Monday, October 26, 2009

Fall Musings and "Half Broke Horses"

I don't know what it is about fall that incites furious reading in me. Is it the general warm feeling that falling leaves brings? The fact that school is in session? Maybe it's the apples. Whatever it is, I find fall to be the most satisfying reading weather. It doesn't make me feel bad to go to bed early with the window slightly open to the cool night in my soft sheets and delve into a book and forget my life for a while. So, even though I don't really have time for it, in the past 2 and a half weeks, I've read four books. I suppose that I should feel bad about that fact since I'm sure that my school work is suffering, but I can't help it--it's a disease. Don't blame me for it.

I've been agonizing on how to organize this blog so that it's most efficient and easiest to use (blame the Library and Information Science degree-in-process), but I think that I'll just wing it. The last book that I read was Jeannette Walls' new book Half Broke Horses which I had been really looking forward to. Walls was at the National Book Festival in DC this year (which was fabulous besides the rain) and she was one of the most engaging people that I have heard speak. In case you don't know, Jeannette Walls is the author of the memoir The Glass Castle which is the true story of her life growing up living on the streets with her family who moved around the country aimlessly and rootlessly and often homelessly. Her story is very inspiring, and if you haven't read The Glass Castle, it should certainly be on your "to read" list. It's a great book for discussion, so if you have a book club or a school group that needs a book, The Glass Castle might be a consideration.

In Half Broke Horses, Walls tells the story of her Grandmother Lily Casey Smith. Originally, the book was going to be about her mother whose life is certainly interesting and you get a glimpse of that life in both The Glass Castle and Half Broke Horses, but when Walls was interviewing her mother, she insisted that Lily's story was better than her own. Written as a "True Life Story," Walls has taken liberty with her grandmother's life, which was necessary since her grandmother is dead and her mother's stories could not always be corroborated. The novel is told in the first person by Lily, and follows her from her poor childhood in the West where she was taught how to break horses and work on a ranch with her family to her experiences in teaching and the joy that she got from it to the birth of her children and grandchildren. Lily's life is fascinated, and it really gives perspective to a woman in an age where it was never a question whether or not we could go to school or be anything we want to. Lily has to fight hard for her life to be what she wants, and her fights are admirable. Possibly the most endearing part of the novel is in the fact that Walls recognizes that Lily was not a perfect, but a human who was trying to do the best she could for her family. This message comes clear when Lily decides not to tell her daughter that she is beautiful, even though she thinks so. Even though it seems that Rosemary (Walls' mother) needs to hear something of that sort, Lily feels that it will toughen her up if compliments aren't paid in that respect. Not only is Lily's story fascinating, but the history that you get about the early West and the "livin' off the land" kind of life that was the only way to survive is eye opening.

A great thing about Walls' two books as well is the fact that the chapters are short and separated, which makes for easy reading, and her prose is clear and concise rather than muddied with metaphors and symbols--Walls can tell a good story.

You'll probably like Half Broke Horses by Jeannette Walls if you liked:
The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd
...And vice versa. :)

I hope that your fall is allowing you to devour books shamelessly just like me!

Next on the pile: What Else But Home by Michael Rosen

Happy Reading!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

First Post as a "Blogger"!

Hello Everyone (and by everyone, I probably mean my mother..),

I've been hemming and hawing about starting a blog for a while now, but I've decided to take the plunge. I don't know if my life or opinions are interesting enough to sustain a blog, but I suppose it's not life or death. If you don't know me (which, seriously, I doubt there is anyone reading this who doesn't), I'm Stephanie. I am going to graduate school in Washington DC to get my Master's degree in Library and Information Science (hence the title of this blog). In college, I majored in English and Africana Studies, and to put it bluntly, I love books. Seriously. The depths of my love are not even fathomable to me. So, being a library student, and loving to read, I thought it might be fun for me to start a blog where I can share my thoughts on things that I'm reading. I'd really like to be able to update this blog once a week, but seeing as I'm working two jobs and going to school full time, don't be disappointed if it doesn't always happen, or if every time I post I haven't finished a book. But I've been pretty consistent since I've been here, so let's hope that my schedule keeps allowing me to read (or that I keep having the energy...) a book a week. I have joined a book club here in DC which meets once a month, so that should keep me on my toes!

What else could you want to know? Well, I think we've established that I love to read, but WHAT do I like to read. I will pretty much read anything (although, I'll be honest, I am a book snob--do not try to convince me to read Twilight or anything by Dan Brown--sorry. I just can't. Hate me if you have to.) and I try to vary what I'm reading, although I do sometimes get in a rut. Mostly from being an English major, I have an appreciation for things like Charles Dickens (who I love), Virginia Woolf, and Allen Ginsberg, and I love modern and contemporary American literature, but I read things that aren't assigned in English classes too! Since I was 14, I have kept a list of the books that I read each year. I have them constantly at arms reach just in case I need them for a reference. From these book lists, I am able to make book lists for other people which I tend to make based on things that they have enjoyed in the past. I LOVE MAKING BOOK LISTS. Seriously. If you need a book recommendation, I got your back! If you want a list, I can do it for you, and if you ask anyone who has gotten a list from me, they'll tell you. They're awesome. I'm not trying to brag, but... it's true.

I'd also like to incorporate a little bit of "me" into this blog too... You shouldn't have to read book recommendations in a vacuum! I just moved out to DC in August, so I'm still getting adjusted to the city and all that. I'm going to school full time so that I can get out into libraries with a degree! I'm looking to work in special libraries and archives at this point, and I'm really excited for where that kind of work can take me! Besides reading, I enjoy musical theater, attempting to cook, the holiday season, and general debauchery. :) If you stick with the blog (which I really hope that you do.. and that I do too!) then you'll probably just have to learn as you go along, and besides, if you already know me (which you most likely do) I don't want to bore you.

I just wanted to be able to initiate the blog, so I'm not going to put anything up about a specific book yet, you'll have to wait til next week! Feel free to comment and say hello!

Until next time,