Mini-Reviews: Series notes and a classic

Time for another round of mini-reviews! I’ve been a little neglectful of my book reviews lately, mostly because I am trying to move beyond book reviews in this blog. But I do love reviewing books, and reviews – whether I are writing or reading them – are actually an important component of librarianship.

Reading reviews is essential to collection development. When we purchase books for the library, we often don’t get to read a book before it ends up on our shelves. Reading reviews gives us a better idea of whether the books suit our patrons. But writing reviews is equally important. Writing reviews allows a librarian to practice distilling the qualities and values of a book into an easily digestible description, a necessary skill for those reference librarians who still get to offer readers’ advisory services. So while I will continue trying to integrate more librarianship into this blog, I will always be sharing my book reviews with you. And now, to the reviews!

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Review: The Birthday of the World

In an attempt to read more women authors, I grabbed a book of short stories by Ursula K. Le Guin, who has been on my to-read list forever. But with a to-read list like mine (487 and counting), it seemed like a collection of short stories was easier to tackle then a full novel.51n5X6yiSlL__SY344_BO1,204,203,200_
The Birthday of the World is Le Guin’s musings that are set in her already incredibly complex universe. Imagine you are dropped onto a world that is so different than your own and you have to figure out what’s going on. For some of the stories, this was incredibly easy to do. In others, I was a little lost. But these little windows into the Le Guin universes made me want more, which is also the value of this collection of short stories.

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Women and Comic Books

I did not grow up on comic books, although that was for no other reason than they seemed like a lot of money to invest in such flimsy bits of colored paper with very few pages. Books seem like way more bang for their buck, if you are basing it strictly on page count. So I didn’t care for many of the famous super heroes, though I didn’t really know anything about them. The old Batman and Superman movies were okay, but they really weren’t my thing.

And then the X-Men, Spider-Man, and Iron Man movies all came out. I was in love, though not any more capable of affording the past-time. And then libraries started getting into the graphic novel/comic book game, I decided there was nothing standing in the way of my getting my comic-book-nerd on.

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Get a list of the top 50 female comic book writers, compiled by ComicBookResources.com.

At first I grabbed some classics (including Rocketeer and a compendium of D.C. Universe Secret Origins stories). Then I grabbed an issue of the new Guardians of the Galaxy. They were okay but they didn’t seem worth it. And then Ms. Marvel arrived. Followed by my discovery of an awesome parade of kick-ass females helming their very own books. And a genuine love was born.

Women authors have been on my mind lately, and many of the best comic books (including Ms. Marvel) feature women writers,  but they remain a minority. So I thought that a great follow-up post about reading more women authors, would be a post about reading more women comic book characters, since there aren’t that many female comic book authors. Keep in mind that I am a relative newbie when it comes to comic books. Many of these characters existed long before I discovered them, and, since my library is focused on building current series since we don’t have an unlimited budget, my experiences are with current runs that have generally debuted in the last  one to two years. If you have any suggestions for me to read, please leave them in the comments below. I’m constantly looking to expand my comic book/graphic novel knowledge.

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Reading women: A self-evaluation

Get lists of women authors from the staff at the New Jersey City University library.

Get lists of women authors from the staff at the New Jersey City University library.

After cobbling together a reading challenge for myself for 2016 (I smooshed together different aspects from these reading challenges suggested by Bustle), I created a “women authors” category on my Goodreads profile to help me track that category of books. I was sorely disappointed in myself to learn that only 28% of the books I’ve read were written by women (keeping in mind that I didn’t consistently track the books I’ve read until a few years ago), and most of those have been in the last two years. Considering how many women there are in the world, that’s a dismally low number. According to The World Bank, the number is 50.4% in the United States, which is where most of the authors I read are from. Australia and Great Britain are the only two other home countries for the majority of my authors, and they have similar numbers. But the lack of geographic diversity in my reading is a whole other disparity that deserves its own post, which has luckily already been written by someone more talented than I: Reading More Translated Books Will Make You A Better Person by Rachel Cardasco on BookRiot.

But getting back to women authors. Here are some thoughts that tagging all the books written by women I’ve read brought up:

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Reading Challenge: A More Diverse Universe

Take the challenge and sign up today!

Take the challenge and sign up today!

Reading at the End posted a blog of interesting links from around the interwebs, which is how I discovered the existence of “A More Diverse Universe,” a reading challenge hosted by Aarti at BookLust. The challenge is ingeniously simple but powerful: amdu150-col

  • Read and review one book
  • Written by a person of color
  • During the last two weeks of September (September 14th – 27th) 

Simple because, heck you’re already reading, right? All you have to do is just make sure your next book choice is authored by a person of color, which is any author who is not Caucasian. And powerful because reading one book by a person of color could lead to another and another and another. And our bookshelves might finally reflect the diversity of our world and the millions of writers out there of all ethnicities and backgrounds who are incredible writers. And then all you have to do is pass on your discovery so others can enjoy that author, too.

Yes, Chef by Marcus Samuelsson

Yes, Chef by Marcus Samuelsson

EDIT: So, apparently, my original pick does not qualify for the challenge. So, instead I’ll be reading Yes, Chef by Marcus Samuelsson. I’m actually excited about it because I love Samuelsson’s food and story (which I’ve heard about through the various cooking competitions in which he’s participated). He started out as a boy helping his grandmother cook Sunday dinners and became an internationally known and respected chef. So, I’m interested to learn all the stuff in the middle that helped him get there. It hadn’t even occurred to look at a nonfiction book until I went back to the original post hunting for a new book idea and found that Aarti has offered a few links of suggested titles. There are actually quite a few categories, including science, economics, and history/current events. If you’re like me, you need a nonfiction book every few reads to break up the fiction, so this will be a welcome break. And this might actually be the first time I’ve reviewed a nonfiction book for this blog, so that will be an interesting change of pace.

And don’t worry, Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon is still on high on my to-read list. I’ll probably read that next and provide a review before I dive into Yes, Chef at the end of September.

Finally, don’t forget to sign up for the challenge today!