Venn Librarian

Reflections about the intersection of schools, libraries and technology.

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Some random thoughts on books and reading

Posted by lpearle on 1 August 2017

For a variety of reasons, I’ve been home alone this past week and have had far too much energy for my own good. Which, of course, means that Things Are Getting Done: organizing, mostly, but reading and writing letters and blog posts (lucky readers!) and cleaning. Don’t judge, but when I moved my books from CT to MA two summers ago, they were still in boxes from my previous NY-CT move and while I did get them on to shelves in general categories, they were not properly organized on those shelves. As of today, that’s not the case. As I rearranged the collection, I weeded enough books to empty a 7′ x 30″ bookcase, although I’m going to keep it because Alex and other things.

Also as I arranged and weeded, I thought about a few book related conversations I’ve had and one twitter rant I read in the past couple of years.

The first is actually two conversations, one with my mother and one with a colleague. A couple of years ago, I was having a Very Bad Day and called my mother to complain. As a native of Newton, she was raised with the idea that the Fluffernutter is a cure-all for bad days/bad moods and as a good mother, she’d passed that idea along to me. This was a two Fluffernutter Bad Day, and even then I wasn’t feeling better. Hence the call. I mentioned that it was being a Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day and after sympathizing, she asked if she’d read that book to me when I was a child. My response? No. Because I was nine when it was published and both parents had stopped reading books to me many years earlier. Flash forward to this past February, when a colleague shared how excited she was that Book of Dust was being published and asked if His Dark Materials had meant as much to me as it had to her. Well… no. Don’t get me wrong, I liked the trilogy. I enjoyed the trilogy. I was upset the movie didn’t do the book justice. But because it was published when I was in my 20s and there were many other books before that were formative and intensely personal and meaningful, this didn’t rise to the level of foundational reading as it did for her.

The second is a twitter comment/rant by the incredible Angie Manfredi. She is an amazing advocate and ally and her commitment to diverse books, libraries and the kids with whom she works is inspirational. So when she speaks, I think.

Manfredi tweet

I see her point… somewhat. My favorite authors do, in fact, happen to be white people. That’s not a bad thing, it’s just fact. It doesn’t mean I don’t read diverse authors, or that I don’t appreciate their work, it does mean that when I’m scanning the Pre-Pub Alerts and I see certain names I get excited and put them on a To Buy list. But – and this is a huge BUT – professionally? It’d be malpractice if the books I put on displays or recommend to my students and colleagues were only by and about white people and their experiences. When scanning those alerts and looking at other collection development tools, I actively look for diverse authors and diversity of experiences and when planning displays I add as many of those as possible (usually sneaking them in, so that it normalizes – and boy do I hate that word! – both because there’s no reason why someone reading speculative fiction or history or romance or whatever wouldn’t enjoy a well-written book no matter who wrote it or what the characters and plot were about). If a librarian can’t separate their personal lives and preferences from their professional, that’s a problem. And one we, as a profession, need to worry about.

As an aside, I did note that many of my favorite authors are not only white, but have last names that begin with B, among them:

Barnes (Julian), Burgess (Thornton W.), Byatt (A.S.), Banks (Ian), Blyton (Enid), Brent-Dyer (Elinor M.), Booth (Stephen), Billingham (Mark), Bradley (Marion Zimmer), Boston (Lucy), Baum (L. Frank)

Weird.

Finally, two nights ago I was chatting with my cousin and mentioned that I was about to start Book 190 for the year. She said that she doesn’t really read books, unlike her husband and son. I’ve blogged about this before, and it still puzzles and amuses me. I’ve never felt the need to apologize to friends who are artists or athletes or knitters or, well, anyone who does something that I think it neat or could be fun but that I don’t actually do. Why people feel the need to apologize for not reading is something I just don’t get. My sister and her son prefer audiobooks to print books. Great! Someone reads newspapers and magazines, not books. Perfect! Someone else watches movies and listens to music for relaxation. Hooray! If no one ever says “I’m sorry, I just don’t read” to me again, I’ll die a happy woman.

Now, back to Book 190. By an author whose name begins with K, not B. So there.

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