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.



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.

Jane Austen and word choice

Jane Austen and word choice

This article has been making the rounds in Libraryland, and I’m sure some of you may have come across it as well. If not, take a peek!

For me, what’s interesting is the way that folks try to explain “Why Austen.” I’ve never been hugely influenced by Austen– I’ve read 3 of her novels, certainly seen more then a few cinematic adaptations, and even read a few Austen inspired pieces– but she was never a go to for me. To borrow a concept from The Little Paris Bookshop, Austen was never a medicine or tonic that squared with my life (mental, emotional, spiritual), and she’s not in my reading apothecary. At the same time, Lucy Maud Montgomery is, and I think there’s a development in English language novels following Austen, and LMM follows on. So I can’t hate on Austen, to be sure. I think Austen is also easier to appreciate the older you get, because you realize how insightfully she can write about humanity, and you have to see a certain amount of it before you can really get that.



Thoreau and Walden Pond

Thoreau and Walden Pond

If you’re anywhere in the vicinity of campus, you are not so very far from Walden Pond and the many haunts of the New England transcendentalists. Thoreau in particular is in the limelight this year, as it is the bicentennial anniversary of his birth.

Concord, MA is where most of the movement was centered, the “biggest little place in America,” so Henry James once said. Concord is worth wandering for all manner of reasons, but I wanted to highlight the bicentennial events in case anyone wants to explore Thoreau in more detail this year.

There is, of course, Walden Pond. Its a state park these days, with hiking trails and swimming allowed, along with the requisite guided tours. You can check out more info on the Pond here.

The main event is probably the Concord Museum, one of the main locations to find all things Thoreau. They have several exhibits this year on Thoreau, and they’ve got an event for Thoreau’s birthday (July 12th, just around the corner!). The Museum also has exhibits on the other notable events and residents of Concord, and online exhibits as well for those farther afield.

Finally, I would be remiss if I didn’t link to this article in the Paris Review. I must confess, I didn’t remember that this was the bicentennial on my own. The article popped up in my RSS feed, but I’m glad I did. Its an interesting read, whether you are a fan of Thoreau or not.

Shakespeare 400 and the First Folio

Shakespeare 400 and the First Folio

Forgive the silence of the last week; even I cannot find away to make reorganizing spreadsheets sound fun. Because Excel doesn’t have a native functionality for sorting by call number, it is up to us to sort the sheets for the shelf read. It’s just as charming and delightful as you might imagine.

But! I return with a quick review of “First Folio! The Book that Gave us Shakespeare” We went last Saturday but I decided to hold the write up until today, to coincide with the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s birth. For those in New Hampshire (or really anywhere in the Boston area), the place to go is the Currier Museum of Art. The Currier is a great little museum on its own, and New Hampshire residents get in free on Saturday mornings until noon.

When you first enter the museum, the exhibit is to your left (there’s plenty of signage). The Currier is also running an exhibit through their library on potion books from the time of Shakespeare, and that is signed as well.

So I freely admit that I could have elbowed people out of the way to take a picture of the folio, but I didn’t. I thought it was more important to read the exhibit, to actually read the folio, and to explain it to my son. What surprised me was how small it is; the fact is that this volume represents the first time that 18 of Shakespeare’s play appeared in print, but its not that big a book.I grant you, its bigger then a book you’d take on an airplane, but it can be easy to forget that the publisher at the time was just concerned with putting out a book, not a historical artifact. Its immensely cool, nonetheless and well worth a trip.

The Currier’s installation is in their European art wing, so we wandered through those pieces as well:



Most of the art in there can’t have photos taken, so I only snagged two of the medieval pieces, but they’re quite lovely. The Folio is up until May, but the Potion exhibit the library is running will be up a little longer, and you want to make sure not to miss it either:


The exhibit is made up of medical texts and herbologies from the time of Shakespeare. Its also less crowded then the Folio room so you can spend more time looking things over without feeling guilty that you’re blocking others.

You can find a great deal of information on what is out there for celebrating Shakespeare; a quick search of Twitter for #Shakespeare400 will do the trick. For the locals, consider checking out St. Anselm’s marathon reading of all of Shakespeare’s sonnets, which takes place Monday.