Love Your Library Begins: October 2021

It’s the opening month of my new Love Your Library meme! I hope some of you will join me in writing about the libraries you use and what you’ve borrowed from them recently. I plan to treat these monthly posts as a sort of miscellany.

Although I likely won’t do thorough Library Checkout rundowns anymore, I’ll show photos of what I’ve borrowed, give links to reviews of a few recent reads, and then feature something random, such as a reading theme or library policy or display.

Do share a link to your own post in the comments, and feel free to use the above image. I’m co-opting a hashtag that is already popular on Twitter and Instagram: #LoveYourLibrary.

Here’s a reminder of my ideas of what you might choose to post (this list will stay up on the project page):

  • Photos or a list of your latest library book haul
  • An account of a visit to a new-to-you library
  • Full-length or mini reviews of some recent library reads
  • A description of a particular feature of your local library
  • A screenshot of the state of play of your online account
  • An opinion piece about library policies (e.g. Covid procedures or fines amnesties)
  • A write-up of a library event you attended, such as an author reading or book club.

If it’s related to libraries, I want to hear about it!

 

Recently borrowed

Stand-out reads

 

The Echo Chamber by John Boyne

John Boyne is such a literary chameleon. He’s been John Irving (The Heart’s Invisible Furies), Patricia Highsmith (A Ladder to the Sky) and David Mitchell (A Traveller at the Gates of Wisdom). Now, with this Internet-age state-of-the-nation satire featuring variously abhorrent characters, he’s channelling the likes of Jamie Attenberg, Jonathan Coe, Patricia Lockwood, Lionel Shriver and Emma Straub. Every member of the Cleverley family is a morally compromised fake. Boyne gives his characters amusing tics, and there are also some tremendously funny set pieces, such as Nelson’s speed dating escapade and George’s public outbursts. He links several storylines through the Ukrainian dancer Pylyp, who’s slept with almost every character in the book and has Beverley petsit for his tortoise.

What is Boyne spoofing here? Mostly smartphone addiction, but also cancel culture. I imagined George as Hugh Bonneville throughout; indeed, the novel would lend itself very well to screen adaptation. And I loved how Beverley’s new ghostwriter, never given any name beyond “the ghost,” feels like the most real and perceptive character of all. Surely one of the funniest books I will read this year. (Full review).

 

Beautiful World, Where Are You by Sally Rooney

I was one of those rare readers who didn’t think so much of Normal People, so to me this felt like a return to form. Conversations with Friends was a surprise hit with me back in 2017 when I read it as part of the Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year Award shadow panel the year she won. The themes here are much the same: friendship, nostalgia, sex, communication and the search for meaning. BWWAY is that little bit more existential: through the long-form e-mail correspondence between two friends from college, novelist Alice and literary magazine editor Eileen, we imbibe a lot of philosophizing about history, aesthetics and culture, and musings on the purpose of an individual life against the backdrop of the potential extinction of the species.

Through their relationships with Felix (a rough-around-the-edges warehouse worker) and Simon (slightly older and involved in politics), Rooney explores the question of whether lasting bonds can be formed despite perceived differences of class and intelligence. The background of Alice’s nervous breakdown and Simon’s Catholicism also bring in sensitive treatments of mental illness and faith. (Full review).

 

This month’s feature

I spotted a few of these during my volunteer shelving and then sought out a couple more. All five are picture books composed by authors not known for their writing for children.

 

Islandborn by Junot Díaz (illus. Leo Espinosa): “Every kid in Lola’s school was from somewhere else.” When the teacher asks them all to draw a picture of the country they came from, plucky Lola doesn’t know how to depict the Island. Since she left as a baby, she has to interview relatives and neighbours for their lasting impressions. For one man it’s mangoes so sweet they make you cry; for her grandmother it’s dolphins near the beach. She gathers the memories into a vibrant booklet. The 2D cut-paper style reminded me of Ezra Jack Keats.

 

The Islanders by Helen Dunmore (illus. Rebecca Cobb): Robbie and his family are back in Cornwall to visit Tamsin and her family. These two are the best of friends and explore along the beach together, creating their own little island by digging a channel and making a dam. As the week’s holiday comes toward an end, a magical night-time journey makes them wonder if their wish to make their island life their real life forever could come true. The brightly coloured paint and crayon illustrations are a little bit Charlie and Lola and very cute.

 

Rose Blanche by Ian McEwan (illus. Roberto Innocenti): Patriotism is assumed for the title character and her mother as they cheer German soldiers heading off to war. There’s dramatic irony in Rose being our innocent witness to deprivations and abductions. One day she follows a truck out of town and past barriers and fences and stumbles onto a concentration camp. Seeing hungry children’s suffering, she starts bringing them food. Unfortunately, this gets pretty mawkish and, while I liked some of the tableau scenes – reminiscent of Brueghel or Stanley Spencer – the faces are awful. (Based on a story by Christophe Gallaz.)

 

Where Snow Angels Go by Maggie O’Farrell (illus. Daniela Jaglenka Terrazzini): The snow angel Sylvie made last winter comes back to her to serve as her guardian angel, saving her from illness and accident risks. If you’re familiar with O’Farrell’s memoir I Am, I Am, I Am, this presents a similar catalogue of near-misses. For a picture book, it has a lot of words – several paragraphs’ worth on most of its 70 pages – so I imagine it’s more suitable for ages seven and up. I loved the fairy tale atmosphere, touches of humour, and drawing style.

 

Weirdo by Zadie Smith and Nick Laird (illus. Magenta Fox): Kit’s birthday present is Maud, a guinea pig in a judo uniform. None of the other household pets – Derrick the cockatoo, Dora the cat, and Bob the pug – know what to make of her. Like in The Secret Life of Pets, the pets take over, interacting while everyone’s out at school and work. At first Maud tries making herself like the others, but after she spends an afternoon with an eccentric neighbour she realizes all she needs to be is herself. It’s not the first time married couple Smith and Laird have published an in-joke (their 2018 releases – an essay collection and a book of poems, respectively – are both entitled Feel Free): Kit is their daughter’s name and Maud is their pug’s. But this was cute enough to let them off.

22 responses

  1. I’ll join in soon – I may be too late for this month as I’m on Granny Duty in London all week and no blogging will take place. Exhausted already!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Any time is fine! Enjoy your week.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I loved The Echo Chamber. A rare laugh-out-loud book for me. I’m looking forward to the Rooney. Pleased to see that you enjoyed it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. At first I worried the names were too silly and the humour too broad, but he drew me in.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I will probably wait for the paperback of the Rooney, but have got the Boyne waiting its turn. Although my local library isn’t bad at all, I don’t think I’ll be going often now, as my priority should be to read the books I already have in my personal library. I love reading about yours though.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Should you ever need to cut back on book buying, it’s a great option!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I will cut back on book buying in the new year, but I have 1500+ at home still to read.

        Like

  4. What a great idea for a blog post. I have recently moved and renewed my library card, and have started to order books again – what a great service! It reminded me of just how much libraries have given me over the years and I have blogged about it here. https://www.bookshelfdiscovery.com/blog/love-your-library

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much for taking part and sharing your library stories!

      Like

    2. Thank you for reading, appreciate it.

      Like

  5. Phew, I keep forgetting how big Tenderness is. Maybe there’s still time for me to suspend my hold. Heheh

    I put up a video on Tiktok a few weeks ago because I was trying to explain to a friend just how out of hand my current library loans had gotten. If I do another one, I’ll be sure to tag it with your event info. If I can figure out how to do that. LOL
    https://www.tiktok.com/@buriedinprint

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I glanced at the first few pages and it does look good … but it’s 600 pages of small type! And I have so many other doorstoppers on the go or on the way. It feels like this is somehow a unique characteristic of this autumn?

      Oh no, not another social media outlet! I’ve never been on Tiktok. If you can link via your blog or Twitter I’ll gladly share it.

      Like

      1. It does feel like there are more and longer books this season to me, but I have no evidence of that, only an inkling. I’ll probably leave MacLeod for another time.

        Haha, it took me ages to figure out how to post it. I’ll stick to photos rather than videos elsewhere. But at least with Tiktok, one needn’t join to view, which I know thanks to family members sharing so many things (mostly musical) before I finally joined myself. Not sure how active I’ll be, but starting is the hardest part for me.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. While I love libraries, I am too busy reading Own Books to take any out right now. But I will enjoy this as always!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for reading. You have such an interesting flagship library there in Birmingham!

      Like

  7. Well I’m looking forward to being able to actually set foot in my library! (have barely been able to since the beginning of COVID) – because of that, my borrowing has been mostly restricted to audio books.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wow, still? I feel lucky that I’ve been able to access the library, at least for picking up reservations, since July 2020, and for most of that time the building has been fully open too. Audio books certainly count!

      Like

  8. I’ve been under the weather this week but do plan to do a Love Your Library post soon!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Sorry to hear that, Laila! No problem at all — whenever you get a chance. I think I’ll make it a habit to start my posts by rounding up all the contributions from the previous month.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. […] Beck is encouraging us to share why we Love our Libraries, and perhaps share some stories to show why. I’m a volunteer at our local library, though I […]

    Like

  10. Phew! I just squeezed in before the end of the month! Here you go …. https://margaret21.com/2021/10/31/love-my-library-of-course-i-do/

    Liked by 1 person

  11. […] I’d like to start out by thanking all those who have taken part since last month’s post: […]

    Like

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