Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Cybils Season

I'm late in writing about this - Cybils season has been going on since October 1 - but I want to share this great resource with you since you can use it to help you spend your budget money. What are the Cybils? The Cybils are the Children's and Young Adult Blogger Literary Awards, book awards that have been given out by Children's and YA bloggers since 2006. The judges are all kidlit bloggers and they aim to choose books that have a blend of high literary merit and kid appeal.



One amazing thing about the Cybils is that the organizers provide an amazing amount of transparency. You can see exactly who the judges are and who has nominated what. You can see what books have been nominated and ANYONE can make one nomination per category.

And it's these nominations that I find really useful at this time of year. I'm at the point in the year when I'm trying to wrap up my spending before our purchasing cut-off. I want to try to make sure I didn't miss anything, since it'll be a couple of months before I can start placing regular orders again as we close out the books on 2018. The Cybils nominees are often books that have high kid appeal, so I love to check out what's on those nomination lists each year.

Particularly helpful to me are the categories that have high circulation at my library but are rarely professionally reviewed: board books and easy readers. I also pay special attention to the picture books and graphic novel lists as those categories also check out frequently. Of course, I read professional reviews of these titles, too, but the nomination lists can bring titles to my attention that I may have missed.

There are a bunch of nomination categories, so whatever age you buy for, you're likely to find something that could help you out. Don't miss this great resource!

Sunday, November 4, 2018

One State One Story

This October, my library participated in Indiana's One State One Story program celebrating the 200th anniversary of the original publication of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. We've not done a program like this during my time at the library and I was so interested to see how it would go. I wasn't certain we could get people interested in reading a classic or engaging with us about it.

Abby holding up our Frankenstein event booklet.


It turns out we had a total blast and I can't wait for our next community read!

Not everything we tried was successful, but here are some things that made our community read a success for us:


  • Staff buy-in. We ordered everyone Frankenstein t-shirts that they could wear on Fridays or days that we had Frankenstein programs. Our town harvest festival happened during this month and we themed our library booth around Frankenstein and STEM, showing off our new 3D printer from the Makerspace at our branch and providing science activities for kids to stop in and try. This gave our staff concrete ways they could engage patrons in the discussion, whether or not staff members were willing to read Frankenstein (some did, some didn't). 
  • Marketing! Our marketing director created a really snazzy-looking booklet with all the Frankenstein related events so we could promote everything at once. 
  • Giveaway copies. We won 50 copies of Frankenstein as part of our grant from Indiana Humanities, but we ended up purchasing 100 additional copies so that we could give out copies to all our book discussion participants and to other patrons throughout the month. This was possible in part because this particular book has many versions and is available at an affordable price. Being able to actually hand patrons a free copy got them excited about it and each copy had discussion questions inside (more on that later). 
  • A variety of events. We hosted STEM and Frankenstein-themed children's and teen programs, as well as a variety of programs for adults. Some of these were grant-funded and some were paid for from our normal programming budget.
  • Special book discussions. Instead of just holding our book discussions at the library, we held a Frankenstein Tea at a local state historic home and at our Carnegie building (which is now a museum branch of the library). These extra touches (and FOOD!) gave these events some additional appeal. 
One of the things that I tried and that flopped was posting discussion questions on our Facebook account throughout the month. My thinking was that people who might not come out for a program might prefer to engage that way and participate in the discussion. I used Indiana Humanities' "big idea" questions because they are more general questions that mostly do not require you to have read the book and linked to the downloadable ebook and audiobook available through Hoopla. I did not get any engagement on those posts, even when I commented and shared them myself. I still think there's something in creating an online book discussion, but next time I'd experiment with some different platforms, or maybe hold a discussion at a certain time, like a Twitter chat or even Facebook Live? 

Book discussion leaders posing with tea and a book at the Culbertson Mansion.

My big event of the month was our book discussion and tea, held at the Culbertson Mansion State Historic Site. It was really neat to be having a literary discussion in a similar kind of environment to where Mary Shelley began writing Frankenstein. It was my first time hosting a book discussion for adults and I was not sure how it was going to go. I utilized some of the discussion tips from the Indiana Humanities event guide and the event went REALLY well. 

I opened up our talk by asking everyone to go around and say their name and one word that describes how they feel about the advances in science and technology in our world. This was a nice icebreaker with vary varied responses that helped get the conversation started. I had prepared a TON of discussion questions beforehand, but I wanted the conversation to flow from the participants, so I let that happen as much as possible and only chimed in with my questions if we seemed to have reached a stopping point. I wish I had made the event longer - we could have talked about Frankenstein for another hour, I think! 

Lots of libraries around the state participated in One State One Story and I'm pleased that it was so well-received by our patrons and staff. I can't wait to hold another one! 

Have you done a community read at your library? What tips would you share? 

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Four Crossover Books by Native American Authors

November is Native American Heritage Month and it's a great time to promote Native American authors. Of course, you can and SHOULD be doing this throughout the year, but I know this is a time of year when folks might be particularly paying attention. There have been some AMAZING books by Native American authors published in 2018 and here are some of my favorites. Bonus: these titles, two published for teens and two published for adults, are all great crossovers for both teens and adults.



Give Me Some Truth by Eric Gansworth (Arthur A. Levine Books, 2018. 432 pages). It's 1980 and Carson has his heart set on winning Battle of the Bands. One problem - he needs a band. Second problem - he's caught up in a movement against a racist restaurant owner that ends up meaning more than Carson ever imagined. Maggi has just moved back to the Tuscarora reservation after years of living as a "City Indian" and she's desperate to get out of making the traditional bead art that her family sells and make her own art. With a strong sense of time and place, and The Beatles tying everything together, this is a novel for teen or adult readers of John Green or fans of classic rock. This one's published for teens, but adults who have '80s nostalgia or love music will dig it, too.



Hearts Unbroken by Cynthia Leitich Smith (Candlewick, 2018. 304 pages). When Louise's boyfriend mocks Native people in front of her, she dumps him over email. It's her senior year and Lou doesn't have time for anyone who's going to disrespect her people. She concentrates on navigating relationships and her Muscogee culture while competing for bylines on her school's newspaper. When a huge story breaks - a controversy about the non-white casting for the school musical The Wizard of Oz - Lou finds herself in the middle of it as her little brother, cast as the Tin Man, starts becoming a target of attacks. Here you'll find a super smart protagonist trying to balance romance and her principles while learning more about life and herself each day. Hand this to readers of contemporary social justice titles like Love, Hate and Other Filters. Published for teens, adult readers of contemporary YA will dig this one, too.



There, There by Tommy Orange (Knopf, 2018. 294 pages). Alternating viewpoints tell a story of a wide cast of intergenerational Native American characters, all building up to a modern powwow in Oakland, California. Each character has a reason for traveling to the powwow and they are connected in unexpected ways. Readers of character-driven fiction will love getting to know these characters and piecing together their connections. Hand this to readers of literary urban fiction. Published for adults, teens, especially lovers of urban fiction, will find characters here to identify with.



Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse (Saga Press, 2018. 287 pages). After the Big Water, not much is left of North America except the Navajo reservation Dinetah, protected by walls that their leaders had the foresight to build. But with the rise of the waters came the end of the Fifth World and the beginning of the Sixth and the return of mythical monsters to Dinetah. Maggie is a monsterslayer - a vocation she's particularly suited to due to her supernatural Clan gifts. But now there is a new kind of monster appearing in the mountains - a monster that must have been created by humans. And Maggie, who always works alone, must join forces with an apprentice medicine man to seek out the evil that's taken root in her home. This is an action-packed, blood-soaked read by an Ohkay Owingeh author, perfect for fans of urban fantasy. Published for adults, there is definitely teen crossover potential for teens who don't mind a bloody story.

There's no better time than the present to pick up or hand a reader a book by a Native author. Have you read any of these? What did you think?

Sunday, October 28, 2018

An Awesome App for Your Book Club

Have you heard of the Book Club App by Book Movement? My book club started using it and it has been so super helpful and fun to use! 

(This is where I tell you that this is not a sponsored post - I just think it's a really neat app!)

Book Club is a free app available for Apple devices (doesn't look like it's available for Android). There are links within the app to purchase books via Apple iBooks or Amazon, but you can use the app for free. I learned about it on Book Riot and their post lists several other apps that might be great for using with book clubs. We decided to try Book Club and it's really worked for us. 

Here are the things I love about it: 


Schedule your meetings, RSVP, and remind everyone all in the app. No longer are we all emailing each other a few days before asking who's hosting book club or trying desperately to remember to send a reminder email out. When we schedule our next meeting, I put it in the app and everyone has access to the information (date, time, who's hosting) right on their phones. Bonus: Book Movement sends automatic reminders to everyone, so we no longer have to think about that. 


Discover books and keep track of potential books your book club might like to read. This was always a struggle for us: choosing our next book. We'd have lists and lists of suggestions one month and then the next month we couldn't remember what was on our lists. The app allows you to save possible future books AND to vote anonymously, making it easy to give everyone a vote without putting anyone on the spot. 


The app automatically keeps track of your past books and meeting dates. I input the older information from before we started using the app, but now as each date passes the books get recorded in our Past Books section. I get a lot of satisfaction of keeping track of what we've read and I love that this keeps the meeting dates, too. No need for a "book club historian" if you have this app.

We've been using this with my personal book club, but I think it has potential for library book clubs, too, particularly if you have a group of regulars that come very frequently. It could be useful even just as a tool for letting everyone know about upcoming meetings and upcoming books. Once you create a book club, you can email members or share a code with them so that they can connect to your particular book club. 

Do you use anything to keep your book club organized? What works for you? 

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Seven Scary Middle Grade Books

It's October! Around here that means the wind's blowing colder, it's getting dark earlier, and lots of people are in the mood for a good scary story. Something we learned quickly as we were visiting schools for booktalks: kids LOVE scary stories. Not every kid, of course, but lots of them. So today I've got seven of my favorite scary stories for your middle grade readers. I would love to hear about your favorites in comments!



Doll Bones by Holly Black (Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2013. 244 pages). Zach, Poppy, and Alice are best friends, getting together to weave awesome adventure stories starring their action figures, a pastime that none of their fellow middle-schoolers would probably understand. But things are starting to change between them and when the end of the game seems nigh, the girls visit Zach in the middle of the night to tell him that Poppy is being haunted by a mysterious china doll who claims that it is made from the ground up bones of a murdered girl. The friends must set off to figure out where the murdered girl lived and bury the doll or risk being cursed forever. This is the perfect fall read with a chilling atmosphere and a solid friendship story at its heart.



Hoodoo by Ronald Smith (Clarion, 2015. 208 pages). Twelve-year-old Hoodoo Hatcher was born into a magic family, but he hasn’t yet figured out how to harness his powers. When a spirit arrives in their woods, Hoodoo has a vision telling him that it’s up to him to defeat this demon, but how can he when he doesn’t have his magic? This is an atmospheric story with some seriously creepy magic going on. I would especially recommend this one for fans of historical and Southern gothic stories.



The Jumbies by Tracey Baptiste (Algonquin, 2015. 234 pages). Eleven-year-old Corinne doesn’t believe in jumbies – what folks call supernatural creatures on her island home. But when she goes into the mahogany forest to get back the necklace the village boys stole from her… something follows her out. This is one of my absolutely favorites to booktalk. It's a strong friendship story, as well as being a terrifying tale of supernatural creatures. Readers who liked Doll Bones will love this book.



The Night Gardener by Jonathan Auxier (Abrams, 2014. 350 pages). When two abandoned siblings find work at an English manor house, they quickly realize that all is not right in the house. People there have awful nightmares every night and each morning Molly finds muddy footprints that don’t match the feet of anyone living in the house. Can they save themselves and the family from the night gardener? From the warnings of townspeople that no one enters "the sour woods" to the dulling of Molly's bright red hair as she continues to live in the house, this book is filled with little details that add up to an un-put-downable scary story.



Small Spaces by Katherine Arden (G.P. Putnam's Sons, 2018. 218 pages). When Ollie’s class school bus breaks down on the way back from a field trip, the creepy scarecrows in the fields start to look all too real. Their teacher goes for help and the bus driver has some strange advice for the kids: “Best get moving. At nightfall they’ll come for the rest of you.” And then Ollie’s broken wristwatch displays a terrifying message: RUN. Katherine Arden, author of popular adult fantasy books, is a master of atmosphere and she brings that to this middle grade book, too. There were so many passages that I just read over and over for the shiver down my spine before I raced on, needing to know what happens next.



Spirit Hunters by Ellen Oh (HarperCollins, 2017. 276 pages). When Harper and her family move to a new home, rumors are that their new house is haunted. But Harper doesn’t believe them… until her little brother starts acting very strange. Could he be possessed by a spirit? And how can Harper save him? This creepy mystery from We Need Diverse Books founder Ellen Oh totally reminded me of the scary books I loved to read as a tween. Details of Harper's Korean-American family and portrayals of the racist microaggressions Harper faces make this title stand out in a sea of haunted house books.



A Path Begins (The Thickety #1) by J.A. White (Katherine Tegen Books, 2014. 488 pages). When Kara was a little girl, her mother was convicted of witchcraft and hanged. Now, Kara and her family are outcasts. One day, a strange bird appears to Kara and leads her into the Thickety – the enchanted forest that no one is supposed to enter – and Kara finds her mother’s spell book. She knows that she should leave it behind or destroy it – it’s illegal to have magic books – but it’s the one thing she has of her mother’s. So Kara takes it out of the Thickety. And that’s just the beginning of the story. I've written before about how much I love this series of books. If you have readers who are into magic and witchy stories, this is a can't-miss!

Ooh I hope you've found the perfect scary tale for the young readers in your life here, and I'd love to hear about your favorite scary reads! Tell me all about 'em in the comments!

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Lucky Duck Collection

Tons of people want to read what's popular right now. So how do we get these popular books into the hands of our patrons who want to read them when they have long holds lists?

A photo of our Lucky Duck bookshelf with books and a display sign that explains the checkout rules for the books.

One thing I've implemented is our Lucky Duck collection. Lots of libraries have something like this - I've seen it called Lucky Day, Bestsellers, and Bestseller Express among other names. Basically, it's a collection of bestsellers and popular titles that have special checkout rules to ensure that they're on the shelf as frequently as possible. In our case, that means they check out for 7 days with no renewals and no holds can be placed on them. If a patron comes in and sees the book they want on the shelf and they want to read it right away, they're a lucky duck and can skip the long holds line!

Photo of Lucky Duck book Lethal White by Robert Galbrait. The sticker reads "Lucky Duck Collection. 7 day checkout. No renewals. Limit 2."

We still have copies of these books in our regular collections so you can certainly be placed on the holds list and wait your turn. I still purchase additional copies of popular books as the holds lists grow. But we wanted to give patrons a chance that the book that they want RIGHT NOW might actually be on the shelf for them if they came to visit us. For some popular books, a wait can be as long as six months until your hold comes in, and pretty frequently the wait list is at least a couple of months.

My goals in implementing this collection are:
  • Increased patron satisfaction - patrons being able to get the hot new book without having to wait months for their name to come up on the holds list. 
  • Increased staff satisfaction when they're able to show patrons a Lucky Duck copy instead of constantly telling them that they have to wait. 
  • Increased visits to  the library - if patrons know there's a chance that the hot new book will be there for them, maybe they will visit the library more often to check. 
  • Smaller or more quickly moving holds lists - maybe some of the patrons on the holds list will check out the Lucky Duck copy instead. 
  • Increased circulation - since these popular books only check out for 7 days instead of 28 days like our normal collection, there's the potential to get LOTS of circs from each copy, making it a great investment for our library. 
Some issues I've had with this collection are: 

There's no way with our ILS to have patrons who check out these copies automatically come off the holds lists. In order for the specific circulation rules to apply (the biggie is that these copies do not satisfy holds), they have to be placed on a separate record. This is not ideal, but even if a hold does come in for a patron who's read a Lucky Duck copy, the worst case is that it sits on the hold shelf for a week and then goes to the next patron.

Because we don't charge fines, we don't have any consequences to try to ensure that the books actually come back in 7 days. I've seen some libraries charge higher fines on these items to try to get them back on the shelves. I was worried that people would just ignore the 7-day checkout, but for the most part they do seem to get back on the shelves quickly! 

I'm still trying to figure out a system for when to order a copy for the Lucky Duck collection. Since previously I would order an additional copy when our holds list hit 5 holds per item, that's what I'm looking at for ordering Lucky Duck copies. But it's not ideal - some authors I know are going to be so popular that I'm ordering enough copies from the start so that the holds ratio is not getting to five copies. Now that we have this collection, I will probably adjust my ordering of these known popular authors.

And I haven't yet begun to think about how/when to weed this collection. I guess when normal copies of the books are appearing regularly on the shelves, it'll be time to take the Lucky Duck copy out and either make it a circulating copy or weed it.

One reason I really wanted to try out this type of collection was so that we could have some popular adult titles on the shelf at our new Digital Branch, but circulation of browsing books has been low out there so far. I have to keep in mind that it's only been open about 6 weeks, so lots of folks have not yet discovered it. And I've found that many people hear "Galena Digital Branch" and think there are NO BOOKS there, which isn't true. I did a Facebook Live video last week when I brought out some new teen and children's books and I might try doing more of that to try to raise some awareness. We may find that folks prefer to just wait and pick up their holds at the branch (which they are doing PLENTY!), which will be fine, too.

So far, I'm seeing these books getting tons of checkouts and staff have been very enthusiastic about it, so it seems like it's working well for my library right now!

Do you have a bestsellers or similar collection at your library? How do patrons like it? Do you have a system for what titles to add? 

Monday, October 8, 2018

So We Opened a Branch

Last month, I didn't blog very much. One of the reasons is that we were very busy opening up our very first branch library. Our new Galena Digital Branch is located in a restored historic home and it's a very small and cozy space, so it has a VERY small physical collection, but it does have physical books there. It also provides internet access, space for individuals to work or groups to meet, a play area for children, devices for check out and use within the library, and a Makerspace with a 3-D printer, laser etcher, sewing machines, and more.

This has been a huge undertaking on the part of our director and it's her vision that's shaped this wonderful new space, providing a much-needed access point for the more rural parts of our county. Staff throughout the library have worked on parts of this branch and put in an amazing amount of effort to get everything ready. From a collection development standpoint, it's been a really interesting project to work on. We are learning every day about what folks want from this branch location and what's going to be our best bet with a physical collection up there.

Here is our tiny Children's Area - two bookshelves, a small table and play items. 

We started with children's books. Knowing that young kids may not have the ability or level of access needed to utilize digital materials, we wanted to make sure to have physical books on the shelf for them. Board books, picture books, and easy readers are the most popular with our patrons up there so far. We also have a collection of children's and teen fiction and nonfiction. We got a great deal on a couple of large Junior Library Guild subscriptions which help ensure that there is always something brand new on the shelves up there.

Our tiny Teen and Adult collections. Teen shelves on the left and adult on the right.

Since we opened a couple of weeks ago, we have also debuted a new Lucky Duck collection of best sellers and popular books that have holds lists. We have a collection of Lucky Duck at the central library and a small collection of them at the Digital Branch to try to ensure that we also have some popular adult books on the shelves. A patron requested some large print to browse, so I sent a small collection of new large print books up there, as well.

The print collection at the branch is almost entirely a floating collection. Everything is processed identically to the central library books and we float books up to live on Galena's shelves as needed. They get changed to a temporary collection in our ILS and we put red masking tape on the spines as a visual queue of where they go when they are returned.

And patrons can request any circulating item to be delivered to the branch from our central library. Often we can provide 24-hour turnaround.

And of course we are emphasizing the digital collection, as well. We provide ebooks, downloadable audiobooks, and downloadable media through Overdrive and Hoopla. We are also really utilizing our databases and I'm trying to determine what our most-needed digital resources are and provide training for staff. We don't have space for a physical collection of test prep materials, but staff can show patrons how to access Testing and Education Reference Center and Gale Courses for SAT practice, etc.

I'm really excited that we have been able to open this new location and I'm really excited to see where it goes from here and how we can creatively fill the needs of our patrons with such limited physical space.

Sunday, September 30, 2018

What I'm Reading

I'm in the middle of a bunch of great books again! Here's what I'm reading right now:



American Like Me: Reflections on Life Between Cultures edited by America Ferrera (Gallery Books, 336 pages). This collection of essays features tons of star writers like Roxane Gay, Diane Guerrero, and Lin-Manuel Miranda addressing the topic of culture in America. America Ferrera writes the opening essay and it's super, talking about where her name comes from and her struggle to find a place for herself as an actress in the stereotyping landscape of American film and TV.



New Poets of Native Nations edited by Heid E. Erdrich (Graywolf Press, 2018). I am NOT a big poetry reader, but I have been trying to read more Native authors this year. I picked this one up and have already fallen in love with some of these poets and sought out their individual publications. There are some really powerful poems in here, worth perusing for poetry lovers and poetry dabblers alike.



Temper by Nicky Drayden (Harper Voyager, 2018). I picked this up to peruse it* and fell in love with the world-building. It's set in a magical Africa where (for some reason I don't know yet) people are born as twins and get proximity symptoms if they're too far away from their twin. The seven deadly sins are divided up among each twin. And there is magic and machinations are banned and... I just can't wait to figure out more of this intriguing world.

And of course I've got an audio going:



The Good Neighbor: The Life and Work of Fred Rogers by Maxwell King, read by LeVar Burton (Oasis Audio, 2018). I needed a new audiobook for a couple of short road trips this week and when I saw that LeVar Burton narrates this biography I've been meaning to pick up, I was SOLD. It's a genius pairing: the voice of Reading Rainbow reading a biography of a man who affected millions of children's lives through television. The 80s kid in me is very pleased.

*I've been taking a leaf from Robin's book and checking out tons of new books to peruse, knowing I'm not going to fully read all of them. The ones I love and want to finish, I'll hold on to. The rest I'll read the first chapter or so and return with a better idea of what's new in our collection.

What have YOU been reading lately?

Monday, September 24, 2018

Small Spaces

Kids love scary books. It's a thing. And if you're looking for a great scary book to hand to middle grade readers, I have one for you.

In Small Spaces by Katherine Arden introduces us to Olivia, an eleven-year-old girl reeling from the loss of her mother. Ollie's pulled away from everything - she avoids the other kids at school, she's quit all the activities she used to do. Ollie just wants to be alone with her books, and on this last glorious, sunshiney afternoon of the fall, that's what she's headed to do. But when she stumbles across a distraught woman about to throw a book - a book! - into the river, Ollie stops her and takes the book.

As Ollie becomes entranced by the story in the book - a story about two brothers and a sinister deal made with a man called "the smiling man" - she starts to realize that the story might be based in reality. Her sixth-grade class is taking a trip to a nearby farm and when their teacher reluctantly tells the class about some of the ghost stories surrounding the farm, they sound eerily familiar.

And then on the way home from the field trip, the bus breaks down close to dark. The creepy bus driver warns Ollie "Best get moving. At nightfall they'll come for the rest of you." And Ollie's long-broken digital watch, a keepsake from her mother, starts displaying a countdown and one word: RUN.

(Is there anything creepier than someone in a story getting a message that just says RUN? Instant panic, amiright?)

If you've read Katherine Arden's adult fantasy novels The Bear and the Nightingale and The Girl in the Tower, you know she is a master at creating atmosphere and she brings this mastery into this middle grade story as well. From the weather changing to the descriptions of small creepy things like the leering scarecrows in the field and the recalcitrant new bus driver, Arden paints a picture for the reader. There were so many passages that I just read over and over for the shiver down my spine before I raced on, needing to know what happens next.

And the level of scariness is a good fit for this age group. This is a book that I wouldn't hesitate to hand to upper elementary students looking for a scare but not yet ready for the violence that often comes with scary stories. It delivers a good eerie, sinister vibe without getting graphic.

Readalikes:

Readers who enjoy a scary story with tons of atmosphere might also enjoy The Riverman by Aaron Starmer (Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2014).

The tone and atmosphere of this book also really reminded me of a couple of my favorites: The Thickety by J.A. White (Katherine Tegan, 2014) and Doll Bones by Holly Black (McElderry, 2013).

Book info: 

Small Spaces by Katherine Arden. Grades 4-6. Putnam, September 2018. 224 pages. Reviewed from ARC provided by publisher.

Friday, August 31, 2018

What My Book Club's Been Loving

Several years ago, my sister-in-law proposed starting a family book club. I posted about it way back in 2015 when we first started and we've been going strong, meeting nearly every month since then. Our book club has grown beyond strictly "family", but I consider them all part of my family, so we've kept the name.

We typically meet once a month and rotate who is hosting. Our meetings are typically on a weeknight evening and the host provides dinner and wine. Two of our ladies have young kids and they are always welcomed with joy - although we DO talk about books at book club, it's also a great time for us to get together and check in and snuggle babies and tickle toddlers.

As we've continued to meet, I think we've found out what types of books different book club members enjoy and what we all tend to gravitate towards. Our favorite books are stories of women and we often have conversations about feminism and female life. Some members prefer lighter books, some prefer heavier books, and I think we end up with a pretty good mix. Here are some of the books that have provoked the best discussions.


Educated: A Memoir by Tara Westover (Random House, 2018). This was our most recent read and we found it absolutely riveting. It's the true story of a young Idaho woman raised by off-the-grid end-of-days preppers with no schooling (not even homeschooling, really). Westover eventually realized that the only ticket out of her abusive family life was to go to college, so she taught herself to take the ACT, got into BYU and eventually earned a PhD from Cambridge. Our book club was amazed by her story and we talked for a long time about the difficulties she faced, the hardship of having no power as a woman in her family's culture, how schools might or might not "brainwash" students, what it would be like to life without modern medicine or hospitals, and more. 


Necessary Lies by Diane Chamberlain (St. Martin's Press, 2013). This was my first Diane Chamberlain, but it won't be my last. This is a historical fiction story based on real events. In the 1960s poor women were sometimes sterilized, sometimes without their consent, if they had real or perceived disabilities. Ostensibly for their own good, but also to keep the state's welfare bills down. This story follows a newbie social worker and a poor pregnant teen as they deal with the ramifications of this program. This one was a particularly good match for our book club because among us we have a social worker, a lawyer, a doctor, and two pharmacists. We all had lots of opinions to share about this little bit of American history. 


Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng (Penguin, 2017). This story, set in the planned community of Shaker Heights, OH, explores the concept of belonging (and not belonging) in many different ways. A custody battle over a Chinese-American infant threatens to split the town apart and we had a deep conversation about culture and nurturing children. Further reading for book clubs who discussed this book is the upcoming memoir All You Can Ever Know by Nicole Chung, adopted by a white couple in infancy, she decides to search for her Korean-American birth parents when she gets pregnant with her first child. 


Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman (Viking, 2017). Eleanor is, of course, NOT completely fine, but her truth is slowly revealed to the reader as we navigate her quest to meet and marry the man with whom she's fallen in love-at-first-sight. We talked a lot about the different characters in this book and how they related to Eleanor, as well as the reveals throughout the book and how they made us feel. This is a must for lovers of character-driven stories. 


Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult (Ballantine, 2016). When African-American labor and delivery nurse Ruth Jefferson is requested to be reassigned by the white supremacist parents currently giving birth, things get complicated when the baby goes into distress and Ruth is the only one in the room. The baby dies and Ruth is accused of murder, starting a court case that will change her life and the lives of many others. This was a book that encouraged some deep discussion about race and privilege in our multigenerational, varying degrees of wokeness book club. 

What books have started the best discussions in your book clubs or among your friends or family?