Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Help Yourself to Some Self-Help: Part 3

As I continue writing these posts, I have been thinking about how different books will speak to different people because we are each so unique - not only in who we are, but in the various problems we have picked up from past experiences, our current phase of life, etc.  The parent of a young child might really need some parenting self help, but before their child was born, maybe they gobbled up books about confidence or career.  Wherever you are, I hope that introducing you to these three books about healthy relationships and the ones before will spark inspiration and hope in your life one way or another. 

Boundaries: When to Say Yes How to Say No To Take Control of Your Life by Henry Cloud and John Townsend
This is the second book (of many that I love) which I've listed by Cloud and Townsend, and it has become a reference book in my household.  In my mind, it is the definitive guide to healthy interaction with the outside world.  And you know those interactions that you walk away from feeling yucky but you can't put your finger on why?  This book clarifies and lays out the solutions for those types of situations.  Basically, Boundaries teaches how to take responsibility for yourself and let others take responsibility for themselves, complete with examples for how that looks in action.  This might be my favorite book of all the ones I've recommended so far because it is so fundamental and incredibly practical.  Again, Cloud and Townsend come from a biblical standpoint, and again, the principles can be applied universally.

Friendships Don't Just Happen!: The Guide to Creating a Meaningful Circle of Girlfriends by Shasta Nelson
My favorite aspect of this book is that it puts into words the principles that most of us know intuitively about friendships but haven't explicitly heard before.  One epiphany for me was that there are different roles for different types of friendships.  Some friends are valuable as contacts, but you won't necessarily have a deepening relationship with them, while there are a select few who will become your best friends for life - and then there are those that fall between.  Reading this book inspired me toward cultivating old and new friendships, and certainly didn't leave me without the tools to do so more successfully than before.  This one is for women, but the author advocates the importance of close male relationships, and men could benefit from the information as well.  However, they might prefer a female friend to share the information rather than doing the reading themselves... this book is pretty touchy-feely!  

Love & Respect: The Respect He Desperately Needs by Emerson Eggerichs
This book was a paradigm shift for me!  Based on the Bible verse Ephesians 5:33, it is for both husbands and wives, but in my mind, the focus is really on what respect is, and how wives can shift from speaking the language of love to that of respect for their husbands.  Reading this book feels like getting inside the head of my husband and finally understanding where he is coming from when he reacts to my disrespectful behavior - which, magically, I can now identify!  This is a great companion to How to Improve Your Marriage Without Talking About It, which I wrote about in part 1, because you can combine the knowledge of Love & Respect with the practical approaches of How to Improve Your Marriage Without Talking About It and avoid twice as many scuffles with your spouse.  If you were sitting across from me and telling me how you don't understand your husband (or wife), or about the problems you've been dealing with, I would say "Trust me.  Read these two books.  Just do it."

This sums up my posts about self-help!  As I finished up adding in links to the catalog, it occurred to me that these books I've been sharing are not technically self-help, but more along the lines of "relationships" or "personal growth."  Looking at their catalog records and back covers, I found that this was pretty much true!  So if you hate the idea of self-help (and if you are crazy enough to have read three posts about it), then rest easy - we can call it something else.  Whatever you call it, I'd love - as always - to hear your favorites and/or the most useless books you've read in your personal growth reading adventures.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Banned Books Week: Youth Books and Diversity

Banned Books Week is upon us, and this year's theme is young adult fiction. Before I delve into this topic, I'd like to share the difference between challenged books and banned books, which is explained on the American Library Association's website for banned books: "A challenge is an attempt to remove or restrict materials, based upon the objections of a person or group. A banning is the removal of those materials."

I thought I'd take a deeper look at challenged young adult books, since many people are finding that challenged young adult books are correlated to diverse young adult books. Malinda Lo, author of Adaptation, Ash, Huntress, and Inheritance, wrote a post for Diversity in YA where she talks about the research she did and statistics she compiled in regard to challenged young adult books and diversity.

There is much to be said about what Malinda Lo has found. I had never considered that books that are challenged are the books that include diversity, and while this isn't always true, it's certainly something to think about. Mostly, I'm thinking about it in terms of how does it make me feel to know that books that are rich in diversity, such as The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie, are also frequently challenged? Given my interest in seeing more diversity in youth literature, it upsets me to see those books challenged, but then, it upsets me to see any book challenged, regardless of the presence of diversity or the reason for the challenge.

Diversity is so important because, as many authors, librarians, and readers have pointed out, people need to see themselves represented in books. It's also important because studies have shown that reading fiction can lead to an increase in empathy. If that's the case, then having diversity in youth fiction is good, as it'll increase the empathy youth have for others, and of course, for the adults who read youth fiction, it can increase our empathy, as well.

Here's another reason why diverse books are good: Yes, young adult fiction can touch on topics that might be uncomfortable. Youth literature in general can do that. But it's important that they do, not only because it lets people see themselves reflected in books and because it can increase empathy, but also because they can inspire families to start conversations about those topics.

To celebrate diversity in young adult fiction, and also to celebrate those diverse books that have been challenged, here's a list of some of my favorite YA novels that have been challenged, with the aspect of diversity they include in parentheses. (Note: While many people talk about diversity in terms of ethnicity, LGBTQ themes, mental illness, and disability, I also talk about it in terms of socioeconomic status, which I've included in my list.)

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie (ethnicity)
Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson (mental illness)
The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily M. Danforth (sexual orientation)
The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton (socioeconomic status)
Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan (sexual orientation)

How will you be celebrating Banned Books Week this year?

Thursday, September 24, 2015

The Secret Lives of Teachers

Teachers. What is going on in their heads? What do they do outside of the classroom? Why did they choose this profession? How do they persevere, year after year? What brings them joy and satisfaction? How do they work with recalcitrant students, helicopter parents, and dysfunctional administrations and still get the job done? Let's try to imagine what they're up against, through the following titles, brought to you by ABC Library. 

The Hour I First Believed by Wally Lamb

The Abstinence Teacher, Nine Inches: Stories, and Election by Tom Perrota

The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark 

Teacher Man: A Memoir by Frank McCourt

What Was She Thinking?: Notes On a Scandal by Zoe Heller

Murder Is Academic: A Cambridge Mystery by Christine Poulson

The Professor and Villette by Charlotte Bronte

The Book Borrower by Alice Mattison

The Bronte Project: A Novel of Passion, Desire and Good PR by Jennifer Vandever

Children and Fire by Ursula Hegi

Christy by Catherine Marshall

Claire and Present Danger by Gillian Roberts

Why Do Only White People Get Abducted by Aliens?: Teaching Lessons From the Bronx by Ilana Garon 

All Saints by Liam Callanan

The Blazing World by Siri Hustvedt

The English Major by Jim Harrison

The Finkler Question by Howard Jacobson

In Paradise by Peter Matthiessen

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Help Yourself to Some Self-Help: Part 2

Last week, I shared a few books related to negative emotions. I don't want to lump this week's trio into a category that doesn't fit all of them just to have a category, but they do all touch on personality or personal development.  I am less familiar with the works of Tieger, Barron, and Leman on the whole than I am with the previous three books and today's by Cloud and Townsend, but I'm sure I will be exposing myself to more of their material because these that I started out with were fascinating! 

Do What You Are by Paul Tieger and Barbara Barron
This book originally caught my eye as I was checking it in from the book drop because I am fascinated by all sorts of personality typing tools.  This one just so happened to be about applying Meyers-Briggs based personality types to work and career issues, whether in hunting for a new path or in growing where you are planted. This is not one of those books that pats you on the head and says, "Here is your personality type and here is a list of jobs you would definitely be great at.  Ok, go!"  It delves incredibly in-depth into each aspect of personality type and why certain ways of working (environment, pace, teamwork, etc) appeal to certain types, and so much more.  The self-understanding that the material brought to me has given me a priceless amount of peace and armed me with knowledge for living my work the best way I can.  It's also helpful for understanding and working well with coworkers!

How People Grow by Cloud and Townsend 
Written by my two favorite Christian psychologists and businessmen, this book looks at what precisely is necessary for personal growth to occur.  What do some people have that others don't that causes them to change for the better as they age instead of staying immature?  If I'm one of those people who doesn't have the ingredients for growth, how can I go about getting them?  This book lays out the principles of growth so clearly and with such practical insight that it would be hard to walk away from it unchanged.  Although it does begin from the premise that the reader is a Christian, non-Christian readers who are open to it will find plenty of life-healing information that can be applied across the board, including in dealing with suffering and grief, becoming disciplined, and having healthy relationships.  

The Birth Order Book by Dr Kevin Leman
Maybe you are with me when I say I had no idea of how much the order we were born in compared to our siblings (or whether we are an only child) affects each of us.  There is not 100% consensus that birth order shapes our personalities in our formative years any more than other factors.  Nevertheless, I found that Leman's book made a lot of sense and gave me an intriguing lens with which to view people.  So much so, that I often apply what I learned to my friend's and family's quirks - which I find helps me to enjoy and appreciate them more and relate to them on a deeper level.  This book is definitely a light and entertaining read as far as self-help goes.

Do any of you readers know of other good books about personal growth and/or personality? 

Saturday, September 19, 2015

September Is Library Card Sign-Up Month.

Now its even easier to get a free ABC Library card. You can apply in person or complete an online application. If you want to apply in person, you can print out the application, fill it out, and bring it to any ABC Library branch.

If you choose to go with an online application, it will expire within 21 days if it isn't completed in person at a library branch. Be sure to bring your current photo I.D. and proof of your mailing address.

When you complete your application in person, you will receive your library card. You can then check out books, DVDs, music CDs, magazines, cake pans, and access eResources, devices, and eBooks.  

The Library: An Illustrated History by Stuart A.P. Murray

Library: An Unquiet History by Matthew Battles    

The Meaning Of the Library: A Cultural History edited by Alice Crawford

The Public Library: A Photographic Essay edited by Robert Dawson

The Long Overdue Library Book: Stories Librarians Tell Each Other by Sandy Bradley and Elsa Pendleton

The Library At Night by Alberto Manguel

Dewey: The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World by Vicki Myron

The Librarian of Basra: A True Story From Iraq written and illustrated by Jeanette Winter

The World's Strongest Librarian: A Memoir of Tourette's, Faith, Strength, and the Power of Family by Joshua Hanagarne                                      

Thursday, September 17, 2015

New & Novel: Sustainability

Multi-ethnic girls holding green balloons. [Photography]. Retrieved from Encyclopædia Britannica ImageQuest.

The Denver Post, meanwhile, notes that hundreds of gallons of toxic water are still leaking every minute from other abandoned mines in the mountains. “These mines are draining as we speak,” Bruce Stover, director of Colorado’s abandoned mines reclamation programme, told the paper. “We had a disaster last week – a surging amount of water coming out. That same amount of water is coming out over six months and harming the Animas. That water is coming out 24/7.”
~David Usborne, "Animas pollution: The toxic orange river that America cannot ignore", The Independent

The recent Gold King Mine disaster and the U.S. government's decision to allow Royal Dutch Shell to drill for oil and natural gas in the Arctic Ocean has got us thinking about environmental issues and sustainability. We all know the catchphrases - Reduce, Reuse, Recycle! Upcycling! Freecycling! Green living! Carbon footprint! - but how much do we know about the many issues affecting our world today?

There's garbage - as the website Rotten Truth (About Garbage), on-line exhibition created by the ASTC and the Smithsonian Institution's Traveling Exhibition Service, says, "Throwing out garbage, putting it by the curb, taking it to the dump -- try as we might, we can never really make garbage disappear. When we throw garbage 'away,' it just goes somewhere else." There's plastic in our oceans, too, combining with the garbage to form The Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Water shortages, over-fished oceans, pollution, global warming, deforestation, overpopulation, species going extinct - there's a lot of things to think about, let alone measures we could put into practice (carbon offsetting, going vegan, greywater reuse, planting bee-friendly flowers in your yard). Sometimes it's hard to know what to do - we like wind power, one of the cleanest and most sustainable ways to generate electricity, but it is not without negative impact on wildlife, for instance.

We've compiled a list of some of the library catalog's most recent sustainability reads for adults and youth, covering a variety of environmental issues. We figure, forewarned is forearmed.  Or, as journalist Martha Gellhorn once said, "Citizenship is a tough occupation which obliges the citizen to make his own informed opinion and stand by it."

For Adult Readers

A Buzz in the Meadow: The Natural History of a French Farm by Dave Goulson

After Preservation: Saving American Nature in the Age of Humans edited by Ben A. Minteer & Stephen J. Pyne

A Man Apart: Bill Coperthwaite's Radical Experiment in Living by Peter Forbes and Helen Whybrow

Rust: The Longest War by Jonathan Waldman   

The Triumph of Seeds: How Grains, Nuts, Kernels, Pulses, and Pips, Conquered the Plant Kingdom and Shaped Human History by Thor Hanson

The Water-Wise Home: How to Conserve, Capture, and Reuse Water in Your Home and Landscape by Laura Allen  

The Human Age: The World Shaped By Us by Diane Ackerman [audiobook]

The Hunt for the Golden Mole: All Creatures Great and Small and Why They Matter by Richard Girling

Gotham Unbound: The Ecological History of Greater New York by Ted Steinberg

Adventures in the Anthropocene: A Journey to the Heart of the Planet We Made by Gaia Vince

The Boom: How Fracking Ignited the American Energy Revolution and Changed the World by Russell Gold

The People's Republic of Chemicals by William J. Kelly and Chip Jacobs

Poison Spring: The Secret History of Pollution and the EPA by E.G. Vallianatos with McKay Jenkins      

Your Water Footprint: The Shocking Facts About How Much Water We Use to Make Everyday Products by Stephen Leahy 

For Kids & Teens

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Help Yourself to Some Self-Help: Part 1

Because my degree revolved around interpersonal issues, I love self help books.  Any book that helps me to better understand myself or loved ones enthralls me.  I thought I would share with you some of my favorites in a multi-part post (look for more later!).  These three that I'll share today have in common an offering of positive, powerful solutions for dealing with negative emotions, as well as my respect for each of the amazing authors and their research. 

I know a book has helped me if I find myself returning to it over and over - usually a direct result of the amount of practical information inside - and this is one that I have read a few times and will read again.  Obviously, this book is intended for married couples.  However, I could see it applying easily to any male-female committed relationship, whether in turmoil or not.  It gave me powerful insight into how emotionally-charged misunderstandings can crop up based on issues not even related to the conflict at hand.  More specifically, the different ways men and women tend to process similar information, their respective sensitivities, where those tendencies come from, and better ways of handling the conflict that so often arises from all of the above.

This is a newer book that I know I will come back to again and again.  It, too, goes back to the root of many problems that we have in common as humans.  I love that Breggin takes apart each emotion - guilt, shame, and anxiety - to make a helpful framework of them from childhood (and evolution, which I had to skim over and/or mentally convert into creationism to get through).  He creates that foundation of understanding and then goes on to show how we can choose to overcome negative emotions through relationship and love rather than medication and "numbing" - both of which Breggin shows to be quite harmful.  I found Guilt, Shame and Anxiety very compelling and motivating, and highly recommend it for anyone who wants to better relate to themselves and others.

This one is definitely more well known, although harder to describe because of its totally unique subject matter.  Brown draws from her research on shame to distill ten "guideposts" for an authentic, shame-resilient life.  Epiphanies for me included that play and rest are vital, and that actually regularly using one's own creativity is essential to living an authentic (and therefore much happier, healthier) life.  A fascinating and extremely practical read that I would recommend to anybody pursuing more self-awareness and peace.

I'd love to hear of your own favorites in the comments - any life changing self help out there?  Also, if you've read any of these already, it would be great to hear what you thought.  One of our favorite things as library professionals is discussing books with people!

Saturday, September 12, 2015

24 Books Everyone Should Read

Lately, it seems like I can't go online without coming across a list of the x number of books everyone should read. Sometimes the lists really are for everyone; other times, they're just for women, and yet other times, they're for women in a certain age range. I've even stumbled across some that are geared toward people of a specific ethnicity.

A lot of the times, I don't agree with what books make these lists, so I thought I would make my own, with the help of a colleague. It's a mix of young adult fiction, adult fiction, and adult non-fiction. Some of the books might appear on other lists you can find online, but I wanted to make my ideal list.  It would take too long to write an explanation for each book on the list, so I've only written explanations for some of them.

Here's the list, in no particular order.

Black Hawk Down by Mark Bowden
Splitting an Order by Ted Kooser
Some of Tim's Stories by S.E. Hinton
Hawke's Harbor S.E. Hinton

S.E. Hinton is best-known for her young adult novel, The Outsiders, but there's something to be said about her adult fiction, too. I'm convinced that most people don't even know that she's written adult fiction. Hawke's Harbor is about a vampire (if you're not a fan of Twilight, don't worry--Hawke's Harbor is nothing like it), and the story is haunting. Some of Tim's Stories is a book of short stories, and I love that not only did Hinton move away from young adult fiction, she also wrote a different format.

The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger

My colleague picked this one because it's amazing and because she likes the way Niffenegger wrote it.

Columbine by Dave Cullen

And the Sea Will Tell by Vincent Bugliosi (not pictured)
Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner
Haiku: This Other World by Richard Wright

I stumbled across this book several years ago by accident. I was looking for a different poetry book, but when I saw Wright's book, I was surprised that the author of Black Boy and Native Son was also a poet.

Jesus's Son by Denis Johnson
A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers

Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris
Leverage by Joshua Cohen
Lovely, Dark, and Deep by Amy McNamara
The Long Walk by Stephen King (writing as Richard Bachman)

Before there was The Hunger Games, there was The Long Walk. I've always loved Stephen King's novels, and this is no exception. He is a master at writing dystopian fiction.

The Beginning of Everything by Robyn Schneider
The Happiness Project: Or, Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun by Gretchen Rubin

I'll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson

The Jasper Dent trilogy by Barry Lyga (I Hunt Killers, Game, and Blood of My Blood)

All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven
The Last Time We Say Goodbye by Cynthia Hand

Suicide has been a big trend this year in young adult fiction. All the Bright Places and The Last Time We Say Goodbye are the two best novels I've read that deal with this topic.

Old Friend From Far Away by Natalie Goldberg

A lot of people talk about Stephen King's On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft when they talk about writing guides, and while I love King's book, I also love Old Friend From Far Away. It's probably not a well-known Natalie Goldberg book; people tend to talk about Writing Down the Bones (also by Goldberg) the most. What I love about Old Friend From Far Away is that even though it's geared toward writing memoir, it can also be used for writing fiction and poetry. As a bonus, the sections are short, and don't have to be read in order, so for writing exercises, it's great.

In One Person by John Irving

What books are on your list of books you think everyone should read?

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Off the Derech

For memoir lovers, there is yet another genre to enjoy: Ex-Frum Memoirs. A wave of ex-Hasidic writers have emerged to share their personal stories of life after leaving the insular world of Hasidism. For members leaving these communities, the challenges include insufficient education, language barriers, and crushing custody and divorce battles.

The first memoir I was introduced to was Leah Vincent's memoir, Cut Me Loose: Sin and Salvation After My Ultra-Orthodox Girlhood. This riveting memoir was impossible to put down, so I simply gave up and read it in a single sitting. Vincent details her life as a rabbi's daughter in the ultra-Orthodox Yeshivish community and the events that propelled her into the secular world, where she pursued a master's degree at Harvard. Vincent doesn't shirk from sharing her family's heartless rejection, the following years of isolation, and psychological torment that included self-injury and sexual exploitation . However, this is also a testament of perseverance and realness, when conformity isn't an option. Leah Vincent also became a member and board member of the non-profit Footsteps, a non-profit dedicated to helping men and women "Step Off the Derech" (path). 

The next set of compelling memoirs I discovered were Deborah Feldman's memoirs. Feldman was raised by her grandparents in the Satmar Hasidic dynasty, after her mother left and her disabled father was unable to care for her. Feldman poignantly conveys her sense of isolation and longing through her reminiscences of childhood literature, the reading of which was a borderline subversive act in her community. The breaking point for Feldman came in an arranged marriage and a tightening vise of expectations and restrictions. Following the birth of her son, Feldman courageously left her community with her son and managed to do something that most women in her position are unable to do; retain custody of her child and obtain a divorce. Unorthodox: The Scandalous Rejection Of My Hasidic Roots, details her self-actualization through education, free-thinking, and the chutzpah to be herself. Her follow up memoir Exodus, is a refreshing and liberating reading experience that allows us to follow her on a pilgrimage of self-discovery and travels through Europe, where she pays homage to her beloved grandmother by visiting her village in rural Hungary. 

Shulem Deen is the founder and editor of the blog Unpious, and author of the outstanding memoir, All Who Go Do Not Return, a revelation about the particular heartbreaks a man can face in the Skverer sect, where his roles as husband and father were usurped, due to his intellectual curiosity and questioning that branded him an apostate. Deen's first so-called transgressions came merely from listening to the radio, visiting a public library, reading encyclopedias and then bringing a computer and TV into his home. Deen's excerpt of his book in Salon.com "This Is How Lost My Faith: Science Helped, Yes - But Finally I Accepted the Holy Texts Were Written by Man" sums up his experience as a non-believer, who has to honor his authentic self and embark on a new path, gathering new found values along the way.

Shalom Auslander is a remarkable essayist and his fiction is bitingly funny. His memoir Foreskin's Lament recounts his rebellious upbringing in an ultra-Orthodox, exceedingly dysfunctional family. Auslander's anxious childhood concept of G-d is a temperamental, smiting, and adversarial entity. His humor is reminiscent of David Sedaris, but infused with a blistering sarcasm that readers can live vicariously through. His short stories Beware of God and novel, Hope: A Tragedy is like enjoying Woody Allen's short stories with an even sharper edge.

More books about Hasidism:

Here and There: Leaving Hasidism, Keeping My Family by Chaya Deitsch

The Religious Thought of Hasidism:Text and Commentary translated and edited by Norman Lamm