Books for busy mums and other humans

Reading has been a challenge lately, due to new baby and the delirium that accompanies around-the-clock breastfeeding. On the other hand, it has taken me three months to be able to comfortably leave the house, so I’ve had quite a bit of downtime.

My favorite book that I’ve read lately is, appropriately, about raising happy infants. Superbaby, by Dr. Jenn Berman was a gift from my mom the librarian, and has been a great help. It is a compendium of research and useful information from a variety of sources. So rather than an exhaustive study of, say, the positive effects of using ASL as baby sign, it dedicates a nicely summarized chapter and moves along. For the attention deprived among us, it is a quick way to wade through a pile of information.

When I was pregnant, I read about 500 Terry Pratchett books. I was emotionally wrung-out, and they provided just the right balance of humor and comfortingly happy endings to keep me going. If you haven’t read any of the Discworld novels, I often recommend Small Gods, or Guards, Guards!, but you can start anywhere. If it were possible, I and almost everyone I know would like to give Terry Pratchett a hug for being such a nifty writer.

Connie Willis. I’ve been working my way through everything she has ever written, novels, short stories, novellas, introductions and interviews. I don’t usually obsess this much over reading an author’s full catalog, but Connie Willis shares many of the same qualities that make me enjoy Terry Pratchett, in addition to a fantastic grasp of European history and a charming tendency to always turn the Most Frustrating character into the means of Everything Working Out in the End.

If you haven’t read any Connie Willis, I suggest starting with the short story Firewatch, then her novel Doomsday Book. Next, skip over and read the classic Jerome K. Jerome story Three Men in a Boat: to Say Nothing of the Dog. Once you’ve done this, grab Willis’ To Say Nothing of The Dog, a wonderful homage to both Jerome and Dorothy Sayers.

Oops. Happy Daughter is waking up. That’s all for now. Website improvements will continue at their current plodding pace. Thanks for reading!

Librarian Avengers Stomp of Approval – Shelf Discovery

Bad books aren’t worth talking about. Good books, however, should stand up and be recognized.

Shelf DiscoveryTo that end, I invented a new thing that I’m going to act like I’ve been doing for ages: The Librarian Avengers Stomp of Approval.

As you know, Librarian Avengers stomp around quite a bit, railing against things and waving our arms around.

In this case, we’re stomping in approval of Lizzie Skurnick’s new book Shelf Discovery: The Teen Classics We Never Stopped Reading.

Shelf Discovery is a compilation of Ms. Skurnick’s excellent Fine Lines posts on Jezebel, in which she lovingly scrutinizes Young Adult books read by bookish girls of the X/y/whatever generation.

I’m always surprised to find such quality writing just floating around on the web for anyone to read, and I’m glad there is finally a dead tree version available as well.

greenbooks.pngIf I suffered from Pageant-Mom syndrome and wanted to create an exact replica of myself from the raw material of some random pre-teen girl, I would begin my narcissistic experiment in literary manipulation by having her read all of the books celebrated in Shelf Discovery.

Which is all to say that I love this book and you should too. So, yay.

Stomp stomp stomp stomp.

Bookmark Now

Special treat, folks. For the rest of the week I’m dedicating this page to an interview with my friend Kevin Smokler, editor of Bookmark Now: Writing in unreaderly times. I met Kevin while sitting on the floor at the South by Southwest Interactive conference. He handed me a slip of paper on which was written directions to dinner that night. “Paper email,” he said.

I’ll be e-interviewing Kevin all this week on subjects writerly and librariany as part of the Virtual Book Tour.

Erica: Kevin, as a long-time advocate of literature and literacy (real literacy, not that “cultural” or “visual” silliness) you and the Librarian Mafia (as we like to call ourselves) have much in common. What do you think librarians can do to improve our services to young writers like those profiled in Bookmark Now?

Kevin: Erica, first off, thank you for having me. The opportunity to speak and share ideas with librarians, the ball and socket joints of our profession, is one I don’t get very often.

A few thoughts: From a professional standpoint, libraries are crucial research centers for us non-fiction authors and many novelists too. But that relationship seems mostly a functional, transitory one, which ends with the book being stocked on the library shelves and the library and staff getting thanked in the acknowledgments. Hundreds of books owe their existence to the research materials afforded by any major library. Why not make hay from that? Why not find the authors using the library in their research and have them give midway seminars about their research and discoveries? Why not have a quarterly reception for all authors using the library to encourage community with the library as the locus? Why not make sure the library is a stop in the publicity efforts for that book? What all this requires, as you can already see, is some way for authors using the library to make themselves known to library staff. Perhaps a special “registration” for authors? There’s probably a less ethically thorny solution I haven’t thought of yet.

Specific to young authors, it comes down to a question of accessibility and convenience. Young folks keep later hours so wouldn’t it be great if fund were available for the library to be open late a few nights a week? Wouldn’t it be great if library announcements, events, new acquisitions were available via a series of rss feeds so I didn’t have to remember to go to the SFPL’s web site to remind myself when that Richard Rodriguez lecture I wanted to see was. Wouldn’t it be great if the library paid some kid on a bicycle to deliver reserved materials to requesters nearby so I didn’t have to remember to walk by the library on X hour and Y day when it’s open. The sad truth is that, with Google available on my desktop, if the library is less convenient, I won’t bother with it. However, unlike google, the library is a physical place. Highlight the benefits I get going to it instead of staying at home. Art galleries do a “First Thursdays” in cities across the country. What about one for libraries?