Category Archives: Love Your Library

Love Your Library, September 2022

How embarrassing to find out from a fellow blogger’s post that two North American readers host a weekly meme for library borrowing. It’s called Library Loot (title envy!), and you should feel free to participate in that in addition to or instead of my monthly event.

Pretty soon it will be time to stock up on horror and short books for R.I.P. and Novellas in November. For now, I’m still working on some short story collections, and plan to skim a bunch of nonfiction I’m interested-ish in (but not enough to read every word) to make space on my card. I did have reserves on three Booker-shortlisted titles, but admitted to myself that I don’t actually want to read them and cancelled my holds. The one that I do still plan to read is Treacle Walker by Alan Garner, a perfect read for #NovNov22, if not before.

 

Since last month:

READ

  • Brief Lives by Anita Brookner (for book club)
  • Case Study by Graeme Macrae Burnet
  • The Dinner Party by Joshua Ferris
  • The Boat by Nam Le
  • Nightcrawling by Leila Mottley
  • This Time Tomorrow by Emma Straub
  • Oh William! by Elizabeth Strout
  • Summer by Edith Wharton
  • The Young Accomplice by Benjamin Wood

 CURRENTLY READING

  • The Dark Is Rising by Susan Cooper
  • State of Wonder by Ann Patchett (a reread)
  • Leap Year by Helen Russell
  • Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin

Plus various new releases on loan or on hold.

 

What have you been reading or reviewing from the library recently?

Share a link to your own post in the comments. Feel free to use the above image. The hashtag is #LoveYourLibrary.

Love Your Library, August 2022

Edited: Belatedly adding in links to this month’s posts by Eleanor and Marcie, with a huge thank you for participating!

And here’s my haul from today. A few short story collections there because in September I always try to focus a bit more on stories.


Naomi has also been reading a lot from her local libraries, and Laura stocked up before heading out on holiday:

Normally my library system would be busily buying up the Booker Prize longlist, the Wainwright Prize shortlists, and big-name upcoming releases by the likes of John Irving and Ian McEwan. I have a file on my desktop with a list of 29 author names I periodically check for, as any on-order titles from them will show up at the top of the results. But there’s been a huge slowdown on acquisitions, and I know exactly why: the librarian who orders and processes new books experienced a family tragedy this summer and has been on compassionate leave for a while already. Were I not a library volunteer who also vaguely knows her socially, I’d have no idea and might be simmering with impatience right now. Instead, I’ll be patient, read what I already have out, and address my review book backlog.

 

Since last month…

READ

  • Where the Wildflowers Grow by Leif Bersweden
  • Bridget Jones: Mad About the Boy by Helen Fielding (for book club)
  • My Life in Houses by Margaret Forster
  • Black Narcissus by Rumer Godden
  • Julia and the Shark by Kiran Millwood Hargrave
  • The Summer Book by Tove Jansson
  • From the Hedgerows by Lew Lewis
  • The Last Wild Horses by Maja Lunde
  • Golden Boys by Phil Stamper
  • The False Rose by Jakob Wegelius

 Also a children’s book I spotted while shelving – who knew it existed?!

  • River Rose and the Magical Lullaby by Kelly Clarkson; illus. Laura Hughes

 

CURRENTLY READING

  • Brief Lives by Anita Brookner (for book club)
  • Case Study by Graeme Macrae Burnet
  • Nightcrawling by Leila Mottley
  • State of Wonder by Ann Patchett (a reread)
  • Oh William! by Elizabeth Strout
  • The Young Accomplice by Benjamin Wood

A few of these are from the Booker Prize longlist, in advance of the shortlist announcement on 6 September.

And from the university library:

  • Summer by Edith Wharton

 

Still lots around that I’ve borrowed and not gotten into yet:

And various new releases on hold or awaiting me on the reservation shelf.

 

What have you been reading or reviewing from the library recently?

Share a link to your own post in the comments. Feel free to use the above image. The hashtag is #LoveYourLibrary.

Love Your Library, July 2022

Margaret posted about books picked at random while volunteering at the library, and the way a certain type of cover can draw you in or fit your mood. I’ve certainly experienced this, too!

I’ve noticed that, lately, my library system has been making an effort to cover gaps in its holdings, purchasing books to boost its collections of LGBTQ and postcolonial literature: reissues of novels by Caribbean and Indigenous (e.g. Maori) authors, more by trans people, Black British authors from the Virago Modern Classics series, etc. They also tend to buy up writers’ back catalogues, especially if reprinted as a uniform series – I keep hoping they’ll do this for Sarah Hall. Though I volunteer at the library twice a week, I don’t have insider knowledge; it’s still a mystery to me how and why some books get ordered and some don’t.

Since last month…

 

READ

  • Orchid Summer by Jon Dunn
  • Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus
  • Secrets of the Sea House by Elisabeth Gifford
  • This Is Not a Pity Memoir by Abi Morgan (for book club)
  • The Summer of the Bear by Bella Pollen
  • Transitions: Our Stories of Being Trans, ed. Juno Roche et al.
  • Stormy Petrel by Mary Stewart
  • Madwoman by Louisa Treger – reviewing for Shelf Awareness

 And from the university library:

From whence this amusing quote about library books:

“No T. More in any of the bookshops, so tried Public Library. Can’t think why one never thinks of Public Libraries. Probably because books expected to be soupy. Think this looks quite clean and unsoupy. You get fourteen days. Sounds like a sentence rather than a loan.”

(I sometimes get perfume-y books, but not soupy ones. How about you?)

 

I’ll zero in on one of these, Lessons in Chemistry, because there are 50 reservations after me in the queue – that must be a record for my small library system! Bonnie Garmus made her authorial debut at age 64; you can be sure she’ll be in the running for the next Paul Torday Memorial Prize (awarded by the Society of Authors to a first novel by a writer over 60). Elizabeth Zott is a scientist through and through, applying a chemist’s mindset to her every venture, including cooking, rowing and single motherhood in the 1950s. When she is fired from her job in a chemistry lab and gets a gig as a TV cooking show host instead, she sees it as her mission to treat housewives as men’s intellectual equals, but there are plenty of people who don’t care for her unusual methods and free thinking. I was reminded strongly of The Atomic Weight of Love and The Rosie Project, as well as novels by Katherine Heiny and especially John Irving what with the deep dive into backstory and particular pet subjects, and the orphan history for Zott’s love interest. This was an enjoyable tragicomedy. You have to cheer for the triumphs she and other female characters win against the system of the time. However, her utter humourlessness/guilelessness felt improbable, the very precocious child (and dog) stretch belief, and the ending was too pat for me.

 

CURRENTLY READING

Continuing with my flora and summer themes; continuing to linger in Scotland; reading about the amazing birds filling our skies (and nesting in our eaves):

  • Where the Wildflowers Grow by Leif Bersweden
  • Bridget Jones: Mad About the Boy by Helen Fielding (for book club)
  • Swifts and Us by Sarah Gibson
  • Black Narcissus by Rumer Godden
  • Tenderness by Alison MacLeod
  • Where the World Ends by Geraldine McCaughrean
  • Golden Boys by Phil Stamper
  • The False Rose by Jakob Wegelius
  • Summer by Edith Wharton

 

What have you been reading or reviewing from the library recently?

Share a link to your own post in the comments. Feel free to use the above image. The hashtag is #LoveYourLibrary.

Love Your Library, June 2022

In the past month we’ve had visits to libraries in Canada and Catalonia – thanks to Marcie and Margaret for sharing about these.

It’s been good to see more activities resuming at my local library, where I volunteer twice a week. In recent months I’ve noticed the upstairs meeting room being used for Lego building and flower arranging, as well as for reading group discussions.

When it comes to library material, I’ve been borrowing much more than I’ve been reading. I stocked up in advance of our Scotland holiday – even though we’re travelling by train, bus and ferry, so I haven’t been able to take very many books with me.

This is what I’ve gotten to since last month:

 

READ

  • The Dance Tree by Kiran Millwood Hargrave
  • The Feast by Margaret Kennedy
  • A Parrot in the Pepper Tree by Chris Stewart
  • The Murderer’s Ape by Jakob Wegelius

(I reviewed the above four across my Spain trip and 20 Books of Summer posts.) 

 

CURRENTLY READING

  • Orchid Summer by Jon Dunn
  • Secrets of the Sea House by Elisabeth Gifford
  • Black Narcissus by Rumer Godden
  • This Is Not a Pity Memoir by Abi Morgan
  • The Summer of the Bear by Bella Pollen

 

What have you been reading or reviewing from the library recently?

Share a link to your own post in the comments. Feel free to use the above image. The hashtag is #LoveYourLibrary.

Love Your Library, May 2022

I have a big ol’ stack of library books with me in Spain and I hope they have been good companions on the holiday, especially on the 20-hour ferry rides there and back (I’m scheduling this before we set off).

Margaret shared a lovely post about a grandchild’s early appreciation of the local library. And Naomi reviewed three novels she has recently read from the library, two I loved and one I’m partway through.

 

Since last month, here are my stats…

READ

With loads still on the go, and a preposterous number of reservations pending and hopefully not all arriving while I’m away.

What have you been reading or reviewing from the library recently?

Share a link to your own post in the comments. Feel free to use the above image. The hashtag is #LoveYourLibrary.

Love Your Library, April 2022

“Here on 42nd Street it was less elegant but no less strange. He loved this street, not for the people or the shops but for the stone lions that guarded the great main building of the Public Library, a building filled with books and unimaginably vast, and which he never dared to enter. He might, he knew, for he was a member of the branch in Harlem and was entitled to take books from any library in the city. But he had never gone in because the building was so big that it must be full of corridors and marble steps, in the maze of which he would be lost and never find the book he wanted. And then everyone, all the white people inside, would know that he was not used to great buildings, or to many books, and they would look at him with pity.”

(from Go Tell It on the Mountain by James Baldwin)

Hard to believe, but it’s already half a year since I relaunched my monthly library meme in this current form. I’m really grateful for all of you who have contributed posts and/or tagged me on social media. I love seeing what you’re reading from the library! The above quote clawed at my heart: no one should ever feel that libraries are not for them.

Annabel reviewed a new book about libraries and talked about her own experience growing up with South London’s libraries here. Eleanor and Rosemary posted photos of the books they’ve borrowed from their local libraries recently.

Elle is reading lots of Russian literature this spring, but also went on to devour most of her ‘death books’ stack within a week, and posted about them here.

 


For my part, I’m going to resurrect a format I used to use for “Library Checkout” posts to capture my library use over the past month, with links to my reviews where available:

 

READ

 SKIMMED

  • Go Tell It on the Mountain by James Baldwin
  • Things I Have Withheld by Kei Miller
  • Brown Baby by Nikesh Shukla

CURRENTLY READING

  • Falling Angels by Tracy Chevalier (rereading for May’s book club meeting)
  • Bitch: The Female of the Species by Lucy Cooke
  • Empire of Wild by Cherie Dimaline
  • The Sentence by Louise Erdrich
  • Empire Antarctica by Gavin Francis
  • Devotion by Hannah Kent
  • Lean Fall Stand by Jon McGregor
  • The Exhibitionist by Charlotte Mendelson (review coming tomorrow)
  • The Unadoptables by Hana Tooke
  • French Braid by Anne Tyler

CHECKED OUT, TO BE READ

(And I have a preposterous number of reservations pending.)

 

What have you been reading or reviewing from the library recently?

Share a link to your own post in the comments. Feel free to use the above image. The hashtag is #LoveYourLibrary. The project page gives an idea of what you might like to post about.

Love Your Library, March 2022

Naomi has been reading a variety of books from the library, including middle grade fiction and Indigenous poetry. Rosemary and Laura posted photos of the books they’ve borrowed from their local libraries recently.

Like Laura, I’ve been sourcing prize nominees from various places. In April I hope to read two nonfiction books from the Jhalak Prize longlist (Things I Have Withheld by Kei Miller and Brown Baby by Nikesh Shukla) and two more novels from the Women’s Prize longlist (The Paper Palace by Miranda Cowley Heller and The Island of Missing Trees by Elif Shafak), and I’ve just started Colm Tóibín’s Folio Prize-winning The Magician.

All from the library: a great way to read new and critically acclaimed books without having to buy them!


I’ve joined Kay, Lynn and Naomi for the Literary Wives online book club and our first read, coming up in June, will be The Sentence by Louise Erdrich, which will be doing double duty as part of the Women’s Prize longlist. I’m in the library holds queue and my copy should come in soon. My only other Erdrich so far, Love Medicine, was a 5-star read, so I have high hopes even though the premise for this one sounds a little iffy. (A bookshop ghost – magic realism being a common denominator on this year’s list – and a Covid lockdown setting.)

For those of you who like to plan ahead, here’s our schedule thereafter. I’ll be rereading two of them (Hornby and O’Farrell) and getting four out from the library (Feito, Hurston, Medie, O’Farrell). One I’ll request as a review copy (Lee), one was 99p on Kindle (Brown), and two more remain to be found secondhand (Gaige and Hunter). Maybe there’s one or more you’d like to join in with?

 

September 2022      Red Island House by Andrea Lee

December 2022       State of the Union by Nick Hornby

 

March 2023             His Only Wife by Peace Adzo Medie

June 2023                The Harpy by Megan Hunter

September 2023     Sea Wife by Amity Gaige

December 2023      Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell

 

March 2024              Mrs. March by Virginia Feito

June 2024                 Recipe for a Perfect Marriage by Karma Brown

September 2024      Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston

 

What have you been reading or reviewing from the library recently?

Do share a link to your own post in the comments, and feel free to use the above image. I’ve co-opted 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!

Love Your Library, February 2022

We’re now onto the fifth month of the Love Your Library feature. A big thank you to…

  • “The Fab Four of Cley,” who run a Little Free Library in their area. They found last month’s post and gave me a link to a bilingual piece they wrote about a book sale they ran at their local church, with the thousands of books they’d amassed. Heavenly!

 

  • Margaret of From Pyrenees to Pennines for her lovely account (with photos!) of a visit to the Central Public Library of Valencia.

 

  • Mary R. of Bibliographic Manifestations for her post on interlibrary loans.

Blogger Laila of Big Reading Life also mentioned ILLs recently. I know some states and provinces are able to offer this service for free. When I lived in Maryland, statewide ILLs were free and I took full advantage of it. It’s how I binged on books by Marcus Borg, Frederick Buechner, Jan Morris, and many others during the year between my Master’s degree and moving back to England permanently. For my thesis research I’d had the University of Leeds’ ILL team get me an obscure Victorian novel on microfiche all the way from Australia. I also cheekily put through a few university ILLs for myself while I worked for King’s College London’s library system. Where I live now in the UK, a public library ILL costs £3 per book, so isn’t worth doing; you might as well find a secondhand copy at that price. I do miss the freedom of knowing that I could borrow (almost) anything I want.

 

Two funny moments from my recent library volunteering: I found Mrs Dalloway shelved under D, and an M. C. Beaton “Agatha Raisin” mystery shelved under R!

 

Read from the library recently:

The Jasper & Scruff series by Nicola Colton: Having insisted I don’t like sequels or series … I do sometimes make exceptions, like I did for these early reader books (meant for, I don’t know, maybe ages 7 to 9?). I was drawn by the grey and white cat with a bowtie – that’s Jasper, a dapper fellow who likes the fine things in life and desperately wants to be admitted to the Sophisticats’ club, until he realizes they’re snooty and just plain mean. Whereas Scruff the puppy, though he makes life messy, is loving and fun. I liked the sequels more than the original because they build on each other, bringing back characters from the earlier books for a pirate-themed scavenger hunt, a reality TV-style talent show, and bookshop and diner ventures. There are good lessons about being honest and fair, even if others are cheating to outcompete you, and being yourself instead of putting on airs. I also like the menagerie of mammals: not just dogs and cats, but African megafauna, too.

 

The Decameron Project: 29 New Stories from the Pandemic (originally published in The New York Times): Creative responses to Covid-19, ranging from the prosaic to the fantastical. I appreciated the mix of authors, some in translation and some closer to genre fiction than lit fic. Standouts were by Victor LaValle (NYC apartment neighbours; magic realism), Colm Tóibín (lockdown prompts a man to consider his compatibility with his boyfriend), Karen Russell (time stops during a bus journey), Rivers Solomon (an abused girl and her imprisoned mother get revenge), Matthew Baker (a feuding grandmother and granddaughter find something to agree on), and John Wray (a relationship starts up during quarantine in Barcelona). The best story of all, though, was by Margaret Atwood.

 

Allegorizings by Jan Morris: Disparate, somewhat frivolous essays written mostly pre-2009, or in 2013, and kept in trust by her publisher for publication as a posthumous collection, so strangely frozen in time. She was old but not super-old; thinking vaguely about death, but not at death’s door. The organizing principle, that everything can be understood on more than one level and so we must think beyond the literal, is interesting but not particularly applicable to the contents. There are mini travel pieces and pen portraits, but I got more out of the explorations of concepts (maturity, nationalism) and universal experiences (being caught picking one’s nose, sneezing).

 

The Priory by Dorothy Whipple (read for book club): A cosy between-the-wars story, pleasant to read even though some awful things happen, or nearly happen. Like in Downton Abbey and the Cazalet Chronicles, there’s an upstairs/downstairs setup that’s appealing. It was interesting to watch how my sympathies shifted. The Persephone afterword provides useful information about the Welsh house (where Whipple stayed for a month in 1934) and family that inspired the novel. Whipple is a new author for me and I’m sure the rest of her books would be just as enjoyable, but I would only attempt another if it was significantly shorter than this one.

 

Borrowed since last month:

My latest university library book haul. Paradise by Toni Morrison is to read with my women’s classics book club subgroup in mid-April. Findings is to reread just because Kathleen Jamie is amazing. The other three are in preparation for the 1954 Club coming up in April.

Do share a link to your own post in the comments, and feel free to use the above image. I’ve co-opted 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!

Love Your Library, January 2022

We’re now on the fourth month of the Love Your Library feature. First, my thanks to Mary R. of Bibliographic Manifestations for her post on the libraries she has known and loved, and Naomi M. of Consumed by Ink for her reviews of recent books she’s read from the library. Karen of Booker Talk let me share this photo she took of a beautifully refurbished chapel-turned-library local to her.

Rosemary of Scones and Chaises Longues also sent me a photo of her latest library book haul.

I’ve been back to my library volunteering this month and am starting to amass borrowed books and hold requests. In keeping with my goal of prioritizing backlist books over brand-new ones, I’ve been picking up whatever catches my eye, including some releases from last year that I missed, and some older stuff, too. All volunteers were recently given this tote bag as a thank-you.

As to what I’ve actually read from the library recently, it’s mostly selections from the Costa Awards shortlists. I read the full poetry shortlist, two as review copies and two from the library. My preferred title was Eat or We Both Starve, but The Kids (a mixed-race author’s memories of kids she’s taught, and her own coming of age, and a potential antidote to the Kate Clanchy debacle?) won. I also read Free by Lea Ypi, a delightful memoir about growing up in Albania in the 1980s and 90s that has scenes and dialogue worthy of fiction, and Fault Lines by Emily Itami, a debut novel wryly narrated by a Tokyo housewife having an affair. I’m currently halfway through Maggie Blue and the Dark World by Anna Goodall, an enjoyable middle grade novel reminiscent of classic Madeleine L’Engle and C.S. Lewis fantasy but updated to cover bullying, mental health issues and same-sex attraction.


Do share a link to your own post in the comments, and feel free to use the image below. I’ve co-opted 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!

Love Your Library, December 2021

I hope everyone had a lovely Christmas! It’s the third month of the new Love Your Library feature. I’d like to start out by thanking Margaret and Rosemary for their recent posts. Margaret’s compares libraries then and now through her experiences as a teenage library assistant in the late 1960s versus as a volunteer these days. Rosemary’s is about rediscovering the joy of browsing her local library.


It’s been a quieter library month for me: I could only go in for volunteering a few times before I flew to the USA for Christmas, and I was focusing more on returning books than on borrowing them, though I do have this small stack awaiting me when I get back. Two from the Costa poetry shortlist (I’ve already read 1.5 of them, actually), a collection of short stories I’ve had recommended several times now, and a novella to reread for January’s book club.

Since last month, these are the library books I’ve read (three poetry books and a doctor’s memoir):

 

A Blood Condition by Kayo Chingonyi

The Cure for Good Intentions by Sophie Harrison

Conundrum by Jan Morris (a reread)

The State of the Prisons by Sinéad Morrissey

The Moon Is Always Female by Marge Piercy

&

The Year of Living Danishly by Helen Russell

A book club read. Russell moved to rural Denmark when her husband got a job at the Lego headquarters and used her first year there as an excuse to investigate the Danish way of life and try to determine why everyone seemed so happy. My book club enjoyed the blend of information and experience and found this as light and entertaining as a novel. Although there must have been a lot of research and networking involved, Russell makes her discoveries seem effortless. A few of us felt the book was too long, or incorporated too many statistics, but there was a lot to admire about Denmark (the social safety net, the education system, childcare, clubs for adults across classes, etc.). And it made us laugh!


Do share a link to your own post in the comments, and feel free to use the above image. I’ve co-opted 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!