The Librarian’s Shelf: A Classic You’ve Been Meaning to Read

This wasn’t the book I intended to read for February, but it was the book I picked up at the end of January. The reader’s heart does what it does. I tend to be known as someone who enjoys English novels, someone who has been meaning to read more Catholic authors, and someone who just enjoys reading period. And yet I have had never read anything by Evelyn Waugh. Yeah, I know, it makes almost as little sense as the fact that I first read Chesterton last year (I’m excluding Ballad of the White Horse, which I read my junior year of high school and disliked every moment).

So what made me pick up Brideshead Revisited? Well, aside from having been told by multiple people that it was a good read (not a comforting read, not an easy read, but a good one) I had always put it off to someday because I didn’t have a copy. And then I picked up a copy at Toadstool back in the fall for a few bucks, and I was so certain it would be read in October. But then life happened so I pushed it off. It felt like it just slotted right into the ‘meaning to read’ category with a vengeance.

I really loved the look at the way the twenties devolved into the forties. Waugh apparently was a Bright Young Thing himself, but he’s writing it from a few decades remove and you can tell. There is a nostalgia, and the relief of having lived through The Great War, and the manic frenetic energy of the twenties as you would expect, but there is an overlay of regret that can only come with the remove of time. If you haven’t read it, I really think you should.

When it comes to classics you should read, there are any number of lists to consult, and they’ll have overlap and points of divergence. Given how this library is put together, you should be able to find the classic you’re looking for in either the Ballroom or the Newman Room. A random selection of classics that I have enjoyed for your perusal:

  • Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austin
  • Dracula by Bram Stoker
  • Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
  • Anne of Green Gables by LM Montgomery
  • Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
  • Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
  • The Iliad and the Odyssey
  • Edgar Allen Poe. Honestly you could pick anything
  • CS Lewis and JRR Tolkien. And yeah, pretty much pick your work for these guys.



5th Annual Catholic Literature Conference

YA’LL. I don’t usually geek out over conferences. I also don’t usually go to conferences. But I am strongly considering this one. The College is sponsoring the annual Catholic Literature Conference again and here’s the lineup:

  • Joseph Pearce: “Innocence and Wisdon in Narnia”
  • Dr. Amy Fahey: “Children’s Literature: Restoring the Imagination for All Ages”
  • Dr. Glenn Arbery: “Lost and Found: The Fortunes of Eve in Milton and Perelandra
  • Dr. Anthony Esolen: “Dickens and the Gospel of Childhood”

Its coming up on April 21st, so there’s still time to consider (I still am)

The Librarian’s Shelf: Poetry

The Librarian’s Shelf: Poetry

We’re wrapping up January, so time to reveal my first book pick of the year. I decided to start with the poetry book (reminder: the list of 12 categories we’ll see this year is in this post). Now, a few caveats to this: I was a politics major, not a lit major, so while I read great gobs of poetry, I didn’t immerse myself in it the same way that a lit major would. I can’t in all honesty say that I have a favorite poet, or a favorite type of poetry. I know I’m rather fond of the Romantics, but that’s the extent of it. I’m comfortable admitting that my strengths lie elsewhere. However, I do enjoy poetry, at least in small doses.

The question, then, was what to pick. There is, well, a staggering amount of poetry within the library, and a decent amount of poetry in my home. So what to pick, and how, and why? In the end, serendipity won out. I was going through our returns at the end of the semester when this little volume peaked my interest. It’s an anthology rather than a collection of poems by a single author. The poems are organized around the seasons, as well as a special section for New Years, which I decided to read on New Years Eve.

I did enjoy a decent number of the poems in this volume. I particularly liked that these were not poems that were word for word about a season. They were more evocative of things one might associate with a season. I will say, for me, a whole book of poetry is sort of like a whole box of dark chocolate truffles– nice in small pieces, but really hard to work through in any short or medium amount of time. I would have liked to spend more time with this one to see if I could get more out of it, but the month rolls on and there we are.

I also found the themes assigned to each season to be intriguing, though I didn’t necessarily feel like all of them were on the nose. Spring is focused on Pan, Diana, Courtship, and the Road. Summer is about birthdays, hunting, madness, nonsense, and music. Fall is for outlaws, soldiers, the sea, evening, elegies and farewells. Winter is the time of snowstorm, separations, hauntings, the night, witches and spells, and drinking songs. The New Year gets renamed “Beyond Winter” and covers love, the muses, and earthly paradise.

I get putting hauntings in to winter– there is an old tradition of ghost stories for Christmas, after all. Summer does feel perfectly suited. Fall is a bit harder,  because I’m still in that mental space where fall means changing, leaving the long lazy days of summer and moving back to the rigid world of both school and work (as opposed to “just work”). All in all, an interesting volume but I wouldn’t suggest it for those who are not used to reading poetry– start with something a little thinner, a little more straightforward; if one can ever describe poetry that way.

Other volumes in the collection to explore for your poetry volume:

  • First, you can find the poetry in the Newman Room, as all the call numbers are in that range of call numbers. You can try the serendipity approach easily; almost ever shelf in that room has some work of poetry on it!
  • The College has always had a certain affinity for Richard Wilbur, and you can find him in the Newman Room– we have several collections
  • I feel like I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Brooks and Warren’s Understanding Poetry, which was a staple of writing workshop for me as a Freshman.
  • Probably the only book of poetry I sought out in my underclassman years was the complete works of Henry Vaughan, which we have. For the Madeline L’Engle fans out there, he wrote “The World” (I saw Eternity the other night/ Like a great ring of pure and endless light)

A Year of Reading

A Year of Reading

Hello friends! The year is winding down, and I know I’m starting to turn toward the New Year, as I’m sure you are as well. There will be another post reflecting on how the year went for the library, but of course reading goes hand in hand with the library and so that’s what we’re looking at here.

Even your friendly neighborhood librarian has not read *all the things*, and the to be read list is an ever growing, lovely, maddening problem. One of the podcasts I usually listen to while shelving is “What Should I read next?” which is a delight. The host, Anne, puts together a reading challenge every year and I’ve decided to take it on to allow for a bit more structure to reading for me. You can find the details here, but here are the 12 categories we’re trying to fill:

  • A classic you’ve been meaning to read
  • A book recommended by someone with great taste
  • A book in translation
  • A book nominated for an award in 2018
  • A book of poetry, a play, or an essay collection
  • A book you can read in a day
  • A book that’s more than 500 pages
  • A book by a favorite author
  • A book recommended by a librarian or indie bookseller
  • A banned book
  • A memoir, biography, or book of creative nonfiction
  • A book by an author of a different race, ethnicity, or religion than your own

Essentially, this is a way for me to identify those books on the shelves that have sat in my to be read pile. So my plan is to read one of these a month and post about it here, along with some other recommendations for the category based on our library’s collection. Should be fun! I’ll be back mid January with the first pick.

Dewey Decimal Day

December 10th marks the birthday of Melvil Dewey, best known for the organizational system named after him. Dewey was also a founder of the American Library Association.

Librarian confession time: I am less familiar with Dewey than with Library of Congress. I cut my teeth in academic and museum libraries, and they all use LoC, not Dewey. I know most librarian have Dewey committed to memory, they know their 500s from their 900s whereas I… have not a clue what those are. And that’s ok! You don’t have to have Dewey committed to memory to appreciate the impact he and his system have had.

There’s plenty of material out on the internet and in library publication around the history and development of the DDC (Dewey Decimal Classification). I’m not wading into philosophies on this one– its a living classification system, and one I don’t use every day. What I will note is that this system predates LoC by several decades, and it was a step forward from fixed locations for books based on accession date. That way lies biology next to Dickens next to Freud next to an Encyclopedia. Easy to find when things were added, less easy to research, oh, any given thing. If you’ve walked into a library– pretty much any library– you have benefited from relative location, whether the spine labels are DDC or LoC.

For the record, I did go find the table of Dewey numbers, and I’ll share it in case you need it (though any public library I’ve been in tends to have signage that says what the numbers mean, bless the librarian who came up with that.)

000 – Computer science, information & general works
100 – Philosophy and psychology
200 – Religion
300 – Social sciences
400 – Language
500 – Pure Science
600 – Technology
700 – Arts & recreation
800 – Literature
900 – History & geography

Finally, a bit of fun: Geek and Sundry has a list of Bookish games! The first one sounds amazing

The Game’s afoot!

The Game’s afoot!

Happy Sherlock Holmes day! Did you know there was a Sherlock Holmes day? Apparently, those this is somewhat disputed, December 1 is considered the publication date for A Study in Scarlet, which is the first published Sherlock Holmes mystery (and one of the handful that I’ve read). I find Holmes fascinating– the mysteries are intriguing, and you don’t feel like you’ve solved them within the first few pages, which is nice.

Holmes also has remarkable staying power: 32 different actors have portrayed him in English film alone, and there are TV adaptations as well as radio. Basil Rathbone is quintessential for some, but others who have worn the deerstalker include:  Peter Cushing, Roger Moore, Christopher Plummer, John Barrymore (yes, those Barrymores), Christopher Lee (yes, that Christopher Lee), George C Scott, John Cleese (yes, of Monty Python), Michael Caine, and Orson Wells. Currently, you have Benedict Cumberbatch in England, Jonny Lee Miller in America, and Will Ferrel has a movie coming out next year. That’s a heck of a list. Its also a heck of a time frame: adaptations of Homles stretch from stage plays in 1899 to a movie that hasn’t been released yet and TV shows still in production. There’s something about the character. What intrigues me is that, as I was typing that list, I couldn’t spot a single miscasting. It makes sense for all of those men to have played that character– since the Cleese role was in a parody, and that makes a certain sense too. How do you create a character that can be played by so many different actors, with different styles?

We have a small collection of Holmes at the library– look in the Newman Room in the PR section and you will spot the Conan Doyle. The stories are also, for the most part, in the public domain so you can find digital copies through Project Gutenberg and DPLA, as well as radio plays on Spotify. I’ve listened to those before– the quality is good, and they feature Basil Rathbone in the Holmes role.