In the doldrums


It's quiet here at the Welcome Desk. In this lull between customers, I have a chance to restock the displays, check out the newest books and thumb through a few professional book reviewing magazines. So why is it, with all of this lovely reading matter literally at my fingertips, can I not find anything I want to read. Nothing appeals to me at the moment. Nada. How is this even possible? It makes no sense whatsoever. I am in the (reading) doldrums.

I tried some of my old tricks, hoping to spark some interest in the books around me, first taking a randomly selected collection of books home, then putting a bunch of new books on hold only to find nothing appealed by the time it was my turn, and lastly, scanning the new advanced reader copies of forthcoming books we receive from publishers. Still nothing. I even visited the bookstore but all I came out with was a cup of coffee. Desperation begins to set in. I am rarely without a book to read so this is an unfamiliar situation to find myself in.

When customers come to us at the Welcome Desk in a reading rut, wanting to find a good book or to change up their reading habits, we have a fairly standard series of questions we can draw on to get a feel for what type of book might be of interest. In library speak, this is referred to as "readers' advisory," which is a fancy name for a friendly conversation, chatting about books so we can match a person to a book.

Questions can include: What did you read recently that you liked or didn't like? Are you looking for a new genre or something new in a genre you know you like? Do you want something fun and light? Serious and contemplative? Fiction or non-fiction? Do you like to read about places you want to visit or set in places you are familiar with? Do you like to read what everyone else is reading?  So I decided to have a reader's advisory conversation with myself as the customer and see what I, the librarian, would come up with.

The result: I like to read mostly mysteries but am looking to expand my horizons. I would like to read something a bit more literary, even something I neglected to read while an English major, oh so many years ago. I also like books set in locales I've visited or that are on my to visit list. And I've been known to read the odd volume of professional literature. I like recommendations from friends and family, if I could only remember what they all were. I would like to find a new science fiction or fantasy author, particularly one who includes time travel.

With these parameters in mind, I took a wander through the library stacks and communed with the unread books on my home bookshelves (which are now nice and tidy). Here is what my readers' advisory "conversation" led me to pick and why:

Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress by Dai Sijie
My father referred to this as "a little gem of a book" and gave me his copy which has been on my shelf for over 10 years, so it's time for me to read it.
The Rithmatist by Brandon Sanderson
My son and I got signed copies from an author signing at BookExpo America. He read it, loved it, and is dying for me to read it too so we can discuss it.
Fuzzy Nation by John Scalzi
My brother recommended "Redshirts" by this author, which I really enjoyed and have since recommended to others. This book continues a series written by H. Beam Piper that I read in high school when my brother discovered it and I had completely forgotten about it until now.
H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald
Ever since I read "My Side of the Mountain" when I was little, I thought it would be fantastic to  have a raptor (which is completely illegal in New Jersey, by the way).
Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi
At a small hotel in Rome where my family stayed a few years ago, dinners were served to guests in a style reminisent of "A Room with a View." The gentleman to my left said this was a favorite of his and encouraged me to read it.
Zirafa by Michael Allin
Hidden from view on a double stacked bookshelf, I found this, another recommendation from my father. My husband and children recently returned from Africa with some beautiful giraffe photos from a safari and this book is the story of Zirafa, a giraffe who made the journey from Africa to Paris in 1826. The library does not own this but has a children's book about the same story. I usually avoid animal stories but this one is supposed to be happy.
Twenty Days with Julian & Little Bunny by Papa
I was never a fan of Nathaniel Hawthorne but this shows him in a completely different light, as a father who volunteers to take care of his 5-year-old son while his wife and daughters are out of town. Maybe I'll also add "The Scarlet Letter" to my list.
Holidays on Ice by David Sedaris
Going to see Sedaris at McCarter Theatre so thought I would read a few more essays.
Browsings: A Year of Reading, Collecting, and Living with Books by Michael Dirda
Recently recommended by a library customer, this one looks like my cup of tea.
BiblioTech: Why Libraries Matter More Than Ever in the Age of Google by John Palfrey
Last fall, I "attended" The Digital Shift, a virtual conference sponsored by Library Journal. Palfrey was the keynote speaker so I guess I should read his book.
Kindred by Octavia Butler
Butler was the first female African-American science fiction author. I liked her book, "Clay's Ark," a post-apocalyptic tale. Time travel is a key plot point of "Kindred."
The Last Voice You Hear by  Mick Herron
The trifecta-a series that I didn't know existed, set in Oxford, a place I know well, by an author I love, whose MI-5 spy series that begins with "Slow Horses" is excellent.

And last but not least:

The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster
Now that I am moving out of my doldrums, I have forgotten how Milo and his little car made it out of his.

If you would like to re-energize your reading choices by making a new discovery or reacquainting yourself with an author or title you have forgotten about, come visit us at the Welcome Desk or the 2nd floor Information Desk. We're happy to chat. Don't have time to come in? Complete a Book It form, to connect with our online readers' advisory service.


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