Currents: News from the Library on the River ... in Leland
A Note From Mark
We are doing a little year in review this month as I and the staff are going to discuss some of our most liked reads (and listens) for the last year. Jake has also compiled the ten most checked out titles from the last year and has included the list in his article below.
Early in 2020 I read “American Moonshot: John F. Kennedy and the Great Space Race” by Douglas Brinkley. I have always been fascinated by the American space program from the time I was small and Americans first walked on the moon, through my time in the Navy when the submarine I was on was doing operations out of Port Canaveral, and I would go over to the Kennedy Space Center whenever I had the chance. Brinkley’s book filled in a lot of gaps in my knowledge of the space program of the time, and gave deep insights into the Kennedy Administration’s efforts to forward this ambitious endeavor. We have this book here in the Library if you would like to check it out, and I highly recommend it.
As I mentioned in a prior newsletter article I have fallen in love with audiobooks, I don’t drive anywhere without listening to one. A particular favorite from this last year was “Edison” by Edmund Morris (we also have this title in the Library, as both a hardcover and a CD audiobook). Morris biographies start at the end of a person’s life and go backward to their youth. It tends to be an interesting way to look at someone’s life as you already know about the important people and events in someone’s life so that when you get to the genesis and introduction of them you know much more about how they affected the person being profiled. It also seems, in my case, that I pay much closer attention as it doesn’t come across as a normal storyline. Learning of all the failures and mistakes of “The Wizard of Menlo Park” was very interesting to me since most of what I knew of him was based only on his successes.
Before I wrap up there are a couple of things I want to make you aware of. We are still doing our Puzzle & Game sale here in the Library and continue to look for donations of gently used puzzles and games. The Library now has Chromebook laptop computers available for checkout to take home. If you need something more substantial than your phone to access the internet, or if you or your children have a special project to work on these may just the thing. They are available to all patrons in good standing for a one-week checkout (plus two renewals) with children under 18 requiring either written or verbal permission from a parent or guardian for checkout.
Reading: “Dreams of El Dorado: A History of the American West” by H.W. Brands (Library title)
Listening: “A Short History of Nearly Everything” by Bill Bryson (Up North Digital Collection title)
MARK YOUR CALENDARS! Upcoming Events (and Closures)
Friday, January 15 at 10:30am Children's Virtual Storytime
Friday, January 22 at 10:30am Children's Virtual Storytime
Wednesday, January 27 at 2:00pm Let's Talk About Great Writing: The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead
Friday, January 29 at 10:30am Children's Virtual Storytime
For more information on Programs and Events at the Library, please visit our website.
One of the upsides of the pandemic, for me, has been having time to read. At home with two little kids, reading was practically the only thing I could do in between meal prep and dishes. In 2020, Laurie Leppink Lisuk, Jake and I borrowed dozens and dozens of children's picture books from other libraries, which we read and considered purchasing for our children's collection. I also read a handful of books for adults. (Untamed, Rodham and The Vanishing Half were among my favorites.) But mostly, I read books written for 8 to 12 year olds. And I loved it.
I know I've mentioned this before, but back in very late March I read a piece byAnn Patchett in the New York Timeswhere she talked about reading every book by children's book author Kate DiCamillo and suggested that readers to the same. DiCamillo's The Tale of Desperaux is one of my favorite books (and so good in audiobook form), so I thought I would give Patchett's idea a try. I started with some of DiCamillo's latest books--Beverly, Right Here; Raymie Nightingale; and Louisiana's Way Home. I liked these, so I kept going. I read books by new-to-me authors like Jason Reynolds (the 2020-2021 Library of Congress' National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature), Erin Entrada Kelly, Ali Benjamin and Kimberly Brubaker Bradley. And I found out something surprising: I often find that after I finish a really great book, I have trouble getting into another book. (Do you ever have this problem?) One solution that works for me is to read one of these novels for middle grade readers. I think this is because they're so easy to read and engaging. It sort of refreshes my pallet and allows me to dive into something new.
Although I really, really liked many of the middle grade books I read this year, I have two clear favorites--Beyond the Bright Sea by Lauren Wolk and Other Words for Home by Jasmine Warga. Growing up, my family spent the summer on Martha's Vineyard and Beyond the Bright Sea is set on the Elizabeth Islands, off the coast of Cape Cod. And In Other Words for Home, I learned more about what it might be like to be a young Syrian refugee experiencing a Midwestern winter for the first time. I would highly recommend each book.
And now on to programming.
Later this month, Norm Wheeler will be back online on Zoom helping us navigate Colson Whitehead's The Nickel Boys. We have a limited number of paperback copies of the book to give away. Please give us a call to request one. We can also help you order a copy from another library if our copy of the book is checked out. An informal discussion of the book will take place on Wednesday, January 27 at 2:00pm. You can join the conversation here:
Also, our Storytime program with Laurie Leppink Lisuk continues online and we hope you will consider joining us. It takes place each Friday morning at 10:30am on Zoom. Join us with your children or grandchildren, together or apart, muted or unmuted, with camera engaged or not; however you are most comfortable.
As a reminder, in you are in Leelanau County, Laurie has borrowed a limited number copies of the books she plans to read each week from other Michigan libraries. These books are available for regular check out or curbside pick-up at the Library. Please email me at email@example.com to request books or book lists.
Reading: Just finished Wintering by Katherine May and looking for a new book. (Do you have something to recommend?!)
Watching: Lots of old(er) DVDs--The Family Stone, Notting Hill, Sleepless in Seattle, Runaway Bride...
Thanks to a handful of dedicated and enthusiastic volunteers, the Library has resumed offering delivery in our service area (Centerville, Solon, Cleveland, and Leland Townships)! To learn more or to request Home Delivery Service, Patrons canfill out a request formthrough our website, call 231.256.9152, oremail Jake Moran, Assistant Director. This service is free!
From The Front Desk:
Jake's January Update & Recommendation
First, some minutiae. While the quantity of persons passing through the library diminished this year, the circulation of books and other media flowed as irrepressibly as any other. One of the central tasks of the library is simply to get information in its many guises to you, and we’re pleased that we’ve been able to do that safely given the circumstances. We’ve achieved that partly by instituting now-standard practices like curbside pick-up, but also by introducing programs like our BookBags To-Go—we actually managed to send out 50 (!) bags this past year, so thanks to all the parents and caregivers who participated in that.
I’d also like to share our most-circulated books this year. One consequence of living the increasingly solitary lives we have this year is the loss of opportunity for impromptu conversations in the library; particularly conversations that begin with “So, what have you been reading?”. Well, here's what a great deal of you have been reading:
The Dutch House by Ann Patchett
A Minute to Midnight by David Baldacci
All The Devils Are Here by Louise Penny
The Order by Daniel Silva
Long Range by C J Box
Fair Warning by Michael Connelly
Camino Winds by John Grisham
The Splendid and the Vile by Erik Larson
Walk the Wire by David Baldacci
American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins
Of course, some of the best books aren’t the ones with the most readers—just look at the recommendations I’ve given every month for the past few years! That being so, if there’s something you read this year and loved (whether or not we have it at the library), we would love it if you’d e-mail us the title and a sentence or two about it to share with your fellow patrons. If we get a few, I’d be happy to (anonymously) share them here next month.
As I was considering a book to write about this month, I decided to revisit last January’s newsletter to see what I was reading and recommending then. As anyone who reads this regularly has come to expect, it was some fairly obscure stuff: a few old and out-of-fashion books on the “diverse—and, to our understanding, frequently bizarre—ways in which individuals and social groups have coped with the stressors, uncertainties, and catastrophes of life throughout Western history.” Not to understate things, but that feels a bit too prescient for comfort these days. But one shouldn’t always expect comfort. Or certainty.
But you can live with it, and John Gray’s Feline Philosophy provides some interesting models for living through tumultuous times. It’s a slim book—as any book on cats ought to be. Paradoxically, this work of philosophy in some ways counsels against philosophy itself—a project Gray identifies as a fruitless effort to secure rational security in a world of irrational forces. In an inversion of Socrates’ dictum that “the unexamined life is not worth living, John Gray says the following of cats: “[. . .] the feline mind is one and undivided. Pain is suffered and forgotten, and the joy of life returns. Cats do not need to examine their lives, because they do not doubt that life is worth living. Human self-consciousness has produced the perpetual unrest that philosophy has vainly tried to cure.”
But to dub Feline Philosophy as a kind-of anti-philosophy would be misleading; this is not a work of anti-intellectualism, and self-critique is an integral part of the philosophical process. Strands of thought from various historical schools (and theologies!), whether it be classical cynicism, Pyrrhonian skepticism, Schopenhauerian pessimism, Daoism, and Zen Buddhism are just a few present here. That rhizome of terminology isn’t as dense as you might suspect either; one of Gray’s major talents is lightly traversing worlds of ideas without either overwhelming his reader or oversimplifying the concepts in question.
The joy of reading this book comes both from this lightness, and from Gray’s ever-fascinating collection of tales, figures, anecdotes, and unexpected connections in intellectual history. I’ve never read a book of his without simultaneously collecting a list of other novelists, poets, artists, cats (of course) and moments of history to learn more about myself. Regardless of what you might think of his conclusions (or anti-conclusions), John Gray’s writing in Feline Philosophy is as bracingly heterodox as ever.
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