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The Book Beat - December 2, 2020

Hello, book friends! As 2020 comes to a rapid close (yay?!), I wanted to get one or two more blog posts in before the new year. So here we are! I have some fun bookish articles/pics/reviews for you, but first, an order of business.

My plan is to revitalize this site come 2021. I want to get back to doing more timely blog posts, as well as add some new book-related sections. So, please keep an eye out for that. And if you have any suggestions, feel free to send me an email. Wix still does not allow replies to these blog posts (I've harassed them in email numerous times about this). Maybe, just maybe, we'll finally see that in 2021.

And, finally, I show off my yearly book Christmas tree on my personal Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram accounts, but I wanted to add it here, too. I almost didn't do it this year, but then I realized that I couldn't let the 2020 Covid Funk take away one of my favorite holiday traditions. I'm so lucky to be healthy and relatively unscathed from the pandemic. I recognize I have it better than most and I will always be grateful for that. Yet, I still get mentally bummed at times (if I'm not reading as much as I usually do, I know things aren't completely right!), and this year was more challenging than usual. But I did end up making my book tree and was pretty pleased with how it turned out. Jane Austen's collection got the prime spot below the star and several books I'm looking forward to tackling in 2021 (A Promised Land by Barack Obama...I love him, but 700 pages will take me some time and Trust Exercise by Susan Choi) are also part of it. You all know I have a book-buying addiction, so even though they're all not read, I will have a great day.

Now, on to some fun/interesting/cool bookish news!

2021 Book Releases to Keep on Your Radar

First, an admission: I will not be hitting my GoodReads goal of 52 books this year. I'm very upset about this because you would think with quarantine and being stuck at home, reading would be my go-to activity for downtime. Unfortunately, downtime doesn't happen too often with helping the kids with school, doing my freelance work, cleaning, cooking, napping, etc. Plus, reading hasn't been able to work its usual magic and relieve the mental stress that I've experienced this year. But, I'm hoping 2021 is better (in regards to EVERYTHING). As with this blog, I will be recommitting to my reading goals in 2021. And these two articles from Marie Claire and Popsugar are great resources for selections. Start putting together your list now--and don't forget to ask for a bookstore gift card for the holidays!

Grrr! More Banning of Books by Prisons

If I've said it 10 times, I've said it 100: Reading and books make you a better person. Don't take my word for it, science back this up:

I've also said before how it aggrieves me when prisons ban books. Incarceration should be a combination of punishment and rehabilitation. And access to books can aid in that rehabilitation. I read Sister Helen Prejean's Dead Man Walking ages ago and it changed my entire opinion about capital punishment. One quote that's always stuck out: “A person is more than the worst thing he has ever done.” If books can expand an inmate's "experiences" to include those of fictional as well as non-fictional characters and encourage the rehabilitation of their soul/character/personality, what's the harm?

This article details a new rule for Allegheny County, PA inmates that bans them from receiving book donations. Reasons given for this include the "safety" of the inmates and employees (possibly related to Covid, although that's not specifically stated). Instead, they will only have access to 214 pre-chosen eBooks with the side "benefit" of the prisons making a profit by charging inmates to use the eReaders. There are several varying statements from officials in this article that seemingly contradict each other, so I'm not getting a clear picture of what this means. Bottom line: Political and economical considerations seem to be in play here and it's unfortunate. I will hold out hope that this rule is just temporary and changes when the danger of Covid lessens. Also, note to Allegheny County: Add the 215th eBook to that list and make it To Kill a Mockingbird. Geez.

NYPL + Airbnb? I'm In!

The New York Public Library system has 13 apartments leftover from when library custodians used to live in the libraries to care for the coal furnaces that kept the structures warm. Shorter: In the mid-1900s people lived in libraries and I am jealous! Thirteen of these apartments still exist and this fascinating article tells you about them.

Ever since I read From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, I've loved the idea of getting stuck (and eventually let out, of course) in a museum or library. My next to-be-read book is The Midnight Library, which imagines purgatory as a library. Can you imagine having a library to yourself? I'd be flying along on the rolling ladders like Belle in Beauty and the Beast!

These apartments are either dirty, drabby wastes of space (although still with some treasures within) or being refurbished for new ventures. Either way, it's illuminating to read about these hidden spaces and to imagine what life was like living above a library.

I've included the main article and another I found that detailed even more about these book-filled wonders.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie Reviews

Barack Obama's A Promised Land

I love book reviews, but book reviews written by actual authors have more verbal flair and in-depth critical analyses than others. This review of President Barack Obama's new book A Promised Land is written by author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, and it's wonderful. It's not just a missive of effusive praise. It's a nuanced and expansive critical review of the stories and politics he discusses and his overall views about our government and country. It looks at the issues he raises and his thoughts through the lenses of race, politics, power, history, and writing. It made me even more excited to read the book. I'm hoping to get to it over the holiday break.

All Aboard the Bookmobile!

If I can't be a superintendent who lives in a library, then driving a bookmobile around the country sounds like a swell back-up career. This first-person account by bookmobile driver, R. Kelley, tells of their tales driving a bookmobile around the second-largest county in the country, Flagstaff-Coconino in Arizona. The Flagstaff-Coconino County Public Library Bookmobile travels to it all: schools, nursing homes, monuments, national parks...even Navajo Nation. This entire article is a joy to read. What a unique perspective to have...and wonderful experiences to share.

An additional article on the bookmobile:

What I'm Reading...

I'm halfway through The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab. I'm loving it! Addie is a 23-year-old girl who was born in 1700s France. A creative spirit who opposes being forced into an arranged marriage, she makes a deal with the Devil. In exchange for her soul, he will get her out of her current predicament. He takes her plea for "time without limit," "freedom without rule," and "to be untethered and live exactly as she pleases" to extremes. She is able to live forever (or until she's ready to surrender her soul to the Devil) but she's unable to be remembered by anyone she sees. The story flashes between her early days figuring out how to live her cursed life and NYC circa 2014, when ends up in a hidden bookstore and finally meets a man who does remember her name.

Inventive, thrilling, and profound, this book is definitely one I will remember. I may be behind in my reading, but when books are this good, it makes it bearable.

Coming in December...

I plan on doing a "Best Books of 2020" in the next few weeks. I also want to wrap up my "A Short Story a Day (Thru 9/11) 2020" challenge with a "best of" assessment, too. So keep an eye out for them.

And Finally...

Cover of the Week:

We Keep the Dead Close

by Becky Cooper

The cover of this true-crime book (about the long-unsolved murder of Jane Britton, a graduate of Harvard University) does a great job creating the mood of the complex, haunting narrative. The photo of Jane Britton reveals her age and the decade in which she was murdered, while a hot pink background (in my opinion) denotes the misogyny aspect of the circumstances that precluded her murder from being solved for years. The vibrant color also offsets the black and white of the photo. It's striking and evocative. I can't wait to read this story.

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