A Presidential Reading List

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Today is Presidents’ Day in the U.S. I like this holiday primarily because I get a day off from work, but also because it’s about presidents. I’m fascinated by the presidency and the people who have occupied the White House. I love reading presidential biographies, and I thought today was the perfect time to share some of my favorites. I’m going to focus on the past six presidents: Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Barack Obama, and Donald Trump. No matter your political views, there’s certainly a book on this list that you’ll enjoy.

Reagan: the Life book cover

Reagan: The Life by H. W. Brands

Ronald Wilson Reagan: February 6, 1911 – June 5, 2004
Served from 1981-1989
Party: Republican

When I picked up this book, I went into it with low expectations. I’d read other books by H. W. Brands and knew I liked his writing, but I had never found Ronald Reagan that interesting. I want to read a biography about every one of the forty-five U. S. presidents, so I thought I might as well give this one a shot. I’m glad I did.

Despite my apathy toward Reagan, Brands brought him to life for me in ways I didn’t expect. I enjoyed learning about his time in Hollywood, his deep devotion to his second wife Nancy, and how that devotion to her put up a wall between him and his children. Brands is a wonderful writer and historian, and I appreciate how his skill helped me come to know a figure I often overlooked.

Destiny and Power book cover

Destiny and Power: The American Odyssey of George Herbert Walker Bush by Jon Meacham

George Herbert Walker Bush: June 12, 1924 – November 30, 2018
Served from 1989-1993
Party: Republican

Of all the presidential biographies I’ve read so far, this one might be my favorite. Jon Meacham is Bush’s officially biographer and was granted intimate access to Bush’s life and family which, paired with his beautiful writing, led to this fantastic exploration of a man who lived an extraordinary life. Bush served as a congressman, ambassador to China, director of the CIA, and vice president before being elected himself in 1988. Meacham tells all those stories with vivid detail, but my favorite parts of this biography are Meacham’s discussions of Bush’s time serving in World War II. Bush’s plane was shot down, and though he was ultimately rescued, he lost two men. That haunted him the rest of his life, and Meacham tells that story with compassion and care.

Meacham, who was unusually close with his subject, was asked to give a eulogy at Bush’s funeral. You can watch it here.

A Complicated Man: The Life of Bill Clinton as Told by Those Who Know Him by Michael Takiff

William Jefferson Clinton: August 19, 1946 –
Served from 1993-2001
Party: Democrat

A Complicated Man is a perfect title for a book about Bill Clinton. Good biographies are ones that show the complexity of their subject, revealing strengths and weaknesses in a delicate balance. Michael Takiff does that in this book, which is indeed an excellent biography of a man who defines complicated. Bill Clinton is a fascinating figure for a lot of reasons, and Takiff does a good job addressing those reasons by structuring this book as an oral biography by those who know Clinton well. This book doesn’t provide a final answer on Clinton’s legacy, but it does raise a lot of interesting questions and delivers some surprising anecdotes. Whether you hate him or love him, this book is a must-read for those wanting to know more about our 42nd president.

Days of Fire book cover

Days of Fire: Bush and Cheney in the White House by Peter Baker

George Walker Bush: July 6, 1946 –
Served from 2001 – 2009
Party: Republican

I’ll admit that books about presidents and politics aren’t always the most unputdownable reading material. Some can be a bit dry in certain sections, but that’s not the case with Days of Fire. This book reads like a great suspense novel from beginning to end. It’s different from the other books on this list because Peter Baker doesn’t just examine George W. Bush, but explores his relationship with his vice president, Dick Cheney. Based on an enormous amount of research, Baker delivers a fascinating piece of political reporting that stands out as one of the best presidential books I’ve ever read.

Obama: An Intimate Portrait by Pete Souza

Barack Hussein Obama: August 4, 1961 –
Served from 2009-2017
Party: Democrat

This book is a collection of photographs by Obama’s primary White House photographer, Pete Souza. (Souza also served as a photographer in Reagan’s administration.) I read an interview with Souza in which he explained that before he accepted the position, he made it clear to Obama that he needed unlimited access to his administration. Obama granted it, so for eight years Souza documented the 44th president up close and personal. This book contains some of Souza’s most remarkable photographs. Obama: An Intimate Portrait is a beautiful visual guide through a historic presidency. This book is one you’ll read over and over again.

Fear: Trump in the White House by Bob Woodward

Donald John Trump: June 14, 1946 –
Assumed office in 2017
Party: Republican

No matter what you think about Donald Trump, you have to admit that we’ve never had a president precisely like him before. New stories are breaking all the time about things Trump has said and done. In Fear, legendary reporter Bob Woodward examines the beginning of Trump’s presidency and explores how Trump thinks and governs. If you pay close attention to the news, I doubt much of this book will be too surprising, yet I think it’s a must-read if you’re looking for a deeper understanding of what’s happening in our current administration.


Are you interested in presidents and politics? Do you know of other presidential books I need to add to my TBR? I’d love to hear about them.


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6 Essentials for a Cozy Reading Day

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At the beginning of February, I thought, “I’m fortunate. This winter has been so mild. There’s hardly been any snow at all.” And then it proceeded to snow a foot in a couple of days. I had a day off from work thanks to a snow day, and I spent most of it curled up in my sweats with a blanket and book. Nothing makes me want to stay indoors as much as snow does, so I thought it would be fun to share my essentials for a cozy reading day so that you too might be inspired to hunker down in your home while remaining motionless for several hours. I highly recommend it.

Girl in sweater reading

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Essential #1: Comfortable clothes

Some people stay in their regular clothes until bedtime. I do not understand these people. Who can genuinely lounge around the house in jeans? Who can be entirely comfortable in a skirt or button-down shirt? The first essential item for any cozy reading day is comfortable clothes. Put on those sweats and be proud. Throw on those leggings and relax. So what if your favorite college t-shirt has a few holes? Whatever you wear, make it soft and comfortable.

Vintage chair, ottoman, and piano in the background

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Essential #2: A comfortable reading location

Now that you’re wearing your most stylish comfortable clothes, you need even more comfort in the form of a good reading location. My favorite reading spot is my navy blue wingback chair and brightly-printed ottoman. Couches work just fine, too. If you’re genuinely embracing the lazy part of a lazy day, stay in bed.

A woman holding three folded blankets

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Essential #3: A warm blanket

I am a productive adult, and I have a blankie. In fact, I have several blankies. And yes, I call them blankies because I’m young at heart and I can. You too need a blankie. (Unless you live in Miami or somewhere comparably toasty.) My blankie is essential because no matter how comfortable my clothes and location might be, they’re enhanced by the blankie. Not only does the blankie offer extra warmth but it also provides another layer of softness. Who doesn’t want that?

An iced coffee in a glass

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Essential #4: A beverage

The entire planet could be glazed over in a layer of ice, and I’d still reach for an iced coffee. I saw a meme the other day that referred to iced coffee as the most important meal of the day, and it spoke truth to my spirit. You don’t have to drink an iced coffee, but you do need a beverage. One of the goals of a cozy reading day is to avoid movement as much as possible, so being sure you’ve got your drink prepared before you assume your position underneath your blankie is vital. Hydration is essential, and so are taste buds.

A red book with glasses sitting on the top placed on white bedsheets

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Essential #5: Silence

When I want the coziest of cozy reading days, silence is a must. I don’t want TV on in the background, and there can be no music. If I hear anyone making commotion outside, I find myself wondering why they don’t care about me and my needs. Is this high maintenance of me? Yes. But the heart wants what it wants, and mine wants silence.

Open book pages

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Essential #6: The right book

Perhaps the most vital aspect of a cozy reading day is the reading part. For that, you need the right book. The right book is not the book you’re forcing yourself to read for book club. It’s not the book you got for Christmas five years ago and feel guilty about not having read yet. The right book for a cozy reading day is one you’re excited about and can’t put down. For me, that’s a mystery, thriller, or engaging literary fiction. Find the right book for you and get to work. And by that I mean don’t work at all.


So what are your essentials for a cozy reading day? I’d love to hear them!


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Reading Recap | January 2019

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Hi there! I’m glad to be back. I’ve been sick with pneumonia and an unpleasant ear infection these past two weeks, so blogging was not at the top of my priority list. Taking my antibiotics and rewatching Parks and Recreation for the twelfth time held that distinction. Anyway, I’m finally feeling better, and I’m happy to be posting again.

Today I’m sharing what I read in January. I read nine books, so I’ll be brief with my thoughts on each one so it doesn’t take you thirteen hours to read this post. Let’s get started!

Garlic and sapphires book cover

Garlic and Sapphires: The Secret Life of a Critic in Disguise
by Ruth Reichl
Rating: 4/5

WHAT’S THIS BOOK ABOUT?

Ruth Reichl is the well-known food critic who once worked for the New York Times. This book is about when she moved to New York to start her new gig and the complications that ensued. Restaurants around the city knew who Reichl was and had her picture taped up in their kitchens. She knew she’d never be able to get fair service if the staff knew her, so she thought up several elaborate disguises in order to dine anonymously.

WHAT’S GOOD ABOUT
THIS BOOK?

This book is so much fun to read. Reichl’s passion for great food is evident on every page. I’d prefer a cheeseburger to most of the food Reichl describes in this book, but her excitement and joy when eating is contagious.

WHO SHOULD READ THIS BOOK?

People who love spending time in the kitchen will definitely enjoy this.

Becoming book cover

Becoming by Michelle Obama
Rating: 4/5

WHAT’S THIS BOOK ABOUT?

Becoming chronicles Mrs. Obama’s life from her childhood in Chicago to the end of her husband’s administration.

WHAT’S GOOD ABOUT
THIS BOOK?

I love reading books about politics and presidents, so I knew I’d like that aspect of Becoming, but what I ended up loving most was the story of Obama’s early years. Learning how a black girl from Chicago’s south side ended up as First Lady was fascinating. I also appreciate that Obama repeatedly cites education as the key to her success.

WHO SHOULD READ THIS BOOK?

Fans of the Obamas will love this, but readers of any political background should pick this up. Themes like family, love, and education should be universally appealing.

If beale st. could talk book cover

If Beale Street Could Talk by James Baldwin
Rating: 4/5

WHAT’S THIS BOOK ABOUT?

Tish and Fonny are young and in love. They’re about to have a baby and start their own family when Fonny is charged and imprisoned for a crime he didn’t commit. Baldwin explores their relationship, their families, and how injustice tests everyone involved in this powerful story.

WHAT’S GOOD ABOUT
THIS BOOK?

The range of emotions I felt while reading this book is noteworthy considering its short length. Baldwin captures the sweetness between Tish and Fonny so well, which makes the idea of them torn apart deeply upsetting.

WHO SHOULD READ THIS BOOK?

If you’ve meant to read Baldwin or already love him, don’t miss this one.

Nothing good can come from this book cover

Nothing Good Can Come from This by Kristi Coulter
Rating: 4/5

WHAT’S THIS BOOK ABOUT?

This book is a collection of essays about Kristi Coulter’s life as a sober woman. She acknowledges the seriousness of her addiction, but her writing is funny and full of wit.

WHAT’S GOOD ABOUT
THIS BOOK?

Coulter is frank about the toll addiction took on her life, yet writes about her journey with constant vulnerability infused with humor.

WHO SHOULD READ THIS BOOK?

Goodreads says fans of David Sedaris, Sloane Crosley, and Cheryl Strayed will like this, and I agree completely.

Looker book cover

Looker by Laura Sims
Rating: 3/5

WHAT’S THIS BOOK ABOUT?

The unnamed narrator of this book is facing the loss of her marriage and is grieving over the fact she can’t conceive a child. She becomes obsessed with the actress, a famous woman who lives with her family on the same block. As the narrator’s life spirals more out of control, her obsession with the actress grows even more intense.

WHAT’S GOOD ABOUT
THIS BOOK?

The premise of this book intrigued me as soon as I heard about it, and it delivers on the tension. I wish the book had contained more depth, but it’s a fast-paced story with a satisfying ending.

WHO SHOULD READ THIS BOOK?

If you like suspense books with unreliable narrators, you’ll enjoy Looker.

For better and for worse book cover

For Better and Worse by Margot Hunt
Rating: 3/5

WHAT’S THIS BOOK ABOUT?

Will and Natalie meet during law school. They eventually marry and have a son named Charlie. Their lives have grown a little dull until the principal of their son’s school—who’s a friend—is seen taken away by police due to some terrible accusations. Once they realize their son is involved, they set off a chain of events they could never have imagined.

WHAT’S GOOD ABOUT
THIS BOOK?

For Better and Worse is definitely a page-turner. Natalie is a fascinating character who keeps you guessing until the very last page.

WHO SHOULD READ THIS BOOK?

Anyone who shares my love of thrillers and stories about complicated marriages will like this book.

Sadie book cover

Sadie by Courtney Summers
Rating: 4/5

WHAT’S THIS BOOK ABOUT?

When Sadie is 19, her little sister Mattie is killed. She thinks she knows who’s responsible and without notice, she sets out to find the killer since the police haven’t. Meanwhile, a podcaster named West hears about the murder and Sadie’s disappearance. He puts it in the back of his mind until he gets a phone call from the woman who’s a stand-in grandma to Sadie and Mattie. She asks him to pursue the story and get some answers, so he develops a new podcast series called the Girls.

WHAT’S GOOD ABOUT
THIS BOOK?

Sadie is written in the form of the podcast and Sadie’s first-person thoughts. This style makes for a unique and effective structure that perfectly suits this suspenseful, brutal story.

WHO SHOULD READ THIS BOOK?

Readers who don’t mind dark stories and enjoy unique narrative structures shouldn’t miss this novel.

No exit book cover

No Exit by Taylor Adams
Rating: 2/5

WHAT’S THIS BOOK ABOUT?

Darby is a college student who just found out her mom has cancer. She heads out to see her a couple of days before Christmas and gets stuck in a blizzard. She’s forced to stop at a rest stop with four strangers until the weather clears up. While walking around outside trying to get a cell signal, Darby sees something horrifying in a van parked out front: a little girl locked in a cage. Darby knows she has to save the child but doesn’t know how or who she can trust.

WHAT’S GOOD ABOUT
THIS BOOK?

No Exit offers a lot of exciting twists and turns. The bad news is that they don’t make much sense sometimes.

WHO SHOULD READ THIS BOOK?

Fans of thrillers who don’t overthink every chapter will be most satisfied with this one.

Sugar run book cover

Sugar Run by Mesha Maren
Rating: 3/5

WHAT’S THIS BOOK ABOUT?

After serving almost two decades of her prison sentence, Jodi gets a surprise release. (Readers learn about Jodi’s crime through flashbacks.) Jodi’s plan is to go live in the house she inherited from her grandmother, but first, she stops to check in on the brother of the woman she used to love. During her journey, she meets Miranda, a mother of three who’s addicted to pills. Jodi and Miranda have an instant connection, and the two set out to build new lives together.

WHAT’S GOOD ABOUT
THIS BOOK?

What I like most about Sugar Run is the setting, which is West Virginia. I don’t recall reading anything else set there, so I enjoyed the glimpse of life in Appalachia.

WHO SHOULD READ THIS BOOK?

I’d recommend this book only to readers who don’t mind incredibly bleak stories. This is a tough read that grapples with things such as addiction, poverty, and violence.


I’d love to hear what you’ve been reading lately. What was the best book you read in January?


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The 10 Nonfiction Books I Wish My Patrons Would Read Before They Graduate High School

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For nearly eight years now, I’ve been working with teenagers in public high school libraries. I’ve interacted with students who love to read, who like to read but don’t know what books to choose, and students who would rather die alone in a terrible freak accident than read a book. (Or so it seems sometimes.) It’s not up to me to assign books, yet I have titles floating around in my head that I’d love students to read before they graduate. I want to share ten of those titles and what I think kids can learn from them. I’m focusing on nonfiction. If I could assign books, these are the ones I’d hand to those 17-year-olds who are on the cusp of new and exciting things.

Please note: there are mentions of sexual assault.

Becoming by Michelle Obama

Becoming by Michelle Obama

Hard work and education can take you places you’d never imagine.

I just finished Becoming and enjoyed it just as much as I thought I would. As a lover of presidential history, I went into the book knowing for sure I’d like the discussions of government and politics, but what turned out to be my favorite part of the book was the beginning. Learning about Mrs. Obama’s humble upbringing in Chicago’s South Side was fascinating. I’d heard pieces of that story, but reading about her kind, loving parents and their passion for knowledge was inspiring. Michelle Obama isn’t successful because she married a man who became President of the United States; she got into Princeton and Harvard Law School before she knew he existed. Becoming is a story of perseverance, drive, and demonstrates how education can change everything.

Small Fry by Lisa Brennan-Jobs

Small Fry by Lisa Brennan-Jobs

Being rich and famous doesn’t guarantee a perfect life.

Steve Jobs was famous, ridiculously wealthy, and lauded for his contributions to technology. As the force behind Apple, he changed the way the world communicates. Because of this, it makes sense to assume that being Steve Jobs’ daughter would be nothing less than an unbelievable stroke of luck. Lisa Brennan-Jobs corrects that belief with her honest, unputdownable memoir about the turbulent relationship she had with her father. The two loved each other, but their bond was shaky from the very beginning when Jobs questioned whether or not Lisa was even his daughter. It’s easy to envy those in positions of power or who have great wealth, assuming their lives are perfect. The truth is never that tidy, and this book is a reminder of that.

Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass by Frederick Douglass

Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass by Frederick Douglass

There are unfair power structures that will hold you back. Keep trying anyway and fight to change those structures.

Whether we’ve read this narrative or not, most of us are familiar with Frederick Douglass and his story. That familiarity might keep someone from reading this book, but it shouldn’t. This was a text I was assigned in college, and I wish I’d read it even earlier. It provides an eye-opening account of slavery, and it’s essential for citizens to fully understand America’s history. Besides that, Douglass’ story shows a man that just won’t give up, even when his humanity has basically been stripped away. Once he was free, Douglass worked and fought to end injustice. Being free gives all of us the opportunity to try to free someone else.

Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea by Barbara Demick

Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea by Barbara Demick

Don’t take your freedom for granted.

As a teenager, it can be difficult to see beyond yourself. Everything feels like a big deal. School can seem unfair. Life can seem overwhelming because of all the choices before you. It’s easy to take something like freedom for granted when you’re told you can do anything, be anyone, and achieve your dreams. Nothing to Envy reveals a world without those promises. Demick forces her readers to confront a country unlike any other in the world today. North Korea is a fascinating place, and this book is a fantastic exploration of it. What amazes me most about North Korea is that it exists at all, especially in 2019. This book is a sobering reminder that freedom is a gift, one that millions around the world don’t have.

Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott

Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott

You have to take things as they come.

Lamott’s older brother was panicking over a homework assignment. He had to write a report on birds, and it was due the next day. He hadn’t even started yet. His father tried to calm him down by saying, “Just take it bird by bird.” As Lamott says, this is good advice for writing but also for life in general. Sure, not every student is going to enter into a career that requires them to write all the time. But they’ll have to write emails. They’ll have to write memos. They’ll have to text their coworkers or boss. Writing well is a skill we all need, and this book teaches those skills with a lot of other wisdom thrown in, too.

Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town 
by Jon Krakauer

Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town
by Jon Krakauer

Crimes against woman are often just seen as stories.

Before I opened up this book, I knew rape cases didn’t often result in convictions or much prison time. I knew women weren’t always listened to and taken seriously. Knowing those truths didn’t prepare me for this book. Missoula is an unflinching look at how sexual assault is frequently dismissed. Some people will always care more about the poor football player accused of rape than the girl he assaulted. This is heartbreaking and wrong, yet is information we all need to know. A lot of times, the pressure is put on women to protect themselves, but men need to be reminded they have a role to play in all of this, too. There’s much work to be done, and it involves everyone.

Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah

Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah

Humor can help you survive anything.

Trevor Noah is known as the host of The Daily Show, but long before his fame, he was just a kid in South Africa whose very existence was against the law. He was born to a black mother and a white father, a union prohibited under apartheid. Born a Crime is the story of his life in South Africa, his struggle to belong somewhere, and how embracing humor changed his life. This book talks about racism, abuse, and poverty, yet it’s also incredibly funny. Noah recognizes that humor isn’t a luxury for the privileged, but a necessity for everyone.

Educated by Tara Westover

Educated by Tara Westover

Education can be your escape from awful circumstances.

Tara Westover was raised off the grid. Born to a survivalist family, she was kept out of school, away from doctors, and insulated from society, yet she ended up studying at Oxford. Educated is the story of how she got there. If this book had been written as a novel, I would have thought it was too over the top. Knowing it’s all true makes it a compelling story about how seeking education can be the key to a new, freer life.

Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead by Brené Brown

Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead by Brené Brown

Vulnerability is the key to nearly everything.

If there is one lesson I wish I could have learned sooner, it would be the importance of vulnerability. Vulnerability doesn’t come easily to me, and that was especially true when I was entering adulthood. Around that time, there’s so much about yourself and your life that you’re struggling to understand that being vulnerable just seems like another difficult task. In Daring Greatly, Brené Brown presents her groundbreaking research that reveals how people have used vulnerability to achieve success, overcome obstacles, and reinvent their lives.

Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed

Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed

Heartbreak will not destroy you.

After Cheryl Strayed’s mother died when Strayed was in her early 20s, she felt lost and adrift. Her marriage and family were falling apart. Grief was wrecking her. She needed a change, so she decided to hike the Pacific Crest Trail. Wild is the memoir of that journey and how it changed her life. Not only is this book beautifully written, but it reveals a woman who overcomes so much to build a life in which she can be happy and proud.


I went back and forth on a lot of titles before I decided on these ten. I would love to hear what titles you’d suggest for young adults. Leave your list in a comment below.


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Why I Love Public Libraries

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I’ve worked in libraries for over thirteen years, but I’ve been a library patron for as long as I can remember. Some of my earliest memories are of the public library where my mom took me to pick out books. My love for the library has always been strong so working there seemed obvious.

That love is still there, so today I want to talk about why I love libraries so much. As technology and society have evolved, so have libraries, and they have a plethora of goodness to offer their communities. I know that firsthand, and I hope you do, too.

Libraries are for everyone.

This phrase became more common after these beautifully designed posters started making the rounds online. I used some in the school library where I work and saw them in the public library where I also work. The message the posters send is essential. How many other places can people go and sit inside for as long as they’d like without having to spend any money? How many other places strive to have something to offer to babies, senior citizens, and everyone in between? Good libraries try to reach everyone in their community, regardless of the barriers some people might find elsewhere.

Libraries provide opportunities
to discover and learn.

My public library has offered free classes about dancing, yoga, finance, painting, and more. They’ve hosted concerts, artists, and poetry readings. Our collection provides material by creators who disagree emphatically on just about everything. Patrons can check out tickets to museums, the symphony, and can even take home a large telescope. There are still books on the shelves, too, about any subject you can imagine. Libraries offer people the chance to find new writers, hobbies, interests, and passions. I’ll never get tired of talking about that.

Libraries meet people where they are and help them go farther.

One of the best services my library provides is called Book a Librarian. This service is an option for people who just got a new Kindle but have no idea how to use it. It’s an option for people who need to type a resume but don’t know anything about Word. Basically, if you don’t know something but want to know something, you can make an appointment for uninterrupted one-on-one time with a librarian who will teach you. How great is that?

Libraries help bridge
economic gaps.

I’ve read many articles over the past couple of years about libraries doing away with fines so that there are fewer barriers for people who need the library most of all. It’s encouraging to know that public libraries offer the same number of checkouts to patrons regardless of their bank account. Food for Fines is another way libraries help people in need. During a select timeframe, patrons have the option to pay off their fines with canned goods instead of cash. The food goes to a local food bank, and the fees are waived. This helps the patron, of course, but it also helps people in need who might not ever visit the library.


There’s so much more I could say, but these topics are nearest to my heart at the moment. Why do you love your library? What services are your favorites?


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Book Options for the Modern Mrs. Darcy 2019 Reading Challenge

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I love reading, but I don’t love feeling as if I have to read something. I enjoyed many of the books I was assigned in college, yet didn’t always like having to stick to a syllabus. That’s why I’ve never participated in any online reading challenges. I don’t want reading to feel like homework.

One of my favorite book blogs is Modern Mrs. Darcy. I was looking at her 2019 reading challenge and realized this one actually excites me. At only 10 categories, it’s not too long, and there are plenty of options for every requirement so I won’t feel pressured to read specific things.

Today I’m sharing some possible reads for each category. Who knows if I’ll stick to this list, but at least I’ll have a plan. (And I love plans.) Maybe these books will inspire you if you’re doing the challenge, too.

1. A book you’ve been meaning
to read

This list could be ridiculously long since I have so many unread books on my shelves. (One of my 2019 reading goals is to lower that number.) For this task, I’m choosing a book that I’ve owned for at least a year. These are the ones I’m most excited to read right now:

2. A book about a topic that fascinates you

I’m fascinated by a lot of things, but my primary interests right now include:

3. A book in the backlist of a favorite author

Sometimes when I really love an author, I’ll hesitate to read everything they’ve written because I want to know there’s still a book out there by them I haven’t read yet. (Especially when there are many, many years between new releases, DONNA.) Is that weird? Maybe. Probably.

4. A book recommended by someone with great taste

Some friends have recommended:

5. Three books by the same author

I’d love to read more from Baldwin and French, and I haven’t read Ferrante at all.

6. A book you chose for the cover

I’m a sucker for a pretty book cover. These are the most recent ones that have caught my eye:

7. A book by an author who is
new to you

Thanks to some Christmas gift cards, I just bought a few books by authors I’ve yet to read, including:

8. A book in translation

I was happy to see this category on the list since reading more translated books was already one of my reading goals this year. At the top of my list are:

9. A book outside your (genre) comfort zone

This category is going to stretch me more than any of the others because I tend to read a bit narrowly when it comes to fiction. I mostly stick to literary fiction, thrillers, and mysteries. Here are some titles that are definitely outside my comfort zone, but intrigue me nonetheless:

10. A book published before you were born

I’m hoping this category will inspire me to pick up a few of the classics that have been sitting on my shelves for too long, such as:


So those are my ideas so far. If you have any suggestions to add, please let me know. I’m always up for book recommendations.


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15 Books I’m Excited to Read This Year

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The Millions is one of my favorite bookish websites, and twice a year they release a list of books that will be coming out within the next few months. The first list of 2019 was posted yesterday and I couldn’t be more thrilled. I always get fantastic recommendations from these lists, and this year is no exception.

Today I’m sharing the books I’m most excited to read in the upcoming months. I certainly don’t need any more titles to add to my ever-growing TBR, but how can I resist stories like these? (And the pretty covers. I love a pretty cover.)

Book cover for Hark

Hark by Sam Lipsyte

I don’t tend to read much satire, but this book about a reluctant mindfulness guru named Hank sounds intriguing enough to make me start. I’m always on the lookout for well-written, funny books.

The Far Field book cover

The Far Field by Madhuri Vijay

This novel tells the story of an Indian woman named Shalini whose mother is dead. Wrestling with her emotions and full of questions, Shalini decides to visit a remote village to find a man from her childhood who she believes might know something about her mother. This was my Book of the Month selection last month, so I have no excuse not to read this one since it’s already on my shelf.

Mothers: stories book cover

Mothers: Stories by Chris Power

Mothers is a collection of 10 stories about people at a crossroads. These stories are set in locations all over the world. Kirkus notes this collection is “populated by travelers of many kinds.” I enjoy short stories and armchair travel, so I’m excited about this release.

The Source of Self-Regard book cover

The Source of Self-Regard by Toni Morrison

I’ve read five of Morrison’s novels, but none of her nonfiction work. Her voice is one of a kind, so I’m sure this book will be worth my time.

Bowlaway book cover

Bowlaway by Elizabeth McCracken

Bertha Truitt appears in New England one day in a cemetery. No one knows who she is or how she got there. She ends up settling down and opening a candlepin bowling alley, which serves as the link between generations of her family. With a concept this original, Bowlaway is toward the top of my to-read list.

The Heavens book cover

The Heavens by Sandra Newman

The Millions mentioned the words “alternate universe” when describing this inventive novel that plays with time and location. As a realistic fiction lover, I almost tuned out because of that description, but this story about a woman who lives seemingly real, full lives in her dreams sounds too good to miss.

The Cassandra book cover

The Cassandra by Sharma Shields

In this novel, Shields reinvents the Greek myth of Cassandra. Mildred Groves works for the Hanford nuclear facility during World War II and has visions of the terrible outcomes plutonium could cause. I thoroughly enjoyed Shields’s first two books, Favorite Monster, and The Sasquatch Hunter’s Almanac, so I’ve been looking forward to this one for a while now.

Nothing but the night book cover

Nothing But the Night by John Williams

All I needed to know about this book is that it’s written by John Williams, who penned one of my favorite novels of all time, Stoner. This book, his first, will be reissued by New York Review Books soon. It’s a novella-length book tells the story of a complicated father-son relationship.

The new me book cover

The New Me by Halle Butler

This is another piece of satire about a 30-year-old woman who feels trapped in her unsatisfying life. Goodreads says this book is “darkly hilarious.” I’m here for that.

Look How Happy I’m Making You by Polly Rosenwaike

This is a collection of 12 stories about women and motherhood, including topics such as infertility, single parenthood, postpartum depression, and uncertainty after giving birth. I love the idea of such a life-changing topic being discussed through various lenses.

A woman is no man book cover

A Woman Is No Man by Etaf Rum

This novel is the story of arranged marriage and female agency. An eighteen-year-old named Deya is living in Brooklyn with her grandparents when they start trying to find her a husband. As Deya struggles with being forced to marry, she learns surprising truths about her parents and past. I can’t wait to get my hands on this.

Women Talking book cover

Women Talking by Miriam Toews

Based on harrowing true events, Women Talking is about a group of Mennonite women who conduct a secret meeting to discuss what to do in the wake of their assaults. They grapple with whether to stay or leave their community while the men are away. I heard about this book a couple of months ago and can’t wait to read it.

Miracle Creek by Angie Kim

Miracle Creek centers around a courtroom drama about deaths caused by the Miracle Submarine, a piece of technology that provides medical treatment to help people with autism, among other things. Goodreads says this book is “an addictive debut novel for fans of Liane Moriarty and Celeste Ng,” who happen to be two of my favorite novelists. This sounds so good.

Normal People by Sally Rooney

I keep seeing this book pop up on Instagram, where I’ve heard nothing but praise. Normal People is about Connell and Marianne, completely different people who have a strong connection throughout many years. This book releases in the US in August but has already been published in the UK. I don’t want to wait until August, so I’m happy to see that Book Depository has copies to buy now.

A Wonderful Stroke of Luck by Ann Beattie

I’m a sucker for stories about boarding schools and/or teachers, so this novel about a boarding school student and his influential teacher is right up my alley.


What 2019 releases have you excited? Do you want to read any of the books I mentioned?


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