Category Archives: Reader Advisory

Nicola Yoon Author Event

 

If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe

Carl Sagan (via The Sun is Also a Star)

Nicola Yoon visited R.J. Julia, an independent bookstore in Madison, on Thursday, December 1 to promote her latest book The Sun is Also a Star. Yoon gained notoriety when John Green re-tweeted Yoon’s #weneeddiversebooks campagin photo. This exposed her first novel, Everything, Everything, to a wider reading audience. By the time The Sun is Also a Star was named a National Book Award finalist for the Young People’s Literature category, Yoon was already a popular figure in the YA reading community.

All of this, in addition to simply loving her books, led to a very excited librarian walking into R.J. Julia a few minutes before the free event began. I was elated to find the room packed with teens, and Yoon must have felt similar excitement. Instead of a traditional reading, Yoon decided to use a Q&A format, allowing several readers to ask insightful, funny, and interesting questions. Although most audience members had clearly read The Sun is Also a Star, Yoon was careful to refrain from any plot spoilers. Instead, she discussed the inspiration for writing a book about a scientifically-minded Jamaican American girl meeting a poetry-loving Korean American boy and connecting over the course of a single day in New York City. Yoon explained why she used the specific title (Carl Sagan), what inspired the Natasha character’s worldview (Carl Sagan), and some of the “aside” chapters that delve into cultural, scientific, or moral concepts (Carl Sagan).  Finally, Yoon was more than happy to answer any questions about her previous novel, Everything, Everything.

Yoon then held a book signing for which, of course, this librarian stood in line. Overall, Yoon was funny, engaging, and open to all kinds of questions. From a timid question about the cover art to complex questions about being Jamaican-American, Yoon was a hit with all the adults and teens in the room. This librarian gives two thumbs up.

To hear and read more about Yoon and The Sun is Also a Star, watch this reading and read this interview.

Reading for Fun in 2016

Hello readers,

As Winter Break quickly approaches (4 days!), we’re taking a look back at the most popular books of 2016. These are the fiction and graphic novels you grabbed off the shelf over the past year. The numbers are a little unorthodox – no “Top Ten” here – but hey, 16 for 2016 works out pretty well.

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Fantasy continues to be a favorite genre, although sci-fi, historical, and realistic fiction also make appearances. Aristotle and Dante continues to be popular four years after its release; the sweet story of two boys coming of age in Texas is proving to be a lasting favorite. Three Dark Crowns deserves special mention: we got it at the end of September, so it’s only had three months to rack up its five checkouts. As for graphic novels, maybe Saga is cheating by having so many volumes – but each one would have had enough checkouts on its own to make the list.

No matter whether you’ve read most of these books or none of them, thank you for reading and for visiting the library! See you in 2017!

Book Review: The Fifth Season, by N. K. Jemisin

fifth-season

I picked up The Fifth Season for two reasons: one, it’s by N. K. Jemisin, whose Inheritance Trilogy I greatly enjoyed, and two, it recently won the Hugo Award for Best Novel. Those two reasons are why when I was tempted to put the book down and walk away (twice in the first fifty pages), I kept going.

The Fifth Season starts slow, or as slow as a book that starts with a murder and a cataclysm can. The story is told from three different perspectives, and each viewpoint character (and their supporting cast) needs to be introduced. One viewpoint is told entirely in the second person. There is a lot of setup.

Fortunately, there’s a lot of payoff, too. Jemisin is really good at fitting things together, at making these disparate accounts converge in a satisfying way. She’s a master of world-building – the Stillness feels rich and alive, with a deep history.

The Fifth Season takes place in a world that is literally coming apart. Earthquakes and volcanoes are a constant threat, and everyone knows the rules for living through a “fifth season”  – an extra-long winter brought on by the ash and dust kicked up by an event. Orogenes are people with the power to control the earth, and they are used to quiet quakes and protect the empire.

This is not a happy story. It begins with the murder of one child and the loss of another. Orogones are seen as monsters or tools to be controlled rather than human, and that attitude is reflected in their treatment.  The school for orogones is like a Hogwarts run entirely by Umbridges. The empire is built on a system of castes and oppression. And from the beginning, the book tells you this is a story of the end.

Oh, but what an end.

Read if you like: interesting magic systems, deep world-building, diverse characters.

Avoid if you don’t like: Constant impending doom.

Summer Reading Survey Results 2016

So Long Sweet Summer

Courtesy of Meg Bisson, Katie Slater Photography

Hello and welcome to another exciting year at Hopkins! Here in Calarco we’ve got new textbooks waiting to be pulverized, fresh notecards itching to become memorization rectangles, and librarians gazing wistfully at beautiful summer photos instead of shelving books.

Three years running,  we librarians asked you to tell us about the best part of your summer – that’s right, summer reading. A whopping 198 of you responded, recommending 139 different books. There was a lot of turnover this year – two of the top three books from 2015 (Paper Towns and To Kill A Mockingbird) weren’t mentioned at all. In fact, no John Green books were recommended for the first time since we began this survey.

 

2016-summer-reading-inforgraphic

What is it about The Da Vinci Code? Is it the ciphers, the fast-paced thrills, Tom Hanks’ rumpled (no, not rugged) good looks? Whatever the “it” factor, The Da Vinci Code is Hopkins’ most recommended book of Summer 2016! Seven respondents wrote that it was “exciting,”  “incredibly suspenseful,” and that it “keep[s] you at the edge of your seat.”

Almost as popular were The Great Train Robbery and The Apothecary, both of which benefited from being assigned books. Other favorite books (or movies) were Emma Donoghue’s Room and Mario Puzo’s The Godfather – perhaps because of their film counterparts. David Levithan’s Every Day and Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood were the other two unassigned books to make appearances on the “most read” list.

This was the first year we asked for your thoughts about your favorite book(s). In doing this, we discovered that even faculty and staff enjoy ALL CAPS. Please see some of our favorite commentary below.

The Godfather

It was AMAZING. I went in thinking it would have a pace similar to other books of its time, with lots of description and thoughtshots. However, I was pleasantly surprised to find that it moved like an action film, and it kept me going despite the length.

The Girl on the Train

Unreliable narration is key. What made this book so excellent was how you couldn’t trust anyone — even the protagonist with her flawed memories.

House of Leaves

House of Leaves was the weirdest book I have ever read and it invokes mild paranoia.

Americanah

This was an amazing book about African immigration. As a child of to Nigerians I found many similarities with their struggles. When many people think of Nigeria or Africa in general, they may think of thick jungles, aboriginal tribes, and no electricity. It is seen more as a charity case. This books lets you in on the lives of the people. The struggle to make it to America and become something. The stress of stereotypes and myths continually reminding them that they do not belong. The fear of coming back to their homeland and catching “Americanah.” And international love. How years and miles cannot erase true bonds. Wow. I wrote more than you probably wanted. Sorry about that.

[editorial note: no such thing as saying too much about a book you love]

The Apothecary

I thought that this was a great book and I could not put it down. I also would have never chosen this book if it was not required.

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

It was great because it was kind of like a lot of kids dreams written out on paper. (Running away from home with your friends.)

An Officer and a Spy

It’s a great account of the Dreyfus Affair and is riveting from start to finish. My Dad forced me to read it, and when I finally gave in and started reading it, I was hooked.

[editorial note, again: good job, anonymous Dad]

Below you will find a list of every book recommended this year. Thanks to all of our respondents, and happy reading!

 

Book Review – Carry On, by Rainbow Rowell

Two years ago (!), Ms. Barrows and I were singing the praises of Fangirl, by Rainbow Rowell. The book stars Cath, a young woman in her first year of college. Cath loves the Simon Snow books, and writes fanfiction while awaiting the last book in the series. While reading Fangirl,  I desperately wanted to read the Simon Snow books that Cath was so obsessed with. I must not have been alone, since Rowell went ahead and wrote that last book.

Carry On is the eighth book in the Simon Snow series, but it’s also the only one that actually exists. Reading it is almost like reading Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows without having read the six other books that came before it. It’s a fitting comparison – Simon Snow is a student at a magical boarding school. He’s an orphan. The school’s headmaster is his mentor. He has a smart, bossy friend. He’s supposed to save the magical world from a big bad guy. There’s a groups of old magical families who oppose the headmaster and his policies. Simon’s nemesis at school, Baz, is from one of those families. Baz is Simon’s roommate, he might be a vampire, and Simon wants to punch him. Maybe.

I’m not going to claim this is deep fiction. I found the central mystery pretty easy to figure out. And the hazard in writing a standalone book that is also (supposedly) the last in a series is that there are lots of callbacks to past events and adventures that feel both too fleshed out and not fleshed out enough. But it’s a fun book, and it was nice to spend time with these characters. The relationship between Simon and Baz is the real draw of the book. Rowell switches perspective between characters, and Baz’s chapters are probably the best of the lot. Come for the quasi-meta-fanfiction, stay for the scene that is essentially “Harry Potter has dinner at Malfoy Manor.”
Signing off, James Gette (if Hogwarts won’t take me, maybe Watford will?)

Summer Reading Survey Results 2015

Hello everyone, and welcome back: to Hopkins, to the library, and to the Calarco Library Blog!

Once again, the librarians sent out a summer reading survey to the whole school, asking you to pick one book out of everything you read this summer – required or not – as your very favorite. We received about 250 responses from students, faculty, and staff, which proves just how much you like reading. Or us. Or how accustomed you are to filling out surveys.

You continue to read a large variety of books: nonfiction, fantasy, sci-fi, mysteries, classic novels, contemporary fiction, poetry, and John Green.Untitled Infographic

Last year, The Fault in Our Stars was by far and away Hopkins’ favorite summer read with 15 votes. The playing field is a little more even this year, with the top three books getting 6 mentions apiece. John Green continues his domination of the YA landscape with Paper Towns. Next, proving that the Pulitzer committee knows what they’re talking about, we have All The Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr. And rounding out the top three is To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee. Whether it’s the release of Go Set A Watchman, its status as a required summer reading book, or if Mrs. Riley just answered the survey a bunch of times, the story of Scout and Atticus remains popular.

Other popular books include:

5 votes: The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky

4 votes: The Great Train Robbery, by Michael Crichton; Looking for Alaska, by John Green; and Watchmen, by Alan Moore (shout-out to my adviser group!)

3 votes:  And Then There Were None, by Agatha Christie (+1 “All the Agatha Christie books on the list”); The Nightingale, by Kristin Hannah; The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time, by Mark Haddon; Go Set a Watchman, by Harper Lee;  and Eleanor and Park, by Rainbow Rowell

We’re exceedingly pleased that most respondents (133 of you!)  read 5 or more books this summer, although we have some questions for the two seniors who admitted to only reading two books. Let’s hope at least one of them was The Tragedy of Arthur.

Book Survey Recommendations

Below is a spreadsheet of all the Summer Reading Survey favorites. Any items made available by the Calarco Library are color coded: blue = regular book, yellow = kindle book, green = both.

Remember, just because summer’s over (boo!) doesn’t meant reading is (yay!). Stop by Calarco Library for a book or Kindle – maybe one recommended above!

-Signing off, Jenny Barrows and James Gette, who both recommend The Alienist, by Caleb Carr

Summer Reading 2015!

JG: It’s almost summer! Time for sun, sleep, and – of course – reading. Last summer I read a lot, but it was mostly within my comfort zone; lots of sci-fi, mysteries, and YA. This year, I’d like to stretch myself a bit.

So here are the rules for the self-imposed summer reading challenge:

1. Read from the Hopkins Summer Reading List

2. Fulfill the Summer Reading requirements: three books I haven’t read before, plus the books for my grade. Since my advisees will be 10th graders next year, I’m going to read along with them.

3. No genre books. No fantasy, sci-fi, mysteries, or graphic novels. There is nothing wrong with reading and loving these kinds of books, but I read them all the time, and the point of this is to try something new.

So what am I going to read?

I’ve read The Great Train Robbery before (as a 10th grader), but it’s been long enough that I plan to re-read it.

After this, the list gets a little murkier. I plan to read one classic novel, one work of contemporary fiction, and one nonfiction book. Here’s the short lists:

There. Nine options which will condense into three books (though I can read more if I want to!), plus the two grade-required books for a total of 5.

…That’s not enough.

So here’s the other books I’d like to read this summer. No restrictions. Which means ghosts, murder, and explosions.

  • Ancillary Sword, by Ann Leckie.
  • The Shadow Throne, by Django Wexler.
  • The Alienist, by Caleb Carr (yes, this is on the Summer Reading List. But it’s a mystery, so it doesn’t count for my personal challenge. But you can read it!)
  • All of the Peter Grant books, by Ben Aaronovitch. I’d read the first one (Midnight Riot) a couple years ago, but on a recommendation from Ms. Ford I’ve been listening to it on audiobook, and it is fantastic. This summer I am going to walk everywhere and listen to the whole series. Or at least the next few books.

No plan survives the first encounter with the library catalog, so I’m sure there will be additions and subtractions as the summer goes on. But as of right now, I’m pretty happy with this list!


JB: We aren’t counting down the days until summer (25) or anything, but seriously, summer. While some consider sunscreen to be a summer necessity, I carry a book/kindle/device with kindle app at all times. Last summer I did not have as much time to read as anticipated, but this summer I feel cautiously ambitious. I don’t have any challenges, per se, but I do hope to read more diversely than usual.

Here are my 2015 Summer “Challenges”:

  1. Read from the Hopkins Summer Reading List.
  2. Read more dudes (I tend to read a lot of female authors).
  3. Read fewer white people. I usually do O.K. with this, but I am making a conscious effort this summer.
  4. Don’t restrict by genre or type. I want to mix in some older stuff, non-fiction, and genre with my FAVORITE type of book – the modern fiction novel.

What will I be reading? Take a look

    1. Game of Thrones, by George R.R. Martin.
    2. The Windup Girl, by Paolo Bacigalupi.
    3. All The Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr
    4. To the Lighthouse, by Virginia Woolf
    5. The Alienist, by Caleb Carr

As Mr. Gette said, I have free reign for anything I want to read off the summer reading list. To also cite Mr. Gette, I doubt I will follow this list as closely as a needlepoint pattern.

  1. Missoula, by Jon Krakauer
  2. Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea, by Barbara Demick
  3. An Untamed State, by Roxane Gay
  4. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, by Jesse Andrews
  5. The Queen of the Tearling, by Erika Johansen
  6. The Paying Guests, by Sarah Waters

What are you planning to read this summer? Did you set any goals or challenges for yourself? Tell us in the comments!

-Signing off, Jenny Barrows and James Gette (the former already suntanned, the latter already sunburned)