Spend Your Lunch Hour with Nancy Pearl on Monday, December 12th!

Library Journal’s 2011 Librarian of the Year and literary tastemaking author Nancy Pearl will be appearing at the FriendShop, located on the third floor of Central Library, on Monday, December 12th from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. Nancy will be signing copies of her books as well as the recently released 2012 Friends of the Seattle Public Library Calendar.

Nancy is the author of Book Lust and a half-dozen other titles that provide book recommendations for every type of reader. She developed “If All of Seattle Read the Same Book,” a program that has inspired similar “One City One Book” campaigns across the country. Nancy is a frequent contributor to NPR’s “Morning Edition.” Monday’s signing provides an opportunity to meet a bone fide library legend.

While at the FriendShop pick up a copy of the 2012 Friends planner, which features Nancy on its cover, to plan next year’s reading. The shop also features a wide variety of unique gifts for book-lovers and others with discriminating tastes on your holiday shopping list. All proceeds from sales at the FriendShop support The Friends of the Seattle Public Library.

We look forward to seeing you on Monday!

The Friends of the Seattle Public Library


More Book Recommendations from the Friends’ Board

With the advent of the rainy season, what a comfort to think of curling up by the fireplace with a drowsy cat and a good book.  Here are recommendations from the Friends’ October board meeting.  You can click on the links below to get to the SPL site to reserve a copy of these books.


Emperors of the Ice : a True Story of Disaster and Survival in the Antarctic, 1910-13, by Richard Farr. Farr’s debut novel has been named winner of the 2009 Scandiuzzi Children’s Book Award (part of the annual Washington State Books Awards) in the category of Books for Middle Grades and Young Adults (10-18 year old readers), although our board member believes it will appeal to adults as well.  This story of the ill-fated Antarctic journey led by Robert Scott to find the South Pole is told from the viewpoint of Apsley Cherry-Garrard:  “A bad navigator, inexperienced with dogs, blind as a bat, I was not the best man for the job, but I was the man available for the job.”

picture exhibition

Pictures at an Exhibition, by Sara Houghteling.  This novel, set in Paris, is about a Jewish family dealing with the Nazis’ looting of French art masterpieces during World War II, including the destruction of the family’s art gallery.  The son returns after the war to try to recover the family’s masterpieces and in the process learns about family secrets and the many losses caused by the war.


school ingredients

The School of Essential Ingredients, by Erica Bauermeister.  Our board member first heard about this book through the Phinney Neighborhood Association blog, and characterizes it as enjoyable escapist fiction, with wonderful descriptions of cooking.  The  characters in the novel all attend a weekly cooking class together, lead by a chef who doesn’t believe in using recipes.  We learn about what has motivated each student to attend, what they each wrestle with, and how their cooking and their lives are transformed by learning to listen to their senses.  Per the PNA blog entry, the author is a PNA member and volunteer instructor in the PNA  education program.


labor dayLabor Day, by Joyce Maynard.  According to Carol Haggas’ review in Booklist, “Stranger danger” is a concept unfamiliar to 13-year-old Henry, who befriends an injured man during one of his and his agoraphobic mother’s rare shopping excursions in town—with disastrous results for all. . . . Told from Henry’s point of view, Maynard’s inventive coming-of-age tale indelibly captures the anxiety and confusion inherent in adolescence, while the addition of a menacing element of suspense makes this emotionally fraught journey that much more harrowing.”  City Librarian Susan Hildreth confessed that this was the first book she’s read in a while that made her think “I wonder what Nancy Pearl thinks of this book?”  She checked in with Nancy, who hasn’t finished reading it yet, so stay tuned for Nancy’s verdict . . .  . or read it yourself and let us know what you think!

Start Reserving Books to Tide You Over During the Furlough

A friendly reminder that that all branches of The Seattle Public Library will be closed Monday, Aug. 31 through Sunday, Sept. 6 due to citywide budget cuts.  The Library will also be closed on Monday, Sept. 7 for  the Labor Day holiday, so regular Library operations will resume on Tuesday, Sept. 8.  Click here for more information about the closure.

Here are suggestions from the Friends’ Board meeting in August in case you need books to read during the furlough.  You can click on the links below to get to the SPL site to reserve copies of these books.

Olive picture

Olive Kitteridge, by Elizabeth Strout.  This novel features 13 interconnected stories, elegantly and sparingly told, of life in rural Maine.  Olive Kitteridge is a retired schoolteacher who provides a common thread in all of the stories, and we see how her choices in life play out as she moves from middle age to old age.

disreputable historyThe Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks, by E. Lockhart.  Nancy Pearl recently recommended this young adult novel on a radio show, and I wasn’t able to write down the title while driving, so was delighted that another board member brought it in to our meeting.  Frankie attends a private boarding school and finds intrigue in infiltrating an all-male secret society called the Loyal Order of the Bassett Hounds.  Can our heroine turn the tables on her male high school classmates who underestimate her and the other girls at school?  Read it and find out!

the help

The Help, by Kathryn Stockett.   A college graduate and aspiring writer returns to her hometown of Jackson Mississippi in the 1960s and decides to write down the stories of the black women who provide the domestic “help” in many of the white households.  The three narrators must deal with the fears and repercussions (and sense of pride) that result from publishing stories that challenge the prevailing concepts of race, class, family and gender roles.

loving frank

Loving Frank, by Nancy Horan.  This historical novel explores the relationship of famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright and his mistress Mamah Borthwick Cheney, a scholar in her own right.  The board member who recommended this especially enjoyed the lively discussion held at one of the branch library book groups, and commented that “Librarians run the best book groups!”   For more information about upcoming book group meetings at various branches, click here.

The Newest Superheroes: Your Neighborhood Librarians

 If there was any doubt that your neighborhood librarians should be given superhero status, take a look at this New York Times article about how the economic downturn is putting new stresses on libraries and librarians. Librarians are facing increased demands as “first responders” to patrons who are seeking help in filling out job applications and unemployment forms, using the library’s computers and free wi-fi access, looking for language and citizenship training, borrowing books and DVDs for free entertainment, and dealing with the emotional strains of making do with much less. Even Nancy Pearl’s beloved Librarian Action Figure might find it difficult to deal with all of these demands.

So how can you help? First of all, take the time to thank your neighborhood librarians – a kind word goes a long way. Second, consider volunteering at the Library – there are many different ways you can get involved. Third, email City Councilmembers and ask them to preserve funding for the Library: jean.godden@seattle.gov, richard.mciver@seattle.gov, bruce.harrell@seattle.gov, sally.clark@seattle.gov, tom.rasmussen@seattle.gov, jan.drago@seattle.gov, nick.licata@seattle.gov, tim.burgess@seattle.gov, richard.conlin@seattle.gov.

If you’re looking for books that feature fictional librarians, here’s a list from the Library’s Shelf Talk blog. And although the following books don’t feature librarians, consider the book recommendations below from the Friends’ Board meeting in April. You can just click on the links below to get to the SPL site to reserve a copy of these books. Quoted book review excerpts are reprinted with permission from Booklist.

Bone [Vol. I], Out from Boneville, by Jeff Smith. “One of the most acclaimed new comics of recent years, Bone is a Tolkien-meets-Pogo fantasy about the Bone cousins, who leave their home, Boneville, for adventures in the outside world. . . . Smith, with his clean draftsmanship and flawless comic timing, has been compared to comics masters Walt Kelly (Pogo and Carl Barks (creator of Uncle Scrooge McDuck). Like Pogo Bone has a whimsy best appreciated by adults, yet kids can enjoy it, too . . .” — Gordon Flagg   This review was written in 1995, and there are many other volumes available.

Creating a World Without Poverty: Social Business and the Future of Capitalism, by Muhammad Yunus with Karl Weber. Nobel Peace Prize winner Yunus is the founder of Grameen Bank, which lends small amounts of money to poorer individuals to help them start small businesses. This is an inspiring tale about the possibilities of “micro-lending”, and businesses that are helping people while still being profitable.

Why I Wake Early : New Poems, by Mary Oliver. This is a lovely collection of poems about nature and contemplative ideas, and encourages us to slow down and appreciate nature.

Cutting for Stone, by Abraham Verghese. This is Verghese’s first book of fiction, and starts in a charity hospital in Ethiopia while spanning three continents and several generations. This garnered a starred review in Publishers Weekly.

A Hand to Guide Me, Denzel Washington with Daniel Paisner. Actor Denzel Washington, a national spokesman for the Boys and Girls Club of America, has collected stories from over 70 celebrities (including himself) of how mentors made a difference in their lives. Contributors include Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, Gloria Steinhem, Whoopie Goldberg, Bonnie Raitt, Cal Ripken, and more.

Readers, who are your favorite neighborhood superhero librarians?

Seattle Residents are Literate, Well-Educated and Love Books

Taken from Seattle Central Library Economics Benefit paper:

Seattle is the second most literate city in America, according to a 2004 University of Wisconsin study of cities with populations over 200,000. “Seattle would have been number one,” said researcher Jack Miller, “except for its aging and relatively under used libraries.” This deficiency is rapidly changing, with the Libraries for All program revitalizing libraries across the City. Miller also confirmed what Seattleites have been saying for years: the City supports more bookstores per capita than any other city in the country.

Seattle has been a launching pad for numerous literacy and reading encouragement programs. In 1996, “America’s Favorite Librarian,” Nancy Pearl, launched What If All of Seattle Read the Same Book, a community-wide book club that has been duplicated in more than 50 cities across the country and internationally . Nancy Pearl has since become a cult hero, with two books – Book Lust and More Book Lust – and her own action figure.

According to the Census Bureau, Seattle has one of the highest rates of college education among large U.S. cities, with 49% of the population holding at least a bachelors degree.

This passion for education and reading contributes to the community’s overall quality of life and translates into support for the arts. This support benefits the Seattle Art Museum, the Seattle Symphony, and the Seattle Opera, which has the highest per capita attendance of any opera company in the country (Seattle Post-Intelligencer, July 1, 2004).

So what are you waiting for! Get to your local branch today and hug your librarian! 🙂


There She Was Again…Another Glimpse of Nancy Pearl

From one of her biggest fans! (particularly moi, on the Friends Board) 🙂

My Day Today
Today, I had to take the car in to the mechanic and there was only one bright angle to that – I got to go into work late enough to hear Weekday on NPR – and guess who was kibitzing? Nancy Pearl, her latest happenings and a book list to boot. It was, in short, a little treat in my day.

In my best New York accent – I luv hah.

Nancy Pearl’s Adventures
She talked about her recent trip back east to do some library projects, but her excitement was around getting to be in the buildings featured in some of the stories of her childhood. How exciting is that?? How great would it be, if we could visit the house of Nancy Drew, The Hardy Boys, the actual Yoyodyne lab, or Ninja Turtle studio? Ok, so I just threw the Ninja’s in there for an age group I can’t identify, but it would be neat to reflect in a space that inspired the characters that inspired us as children.

Many author’s homes are open to the public. Edith Wharton’s Estate happens to be in question at the moment, but Louisa May Alcott’s Orchard House, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Mark Twain – to name a few are still quite popular – not to mention the debt Canada owes L.M. Montgomery in tourism to PEI.

Nancy went on to talk about The Betsy-Tacy series, Maud Hart Lovelace (e.g., Betsy and Tacy Go Downtown, Betsy’s Wedding, Emily of Deep Valley) – and all the places she got to see and I have to confess, for a second I thought I was right there with her. Every time I hear her speak, her love for what she does beams through the radio – I hope to meet her one day.

Her recommendation to A Guidebook of Mankato Places aside (because it reminded me of a fact I try to hide: that I know all the trivia about all the episodes for Little House on the Prairie) I was pleased that this time, I had some inkling of many of the suggestions on her booklist – specifically A Soldier’s Heart by Gary Paulsen.

The Point of This Post
Nancy and the Weekday Host were discussing how the end of the cold war brought an end to great thrillers and spy novels as the clear enemy went away, moral gray areas with respect to espionage started to bring about most mysteries. The concept that resonated with me so profoundly, and one I would want to get an interesting dinner party together to talk about (Nancy of course would be invited, along with Thomas Jefferson, Mark Twain, Terri Gross and other interesting people) was her questioning why The Soldier’s Heart didn’t perform as well in the market place as Reading Lolita In Tehran. They both deal with the same topic. Soldier’s was written by a civilian who teaches literature at West Point. The author talks about teaching literature to men and women who are going off to war in Iraq. It’s about the conjunction between literature and life and Lolita has a similar theme, a teacher teaching literature to a group of determined students in spite of oppression.

This is why I love Nancy Pearl and she makes the cut every time to the question “If you could invite 10 people to dinner, dead or alive, who would they be?”

Soldier’s highlights the historical influence West Point had on the Civil War as it was the only war where classmates from the same graduating class found themselves on opposite sides, and how divided the institution became as a result. I would add to Nancy’s observation my thoughts on Lolita from a lecture I attended by the author some years ago – which was standing-ovation-fantastic.

Lecture Overview on Azar Nafisi
Azar Nafisi came to Seattle in 2006 to promote her book. I was moved by her speaking and wondered how many people were truly able to empathize with her message given that no one in the audience has ever lost the right to read. Her main theme was intellectual freedom.

Reading Lolita in Tehran is, in part, a memoir focused around Nafisi’s experience in the mid-1990’s of leading a small group of Iranian women in reading and discussing classic works of English and American literature – works which were forbidden and considered decadent by the government.

Her theme addressed the importance (and loss) of imagination in the development of nations. She mentioned that without imagination, you will be deprived of other aspects of your life. This statement reminded me of Ben Franklin’s claim that he would rather lose all rights but the freedom of speech, through which he would win all the others back. Azar riffed on imagination as a theme citing phrases like: “imaginative knowledge”, “Curiosity is insubordination in the most innocent form” and referring to Tolstoy’s definition: imagination is looking at the world through “washed eyes.”

She learned at an early age that reading was a transportive act, giving her the ability to go anywhere. This freeing of the mind in times of oppression presented a place of freedom and connection with others. If one reads a lot, one carries the world with them. Twain, Flaubert, Dostoyesfsky, etc.

She went on to extrapolate her theme more broadly….looking at nations. “Home” (and one’s own nation) is a place to question and re-question. That one (implying “nations”) should question themselves or else they develop a smugness of someone comfortable and unchallenged. Every nation has something to be ashamed of. Every nation has the right to change and grow. That right should be a god given right.

Harriet Beecher Stowe did not have the right to read her own lectures when she was touring in the UK, her husband had to read them. – bc it was “the UKs culture at the time.” In the east, the death scene in Swan Lake is removed and Desdemona’s suicide is removed from Othello so it “doesn’t depress the people” yet they stone a woman to death “bc it is their culture.” Resignation to others’ plight is dangerous business.

People understand the importance of individual rights and individual integrity. If they quote literature it’s bc they tried to preserve the best humanity had to offer in a time when humanity was lacking. When people were deprived of everything and they were on the way to the gas chambers, they quoted Flaubert. The mind is the last frontier and cannot be conquered. Even when the oppressors have taken everything away, you have the choice of what attitude you adopt. It is a constant “no” to the banality of the totalitarian regime.

People see activism as separate from the experience of the mind. In the west, what threatens us is our sleeping consciousness. In order to have the ability to empathize, we need to produce works of imagination. She was critical for a moment, and it was most powerful when she went on to state that

“American values used to mean something real and concrete. Huck Finn ponders the question: should I give Jim up? He had been taught that to harbor a slave meant that you would go to hell. But he thought about Jim in the morning and Jim in the evening and Jim was his friend. Huck made a decision to help Jim – he was “going to hell.” American values meant the ability to make a tough decision by way of self analysis. Now….we sleep. Imagination (innovation, alertness) is the key to development (into maturity) and we risk losing it.”

Definately something to consider in response to Nancy’s question on book sales with respect to Soldier’s v Lolita. Maybe a little heavy for most dinner parties, but over your next cup of coffee perhaps.

Related Links:

Under The Radar Books from Nancy Pearl

A few days ago I was driving to work and heard Seattle librarian Nancy Pearl on the radio with another set of “under-the-radar” books — titles you really, really should be reading but haven’t (yet). The latest batch features the story of three royal cousins, tales of wild animal adventures and a pun-filled picture book for younger readers.

One statement that particularly resonated with me was her reminder that people should walk the stacks every now and then. That is how you find these gems. Looking for a particular book? Wasn’t what you expected? Perhaps the one next to it is interesting…. Here she is featured on NPR. Each one looks like a treasure!