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Books We’re Thankful For

Bethany:

I read the first three books in Sarah J. Maas’s Throne of Glass series in late 2014. I was working and living at a church camp in Washington, and my mental health was at the bottom of dumpster. In particular, I was being gaslit by my misogynistic boss. It wasn’t exactly the same as how Arobynn and the King of Adarlan were treating Celaena, but the strength she had inspired me to take my life back into my own hands and to get out of the toxic work and living situation. I am forever thankful for strong female protagonists who empower readers to demand  better in their own lives.

Jess:

4283751445047384. sy475 I'll Be the One

I’ve read many awesome books this year, but these three really stood out. Reading Gender Queer blew my mind, and helped me realize I’m non-binary. I felt so seen and understood. The House in the Cerulean Sea is such a beautiful, magical and heart-warming book that I can imagine reading again and again. The queerness, the wittiness, the brilliant commentary on life, love and what’s truly worth fighting for. Lastly, I’ll Be the One is such an entertaining, funny, and important novel. It’s rare to read about an Asian-American, bisexual and fat teen who loves herself for exactly who she is. There’s K-pop, dancing, friendship, romance, and lots of laughs. I’m so grateful to have found and read them this year.

Cassandra:

With the Enola Holmes movie recently out, I decided to reread the original series. Short and geared towards ages 10 – 14, the main character is the younger sister of Sherlock Holmes. I love much about this series, but what struck me on this reread were two things – Enola’s fierce determination for her being a girl to be a strength, not a weakness, and that running away was never framed as being the solution for when the main character has ‘failed’. So often girls disguise themselves as boys and “prove” themselves just as good. In the series, Enola being female is framed over and over again as a strength, as something that allows her to succeed even in a society geared towards men. Her disguises are female and information she was taught as a girl is useful (this shouldn’t be as refreshing as it is). As for running away, winning is frequently framed in terms of who’s able to win a physical fight. Any other win is “making up” for weakness. As if outwitting, outplanning, or outrunning someone is lesser than beating an opponent to a pulp. Enola runs and is proud of her speed and ability to escape. If there is any failure, it’s getting in a situation where she needs to in the first place. Ideally, she gets the information and sends it to the police or her brother for them to handle. In-person confrontation isn’t seen as necessary. She doesn’t berate herself for being too weak and she doesn’t go out of her way to learn how to fight. And I am so, so grateful for that. Over all, Enola’s opinion essentially is, “If you can’t see how strong being a girl makes me, that’s your problem and I will gleefully use that against you.”

Andrea B.:

Dear Martin book cover  How to be an antiracist book cover Good talk book cover

My school district is doing online-only school right now. The literacy coach and I usually host seasonal book clubs and decided to try one virtually this year, not sure of what to expect. We decided to read Dear Martin by Nic Stone and opened up the club to staff and students. Nearly 50 people joined, and the students were excited and engaged. Their insights made me like Dear Martin even more than I did the first time I read it over the summer.

The same school also launched an equity committee this fall, and I’m a member. We decided to read How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi. Just like with Dear Martin, I’d already read this book, but going through it again with my colleagues and hearing their points of view has made the book even more special to me.

One of the biggest surprises of my reading year has been the graphic memoir Good Talk by Mira Jacob. I purchased this for my high school library and when it arrived, I was automatically intrigued, even though I don’t typically like graphic novels. I took this book home with me and devoured it. I love so much about Good Talk, including the illustrations, the wit, and the way the author discusses family strain due to politics. This book is a gem.

Here are the other books for which I’m thankful this year:

  • Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi
  • Sigh, Gone: A Misfit’s Memoir of Great Books, Punk Rock, and the Fight to Fit In by Phuc Tran
  • Here for It: Or, How to Save Your Soul in America by R. Eric Thomas
  • Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid

Nicole

Trying to narrow this list down to just a handful of book that really mean a lot to me and have made me thankful for their existence was harder than I expected. I wanted to have books that are newer, but also some that have been around for a long time. In coming up with my list it made me realize that I really, really appreciate contemporary fiction about real and relatable issues. Those are the ones that have stuck with me and gotten me through the hard times. While one (okay maybe two depending on your feelings) book can be seen as somewhat controversial due to recent remarks from the author, it’s a book I have to include anyway because it’s meant a lot to me for a long time. So, here’s my list and brief reasons for each:

  • The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton – I read this for the first time in 6th grade and fell in love. It was my dad’s favorite book when he was a kid and so that really meant a lot to me. He passed away a little over a year and a half ago and so going back to this book and it’s film adaptation, really mean a lot to me because of that.
  • The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky – I read this for the first time in middle school as well. Even though I had a lot of friends, I just really related to Charlie in a lot of ways and the way he wrote letters really stuck with me. Even nowadays, I find myself writing random notes or journal entries as if they are to a random person because of this book. It’s also a book that’s made me feel that even when things are awful, you can always make it through.
  • 180 Seconds by Jessica Park – I stumbled upon this book in Kindle Unlimited about 2 years ago. It’s definitely a New Adult book but it kicked me in the gut and I haven’t stopped thinking about it since. It’s about a 3rd year college student and her dealing with falling in love and her mental health issues. It really hit home in a lot of ways and one of my libraries has a paperback copy of it. One day I’ll read it again.
  • The Meaning of Birds by Jaye Robin Brown – This is one of the newer titles on my list. This book starts with Jess’s girlfriend suddenly dying and her having to deal with all the grief of it. I read this book not long after my dad passed away and I think it really helped me accept things. It’s an excellent book for helping with grief as well as an excellent LGBTQ+ title.
  • We Used to be Friends by Amy Spalding – is about two girls who used to be best friends and their story of how that friendship ended and them looking back on it not long after. I ended a 13 year friendship last summer and read this book not terribly long after doing so. It was incredibly relatable because of that. So it’s also a title that stuck with me.

 

Molly

This was actually harder than I thought, being a librarian and a lover of books in general. Here is my list of books that top my list:

The Giver by Lois Lowry: I know there are many people who don’t like this book, mostly because of its ambiguous ending. And you definitely can’t judge this book by its movie (please don’t!!) I think this was my first dystopian novel (before that was a thing) and the idea of a society that functioned without emotions was at once fascinating and horrifying to me when I first read this in middle school. I was hooked.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky: Not to copy Nicole, but this was also a favorite of mine. It was a kind of mind-blowing book I read in high school (I remember it being advertised on MTV! That is how old I am!) The journal/letter style was definitely something I related to, as an avid journal-writer. Then there was the way I could relate to Charlie, even as a teen girl, and feel so heartbroken for him. This was also the first book I read that directly addressed sexual abuse and I understood that it was an important book. I even gave it to my English teacher to read. (Yes, I was a bit of a nerd.)

Angus, Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging by Louise Rennison: I love Bridget Jones, I love British humor, I love this book and the rest of the Georgia Nicholson series. I laugh out loud in public reading these books. They are pure teen angst/slap-stick comedy and I recommend them to everyone I know. I can’t wait until my daughter (who is 6) can read them. Well, I can wait for a little, I guess!)

American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang: This was one of the first graphic novels I ever read and it changed the way I thought about graphic novels. I was assigned this book in one of my MFA in Writing courses and when I reached the end, I was so amazed at the way everything came together that I was a little emotional! I recommended it to a boy a couple of years ago during our summer reading program and he wrote that it was the best book he had ever read and wanted more like it. It was one of those librarian moments when you know you are in the right place.

(Apparently I have a thing for yellow covers??)

 

Amanda

Dear Martin book cover

 

One book I am incredibly grateful for is Dear Martin by Nic Stone. When I moved to a library with a more diverse population, I realized I needed to read more diverse books, and this was one of the first I read. This story truly opened my eyes and made me think. I can honestly say I learned something new from this book. I’ve reread it every year since and still find value in it. In many ways, when everything happened this year with George Floyd, I found comfort with this book, in at least I knew how it all turned out.

 

 

 

 

Jenna

I keep returning to Libba Bray’s 2009 release Going Bovine. It’s highly-acclaimed, a NYT bestseller, a Printz winner … and in so many ways it’s the book of my heart. (I mean, aside from the fact that there is a character named Jenna, plus the book’s pub date is my birthday. I met Libba and told her that, and she signed my copy by writing, “To Jenna, I wrote this for your birthday! Truth!”)

Going Bovine is a delightfully bizarre, surreal fever dream and it’s not for everyone. Its bold weirdness, its boundary-pushing narrative, its audacity to be a retelling of Don Quixote, and its commitment to deadpan absurdism are all things that feed my soul. Going Bovine, a novel that follows high schooler Cam on his mad-cow-disease-induced, road-trip hallucination is Libba Bray’s follow-up to her dreamy, supernatural, Victorian Gemma Doyle series. I loved that trilogy, but I love even more that Bray refused to be boxed-in to writing about magical girls for her entire career. This experimental novel showed me the width and breadth that Young Adult fiction can achieve – and I am so thankful that this offbeat book exists for weirdos like me.

Notes on Attending an All-Day Virtual Conference

At the beginning of the year, I looked forward to attending an all-day librarian event in New York City in May. I don’t need to explain what happened. Like so many other conferences planned for 2020, this one went virtual. While I was bummed to miss out on all the fun things that come with going to events like these (Swag! Hanging with colleagues! Meeting authors!) – I did feel grateful that the event hadn’t been canceled altogether. (And my library was pretty stoked, too, because my registration fees had been refunded!)

Like any other librarian, I’ve attended a fair amount webinars. But I’d never attended an all-day virtual event before. I wanted to make the most of my day in front of the screen, so I prepped in a lot of the same ways I do for an in-person professional development program.

How it was the same

I took time prior to the conference to look over the day’s program. There were multiple panels happening simultaneously, so I made my choices in advance of which I was to attend. As with in-person conferences, I also marked off a few alternates in case a particular panel was full (or if I wanted to bail part-way through and slide into another one. Come on, we’ve all done it.)

I decided what to wear. Just because I planned to spend the day on my couch instead of a convention center didn’t mean I should neglect my wardrobe! Instead of figuring out which were my comfiest shoes for a day of hoofing it, I found myself evaluating which of my sweatpants were the stretchiest. When it comes to any conference, whether it is virtual or in person, comfort is always the priority.

I set up an auto-response email, just as I would when I attend any other in-person professional development event. Just because I’d been working from home for a few months, and would be home still while participating in the virtual conference, didn’t mean that I was planning to check email. My scenery hadn’t changed, but I knew I couldn’t expect myself to multi-task. So I made sure my co-workers knew that too.

How it was different

I was exceptionally more engaged in what the speakers had to say. This surprised me, but it shouldn’t have. While I missed the aspect of interacting with my fellow librarians, I found that without the distractions of being around other people I could focus more on listening to the panelists. 

I took pages and pages of notes without abandon or the usual self-consciousness I feel while note-taking in public. And, for the first time ever, I actually referred back to my notes after the conference!

How it was the same, but different – both, at the same time

The last thing I need is another tote bag. But if I’d gone in person I know I would have come home with one. At least. But this event was not light on swag! The publisher booths offered everything from free eARCs, downloadable bookmarks, Reader’s Advisory lists, and more. Aside from digital swag, some publishers had forms to fill out to receive physical swag in the mail. A few weeks later, I received a box of books, a poster, window clings, stickers, and temporary tattoos. 

My social media game was still as strong as it was had I been there in person. I live-tweeted and took photos. I took photos of my screen as if these esteemed authors were actually in my living room. I Instagrammed a pic of one author and commented that I owned the same shirt she had on and she responded with, “Twinsies!” I followed the hashtag and retweeted the awesome takes from other librarians. Though we were all so distant, it actually did feel like we were together.

I made connections. I traded email addresses with publisher reps instead of passing business cards back and forth. I saw familiar names pop up in the chat boxes and got a kick out of “running into” people I knew. At a conference. That I attended from my couch.

It felt like I was really there. And that’s because I really was.

 

Asynchronous Programs on Discord

by Bethany Dietrich

So, you’ve set up your Discord, and you want to start establishing  a community vibe to the place. Asynchronous text channels are a good place to start!

What are asynchronous programs? Live programming online is synchronous (like when you play  Jackbox games or you do trivia via screensharing), so asynchronous programming is when people can participate in a prompt or program on their own time and not at a set time. If you post a poll and allow people to comment for up to 24 hours after posting, that’s asynchronous. (You can learn more about asynchronous vs. synchronous programming in this Programming Librarian blogpost.)

Asynchronous text channels in Discord can cover a gamut of topics, but I have “Art Stuff” and “Happy Stuff” text channels. These are open-ended text channels that invite teams to build rapport by posting and commenting positively on one another’s posts.

In Art Stuff, teens post pictures of what they’ve created or drawn. It’s been amazing to see how supportive they are of one another:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And only with a little bit of prodding did they take me up on sharing ANYTHING they create: unique ice cream flavors, needlework, animations, desserts and pastries, and more:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My teens love drawing, so they’re posting in here all the time.

The second asynchronous text channel I’ve set up is one I’ve dubbed “Happy Stuff.”  In this channel, I’ve challenged them to share something everyday that has made them happy or that made them grateful. I tell them it can be Big Stuff or Little Stuff; it doesn’t matter. Did you get an A on that test you studied for? Great! Tell us about it! Did your mom make your favorite meal for dinner? Super! We want to know about it! Did you find $20 in your pocket? Awesome! You’re buying the snacks next time (jk!)!

I got this idea in early August when I was really starting to worry about my teens’ mental health. During that time, I read these articles and attended a webinar:

But the biggest influence on the creation of this text channel is my own experience with keeping a gratitude journal, which I’ve done since a therapist assigned it as “homework” in 2008. I know  firsthand how much of a positive impact thinking on the happy things will help you.

Now, the Happy Stuff channel isn’t nearly as popular as the Art Stuff channel, but it gets some use:

 

 

 

These are two easy text channels you can start on your library’s server, but some other ideas are:

  • Polls: Did you used to ask poll questions in your teen room where patrons could write their answer on a slip of paper? Put it in a text channel instead!
  • Would You Rather questions: Same sort of idea as polls, but it’s a great way to get teens comfortable participating without asking them to reveal too much about themselves.
  • Watchlist: Ask them to share Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, and Youtube suggestions.
  • Readlist: Ask them to share book recommendations!

If you have other ideas for asynchronous text channels, share them in the comments below!

Five LGBTQIA+ BookTubers to Watch

If you’re looking for helpful and entertaining book recommendations, look no further than some of my favorite booktubers:

perpetual pages:

Adri (they/them) is a queer, non-binary, and trans Latinx reader in their early 20’s. Adri reviews books of all genres and for all ages, but definitely has a soft spot for manga and graphic novels. They are especially passionate about queer representation, intersectionality, feminism, and lifting and centering marginalized voices.

StarlahReads

Starlah (she/her) is a queer and multiracial girl who releases weekly videos about book subscription boxes and middle-grade, young adult, and adult books (especially SF/F, manga and thrillers). 

 

Et tu, Brody?

Brody is a 23-year-old queer, non-binary and Native booktuber in Florida. Brody reviews books for all ages and is a co-host of the yearly IndigAThon challenge. IndigAThon is held every November to uplift Native stories and experiences.

Bek (they/them) is a 27-year-old booktuber who loves reading LGBTQIA+ non-fiction, YA fiction, history and memoirs. They post in-depth reviews weekly and are an avid user of their local library.
Jesse (they/them) is a Black and Mexican queer and non-binary booktuber in their 20’s and based in Minneapolis. Jesse posts honest and comprehensive book reviews, unboxing and shelf organization videos, and so much more. Jesse also founded the enby book club and created their very own TBR tarot cards set.

10 Contemporary YA Novels Inspired by the Classics

An open book

Recently, I was processing books at work and realized how many titles are inspired by classics. I love retellings because they provide an excellent introduction to classic literature for young people. I’m not one who believes every reader needs much classic lit in their life, but it can help to be familiar with prominent authors and titles since their work is referenced so often. Teens who plan to pursue an English degree or library work might be especially interested in classic retellings.

Today I’m sharing ten contemporary novels based on the classics, from Jane Austen to “Beowulf.” There’s something for everyone, so keep on reading.

Ordinary girls book cover

Ordinary Girls by Blair Thornburgh (Inspired by Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen)

A lighthearted contemporary retelling of Sense and Sensibility finds two sisters, complete opposites in temperament, who discover that the secrets they have been keeping make them more alike than they realized.

His hideous heart book cover

His Hideous Heart: 13 of Edgar Allan Poe’s Most Unsettling Tales Reimagined edited by Dahlia Adler (Inspired by the work of Edgar Allan Poe)

Thirteen of Poe’s terrifying works are reimagined in new and unexpected ways for modern readers. Poe’s own stories are included, so readers can compare.

Lost in the never woods book cover

Lost in the Never Woods by Aiden Thomas (Inspired by Peter Pan by J. M. Barrie)

When children start to go missing in the local woods, eighteen-year-old Wendy Darling must face her fears and a past she cannot remember to rescue them in this novel based on Peter Pan.

We are the perfect girl book cover

We Are the Perfect Girl by Ariel Kaplan (Inspired by Cyrano de Bergerac by Edmond Rostand)

A warmhearted retelling of Cyrano de Bergerac finds two teens, the outgoing Aphra and the beautiful Bethany, working together in an unintentionally escalating deception to win the heart of a mutual crush.

Star without Stars book cover

Sky Without Stars by Jessica Brody and Joanne Rendell (Inspired by Les Misérables by Victor Hugo)

This sweeping reimagining of Les Misérables tells the story of three teens from very different backgrounds who are thrown together amidst the looming threat of revolution on the French planet-colony of Laterre.

Pride by Ibi Zoboi

Pride by Ibi Zoboi (Inspired by Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen)

In a timely update of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, critically acclaimed author Ibi Zoboi skillfully balances cultural identity, class, and gentrification against the heady magic of first love in her vibrant reimagining of this beloved classic.

A blade so black book cover

A Blade So Black by L. L. McKinney (Inspired by Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll)

This isn’t the Wonderland you remember. The first time the Nightmares came, it nearly cost Alice her life. Now she’s trained to battle monstrous creatures in the dark dream realm known as Wonderland with magic weapons and hardcore fighting skills. Yet even warriors have a curfew. Life in real-world Atlanta isn’t always so simple, as Alice juggles an overprotective mom, a high-maintenance best friend, and a slipping GPA.

The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein by Kiersten White

The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein by Kiersten White (Inspired by Frankenstein by Mary Shelley)

The events of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein unfold from the perspective of Elizabeth Lavenza, who is adopted as a child by the Frankensteins as a companion for their volatile son Victor.

Grendel's Guide to Love and War book cover

Grendel’s Guide to Love and War by A. E. Kaplan (Inspired by “Beowulf”)

A teen misfit resolves to defeat a local bully who upsets the senior community by constantly throwing wild parties, an effort that is complicated by the teen’s father’s PTSD, his unrequited feelings for the bully’s sister and an existential crisis related to his mother’s death.

A study in charlotte book cover

A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro (Inspired by the Sherlock Holmes character from Arthur Conan Doyle)

Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson descendants, Charlotte and Jamie, students at a Connecticut boarding school, team up to solve a murder mystery.

All summaries are from NoveList.


Have you read any of these? What novels would you add to this list?