

    • Hand-operate a pulley and conveyer belt to explore cause and effect

    • Operate a child-size crane to hook, lift and move objects and materials
       
    • Build structures with blocks, pipes, Duplo® blocks (toddlers’ large snap-on blocks) and gears

    • Insert balls into air chutes and see them shoot through clear pipes to experiment with aerodynamics

    Little Builders challenges and entertains the mind of a child helping to develop intellectual, physical, emotional and social skills. It uses scientific processes, mathematical concepts, sensory development and communication to promote self-confidence, coordination, control, strength and self-expression.

    The Exhibit includes five themed areas:

    Construction Site - Visitors learn the physics of movement and cause-and-effect in the Construction Site, which is located in the Children’s Department. They can start their workday by turning gears, and then climb in, out, over and under the four levels of the Construction Site. On the pattern wall they can design and build a “brick” wall with large interlocking plastic blocks in a variety of sizes and colors.  Visitors can also pretend to paint a wall with real painting equipment to master the craft. They can use fuzzy paint rollers and dip them into trays that are pre coated with “paint.”  

    Structures - Visitors discover the concepts involved in building: size, weight, shape, balance, gravity and stability as they design and build structures. Visitors can build a mini-community on a soft carpet covered with city streets or build three-dimensional structures using a variety of PVC pipe pieces and connectors at the four-sided PVC Pipe House. They can even crawl into miniature Latch Houses and practice fine-motor skills by hooking and unhooking latches while opening and closing doors and shutters, and build pathways, houses, or anything else imaginable with soft oversized blocks.  

    Aerodynamics - Visitors experience and play with the characteristics of air and wind, and how they affect objects. Visitors can insert balls into vertical air chutes and watch them shoot through the clear pipes and pop into a basket. Visitors will watch in amazement as plastic balls mysteriously float, bobbing up and down, above a large orange cone. At the Bernoulli blower, they can feel the force and pressure of air by experimenting with balls and the stream of air that flows up through the hollow cone.  

    Cranes - Young visitors will have opportunities to discover mechanical physics at work —at the mini crane visitors can turn a crank to operate a pulley system to raise and lower objects, use a friction brake to hold or release lifted objects, and use a set of pedals to rotate the crane on its base. Visitors can discover how the crane enables workers to move objects around the construction area and move block cargo to a waiting flatbed car using a gantry crane.  

    Simple Machines - Visitors can pound over-sized nails, turn over-sized screws, and twist over-sized bolts with plastic hammers, screwdrivers and wrenches.  Dropping plastic balls through a series of clear pipes, visitors will watch as the balls travel down a twisty path.  Also, they can work with pipes, balls and levels to explore the fundamentals of plumbing and gravity.  Visitors can work together to move materials back and forth by manipulating a hand-operated conveyer belt.

    Little Builders was created and is toured by the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry, Portland, Oregon. It will run in the attic through September 2 and will be open Monday through Friday 10-6 and Saturdays from 1-6. We’re excited for children to learn, grow, play, and Build a Better World with this fun new exhibit!

  • UT WHistory FB

    If you’re joining us this Wednesday evening for Better Days 2020’s presentation on Utah women’s history, you’re in for a treat. Katherine Kitterman, the organization’s historical director, will be here to share stories about Utah women, especially Provo and Utah County residents, of all different backgrounds who shaped local and national history.

    If you asked a typical Utahn, they’d probably struggle to name more than a handful of significant women in Utah history. Better Days 2020 is an organization committed to changing that through art, education, legislation, and activism. Utah women have a long history of political, social, and artistic contributions, and we’re excited that this history is becoming better known.

    Today and Wednesday on the blog, we’ll be recommending a few favorite books related to Utah women's history. As you may have noticed, most of the books on the topic focus on white women, especially members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints during the pioneer and settlement eras. This is somewhat understandable, given the prominence of that group in Utah’s history, but current historians, including those at Better Days 2020, are working hard to bring forward the histories of Utah women of all races, religions, and backgrounds. Look forward to some of those fascinating stories Wednesday night.

    3.11 An Advocate for WomenAN ADVOCATE FOR WOMEN: THE PUBLIC LIFE OF EMMELINE B. WELLS, 1870-1920
    By Carol Cornwall Madsen
    (2006)

    Emmeline B. Wells is a personal hero of mine and was arguably Utah’s best known women’s rights activist in her day. Utah Territory granted women the right to vote in 1870 (a right the national government rescinded 17 years later), and Utah women became some of the most outspoken advocates in the country for female political rights.

    As part of this movement, Wells served as editor of Woman’s Exponent for nearly 40 years, urged Utah’s Territorial Legislature to allow women to serve in public office, developed personal friendships with national suffragists like Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, walked a precarious line between pro-polygamy Utah suffragists and anti-polygamy suffragists on the national stage, served as president of the Utah Territorial Women’s Suffrage Association, spoke internationally before the International Council of Women, and organized the Relief Society’s grain-saving program that saved hundreds of lives during World War I. In her last eleven years, Wells also served as Relief Society General President, being released at the age of 93, just three weeks before she passed away.

     

    3.11 A House Full of FemalesA HOUSE FULL OF FEMALES: PLURAL MARRIAGE AND WOMEN’S RIGHTS IN EARLY MORMONISM, 1835-1870
    By Laurel Thatcher Ulrich
    (2017)

    Ulrich won the 1991 Pulitzer Prize for History for A MIDWIFE’S TALE, which revolutionized the historian’s field with its remarkable examination of social history. In addition to being a renowned historian (and the person who coined the phrase "well-behaved women seldom make history"), Ulrich herself is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, giving her unique insight into her subject matter in A HOUSE FULL OF FEMALES. Don’t be fooled by the narrator’s mispronunciations of common Utah names and Mormon words if you listen to the audiobook – Ulrich knows what she’s talking about.

    Much of published research into Utah women's history has focused on the hotbed of political and social activism that occurred in the late 19th and early 20th century, so it’s a nice change to read about the lead-up to that time period. Ulrich is a master of reconstructing a society based on journals, letters, meeting minutes, and even quilts, and you’ll come away from this book with a much more complete understanding of regular LDS and Utah women’s experiences in the early days of polygamy.

     

    3.11 Worth Their SaltWORTH THEIR SALT: NOTABLE BUT OFTEN UNNOTED WOMEN OF UTAH
    Edited by Colleen Whitley
    (1996)

    WORTH THEIR SALT offers a glimpse into the lives of a wide variety of Utah women, some familiar, others less so. These include Indian rights advocate and diplomat Chipeta, mining queen Susanna Engalitcheff, Catholic nun and education reformer Mother M. Augusta, artist Mary Teasdel, Greek midwife Georgia Lathrouis Magera, actress Maude Adams (who originated the role of Peter Pan on Broadway), journalist and Japanese-American newspaper owner Kuniko Terasawa, and United States Treasurer Ivy Baker Priest.  

    A variety of professional historians, journalists, descendants, and enthusiasts contributed essays for WORTH THEIR SALT. It’s a collection well worth reading for anyone interested in broadening their familiarity with prominent women in Utah history.

     

    Be on the lookout for another post later this week with more recommended reads on this topic. Whether you're able to attend on Wednesday of not, we hope these books will get you hooked on the remarkable history of Utah women!

  •  Little Women

     It may be a couple of days past Mother’s Day, but every day is a good day for celebrating moms, right? In addition to the wonderful women in my life – my mother, grandmother, sisters, and neighbors – I’ve been raised by a number of literary mothers. These women have taught me the value of courage, kindness, hard work, self-improvement, and having an open heart, and I love them as if they were real. Here are a few of my favorites, in no particular order.

    A Wrinkle in TimeKate Murry
    A WRINKLE IN TIME
    by Madaleine L'Engle
    (1962)

    Dr. Murry is a brilliant microbiologist who sets an example of hard work, passion, courage, and love for her four wildly different children. She loves awkward Meg, athletic and level-headed twins Sandy and Dennys, and wise Charles Wallace equally and individually. She treats them as rational thinkers and speaks to them with respect as well as warmth. She also immediately welcomes Calvin O’Keefe into the family, sensing that the popular boy comes from an unstable home. Even with her husband missing, Dr. Murry keeps the family together and provides a loving, stable home. She makes delicious stew over the bunson burner, comforts Meg, and conducts experiments in her home lab all at the same time, and that’s pretty darn impressive.  

    little womenMarmee
    LITTLE WOMEN
    by Louisa May Alcott
    (1868)

    Marmee’s a “tall, motherly lady, with a ‘can-I-help-you’ look about her which was truly delightful.” Is there a more quintessential mother in all of literature? I adore Marmee. It’s not because she’s longsuffering and calm and perfectly good. Instead, I love her for the conversations she has with her daughters when they’ve made mistakes. Her love is unconditional, but she gently helps them understand themselves, to make amends, and to grow. Because she loves them, she guides them to be better than they are. She’s not focused on her daughter’s achievements, but she’s determined to help develop their character.

    Tangent: I will forever feel annoyed that someone addresses Marmee as Abigail in the 1994 film adaptation of Little Women. Her name is Margaret! Meg is named after her! If the filmmakers had really loved Marmee, they would have known that.

    No, I’m not going to get over it. You can’t make me.  

    RoomMa
    ROOM
    by Emma Donoghue
    (2010)

    I expected Room to be a more disturbing book than it was. After all, it’s narrated by a little boy who has never been outside of the hidden underground room where his mother is held captive by a brutal abuser. Because of Ma’s great love for Jack, however, the boy is happy, and the story is often surprisingly gentle. Ma creates structure for their days, plays with Jack, teaches him, makes sure he receives the exercise and nutrients he needs, and protects him from her captor. When Ma decides it’s time to escape, she helps Jack make the difficult transition to understanding there’s a world outside their room. Her situation is horrifying, but she endures it with incredible courage for the sake of her son.  

    Harry PotterMolly Weasley
    HARRY POTTER AND THE SORCERER'S STONE
    by J.K. Rowling
    (1997)

    You knew Molly would be on this list, right? She’s warm, fiery, funny, and kind. As much as I love her relationship with her own children, who she treats with equal amounts adoration and exasperation, I’m even more touched by her love for Harry. The moment where Harry receives his first Christmas sweater and a box of home-made fudge from Molly after a lifetime without a real Christmas present leaves me a little teary. In spite of the Weasley’s financial struggles, she takes the orphaned boy into her family with all her giant heart. She’s also an excellent cook and knitter and hug-giver. And then there’s that famous line when Bellatrix almost kills Ginny…

    Molly’s the best.  

    The Secret Life of BeesAugust Boatright
    THE SECRET LIFE OF BEES
    by Sue Monk Kidd
    (2001)

    August may not have her own biological children, but she unquestionably has a mother’s heart. When heartbroken Lily stumbles into her life, she takes the girl into her home, where she already takes care of her two sisters and a beekeeping business. She knows who Lily is instantly, but waits for the girl to reveal her identity in her own time. A former teacher, August is intelligent and knowledgeable, nurturing without being pushy, and a wonderful combination of independent and community-oriented. She becomes the ballast and mother figure Lily has spent her life longing for, and she beautifully represents the power of female relationships.  

    Anne of Green GablesMarilla Cuthbert
    ANNE OF GREEN GABLES
    by Lucy Maud Montgomery
    (1908)

    Initially, Marilla Cuthbert is gruff and unkind toward sensitive Anne. She intended to adopt a farmboy, so the dreamy, trouble-prone little girl is only a source of frustration. Marilla’s softness and sense of humor gradually appear, however. Her love for her brother is apparent from the beginning, and she relents about keeping Anne at Green Gables for his sake. Though she remains a strict disciplinarian, Marilla and Anne smooth out each other’s rough edges; Anne becomes more practical and disciplined under Marilla’s teaching, and Marilla becomes gentler and happier. After Matthew’s death (which will never stop breaking my heart), Marilla finally opens up in the most beautiful way:

    “We’ve got each other, Anne. I don’t know what I’d do if you weren’t here – if you’d never come. Oh, Anne, I know I’ve been kind of strict and harsh with you maybe – but you mustn’t think I didn’t love you as well as Matthew did, for all that. I want to tell you now when I can. It’s never been easy for me to say things out of my heart, but at times like this it’s easier. I love you as dear as if you were my own flesh and blood and you’ve been my joy and comfort ever since you came to Green Gables.”

    Don’t you just love Marilla?

    the helpAibileen Clark
    The Help
    by Kathryn Stockett
    (2009)

    "Taking care a white babies, that's what I do, along with all the cooking and cleaning. I done raised seventeen kids in my lifetime. I know how to get them babies to sleep, stop crying, and go in the toilet bowl before they mamas even get out a bed in the morning." Having lost her own son, Aibileen Clark is more mother to her charge than the white mother she works for. As THE HELP unfolds, she develops a special relationship with toddler Mae Mobley. After spending three years trying to protect the little girl from her mother's neglect, criticism, and racism, Aibileen decides to counteract all that unkindness with active words of love. We all know her motherly affirmation: "You is kind. You is smart. You is important." 

    Books and the characters within them can profoundly shape the way we view the world. I'm so grateful for the inspiring mothers I've found in a lifetime of reading and for all that they've taught me. So here's to the mothers, both literal and literary!

  • What the Heck is Hygge

    At this point in 2017, you’ve probably heard the word hygge at least once, especially if you follow the publishing industry at all. In the past twelve months, roughly a dozen books have come out on the topic, along with many articles and blog posts. Hygge was even runner up for the Collins English Dictionary word of the year. So what is it?

    Though hygge is also a word in Norwegian, it is primarily a Danish word that suggests a feeling of comfort, coziness, and contentment (pronunciation guides usually suggest it’s said hoo-ga, but the audiobooks I’ve listed to make it sound more like hoo-geh). A basic goal of Danish life, particularly during the long, cold winter months, is to make things and hyggeligt as possible. This involves good food, nights in with close friends, warm blankets and candles – lots and lots of candles. The Danes must be doing something right with all that hygge, because they consistently rank as the happiest people in the world and have an incredibly high quality of life.

    I’m prone to obsession once something catches my interest, and thanks to the explosion of Scandinavia-related publishing boom over the last year of so, I’m now engrossed by the Nordic way of life. An introverted culture, 35ish-hour workweek, and a tendency toward unity and trust? I’ll take it.

    Given that I know literally one Scandinavian person and roughly five words of Norwegian, a move across the Atlantic seems unwise for now. In the meantime, though, I can easily feed my fascination with all things Nordic through books. Here are a few of my recommendations: 

    7.27 The Nordic Theory of EverythingTHE NORDIC THEORY OF EVERYTHING: IN SEARCH OF A BETTER LIFE
    Anu Partanen
    (2016)

    This is the book that kicked off my obsession with Nordic culture. Author Anu Partanen grew up in Finland and moved to the U.S. after falling in love with an American. As a fluent English speaker who had been to the States many times, she figured she’d be fine. Instead she found herself struggling with things that had been incredibly simple at home – setting up a cell phone, paying for medical expenses, paying taxes. The Nordic Theory of Everything isn’t an attack on the U.S. – Partanen admires many things about life here. Instead, it’s a comparison of American and Nordic societies with an emphasis on the “Nordic Theory of Love” which suggests that relationships must be built on equality. Partanen also does an excellent job of debunking misconceptions about the Nordic “nanny state” and points out the ways our own system creates unrecognized dependencies.

    7.27 The Year of Living DanishlyTHE YEAR OF LIVING DANISHLY
    Helen Russell
    (2016)

    Right after finishing Partanen’s book, I picked up this one, a delightful memoir from a British journalist who moved to Denmark so that her husband could live out his dream of working for LEGO. This is the book that first introduced me to hygge, and given that it was published last January, I wonder if it’s the one that set off the hygge trend. Russell is honest and snarky about her move –delighting in Danish pastry, puzzling over recycling regulations, and bemoaning the dark, frigid winters. She sets out to understand why Danes are so happy, researching Danish recreation, childcare, education, healthcare, and more. Her book is hilarious and insightful, and I highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys memoirs.

    7.27 The Little Book of HyggeTHE LITTLE BOOK OF HYGGE: DANISH SECRETS TO HAPPY LIVING
    Meik Wiking
    (2017)

    Meik Wiking certainly knows what he’s talking about when it comes to hygge – he’s CEO of the Happiness Research Institute in Copenhagen (yes, that's a thing). In this quick read, he points out simple things that create hygge – good lighting, food and drink, filling your home with high quality materials you love, and togetherness – and he backs it up with psychological research.

     

     

    7.27 How to HyggeHOW TO HYGGE: THE NORDIC SECRETS TO A HAPPY LIFE
    Signe Johansen
    (2017)

    I’ve just started this one, but I can tell that it has a slightly different approach from Wiking’s book. She covers some of the same topics – what hygge is, how to design your home with coziness in mind, spending time with loved ones – but this is primarily a cookbook. Johansen is a Norwegian chef, so if you’d like to try your hand at delicious Scandinavian recipes, this is the hygge book for you. Bonus points: it has lovely pictures to go along with many of the recipes.

     

    7.27 Modern Living Scandinavian StyleMODERN LIVING: SCANDINAVIAN STYLE
    Claire Bingham
    (2016)

    If you love the clean, natural look of Scandinavian interiors, look no further. Modern Living: Scandinavian Style goes room by room, offering tips on achieving a lived-in look. The book focuses on practical, light-filled design based around high quality materials and features interviews with numerous well-known interior designers.

     

    7.27 The Danish Way of ParentingTHE DANISH WAY OF PARENTING
    By Jessica Joelle Alexander and Iben Dissing Sandahl
    (2016)

    This one is still on my to-read list, since the library doesn't own it yet, but it's intriguing. Along the lines of Bringing Up Bebe, it offers an alternative to American parenting styles, with an emphasis on play, emphathy, togetherness, happiness, and avoiding power struggles.

     

     

    Clearly, Scandinavia is having something of a publishing moment, and I’m having something of a Scandinavian book year. If you get really swept up by the Nordic wave, the library has even more hygge-related books in its physical and digital collections, so happy (and hyggeligt) reading!  

    Save

  • austen ranking

    Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5

    I've been lucky enough to meet a lot of incredible authors through our AuthorLink events, but there’s only one I’d completely geek out over. Unfortunately, she’s been dead for nearly 200 years.

    I’m one of those people. Janeite, Austenite, actual crazy person, nerd – whatever you want to call me, I have to confess that when it comes to Jane Austen, I’m more than a casual fan. After reading each of her novels countless times, researching her life extensively, poring over Austen scholarship, and writing a master’s thesis about Austen adaptations, I’ve come to two conclusions:

    1. I’m WAY too invested in the life and writings of a dead person

    2.  Austen 100% lives up to the hype

    If you’ve never read an Austen novel, I’m begging you to do it, even if you’ve seen the film adaptations and think they’re not your thing. The humor, rhythm, and genius of her writing never completely transfer to the screen, and you don’t quite know Austen if you’ve never read her books.

    That being said, Austen adaptations are prolific, ranging from the merely okay to the brilliant, and most of them are worth watching at least once. Fortunately for you, I’ve seen them all, with one notable and a few not so notable exceptions, so I can save you time in choosing where to start.

    Austen nerd that I am, I’ll spend the next few weeks sharing my favorite and not-so-favorite Austen adaptations (except for PRIDE AND PREJUDICE AND ZOMBIES and a handful of obscure adaptations from the 50s and 60s that I still haven’t seen. Whoops.) 

    Miniseries, films, and YouTube adaptations are all up for grabs, but there are a few films I won’t be ranking. Here's why:

    4.26 Death Comes to PemberleyDEATH COMES TO PEMBERLEY
    Directed by Daniel Percival
    (2013)

    Because it’s a sequel, not an adaptation of the original. It is on Netflix, though, if you like your Regency period drama with a dash of murder.

     

    4.26 Becoming JaneBECOMING JANE
    Directed by Julian Jarrold
    (2008)

    Because it’s a (romantic, but not terribly accurate) biographical film, not an adaptation of an Austen novel.

     

    4.26 Miss Austen RegretsMISS AUSTEN REGRETS
    Directed by Jeremy Lovering
    (2008)

    Because, again, it’s a biopic, not an Austen adaptation. Maybe it's good that it's not on the list, because our library doesn't own it, and neither does the Orem Public Library. I definitely don't own it, so how did I ever watch this in the first place?

    It's a mystery.

     

    4.26 AustenlandAUSTENLAND
    Directed by Jerusha Hess
    (2014)

    Because, though this film is a joy, it's a Shannon Hale Adaptation, not a Jane Austen adaptation. It is, however, a hilarious homage to Austen, Austen fans, and people who think Austen fans are ridiculous. You should watch it.

     

    4.26 The Jane Austen Book ClubTHE JANE AUSTEN BOOK CLUB
    Directed by Robin Swicord
    (2007)

    Because, though it draws on Austen in its plots, it's in that fuzzy territory between Austen-inspired and a full-fledged adaptation. Feel free to disagree.

     

    4.26 EligibleELIGIBLE
    TBA

    Because, regrettably, I am unable to time travel into the future, even for a modernized Austen adaptation. In the meantime, the book is available.

     

    So, with those banned from the competition, now’s the time for guessing. I'll try to be diplomatic in my analysis, but you don't have to be. Which adaptation do you think deserves the number one spot? Which adaptations are an abomination, defiling all that is good and holy and Austenesque? Let us know in the comments.

     
  • austen ranking 1

    Part 1, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5

    Well, readers, it's that time again. It's time to talk Austen. We've already established where I've failed in my Austen adaptation viewership (PRIDE AND PREJUDICE AND ZOMBIES, nearly every adaptation pre-1970), which leaves us with roughly 25 adaptations to rank.

    I'm ready. Are you ready?

    Let's begin.

    6.6 Lost in Austen26. LOST IN AUSTEN 
    Directed by Dan Zeff
    (2008)

    Jane marries Mr. Collins. Darcy ends up with someone besides Elizabeth. Gemma Arterton (an excellent casting choice for Lizzy) is barely on screen. The very attractive Elliot Cowan somehow manages to look unattractive as Darcy. I hate this movie very much. That is all.

     

    6.6 Scents and Sensibility25. SCENTS AND SENSIBILITY
    Directed by Brian Brough
    (2011)

    This movie is decidedly not great, but it does inexplicably have magic, healing lotion. I'm in favor of magic lotion that cures disease, and I would like the recipe, thank you (take that, angry thyroid!). SCENTS AND SENSIBILITY is fluffy and enjoyable, if a little bit silly.

     

    6.6 From Prada to Nada24. FROM PRADA TO NADA
    Directed by Angel Gracia
    (2011)

    I love the idea of a Latina take on Jane Austen, but this one falls a bit flat. There are a few too many stereotypes and clichés, and the script could have used some work. Overall, it’s predictable, lighthearted rom-com fare and an okayish effort at a transcultural adaptation.

     

    6.6 Aisha23. AISHA
    Directed by Rajshree Ojha
    (2010)

    The production quality of AISHA is better than that of KANDUKONDAIN KANDUKONDAIN, but it lacks the spark of BRIDE AND PREJUDICE. EMMA adaptations are tricky because the main character is so hard to capture – both likeable and frustrating – and this Emma solidly falls in the frustrating category. Austen famously described Emma as “a heroine whom no one but myself will much like,” but for me at least, AISHA takes that a little too far.

    Even though I saw this movie only a couple of years ago I remember very little else about it, which is not a great argument in its favor. I think Aisha was tall? She maybe goes to the beach with her friends as some point?

     

    6.6 Mansfield Park22. Every Austen Adaptation Made for TV in the 70s and 80s

    I have watched them all, and I can confidently say that these are... adequate. They are extremely faithful to the original plots, sometimes at the expense of visuals, music, acting, washed hair, and cinematic timing. In short, they are a little bit dull. Of the lot, however, the 1980 PRIDE AND PREJUDICE and the 1983 MANSFIELD PARK are the best.

     

    06.6 Emma9621. EMMA
    Directed by Diarmuid Lawrence
    (1996)

    I love Kate Beckinsale. The woman is aging backwards, and I’d consider murder to have skin like hers (maybe she has access to magic healing lotion? Discuss). BUT I do not love her as Emma Woodhouse. Where Gwyneth Paltrow manages to make Emma charming in all of her selfishness and absurdity, I just can’t like this Miss Woodhouse.

    Note: This is based on my totally unanalyzed gut reaction to the film, and critics completely disagreed with me. I've tried to be objective in the rest of my rankings, but I'm probably wrong on this one. Insert shrugging emoji here.

     
  • austen ranking 1

    Part 1, Part 2, Part 4, Part 5

    Now that we've covered the not-so-great adaptations of Jane Austen's classic novels, it's time to move on the the merely okay! Ummm... yay?

    Whether it's altered characters, terrible kisses, or unfortunate placement of manholes, each of these adapatations had something about them that was just a little off. They aren't the worst, but they definitely aren't the best. Here's why.

    6.27 Mansfield Park 200720) MANSFIELD PARK
     Directed by Iain B. MacDonald
    (2007)

    Billie Piper's performance is such an odd take on Fanny. She never quite meshes with the historical setting, and the hair and costume choices don't help (why does she keep wearing her hair down?!?!). Though the 1999 adaptation, which we'll get to later, makes serious departures from the book, those alterations at least feel intentional and carefully thought out. The changes to the characters here, particularly in making Fanny lively and playful, just don't make sense. Plot points are also rushed or skipped over entirely. While MANSFIELD PARK is certainly Austen's most serious and difficult novel, this adaptation feels frothy and frivolous.

    To be honest, I probably should have put this on the "Not So Good" list, but I temporarily forgot it existed and have since had to renumber everything in that post. Whoops.

    6.27 I Have Found It19) KANDUKONDAIN KANDUKONDAIN (I HAVE FOUND IT)
    Directed by Rajiv Menon
    (2000)

    This Tamil film, the first Indian adaptation of an Austen novel (correct me if I’m wrong), is a movie I wish I liked. The tone is uneven, with a jarring mix of war scenes and music video-style montages of dance and song. And then there’s the unintentionally hilarious fact that (spoiler!) instead of falling ill near the end of the story, the Marianne character instead falls into a manhole. Nevertheless, the songs are fun, Aishwarya Rai is lovely as ever, and it’s the film that eventually led to BRIDE AND PREJUDICE, so I can’t complain too much.

     

    6.27 Pride and Prejudice18) PRIDE AND PREJUDICE: A LATTER-DAY COMEDY
    Directed by Andrew Black 
    (2003)

    AKA “the Mormon one.” This movie isn’t quite good enough to stand on its own as a film or an Austen adaptation, but if you’ve ever experienced an LDS singles ward, it resonates. The transition of an early 19th century England to early 21st century Provo is surprisingly smooth, given the shared obsession with early marriage. It’s mildly entertaining in a slapstick sort of way, and I’ll never stop thinking the scene with heartbroken Lizzie and Jane in the grocery store is funny: “Triple choc-choc-choc-chocolate chunk? Or Uncle Bubba’s Big Belly Batter Brickle?”

     

    6.27 Bridget Jones17) BRIDGET JONES’S DIARY
    Directed by Sharon Maguire 
    (2001)

    Is it fair to call this an Austen adaptation when it’s already the adaptation of another book? I’m not sure, and I struggled with its placement since it’s so popular but not a personal favorite. It’s funny and satirical and very British, and it makes some clever nods to PRIDE AND PREJUDICE (including the casting of Colin Firth as Mark Darcy). I think my main hang-up with this one is Bridget as the main character. Where Elizabeth Bennet was clever, charming, and witty, Bridget is a lovable hot mess. It’s easier for me to like her and the film if I separate it from Pride and Prejudice altogether.

    I know that fidelity is a nebulous, unattainable goal, or whatever, but don’t mess with my favorite characters (I’m looking at you, every LITTLE WOMEN adaptation I've ever seen).

     

    6.27 Persuasion16) PERSUASION
    Directed by Adrian Shergold
    (2007)

    This movie would have been much, much higher up the list but for one thing: MINUS ALL THE POINTS FOR THE WORST KISS IN CINEMATIC HISTORY. Anne’s out of breath from running through the streets of Bath, and she’s left with her mouth gaping open like fish while Wentworth waits an absurdly long time to bend down and meet her kiss. *shudders*  

    I need to watch the final scene from NORTH AND SOUTH as a palate cleanser after even thinking about it.

     

    6.27 Pride and Prejudice 194015) PRIDE AND PREJUDICE
    Directed by Robert Z. Leonard
    (1940)

    If you’re obsessed with fidelity, this is not the adaptation for you, but as a stand-alone film and piece of cinematic history, it’s charming. Released in 1940, producers worried that the film would make our British allies seem stuffy and prejudiced, so certain characters (*cough* Catherine de Bourgh *cough*) were significantly altered. The time period was also moved forward to capitalize on the popularity of GONE WITH THE WIND in its flamboyant costume design.

    So, the storyline is a far cry from Austen’s original, but Lawrence Olivier was destined, both in appearance and manner, to play Fitzwilliam Darcy. In fact, I think he may actually be Darcy. Can a fictional character be reincarnated as an iconic movie star?

     

    6.27 Emma Approved14) EMMA APPROVED
    Directed by Bernie Su
    (2013-2014)

    Bernie Su’s creative follow-up to THE LIZZIE BENNET DIARIES is unfortunately not quite as good, though I still enjoyed watching it. The production quality is better (this is a very pretty adaptation) but the setup feels forced. Where Lizzie was a vlogger, Emma is simply recording videos for posterity, and it stretches credibility a little too much. The storytelling isn't as clever and insightful as THE LIZZIE BENNET DIARIES and the characters felt less real, but the series grew on me over time.

    Why? The chemistry between Alex Knightley and Emma is a major redeeming quality. The rest of the plot struggles initially, but the sexual tension is A+.

     
  • austen ranking 1

    Part 1, Part 2Part 3Part 5

    Well, my friends, the Austen obsession continues, and this week we move on from the tolerable to the amiable. This adaptations are good, but they just missed being included among the best of the best. Here’s why.

    7.13 2008 Emma12) EMMA
    Directed by Jim O'Hanlan
    (2009)

    I found this adaptation enjoyable, but forgettable. Bonus points for Johnny Lee Miller playing his second Austen hero and bonus, extra, super points for casting Ramola Garai, who is a gift to us from the period drama gods.

     

    7.13 Bride and Prejudice11) BRIDE AND PREJUDICE
    Directed by Gurinder Chadha
    (2004)

    I think the bland male leads and a slightly disjointed storyline are what hold me back from loving BRIDE AND PREJUDICE completely, but the film is still a whole lot of fun. The best known cross-cultural Austen adaptation, it’s frothy and colorful and a little bit whacky, and it’s hard not to enjoy it. And it’s a MUSICAL, which few other Austen film adaptations can claim. Plus, Aishwarya Rai is a delight.

     

    7.13 Persuasion10) PERSUASION
    Directed by Roger Michell
    (1996)

    We're finally getting to the point where I feel guilty ranking the adaptations, because from here on out, I love them all deeply.

    This is a quiet adaptation that doesn’t get as much fanfare as many of the others, but it’s lovely nonetheless. Amanda Root is absolutely perfect as Anne – her subtle performance manages to capture Anne’s pain, her exasperation with her relatives, and her quiet determination as well as her shyness.

    I do have to confess something, though. As a teenager watching this movie for the first time, I found myself wondering where all the pretty people were. The cast of this film is surprisingly normal looking, which is a refreshing change from typical Hollywood casting and seems particularly appropriate for the time period.

     

    7.13 Mansfield Park9) MANSFIELD PARK
    Directed by Patricia Rozema
    (1999)

    A lot of people hate this adaptation (my mother among them), but I’m a fan. Fans of other Austen adaptations are sometimes thrown by just how dark and gritty this version is, and by, well, the brief nakedness (there’s understandably not much nudity in most Austen adaptations). In addition to showing that Fanny was pulled out of serious poverty by her not-always-kind cousins, this version also addresses MANSFIELD PARK’s elephant in the room: the Bertrams earned their money in the West Indies, which means that slaves earned it for them. It’s not always a pretty adaptation as a result, but that honesty adds a depth and context to the adaptation that I really appreciate.

    I’ll add that Fanny Price is the only Austen heroine I don’t like very much, so I don’t really mind that the film turned her into a completely different character.

     

    7.13 emma8) EMMA 
    Directed by Douglas McGrath
    (1996)

    This adaptation of Emma and the adaptation of Mansfield Park I just wrote about are a study in contrasts, and I love them for completely opposite reasons. Emma holds a special place in my heart for simply being so PRETTY. The costumes, the sets, the hairstyles, the script - they're just so fluffy and beautiful and charming, much like Emma herself. Gwyneth Paltrow annoys me as a human being, which is probably why I adore her as Emma.

    If you enjoy period dramas, it’s hard to hate this one. And the score by Rachel Portman is delightful. All the fluff, very little of the substance.

     

    7.13 Sense and Sensibility7) SENSE AND SENSIBILITY
    Directed by John Alexander
    (2008)

    This adaptation didn’t get as much attention as I think it deserved, and I hope you’ll watch it if you haven’t already, as it's certainly the best of the 2007 and 2008 ITV/BBC Austen reboots. The opening scenes are surprisingly scandalous for an Austen adaptation, but don’t let them scare you away from the miniseries.

    It pains me not to include this as one of the best of the best, since it's a personal favorite. As great as Emma Thompson is, Hattie Morahan is exactly how I pictured Elinor, and Charity Wakefield is lovely as Marianne. It's a full-length miniseries, which allows it time to cover plot points that the 1995 adapation didn't have time for. And it does it so very well.

    Note: For fans of the "Darcy emerges from the pond" scene in in the '96 Pride and Prejudice, this Sense and Sensibility gives you Downton Abbey's Matthew revived from the dead and angstily chopping wood in the rain. Enjoy.

     

    Join us soon for the best of the best!

  •  Austen ranking

    We're finally here, reader. The time has come to declare the best of the best Austen adaptations, and I'm wordier than ever. What can I say? I get a little effusive when talking Jane.

    Missed the earlier posts? You can find them here, here, here, and here.

    These final adaptations aren't necessarily in the order I most enjoy watching them, but I stand by my claim that they're the best. Why? Each of these final six revolutionized Austen adaptations in one way or another, influencing adaptations to come in profound ways. They've defined Austen in our popular imagination more than anything besides the novels themselves.

    8.10 Pride and Prejudice 20056) PRIDE AND PREJUDICE
    Directed by Joe Wright
    (2005)

    You either love this adaptation, or you hate it, and I’m mostly on the loving it side. I was wary of Keira Knightley playing Elizabeth Bennet, and I’m still not quite sure how I feel about it, but I am a fan of Matthew McFadyen’s vulnerable take on Darcy. Social anxiety is an interesting and plausible explanation for the character’s behavior. In general I LOVE the casting, especially Rosamund Pike as Jane and Judy Dench as Lady Catherine de Bourgh (that woman can play uppity old lady like no one else). And it even has a baby Carrey Mulligan!

    This film is in the running against the 1995 Sense and Sensibility for most gorgeous cinematography, and I think it ultimately wins. And that score! The shot of Elizabeth standing on the cliffside, skirts billowing in the wind while "Liz on Top of the World" plays is seared into my memory in the best way possible. I also love that it brings a little bit of the grit back into period dramas – pigs and dirt and a recognition that the obsession with marriage was born out of a legitimate fear of poverty.

    This version does dumb down the language in places and spends a little more time explaining Regency culture than some other adaptations, which the egalitarian in me approves of and my inner snob is annoyed by. BUT for that very reason, if you ask a millennial about Austen films, this is the one they're most likely to have watched. It's accessible for period drama lovers and period drama newbies alike.

    Why it earned a top spot: for bringing Austen to a new generation.

     

    8.10 Love and Friendship5) LOVE AND FRIENDSHIP
    Directed by Whit Stillman
    (2016)

    In general, I feel like modernized adaptations have done a better job than period dramas of showing just how funny and biting Austen was, but this one is the exception. It’s a darkly hilarious period piece, and it perfectly captures the social awkwardness and subtle human cruelty that Austen delighted in laughing at. If you enjoy THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST and the novels of P.G. Wodehouse, you'll likely enjoy this comedy of manners.

    The novella on which the film is based is Austen at her meanest and also her cleverest, turning the stories of Samuel Richardson on their head by depicting the scheming libertine as both a woman (shocking!) and the most engaging character. LOVE AND FRIENDSHIP glories in that subversion, and Kate Beckinsale as Lady Susan is my favorite casting in any Austen adaptation, hands down. 

    Side note: watch this movie and then the Beckinsale version of EMMA and then try to tell me the woman isn’t Benjamin Buttoning the heck out of life. I suspect she actually became a vampire for her role in VAN HELSING. Method acting at its finest.

    Why it earned a top spot: for embracing Austen's satirical side.

     

    8.10 The Lizzie Bennet Diaries4) THE LIZZIE BENNET DIARIES
    Directed by Bernie Su
    (2012 - 2013)

    I’m a little biased in favor of this series, having spent two years researching it for my master’s thesis, but I’ll stand by my claim that it’s a brilliant modernization. The series breaks with Austen on certain plot points as a way to remain faithful to her feminist themes, social commentary, and humor in a modern setting. It modernizes the characters in compelling ways. It's funny and fresh and revolutionized online, immersive story telling as well as the world of Austen adaptations. If you’d like to hear all my thoughts on the subject (and really, who wouldn’t?), I’d be happy to loan you a copy of my super hard-hitting, very important, not at all frivolous master’s thesis.

    Since it’s a Youtube series, it’s not something you can check out the library, but we do have a novelization by the series creators, THE SECRET DIARY OF LIZZIE BENNET.

    Do yourself a favor and go watch THE LIZZIE BENNET DIARIES on Youtube. You can return many hours later to thank me.

    Why it earned a top spot: for bringing Austen into the digital age.

     

    8.10 Clueless3) CLUELESS
    Directed by Amy Heckerling
    (1995)

    Unless you’re a super nerd like me and read articles like “The Surprising Fidelity of Clueless” for fun, this one might surprise you, but hear me out. Austen novels, though often marketed as romances, are first and foremost satires. I’ll say it again, louder for the people in the back – AUSTEN WROTE SATIRE, NOT JUST ROMANCE. She was insightfully commenting on and criticizing the world in which she lived, and it’s freaking hilarious.

    CLUELESS is one of the few adaptations to bring that satire to the forefront, and it brilliantly critiques modern life. It exaggerates human behavior just enough to make us laugh, but not so much that it’s unrecognizable. It pokes holes in the self-importance of the rich and socially elite. It's not just the story of a rich, meddling girl; it's a commentary on consumerism, wealth, teenage culture, and more.

    Why it earned a top spot: for modernizing Austen, wit intact

     

    8.10 Sense and Sensibility2) SENSE AND SENSIBILITY
    Directed by Ang Lee
    (1995)

    For me, the 1995 Sense and Sensibility has the best screenplay of all Austen adaptations, and Emma Thompson (who also starred as Elinor), made excellent calls about what to cut and include in a film-length storyline. Along with a fair amount of humor and romance, she captured Austen’s social commentary about the limitations placed on women by Regency society in a compelling way. And she even won an Oscar for it.

    Beyond that, the film is visually gorgeous, the score is one of my favorites of all time, and the casting is excellent. More than any adaptation before it, Sense and Sensibility goes beyond just repeating Austen's words on camera to instead explore how visuals can tell the story when the script alone can't. That moment when Marianne, Mrs. Dashwood, and Margaret all go sobbing into their rooms and Elinor sits down to calmly drink a cup of tea perfectly encapsulates who the characters are. It gets right to the heart of the plot in a few moments of screentime. It's perfect.

    Premiering just a few months after my number one pick aired on television, the 1995 Sense and Sensibility shares the honor of ushering in an era of excellent Austen adaptations. More than 20 years later, it still doesn't feel dated.

    Why it earned a top spot: for bringing Austen to the big screen, in a big way.

     

    8.10 Pride and Prejudice 19951) PRIDE AND PREJUDICE
    Directed by Simon Langton
    (1995)

    Okay, okay, you knew this would be number one, didn’t you? I’m not sure it’s actually my personal favorite, but it takes the cake because it’s the one that started them all. It defined Austen adaptations as a genre, and I really didn’t have a choice but to give it the top spot.

    Though earlier Austen adaptations had been produced for TV and film, this BBC/A&E made-for-TV miniseries launched the “Austen Renaissance” of adaptations that beautifully blended fidelity to the original novel with general viewer appeal. Lovely cinematography, a great score, good acting – it set the standard for every Austen adaptation to follow.

    And it also brought us Colin Firth, so...

    Why it earned the top spot: for showing us how to do Austen right.

     
  • Woman Holding Shard of Glass

    There’s something about unreliable female narrators. Bestselling thrillers are chock-full of them.

    Obsession, addiction, self-destruction, and mental illness combine in characters who make you question your own understanding of the plot. Their dark, twisty stories leave readers hurrying through the pages to see if their guesses are correct. Yet they’ve been criticized as undermining real women’s believability in the age of #metoo. More often than not, though, these characters are vindicated and ultimately proven trustworthy, which may undercut that critique.

    So what do you think? If you enjoy thrillers from this complicated perspective, here are a few of the most popular options:

    7.5 The Girl on the TrainTHE GIRL ON THE TRAIN
    By Paula Hawkins
    (2015)

    Rachel Watson is a recently unemployed woman who drinks heavily to deal with the collapse of her marriage. Her only solace comes in gazing out train windows, spying on the people whose homes she passes. When Rachel wakes from a blackout one morning, bloody and injured, she discovers to her horror that one of those people, a young woman she had been fascinated with, has gone missing.

     

    7.5 Gone GirlGONE GIRL
    By Gillian Flynn
    (2012)

    When beautiful, talented Amy Dunne goes missing, suspicion quickly falls on her husband, Nick. The story initially alternates between Nick’s perspective and Amy’s diary entries, and readers gradually discover that neither character is quite what they first appear. This massive bestseller was later adapted in a 2013 award winning film, and Rosamund Pike received an Oscar nomination for her depiction of Amy.

     

    7.5 The Woman in the WindowTHE WOMAN IN THE WINDOW
    By A.J. Finn
    (2018)

    This recent bestseller is Rear Window meets Gone Girl. Anna Fox is certain she’s witnessed a murder in the house across the street. Has the new neighbor murdered his wife? But when detectives arrive and begin to investigate, Anna’s story crumbles. The wife is alive and well, while agoraphic Anna appears increasingly unstable.A film adaptation starring Amy Adams is due out this fall, but the author’s own backstory is full of enough twists, turns, and lies for a movie of its own.

     

    7.5 The Wife Between UsTHE WIFE BETWEEN US
    By Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen
    (2018)

    Honestly, The Wife Between Us might have too many twists and turns, but they’re ones I never saw coming. Vanessa, a woman left barely functional after her divorce from Richard, is obsessed with getting in contact with his new girlfriend. The novel rotates between Vanessa’s perspective and depicting Richard’s relationship with Nellie. This book can be a little confusing if you don’t keep track of the characters and of the twists, so pay close attention as you read. The story isn’t what you think it is.

     

    7.5 An Anonymous GirlAN ANONYMOUS GIRL
    By Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen
    (2019)

    Hendricks and Pekkanen followed up The Wife Between US with a second psychological thriller just a year later. In need of easy money, makeup artist Jessica Farris lies her way into a research study about (ironically enough) ethics. She quickly develops an intense and boundary-crossing doctor-patient relationship with the psychiatrist running the study, Dr. Shields. As the lines between Dr. Shields’s life and her own begin to blur, Jess’s paranoia grows. Is she a patient? Or a pawn?

     

    7.5 Sharp ObjectsSHARP OBJECTS
    By Gillian Flynn
    (2006)

    Of all of these thrillers, Sharp Objects may be the darkest and creepiest. Journalist Camille Preaker has made a life for herself in Chicago, after years of self-harm and destructive choices. When young girls start going missing in Camille’s childhood hometown, her boss insists she report on the case. Returning to Wind Gap and reconnecting with her estranged family bring both Camille’s past and the crimes horrifyingly close.

     

    Interestingly, the female perspectives in nearly all of these novels are voiced by one of two narrators in audiobook form. Julia Whelan voiced GONE GIRL, THE WIFE BETWEEN US, and AN ANONYMOUS GIRL, while Ann Marie Lee narrated THE WOMAN IN THE WINDOW and SHARP OBJECTS. Whelan’s low voice has a disdainful tone perfect for the untrustworthy characters in her respective books, while Lee’s projects her characters’ fragility and uncertainty. If you enjoy audiobooks, be sure to check them out. 

  • book club 2

    So you've put together a great group for book club, and everyone's excited to get reading. If it's your turn, hosting can feel intimidating, but hopefully these tips will help.

    1. Choose books carefully
      If you're choosing what the group reads, be thoughtful about your selection, and don’t leave it to the last minute. Be mindful of what the group will enjoy and have a good discussion about. It can help if you or someone else in the club have already read the book. That way no one is caught off guard by content and you know you'll have plenty of topics to discuss. If a few group members have already read it, don't hesitate to choose the book anyway. Chances are they'll enjoy the month off and will still be excited to discuss their thoughts.

      Be sure to mix things up as far as genre and audience go. Contemporary adult literature, historical fiction, and classics don't have to be your only options. YA and children's lit provide plenty of depth and a wonderful change of pace from typical book club reads, as do fantasy, science fiction, mysteries, and nonfiction.

      Still feel a little overwhelmed by options? Bring it to the group! Even though the host selects the book each month in our club, they typically discuss options with all of us before making the final call.

    2. Review the book before you meet
      Even if you’ve just read the book, doing a quick refresher on timelines, character names, and themes is a good idea. Sparknotes or Shmoop are perfect tools for this. I’ve been guilty of skipping this step and have been amazed at how much I’ve forgotten in the moment. It’s helpful to do as a book club attendee too.

    3. Plan out discussion topics and questions
      You might think discussion will happen organically, and occasionally it does, but more often than not, you’ll need a plan. Discussion guides are easy to find online for classic and popular books at sites like LitLovers and Reading Group Guides. Author interviews or biographical articles also add a great depth to conversation.

      If the book you’ve chosen is one of our library book club sets, you’re in even better luck. Even if you aren’t checking out book club set, we’ve already done the research for you and have discussion guides and relevant articles for each book available on our website (see an example here). 

    4. Let them eat cake (or buffalo wings)
      You don’t have to go all out, but refreshments can help loosen the mood and make things more fun. Don’t feel like cooking? My group often meets at restaurants, sometimes in ways that are vaguely related to the book (we met at Wingers while discussing CODE NAME VERITY, for instance).

    5. Allow time for casual chatting
      Book club is about books, but it’s also about friendship. We usually spend a good hour catching up on each other’s lives before discussing what we’ve read, and we don’t feel guilty about it at all. It’s all about finding a balance.

    Well, faithful readers, that brings our series on book clubs to an end. What did we miss? Why do you love your book club? How have you kept it alive and thriving?

  • Were Thankful for You

    This blog has been a wonderful way for us to promote library resources and services, but today, in honor of Thanksgiving, I’d like to turn things around a bit. This year and every year, I’m grateful for the library patrons of all types who make the Provo Library the magical place that it is, including:

    SUPER PATRONS

    We have a few families and individuals who come to EVERYTHING – getting every last drop of use out of the library. They check out books every week, regularly ask for recommendations, meet every visiting author, attend almost every program, and fight to finish every last summer reading challenge. Library users like them are a librarian’s dream, and their familiar faces are always so welcome.

    DIGITAL USERS

    You don’t even have to enter the building to get great use out of our library. Some of our most dedicated patrons exclusively use digital resources like Libby and Lynda. Digital usage has gone up dramatically in recent years, and we’re so happy that people have found new ways to prioritize reading and information in this busy world.

    PEOPLE IN NEED OF A SAFE SPACE

    Kids looking for a place to hang out after school, stay-at-home parents who badly need a break from the house, low income patrons seeking a warm place to hang out and read or use the internet, elderly individuals wantinga  little extra help learning to use social media to connect with their families - these are some of our most regular visitors. We’re so thankful for the patrons of all types who feel welcome here, making libraries the beautifully democratic places that they are.

    THE MAIN ATTRACTIONS

    By the end of this year, we will have hosted 39 authors, 18 performing groups, and 14 learn-it instructors. Each of these individuals brought a diverse audience through our doors, and as staff we certainly can’t complain about being paid to attend their events!

    ROOM RENTERS

    Whether its businesses, families, motivational speakers, politicians, or oh so many brides and grooms, the people who rent our rooms for private events bring a special energy to the library. They fill the Academy side of the building with music, happy voices, flowers, delicious food smells (which regularly make me jealous), and sometimes even camels or bagpipers. They often introduce the library to people who have never been here before, but who end up coming back.

    VOLUNTEERS

    We have around 25 regular volunteers who help run our teen events, restock the book store, clean books and shelves, organize books for our ballroom book sales, assist with special events, teach computer classes, and so much more. We couldn’t accomplish all that we do without them.

    YOU!

    No matter which kind of library patron you are, thank you for your support. As much as we’d like to take credit, as staff, for how awesome the Provo Library is, this is your institution, not ours. Your participation, tax dollars, and love for this building and the information and entertainment it provides are what make it incredible. The people of Provo saved this building from the wrecking ball more than 20 years ago, and they keep it a vibrant, ever-evolving place today. You motivate us to be better, and we’re so grateful for you.

  • book club

    January 5th will mark my book club's four year anniversary. Team Don’t Read Crappy Books (sorry about the name, but we have T-shirts and everything – we think we’re funny) has hit a few bumps along the way, but I can still confidently declare it a rousing success.

    In my next post I’ll share some tips for keeping your book club alive, but it may just be that you need convincing to join one in the first place. With that in mind, here are my top five reasons to start or join a book club:

    1. TO DEVELOP FRIENDSHIPS
      Book clubs offer a great way to make new friends or, as is the case for me, to stay in touch with old ones. After years of talking about it, my college friends and I finally got around to starting one in 2014 because we were finishing school, changing jobs, starting families, and spreading out throughout Utah and Salt Lake Counties. We weren’t seeing each other as often, and book club provided a structured way to get together regularly. Those ladies are my closest friends, and I think meeting every other month for book club is a significant part of that.

    2. TO EXPAND YOUR READING HORIZONS
      It’s easy to get stuck in a personal reading rut and avoid new genres, but in a club of diverse readers, you’re sure to avoid that. There have been a few books chosen by my club members that I never would have read on my own and initially felt wary about, but they’ve ended up sparking great discussion. Book club sometimes forces me out of my reading comfort zone, and that’s a good thing.

    3. TO HAVE REQUIRED READING
      This might sound weird (who wants homework, right?), but hear me out. As a librarian, I read constantly, but when Team Don’t Read Crappy Books was founded, I was in the midst of grad school and barely found time for recreational reading. Our club forced me to prioritize reading, and it was a delight to read for fun without feeling guilty about it. 

    4. TO THINK ABOUT BOOKS IN A NEW WAY
      Outside of school, we sometimes get out of the practice of reading critically. Knowing that an in depth discussion is coming causes me to look for themes and profound quotes and to think them through more deeply than I might when just reading casually. I love hearing my friends’ perspectives and often leave our meetings with an entirely different approach to the book than I came in with.

    5. TO PLAY MATCHMAKER
      Books are my friends. I always wait anxiously for my chance to choose our book club read (it’s my turn again soon!) because it’s an opportunity to introduce the people I love to the stories and words and characters that mean so much to me. What could be better than that?

    So, in the spirit of New Year's resolutions, why not start a book club of your own in 2018? We even have book club sets to make it easier.

  • witchy films

    A couple of weeks ago on the blog, I admitted my love for all things witchy and shared my favorite recent books about witches. To continue that theme and honor the Halloween spirit, I’ve compiled a list of my favorite movies starring witches.  They’re certainly bewitching, if I do say so myself.

    10.26 I Married a WitchI MARRIED A WITCH
    Directed by René Clair
    (1942)

    During the height of the Salem witch trials, Jennifer (Veronica Lake) and her father Daniel (Cecil Kellaway) are burned at the stake. As her final act, Jennifer curses her Puritan persecutor, Jonathan Wooley, and his descendants to always marry unhappily. When the father and daughter escape their spiritual imprisonment centuries later, Jennifer vows to torment Wallace, the latest in a long line of Wooleys, but love gets in the way. With a 95% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes, this romantic comedy is an absolute classic. The Provo Library doesn't currently own a copy, unfortunately, but the Orem Library does!

     

    10.26 MatildaMATILDA
    Directed by Danny DeVito
    (1996)

    I don’t know that Matilda Wormwood is ever actually referred to as a witch, but I think her telekinesis and last name qualify as witchy. This film is delightful. A brilliant and magical young girl, deliciously wicked villains, and plenty of shenanigans – what more could you want? So why not whip up a Matilda-inspired chocolate fudge cake and discover the magic of Roald Dahl on film?

     

    10.26 Bell Book and CandleBELL, BOOK, AND CANDLE
    Directed by Richard Quine
    (1958)

    Greenwich Village witch Gillian (Kim Novak) has had a long-running feud with Merle Kittridge (Janice Rule) since college. When Gillian finds out that her handsome neighbor Shep (Jimmy Stewart) plans to marry Merle, she simply has to intervene. Her love spell has unintended consequences, however, ultimately forcing her to choose between love and magic. With hints of BEWITCHED and I DREAM OF JEANNIE and starring the talented duo from VERTIGO, BELL, BOOK, AND CANDLE is an awful lot of fun.

     

    10.26 BewitchedBEWITCHED
    Directed by Nora Ephron
    (2005)

    I’ll be honest, in a lot of respects, this movie isn’t great. It had so much going for it – A Nora and Delia Ephron screenplay, Nora Ephron as the director, Nicole Kidman, Shirley MacLaine, Michael Caine, Steve Carell, Stephen Colbert, the nostalgia of the original Bewitched series -  it should have been amazing, right? Unfortunately, the writing and acting fall a little flat, and the film was panned by critics. And yet I watch BEWITCHED about once a year anyway.

    On an intellectual level, I know this movie isn’t very good, but on another level I really enjoy it. The plot is okay, but the movie is just so pretty to look at! Isabel is the kind of witch I’d want to be. Her bungalow cottage is perfectly adorable, and as I watch the parts of the film that are set there, I spend most of my time analyzing the furniture (I seriously want her floral sofa), kitchen cabinets, and windows. And then there’s Isabel’s/Samantha’s/Nicole’s clothes in the film – so many adorable cardigans! It’s a librarian’s dream. Roughly 30% of my current wardrobe is inspired by this not-so-great movie.

    You think I’m kidding, right? I’m not kidding.

    10.26 Practical MagicPRACTICAL MAGIC
    Directed by Griffin Dunne
    (1998)

    BEWITCHED wasn’t the first time Nicole Kidman played a witch. Based on the book by Alice Hoffman (and now there’s a prequel!), PRACTICAL MAGIC tells the story of the Owens sisters, practical Sally (Sandra Bullock) and wild child Gillian (Kidman), whose magical family is cursed in love. This is another film with envy-inducing set design. Rumor has it that Barbra Streisand was so taken with the Victorian Owens house that she tried to buy it, only to find out that it was a temporary shell instead of a real house. This 90s romantic comedy gave me the heebie-jeebies when I first saw it as a tween. It’s just creepy enough to be a perfect Halloween movie, but it has plenty of romance, lightheartedness, and magical charm for the scaredy-cats (ahem, me) among us.

    10.26 Hocus PocusHOCUS POCUS
    Directed by Kenny Ortega
    (1993)

    I feel like I don’t even need to talk this movie up. We all love HOCUS POCUS, right? As evil as they might be, could there be three more hilarious and winning witches? If you're looking for a Halloween activity, join us on Tuesday at 7:00 for a HOCUS POCUS screening in the Shaw Programming Room, #260.

     

  • Witchy Reads

    My fascination with all things witchy dates back to September 27th, 1996 - more than 20 years! Any guesses what inspired it?

    Ever since then, I've loved the idea of witchcraft, though not in a serious way. There's just something appealing about potions, spells, animal familiars, and covens of powerful women. Thanks to this fascination, fiction books with witchy protagonists inevitably catch my eye. In honor of the season, I thought I'd share a few exciting titles that feature wonderful witches.

    10.12 The Witches of New YorkTHE WITCHES OF NEW YORK
    By Ami McKay
    (2017)

    After reading several starred reviews of Ami McKay's new book, I knew I had to read it. It did not disappoint. THE WITCHES OF NEW YORK tells the story of Adelaide and Eleanor, two magical women who run Tea and Sympathy, a shop that offers tarot readings and herbal remedies in addition to tea and biscuits. When a naive young woman named Beatrice joins them as an assistant, mundane and magical forces combine to endanger the shop and the women who run it. A warning for cautious readers that this novel does include occasional sex and violence.

     

    10.12 The Girl Who Drank the MoonTHE GIRL WHO DRANK THE MOON
    By Kelly Barnhill
    (2016)

    This Newbery winner is an absolute delight. In this children's novel, the people of the Protectorate abandon a baby in sacrifice to the witch who lives outside their village. Little do they know that Xan is a kindly witch who is baffled by their offerings. Each year she takes the babies to a loving family across the forest, until one night she accidentally enmagics one of her charges. She then raises Luna alongside a swamp monster and a perfectly lovable, perfectly tiny dragon.

    THE GIRL WHO DRANK THE MOON tells a lovely story and features the most charming and playful writing I've encountered aside from J.K. Rowling's. Even better, the audiobook reader gives what may just be my favorite narration of all time.

    10.12 The Black WitchTHE BLACK WITCH
    By Laurie Forest
    (2017)

    I've written about my love for this book before, but I had to include it again here. In THE BLACK WITCH, teenager Elloren Gardner leaves her small village to attend an international boarding school. She's the daughter of the Black Witch, Gardneria's rescuer and one of the most powerful mages of all time. When Elloren arrives at school, however, she discovers that the history she's been taught may not be accurate, and that the prejudices she's been raised with are undeserved and even cruel. THE BLACK WITCH deals with difficult topics in a complex but relatable way and in my opinion deserves every starred review it received.

     

    10.12 The Rules of MagicTHE RULES OF MAGIC
    By Alice Hoffman
    (2017)

    Full disclosure here: I haven't actually read this yet. After all, it only came out two days ago! Fans of Hoffman's 1995 book PRACTICAL MAGIC will be thrilled to know that she has returned to the story of the Owens family. For the members of this magical clan, love is a curse that inevitably results in death and heartache. THE RULES OF MAGIC follows an earlier generation of Owens siblings - Franny, Jet, and Vincent - as they navigate the heady days of the 1960s. I've read a few of Hoffman's other works, and her three-dimensional characters, detailed plots, and lush, lyrical writing never disappoint. And based on early reviews, this prequel is every bit as magical as its predecessor.

    Bonus: If you can't get enough fictional witchcraft, check out basically anything by Sarah Addison Allen. Within the pages of her sweet books, you're sure to find romance and magic in a small southern town.

  • bad boyfriends 01

    I’ve been a big classics reader since high school, and over the years I’ve noticed an unsettling trend: men in classic lit often treat women like trash.  Just to be clear, I love these books.  I’d just like to avoid modeling any relationships on them.  And so, for your reading pleasure, I’ve compiled a list of the very worst boyfriends in classic literature.  Be aware that my ordering is completely subjective and based solely on how angry the respective characters make me.

    Warning: major spoilers ahead, if you can really consider them spoilers when the books have been around for 80 years or more.

    10) Willoughby, SENSE AND SENSIBILITY

    Willoughby is handsome and affectionate, and at first he seems like the perfect fit for Marianne.  I mean, the guy loves poetry.  Everything’s going great until his aunt disinherits him over a scandal (the secret love child – a favorite 19th century plot device).  As soon as that happens, he’s out of Marianne’s life faster than you can say boo. I honestly believe Willoughby loved Marianne, but he loved cash a lot more.  It’s all about the money, money, money.

    9) Romeo, ROMEO AND JULIET

    People view Romeo and Juliet as one of the greatest love stories of all time, but if you think about it, Romeo’s kind of a punk.  He’s impulsive, he’s melodramatic, he’s violent (I don’t know about you, but killing your beloved’s cousin strikes me as a bad idea), and he’s more than a little flaky. At the beginning of the play, he’s busy sulking over breaking up with Rosaline.  Twenty seconds later he’s ready to live and die for Juliet because she’s pretty. Ugh.  

    8) Ashley Wilkes, GONE WITH THE WIND

    In my opinion, Ashley Wilkes = namby pamby foo foo garbage (to borrow a favorite phrase from one of my high school teachers).  Melanie is goodness incarnate, and Ashley doesn’t deserve her.  Scarlett is a terrible human being (but a fascinating one!) and Ashley doesn’t deserve her either.  

    7) George Wickham, PRIDE AND PREJUDICE

    Wickham is gorgeous.  He’s charming.  He has a spiffy army uniform.  But he’s also a liar, a gambler, and a terrible flirt.  Even more problematically, he has penchant for seducing naïve teenage girls.  To quote now-disbanded girl group G.R.L.: “It’s such a pity, a boy so pretty with an ugly heart.”  

    6) Edward Rochester, JANE EYRE

    I love Jane Eyre as much as the next girl, but now that I’m not a swooning fourteen year old, I realize that Rochester is objectively pretty awful.  First, he locks up his mentally ill wife in the attic and pretends she doesn’t exist.  Then, he manipulates Jane by acting like he wants to marry Blanche Ingram.  Remember that part where he dresses up like a gypsy so that Jane will confess her love? Not okay.  Finally, he attempts to illegally marry Jane without ever mentioning the whole I-have-a-secret-crazy-wife-who-I-keep-hidden-in-the-attic thing to her.  At the moment of his proposal, lightning nearly strikes him.  Even God thinks Rochester is a bad boyfriend.  

    Next week we'll delve even further into the depths of male-lameness in part 2 of this list! Until then, who do you think I missed? Call out classic lit's worst boyfriends in the comments!

  • bad boyfriends 01

    This week we return with part two of our list of the 10 worst boyfriends in classic literature (missed part one? Read it here!). As I mentioned last week, MAJOR spoilers abound in these descriptions, though the books are all at least 80 years old so you've probably at least seen the movie by now...

    5) Heathcliff, WUTHERING HEIGHTS

    On one level, I feel really bad for Heathcliff, but on another, deeper level, I just think he’s terrible.  He’s moody, obsessive, possessive, violent, and prone to kidnapping people.  To be fair, Catherine is also awful.  That whole, “Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same” line seems fairly accurate, and not in a flattering way.  

    4) Sergeant Troy, FAR FROM THE MADDING CROWD

    Sergeant Troy treats Bathsheba badly, but he absolutely destroys poor Fanny Robbin.  That sad, sweet girl went to marry him, but accidentally went to the wrong chapel.  Does this seem like an innocent accident to you?  Well, not to Sergeant Troy.  Humiliated, he refuses to speak with Fanny, in spite of the fact that she is pregnant with his child.  He then woos and wins Bathsheba, only to gamble away her fortune and criticize her for not being Fanny.  Oh, did I mention that Fanny dies in abject poverty as a result of Troy’s cruelty?  Yep, he’s such a bad boyfriend that it actually kills her.  

    3) Hamlet, HAMLET

    Poor Ophelia.  Your boyfriend takes out all his mommy issues on you.  He claims to love you but then shows up half-dressed at your door, grabs your wrist in a vice-like grip, stares at you for a while, says nothing, and then leaves while still staring at you like a creeper.  When you try to break things off with him, he verbally assaults you and questions your virtue.  That’s when he goes really nutso.  He stabs your dad.  He stabs your brother.  He drives you to suicide.  Not a great track record.  

    2) Angel Clare, TESS OF THE D’URBERVILLES  

    I hate Angel Clare.  HATE him.  Maybe I’m not supposed to because Tess loves him so much and because I’m supposed to be busy hating Alec d’Urberville, but my most intense literary hatred is forever reserved for Angel.  It’s not your girlfriend/wife’s fault she was raped, Angel.  Even if she had been gallivanting across the English countryside with every lord and shepherd in sight, it’s not like you’re exactly a paragon of virtue yourself, you hypocrite.  You’re the worst.  

    1) Mr. B, PAMELA; OR, VIRTUE REWARDED

    Except for Mr. B, who is the actual worst.  Full disclosure: I’m not a fan of this book, since it’s essentially the story of a wealthy man repeatedly trying to seduce or rape his maid in ever more creative ways.  She evades him for 500 pages, at which point he repents and they marry.  Mr. B: a terrible reward for Pamela’s virtue.  

    Honorable Mention (not because they’re any less terrible, but because this list was getting way too long): Othello, OTHELLO; Jay Gatsby, THE GREAT GATSBY; Gilbert Markham, THE TENANT OF WILDFELL HALL; Arthur Huntingdon, THE TENANT OF WILDFELL HALL; Edward Casaubon, MIDDLEMARCH; Arthur Dimmesdale, THE SCARLET LETTER; Bill Sikes, OLIVER TWIST; the Phantom, THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA, St. John Rivers, JANE EYRE;  Edmund Bertram, MANSFIELD PARK; Henry Higgins, PYGMALION; Frank Churchill, EMMA; Fernand Mondego, THE COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO. 

    And there we have it! Classic literature's terrible boyfriends! Who did I leave out? 

  • Clickbait. It’s the worst, right? Yet I, with all my mental faculties engaged, still find myself drawn in. I’m always sure that #16 will really amaze me (fact: #16 almost never amazes me). 

    Still, the idea of playing around with clickbait titles is pretty great. Inspired by others who’ve rewritten classic literature titles as clickbait, our team sat down to give it a whirl. 

    Reader beware: this is kind of an addicting game.    

    click alice

    Have you read this one recently? You really never will guess what she found there, unless "flamingo croquet" is part of your regular imaginary landscape. 

    click dante

    Maybe you will believe it; it's greed. The fourth circle is greedy people jousting. 

    click persuasion

    We call this one shock and "awwwww!" 

    click hamlet

    I am constantly disappointed that law enforcement doesn't try the same weird tricks Hamlet did. It would make Court TV A LOT more interesting. 

    What classic titles can you rewrite as clickbait? Delightful suggestions may become a future blog post!