Rules for Living a Bookish Life

Bookworm tips from our Teen Librarian (and voracious reader), Kelley:

Book lover, bookworm, bookhound, bibliophile, reader, no matter how you phrase it, that’s me. I read every spare moment I can scrounge, and I’ll read pretty much anything –  the back of cereal boxes will do if there’s nothing else available. It makes me happy to spread a love of reading- I drop breadcrumbs connecting books and readers everywhere I go. I do this for my job as a librarian, of course, but it goes further than that for me- my whole life is enriched by books and reading. I live a bookish life, and I highly recommend it. Interested? Here’s how I do it:


1. Read, read, read – and read widely. Carry a book or eReader everywhere with you. Don’t ever be ashamed of what interests you. Just read!

2. Don’t continue reading books you don’t enjoy.  Life is too short, and there are too many other books out there. Quit books with reckless abandon.

3. Give yourself permission to read non-linearly, and don’t read every word of a book just to say you did. Skip chapters, jump around- you decide if what you get out of a book is sufficient or enjoyable.

4. Read just one book or multiple books at a time, and don’t feel obligated to “speed read”. Feel free to linger on passages that strike you as interesting or mean something to you.

5. Reconsider books you didn’t enjoy in the past. Time never stands still, and your attitude and life experiences are always changing and evolving.

6. Don’t worry about having more unread books than read ones. They remind us that we still have much to learn. That in life, there is always the next thing to discover.

7. Make use of your local library, and collect book recommendations everywhere. Ask people for their favorite books. Check bibliographies, look for references to books in other books.

8. Give yourself permission to re-read books you enjoyed in the past. You’ll probably remember things you had forgotten or notice things you never did before.

9. Don’t treat books as sacred (unless they are borrowed). Fold the corners, write and sketch in the margins. It’s the story that is sacred, not the container.

10. Break these rules! Don’t let me, or anyone else, tell you how to read. Find what’s right for you, stick to it- and enjoy.

After waxing all philosophical about books and reading, I’d be remiss if I didn’t at least take the time to offer up some suggestions for a selection of interesting new(ish) books from a variety of genres- click on the titles to learn more and hopefully you’ll discover a new literary love. And remember- there’s no wrong way to read. As long as we’re learning, enjoying, and expanding our minds, we can only get better and better.



Winter is Here, Jon Snow

Some people love winter, love the brisk air, the blinding glare, the crystal-clear night skies, soft fluffy snow and cups of steaming hot chocolate. Other people hate the freezing cold, the knifing winds, the treacherous roads, bare trees, and endless brown mud and slush clinging to shoes, cars, and pet feet tracking through the house.

For me, winter is a romantic time, curled by a fireplace (wood, gas, or electric) before a window with long velvet drapes (one of my favorite possessions), reading a book in a favorite chair while snow swirls outside the window and an animal lounges at my feet. It means a stew bubbling on the stove, fresh bread in the oven, or perhaps fresh shortbread cookies and a cup of Earl Gray tea by that fire. Perhaps it’s a holiday, with candles and lights and decorations, waiting for company to make it through the snow. Yeah, yeah, there’s no groundsman to shovel the walks when it’s over, I have to do it myself, but for a few hours I’m lost in an old English fantasy, there’s a mystery in the air, a challenge ahead, but love and fortune win in the end (note: I have never achieved this fantasy, but I keep hoping).

English Tales of Winter

Which made me think: why are all those images we cling to English fantasies? Sure, that period of literature is within what’s called the Little Ice Age, which ran from the 1300’s to the 1890’s, killing off the Vikings in Greenland and creating all those iconic Currier and Ives scenes, but it also put those chunks of ice in Washington Crossing the Delaware, and in 1816, with the dust of the exploded volcano Mount Tambora in the air, summer never arrived, and temperatures were still below freezing in June. Where is the American winter tale? American stories tend to be about blizzards, hardship, starvation, and ghosts. Nathaniel Hawthorne, Edgar Allen Poe, and Washington Irving are hardly on par with Jane Eyre or Wuthering Heights. Reading about the Donner party probably isn’t a good idea before eating stew.

American Tales of Winter

The only American “winter” tales I know well are children’s literature: The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder, Left By Themselves by Charles Paul May, the semi-historical Seven Alone by Honore Morrow, and the absolutely timeless endearing tale of Mandy, by Julie Andrews Edwards (Yes, Mary Poppins herself. Adults will love this, too!). But where are the adult books? Problem is, not much adult American literature of that period gives off that type of security.

That period of literature we think of is called the Romantic movement and includes Gothic literature, dealing with mystery, spiritualism, ghosts, hauntings, and torturous love – Frankenstein, Les Miserables, Dorian Gray, Hunchback of Notre Dame, A Christmas Carol, Oliver Twist – some of our most famous classics, running from about 1760 through the Victorian age, around 1890.  America in 1776 was not only new and still forming, it was mostly unsettled, and people in the colds of Fort Duquesne, Fort Niagara, and Fort Cumberland were more concerned with staying alive than writing literature. Of course you still had authors, but not to the degree England – a stable civilization for 1200 years – did. While Heathcliff was brooding the lonely moors, Americans were exploring and giving us stories like Last of the Mohicans, Legend of Sleepy Hollow, Moby Dick, and The Scarlet Letter. Not the same, and certainly not the same as being snowed in and wringing one’s hands on the family estate. The American experience is uniquely American in that regard.

Just because our snow stories don’t go back to King Wenceslas (ok, Wenceslas was Bohemian/ Czechoslovakian, but the song, 900 years later, is English) doesn’t mean American literature isn’t good, it just means it’s different. Maybe you’ll have to settle for cotton twill drapes and a medium double-latte with a space heater and a Snuggie. If you love gothic literature, delve into a classic or something newer; there are hundreds of books (and films!) to choose from. If you love reading about snowy days while curled in a chair listening to the winds howl, try some of these modern tales (and films):

Office Girl by Joe Meno

The Lazarus Project by Aleksandar Hemon

Then We Came to the End by Joshua Ferris

 Snow by Orhan Panuk


  Snow Country by Yasunari Kawabata

The Snow Child  by Eowyn Ivey

Wolf Winter by Celia Ekback

Winter Solstice  by Rosamunde Pilcher

The Book Thief by  Markus Zusak

Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson

 The Shining  Stephen King

Smilla’s Sense of Snow by Peter Høeg, 

Winter’s Tale by Mark Helprin

Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin

Hooray For Print Books!

book eIt was recently announced by Nielsen Books & Consumer that both hardcovers and paperbacks outsold ebooks in the first half of 2014.  According to Nielsen’s survey, ebooks made up only 23 percent of sales, while hardcovers made up 25 percent and paperbacks 42 percent.  In other words, hardcovers and paperbacks individually outsold ebooks.  Yeah!

I may be among the meager few, but I do not own any kind of e-reader.  I will never own any kind of e-reader.  It’s not that I don’t like technology,  I just love books printed on paper.  I love how they feel – even how they smell!  There’s something about holding a book in your hand and physically turning the page that’s more appealing than looking at pixels on a screen.  I love the convenience of them.  Just the other day, I was in a doctor’s waiting room book2and a woman was reading from an ereader.  When she was called in, she struggled to mark her place, then turn the device off, flip the cover on, then dropping it on the floor before being able to put it in her purse.  I, on the other hand, was reading a paperback.  When my name was called, I put in my cute little bookmark and that was that!    Another great thing about printed books is not having to  worry about battery life, finding your power cord, or losing your electricity before you can power up your reader.  I especially like that I don’t have to spend money to buy a device to read a book or dropping and breaking an expensive electronic device.   When you get your books from the library, it doesn’t cost a cent to read them!

Apparently, I’m not alone in preferring print books.  In a recent survey, 65% of those polled reported they like the feel of a gift2real book, 61% say physical books help them learn better (can use post-its, highlighters), 58% like to be bookshelfable to lend and borrow books, 53% said they like the visual aspect of printed books (covers, pictures, maps), 45% reported they like to be able to resell their books, 44% like to collect and display their books (they are a great decorating tool), 44% enjoying giving books as gifts, 42% prefer browsing bookstores and 9% like to show off what they are reading.

Oh, I know there are some benefits to ereaders.  Like you can load multiple books on them.  But, how many books can you read at one time?  Some people like to save books so they can read them over again.  But once I know how the story ends, it kind of takes the fun out of reading it again.

bveWe can debate the pros and cons between printed and ebooks, but the important thing to remember is that reading is a great activity and it’s wonderful that we have a variety of formats to choose from.  Whichever format you prefer, printed book, audiobook or ebook, the Cheshire Public Library has the best selection to choose from!



  (Source:  Various, including edudemic, Publisher’s Weekly, Huffington Post)

Top Twenty Book Club Picks

book clubBelow is a list of the top 20 favorite books for book clubs.  How many has your club read?

  1.  The Help – Kathryn Stockett
  2. Water for Elephants – Sara Gruen
  3. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society – Mary Ann Shaffer
  4. Sarah’s Key – Tatiana de Rosnay
  5. Gone Girl – Gillian Flynn
  6. The Book Thief – Markus Zusak
  7. The Art of Racing In The Rain – Garth Stein
  8. The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo – Stieg Larsson
  9. The Glass Castle – Jeannette Walls
  10.  Hotel On the Corner of Bitter and Sweet – Jami Ford
  11.  Snow Flower and the Secret Fan – Lisa See
  12.  The Kite Runner – Khaled Hosseini
  13.  The Night Circus – Erin Morgenstern
  14.  Little Bee – Chris Cleave
  15.  Cutting for Stone – Abraham Verghese
  16.  Life of Pi – Yann Martel
  17.  The Memory Keepers Daughter – Kim Edwards
  18.  The Paris Wife – Paula McCain
  19.  Still Alice – Lisa Genova
  20.  The Lovely Bones – Alice Sebold

Book Review: Tap Out by Eric Devine (Young Adult)


Tap Out

Tap Out by Eric Devine is a book for young adults and adults about how hard reality can be for some young people, and how finding a way out might seem like an impossible dream. This is realistic fiction, and might be just the read some young adults, new adults, and jaded adult readers might be looking for.

Tony Antioch is seventeen, and lives in a trailer park called Pleasant Meadows. Tony dreams of standing up and rescuing his mother from her own drug habits and constant stream of abusive boyfriends. Tony’s friends each have their own troubles to face, and after Rob and school situations bring Tony to a local gym to learn mixed martial arts, Tony thinks he might have found a talent and a way to help him escape from the troubled path that seems set for his future. However, Tony will have to solve some problems of his own before he can help his mother, any of his friends, or himself escape the paths they are on. With everyone around him stuck on a dead end track, can Tony find a way to stay true to himself and face the consequences of the choices he makes along the way?

Tap Out is a hard book to read, because the problems faced by the characters are very real, and very troubling. There are people trapped by their situations with no apparent way out. Tony, Rob, and the people around them feel very real, and I found myself with a racing heart and sweaty palms as the characters faced problems far beyond anything I have ever faced. The book is very gritty, and completely unapologetic in revealing parts of our society that often get overlooked or swept under the rug. I think that is wonderful. I could have done with a few less f-bombs being tossed around, although they were used realistically, but after awhile I did find it a little distracting.

Tap Out is a book I would recommend to older teens and adults. It deals with serious issues, and shows a very harsh reality. It is not an easy read, it is not fun or quick going. In fact there were a few moments in which I had to set it aside for a moment, but then immediately picked it back up because I needed to know what would happen next. Adults who work with teens, regardless of whether or not you think of the teens as at risk for abuse or of getting involved in dangerous situations, would do well to read the book in order to help understand, anticipate, and help teens they encounter deal with some serious issues.

A version of this review was previously posted on Sharon the Librarian.