Tag Archives: John Green

Calarco’s First-Ever Book Tasting

Yes, I already know what you’re thinking.

No, students did not eat the pie that was found in that one book during the mold removal. Come on people – that’s not even sanitary.

Yesterday, Ms. Davis’ Writing Semester class visited the library to eat brownies, cookies and the words of contemporary titles. They spent the class period exploring the library’s newer fiction and non-fiction books, and jotting down impressions on note cards in order to find books worthy of review.

Yes, review.

Next semester, readers, you will get a break from the dictatorship of book reviews that myself and Librarian Gette have carefully cultivated. We have agreed to loosen our iron fist grip and host the book reviews of Ms. Davis’ students.

Please look forward to future reviews from our very own students, but for now enjoy the impressions and responses of Ms. Davis’ Writing Semester course to our first-ever Book Tasting event.

Angus MacMullen:

My strategy for finding potentially interesting books consisted of reading through the list of recent additions until something catches my attention.  The first that stood out to me was Bicycling Science by David Wilson.  It seemed like such a random, mundane topic upon first glance, which made me instantly curious to see exactly what this book was about.  Unfortunately the book was checked out and overdue.  (apparently someone was so intrigued by the science of bicycles that he could not bring himself to return the book).

The second book that I looked for was Turing’s Cathedral: The Origins of the Digital Universe by George Dyson.  It describes the early history of the computer, both Turing’s and others’ conceptual ideas as well as the early applications of them, a topic that seemed interesting to me.  Unfortunately, this book also caught the eye of another classmate.  Perhaps I’ll have a look at it when he’s done.

The third book I found was Selected Poetry of Ogden Nash.  Apparently it’s not a very picky selection; the book is almost 700 pages.  I picked this book out simply because I knew that it would be funny.  Ogden’s obtuse use/misuse/abuse of the English language is amusing and often intriguing.  His style is unique; who else would invent a “Miss Goringe” simply to make that terrible forced rhyme?  I will enjoy flipping through this book, whether or not I choose it for the book review assignment later this year.

Chris Cahill:

I think the book tasting today definitely let me see a different side of the library. I’m in the library (for what feels like) 24/7 but I usually go for research. I really understood today the sheer volume of fiction and nonfiction books we are lucky to have! Also, thank you for the book reviews, I checked out two books and plan on reading both.

David Baumann:

I really enjoyed the “book tasting” assignment. We don’t usually get a chance to select any book we want to read for class, making it harder to always read something you find interesting. I think this session helped everyone better understand what kind of books they like to read. All the librarians were also extremely accommodating when you asked them for a recommendation.

Haley Gorman:

I had a great time in the library with Ms. Davis’ English class yesterday. I found some great books that I can’t wait to start and I’m glad to have found a John Green fan.

Jessica Larkin-Wells:

Thanks for helping us out in the library yesterday! I thought the book tasting was a good idea. I mostly browsed the cart of new books, and then looked downstairs at the new nonfiction section by the stairs. My biggest problem was choosing only one book to read, so I ended up checking out three. One is a nonfiction book about creativity, and the other two are novels. Usually I try to finish whatever books I start, but I might not finish all three, especially before the term ends. This project will be a good opportunity to read for pleasure during the school year.

Sasha Possick:

Train Dreams, by Denis Johnson was nominated for the 2011 Pulitzer Prize. He is famous for his novel Tree of Smoke. This seems to be a great novel and I am looking forward to reading more of it.

Bennett Amador

The book tasting was beneficial it gives us students a chance to glance at interesting fiction books we wouldn’t otherwise see because were constantly focused on scholarly novels and nonfiction.

Signing off, Jenny Barrows (who is not really signing off because this blog is the product of student work…so those students are signing off)

Book Review: An Abundance of Katherines

I’m not sure if I really liked An Abundance of Katherines. I am sure that I am sad that I am unsure.

At this point in my mission to read every book written by John Green, I am pretty sold that he is a good author. Not just good at producing kind of acceptable books for teenagers, but good in the broad spectrum of good. Not necessarily Dickens or anything, but FAR superior to anything Stephenie Meyer has ever written or will ever write. Ever.

Moving on.

An Abundance of Katherines is about a boy who was dumped by a girl named Katherine. Two things make this boy different from other boys who have been dumped by girls: 1. He is a child prodigy (or was, since he is technically 18 in the book’s present day) and 2. He has dated and been dumped by 19 Katherines. Rather than wallow in being dumped for the 19th time by the 19th girl named Katherine…he redefines wallow and exceeds all measures of pathetic. Luckily, like most slightly unlikable, self-involved protagonists, Colin has a best friend (Hassan) who drags him out of the house for a pre-college road trip. (Technically the road trip is only pre-college for Colin because Hassan refuses to attend college, ever). One antic leads to another and the two end up in Gutshot, Tennessee, the final resting place of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand. There, they stay with Lindsey Lee Wells and her mother Hollis, the owners of a tampon string company that basically employs and sustains the town.

Colin devotes his summer to developing a theorem that predicts the arch of relationships: specifically who will dump who and when. Thinking this theorem is the only thing that can transform him from child prodigy to adult genius, Colin unreasonably puts all of his eggs in one basket. Or tampon strings in one box. Anyway. The major theme that develops is: “not all absolute truths are absolute,” or something similar to that. Colin’s certainties are not as rock solid as Green leads you to believe in the novels start, nor are anyone else’s.

This book has all the fantastic elements that make up a Green book: insecure protagonist, humorous best friend, likable but “lost” leading lady, slightly preposterous circumstances, and a mildly unrealistic dialogue for teenagers. However, I just didn’t fall for it the way I did for Paper Towns and Looking for Alaska. Maybe I’m an idiot (very likely). Or, maybe I’m on to something. When the main character is as pitiful as Colin, it is difficult to really care if he grows up or not. I think I would have liked the book much more if Lindsey Lee Wells’ personal growth was more central, or further developed.

In conclusion: I’m sorry for the mildly negative book review. However, rule #1 about reading is: never EVER buy in to someone else’s opinion. Read Green’s An Abundance of Katherines, and discover your own opinions.

Review by emerging John Green fan girl/nerd fighter Jenny Barrows

Vagabond Librarians Day 6: Convocation!

So, Condaleeza Rice spoke to us today. At Hopkins. That is pretty cool.

Personally, I thought the best parts of her speech were when she was talking about trying new things, broadening your range of knowledge, and being open to different opinions. We’ve definitely been trying new things here at the Vagabond Library – from our new reliance on our Kindles to our wall-less workspace. And while there are some drawbacks to the current situation (I miss you, books), there are benefits as well. It’s great being in the thick of campus (and not just because we got to people-watch the reception in the Weissman Room). We’re broadening our range of experiences up here – and we’ll be taking what we’ve learned back to the library with us.

For another voice on education and the importance thereof, I refer you to John Green’s video “Is College Worth It?” (If you do not know who John Green is, please see Ms. Barrows review of The Fault in Our Stars and her upcoming review of An Abundance of Katherines).

-Signing off, Kit Gette (who wishes he’d taken more science and math and history and…)

Book Reviews: Okay for Now and The Fault in Our Stars

This is, and is not, a happy story. It definitely doesn’t start out as one. Doug’s family (abusive, dysfunctional, falling apart) moves to a new town where he is immediately marked as an outsider. His reputation is colored by the actions of others. And his gym teacher is out to get him.

But then Doug finds that shining beacon of hope: the library (I am a little biased). And one page of a certain book will change the course of his year.

I loved the framework of the book: the chapters correspond to Audubon prints, and Doug relates the various birds to his own life. My one concern is how neatly some things wrap up. It seems too easy after all the

Read if you like funny protagonists, nature paintings, horseshoes, or the New York Yankees (circa 1967). Avoid if you don’t like books with abuse, sad books, lemon ice cream, or the New York Yankees (circa 1967).

Review by former S.W.A.T Librarian, Kit Gette

Hazel Grace Lancaster is 16, already in college and doesn’t have many friends. She is also in terminal stages of cancer…kind of. After being semi-forced to attend a cancer support group regularly, she meets fellow “cancer kid” Augustus Waters. Augustus Waters smokes unlit cigarettes because “you put the killing thing right between your teeth, but you don’t give it the power to do its killing” (Green, 20). He is also in remission…minus a leg.

When Hazel gives Augustus Waters her favorite book “An Imperial Affliction” by Peter Van Houten, the two begin a journey to find the elusive and mysterious Van Houten in an attempt to get their questions answered about the cancer-afflicted main character. They go to Amsterdam in search of Van Houten, sell a swing set to a family that needs to make memories, play video games, comfort their recently blinded but cancer-free friend (who is far more upset about getting dumped by his non-cancer kid girlfriend), taste the stars (or champagne, they really aren’t sure), and definitely fall in love. What isn’t so definite is how long they will have together.

Review by current Ninja Librarian, Jenny Barrows