Saturday, January 31, 2015

Writers and Their Readers

A few days ago, I finished reading Veronica Roth's Allegiant, the conclusion to her Divergent trilogy. After I finished it, I wanted to know what other people thought about the ending, since I knew there was controversy surrounding it. I want to talk about the controversy without giving away what happened, so I'll say this: Some people were upset to the point of making death threats. Now, it is possible that the people who said things like, "I've never wanted to do bodily harm to an author before. If I was to see Ms. Roth on the street right this minute, I’d prob punch her in the throat. Really I would" could just be exaggerating. Maybe none of the people who reacted that way or in a similar way actually meant it. Does it make their responses appropriate? I'd have to say no.

It's fine to not like the way Allegiant ended. I hated what Roth did with the characters; I was attached to them and didn't want them to end up where they did. But it's important to note that while I didn't like what happened to the characters, I felt like it was completely true to the story and who the characters were.

What really strikes me with this controversy is the discussion about what responsibility writers have to their readers. In a blog post about Allegiant, Roth said that while writing Allegiant, "I've said before that this ending was always a part of the plan, but one thing I want to make clear is that I didn't choose it to shock anyone, or to upset anyone, or because I’m ruthless with my characters—no, no, no. I may have been ruthless with other characters, in the past, but not with her, never with her. And I wasn't thinking about any readers when I wrote this book; I was thinking about the story, because trying to meet the expectations of so many readers would be paralyzing. There’s no way to please everyone, because that mythical book with the ending that every single person wants can’t exist—you want different things, each one of you. The only thing I can do, in light of that fact, is write an honest story as best I can."

I think that Roth did the right thing in thinking about her story, not her readers, while she was writing Allegiant, because she's right in that you can't create a perfect ending that everyone will be happy with. If she was thinking about her readers, the story could have had a vastly different ending, and I don't think it would been the right one. I disagree with readers who think the ending was unrealistic and/or lazy. I thought the ending was the opposite of lazy; it was very difficult to read, and I imagine that means it was also very difficult to write. More than that, I think it was completely realistic. Tris's and Tobias's actions seemed to be perfectly in line with who they were throughout the series, and if they had acted any differently, then the story would have been unrealistic. Caleb Graves of the blog Bibliofiend said in a post, "There is something that we, as readers, need to remember when we become so attached to books. First off, the author does not owe us anything. It is that author's story, to do with how they see fit - or really, as they see is right for what they are trying to capture with that story. Similarly, readers do not owe authors unlimited devotion. They are free to disagree and even dislike an author's choice."

It's so easy to feel like a book belongs to you after you've read it. I feel that way often, and it's why I sometimes struggle with recommending books to others (my thought process when this happens: that book is mine, and no one else can have it!). I think it's fair to say a novel becomes ours when we read it, and I love what Roth said about it in her blog post about the whole controversy: ""You are allowed—encouraged!— to continue to feel however you want to feel, or think however you want to think, about the ending, no matter what this blog post says. I’m the author, yes, but this book is yours as
well as mine now, and our voices are equal in this conversation."

Roth is right. There isn't always one right way to read a book. Are the people who think Allegiant had a lazy ending that was unrealistic wrong to think that? No. Are the people who think the ending was realistic and satisfying (but devastating) wrong to think that? No. Even when those disagreements happen among readers and authors, there's no right or wrong. Roth can say she ended the book the way she did for certain reasons, and we don't have to agree with what she did. Even though she's the writer, our opinions are not any less valid, and they aren't wrong. That's the beauty of the relationship between writers and readers, but perhaps in some ways, that's the danger of it, too. Being able to disagree is a wonderful thing, but feeling that authors owe us something (or authors feeling that readers owe them something) because we become so attached to their books is not.

Have you read the Divergent series, or kept up with the controversy? If so, tell me your thoughts on it--the books, the controversy, everything!--in the comments below.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Common Core

Forty-three states, the District of Columbia, four territories, and the Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA, a civilian agency of the United States Department of Defense that manages all schools for military children), have adopted the Common Core State Standards. This includes New Mexico - the standards were adopted in 2010 by the New Mexico Public Education Department, with full implementation expected during the current school year.

What are the Common Core standards?  Well, we don't pretend to be experts, but here's what we've read:
The Common Core is a set of high-quality academic standards in mathematics and English language arts/literacy (ELA). These learning goals outline what a student should know and be able to do at the end of each grade. The standards were created to ensure that all students graduate from high school with the skills and knowledge necessary to succeed in college, career, and life, regardless of where they live.
The standards are:
  1. Research and evidence based
  2. Clear, understandable, and consistent
  3. Aligned with college and career expectations
  4. Based on rigorous content and the application of knowledge through higher-order thinking skills
  5. Built upon the strengths and lessons of current state standards
  6. Informed by other top-performing countries to prepare all students for success in our global economy and society
The standards focus on core concepts and procedures starting in the early grades, which gives teachers the time needed to teach them and gives students the time needed to master them.

For grades K-8, grade-by-grade standards exist in English language arts/literacy and mathematics. For grades 9-12, the standards are grouped into grade bands of 9-10 grade standards and 11-12 grade standards.*
The Common Core seeks "that more classroom time and attention be devoted to helping the student to become a well-rounded learner who understands what teachers are asking them to do, can solve the problem and explain how they did it, not just memorize and repeat the answer,"** with an emphasis on the student's listening carefully, being diligent and disciplined, and using creativity. Classroom and state assessments will be similar to what they are now, but the kinds of questions and the forms of student's answers will change, involving much more use of computers and technology, less multiple choice, and class projects may be considered in the assessment. Each state has its own website which provides information about how the standards are being implemented, assessments, supports for teachers, and help for students.

The information provided about the standards can be dense, but there are resources for parents available on both the standards initiative site and the state website.  There are also resources available for checkout from the library catalog: Common Core language arts and math materials and Common Core materials for teachers.


Common Core State Standards Initiative*

New Mexico Common Core State Standards**

Common Core Video FAQ

Everything You Need To Know About the Common Core - Diane Ravitch [Washington Post]

What will sink and what will survive as states test the Common Core? [PBS]

No Common Opinion on the Common Core [Education Next]

Common Core Reading: 'The New Colossus' [NPR, part 1 in a 4-part series]

Common Core, in 9 Year Old Eyes [New York Times]

Monday, January 26, 2015

Healthy Eating = Bacon - Bread?

Believe it or not, one of the topics most discussed by your library professionals in the break room is food.  "What's for dinner?  Are you going to bring me some tomorrow?"  

One trend we've been noticing as people who work in an information environment and as people who love food is the "eating fat is good for you" movement.  Truth be told, this is delicious advice that we don't mind following!  The movement propounds that eating healthy fats (their definition including saturated fats) actually helps your body lose weight and absorb the nutrients in your food.  Recently (June 23 2014, to be exact) there was an article in Time Magazine* entitled "Eat Butter" which goes in to "why scientists were wrong to label fat the enemy."  This dietary viewpoint is reflected in the Paleo and Primal Blueprint approaches, both of which are generally based on what our ancestors probably ate (including, but not limited to, lots of bacon).  Therefore, these two diets eliminate or reduce sugars, processed foods and grains.  Which leads us to...

A related trend that has grabbed our attention: avoiding grains (kissing cousin to the Atkins diet, where phases of eating low carb are the golden ticket to weight loss).  Again, an idea that goes completely against the grain of wide-held opinion (yes, we intended the terrible pun).  This one is not as thrilling for most of us, especially when the grain in question is wheat and we must avoid it completely because of allergies.  But this dietary adjustment promises good for the body as well: weight loss, improved mobility, better brain function, etc.

The reasons that people choose no-grain diets are as varied as the people themselves.  Some folks avoid grains because of the negative way eating them affects their blood sugar and insulin levels, others because they want to manage their weight.  We spoke with somebody recently who said a big reason she no longer consumes wheat is because she was horrified by the research she did on the amount of pesticides that are used on wheat.  For many, avoiding wheat is less of a choice, and is done because of allergy or disease.

We think the hardest part about following these diets is determining the answer to this question:  "What can we eat instead?"  If we choose not to eat processed food, grain, and sugar, what's left?  (And how do we find it?!)  Which is where the related cookbooks come in, of which there are many.  We've compiled some here for you relating to these popular, yet unorthodox trends, but don't forget that we have plenty of books in the library about more conventional diets, as well as cookbooks of all kinds.

Catalog Searches


Primal Blueprint



The Big Fat Surprise: Why Meat, Butter, and Cheese Belong in a Healthy Diet by Nina Teicholz

Eat Fat, Lose Fat: the Healthy Alternative to Trans Fats by Mary Enig and Sally Fallon

Nourishing Traditions the Cookbook That Challenges Politically Correct Nutrition and The Diet Dictocrats by Sally Fallon

Grain Free

Wheat Belly: Lose the Wheat, Lose the Weight and Find Your Path Back to Health by William Davis

Wheat Belly Cookbook: 150 Recipes to Help You Lose the Wheat, Lose the Weight, and Find Your Path Back to Health by William Davis

Grain Brain: The Surprising Truth About Wheat, Carbs, and Sugar--Your Brain's Silent Killers by David Perlmutter MD and Kristin Loberg

The Grain Brain Cookbook: More Than 150 Life-Changing Gluten-Free Recipes to Transform Your Health by David Perlmutter, MD

No-Grain Diet: Conquer Carbohydrate Addiction and Stay Slim for Life by Joseph Mercola 

Related Links
Peruse these sites and articles for unconventional perspectives on food and surrounding issues.

The Weston A. Price Foundation - Consuming animal fats and nutrient dense foods
A Campaign for Real Milk - Drinking raw milk
The No Grain Diet - by Dr Joseph Mercola
The Definitive Guide to Saturated Fat - On Mark's Daily Apple
Paleo Diet 101 - Paleo Magazine
Primal Blueprint 101 - About the Primal lifestyle, a la Mark Sisson

Have you heard of or tried any of these "diets" (we can hardly bring ourselves to call eating a bunch of fat a diet)?  Or, do you have any other interesting dietary habits?  Please share in the comments!

*Don't forget that all of the ABC Library branches have various magazines for checkout.  Search them in the catalog by title to see which branch has the most recent issues.  Usually, the most current issue of a magazine is available only to look at inside of the library, but some branches keep issues on hand for up to two years, and these are available to check out.  We also wanted to mention that with your library card you can access free digital magazines (as many as you want!) from Zinio, which you can check out, download to your device and keep for as long as you want.  Digital magazines are even more fun and addicting than physical copies because they can be interactive - for example they can link to sites as well as show video clips inside of an article.  Check them out and enjoy!

Friday, January 23, 2015

Literary Tourism: Beverly Cleary

Ramona at the Beverly Cleary Sculpture Garden
Children's author Beverly Cleary will turn 99 on April 12! She grew up in Yamhill and Portland, Oregon.  Her books are set in Portland - Henry Huggins and the Quimbys live on Klickitat Street, a few blocks from where Cleary grew up - and though the author no longer resides in Oregon, Portland celebrates her with the elementary school and children's room in the Central Library that bear her name. Visitors to Portland, Oregon have shared with us their trip to the Beverly Cleary Sculpture Garden, right around the corner from Klickitat Street. You can also stop at the Hollywood Library to pick up a map of the Walking With Ramona tour. Multnomah County Library says "Beverly Cleary now resides in California but her influence is always local for us."

Beverly Cleary started writing for children in 1950, and has written more than 20 books with some of children's literature's most memorable characters, and her birthday is celebrated as National Drop Everything And Read Day. If you'd like to learn more about the author, Beverly Cleary has also written 2 memoirs:

Follows the popular children's author from her childhood years in Oregon through high school and into young adulthood, highlighting her family life and her growing interest in writing.

Follows the popular children's author through college years during the Depression; jobs including that of librarian; marriage; and writing and publication of her first book, Henry Huggins.

Gresham Library Ramona Quimby statue, courtesy of Multnomah County Library Flickr


A Beverly Cleary Pilgrimage, From Yamhill to Klickitat Street [The Atlantic]

The Ageless Appeal of Beverly Cleary [New York Times]

12 Charming Tidbits About Beverly Cleary [Mental Floss]

The World of Beverly Cleary

Beverly Cleary - Living Legend

Author Beverly Cleary's childhood home for sale

*book descriptions are taken from the library catalog unless otherwise noted

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

New and Novel: Food Books

Is it too soon? Have you gotten over all the big holiday meals, party food, and snacking yet?  Are you ready to think about food again?  Because it seems to us like there are always noteworthy books about food, cooking, and all things culinary in the library catalog.  Yum! Here some books for foodies that are a little off the beaten path - not just straight-up cookbooks.

Burnt Toast Makes You Sing Good: Recipes and Stories of Love From An American Midwest Family by Kathleen Flinn

Sweet Paul Eat & Make: Charming Recipes + Kitchen Crafts You Will Love by Paul Lowe et al.

Dog-Gone Good Cuisine: More Healthy, Fast, and Easy Recipes For You and Your Pooch by Gayle Pruitt

My Usual Table: A Life in Restaurants by Colman Andrews

The Food Section: Newspaper Women and the Culinary Community by Kimberly Wilmot Voss

A Mouthful of Stars: A Constellation of Favorite Recipes From My World Travels by Kim Sunée

Minding the Manor: The Memoir of a 1930s English Kitchen Maid by Mollie Moran

The Bloomsbury Cookbook: Recipes for Life, Love and Art by Jans Ondaatje Rolls

The Soda Fountain: Floats, Sundaes, Egg Creams & More -- Flavors and Traditions of an American Original by Gia Giasullo and Peter Freeman

Mallmann on Fire by Francis Mallmann with Peter Kaminsky and Donna Gelb  

Also, have you checked out The Mind of Chef series on DVD? This series explores the kitchen, world, and mind of renowned chefs. The catalog now features Seasons 1-3, with chefs such as Sean Brock [Heritage], Edward Lee [Smoke and Pickles: Recipes and Stories From a New Southern Kitchen], and April Bloomfield.


Saturday, January 17, 2015

When a critically acclaimed book isn't that good

Last year, a young adult novel called Anatomy of a Misfit came out, and everyone was talking about it. It was all over book blogs, it received a starred review from Publishers Weekly, and in general, people were very excited about it and talked about what an amazing book it was. One of my co-workers read the book and greatly disliked it. Still, I wanted to read it, since it was so highly spoken of, and because my co-worker and I sometimes have different reading tastes. I was expecting to love Anatomy of a Misfit; however, I was very disappointed by it.

When I finished reading it, I wanted to know if anyone else felt the same way I did, so I started reading Goodreads reviews of the book. Many people mentioned the following:

  • All the characters are stereotypes.
  • The language is offensive (for multiple reasons, including swearing).
  • The narrator was unlikable.
  • The book was not well-written.
  • The book tried to make a point, but missed the mark.
I found myself agreeing with what the negative reviews were saying, because the thoughts expressed in those reviews were exactly the thoughts I had while reading. Since so many people loved the book, though, I thought I'd also read some positive reviews, and one in particular stood out to me because of this: "This is not a book for everybody. This is not a book you will enjoy if slurs and slut-shaming ruin a book for you. To love this book, you need to be the type who can read a book about people as they are and not as you want them to be."

It's an interesting point, and I think a good one. There is much to be said about unlikable characters: they exist, and that's not always a bad thing. Some of my favorite books have unlikable characters, and I do enjoy reading books about people as they are: flawed and messy.

But what happens when a book shows characters as they are, not as we want them to be, and it's not a good depiction of people? For me, there's a difference between having a character who is unlikable, who is flawed to the point where I can't stand them, and having a character who is unlikable because that character is a stereotype. It's something I've been thinking about ever since I read Anatomy of a Misfit and the Goodreads reviews of it. It's important to have characters who are unlikable as much as it's important to have characters who are likable, but I think what's most important is having characters who are realistic and that readers can relate to. For me, this is where Anatomy of a Misfit misses the mark. Instead of having authentic characters, the characters were caricatures of themselves.

What I struggle with now is how to understand how and why this book has resonated with so many people. I'm not sure I'll ever be able to figure it out--all the five star ratings it's getting baffle me. As a librarian, though, I think it's important for me to at least try to figure it out, because something about this book appeals to a lot of people, and knowing why will help me be a better librarian, and, perhaps, a better reader.

Have any of you experienced a similar situation? If so, let me know in the comments!

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Vivian Maier

Vivian Maier (1926-2009) is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma. She began taking photographs in 1949, but rather than trying to parlay her skill into a career in photography, she became a nanny in the 1950s, first in New York and then in Chicago, her chosen profession for about 40 years.  Maier continued to photograph street scenes, self-portraits, and more (her collected works number over 150,000), often dragging the children in her care with her as she sought out new spots to take pictures. Financial problems in the early 1970s left her unable to develop her own film, and she gave up photography altogether sometime in the late 1990s. By this time she had amassed a huge collection of photographs and undeveloped film which she kept in storage as she veered between homelessness and living in a studio apartment provided by her former charges. In 2007, one of her storage lockers was auctioned off for delinquent payments, and many of her negatives were bought by John Maloof, a Chicago historian and collector, who brought her photographs to light. Sadly, Maloof was only able to track down Meier after her obituary was published.

Find out more about this elusive artist with items from our catalog!

Finding Vivian Maier [DVD]

Vivian Maier: Out of the Shadows by Richard Cahan, Michael Williams

Vivian Maier: Street Photographer edited by John Maloof

Eye to Eye: Photographs by Vivian Maier by Richard Cahan


Vivian Maier Photographer

Finding Vivian Maier

Vivian Maier's Chicago

The Heir's Not Apparent: A Legal Battle Over Vivian Maier's Work [New York Times]

Vivian Maier and the Problem of Difficult Women [New Yorker]

Monday, January 12, 2015

Best Books of 2014

We compiled 18 lists* to bring you the best books of 2014.
10 Votes
The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell

9 Votes

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

8 Votes
Euphoria by Lily King

Lila By Marilynne Robinson

The Paying Guests by Sara Waters

Redeployment by Phil Klay

7 Votes
Boy, Snow, Bird by Helen Oyeyemi

The Empathy Exams by Leslie Jamison

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

6 Votes

All Our Names by Dinaw Mengestu

Family Life by Akhil Sharma

The Martian by Andy Weir

The Sixth Extinction by Elizabeth Kolbert

5 Votes
Bark: Stories by Lorrie Moore

The Blazing World by Siri Hustvedt

The Book of Unknown Americans by Cristina Henriquez

Nora Webster by Colm Tóibín

4 Votes

Dept. of Speculation by Jenny Offill

Deep Down Dark by Hector Tobar

3 Votes
The Magician's Land by Lev Grossman

Song of the Shank by Jeffery Renard Allen

Being Mortal by Atul Gawande

On Immunity by Eula Biss

Little Failure by Gary Shtenygart

My Life in Middlemarch by Rebecca Mead

A printable version of the entire list can be found here.

Amazon, Brainpickings, Bookbub, Bookpage, Bustle, Buzzfeed, Flavorwire, Hudson Booksellers, Huffington Post, Kirkus Reviews, Library Journal, New York Times, Publisher’s Weekly, Real Simple, Salon, Slate, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Lessons From the Dead: Funeral Practices and Forensic Science

I do not fear death. I had been dead for billions and billions of years before I was born, and had not suffered the slightest inconvenience from it.
~Mark Twain

We first heard of Caitlin Doughty through her webseries "Ask a Mortician", which answers questions about pet death, Viking funerals, traditional or natural burials, and more - everything about a mortician's trade you might be curious about, but afraid to ask, presented in a fashion that might just make you laugh out loud. Her new book, Smoke Gets In Your Eyes, is a New York Times Bestseller. As Doughty says, "Accepting your own mortality is like eating your vegetables: You may not want to do it, but it's good for you."*

We've written on abcreads before about mortality, but we thought now might be a good time to revisit the topic. For the mystery buffs, we've included a section about forensic science.

Funeral Practices

Smoke Gets In Your Eyes: And Other Lessons From the Crematory by Caitlin Doughty

Freezing People Is (Not) Easy: My Adventures in Cryonics by Bob Nelson, with Kenneth Bly and Sally Magaña, PhD

Forensic Science

Working Stiff: Two Years, 262 Bodies, and the Making of a Medical Examiner by Judy Melinek, MD and T.J. Mitchell

Careless People: Murder, Mayhem, and the Invention of the Great Gatsby by Sarah Churchwell

Silent Witnesses: The Often Gruesome But Always Fascinating History of Forensic Science by Nigel McCrery

Murder on the Home Front: A True Story of Morgues, Murderers, and Mysteries During the London Blitz by Molly Lefebure

The Poisoner's Handbook: Killer Chemistry [DVD]

Bosnia's Million Bones: Solving the World's Greatest Forensic Puzzle by Christian Jennings.

The Inheritor's Powder: A Tale of Arsenic, Murder, and the New Forensic Science by Sandra Hempel


11 fascinating funeral traditions from around the globe [TEDBlog]

12 Strange Funerals and Funeral Traditions [Mental Floss]

What Do Forensic Scientists Do? [American Academy of Forensic Sciences]

Occupational Outlook Handbook: Forensic Science Technicians [U.S. Department of Labor]

The CSI Effect [The New Yorker]

A Cheerful Mortician Tackles the Lighter Side of Death [NPR]*

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Featured Author: Stella Rimington

Stella Rimington's Liz Carlyle series is a notable entry in the spy thriller subgenre.  Firstly, her heroine is a female MI5 intelligence officer - not too many female spies getting their own series! Secondly, the author is unequivocally qualified to write these novels as the former Director-General of M15. Rimington worked her way up to this this position, beginning her tenure with the security service in 1967 and working in all three branches, counter espionage, counter subversion, and counter terrorism, before being promoted to Deputy Director-General in 1990 and then to Director-General shortly thereafter.  She was the first female to become Director-General and the first Director-General to be publicly identified, with her picture published in a 1993 booklet called The Security Service. This booklet was part of a campaign Rimington herself " improve the openness of the Service and increase public transparency" [Wikipedia].

Liz Carlyle is a young, hip 34-year-old intelligence officer navigating life as an agent-runner in the counter-espionage division and in a male-dominated agency. Liz's missions delve into murky plots involving Afghani terrorists, the IRA, attempted assassinations of  Russian diplomats, Middle East peace talks, Somali pirates and beyond, all told in the thorough, densely plotted manner of John le Carré. Read Liz Carlyle's team file on Stella Rimington's website!

Read titles from this series (in order of publication) in the library catalog:

Also consider watching the British TV show MI-5, several seasons of which are in the library catalog.


Blowback by Valerie Plame

Castro's Daughter by David Hagberg

The Cutout by Francine Mathews

The Athena Project by Brad Thor

Bloodmoney by David Ignatius

Death Echo by Elizabeth Lowell

A Gentleman's Game by Greg Rucka

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Best Young Adult Books of 2014

2014 has ended, and people have started making their top ten lists for a variety of topics: the top ten best books they've read this year, the top ten best songs of the year, and the top ten worst songs of the year, just to name a few. One of my favorite lists is the End of the Year Book Survey, hosted by Jamie at The Perpetual Page-Turner. While I'm not going to do her survey, I've been thinking a lot about the best books I read in 2014, and that's what this post is about. The best books I read last year aren't limited to books that were published in 2014, though most of them did come out last year. My list also doesn't include books that I had re-read in 2014.

It's not easy to say what makes a book so amazing that it's one of the best books you've read. Looking at my Goodreads account, I gave 38 books five star ratings last year, but I realized that I don't actually remember a whole lot about most of those books. A handful of them did stand out, though, and those are the books I've picked as the best books I read.

Prisoner of Night and Fog, by Anne Blankman. Prisoner of Night and Fog is terrifying, but not in the typical sense. It's not a horror story; it's historical fiction. But because it's about a girl whose family is close friends with Adolf Hitler, it's terrifying, particularly when that girl realizes what Hitler's beliefs truly are.

Love Letters to the Dead, by Ava Dellaira. Dellaira is from Albuquerque, and the book is set in Albuquerque. I loved every word of it, and because of the connection to Albuquerque, I recommended it to everyone I possibly could.

Of Metal and Wishes, by Sarah Fine. I like retellings, and going into the book, I wasn't quite sure what to expect. I definitely didn't think I would enjoy it as much as I did. What I loved the most was the combination of a Phantom of the Opera retelling set in a meat-packing industry, inspired by The Jungle. It sounds like a strange combination, but the setting lent itself perfectly to the story.

Blood of My Blood, by Barry Lyga. I knew I was going to love it, since it's the last book in the I Hunt Killers trilogy, which is one of my favorite trilogies. What I wasn't expecting was for Lyga to take the story where he did, and even though it was disturbing, it also had a wow-factor that worked perfectly.

I'll Give You the Sun, by Jandy Nelson. Nelson's first book, The Sky is Everywhere, was published in 2010. I wasn't sure if Nelson would publish another book, but then I heard about I'll Give You the Sun, and I knew I had to read it. Four years is a long time to wait for an author's second book, but in this case, the wait was well-worth it. I'll Give You the Sun was so much more than I thought it would be. It was family and heartbreak and romance and love and self-discovery. It was beautiful and sad and hopeful. I'll Give You the Sun is the type of book that you will be fully immersed in, from beginning to end.

The Beginning of Everything, by Robyn Schneider. I read it while I was on vacation, and after I finished it, it took me a good day before I could even start another book. The Beginning of Everything has one of the best opening chapters I've read. The book made me rethink so many things and gave me a new perspective on my life.

Dreams of Gods and Monsters, by Laini Taylor. It might be a cliche to call this book a stunning conclusion to a trilogy, but really, it was. The more I read, the less I wanted it to end, because I knew the ending was going to break my heart.

What were the best books you read this year? Let us know in the comments!

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Proust Questionnaire

A page from a confession album

Happy New Year! It's that time of year when everyone takes stock of their lives and resolves to make changes, right? So, a perfect time of year to talk about a personality quiz, or, at least, personal confessions.

Personality quizzes seem to be ubiquitous these days - at least, we can't seem to log into Facebook without seeing that someone's found out "What Is Your '70s Anthem?" or "How Spiritual Are You As a Human Being?" or "What Color Should You Die Your Hair According to Your Personality?" - but they are hardly a new idea. According to Wikipedia, personality testing was developed in the 1920s and "intended to ease the process of personnel selection".  Probably the most famous personality test of this type is the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. But questionnaires that asked people for "confessions" or "confidences" have been around much longer than that!

Remember autograph albums, wherein one collected signatures of family, friends, and the famous? Well, in late 19th century Britain, "confession albums" were popular - only, instead of having blank pages to fill, their pages were filled with a series of questions which you answered.  Those same kinds of questions are still around in the form of the "Proust Questionnaire", which is often used for celebrity interviews.

We first discovered the Proust Questionnaire in the pages of Vanity Fair magazine, where a version of it appears monthly. It poses questions to celebrities - including John Malkovich, David Hockney, Donatella Versace, Danielle Steel, and Terry Gross - such as:
  • What is your chief characteristic?
  • What is your main fault?
  • What is your idea of happiness?
  • Who are your heroes in real life?
Are you intrigued?  Looking to learn more about your personality or see how your answers compare to others'? You can take the Proust Questionnaire yourself - in the "links" section, there is a link to an interactive version - or just peruse some of the library catalog's offerings on personality assessment, listed below.

Who Are You Meant To Be?: A Groundbreaking Step-by-Step Process For Discovering and Fulfilling Your True Potential by Anne Dranitsaris, PhD & Heather Dranitsaris-Hilliard

Better Than Normal: How What Makes You Different Can Make You Exceptional by Dale Archer

Personality Power: Discover Your Unique Profile, and Unlock Your Potential For Breakthrough Success by Shoya Zichy [eBook]

The Complete Personality Assessment: Psychometric Tests to Reveal Your True Potential by Jim Barrett and Hugh Green  [eBook]

Why Him? Why Her?: Finding Real Love By Understanding Your Personality Type by Helen Fisher

How Do You Compare?: 12 Simple Tests to Discover Hidden Truths About Your Personality and Fascinating Facts About Everyone Else! by Andrew N. Williams

Do You Know the Real You?: More Than 66 Ways to Understand Your Personality by Claire Gordon

The Birth Order Book of Love: How The #1 Personality Predictor Can Help You Find "The One" by William Cane

Do What You Are: Discover the Perfect Career For You Through the Secrets of Personality Type by Paul D. Tieger and Barbara Barron

What Color Is Your Slipcover?: How Discovering Your Design Personality Can Help You Create the Home of Your Dreams by Denny Daikeler  


Proust Questionnaire [Wikipedia]

Confession Album [Wikipedia]

Interactive Proust Questionnaire [Vanity Fair]

Celebrities' Answers to the Proust Questionnaire [Vanity Fair]