Tag Archives: libraries

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, 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, 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!

Love Your Library, November 2021

It’s the second month of the new Love Your Library feature.

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

Adrian shared lovely stories about the libraries he’s used in Ireland, from childhood onwards.

Laila, Lori and Margaret highlighted their recent loans and reads.

Laura sent a photo of her shiny new library copy of Sally Rooney’s latest novel.

Finally, Marcie contributed this TikTok video of her library stacks!

  

As for my recent library experiences…

 

A stand-out read:

The Performance by Claire Thomas: What a terrific setup: three women are in a Melbourne theatre watching a performance of Samuel Beckett’s Happy Days. Margot is a veteran professor whose husband is developing dementia. Ivy is a new mother whose wealth hardly makes up for the devastating losses of her earlier life. Summer is a mixed-race usher concerned about her girlfriend during the fires rampaging outside the city. In rotating close third person sections, Thomas takes us into these characters’ inner worlds, contrasting their personal worries with wider issues of women’s and indigenous people’s rights and the environmental crisis, as well as with the increasingly claustrophobic scene on stage. In “The Interval,” written as a script, the main characters interact with each other, with the “forced intimacy between strangers” creating opportunities for chance meetings and fateful decisions.

 

Doorstoppers: A problem

Aware that I’m heading to the States for Christmas on the 14th of December (only a couple of weeks from now!), I’ve started culling my library stacks, returning any books that I’m not super-keen to read before the end of the year. A few I’ll borrow another time, but most I decided weren’t actually for me, even if raved about elsewhere.

I mentioned in a post last week that I’ve had a hard time finding the concentration for doorstoppers lately, which is ironic giving how many high-profile ones there have been this year – or even just this autumn. (For example, seven of BookPage’s top 20 fiction releases of 2021 are over 450 pages.) I gave up twice on Great Circle by Maggie Shipstead, swiftly abandoned Cloud Cuckoo Land by Anthony Doerr (a silly bookish attempt at something like Cloud Atlas), didn’t have time to attempt Tenderness by Alison Macleod and The Magician by Colm Tóibín, and recently returned The Morning Star by Karl Ove Knausgaard unread.

Why so many chunky reads this year, and this season in particular? I’ve wondered if it has had something to do with the lockdown mentality – for authors or readers, or both. It can be awfully cozy, especially as winter advances (in this hemisphere), to sink into a big book. But I find that I’m always looking for an excuse to not engage with a doorstopper.

 

I generally enjoy the scope, detail and moral commentary of Jonathan Franzen’s novels; his previous two, Freedom and Purity, which also numbered 500+ pages, were fantastic. But Crossroads wasn’t happening for me, at least not right now. I only got to page 23 on this attempt. The Chicago setting was promising, and I’m there for the doubt and hypocrisy of church-bound characters. But with text this dense, it feels like it takes SO MANY WORDS to convey just one scene or conversation. I was finding the prose a little obnoxious, too, e.g.

Of Santa the Hildebrandts had always said, Bah, humbug. And yet somehow, long past the age of understanding that presents don’t just buy and wrap themselves, he’d accepted their sudden annual appearance as, if not a miraculous provision, then a phenomenon like his bladder filling with urine, part of the normal course of things. How had he not grasped at nine a truth so obvious to him at ten? The epistemological disjunction was absolute.

Problems here: How many extra words do you need to say “He stopped believing in Santa at age 10”? When is the phrase “epistemological disjunction” ever anything other than showing off? And why did micturition present itself as an apt metaphor?

But anyway, I’ve hardly given this a fair shake yet. I daresay I’ll read it another time; it’ll be my eighth book by Franzen.

 


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!

The Mystery of Henri Pick by David Foenkinos (Walter Presents Blog Tour)

A library populated entirely by rejected books? Such was Richard Brautigan’s brainchild in one of his novels, and after his suicide a fan made it a reality. Now based in Vancouver, Washington, the Brautigan Library houses what French novelist David Foenkinos calls “the world’s literary orphans.” In The Mystery of Henri Pick, he imagines what would have happened had a French librarian created its counterpart in a small town in Brittany and a canny editor discovered a gem of a bestseller among its dusty stacks.

Delphine Despero is a rising Parisian editor who’s fallen in love with her latest signed author, Frédéric Koskas. Unfortunately, his novel The Bathtub is a flop, but he persists in writing a second, The Bed. On a trip home to Brittany so Frédéric can meet her parents, he and Delphine drop into the library of rejected books at Crozon and find a few amusing turkeys – but also a masterpiece. The Last Hours of a Love Affair is what it says on the tin, but also incorporates the death of Pushkin. The name attached to it is that of the late pizzeria owner in Crozon. His elderly widow and middle-aged daughter had no idea that their humble Henri had ever had literary ambitions, let alone that he had a copy of Eugene Onegin in the attic.

The Last Hours of a Love Affair becomes a publishing sensation – for its backstory more than its writing quality – yet there are those who doubt that Henri Pick could have been its author. The doubting faction is led by Jean-Michel Rouche, a disgraced literary critic who, having lost his job and his girlfriend, now has all the free time in the world to research the foundation of the Library of Rejects and those who deposited manuscripts there. Just when you think matters are tied up, Foenkinos throws a curveball.

This was such a light and entertaining read that I raced through. It has the breezy, mildly zany style I associate with films like Amélie. Despite the title, there’s not that much of a mystery here, but that suited me since I pretty much never pick up a crime novel. Foenkinos inserts lots of little literary in-jokes (not least: this is published by Pushkin Press!), and through Delphine he voices just the jaded but hopeful attitude I have towards books, especially as I undertake my own project of assessing unpublished manuscripts:

She had about twenty books to read during August, and they were all stored on her e-reader. [Her friends] asked her what those novels were about, and Delphine confessed that, most of the time, she was incapable of summarizing them. She had not read anything memorable. Yet she continued to feel excited at the start of each new book. Because what if it was good? What if she was about to discover a new author? She found her job so stimulating, it was almost like being a child again, hunting for chocolate eggs in a garden at Easter.

Great fun – give it a go!

My rating:

 

(Originally published in 2016. Translation from the French by Sam Taylor, 2020.)

My thanks to Poppy at Pushkin Press for arranging my e-copy for review.

 

(Walter Presents, a foreign-language drama streaming service, launched in the UK (on Channel 4) in 2016 and is also available in the USA, Australia, and various European countries.)

I was delighted to be part of the Walter Presents blog tour. See below for details of where other books and reviews have featured.

Coming Soon … A New “Love Your Library” Meme

I know that lots of my readers are dedicated library users. Some of you even work or volunteer in a library, too. Whether or not you blog about books yourself, you’re welcome to join in this simple meme designed to celebrate libraries. Use ’em or lose ’em, after all.

This challenge is entirely open-ended, but here are some things you might consider posting on your blog or to social media:

  • 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.

(Image by StockSnap from Pixabay)

 

If it’s related to libraries, I want to hear about it. I’ll post on the last Monday of each month (unless a holiday interferes), but feel free to post whenever you wish. Do share a link to your own post in the comments of my latest one, and use the above image, too. I’m co-opting a hashtag that is already popular on Twitter and Instagram: #LoveYourLibrary.

Get thinking about what you might want to post on Monday the 25th!

 


Love Your Library has grown out of the monthly “Library Checkout” meme – created by Shannon of River City Reading and previously hosted by Charleen of It’s a Portable Magic, I then hosted it for four years starting in October 2017. Here’s an archive of my past posts.

If you want to continue using this framework to keep track of your library borrowing, the categories are Library Books Read; Currently Reading; Checked Out, To Be Read; On Hold; and Returned Unread. I sometimes added Skimmed Only and Returned Unfinished. I usually gave star ratings and links to reviews of any books I managed to read.

Doorstopper of the Month: The Absolute Book by Elizabeth Knox (2019)

Epic fantasy is far from my usual fare, but this was a book worth getting lost in. The reading experience reminded me of what I had with A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami, or perhaps Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke – though it’s possible this last association was only in my mind because of Dan Kois. You see, we have Kois, an editor at Slate, to thank for this novel being published outside of Knox’s native New Zealand. He wrote an enthusiastic Slate review of an amazing novel he’d found that was only available through a small university press, and Clarke’s novel was his main point of reference. How’s that for the power of a book review?

Taryn Cornick, 33, has adapted her PhD thesis into a popular history of libraries – the search for absolute knowledge; the perennial threats that libraries face, from budget cuts to burnings – that she’s been discussing at literary festivals around the world. One particular burning looms large in her family’s history: the library at her grandfather’s country estate near the border of England and Wales, Princes Gate. As girls, Taryn and her older sister, Beatrice, helped to raise the alarm and saved the bulk of their grandfather’s collection. But one key artifact has been missing ever since: the Firestarter, an ancient scroll box that is said to have been through five fires and will survive another arson attempt before the book is through.

Nearly 15 years ago now, Beatrice was the victim of a random act of violence. Soon after her killer was released from prison, he turned up dead in unusual circumstances. Ever since, Detective Inspector Jacob Berger has suspected that Taryn arranged a revenge killing, but he has no proof. His cold case heats back up when Taryn lands in the hospital and complains of a series of prank calls.

What ensues is complicated, but in essence, the ongoing fallout of Beatrice’s murder and a cosmic battle over the Firestarter are twin forces that plunge Taryn and Jacob into the faerie realm (Sidh). Their guide to the Sidh is Shift, a shapeshifter who can create impromptu gates between the two worlds (while others, like Princes Gate, are permanent passageways).

Fairies (sidhe), demons, talking ravens … there’s some convoluted world-building here, and when I reached the end I realized I still had many ‘how’ and ‘why’ questions, though often this was because I hadn’t paid close enough attention and if I glanced back I’d see that Knox did indeed tell us how characters got from A to B, and who was after the Firestarter and why.

The book travels everywhere from Provence to Purgatory, but I particularly liked the descriptions of the primitive lifestyle in the faerie realm. Knox gives enough detail about things like food and clothing that you can really imagine yourself into each setting, and there’s the occasional funny turn of phrase that inserts the magical into everyday life in a tongue-in-cheek way, like “The Nespresso [machine] made hatching-dragon sounds.”

My two favorite scenes were an intense escape from a marsh and one that delightfully blends the human world and faerie: Taryn’s father, Basil Cornick, is a Kiwi actor best known for his role in a Game of Thrones-style television show. He’s roped into what he thinks is a screen test, playing Odin opposite a very convincing animatronic monster and pair of talking birds. We and Taryn know what he doesn’t: that he was used to negotiate with a real demon. The terrific epilogue also offers an appealing vision of how the sidhe might save the world.

If, like me, all you know of Knox’s previous work is the bizarre and kind of awful The Vintner’s Luck (which I read for a book club a decade or so ago), you’ll be intrigued to learn that angels play a role here, too. But beneath all the magical stuff, which is sometimes hard to follow or believe in, the novel is a hymn to language and libraries. A number of books are mentioned, starting with the one that was in Beatrice’s backpack at the time of her death: “the blockbuster of that year, 2003, a novel about tantalising, epoch-spanning conspiracies. Beatrice enjoyed those books, perhaps because they were often set in libraries.” (That’s The Da Vinci Code, of course.) Also mentioned: Labyrinth by Kate Mosse, the Moomin books, and the film Spirited Away – no doubt these were beloved influences for Knox.

I appreciated the words about libraries’ enduring value, even on a poisoned planet. “I want there to be libraries in the future. I want today to give up being so smugly sure about what tomorrow won’t need,” Taryn says. She knows that, for this to happen, people must “care about the transmission of knowledge from generation to generation, and about keeping what isn’t immediately necessary because it might be vital one day. Or simply intriguing, or beautiful.” That’s an analogy for species, too, I think, and a reminder of our responsibility: to preserve human accomplishments, yes, but also the more-than-human world (even if that ‘more’ might not include fairies).

Page count: 626 (my only 500+-page doorstopper so far this year!)

My rating:

Library Checkout, April 2021

Over the past month, my library reading has included a few more novels from the Women’s Prize longlist and several memoirs, a few of them reflecting on the events of 2020. I also picked out a stack of picture books, most of them cat-themed, while looking for reservations (I’ve been back to volunteering at the library twice weekly).

I give links to reviews of books I haven’t already featured, as well as ratings for most reads and skims. I would be delighted to have other bloggers join in with this meme. Feel free to use the image above and leave a link to your blog in the comments if you’ve taken part in Library Checkout (the last Monday of each month), or tag me on Twitter and/or Instagram: @bookishbeck / #TheLibraryCheckout & #LoveYourLibraries.

 

READ

  • Luster by Raven Leilani – review coming up tomorrow
  • No One Is Talking About This by Patricia Lockwood – review coming up tomorrow
  • Birdsong in a Time of Silence by Steven Lovatt
  • Consent by Annabel Lyon – review coming up tomorrow
  • Skylarks with Rosie: A Somerset Spring by Stephen Moss
  • How We Met: A Memoir of Love and Other by Huma Qureshi
  • UnPresidented: Politics, Pandemics and the Race that Trumped All Others by Jon Sopel
  • Asylum Road by Olivia Sudjic
  • When God Was a Rabbit by Sarah Winman

 Also these children’s picture books, which don’t count towards my year totals.

    • Alfie in the Garden by Debi Gliori
    • The Poesy Ring by Bob Graham
    • The Mice in the Churchyard by Kes Gray
    • Captain Cat by Inga Moore
    • Pussy Cat, Pussy Cat, Where Have You Been? I’ve Been to Washington and Guess What I’ve Seen by Russell Punter
    • Fred by Posy Simmonds

SKIMMED

  • The Natural Health Service: What the Great Outdoors Can Do for Your Mind by Isabel Hardman
  • The Librarian by Allie Morgan

 

CURRENTLY READING

  • You Exist Too Much by Zaina Arafat
  • Ten Days by Austin Duffy
  • Featherhood: On Birds and Fathers by Charlie Gilmour
  • The Last Migration by Charlotte McConaghy
  • Becoming a Man: Half a Life Story by Paul Monette
  • The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne by Brian Moore
  • Hot Stew by Fiona Mozley
  • You’re Not Listening: What You’re Missing and Why It Matters by Kate Murphy
  • Open Water by Caleb Azumah Nelson
  • Woods etc. by Alice Oswald

 

CURRENTLY SKIMMING

  • After: A Doctor Explores What Near-Death Experiences Reveal about Life and Beyond by Bruce Greyson
  • The Ministry of Bodies: Life and Death in a Modern Hospital by Seamus O’Mahony

CHECKED OUT, TO BE READ

  • Under the Blue by Oana Aristide
  • The Address Book: What Street Addresses Reveal about Identity, Race, Wealth and Power by Deirdre Mask
  • The Pleasure Steamers by Andrew Motion
  • How to Be Sad: Everything I’ve Learned about Getting Happier, by Being Sad, Better by Helen Russell

 

ON HOLD, TO BE PICKED UP

  • Who Is Maud Dixon? by Alexandra Andrews
  • Failures of State: The Inside Story of Britain’s Battle with Coronavirus by Jonathan Calvert and George Arbuthnott
  • Life Support: Diary of an ICU Doctor on the Frontline of the COVID Crisis by Jim Down
  • The Absolute Book by Elizabeth Knox
  • His Only Wife by Peace Adzo Medie
  • Life Sentences by Billy O’Callaghan
  • Many Different Kinds of Love: A Story of Life, Death and the NHS by Michael Rosen

IN THE RESERVATION QUEUE

  • Civilisations by Laurent Binet
  • This Happy by Niamh Campbell
  • Small Pleasures by Clare Chambers
  • Heavy Light: A Journey through Madness, Mania and Healing by Horatio Clare
  • The Madness of Grief: A Memoir of Love and Loss by Reverend Richard Coles
  • Darwin’s Dragons by Lindsay Galvin
  • Lakewood by Megan Giddings
  • The Rome Plague Diaries: Lockdown Life in the Eternal City by Matthew Kneale
  • Nothing but Blue Sky by Kathleen MacMahon
  • Circus of Wonders by Elizabeth Macneal
  • Acts of Desperation by Megan Nolan
  • Detransition, Baby by Torrey Peters
  • My Phantoms by Gwendoline Riley
  • I Belong Here: A Journey along the Backbone of Britain by Anita Sethi
  • Great Circle by Maggie Shipstead
  • When We Went Wild by Isabella Tree and Allira Tee

 

RETURNED UNFINISHED

  • Escape Routes by Naomi Ishiguro – I read and enjoyed a few stories, but didn’t feel the need to read any more (especially some very long or fantasy-looking ones).
  • The Art of Falling by Danielle McLaughlin

 

RETURNED UNREAD

  • A Tall History of Sugar by Curdella Forbes – Seemed like it might be tiresome (too involved, too much backstory, etc.).
  • Double Blind by Edward St. Aubyn – Ponderous writing in the first few pages, and too many middling or negative reviews from friends on Goodreads.

 

What appeals from my stacks?