Apps for your reading life

Here are some reading-related apps for all of us book nerds:

Litsy

litsyLitsy is basically Instagram for those of us who only care about book photos. In addition to the book cover galore, you can use Litsy as a way to track your reading. Search for a title, add to your reading stack, and when you are done, share your rating, short review, blurb or quote. I am especially fond of the “bail” rating. Thank you for giving me the permission to just close the book and say, “that’s enough of that.”

If you like hanging out with other book lovers, give Litsy a try. There is always good old Goodreads too of course. It’s June already. How are you doing on your annual reading challenge?

 

 

Ambient Mixer

I first heard about Ambient Mixer from this Lifehacker post, and it sounds like a fun way to add to the atmosphere while you are reading, and help you get immersed in the scenes. The website provides a wide variety of themed music loops and mixes so you can create the appropriate background soundtrack to match whatever you are reading. Jon Snow could be walking to the sounds of a “mysterious walk in snow storm”  beyond the wall. Transport yourself to Waystone Inn with the fantasy inn/pub/tavern loop. Or, how about some crowd noise for Ned Stark? (Umm, no thanks!)

 

Forest

forestSure, there are books that completely capture my attention, but alas, my phone has too much power over me, and I find myself reaching for it when I am supposed to be reading. There are lots of apps out there that can help you maintain focus. I chose Forest because of its genius use of guilt. And I love the UI.

When you are ready to start a task, set a timer of how long you want to read, and the app will plant a tree for you. The idea is to not navigate away from the Forest app to go check your email, or watch that owl pooping and fleeing the scene video for the nth time.  If you try, a warning will come up, asking you if you are really prepared to live the life of a tree killer. Not just any trees, as you can see, cute, little trees!

 

Libib

Libib is a super quick way to catalogue your personal book collection. The app is very easy to use. Just scan the barcode on the back of the book, and the book will be added to your collection. Because my husband and I are both SFF readers, we often stand at the bookstore wondering if we own a particular volume in the series or not. Libib solves that problem for us, well, as long as we add our purchases religiously.

What apps have you found useful in your reading life? Share your favourites in the comment section.

Virginia from the Port Moody Public Library

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RA Roundup

Here are some cool RA-related things happening in libraries and other book-ish related topics. If you’d like to contribute anything your library is doing or something you stumble upon, send an email to raig.active[at]gmail.com or leave a comment.  Happy reading!

Surrey Libraries Celebrates Canada 150 

Surrey Libraries is hosting its first ever adult summer book club in the form of a BINGO challenge for all things Canadian. Patrons can pick up their BINGO cards at their local branch or print one off directly through the website. Lucky winners have the chance to win an iPad for their participation.

In addition to this, staff helped create a book list with 150 Canadian reads and patrons can also submit their favourite reads for prizes as well.

New York Public Library’s Subway Library

NYPL launched its Subway Library to NYC commuters by offering free wifi to connect to an eBook library. A 10-car train was designed to resemble the Rose Main Reading Room and will travel along the E and L lines in Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Queens. The Subway Library also provides commuting patrons an opportunity to interact with NYPL’s Twitter and Instagram feeds through photo contests and sharing the hashtag #subwaylibrary.

NPR’s Beach Reads You Need: Four Sandy Summer Romances (submitted by Andrea Davidson)

Need help recommending some romance novels? Look no further than these four recommended titles by romance author Maya Rodale for NPR.

Goodreads: 24 Upcoming Books Librarians, Editors, and Booksellers Think You’ll Love (submitted by Veronica Griffin @ Surrey Libraries)

A list of 24 upcoming titles for this year that garnered buzz at Book Expo America.

 

Stephanie Hong, auxiliary Library Technician for Surrey Libraries and Vancouver Public Library 

20 year-round library display ideas

One of the most fun parts of my job is coming up with display ideas. I find that patrons really enjoy the book recommendations from displays, I see that those shelves get empty pretty fast sometimes.

I dig the world wide web for ideas (why not, right? I LOOOOVE that our community is so generous to share what they do so others can be inspired by them!) and compile those I like in a personal document.

Besides the regular time-sensitive events throughout the year (major holidays, celebratory months for many different causes, etc), I usually try to find timeless themes that can work at any point, specially if it will make parts of the collection that are not so popular move.

So, here’s a list of 20 timeless display themes for you:

1. Kleenex-worthy books

Grab a tissue before you read those!


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2. From the bottom shelf

I bet patrons rarely kneel to see what’s on those bottom shelves.

3. Dear Diary

Memoirs, diaries, personal stories.


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4. I’ve got my eyes on you

This one is more time-consuming, but so fun! Grab those books with eyes on the cover.

(I did the sign above using Canva – it’s free!)

5. Shhh! It’s a secret!

Any books about secrets or with “secret” on the title.

6. Armchair travel

Travel books, travelogues, memoirs about going places, books that take place in other countries.

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7. Pawsitively Pawsome Books

Pet-owners (and pet-owner wannabes) will all swoon!


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8. Out of this world

Sci-fi, outer space, aliens, and so on.

9. Just kidding

Humour, jokes, funny memoirs, anything to make readers laugh out loud.


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10. What’s your name?

Names in the title.

11. If you liked (insert title/author), you will like (readalikes)

12. Small books

In dimensions, not number of pages.

13. Misfit memoirs

14. Once upon a crime


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15. Predicting the future

Distopias, classics like 1984, Brave New World, etc.

16. Way back when

Historical fiction

17. Build something

18. New (or local) authors

19. Award-winning books

20. Literary bad boys

Inspired by NYPL

One of my favourite places to find ideas is Pinterest. There are TONS of boards on library displays.

Now it’s your turn to share other timeless display ideas in the comment section! 😉

Ana Calabresi is a librarian at Port Moody and Burnaby Public Libraries.

The Taibbi Trilogy

Well not really a trilogy, but Griftopia, The Divide and Insane Clown President all riff on the same general theme of a corrupt American society, run by a cabal of robber barons at the expense of the poor. Once you read the first, it’s pretty easy to move on to the next.

Taibbi is our generation’s Hunter S. Thompson. Yes, lighter on the shock-value prose and drug addled stream of consciousness writing, but heavier on the political analysis. And in our the complex world of incomprehensible economic and legal jargon, he’s the Rolling Stone political writer we need. To his credit, Taibbi approaches the material with same requisite snarl and bite as Thompson once did. He’s angry and incredulous, blending in dark humour to lighten the subject matter.

Griftopia

 

With less of an over-arching theme than The Divide, Taibbi tells some free association stories about various grifts and cons that have gone on the in the American economic system over the past decade. In it, Taibbi also provides probably the greatest all-time explanation-for-novices of the crash of 2007 (even better than Michael Lewis). If you’ve ever wondered what a credit default swap is, Griftopia is the place to start.

Perhaps Taibbi’s best work is a chapter on former Chariman of the Federal Reserve, Alan Greenspan, entitled The Biggest Asshole in the Universe. It chronicles the endless gaffs of a high-society-loving charlatan who was able to convince generations political elites that he was a financial Nostradamus. Taibbi argues that, as with most Friedmanites and Rand enthusiasts, Greenspan’s skill laid in pushing a tragically flawed philosophy, one that simultaneously exalts the pursuit of personal wealth while providing the ‘intellectual’ and ‘moral’ framework for a generation of thieves to convince themselves that they are doing what’s best for society. Taibbi destroys their methodology, point by point. It’s really something.

The Divide

The Divide juxtaposes the two courts of law in America: One for the rich and white and one for the poor and the minority. Taibbi exposes a society where a black man can be stopped, frisked, thrown in the back of a police car and given a court date, all for the crime of standing on the street, while a major bank can ‘illegally’ add five billion dollars off the top of a merger, while stiffing creditors and receiving no blowback, all through the power of their high-priced legal teams.

The Divide is a punch to the gut. It’s horrific, troubling, and illuminating. Easily my favourite of the three.

Insane Clown President

In his newest and most Thompson-esque work, Taibbi dispatches from the Trump campaign trail. It’s a collection of pieces cobbled together from his year writing for the Rolling Stone – much like HST’s famous books of the 1970s and 1980s. It’s hard not to compare Taibbi-Trump to HST-Nixon.

In the book, Taibbi details the fascist-like fervour of Trump’s rally’s, ultimately deciding that Trump is a fitting modern American President, A “human consumption machine with no attention span, no self-control, no beliefs and no hobbies outside of sex, spending, eating and talking about himself. Nixon at least played the piano and read the classics. He was an intellectual with a pig’s heart. Trump is just the pig part.”

Read it now, while it’s still topical, because hopefully time is running out on America’s most famous unhinged carnival-barker.

 

Nolan Kelly is a Library Tech student at Langara.

Gritting it out to reach your Peak

I read Anders Ericsson’s Peak a few months ago, so I’m cheating a bit here, but I loved it and thought I’d share. While, Angela Duckworth’s Grit feels like a sequel to Peak, insofar as it dovetails with the overarching theme of Peak’s thesis: how to become more successful at the things you love. Peak is the methodology for how to practice and achieve success; Grit is the explanation for why some of us achieve more than others, and the prescription for how to become an achiever.

Peak is a game changer if there ever was one.

You’ve likely heard of the 10,000 hour rule that postulates you need that many hours to become an expert in a given field. It was popularized by Malcolm Gladwell a few years back, you know, Gladwell does his is thing where he takes a complex idea, chops out the complicated parts and serves the juicy bits to the masses, as only he can.

Ericsson is the man behind the 10,000 hour rule’s science. His theory: that talent doesn’t exist. That it’s the word we give to hard work and practice.

Which, if you pause to reflect, is the most inspiring notion.

If Mozart had no natural born proclivity towards music and his ‘genius’ was simply the result of endless hours of practice at an early age; if Mario Lemieux’s skill on the ice was the result of countless hours of practice as a child in his basement; if John Irving’s penchant for story telling was built upon a lifetime sitting at a typewriter, it opens up a world of achievement that we assumed closed to us. Ericsson is not saying everyone can or will become Mozart, Lemieux, or Irving, but he is saying that if you work hard, through deliberate practice and expert coaching, you can get close, or perhaps closer than you dreamed possible.

Ericsson underpins his thesis by citing countless examples from his own research, including random test subjects who, with training, become memory experts, and a Hungarian family of chess masters whose intense workload dispels the notion that hi IQ plays any role in chess mastery.

Recently, I put Ericsson’s ideas to work in my own life. For the past six months I’ve been training for a triathlon, making constant improvements in running and biking, failing miserably at swimming. So miserably in fact that I hadn’t improved one bit since I’d started. Four laps and I was exhausted. I treated swimming like biking and running – a test of will and a slow build up of cardio – failing to realize that success in the water is all about technique, and acquiring perfect technique requires deliberate practice. I began by Identifying each key element of a stroke, analysing them and focusing on making them perfect. Within a week of studying strokes and focusing at the pool, I had gone from four laps in a row to 20. A 500% improvement, simply by following the steps laid out in Ericsson’s book. It was an epiphany for me, with far reaching implications for the rest of my life.

Now, you could make the case that I’m an idiot for not realizing this sooner and that practicing something properly isn’t exactly a ground-breaking idea. But when you further dive into the nuances of deliberate practice, it becomes clear that there’s a specific methodology behind it. Ericsson includes a detailed how-to guide that involves explanations on mental focus, mental maps and self-analysis. He’d argue that when most of us practice something, we are often just going through the motions and he offers ways to correct that.

So, if you finally want to master that Rachmaninov concerto, hit that driver farther or, finish that thesis faster, Peak is a great place to start.

Up next, Angela Duckworth’s Grit.

Nolan Kelly is a library tech student at Langara.

In Search of Lost Time

 

As part of a half-baked New Year’s resolution, I decided to read 5-10 pages of a classic novel every night before bed. The thinking, that drier works whose epic length might once have caused consternation, ultimately resulting in disinclination and lack of completion, could be boiled down to smaller, less intimidating bits.

I viewed the process as a lagniappe in the field of book-reading accomplishment, as though I could complete a behemoth on top of my regular reading list without even noticing (“Has it been 78 months already? That Gravity’s Rainbow just flew by!”).

It began in January, with the granddaddy of them all, Marcel Proust’s, In Search of Lost Time.

A breezy 4215 pages, but who’s counting?

Unfortunately, it’s been a harder than I thought to keep up with this resolution. For starters, Proust’s style –  heavy on minutia, light on plot – can be trying.

Sometimes, after a long day, I just can’t do eight pages of Proust waxing poetic about an ephemeral memory of a glimmering doorknob in his childhood bed chamber.

Sometimes, I can’t struggle through yet another endless digression, following young Marcel as he plots to have his mother come in and kiss him good night for a second time. Come on child Proust, get it together. Somebody buy that kid a football.

And, a more general and obvious difficultly I found when attempting and failing at this process before with War and Peace: over a long period of time it can be hard to keep track of everything at play. I’d forgotten about Mr. *****vich, whose last acquaintance I’d met some three months ago at a ballroom in *****berg, with six more *****stov’s and an *****ovna. Remembering becomes a war of attrition and the book always wins.

But overall, it’s been a rewarding gambit. Despite my previous criticisms, I couldn’t have chosen a better book to begin with.

For starters, Proust’s writing is masterful. The pacing, the rhythm. It’s languid and smooth and comforting. It’s literary hot chocolate, made with thick cream, drunk by candle light on a cold winter’s night.

And In Search of Lost Time’s profoundly peaceful nature has a calming effect before bed. Nothing much is happening, but that’s okay, because Proust somehow manages to turn simplicity into profundity. Take his famous Madeleine Passage. For Proust, dipping a madeleine in tea takes on religious significance.

As well it should.

The passage and the general theme of Proust’s writing has made me appreciate the Little Things more. Or at the very least, I’ve become more aware of trying to appreciate them. That mocha on a cold day, those chicken wings and beer. Far too often we gluttonously move from pleasure to pleasure without pausing to reflect on the simple joy found in a singular moment. The law of diminishing returns in a post-scarcity world can make appreciation a difficult endeavor and inflecting Proust is a way of challenging that.

These small moments make up the bulk of our lives, and we miss them because they’re old hat, or as Proust poetically summarized: “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new lands, but seeing with new eyes.”

It’s rare and wonderful when a book improves your life in some small way, even if it is trying at times and it takes nine years to read.

Nolan Kelly is a library tech student at Langara College.

 

 

 

Gillian Flynn’s Sharp Objects: A Mesmerizing Gothic Thriller

While taking a mini-break from the heavy, slow-paced books that I was supposed to read for my book club, I discovered a gritty, gothic thriller which I greedily consumed within a few days. This darkly magnificent book was Gillian Flynn’s Sharp Objects—her first ever published work. Flynn is mainly famous for her third novel Gone Girl, a book that had hypnotized and shocked readers around the world. I will not argue that Sharp Objects was better than Gone Girl. No—but I will say that it is brilliant in its own way.

sharpBefore I begin to excitedly ramble on about how much I enjoyed this book and how other thriller enthusiasts should read it (ASAP!), let me provide you with a synopsis of the novel:

When the murdered body of a preteen girl is found and a second girl goes missing in a small town, reporter Camille Preaker is given the task of returning to her eerie hometown and covering the troubling story. While trying to fulfill her assignment, she is forced to stay at her family’s Victorian mansion and spend time with her hypochondriac mother and strange half-sister. As Camille attempts to unravel the mystery behind the murder case, she struggles to deal with her own disturbing past and soon discovers family secrets which have been hidden for a long time.

Now that you have the summary, I am going to list my three reasons for recommending this book:

  • Sharp Objects is a good gothic thriller!

Being a huge fan of the gothic genre, I absolutely loved how Flynn incorporated elements of Southern Gothic throughout her novel—the Victorian mansion, the grotesque scenes, the eccentric and deeply flawed characters, the terrifying matriarch, the underlying madness, violence and decay. For me, these components helped to build the suspense and dark atmosphere of the narrative, which completely drew me in and left me unsettled.

  • The narrative is complex and intriguing!

Unlike other simple mystery novels, which focus on one particular puzzle throughout the narrative, this book contains multiple layers of mystery that get unraveled: first is the murder case and the disappearance of a young girl; second is questions about Camille’s past and mental state; and third is the enigma behind Camille’s cold and reserved mother. As the story progresses, Flynn gives us a few clues at a time, either through flashbacks, new discoveries or subtle dialogues. These multiple layers make the story complex and interesting, which compelled me to piece the different puzzles together. It took a lot of effort to not jump to the last page in order to figure out all the answers!

  • The main character is flawed yet realistic!

While Camille was not my favorite character (because of her frustrating choices and her passive nature), she does behave in a realistic and human manner. Suffering from the loss of her sister and lack of love from her mother, she chooses self-destructive methods to deal with her emotions—alcohol, men and self-harm (scarring her body with words). Even though she has gone to rehab and seems to have recovered from these self-destructive behaviors, it is interesting to watch Camille’s mental state unfold when she is faced with her mother and her past once more. However, despite her emotional frailty, I admired the fact that she uses her strength and love for her sister to push forward and find out the truth about her family. Unlike the majority of the characters in the small town of Wind Gap, who willfully ignore the ugliness festering beneath the society, Camille chooses to look beneath the surface even if the truth may be horrifying. This strength and resilience makes her quite the intriguing protagonist.

Before I leave you to run towards the library and grab a copy of Flynn’s Sharp Objects (don’t push anyone out of the way!), I would like to leave you with a few warnings about the book:

  • If you are looking for a simple psychological thriller with light descriptions, then this is not the book for you. Sharp Objects is a very dark novel with heavy and disturbing details that may keep you up at night.
  • If you are looking for a happy ending with everything resolved so you can sleep all satisfied at night, then, once again, this book is not for you. Flynn is well-known for her twisted endings and frustrating conclusions, so don’t read this novel if you expect the story to end on a happy note.

Lastly, if I have managed to pique your interest in this story, I do encourage you to read this book sooner rather than later because HBO is going to release a mini-series based on the book this year. The mini-series will have Amy Adams as the star of the show and Jean-Marc Vallee as the director (he is absolutely fantastic!). From my experience, it becomes impossible to get a copy of the book once the movie or mini-series gets released. So, go get your copy now!

~ Ehlam Zaminpaima, Librarian, West Vancouver Memorial Library