14 September 2010

Here is where people/ One frequently finds/ Lower their voices/ And raise their minds*

*The lines of poetry in the post title are from Richard Armour's "Library."

Among the many things I've rediscovered an interest for this summer (i.e. this thing and this thing) in order to keep myself from going mad with boredom in my hometown, I have started going to the library again.

When I was in grade school, I loved going to the library. My dad would take me and my sister to the library, almost every weekend. He'd grab a comfy chair and read National Geographics or the newpaper while my sister and I pored over the stacks, looking for the perfect books to take home with us that week. The deliberation over books was crucial. We were both voracious readers, and the library only allowed children to check out two books at a time, so we had to choose wisely. Do I get this really long book that looks so interesting, so that I can make it last for a few days? Or do I get this book that I have been dying to read and that I know I will devour by the end of the night, only to risk being book-less and bored until next Saturday?  I usually went with the former choice, because I knew my own reading habits so well, and I discovered so many great books, like The Devil's Arithmetic and Gallows Hill.  These were books that pushed me to read above my reading level at the time and spurred in me an intense interest in historical fiction. I kept going back for more of the same, and these two books stick out in my mind because I never found anything quite like them again.

In high school, the library was not the place to be. No, you could find me at Borders most of the time. Librarians don't allow you to LOL with your friends, loitering until 11 p.m. And they certainly aren't serving you over-priced coffee. The moody but handsome, guitar-playing, Jack-Kerouac-reading older boy also was not at the library. Where else could my friends and I go where he might catch a glimpse of us buying our own copies of all of the awesome stuff he and his friends liked? Only Borders.

In college, I hated going to the library.  I associated the library with late night early morning solitary walk-runs through campus to where my car was parked, enough coffee to cause heart palpitations (I'm not kidding, it happened), and the migraine-inducing buzz of fluorescent lights.  When my roommates and I made group trips to the library, it was a little better, but sometimes that resulted in little work getting accomplished. I can't recall a single time in five years when I went to the library just for pleasure. Even when I did finally get a library card for the East Lansing public library, it was only to check out copies of movies that I had to watch for a class.  I was mere steps away from library phobia. Plus, when I was in college, I developed a preference to purchasing my own copies of books--that way, I could write all over them, annotating every square inch of margin, and nobody could fine me.

I still prefer to have my own copies of books (and so, I have a lot of books that I've never read), but something spurred me this summer to revisit the local library that I so loved in my childhood. I wandered around the library for about two hours on my first visit, because I hadn't arrived with a game plan or a reading list. Did I want to find some "teacherly" book to teach or inspire me? Well, sort of, but the selection was kind of shabby. Did I want to read the Sookie Stackhouse novels? The answer here was, "Yes, desperately." But good luck finding those at any public library, unless you want to start with the last one in the series.  Did I want to read Eat Pray Love? The answer here? "Not really." And again, good luck finding that book anywhere.

Getting discouraged, with a brand-spanking new library card just scorching a hole in my pocket, I wandered over to the young-adult literature section. Now, when I was young, all of the YA lit was mixed in with the children's literature.  Someone finally righted this situation and created a whole new section, right smack in the middle of the library, full of YA lit. And I'm a grown-up now, so I can check out as many books as I want! The teacher and the fourteen-year-old girl in me squealed simultaneously. I can't take them anywhere. I could read a bunch of high-interest fiction for young adults, keeping in mind the really good stuff for a future classroom library! I could remember what it was like to have crushes, and sleepovers, and persistent feelings of not-fitting-in-and-my-parents-don't-understand-and-my- best-friend-is-mad-at-me-for-no-reason-except-that-there-is-a-reason-and-it's-totally-my-fault-but-it-will-all-be-okay-in-the-end-and-I'll-learn-something-really-important! (Okay, yes, YA Lit is so much more than that, but when I was a young adult, that's the general plot of most of what I read.)

Now, I fully planned on reading the armload of books that I checked out on that first visit to the library as voraciously as I would have when I was a child. Alas, as fate would have it and as it always does, adult life has gotten in the way. Instead of basking in my haul of YA lit, I'm reading and re-reading texts that I have to teach (although happily, The Outsiders is one of them) and lesson-planning. But waiting for me in those rare moments when I can relax are the following:

Before I begin this, I should note that all of the images used below are credited to Amazon.com, linked via LibraryThing.com.

 The Pillow Book of Lotus Lowenstein by Libby Schmais

Ah, two best friends like the same "perfect" boy. Most girls have been there, done that, had her fifteen-year-old heart broken, and lived to tell about it. I'm looking forward to Lotus Lowenstein reminding me what it was like in this glimpse into her diary.
 The Possibilities of Sainthood by Donna Freitas

I'll admit, I was drawn to this book because the book jacket mentioned St. Jude, the Patron Saint of Desperate Situations and Hopeless Cases --that Patron Saint to whom my grandmother reminded me to pray every day this summer.  Antonia is fifteen, waiting for her first kiss, and doing everything that her Italian-Catholic upbringing has taught her to get it.  I guess it must have sounded familiar to me.

And the ones I am looking forward to most:
 The Loser's Guide to Life and Love by A.E. Cannon

The book jacket says it's a "fresh, contemporary twist on Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream." Um, sold.

 Enter Three Witches by Caroline B. Cooney

When I found this book, Teacher Me started squealing again. (You'd think she would have learned from the last time. I'd send her to time out, but her services are frequently needed.) Shakespeare's Macbeth, from the perspective of a fourteen-year-old ward of Lord and Lady Macbeth. My favorite Shakespearean tragedy, YA lit, and an old favorite among YA writers? Le sigh.

1 comment:

Sarah said...

Those picks look intriguing! I couldn't live without the library and I always regret that "adult life" gets in the way of my reading!!