Sunday, December 7, 2014

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: the Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo p.213

Recently I moved into a new apartment.  Determined to start fresh, I picked up a copy of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: the Japanese Art ofDecluttering and Organizing.  It has made a huge difference in my life.  This slim volume by Marie Kondo is part instruction manual, part self-help book.

It sounds embarrassingly new age and whimsical but the whole book is built around the idea that you need to get rid of everything in your household that does not spark joy.  How do you know if something sparks joy?  Kondo insists that you have to pick the item up and actually hold it in your hands.  Your body’s reaction will tell you if the item sparks joy.  Kondo says her method is effective because you are following your gut reaction and not trying to rationalize whether or not to keep something.  If you stop to think about it, you will almost always find some reason to keep the item.  You haven’t worn that shirt in six months and it has a stain on it.  It is tempting to believe that you might still wear that shirt to lounge around the house.  Marie Kondo says to get rid of it.  

Her technique involves collecting all the items in the same category (like clothes or books) and dumping them on the floor in one pile.  By seeing all your clothes in one heap, you get an accurate idea of how much you really have and are not wearing.  This is a little weird but Marie Kondo also says you should thank the items that you are getting rid of for their service.  At the very least, that ugly sweater you got from your grandma taught you what your style isn’t.

Beyond throwing out things that don’t spark joy, Kondo offers many other tips that make the book worth reading.  I recommend checking it out.    I personally got rid of over ten garbage bags of stuff from my one bedroom apartment.  

Be warned: Tidying up your household leads to tidying up the rest of your life.  The less cluttered your home is the more clarity you have in the rest of your life.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng, 304 pages

I still remember the creative writing block in my 7th grade English class.  We learned various literary devices and wrote a creative essay to reflect our new-found knowledge of ways to engage a reader.  I agonized over writing an opening sentence that was exciting, but didn’t tell too much.  Something interesting, but not too over-the-top.  

Celeste Ng demonstrates that she is a master of hooking her readers in the opening lines of her novel  Everything I Never Told You.  It begins with, “Lydia is dead.  But they don’t know this yet.”  Ng sets the scene, sharing each person's relation to Lydia, and how the complexities of being a Chinese-American family in 1970s rural Ohio have shaped each one of their lives.  Lydia seems to have been the glue that held this family together, but after she’s gone, they are thrown into guilt, blind desire to understand what happened to her, and a sense of being unmoored from the family home.

We hear from James, Lydia’s father, a first generation Chinese-American desperately determined to fit in.  Marilyn, Lydia’s American mother whose resolve to escape the role of a housewife was cut short after meeting James and having their first child.  Nath, Lydia’s brother, a studious senior about to head to Harvard.  And Hannah, Lydia’s younger, often overlooked sister.  Everything I Never Told You is a moving picture of parents and their fierce desire to provide a life that is different than their own, and how these dreams impact their children.    

Books Can Be Deceiving (A Library Lover's Mystery) by Jenn McKinlay, 291 pages

I don't know about you, but I love books about libraries and books! In Books Can Be Deceiving, Lindsay has only been the library director at Briar Creek Public Library in a quaint Connecticut town for a few months. Her best friend, Beth, convinced her to move away from the city after Lindsay lost her job, broke up with her fiance, and just needed another big life change. Beth is the children's librarian at Briar Creek and wants to sell her children's book to a publicist in town. It just so happens that Beth's boyfriend, Rick, seems to have just published a similar book without telling her. When Beth and Lindsay find Rick stabbed to death in his home, the local cop only sees one possibility - Beth as the scorned girlfriend must be the killer.

This year, I've been a huge fan of reading cozy mysteries - especially ones about books! Jenn McKinlay creates the perfect small-town environment for this great mystery which will leave you on the edge of your seat! Part of the great thing about cozy mysteries is that they are quick to read. I finished this book in one day, and I'm already on to the next book in the series! I love Lindsay as a character because she is so very relatable. She also has a fiery personality that can both be a help and a hindrance to her crime-solving activities. Pour yourself a big cup of cocoa, cozy up with a blanket next to the fire, and read this wonderful mystery!

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Book Clubs are Everywhere

Joan Deuschle*

Book clubs are everywhere!  Or maybe those of us who work in libraries just hear about them more.  In a world with instant communications, cable TV and DVR, book clubs seem  old fashioned and just plain too slow.   Yet book clubs today are flourishing. Why?  Could belonging to a book club be a throw back to a gentler time?  Or maybe we want to slow down a bit.   Today, people do not join something just because it is there.  It has to mean something to them.   People do not give of their time without a   purpose.  Hence, those who belong to a book club believe it is very worthwhile. They do not take it lightly.

      It’s ironic that most of us who belong to a club tend to read the same books.  If you go online and type in books for book clubs, you will find long lists.  You will even find reading guides, reviews, nice summaries and sample questions you can use in your book discussions.  When one book club has found a great title for discussion it travels fast. Other clubs pick up the title and run with it.   In the   last year, a few titles have made the rounds here in Kirkwood and the surrounding areas.  Some are: The Good American by Alex GeorgThe All-e,  The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman, The All-Girls Filling Station’s Last Reunion by Fannie Flagg, and The Orphan Train by Kristin Baker Klein and Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn.  You ask almost anyone who belongs to a book club in St. Louis and they will tell you they have read at least  one or more of these books.

  Book Clubs don’t necessarily read best sellers. Usually the books have been around a year or two.  (It’s easier to find the older titles in libraries and not have to get on a long waiting list for the best sellers.)  Also the best sellers are by authors that are very well known and have a set genre.  Most Book clubs like to read all genres and they try not to restrict themselves to just one type of book.  (Although there are quite a few Mystery Only Book Clubs out there.) For instance in my book club, we just finished reading the classic   A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.  Most of us had read it when we were teens; however, we found reading it as an adult made the story  very different...  Our frame of reference had changed.  Francine’s mother Katie was the character we related to the most.  One of the main reasons people love to be in a book club is because they find themselves reading books they would never pick up on their own.  Their club has decided to read a book; consequently, they make an effort to try it. .  Almost always they are surprised by the quality of the books discussed in their group.

Why join a book club?  We can read by ourselves.   Do we have to have motivation to read good books?  I say there is another reason people stay with their book clubs for such a long time and that is the friendships they make.  I belong to four book clubs.  Each of them is so totally different.  They have a personality all of their own.  My book club made up of church friends tend to read more socially redeeming books.  My  Saturday Morning Library book club from Kirkwood reads very well written books and woe be to the person who has chosen one that does not meet our standards.  Another club I belong to reads more for enjoyment and would rather read books that have good endings and not too much sex or violence.   The challenge can be to find a book club that meets your needs whether that is social or intellectual.  If you find one that meets both of those needs then hang on to it, keeping those bonds of friendship can be a real joy in your life.
Kirkwood Public Library can help you start your own book club.  One of our favorite new resources for this purpose is our Book Club Kits.  Kirkwood Public Library has a number of   Book Club Kits available for check out.   Book Club Kits are comprised of a canvass bag with 8-10 copies of a particular title, a discussion guide, biography / bibliography notes, and reviews about the book enclosed with every Book Club Kit. 

Some book titles that may help you get started might be:

Levy, Diana.  The Book Club Companion:  A Comprehensive Guide to the Reading Group Experience.  Book has reading lists from Classics to Modern with tips on creating your own group and keeping meetings lively. c. 2006

Gelman, Judy. The kid’s Book Club Book: Reading Ideas, Recipes, Activities and Smart Tips for Organizing, Terrific Kids Book Clubs.
c. 2007

Kunzel, Bonnie. The Teen Centered Book Club: Readers into Leaders.
c. 2006

Gelman, Judy. Book Club Cookbook: Recipes and Food for Thoughts from your Book Club’s favorite books and authors   c. 2004
The following quotes and observations are from Kirkwood Public Library patrons who belong to Book clubs.

“Down through the years my book club has introduced me to authors I would
not ordinarily select, making many new "friends" in the process and happily
passing that information onto the patrons who ask for suggestions.  
I've gained new insights into many issues during the stimulating
discussions of the books we've read.  Those discussions give me a chance to
flex my mental muscles and try out new ideas.  Looking at a topic from
another's perspective always provides a new, enlarged vision of reality for
me, gives me a chance to grow and change.  And just the simple pleasure of
socializing with old and new friends makes an evening at book club
worthwhile.  The wine, munchies and dessert don't hurt either!”
 Marge Barr, Library Assistant-Kirkwood Public Library

“I've always been a reader.  Books have taken me to places, introduced me to people & cultures, put me in generations, and taken me on vacations w/o ever leaving my chair.  But still when I read for myself I tend to choose the same types of books that are where book clubs have stretched me as a reader.  They’ve made me step outside of my box & into other worlds.  I look so forward to the discussion because everyone sitting around the table has their own unique insight & interpretation of that particular book.  It allows me to see many other perspectives.  It has made me grow as a person.  Would I miss Book Club?  YOU BET!  Occasionally I have to miss but not often.  The calendar is always marked with the dates & often it's the highlight of my week.
I think that the women who join book club simply like to discuss other things than, their problem husband and kids, gossips and receipts. There’s nothing more delicious than a good read.”    Elaine Woelich,   Kirkwood Public Library user who lives in St. Louis County

“I think that the women who join book clubs simply like to discuss other things besides; their problem husband and kids, the latest gossip or what they paid for something. There's nothing more delicious than a good read.

As a writer myself, I enjoy critiquing other's works and sometime wonder at their ability to delineate character with a few precise words. Writing is difficult and I like to talk about a book that really gains my respect. I also like to fume against a noted writer who uses a hack to put out an inferior product that immediately sells on the noted author's name."

Susan Newton Bennet:  Former Trustee of Kirkwood Public Library and author of the books  Golden Love  and  Doubt

“I have no idea why there are more people reading books today  I find it positively amazing what with all the alternative electronic ways to read    As for me I go to book clubs to learn about books I probably would not choose or don't know about 

Also I enjoy talking with people who love to read books and share their interest in books I have read. “   (Anonymous.)

For a list or Book Club Kits at Kirkwood Public Library click here.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Naughty or Nice, A List of Books that Make Great Gifts

"A book is a gift you can open again and again" - Garrison Keillor
Sisters, best friends, and husbands may be easy to shop for, but a vegan cousin-once-removed is a different story. Thankfully, there is a book for almost everyone on your list. Here are several suggestions—from culinary to historical and more. 

If you're shopping for a... 

Books that Cook: the making of a literary meal Edited by Jennifer Cognard-Black

Music aficionado:
A View from a Broad by Bette Midler
Dylan: the biography by Dennis McDougal

Yes Please by Amy Poehler

Dog lover:
Travels with Casey by Benoit Denizet-Lewis


Thinking Through Landscape by Augustin Berque

History buff:
The Roosevelts: An Intimate History by Geoffrey C. Ward, based on a film by Ken Burns
The Little Rock Nine by Rachel Tisdale

Jewelry collector:

Film connoisseur:

Monday, November 24, 2014

Revolution by Deborah Wiles 495 pages

Revolution by Deborah Wiles

Revolution is the second installment in a trilogy set in the 1960s. (First: Countdown, set during the Cuban Missile Crisis). Revolution, a 2014 National Book Award Finalist, takes place in Greenwood, Mississippi during the summer of 1964. 12 year old Sunny is looking forward to a summer of swimming and playing, but adults talking about “invaders” coming from the North make her worried. As she listens more, she learns that people from the North are coming to help people in Greenwood register to vote. She can’t figure out why people are upset. And she’s got invaders in her own house, with a new step mother, brother and sister.

In alternating chapters, readers learn the story of Raymond, an African American boy, who is becoming aware of all the places he can’t go this summer—the swimming pool, the baseball park, the movie theater, just to name a few, due to the Jim Crow laws.  And he’s restless. He doesn’t want to settle anymore.

As the novel progresses, Sunny’s and Raymond’s stories intersect and both of their worlds expand. Interspersed throughout the book are images and articles from 1964 that make the story come alive. This is a moving book that I thought about long after I finished. While it’s cataloged as an older juvenile book, adults would find it fascinating as well.