Tag Archives: Library

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)

Free Books Explained

Knowledge!

No really, they are free

The Scenario

Several weeks ago, a cart of free books appeared on the lower level of the Calarco library. Frequenters of the space would peruse the selection, grab some choice items, and continue on with their days. As time passed, the word spread and the newbies began to appear – sometimes solo, often in pairs. They would whisper furtively to each other (or to themselves, which was weird), sneaking hurried glances at the nearest librarian as they discreetly slipped books into backpacks and tote bags. Just as the Hopkins community breathed a sigh of relief – only the worst of the worst books were left  – we clever librarians cycled out the rejects and stocked the cart with a fresh batch of alluring volumes.

The anticipation grew, and we observed as students, faculty and staff once again put themselves through the stress and anxiety of trying to “steal” library books.

And we laughed. We chuckled. We snickered to each other. We pointed and guffawed, “Look at them! They think they are doing something wrong – how endearing!”

The Explanation

Where there is a school, there are books. Lots and lots of books. While our love for books is boundless, the shelves are not. The enclosed space of the Calarco Library has limits, and so do the enclosed walls of a Library Department meeting. Last year, we would sigh as we sifted through books 12 copies of The Complete Collection of Mark Twain or The Future of Soviet-U.S. Relations ©1972. We would walk through the library and find each other buried under books that had fallen off the overburdened shelves. As I extracted Mrs. Dubois from a pile of Microsoft Word for Dummies ©1994 and Recent Advances in Genetics ©1998, she furiously declared that she could not even find a copy of Hogwarts: A History, by Bathilda Bagshot.

In that moment, two things became clear:

  1. Mrs. Dubois needed to see a doctor, and
  2. The library desperately needed to undergo spring cleaning

It was decreed during a Library Department meeting that the weeding of books, CDs, DVDs, cassette tapes (yea…), etc. would henceforth commence ASAP, ending only when the dust settled and victor had been declared.

There can only be one victor. And it will be us – the librarians.

Treat yourself to the spoils of a hard-fought war and visit the library to explore the latest free books. We will be offering even more to the Hopkins community before the school year is over, so keep an eye out for more “FREE BOOKS!” announcements.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Good luck you, young soldiers. We wish you courage and bravery as you build your own home libraries, and we offer only one piece of advice to those who must commence their own book purge.

Be bold. Be merciless. And take no prisoners.

-Signing off, Jenny Barrows (who amid dust, debris, and loose pages, waves fists in victory as she runs through the liberated shelves)

Vagabond Librarians No More: The Triumphant Return

School Days Closed: 9 (not counting Yom Kippur and Class Trips)

Blog Posts Posted: 10

Laptops Checked Out: Billions

Incorrect Print Jobs: 17 Trees

Textbooks “misplaced”: …we would prefer not getting into that

Science Faculty Sightings: Pleasantly frequent

Hokey Jokes About Books: …we certainly haven’t heard THOSE before

Tears Shed Upon Return: several, and a significant one from Jenny Barrows when she slammed her hand in a laptop cart door

Books Lost to Mold: 0

Books Lost to Pie: 1 (?)

Pie, Pi (Ha, Pun)

photo credit: djwtwo via photopin cc

Let’s elaborate on the last statistic. Yesterday, we returned to the library to find a solitary book cocooned in plastic wrap furtively stashed  in a corner of the upstairs reference desk. We approached with caution – what untold moldy horrors could lurk within? Librarian Prendergast bravely picked up the unknown element, and then a disembodied voice floated up from below,

Beware…BEWARE! That book contains a piece of pie…which actually looked like it was quite delicious at one point. Seriously, who does that – ruins a piece of pie by putting it in a book?! Anyway, beware…BEWARE!

Thanks, Anthony from maintenance. And by the way, great disembodied voice. Really, quite impressive.

As an aside, pie does not make a good bookmark. Pie is intended to be enjoyed by people, not pages. Yes, sometimes you have to eat your words. But please, not ones borrowed from the library.

…Oh, were you looking for actual information? From librarians? Try scheduling an individual appointment here.

-Signing off, Jenny (Apple Pie) Barrows and Kit (Blueberry Pie) Gette (no really, bring us pie)

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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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)

Hopkins Students Take Library Books on Vacation

The Calarco Library held its first-ever Take a Book on Break program during the two days leading up to March break. On the Thursday prior to break, Ms. Bray and I (Ms. Barrows) ventured up to the Weissman Room in Heath with books and cookies in tow. Junior Schoolers were invited to visit during their free period to browse through dozens of young adult fiction books brought up from the library. Friday was devoted to Middle and Upper School students. There were many more new books on display in the library (including a popular cart of books “leftover” from the JSchool event) and cookies for everyone who checked out a book. Your librarians thoroughly enjoyed both events. We had a great time hearing about how much our students love to read for pleasure and sharing book recommendations with them.

Junior School

Below you can see the room set up, ready and waiting for students. Ms. Bray, Mrs. Dubois, Ms. Prendergast and I wondered how many students would venture upstairs. Five? Twenty-five? Maybe even thirty? Think about  how you feel when you present a project that you’ve put a lot of effort into: confident, because you’ve worked hard so you expect good results; nervous, because this is the culmination of all your effort; and anxious, because you are unsure of how the audience will react to your ideas. That’s how we felt! So we crossed our fingers, hoping everyone would enjoy themselves and find something great to read on their vacations.

Before the chaos

We promoted the Junior School Take a Book on Break program with a Glog (with an embedded Animoto video) that was e-mailed to the 7th and 8th grade students and advisers; Ms. Bray made announcements during JSchool lunches.

We arranged the books into broad themes – LOLScience Fiction and FantasyThrillers and ChillersDrama, and Award Winners – put some cookies on the table for students to take when they checked out books, set up a Prezi of book trailers, and waited.

As you can see in our Animoto video below, the outcome was terrific. While 43 students checked out 55 books, their enthusiasm was the best part of the event. Thank you for visiting JSchool, and we hope to see you again soon!

Upper School

Since Middle and Upper School students have more flexibility in their schedules, we decided their event should be casual and not restrained by a time-frame. We had high expectations about student response to our invitation, but there was no way to predict how many would actually respond to the Glog and Animoto video promoting the event. But, Hopkins students rose to the occasion, as usual, and dozens visited Calarco to check out books, ask for recommendations, snack on some cookies, and talk about spring break plans.

In short, we were thrilled by the turn-out and excitement of all our students. In total, 116 books were checked out during the Upper School program. Your librarians thoroughly enjoyed sharing book recommendations and hearing about how much you love to read for fun. We want to thank all of you who asked questions, ate cookies, and/or left with a book (or sometimes several books) in hand, and invite you to share your thoughts about the Take a Book on a Break Program.

Questions and Suggestions are welcome in the comments section.

Coming Soon: Stay tuned for an upcoming entry featuring our “Photograph a Book on Vacation” contest winners.

Welcome to the Library Blog

The Library at Hopkins is proud to present its very first blog! Stop by, frequently, sporadically, or forcibly, to read about the library and its various happenings throughout the academic (or not-so academic) year. Here we will provide updates of new materials and programs, promotions and plugs for different technologies, research tips and tricks, book talks, student commentary, and the various musings of your very own librarians.

So please, come back and visit often as our online presence grows and further benefits the Hopkins community.