We all love libraries for different reasons—they give us complete access to thousands of books; a comfortable place to read and study; a place to gather with reading groups or friends. This week, we're celebrating all that is wonderful about libraries in National Library Week, which runs from April 11-17.
Besides winning the Orange Prize and PEN/Faulkner Award for her fiction, Ann Patchett has also been honored with the Nashville Public Library Literary Award. We thought she would be a perfect person to comment on the value of libraries in our communities. Read on for her thoughts on supporting the library, broadening its appeal and why libraries are still relevant in a technological age.
In an age of rapid technological change in books and publishing, why are libraries still vital to their communities?
Well, in part because there are so many rapid technological changes. I certainly don’t understand what’s going on half the time and the library is the first place I’d turn to help me figure out the new landscape. But libraries are so much more than that, they’re also learning centers for the community. That can mean children’s story hour or a seniors’ book club. Not all of our intellectual needs can be met sitting at home in front of a computer screen.
Do you have a favorite library? Do you have a fond memory of spending time there?
I have a deep connection to the extremely grand downtown branch of the Nashville public library. I have a lot of friends there and frankly the building itself feels like a friend. I love the murals in the downtown library in Los Angeles and the dioramas in the Widener library at Harvard. The architecture and the energy in the Seattle library and the Salt Lake City library is nothing short of thrilling to me.
Do you have any suggestions for how people can support their local libraries?
Call me crazy but money is never a bad place to start. If you have a child who is a voracious reader and you’re checking out ten books a week, stop and think every now and then how lucky you are to have access to those book for free and make a donation to cover some of the cost. Times are tight for libraries and they need our help and our involvement.
Is there anything you think libraries can do to broaden their appeal?
I think the recession has already done wonders to broaden the appeal of libraries. More and more people are using their local libraries to fill out applications on line, to check out CDs, DVDs, and, yes, books, as a means of free entertainment. There are smart people there to help us when we can’t figure out how to use the computers, there are programs to take part in when we feel like being with other people. Libraries are always there for us. All we have to do is walk through the door.
If you were trapped in a library overnight, how would you spend your time?
Libraries are famous for comfortable couches, good lighting, and loads of books. I might finally start Wolf Hall, by Hilary Mantel, or I might go and take out the rare books that are locked away in glass cases or I might go and see if anyone had checked out any of my books lately. I’d never have the nerve to do that if someone else was around.
If you had to come up with three “buzz words” for the library, what would they be?
Books, books, books, but then I’m old fashioned. I never get over the joy of walking into a building stuffed full of books.
Just in case you haven't heard: Tomorrow at 8am EST marks the beginning of this year's first 24-Hour Read-a-Thon. Check the official site for a list of participating bloggers, or to add your name to the list!
Unfortunately we won't be hosting a challenge this time around, but we're looking forward to checking out everyone's blogs to see how much reading they can get done in 24 hours. Anyone using the read-a-thon to check off a major item in your to-be-read stack? If I weren't setting out on a road trip tomorrow (alas, reading + driving=dangerous), I'd be participating in hopes of knocking out War & Peace.
What book blog posts have you enjoyed this week? Tell us in the comments.
April 15 is Support Teen Literature Day, and best-selling YA author Cynthia Leitich Smith highlights what you can do to help on her blog, Cynsations. On the 15th, booklovers and YA authors will leave books in public places for young people to discover, thanks to publishers who have donated $175,000 worth of books. Ten thousand books will go to to teens on Native reservations and tribal lands. Leitich Smith writes, "The donations are especially significant to many Native teens. 'In their lives, they really don’t have new books,' said Mary Nickless, the librarian at Ojo Encino Day School, one of 44 institutions that will benefit from Operation TBD." She also links to a wish list of 750 books that supporters can buy from Powells.
Leitich Smith, who is a tribal member of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation, has written several Native American-themed books, such as Rain is Not My Indian Name. Read BookPage reviews of her work here.
The Lotus Eaters by Tatjana Soli - Review
Posted by At Home with Books
Tatjana Soli's debut novel The Lotus Eaters has been everywhere lately—in BookPage, reviewer Sheri Bodoh called the Vietnam War story "stunningly powerful." Last week, Washington Post reviewer Masha Hamilton commented on the book's contemporary significance. In the NYT Book Review, Danielle Trussoni (author of Angelology) proclaimed that the novel is "splendid." And I loved blogger Alyce's review in "At Home with Books." She wrote, "How do you write a review of a book that has touched you in such a way that each time you think of it you see beauty and pain at the same time, side by side?" Have any Book Case readers had a chance to read this powerful novel?
How Green is My iPad?
Posted by The New York Times Op-Ed page
Okay, okay, The NYT is not a book blog. But at least I found out about this feature in a great roundup of links posted by blogger Jeremy at PhiloBiblos. Judging from the popularity of Lynn's iPad review, I thought readers would be interested in this article. The NYT provides a chart which compares the environmental impact of an iPad vs. a good old-fashioned book. The result? "The impact of one e-reader payback equals roughly 40 to 50 books. When it comes to global warming, though, it’s 100 books; with human health consequences, it’s somewhere in between." For another perspective, read this report from the Huffington Post, How Green Is Apple's Latest Gadget?, which claims that the "iPad fares pretty well, especially in comparison to other electronics."
We get some weird stuff at BookPage. Recent books about head lice come to mind. And DVDs. And plush toys. But I think today's delivery from "Fierce Fun Toys" might take the cake (sensitive readers: you might want to turn away): Norman PhartEphant! This children's book by Angela Larson is about an African elephant who is adopted by a U.S. zoo. The change in diet apparently throws him for a loop, and—you guessed it—flatulence ensues. Here's a line from the story:
With Alfrebit's great ears,
he must hear me fart. But,
if he misses the sound,
he can catch the stink.
What do you think. . . genius product development or crackpot idea?
Last night Oprah announced the debut of her new nighttime series, "Oprah's Next Chapter." The show will appear on the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN) in late 2011, and in it the Queen of Talk will travel around the world for her interviews.
A statement from the network said, "If she can dream it, she'll do it!"
Of course, in the book world there's been much speculation about whether she'll continue to promote books. A recent interview with the Wall Street Journal suggests she will:
Ms. Winfrey said she also may appear in other OWN shows including a possible book-club show. "My name's going to show up on that grid a lot," she said.
We're a week into National Poetry Month—has anyone been enjoying poem-a-day e-mails from the websites I highlighted last week?
There's another site that poetry lovers (or people who want to get to know the genre) should definitely browse: Favorite Poem Project, founded by Robert Pinsky, the 39th Poet Laureate of the United States. The best part of the site is the Favorite Poem Project videos, 50 short documentaries in which Americans of all ages read their favorite poems. I like the recording of a 5th-grader reading Theodore Roethke's "The Sloth":
Also, congratulations to our winner of Shel Silverstein's A Light in the Attic—Carol Bibb, who said her favorite poem is Christina Rossetti’s "Who Has Seen The Wind?".
Judy Blundell, winner of the National Book Award for Young People's Literature for her 2008 novel, What I Saw and How I Lied, has signed a deal to write a book called Strings Attached, which Scholastic will publish in the fall. According to Pub Marketplace, the story is about "a plucky 17-year-old chorus girl in 1950's New York, struggling to avoid her obligations to a mob-affiliated lawyer. . .who is father to the boy she loves."
In What I Saw and How I Lied, Blundell covered some similar themes: corruption, young love, post-war NYC. . .
I'll be eagerly anticipating a galley of this one. How about you? (Or are you more of a fan of Blundell's books authored under her pseudonym, Jude Watson—such as the Star Wars Jedi Apprentice series?)
If you're a booklover, there are few things that are more exciting than seeing a favorite author live and in person. If you live in or near Arkansas (my beloved home state), there are a ton of great author events coming to downtown Little Rock this very weekend—it's the Arkansas Literary Festival!
Sadly, I'm not attending the Festival this year, although I've been many times in the past and it's always well-organized, interesting and a ton of fun. (View the complete schedule here.)
A few highlights include:
Tomorrow at 5:30 p.m., Daniel Black, Alice Randall and R.M. Johnson will participate in a Forum on African-American Fiction. Randall will speak the next morning at 10 a.m. about her novel, Rebel Yell. At the same time, R.M. Johnson will talk about Why Men Fear Marriage.
Marcus Sakey is a regular in Bruce Tierney's Whodunit column. On Saturday at 10 a.m., Sakey will talk about his thriller The Amateurs. Then at 1 p.m., he'll lead a session called "Secrets to Getting Published." He'll take you through the steps of completing a manuscript, drafting a query letter and more.
Malcolm Jones, Newsweek critic and author of Little Boy Blues, will talk about his memoir at 1 p.m. on Saturday.
At 2 p.m. on Saturday, YA author Margaret McMullan will read from her latest book, Sources of Light, a story of a teen girl grappling with the racial divide in 1960s Mississippi.
Steve Yarbrough will talk about Safe from the Neighbors at 11:30 on Saturday. At 1 p.m., he'll sit on a panel with Adam Schwartzman and Qaisra Shahraz to talk about "the challenges and rewards of living and writing abroad."
While you're in town, make sure you stop by one of my favorite libraries in the world—the beautiful main branch of the Central Arkansas Library System (and pick up the April print edition of BookPage while you're there!).
Tell us in the comments: What's your favorite book festival? Are there great literary events in your hometown? In Nashville, we have the Southern Festival of Books, from which Trisha and I posted dispatches back in October.
We're highlighting Karl Marlantes' Matterhorn tomorrow in Book of the Day, and in my research about the novel, I was struck by the author's backstory. Marlantes was in the Marines reserves, and he went to Yale and then Oxford on a Rhodes scholarship. He then served in Vietnam, where he was awarded the Navy Cross, the Bronze Star, two Navy Commendation Medals for valor, two Purple Hearts and ten air medals.
And he worked on the novel that would become Matterhorn for 35 years. In the interview below, Marlantes describes two events that encouraged him to keep writing during all that time:
After that long journey, the novel—published two weeks ago by Atlantic Monthly—has received nearly unanimously positive reviews; in BookPage, Michael Lee, himself a Marine, called the book "amazing. . . searing and complex." This past Sunday, Matterhorn was on the cover of the New York Times Book Review, where Sebastian Junger called it a "raw, brilliant account of war."
Although I love Tim O'Brien and I was riveted by Chang-rae Lee's The Surrendered, I am generally not drawn to war literature. Matterhorn might be an exception. Will you check it out?