june, july, august, and september reading

Clearly I’m not managing to do this once a month, or even once every other month. Oh well–those of you uninterested in my reading know how to skip an entry, so I won’t apologize too much for length. As always, an R in front of a book indicates that it’s one I reread; and L indicates an audiobook. Unannotated books are things I liked but don’t have anything in particular to say about.
L Montana, 1948 by Larry Watson–This would be a great book to pair with To Kill a Mockingbird. Both have narrators who are children–or rather grown-ups remembering their childhood–and both deal with scandal and justice and politics in a small town. Good stuff.

R The Dive From Clausen’s Pier by Ann Packer–This is a big hit with book discussion groups because it has one of those polarizing sort of questions (if you’re thinking about breaking up with your fiance but then he breaks his neck and is paralyzed from the neck down, what do you do?). I first read it in my readers advisory class in library school at a time when I felt I was making some similar decisions. Now that I’ve made some of them, I wanted to reread it, and it was just as good.

The Afterlife by Donald Antrim–A memoir that is really a collection of essays, none of which are quite as good as the first one, which I read in the New Yorker or the Best American Essays of some year, or possibly both.

R Tam Lin by Pamela Dean–This is the book that made me want to go to college. College, as it turned out, was not really like the book, but in some ways it was, and it was still goo even when it was different.

About Alice by Calvin Trillin

L The Pleasure of My Company by Steve Martin

R Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling

Rethinking Thin by Gina Kolata

At Large and at Small by Anne Fadiman

The God of Animals by Aryn Kyle–A book about horses and girls in Colorado. Good.

Breakable You by Brian Morton–Now and then I like to read a book set in New York City that has a lot of eastern literary establishment type jokes in it, because I get to feel that I actually did learn something in college and grad school round one. This one falls into that category and was an enjoyable read, though it couldn’t seem to decide whether it was satirical or sincere.

LR Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim by David Sedaris

Story of a Girl by Sara Zarr

R Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling

American Pastoral by Philip Roth–I’ve long felt I ought to read some Philip Roth, and as this book was mentioned in Breakable You, it seemed like a good place to start. I finished the book, but, sadly, I was unimpressed. Why is it that the writers I really like write so little while those that I’m less fond of turn out books by the dozen?

L The Darling by Russell Banks–I am glad that Russell Banks is still alive, beause (I hope) it means he will write more books, and even though I have only read two of them (Rule of the Bone was the other), I find them totally captivating. I listened to parts of this twice and may well read it at some point, too. The “darling” of the title is a woman who grows up as the daughter of a Dr. Spock-type, becomes a radical political activist, goes underground, and eventually ends up in Liberia, where she marries a civil servant, has a couple of kids, and kind of turns into her society-woman mother, with a West African twist. Then a lot of other things happen (military coups, prison breaks, civil war, etc., etc.), and she ends up back in the States, wondering what has become of her sons and the chimpanzees she used to care for. It’s saying quite a lot that this has made me think I might want to read A Long Way Gone.

The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo–This is sort of a cross between The Velveteen Rabbit and Paddle-to-the-Sea.

R Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson–I’m not sure what it says about me that I like to read teen angsty books before the start of school, but there you have it.

R Dreamland by Sarah Dessen

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling

Among Other Things, I’ve Taken Up Smoking by Aiobheann Sweeney–I got all nostalgic for New York City while reading this book about a young woman raised on an island in Maine who heads to the city after finishing high school in order to help out her father’s old friends at a Classics society he founded. Actually, the whole book is full of the sort of thing I like: Maine, New York, descriptions of food, Latin and Greek, Shakespearean allusion, etc., etc. I don’t know that I’d say “this is a great book you must all read,” but I’ll certainly say it was one I enjoyed.

Money Can Buy Happiness by MP Dunleavy–According to Dunleavy’s calculator, I need to save half a million dollars if I want to retire at age 65. That was about the only new thing I gained from this book, which is full of good advice

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie–Excellent–a book I’m trying to get into the hands of a number of kids.

The Second Summer of the Sisterhood by Ann Brashares–Eh. About as good as the first one, which is to say, eh.


Last Friday we hosted a little get-together for thirteen librarians from northwestern Wyoming. Meeteetse has a four-day school week, so that meant we could use a school computer lab for the sessions, which turned out to be an even better deal than I thought.

In the morning, the school’s IT coordinator talked to us about viruses, anti-virus software, and basic computer security and troubleshooting. I learned that shortcuts on your desktop take up extra space, and I resolved to get better about scanning, defragging, and generally maintaining our library computers. I think everyone learned something from the presentation. Yay IT guy!

We all went out to lunch at the Elkhorn, and then we returned to the lab so that I could talk a little bit about social software. Here’s where the computer lab set-up came in handy–and where I got to feel that there was a practical reason for using Jessamyn’s slideshow set-up rather than simply an I-hate-PowerPoint reason. The projector (which had worked fine in the morning, of course) decided suddenly that it didn’t want to turn on. So I gave out the handout, told everyone to bring up the presentation page on their computer, and gave the talk with everyone following along. Since their computers were hooked up to the school filtering software, I couldn’t show them my lame MySpace page, but on the whole, it worked pretty well.

I haven’t completely figured out how to give presentations of this sort. It’s hard to know how much detail to use when you know some of the audience wants a “and then you click on the blue box” type of thing and others want a “here’s a bunch of stuff–go out and try it” deal. This time I leaned very much toward the latter, with a lot of “please feel free to contact me if you need to know when to click on the blue box” interjections.

I also installed a Meebo Room on my site thinking that it would be fun to let people play around with it during the presentation. We did not end up using it, in large part because I made the fatal error of assuming that everyone is as fond of multitasking as I am. Several people said, “But I can’t chat–I have to take notes!” It’s good to be reminded of these things once in awhile.