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My Favorite Reads of 2013

In recounting my favorite books read this year, it might be a little obvious that I'm working in a public library again. More recent works, more super popular works, and if you look at my Goodreads account, you'll see that I read way more books this year (audiobooks and my long commute make for happy listening) at 89, but that was still short of my goal for the year of 100. Despite expecting a baby next year, I'm still planning to try for 100 again.

My Favorites:
Zealot by Reza Aslan (2013): Comparing the historical Jesus of Nazareth to the biblical Jesus Christ is a pretty audacious task, but Aslan, an experienced religious scholar manages to be respectful while still questioning almost everything about the facts of Jesus's life. Part of the way he gets away with this is by beginning his book with a long discussion about the relationship between truth and fact. Maybe not for everyone, but anyone interested in the life of Jesus of Nazareth should give it a try.Expecting…

Library Dopplegangers

I feel bad when I don't blog about serious library issues, but the truth of the matter is, I think a blog is more fun to read when there are more frequent shorter posts, so maybe I should follow my own advice.

It seems at every library I've ever worked at, there have been people who were perfect dopplegangers for other people I know. I used to have a coworker who's voice was a dead ringer for an aunt who has a really unique way of talking.

At my current library there's one person who's a dead ringer for a librarian at my previous library and another person who I swore every time I saw her for the first few weeks, looked exactly like my husband's grandma. Granted, I was thinking of my husband's grandma when I first met her roughly a decade ago, which is probably why it really weirded me out.

Has anyone else ever noticed this phenomenon? Do you have coworkers who remind you of someone else?

A to Z Bookish Survey

Since I started my new job I really haven't had much time to post here, which is funny, because I've been doing so much learning and growing and thinking about librarianship as I fit into my new role that I could write almost endlessly, but that's also probably why I haven't had any time to get my thoughts in order. Anyway, to keep the old blog going, I thought I'd do one of these old-school survey things that I found over at A Patchwork of Books (and it looks like she got the idea from The Perpetual Page Turner, who looks like someone I should also be following, but really, am I even able to pay that much attention to the people I already follow?) .


Author you've read the most books from:  sheer number is probably Ann M. Martin, since I read most of the over 100 Babysitter's Club books back in the day. I am well aware that you can skip Chapter 2.
Best sequel ever: I tend to think of books in a series as all stuck together, so it's really hard for me to t…

... and then everything changes again

Last week Jacob Berg wrote a very candid post about the hiring process and it dovetails nicely with something I had wanted to write about.

After 2 1/2 years of searching, I finally landed a full-time job. Because of the length of the process and the number of jobs I thought I was getting, but then didn't, I still don't completely comprehend why this is the one that worked out, so I don't have much to say about that, but I do have some thoughts on how to not go crazy during the job search process. It essentially boils down to:

Don't take rejection personally.
The nature of the job market in this field means that there are often many more librarians looking for jobs than there are openings, so employers get the luxury of being a little picky. There were multiple positions where I was told very sincerely, "You were great, but so was everyone else, and we had to pick someone, which, unfortunately wasn't you." This is often followed by a well-meaning, "but…

On Finding Your Dream Job

After my last post loosely based on my reading of Meg Jay's The Defining Decade, I realized what's really bothering me about that book and a lot of the writing about what's wrong with twentysomethings is this idea that we're not doing enough important things. I think one of the things our generation is struggling with more than previous generations is the idea of how to make your dreams come true as an adult. It's true that we are a generation that was raised to believe that we're special and we can do whatever we want, but sometimes what that feels like is pressure to do something amazing because no one's going to tell you you can't try reaching for the stars.

The thing is, we need people doing the mundane everyday work too, and if you're doing something you love, then boring work doesn't feel boring to you. It's all about perspective and realizing that doing something that excites you, or at least fills you with satisfaction is infinitely …

Turning Thirty

I turned thirty this month and, not surprisingly, it's given me pause. Last month I picked up a book on the importance of your twenties, and for the most part it was reassuring because I never approached my twenties with the mindset that they weren't important. In fact, I spent most of my twenties worrying that I had taken them too seriously. I married my college sweetheart and went straight to library school and found jobs in libraries or related fields to pay the bills until I landed my first professional librarian gig. I was conventional, responsible, and hard-working.

But then what started as a few bumps in the road quickly became something much more serious. My husband started having health problems, which we finally realized were due to a toxic work environment. We decided not only on a job change, but a move to the city we'd been visiting nearly every month anyway. In the process of moving he managed to injure himself so badly that he was unable to work for months,…

Granny Reads: Embrace the Flame by Diana Haviland

At this point this is the winner by far for Granny Reads. Haviland's novel covers all the major tropes of a historical bodice ripper. Our heroine's name is Desire, and she was tragically orphaned during the latest plague. Despite her gentle upbringing, Desire finds herself at the mercy of a brothel owner who orders her to either become a whore or earn her keep as a thief. Obviously our virtuous heroine can't become a whore, so she tries to steal from a man who turns out to be a highwayman with a mysterious past, whom we eventually discover is the wrongly disinherited son of a late country gentleman. It all sounds so ridiculous, and yet the relationship between Desire and Morgan feels so real.

As far as any old school conventions of the genre, Desire is nearly raped about a billion times in this book, typifying the (hopefully) outdated notion that attempted rape should be seen as a compliment and confirmation of your good looks. There's also a homely spinster who is, o…

Playing with Point of View

Over the winter, I read Redshirts by John Scalzi, which was a really fun meta spoof on sci-fi TV shows, where the ensigns on board the ship theorize that the reason they have such a high mortality rate is because they're Redshirts on Start Trek-like show. The story was entertaining, but I only liked it, while my husband loved it.

On the other hand, the story's three codas, which initially struck me as strange, eventually became my favorite part of the book. Normally this would just be a comment in a Goodreads review, but I thought the structure of the three codas - the first is told in first person, the second is told in second, the third in third - is a good excuse to have a conversation about point of view in fiction. Also, these codas were an excuse for a mostly comic novel to have a soul, and I love humor with a bit of heart.

 If you want to read on, there will be broad spoilers since I'll be talking about where characters are at the end of the story. However, most of …

EDC MOOC Final Project

Elearning and Digital Cultures finished up about a month ago. However, before life got in the way of me finishing this class on time to get a completion certificate, I had most of my ideas in place for my final project, so I'm presenting it now, mostly for myself, to prove that I got something out of this new mode of learning.

This MOOC has been quite the journey for me.

I've been very hesitant of the whole MOOC phenomenon because of my own history with online education. About a decade ago, when I was an undergrad, I took a blended online and in person course on Medieval Latin. I was going to a small liberal arts and with it's block scheduling, our academic calendar didn't match up with the other schools in the course, so I had to rearrange my schedule to fit in the class. Our weekly lectures were streamed online with chat function embedded, but there was only one lab on campus where the computers had the software and headphones available to access these lectures witho…

EDC MOOC, Week 4

I realize that #edcmooc finished up several weeks ago, but the last weekend of the course when I planned to finish up all my projects happened to be a perfect storm of excuses not to work on this class, which might be a great start to a conversation on completion rates for MOOCs and what that means in terms of how successful they are, but that's for another time. Before life got in the way, I had this blog post on Week 4's readings nearly ready to go, so I'll present it to you now.

This week we talked about posthumanism, what happens when technology has enhanced the human form so much that we are no longer human, but something else.

It seems like the central concern here is if at some point adding technological enhancements to the human form will become advanced to the point that accepting such enhancements will forfeit something essential to the human experience.

Transhumanists argue that this is not the case, at least not right now. They argue that humanity has such pote…

EDC MOOC Week 3

While initially it was hard for me this week to transition from the class's first theme of "Dystopia/Utopia" to the second of "Being Human", now I have so many thoughts on the topic, I don't know where to start.

I find the movie Wall-E coming to mind again, maybe because I haven't read Brave New World, which has been talked about a lot. I guess Wall-E is my example of a world where technology has taken over subtly, lulling us into complacency by giving us everything we could ever want - except for the things that arguably make us human.
Sometimes this is the way I feel about TV, especially Netflix. In theory this sounds like a great service. You can stream TV shows and movies you're interested in whenever you feel like it, so the convenience aspect is wonderful. But somehow it all gets flipped on it's head, and instead it becomes so important to not only watch what I want, but the idea of a queue makes watching feel like another thing to add to…

Granny Reads: Morning Glory by LaVyrle Spencer

This technically is not on my shelf of Granny Reads, but it was suggested to me by a coworker who also happens to be a grandmother and the story really fits the whole theme of Granny Reads, so I'm including it here.

I can see why Morning Glory was recommended so highly to me. I mostly started writing this series to highlight the way romance has changed over the last few decades, but this one was pretty timeless. There are certainly old-fashioned values at play here, but that's because the story is set in the early 1940s in a small town in Georgia. In a marriage of convenience, "crazy" widow Elly Dinsmore advertises for a husband to help her take care of her farm as the birth of her third child approaches, and only penniless ex-con Will Parker is desperate enough to take her up on her offer.

While there's a fairly traditional division of labor on Elly and Will's farm, the reasons for this never feel dated. Elly knows house chores inside and out, plus she's…

E-Learning and Digital Cultures - Week 2

This week we stuck with the thoughts of utopias/dystopias, but turned our focus toward the future. One of the articles we read this week discussed the metaphors used to describe the internet in the media. I knew we used metaphors to describe the internet, but I was surprised at how prevalent this practice was once I saw a sampling of them all laid out.

Not surprisingly, many metaphors focused around the internet either as creator or destructor. I was a little surprised, though, to see how prevalent the "internet as physical place" metaphor still is. I know social networks and "meeting" with people online is all the rage now (I am taking a class that meets solely online), but I didn't think about how that's tied back to the earlier days of the internet when people really struggled to understand what the world wide web was and there were tons of representations of it as a physical space, even a Saturday morning cartoon based on the premise that the web was a …

It's about online learning, ya mook

This winter I decided to try out a Massively Open Online Course (MOOC) to see what all the fuss was about and to get a better handle on what's going on with online educational in general. I'm taking E-learning and Digital Cultures offered by the University of Edinburgh through the Coursera platform.

The class started last week, but I'm just getting around to blogging about week one now. For the first week we watched several videos focusing on dystopias/utopias as a way of looking at technology and we read some things from the recent history of technology and e-learning.

We were asked to blog about any examples of technological dystopias/utopias we could think of. For me the movie Wall-E sprung to mind pretty quickly. Here we have a society living in blissful listless ignorance thanks to the wonders of technology. They think this is as good as it gets, until the natural non-technological world comes crashing in and they realize just how much of life was blocked out by all o…

On Being a Strong Professional Woman

A little while ago I put up a few links about issues of gender in the workplace but didn't really have time to elaborate, so I've come back to the topic with some thoughts. Of the posts I linked a while ago, the one that's really stuck with is the way women limit themselves by being nice. Trying to be anything besides accommodating has always been a challenge for me, especially professionally. I'm a small town Midwestern girl who was raised to, above all other things, "be nice", so in situations where there's any question about how I should act, I take the nice route. But I've seen how this has limited me over the years by not standing up for projects I believe in or pointing out issues I think are being ignored.

Lately it's really been sticking with me because I've been job hunting. While the details will stay private, the fact that I'm job searching is no big secret. I love what I do in my current position, but it's only part-time wi…

Lots of Links

A few things I've been reading lately that I didn't want to pass without comment:

The suicide of Aaron Swartz made the regular news, but LJ and Jessamyn West have a nice collection of information about the Internet activist who worked so hard for increased access to information online. His aggressive prosecution for intending to freely distribute JSTOR content online has been widely listed as a contributing factor to his untimely demise. Interestingly enough, JSTOR recently announced that they're opening their collection to the public on a limited basis. So why was the government still pursuing such harsh sentencing for him?
There's also been a lot of talk about feminism and the sneaky ways that's it's still hard to be successful as a woman at work. Hi Miss Julie had some interesting things to say about how big flashy things often championed by male librarians are what tend to get recognition in librarianship, while the less flashy, practical everyday details o…

Granny Reads: Married at Midnight

Continuing my reading journey through a grandmother's collection primarily of romance novels, I'm writing about the first book I picked out of this pile. Married at Midnight is another collection of stories, this time historical, all bearing the same title and about couples rushing to marry before a midnight deadline, most of them finding love only after they've become husband and wife.

I like this one a little more than the Christmas collection I reviewed last, maybe because I can handle old-fashioned values in an old-fashioned setting better than in a modern one. Also, while the heroines in this collection still might not be very active participants in their relationships, they're all fairly brave at some point in their story.

Jo Beverly's heroine searches out the father of her unborn child on a battlefield in Belgium so that she can marry him and ensure that the child won't be born a bastard. Samatha James tells of a heroine's attempt to end her father&#…

My Favorite Books of 2012

Generally I do a really terrible job of reading books right after they come out, so I doubt that aside from Gone Girl there are many books published in 2012 that I actually read in 2012. Instead this is a list of my favorite books read for the first time in 2012.
Signing Their Rights Away (2011) by Denise Kiernan - I was blown away by how fun, informative, and flat-out readable this collection of short biographies of the signers of the Constitution was. The chapter titles are clever, the stories pull out fun facts, yet still manage to tell the important history of the early years of this country, and the cover folds out to be a life-size replica of the Constitution. This is just a quality project all-around.Thirteen Reasons Why (2007) by Jay Asher - I finally got to this recent YA classic about a girl who kills herself and then leaves tapes behind explaining her reasons why. You'll pick it up because it's about the important issues of suicide and bullying, but you'll love i…