Tomorrow’s the big day! Who’s going to read the first book? Who’s going to write the first review? Who’s going to win a teen toonie this week? I am so excited my hair has turned pink. Or perhaps that was the hair dye. Either way, a short but sweet quote from Cornelia Funke, author of Inkheart among others, to end our countdown:
A library book, I imagine, is a happy book.
Remember to keep checking here to see the reviews roll in and the book, page, and hour count at the top of the sidebar updated weekly. See you… on the other side. *cue dramatic music*
Better late then never! I think a little Andrew Carnegie is appropriate today. Well-known for his vital and amazing fund that has allowed libraries to be built in small places, Carnegie was also a well-respected advocate for both peace and democracy. He thought of the public library as a space where everyone was allowed access, and libraries still strive towards that ideal today.
There is not such a cradle of democracy upon the earth as the Free Public Library, this republic of letters, where neither rank, office, nor wealth receives the slightest consideration.
Of Wellington County’s 14 library branches, almost half are Carnegie libraries built in the early 1900s: Harriston, Clifford, Palmerston, Mount Forest, Fergus, and Elora. Spare him a thankful thought the next time you drop in!
Ursula K. Le Guin is one of the giants of fantasy and science fiction writing. She has always worked very hard to have fantasy taken seriously as a genre, in part by advocating for it but also by writing really excellent and sometimes, as in her novel The Left Hand of Darkness, ground-breaking novels and short stories in that genre. It is not the genre that makes a book good or bad, but the quality of the writing and the originality of the ideas. Sometimes people dismiss a book out of hand because it’s in a particular genre, but I think that’s narrowing the scope too far — this summer, why not try reading something a little bit out of your comfort zone?
The unread story is not a story; it is little black marks on wood pulp. The reader, reading it, makes it live: a live thing, a story.
What I so love about this quote from Le Guin, aside from the simple fact that it is a very pretty little quote, is the thought of all these books and cds on the shelves at the library, just waiting for someone to pick them up and read them so they can become real. The act of reading or listening to a story is a kind of magic.
My experience with public libraries is that the first volume of the book I inquire for is out, unless I happen to want the second, when that is out.
Poor Oliver Wendell Holmes, physician, poet, author and essayist. There’s nothing quite so disheartening as going to a library and realizing that the book you have your heart set on isn’t in. Except maybe realizing that none of the books you want are available. And it’s true; usually we only have one copy of any given book in our local branch at a time, although sometimes we might have the same book in different formats (hardcover, paperback, and/or large print, for example). But if you ask, we can always put you on the list and sometimes we can even have a copy in for you the same week you request it. Even better, we might be able to recommend something else to tide you over while you wait for the book you want.
Henry David Thoreau, that most eloquent of defenders of nature and civil disobedience, didn’t just write stuff down (his most famous work is, of course, Walden). He also read. And I think he was quite sensible when he said,
Read the best books first, or you may not have a chance to read them at all.
I think this is a wise way to go about reading. Now, it’s possible that Thoreau and I might have disagreed about which the “best” books are — but my philosophy is modelled on that of Nancy Pearl, who is a librarian celebrity (seriously!): she suggests reading the first fifty pages of a book, and if you’re not enjoying it by the end of those fifty pages and see no hope for the future, it’s probably time to try something else. As Thoreau clearly knew, life’s too short to read bad books!
One of the reasons I got into libraries in the first place is that I think that having the freedom to read is incredibly important. And not just the freedom to read, but the freedom to read anything one wishes to read. I might not agree with everything that has been printed out there (uh, not by a long shot), but it’s not at all my place to tell anyone they can’t read something because I don’t agree with it or because I don’t think it’s good. Nor is it anyone else’s place, either.
Freedom to Read Week happens in February every year. It’s a neat initiative to bring censorship in public and school libraries to everyone’s attention. Have a look at their List of Challenged Books and see what kinds of things people are trying to have pulled from the shelves right here in Canada.
One of the books that tends to show up on the list repeatedly is Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, which I think is ironic because it has one of the best quotes on love of books and censorship embedded right in the text:
Until I feared I would lose it, I never loved to read. One does not love breathing.
I thought this year I’d throw up a couple of fun quotes to do with reading, books, and/or libraries, one per day until the Challenge starts. This is taken from Sir Terry Pratchett’s superlative fantasy/mystery satire Guards! Guards!
If you haven’t read any Pratchett, I recommend it. You could start at the beginning of his Discworld series, or somewhere in the middle; I started with The Wee Free Men, in which we meet the main character, 12-year-old Tiffany Aching, shortly before she brains a sea monster with an iron frying pan. You could also try some of his non-Discworld books, including Nation, which has been getting attention and awards since it was published two years ago. Pratchett has a great, very quirky sense of humour, and a love of libraries that rather endears him to me, for what should be obvious reasons.
From Guards! Guards! by Sir Terry Pratchett, p262:
The three rules of the Librarians of Space and Time are: 1) Silence; 2) Books must be returned no later than the last date shown; and 3) Do not interfere with the nature of causality.