Category Archives: e-Readers

Why Kindles? A Guide for J Schoolers

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photo credit: Tina Franklin, mis ebooks

Whenever we visit Thompson with armfuls of books, hordes of candy, and a dash of moxie, we librarians are also often spotted waving around bags of kindles. Why are we so determined to convince J Schoolers of a library kindle’s worth?

It’s simple, really.

Library Kindles: A Story

For their size, kindles pack a punch. They’re basically a portable library. All kindles have access to over 800 (mostly fictional) books. Eight hundred!! Browsing the huge variety of books, J Schoolers will notice duplicates of actual books in the Calarco library, as well as authors and titles exclusive to the kindles. More importantly, we librarians will purchase and download books on-demand. Put plainly – the options are endless!

So, Who Should Use Kindles?

Traveling over the break? If you try to pack multiple books in your suitcase in preparation for vacation (*hangs head in shame while raising hand*), library kindles are perfect for you! Imagine it – over 800 books at your fingertips, all on a small device that fits in your hand. Library kindles are basically a real-life version of Hermione’s undetectable extension charm-enhanced bag in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

Not traveling over the break? Not to worry! You too could still benefit from a library kindle.

  • Do your parents ever get stressed out by the “to read” pile on your nightstand?
  • Do you struggle when deciding what book to pack for a sleepover?
  • Do you ever bring a book to read while waiting for an appointment (doctor? Haircut? dentist?) and finish the book early, leaving you in a vortex of boredom while you wait for your name to be called?
  • Do you simply struggle to see over the armful of books you carry around during your day-to-day life?

If you identify with any of the above scenarios, library kindles might just be your match made in reading heaven.

When you visit the Pop-up Library on Thursday, March 9, consider checking out a kindle. Keep an eye out for the big red “Readbox”, and make sure to let a librarian know if you want a specific book. Happy kindle reading!

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My Summer Reading – The Outcome

I also posted a list of what I was hoping to read over the summer vacation. I was less ambitious than Mr. Gette, so I only chose 12 Calarco Library-owned books (I read other books that were separate from the list).

Here’s the recap:

Summer Reading Recap

Here is a ranking of books I read this summer:

5 Stars

Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann. Why did it take me so long to read this book?! A must read in the modern-novel genre.

Feed by M.T. Anderson. I originally rated this as a 3 star book, but as time passed, the book creeped into my list of all-time favorites. Published in 2000, this satirical YA book can also be read as a cautionary tale. Read it in one sitting.

4 Stars

The Bees by Laline Paull. Allegories everywhere. Reading about a beehive society from the point of view of a bee was exactly as interesting as I expected.

3 Stars

Last Night at the Viper Room: River Phoenix and the Hollywood He Left Behind by Gavin Edwards. Even though the writing was mediocre at times, the story was enormously interesting. An excellent biography for any 90’s child (or 90’s fanatic)

Attachments by Rainbow Rowell. Be still my heart, Rainbow Rowell. A good story that can easily be read in a day or two.

2 Stars

Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer. I didn’t get anything out of this book, but I will give it 2 stars. The writing was technically excellent and other reviewers swear by this book. Although Mr. Gette and I missed the boat on this one, maybe others will love the Southern Reach Trilogy.

1 Star

NONE!

So there it is. Although I read other books on my non-Calarco list, I was definitely hoping to read more than 6 off of this list. Want to share what you read? Want to disagree with my commentary? Leave us a comment below!

-Signing off, Ms. Barrows (who had to re-read The Magicians, is now reading The Magician King, and is super excited to read the recently released conclusion The Magician’s Land)

My Summer Nightstand Pile of Books in Review

For better, or for worse, I will share what I read this summer with the Hopkins community. Due to my faulty memory, I must rely on my Goodreads “read” list and other trusty clues…such as my overdue notice from Mr. Gette.

Assuming I marked books “read” in Goodreads as I actually completed them, this is also more or less the order in which I completed my summer reading from mid-June through August. There is rational behind [nearly] every reading choice. Even the terrible one, which is the first.

*deep, yogi breathing*

Here we go:

1. Inferno, by Dan Brown

Yes I jumped at the opportunity to read the new Dan Brown book. Yes it was terrible. Yes it was a waste of my time. I read it on my very first beach trip of the summer (which is only a kind-of excuse). He should have quit when he was ahead-ish . Don’t believe me? Read it for yourself – the Calarco Library has a copy!.

2. The Year of the Flood, by Margaret Atwood

For those of you who love dystopia (*raises hand*), the roles of women in dystopian worlds (*waves hand in circles*), trilogies (*jumps up and down in chair*), overlapping plots (*waves both hands furiously in an air traffic controller fashion*), and mad scientists and the impact of their genius/craziness (*abandons all decorum and shouts ME!*), you MUST read Atwood’s MaddAddam trilogy. Between kindles and books, the Calarco Library has a copy/version of all three installments – Oryx and Crake, The Year of the Flood, and MaddAddam (coming soon). If you want to read more about Atwood, the MaddAddam trilogy, and her other works, check out the articles/posts that were published by Bookriot.com on Margaret Atwood Day.

3. The Paris Wife, by Paula McLain

I am a member of what I can confidently dub The World’s Best Book Club. We skipped a meeting mid-summer and instead read two books for our meeting in September. As you read further down the list, you will probably quickly identify the second assigned book. McLain’s historical fiction novel reveals the 1920’s Paris ex-pat/literary/art scene through the eyes of Ernest Hemingway’s first wife, Hadley. McLain was staunchly loyal to archival materials and correspondence between Ernest and Hadley, as well as their communications with their friends and associates. I love this book because the historical accuracy is rewarding – I spent an entire layover in 1920’s Paris instead of Chicago-O’Hare. Hadley’s voice is sometimes lost and overwhelmed amidst her husband’s – which is sometimes frustrating, but also revealing of how Hadley may have felt while married to Ernest. A worthwhile check-out from Calarco for anyone who is fascinated by Paris, the 1920’s, and/or Hemingway.

4. Beauty Queens, by Libba Bray

Premise – genius. Plot – hilarious. Characters – unbelievable but likeable. Messages RE: social issues – commendable. Writing and overall grade – eh. Reading Beauty Queens made me realize why some books that are widely considered Young Adult (YA) Fiction are major flops for me. Overwriting. Bray’s multi-narrative story would be great if she would just stop writing so many damn internal monologues for the characters. I found myself skimming several “pages” (kindle version) of the story because, “I got the point, Libba. I understand what that character feels, thinks, wants for breakfast, etc.” I think the writing was playful and interesting, but Bray could take it down a couple notches and stop assuming that teenagers (or anyone) cannot possibly understand her characters unless she explains every last thing about them.

5. The Interestings, by Meg Wolitzer

I still have no idea if I like this book – honestly. I cared about the story, about Wolitzer’s incredible interwoven exploration of why some achieve greatness and some reside in mediocracy. And then she of course asks you, “Wait, who is an interesting? What and who is mediocre?” I also appreciated the realistic portrayal of lifelong friendships – things change and people definitely do not stay the same, and often the “nevers” happen and the “always” fades into the background. Did I care for the characters? Ehhh….but worth the hype and definitely enjoyable for anyone who enjoys reading about the late 1970s/80s and New York City.

6. Into the Wild, by Jon Krakauer

Of course I read this book in high school for American Lit – as did anyone who went to public high school in the late 1990’s or early 2000s (and maybe they still do). For those who don’t know the story of Chris McCandless or the writing of Jon Krakauer, read it. For those who have read Wild before, read it again. For those who think McCandless was an arrogant, naive kid, read this article published by The New Yorker a few days ago. This was the best book I read this summer, and in fact all year. Sometimes it pays to re-read.

7. The Miseducation of Cameron Post, by Emily M. Danforth

Bray, take a leaf out of Danforth’s book – this is YA fiction that is compelling without being over-written. Danforth takes the common YA “orphan” storyline and combines it with the less-common (but thankfully increasingly prevalent) “wait, am I gay?” character. What makes this more than a writing formula is Cameron Post herself. In the hands of a less-talented author, Cameron could have come to be nothing more than a character representative of the audience Danforth is trying to reach. But Danforth’s Cameron is real. This is only enhanced by Danforth’s choice to place the story in the midwest and creating circumstances that allow the reader to view the Ex-Gay movement through the believable lens of Cameron’s perspective.

8. A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail, by Bill Bryson

Again and again I make the mistake (or awesome choice?) of reading Bill Bryson in public, where I receive cautionary looks and complaints regarding my roaring laughter. For anyone who has read Bryson, you won’t be surprised to learn that he is not an ace hiker. You will be regaled with tales of his misadventures along the Appalachian trail (with his sidekick/buddy Katz) and simultaneously steeped in the history of American wildlife and national parks. A great choice if you are experimenting with your first summer of hiking (*bows head and shyly raises hand*).

9. A Moveable Feast, by Ernest Hemingway

The second installment of my summer book club series and also a “check” on the literary classics list. Overall assessment – I could have skipped the entire book excepting the story of Hemingway’s cross-country automobile trip with Fitzgerald. A drunk, a drunk who doesn’t think he’s a drunk, hypochondria, a broken convertible top that just possibly can’t be fixed (Zelda), bad weather, bath thermometers – if it was made into a 21st century comedy film starring Zach Galifianakis, it would get a favorable review.

10. Norwegian Wood, by Haruki Murakami (or The Beatles?)

Hi, have you met Haruki Murakami? Because you should – you really should. Whether you are introduced through Kafka on Shore, 1Q84, or this very book, you should get around to meeting him. Narrator Toru Watanabe is in love with a girl who does not love him, and he must struggle between living in the very real world of 1960s Tokyo and lingering in the shadows of Naoko’s unstable unreality. A+ for scoffing the protest movements as shallow and hypocritical, and an A++ for prose, characters, musical references, and deciding to become a writer during a baseball game in the 1980’s, Haruki Murakami.

-Signing off, Jenny Barrows (whose reading habits will be in the toilet until Breaking Bad ends)

Bookmobile in Review and Spring Break

KG: It’s 1:30 on Friday afternoon, which means there’s only 2 hours left until Spring Break.

JB: It’s actually 2:49 on Friday afternoon, which means Librarians Barrows and Gette ignored the task of writing this post for over an hour. Now, Librarian Gette is teaching the likes of Health 9 and Librarian Barrows must author these meager words solo.

Yesterday’s Junior School Bookmobile saw success unlike any other Bookmobile, ever.* Students jostled aggressively, vying for an opportunity to check out a coveted Kindle/Kindle Fire or even a, dare I say, book. We enlisted Mr. Saunders for crowd control, and immediately lost him to the crowd. Last time we librarians spotted Mr. Saunders, he was grabbing sought-after books and Kindles by the armful, laughing maniacally all the way to the Breakthrough Office.**

Thank you JSchool for your toleration and participation.

To students near and far:

Read. Amidst elaborate (or totally un-elaborate) travels, missed episodes of The Walking Dead, post-term paper sleep, read. Whether badly written chick-lit, James Joyce, John Green, narrative non-fiction, The Economist, or Shel Silverstein, read as if books were rare and expensive and difficult to locate. Read as if Gutenberg was still kickin’ and the printing press was still in its infancy. Read as if the Chinese hadn’t developed printing even earlier. Read as if an impending invasion of your country threatened (and subsequently destroyed) all physical manifestations of collected knowledge. Read as if free K-12 education was not a right, but a privilege.

Read stuff and get excited about it.

-Signing off, Jenny Barrows (public service announcement courtesy of being surrounded by ALL the books ALL the time)

*Slightly exaggerated

**True or untrue? You decide.

Junior School Spring Break Book Mobile

Dear Junior School,

In celebration of our impending Spring Break (so close, yet so far), we neighborhood librarians invite you to…

Spring Break Bookmobile

Thursday, March 14th, 12:10 pm

Thompson South Atrium

Come visit us in the atrium where you can view this episode’s selection of books, kindles and clay tablets. In the interest of time, we will be organizing materials into broad/vague categories that may or may not be helpful to interested parties. They aren’t really rules, more like guidelines. And we probably won’t be following them too closely, so be bold and ask for help and reading suggestions. Bring your friends, teachers, adviser, imaginary pets, and etc. The more the merrier!

Shipping Up To Thompson

We’ve been back in our beloved library for a couple weeks now, and it is so good to be home. Surrounded by books, with access to our desks and our files and our workroom, able to catalog books and shush people (there is no shushing Heath), Ms. Barrows and I have been feeling good. Happy. Comfortable.

Restless.

See, we’d gotten used to the Vagabond Librarian lifestyle: fitting the library on a table, exploring a new space, seeing different people, having the Cafe right there…

And so we decided to go on the road. 67 books and our 12 JSchool Kindles made the trip up with us from Baldwin to Thompson last Thursday (with help from Security. Thank you, thank you, thank you, Earl!) where we would ply our wares to the Junior School during their precious 15 minute break. The plan was to have a ton of books out to choose from, and then download books to the Kindles by request. To highlight some titles, we prepared six book talks to stun and amaze. We’d then be ready to check out so many copies of these wonderful books to an eager and cheering crowd.

The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men
Gang aft agley

-Robert Burns (Ed: N0 typos, just Scottish)

That didn’t happen. Not because there weren’t eager crowds (the cheering was a little too much to hope for), but because students were SO eager to look at and check out books that we only had time to specifically plug one book. That three students then asked for. Hooray! The rest of the time was spent answering questions and checking out materials.

Thompson South Atrium, Thursday, Oct. 18, 12:15 pm
photo credit: wvs via photopincc

Although it was a little overwhelming, we had a great time, we hope the students did too, and we can’t wait to go back. See you in Thompson before the Thanksgiving Break!

-Signing off, Kit Gette (who can now type in a wifi password at the speed of light)

Every Day is Halloween: Dr. Cox Guest Blog

(Ed: Despite our joy at being back in the library, we must remember that there are others still under siege by the demon mold. Today’s post is courtesy of  one of the Wandering Scientists, Dr. Kellie “The Law” Cox.)

So I’m a nerd. A big ol’ I-like-all-things-techy-geeky-sciencey nerd. And I want to let you know that my final step into total Nerd Immersion was just accomplished, thanks to the ridiculously awesome folk at the library:

I am now a Graphic Novel fan.

And not just the, “yeah, I know of Watchmen” level, but full-blown cracked-out fan.

This is all Mr. Gette’s fault. The library has this amazing supply of Kindle Fires, right? And he was looking for a selection of graphic novels to install. I was especially intrigued by the novel Long Halloween because I love me some Batman…. but I wasn’t ever really into graphic novels. This was always a source of crippling guilt – how could I NOT enjoy graphic novels? Surely my Nerd Card will be revoked. But I could never get into the flow of moving from pane-to-pane, trying to follow dialogue while also maintaining a tenuous visual connection with the artwork; opening up a comic book was like being hit in the face by a painting.

And then Kindle Fire rolls into my life.

Oh.
My.
God.

The electronic version of a graphic novel is like your own personal movie, bright and mesmerizing, complete with this ridiculous ~whooshing~ motion as you progress from scene to scene. No longer were my neurons confused and distracted by how to progress down the page – now I was able to completely immerse myself in the story and jaw-dropping artwork! The novel Long Halloween was aaaaaamazing and supplemented my Batman mythology well beyond what watching the movies could provide. And boy, it sure was purdy. I don’t know the artists that illustrate these novels (Ed: Batman: The Long Halloween was drawn by Tim Sale), but they rock my world with their ability to convey motion and story within a single, static pane.

Since then, Mr. Gette and Ms. Barrows have worked to fuel my addiction to the world of electronic graphic novels. My total immersion into Nerdom is complete.

And I couldn’t be happier.

(Ed: Thanks Dr. Cox! And we’ll be happy to keep enabling you suggesting new books.)