Tag Archives: Librarians

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)

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New Books: December

Greetings fellow in-between vacationers!

(let’s face it, we all feel that way)

Your neighborhood Calarco Librarians have recently decided to post bi-weekly highlights of new books added to our collection. Besides increasing our already high level of awesomeness, we are ensuring that you (yes, YOU) will be kept up to date with the finest or our fiction and non-fiction.

For a full listing of the library’s fabulous new books, please visit our What’s New LibGuide (curated by Debbie Dubois).

You can also follow Calarco on Goodreads – check in with what we are reading, want to read, love and hate.

Now, without further adieu, some featured December newbies.

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Fiction

Tell the Wolves I’m Home -Fiction Brunt

Crossed -Fiction Condie

A Hologram for the King -Fiction Eggers

The Round House -Fiction Erdrich

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making -Fiction Valente

Non-Fiction

Lincoln’s Code -343.7301 W783

Head Off & Split -811.54 F497

Farther Away -814.54 F858f

-Signing off, Jenny Barrows (who must read ALL the books)

p.s. Yes, the blog is snowing. No, that does not mean a snow day for Hopkins.

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 5: Who IS The Boss?

Jenny Barrows here to bring you the latest edition of the Moldy, ahem, Vagabond Library.

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As you can see, the view from “my desk” is rather unusual for Heath Commons. Currently, Librarian Gette is co-teaching with Teacher Ford over the din of students congregating, pianos playing (by aforementioned students), and maintenance preparing for a speaker tonight. How is this possible, you may ask? Well, it is possible because we embrace the advice of Tony Danza. Yes, the Tony Danza

Last week, I saw Tony Danza speak in a Madison, CT middle school auditorium. FYI, Tony Danza is not the washed up type (nor will he ever be the washed up type) who can only speak in middle school auditoriums. He was brought to Madison by the very awesome RJ Julia Independent Booksellers. Rather than holding the event at RJ Julia, Tony D spoke in the auditorium so more people could attend. And by the way, it was a packed house.

Also, if you don’t know who Tony Danza is. Click the above link or view the photo below.

photo credit: émiliep via photopin cc

But I digress.

After being fired from his last “big shot celebrity job”, Danza decided to fulfill a long-abandoned dream and become a teacher. He taught for a year at  Northeast High – Philadelphia’s largest high school with 3,600 students. Not entirely ready to shed the habits of stardom, he wrote a book about the experience: I’d Like to Apologize to Every Teacher I Ever Had. Despite being a former prize fighter and big shot celebrity, Danza got knocked down in a few rounds of teacher v. students (and Danza v. other teachers). Despite the roller coaster, Danza’s mantra remained: make the best of a bad situation.

The Calarco Library is not in a bad situation (read about some libraries that are), more of a “less than ideal” situation. Are we crying about it? Please. It takes far more to break the Vagabond Librarians (and no we did not choke up when we took our last look at the books for 2 entire weeks…that never happened). In the spirit of Tony Danza, we are making the best of our situation. Librarian Gette is fantastically conveying the secret intricacies of research, while Teacher Ford and the AC1 students enthusiastically adapt to the less-than-perfect classroom environment.

How has Hopkins made the most of a situation? Lets review.

  • Student patience regarding printing has at least doubled, if not tripled.
  • Teachers host the Vagabond librarians in classrooms for research lessons, and even bake us snacks! (The last part is not true, but maybe words written will become true?)
  • Students come to the Vagabond Library with incredibly original jokes such as, “Oh man, look at all the books!” And while we guffaw initially, we trump expectations and students end up leaving with one of our fabulous Kindles hugged close to their chests (or shoved into a backpack. We’re realists.).

Tony Danza is a wise man, and his advice should be cherished. I mean c’mon, he is the boss.

Signing off, Jenny Barrows (the biggest Tony Danza fan girl ever)

Welcome Kit Gette!

Kit Gette, the Calarco Library’s newest librarian, came to us after escaping from a secret librarian S.W.A.T team buried deeply in the Amazonian Jungle. His expertise: cataloging, Young Adult Fiction, Classics, and awesomeness. He plans to spend his first year reading as much YA Fiction as possible, teaching the masses how to be the MOST extreme researchers, and metamorphosing into a spectacular  high school librarian and instructor. You can often find Mr. Gette in the library (oh the irony), or walking face first into Heath. The latter is probable because Heath was not around when Mr. Gette graduated from Hopkins in 2000. An alumn, a librarian, and so much more, we are all lucky to have Mr. Gette with us.

Now maybe next time, he will let us use a picture that shows his face…

Signing off, Jenny Barrows (who has sworn an oath to the truth of this bio)