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Posts Tagged ‘Meg Wolitzer’

Book Jam Question:   Why read Young Adult Literature?

Answer from Beth Reynolds, Children’s Librarian, Norwich Public Library, and bookseller, The Norwich Bookstore:  

“It all comes down to is this: Labels don’t matter, good writing does.”

Outstanding children’s librarian Beth Reynolds (and someone we are also lucky to call a dear friend) offers some words of wisdom around the YA genre and some sure fire hits for all of us looking for a good book — young adults and adults alike. This is our first in what we hope will be a series of guest bloggers on the Book Jam. So now, please enjoy a posting by our first guest author — librarian extraordinaire, Ms. Beth!

Ask anyone who works with books and they can fill you in on what happens to be the latest internet drama over one book or another. There is always an uproar about some genre: Chick-lit, Fantasy, Horror, Science fiction, Romance etc… When a group of books gets categorized and labeled, readers of that genre are often dismissed for their tastes. As if what they’re reading isn’t good enough, as if it isn’t literary enough for the likes of critics or someone looking down from on high.

As someone who spends her weeks donning her librarian’s cap and weekends wearing her bookseller name-tag, I can tell you that it’s often possible for me to guess a reader’s preference when they walk through the door.(Again, this is Ms. Beth writing this post, so please don’t try to find the Book Jam Lisas working in either a bookstore or library, although we both frequent both.) After many years of experience, it is possible for me to make some predictions and assumptions–but it’s not foolproof. In fact, the best interactions I have are with readers interested in a book just because the topic interests them, because a friend suggested it, or because they heard an interview on the radio.


But truly, NOTHING makes me happier than an adult coming into the Young Adult section to get a book, not for a teen, but for themselves. Much ink has been spilt over this very controversy – adults who read YA. If you think adults reading YA are wasting their time or if reading in the teen section is not something you’ve ever considered, think about this:

  • The lines between adult fiction and YA are blurry — There is a large amount of crossover and sometimes a book that ends up classified in one section is often thought to belong in the other. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak was published as YA here but as Adult in England, the opposite is true of Mark Haddon‘s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time. Take a look at the Alex awards for each years offerings of titles published as adult but of interest to teens; you could be reading YA and not even know it.

  • YA books remind us of what it was like being a teen — I admit to reading a fair amount of boy meets girl, or boy meets boy or girl meets girl. Something about the vulnerability mixed with the possibility and potential for more appeals to me. I love the ability of these teen characters to live in the moment and their willingness to take that risk. Sometimes it’s hard for me to imagine that adults are ones doing the writing they manage to convey such honest teen emotions. Recently, Love Letters to the Dead by Ava DellairaAfterworlds by Scott Westerfeld and The Beginning of Everything by Robyn Schneider became some of my favorites new books to recommend. All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven is being published in January and I hope everyone rushes out to read it.

  • There is often a shared feeling of experience among books in different genres — There are times when I read an adult book and I think “Hey, this feels just like book I read that was meant for younger readers. Somehow the author has managed to evoke that same essence”. Here are a few of my recent discoveries of superb pairings:

All the Light We Cannot See The Invention of Hugo Cabret

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close = Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life

Me Before You = Say What You Will

The Rosie Project = The Categorical Universe of Candice Phee 

  • There is more in the YA section then sex, drugs and gratuitous swearing — John Green, Maureen Johnson, Jennifer Smith, E Lockhart, Rainbow Rowell, Gayle Foreman… fabulous authors of realistic, contemporary fiction. Just kids, no fantasy or paranormal romance, with their honest emotions. There is a scene from Green’s The Fault in Our Stars when Hazel’s mom worries about losing her daughter, she questions whether or not she’ll be a mom anymore. To me that writing shows that divide for what it is: an aching, piercing line that divides, but one which we as adults can crossover to occasionally pretend that the world of choices after high school is still ahead of us. Many people say they wouldn’t go back again, but reading YA lets you relive some of the good parts.

The best part of reading YA is that these books are often told in the first person. The writer knows they have to grab the reader from the very beginning, so the first sentence often hooks you. Also, most books in this genre are not incredibly long and don’t require a huge time commitment. If nothing else, they are easily accessible but filled with thought-provoking ideas that linger after you finish reading. They contain multitudes– like some of the teens you know. Sometimes I read them in between other books, I think of them as palate cleansing. They take you out of your own head and that’s often why I read.

I ran into a mom and her teen-aged daughter the other day and we started reminiscing about the book club we had when our kids were in 4th grade. Wanting to invoke that feeling again, I asked if her daughter would be up for a Book Club when she went away to college next year and we started listing off fun titles to read. She asked if I had read When We Were Liars and I nodded my affirmation with a conspiratorial smile. Her mom looked intrigued and I thought, “Hey, my work here is done. Though my mission to have adults sample what YA has to offer still looms large”.  If you’re intrigued to find out more about adults reading YA, read on:


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Luckily for anyone still looking for great books to give to friends and family this holiday season, our 2013 holiday gift themed Pages in the Pubs continued in Hardwick, Vermont on December 3rd.

Once again, our goals were to uncover great gifts for our readers, raise money for libraries (this time, Jeudevine Memorial Library), increase sales for superb independent bookstores (Galaxy Bookshop), and gather a community of book-lovers together, bringing business to a local restaurant (Claire’s). Once again, the list the presenters came up with is eclectic, and full of superb ideas for giving.

This post lists all 21 books that at least one of the four Hardwick presenters picked as a superb holiday gift. Each has a special six word review written by the presenter.  Their selections are linked to the Galaxy Bookshop’s web site where you can learn more about their picks and order your selections. Our Hardwick presenters included:

  • Jerry Schneider – Jerry was born and raised a few miles from “Winesburg”, Ohio and taught English a few years before heading to Montana. He is a children’s librarian/educator in schools. In summers does nature programs in libraries. He is working on a YA novel about a father, son, and baseball.
  • Lisa Sammet – Lisa is the Library Director at the Jeudevine Memorial Library in Hardwick. She’s been a librarian, youth librarian, English teacher, farmer, and Peace Corps volunteer. She also has been a professional storyteller performing in schools and libraries for over 30 years.
  • Linda Ramsdell  – Linda opened The Galaxy Bookshop in 1988 and has enjoyed opening boxes of books and putting them in the hands of readers ever since. Linda considers herself extraordinarily fortunate to have spent half of her life in a place where books, people, ideas and imagination meet.
  • Lisa Christie – Lisa is the co-founder/co-blogger for the Book Jam Blog.  In previous times, she was the founder and Executive Director of Everybody Wins! Vermont and USA, literacy programs that help children love books. She currently works as a non-profit consultant/independent bookseller.

Have fun looking at the selections. We truly hope you enjoy getting some holiday shopping accomplished from the comfort of your computer/iPad/cell-phone (you can download from the link), or from an in-person visit to your local independent bookstore. Enjoy!

MEMOIR FOR THOSE WHO LIKE TO LIVE VICARIOUSLY THROUGH OTHERS’ EXPERIENCES

End of Your Life Book Club, Will Schwalbe. Selected by Lisa S. – As mother dies, she and son read.

NON-FICTION/REFERENCE BOOK/POETRY: FOR PEOPLE WHO LIKE TO THINK AND CHAT WHILE SITTING BY THE WOOD STOVE

   

Maps by Aleksandra & Daniel Mizielinska. Selected by Lisa C. – The world unfolds through fun illustrations.

Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold in the 1936 Berlin Olympics by D. J. Brown. Selected by Linda – Gripping and inspiring window to a world and time.

50 Foods by Edward Behr. Selected by Linda – Opinionated culinary guide with fun illustrations.

 

ADULT FICTION: FOR A MAN WHO HAS ENOUGH TECH TOYS BUT NOT ENOUGH GOOD FICTION

Winesburg, Ohio by Sherwood Anderson. Selected by Jerry – Classic glimpses of small town lives.

Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers. Selected by Lisa S. – Two friends. Iraq War. Poetic. Tragic.

Where I’m Calling From: Selected Stories by Raymond Carver. Selected by Jerry – Shows why Carver is the best!

ADULT FICTION: FOR A WOMAN WHO ONLY HAS TIME FOR THE BEST FICTION

  

The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer.  Selected by Lisa S. – Follows friends from camp. They mature.                        

The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert. Selected by Lisa C. – Not Eat Pray Love. Just great fiction.

Bitter Almonds by Cosse. Selected by Lisa C. – French woman tutors. Immigrant teaches. Sparse.

ADULT FICTION FOR ANYONE

  

11/22/63 by Stephen King. Selected by Jerry – Can Jake alter events around JFK?         

Transatlantic by Colum McCann. Selected by Linda – Spectacular storytelling, expansive scope, real and imagined.

Bad Monkey by Carl Hiaasen. Selected by Linda – Pure laugh out loud fun.

YOUNG ADULT FICTION: FOR TEENS & TWEENS AND THE ADULTS WHO LOVE THEM

 

The Ruby Red Trilogy by Kerstin Gier. Selected by Lisa S – Time Travel, Mystery, Adventure and romance.

Wonder by R.J. Palacio. Selected by Jerry – Can classmates get beyond extraordinary face?

BOOKS FOR YOUNGSTERS: THOSE BEYOND TONKA TRUCKS & TEA PARTIES, BUT NOT YET READY FOR TEEN TOPICS

 

Bo at Ballard Creek by Kirkpatrick Hill. Selected by Lisa C. – For Little House Fans. Gold Rush.

True Colors by Natalie Kinsey-Warnock. Selected by Linda – Heartwarming, historic, memorable characters & mystery.

PICTURE BOOKS: FOR FAMILIES TO READ TOGETHER DURING SNOW STORMS

 

The Christmas Wish by Lori Evert. Selected by Linda – Horses! Reindeer! Travel with Anja. Magical.           

Journey by Aaron Becker. Selected by Jerry – Red marker, imagination, & her spectacular journey!

Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site by Tom LichtenheldSelected by Lisa S. – For littles who love machines & need sleep!                    

The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt. Selected by Lisa C. – Crayons protest. Readers laugh. Great gift!

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imgres-3In just a few more turns of the page it will be here:  Sunday, May 12th, 2013, Mother’s Day. This occasion offers an opportunity to honor your own mom and the other special maternal influences in your life.  It is a day for breakfast in bed, a family walk through the springtime landscape, presents, dinner out at the local inn – and if a mother is really, really lucky, some time to curl up quietly with a good book.

For some the stress of finding just the right gift is too much.  For others the pressure of creating the perfect experience for mom brings out cold sweat.

So, may we suggest a hand-made card tucked into one of these special titles, and a the gift of an hour of uninterrupted reading time. And if you are a mother, consider picking out one out  of these for yourself – you deserve it.  (Don’t worry Dads – your turn will come in June, and we promise good books for you too.)imgres

Our 2013 Mother’s Day selection includes:

 The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer (2013) – This engrossing, entertaining story follows a group of friends from the moment they meet at summer camp.  It then chronicles their lives as they go to separate colleges, get married – sometimes to each other, try to live on entry-level salaries, find and lose success, become parents, face an assortment of crisis points and well, just live their lives.  Told from the perspective of Jules Jacobson, a girl from the suburbs who infiltrates a group of sophisticated young Manhattanites when sent to their camp on a scholarship, this novel is populated by complex, and well “interesting”  characters who come together and apart as their lives and their interpretations of New York City change.  In fact, “the City” itself is a character changing as mayors come and go, crime increases/decreases, AIDS epidemic enters, finances collapse and twin towers fall.  The Interestings explores friendship, how to make a life, and what to do with your talents and dreams.  Perfect for moms who attended summer camps, lived in the 70s or 80s or 90s, ever had a life-long group of friends, and for anyone – mom or not – looking for a page-turning saga. ~ Lisa Christie

9780316175678The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey (2012). I was immediately drawn into to this stark, beautiful novel, a tale set in Alaska in the 1920’s.  Older homesteaders Jack and Mabel have left behind their life in the eastern United States to carve out a farm on the frontier, an existence which has proven starker and more difficult than they had imagined, leaving their finances strained and their spirits dwindling.  One night, during the first snowfall of the winter, they build a snow girl together and by the next morning a real little girl has taken its place – filling Jack and Mabel’s life full of wonder, hope, and uncertainty.  This book introduces the reader to strong characters, weaves in traditional fable and fairy tale, creates a sense of magical realism, all while  drawing a portrait of a very real and particular time and place in America’s history.  It seems an apt choice for a mother’s day post as it tells the story of a couple who have long wished for a family and then parenthood – along with its challenges, love, and learnings – finds them when they least expect it.  Recently named as a runner-up for the Pulitzer Prize. ~Lisa Cadow

 Trains and Lovers by Alexander McCall Smith (2013) – The power of stories, the power of trains to make strangers friends, and the power of love come together in this brief gem of a book.  Four strangers sit next to each other on a train from Edinburgh to London: a female and three males.  Two are young (20s), two older (let’s say past 40).  One man opens up with a story of why they are on the train – a new job, but tied to a girl.  The others follow with their own stories (of their parents’ lives in the Australian Outback, of forbidden love of their youth, of the importance of trust in a relationship).  By the time they part in London, you know something about each from their stories and their reactions to the stories of the others.  You also know a bit more about yourself.  A must-read for any mom in your life who ever traveled by train. This book will help them remember all the people they opened up to for a few hours in a railroad car and may lead to a few new stories, you never know. ~ Lisa Christie (Oops – we just realized that this is not available until June 11th, but we think Moms will like it so much we kept it in this post. This way you can pre-order it today, and extend Mom’s Day into June.)

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