2015 in Books

_2015I’m going to go ahead and write my reading review before the new year this time, because I don’t have the slightest intention of finishing another book before 2016 rolls around. Aren’t you so happy? It’s like an early Christmas present, only it’s an early New Year’s present! That no one actually wants!

By way of shortcut, if you want a straightforward list of books read this year, you can get that here for another couple of weeks, and then here afterward. Or you can check my Goodreads 2015 reckoning if you’d prefer.

Every year I go through and make lists and graphs to analyze my reading, to absolutely no purpose because it’s not as if I ever make adjustments or anything. I read what I like when I like to read it and do my best to feel no shame when that ends up being a long string of vampire-infested romance novels. (Although, I’d argue strenuously that this year’s quasi-embarrassing series, The Black Dagger Brotherhood, might be more accurately described as¬†romance-infested vampire novels.) Then I take those lists and graphs and turn them into a blog post that I’m sure pretty much no one actually enjoys except myself — and they are a highlight of my New Year every time. ūüôā

If you’re the rare individual who actually¬†does find this interesting, you can find my previous years-in-books here: 2014,¬†2013, 2012,2011, and¬†2010.

I track my books on Goodreads and do their annual reading challenge, in which you just set a goal and try to read that many books. This wasn’t a particularly great year for my reading, and I honestly wouldn’t have met my goal if I hadn’t included a handful of picture books that I read with Henry or on my own in December. This has been a really full-speed-ahead year at work, plus I’ve spent the majority of the year in varying degrees of “pregnant with a two-year-old,” so my stats are down. But since I just do it for the fun of it anyway, I’m not concerned.

This year I set a goal of 75 books and ended up reading 81. That isn’t as great as last year’s even 100, but it isn’t the worst of the past six years I’ve been tracking.

Books_Read_2010-2015_View_2

That comes out to about 25,000 pages this year.

Pages_Read_2010-2015_View_2

As a teacher, I definitely have “seasons” ¬†for reading. I obviously get a lot more read in the summer than in the school year, usually with a spike in December/January due to Christmas break and the really long dark evenings here. I like to track month-to-month reading, again just for the heck of it.

Here’s this year in books, monthly:

Books_Read_in_2015Pages_Read_in_2015
That’s a nice bump in books in December, but not so much pages — lots of picture books. ūüôā As anticipated, my real peak reading took place in July.

And of course, because there’s no such thing as too many graphs, I compared monthly reading for the past six years:

Books_Read_2010-2015Pages_Read_2010-2015

These are kind of interesting to me (although getting harder to read each year — may no longer be a usable format) because I can see not only how each year stacks up to the next, but whether I have a consistent trend in terms of when I’m doing my reading. Why was the late winter of 2011 such a humdinger? What was the difference between the late fall of 2011 vs. 2013? Intriguing.

As previously noted, this year I devoted a lot of pages to J. R. Ward’s Black Dagger Brotherhood series, which is an interesting beast. I absolutely despise the titles and covers of these books, to the point where I have on many instances refused to read them in public and do my best to hide my updates on them from my Facebook and Goodreads feed. Why, you might ask? Well, let me allow some pictures to speak for themselves.

covers

At a glance, it’s pretty obvious what these books are about, right? Lover this, lover that, shirtless people necking. What¬†are you reading, Mrs. Baker? Scandalous!

In fact, although there are some pretty detailed¬†steamy scenes in each of these, they really aren’t romance novels at all. They’re urban fantasy action/adventure stories about a group of vampiric soldiers who fight a (somewhat vaguely-explained) ongoing war against bad guy slayers while also battling various psychological or physiological battles in their personal lives. Lots of fight scenes, suspenseful storylines, intrigue, etc.. And in fairness, in each book, one of the vampires falls in love and is saved (literally and/or figuratively) by the object of his affection… so I guess that’s what makes them romance novels, in a blood-drenched Byronic sort of way. They’re fun, fast-paced, and don’t require a lot of emotional or mental investment, which is pretty perfect for me at this stage in my life. So yeah, romance-infested vampire novels, rather than vampire-infested romance novels.

But I mean…¬†seriously. Were these titles and cover art decisions really necessary? Were they Ward’s idea or did she fall victim to a publisher who wanted to market these their way? The titles alone sometimes have only a tangential relationship to the plot — my “favorite” probably being Lover Avenged, in which vengeance played a really minor role in the big scheme of things. And the covers? Again —¬†seriously? Of the sampling above, only¬†Lover Avenged¬†and perhaps Lover Mine¬†(top left and bottom right corners)¬†really reflect the characters within in any way; the others are all anonymous torsos airbrushed to emphasize the HOT SEXINESS of these books while I’m just sitting here, reading about vamp-warriors beating the crap out of bad guys and trying to hide the cover of my paperback. Stupid problems, I know.

I read a fairly unmemorable smattering of fantasy in an attempt to find another series that held my interest as effectively as the Dresden Files. The best of these was the Monster Hunter series by Larry Correia, an author I wrestled with because I find his Sad Puppy¬†associations quite distasteful, but whose books are pure fun for someone who likes the sort of books I like. His Hard Magic series, which was the interesting blend of alt-history urban fantasy, was also a lot of fun. I also finished, with some sadness, Kim Harrison’s The Hollows series, which I enjoyed very much and will probably end up re-reading at some point.

I also read some rather good picture books, a couple of decent graphic novels, the slightly-disappointing next installment in Kiera Cass’s Selection series, the really-quite-good¬†Seraphina, and the excellent-as-expected¬†Lock In¬†and¬†The Human Division¬†(AND I got to meet the author!) I also read a couple of good “serious” books, my favorite of which was¬†All the Light We Cannot See by homeboy Anthony Doerr. Oh, and I read the first two volumes in the¬†Game of Thrones series, which I enjoyed, but hadn’t been especially inspired to go on to the next book just yet.

My least favorite books of the year were¬†Halfway to the Grave¬†(just unremarkable),¬†Go Set a Watchman¬†(yep, should not have been published),¬†As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of the Princess Bride¬†(which I really wanted to like but just found disappointing),¬†The Unbearable Lightness of Dragons¬†(ditto, but not surprised — I haven’t been able to enjoy these books since the focus shifted away from Aisling Grey), and¬†Loki’s Wolves¬†(for which I had high hopes, but turned out to be a weak Percy Jackson knockoff — and given my mediocre opinion of PJ, that’s saying something).

And my 2015 obscure recommendation for all y’all out there in DYHJ-land?

The Giant Beard that Was Evil

I really got a kick out of this graphic novel. It’s unlike anything I’d ever read before. Thought-provoking, aesthetically intriguing, and readable on multiple levels — like, I’ve had sixth graders check it out and find it fun and silly, and I’ve also imagined a unit where I use it with twelfth graders alongside¬†1984 to discuss dystopia/utopia, societal norms/taboos, and philosophy. It may be a little hard to get your hands on it, as it’s not the cheapest book ever, but it was published in October 2014 so you can still find it on Amazon and in your better libraries (like mine ;)).

Lest I forget, here’s my annual Pie Chart of Genre Happiness:

Genre_Breakdown_2015

 

I categorize books into as many genres as seem appropriate — usually between 1-3 — and see how things break down. Every year, urban fantasy/paranormal romance makes up a good chunk of my reading; it’s just what I like to read for fun, especially in the dark winter months. Picture books honestly make up a bigger chunk than is represented, but I only count them once, and then only if they have something akin to a plot, were worth the trouble to log into Goodreads and mark them down, and if I remember to do it (or am coming up short on my yearly goal and need to bump up my stats). This year was shockingly bad for MG/YA books — I’ve had a hard time getting my mind to focus on “professional reading,” which this is for me, and there haven’t been as many new releases that commanded my attention. Will need to try harder next year. Somehow my label for general/realistic fiction lost its tail; it’s the sagey-green wedge between fantasy and graphic novel.

 

2014 in Books

I’ve been having a hard time keeping up with blogging lately, but it wouldn’t be the new year without my annual stats-about-books post! As I said two years ago,

I keep track because I enjoy making lists and graphs, and because it gives me something nerdy to do every New Year‚Äôs Eve. Sort of a tradition, I guess.¬†:)¬†What I‚Äôm trying to say is, I‚Äôm not really competing with anyone, even myself ‚ÄĒ I just find it interesting to see what my reading does, and I like aiming for goals, especially when it comes to reading. This is kind of like the grown-up version of libraries‚Äô summer reading programs for kids, only instead of earning prizes I earn‚Ķ er‚Ķ graphs!

(In honor of all of the thousands hundreds dozens absolutely zero readers who enjoy these posts, I thought I’d link to previous years. Sate yourself on 2013, 2012, 2011, and¬†2010. I also keep a complete list of all books read since I started keeping track here.)

As usual, I’ve only counted books that I completed — well, there are a couple of books in here that I¬†almost completed, but they were nonfiction books with a chapter or two that I skipped due to irrelevance. I count picture books if they have plot, but they only count once, and a lot of times I forget to record them so that’s an inexact statistic.

So with no further ado: the 2014 book post!

2014 Book Collage

Looking back at the books I read in 2014, I see some trends or themes emerge.

First, I returned to some friendly author-voices. I had paused in reading The Hollows series by Kim Harrison, and in the second half of this year I got caught up with all but the final book in the series. I also found another series by Elizabeth Moon and enjoyed them as well. I spent some time with guilty-pleasures Laurell Hamilton and J.R. Ward, too.

Second, there’s a fair amount of YA in there — shock and surprise, coming from a middle school librarian — including some series that I¬†really liked (Jennifer Nielsen’s Ascendance trilogy, Laini Taylor’s¬†Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy, the beginning of Sarah J. Maas’s¬†Throne of Glass series, the continuance of Kiera Cass’s¬†Selection series), some graphic novels, and some¬†“older kid” picture books.

If I disregard series, my Best of 2014 were probably Styxx by Sherrilyn Kenyon (yes, technically part of a series, but works as a standalone), The Midnight Library by Kazuno Kohara, Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann and The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern.

best2014

Something for everyone there: award-winning historical fiction, magic realism, R-rated paranormal fantasy, and a picture book.

In 2014, I read a grand total of 100 books (and to quote last year’s post, “not including unfinished books, plotless picture books, and a ridiculous amount of non-book online reading because let‚Äôs face it, an iPhone is easier to read than a novel when you‚Äôre nursing wrangling a toddler”). For the first time in a while, January wasn’t my best month; I read the most pages in June, which makes a heck of a lot more sense, really. I had a serious dip in the fall, which coincides with the start of school and a lot more stress than usual due to training a new staff (and, as previously stated, wrangling a toddler).

Books_Read_in_2014

Pages_Read_in_2014

After skipping the genre breakdown last year because it was such a pain in the butt, I decided to beef up my Excel spreadsheet. Now it all but does the breakdown for me. Each book that I read could be categorized in up to three genres, allowing for a more accurate portrayal of what sort of things I was actually reading.

Yay pie charts!

Genres_in_2014

Lots of kid stuff (picture books and MG/YA), lots of fantasy — especially when you consider I usually tried¬†not to categorize a book as both fantasy and urban fantasy.

And because I really love my charts and graphs and data and other such nonsense, here is FIVE years of data for your viewing pleasure. I can tell how titillated you are from here.

Books_Read_2010-2014 Pages_Read_2010-2014

Books_Read_By_Month Pages_Read_By_Month

In those last two — the line charts — 2014 is the blue line, so you can see that I ended up pretty much right in the middle. 2011 was a big year for reading but then again, 2011 was a long time before I had kids or a new line of work!

So what’s next? I have just picked up Michael Pollan’s A Place of My Own: The Architecture of Daydreams, which is a nonfiction book relating his efforts to build a simple reading and writing hut on his property. This is a major daydream of mine, and he has a pretty accessible reading style, so even though I’m usually a lightweight fantasy reader in the darker months I think I’m going to enjoy this. I also want to read two of the books my book club recently read (I’m on a book club hiatus): Eli Brown’s¬†Cinnamon and Gunpowder and¬†Graeme Simison’s¬†The Rosie Project.¬†Graeme is an awfully cool way to spell Graham. Apparently he’s a kiwi. Might explain it. (Shoot — is it okay to call people from New Zealand kiwis? That’s not derogative, is it?) I want to read John Scalzi’s¬†Lock In but may want to save it for my Triumphant Return to book club.¬†I also am looking forward to reading the next book in a few different series:¬†The Witch with No Name¬†(last book in¬†The Hollows),¬†Skin Game¬†(book 15 in¬†The Dresden Files) and¬†Immortal (book 6 in the¬†Fallen Angels series). I’d also like to read some of the books I nibbled at or sniffed around last year, like¬†Far from the Tree: Parents, Children, and the Search for Identity, 11/22/63,¬†The Book of Deadly Animals,¬†and¬†Behind the Beautiful Forevers¬†(another potential book club pick).¬†¬†

And there are many, many more — especially the not-yet-published new additions to Kiera Cass’s and Sarah Maas’s series.

I initially set a goal of 52 books for 2013 and ended up surpassing it in May, then reset to 100 and almost didn’t make it in time. (I finished book #100 with only seven minutes to spare in 2014, and had to include two books that I only read because my homework forced me to read them!) I think I’m going to split the difference for this year and set a goal of 75 books. I can always add to it if things go well, right? ūüôā If you like books and stats well enough to have read this far, then you should definitely do the Goodreads challenge with me.

ontrack

What did you read this year? Any great recommendations? What’s on your to-read list? I’d love to know!
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Reading Update #19

SGF Reading MDE

Reading Update: Today is Monday, May 12. As of today I have read 45 books in 2014 and am, accordingly, 87% of the way toward my goal. I definitely think I am going to be changing that goal here pretty soon! Since last time, I finished the following books:

week19 reading

The One is the finale of the Selection trilogy. There are a lot of YA trilogies out there, and most of them seem to be dystopian yarns; the Selection is no exception in that regard, but it¬†is exceptional in that it was entirely satisfying and devoid of most of the darkness and angst that characterize most of its cohort. Yes, bad and dark things happen, and there are bad and dark characters — but I never felt like this trilogy was going to give me an ulcer, and it never made me cry. Instead, it made me want more time to read, and then it made me want more story to read when I was done. No one is going to claim that this trilogy is a Great Masterpiece of Youth Literature, but I will happily claim that it is one of my favorite things I’ve read this year.

The Princess Test is a long-form retelling of “The Princess and the Pea,” although¬†long may be stretching things a bit — it’s really just a short story, typeset in such a way that it makes up an entire (small) book. In order to flesh out the story beyond its usual parameters, Gail Carson Levine adds extra challenges beyond the expected pea-under-mattresses and afflicts her monarchs with a predilection for excessive¬†synonyms. It was a cute, quick little tale.

The Princess and the Pea is a graphic novel adaptation of the more traditional tale that I remembered from my childhood. Nothing too exciting here, including the artwork (which seemed a bit like that of a high school manga fan), but a nice introduction to the fairy tale for the visually oriented.

Red, White, and Blood is the third in the Nathaniel Cade/President’s Vampire series. The concept here is that there is a vampire in the President’s Secret Service, sworn by an old voodoo oath to protect the President and the United States at the cost of his own vampiric nature. That vampiric nature, of course, is at the cost of Cade’s morality, and so even as the vampire fights the forces of darkness (both supernatural and human) he also fights a battle within himself: is he worse than a beast, or is he redeemable? Farnsworth is a local guy, a heck of a researcher, and a fellow who spins a fine suspense novel. It’s not overly vampy, isn’t weighed down with historical tidbits, and walks that lovely line between scary and exciting. I love these books and, even though they’re (again) no great masterpieces, I highly recommend them.

Currently Reading:¬†I have Possession¬†(book 5 in the Fallen Angels series, a dreadful guilty pleasure of mine) for on-the-road, and a MASSIVE copy of the first volume of The Absolute Sandman at home. It stays safely at home because it’s the public library’s, and I don’t want anything to happen to it (as it’s rather wildly expensive) and it seems like it might be somewhat safer there.

Looking Ahead:¬†I hope I can get hold of Volume 2 of¬†Sandman. Beyond that, there are several YA titles on my radar, and the kids are almost done using the library, so soon I’ll have my pick of the litter. I think the first one there is¬†Daughter of Smoke and Bone; I checked it out and was going to read it next, but a kiddo just put it on hold, and they only have the next week to get and read books, so I’ll probably bring it back for her and get it again this summer.

2013 in Books

Last year I correctly predicted that 2013 wouldn’t exactly be a banner year in terms of reading, as I would have my hands full of BABY starting in late April (or, as it turned out, early May). Acknowledging that my page counts were going to take a hit, I said,

I keep track because I enjoy making lists and graphs, and because it gives me something nerdy to do every New Year‚Äôs Eve. Sort of a tradition, I guess.¬†:)¬†What I‚Äôm trying to say is, I‚Äôm not really competing with anyone, even myself ‚ÄĒ I just find it interesting to see what my reading does, and I like aiming for goals, especially when it comes to reading. This is kind of like the grown-up version of libraries‚Äô summer reading programs for kids, only instead of earning prizes I earn‚Ķ er‚Ķ graphs!

And despite having my hands full, I managed to meet my (more modest) reading goal and earned myself some graphs! Before we get to all that graphy goodness, though, a few things:

  • I only count books that I completed (and this year was replete with abandoned books, often through no fault of their own)
  • I count picture books if they have something akin to a plot, but am pretty sure I forgot to include a few that I read in the bleary early days of motherhood
  • You can see the complete list of all 2013 books, with links to their Goodreads pages, for a few more days before I archive it
  • You can see a complete list of all books read since I started keeping track, which will include 2013’s books by the end of the day, any time you’d like

Okay, with no further ado… my 2013 reading review!

2013 in books

This year’s reading was inspired by different aspects of my life. I read some birth/parenting books, although fewer than one might expect, some books motivated by my work as a high school English teacher, and some books motivated by my new work as a middle school librarian. I read seven books for book club (would have been more, but I’d already read some of them):¬†Girl in Translation, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, Bossypants, Jacob Have I Loved, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, and¬†The Ocean at the End of the Lane. I read some books to and for my kidlet, several for the fun of it, and a couple out of stubbornness.

I think the best books I read this year were The Ocean at the End of the Lane and The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared. They head up a short list of favorites:

2013 favorites

In 2013, I read a grand total of 68 books (not including unfinished books, plotless picture books, and a ridiculous amount of non-book online reading because let’s face it, an iPhone is easier to read than a novel when you’re nursing). While a significant drop from my 2012 reading, this does beat my goal of 52 books, so there’s that.

As usual, my reading peaked in January. I hit an unsurprising low in May, while trying to figure out if I would ever read again now that I had something so much more¬†interesting to look at, but then started reading again that summer and had some healthy numbers boosted by some fun series (including a re-read of the¬†Bio of a Space Tyrant series, which was cool to reexamine as an adult reader). Then I started a new job/career in September, and hit a remarkable low of only 2 books — one of which was a middle-level graphic novel — in November. Ouch!

2013 books

Page totals weren’t that impressive, either, although this is a reflection of the fact that I have been reading more middle-level books in an attempt to become more familiar with literature appropriate to my new clientele (kiddos in that 10-15 year set).

2013 pages

I decided that I didn’t have the energy to do a full genre breakdown this year (this takes a surprising amount of work) so I just separated them into (adult) fiction, (adult) nonfiction, YA/middle-level, poetry, drama, and picture books. I didn’t separate out graphic novels this time but just lumped them in with the appropriate super-genre. I read a fair amount of science fiction and fantasy this year, which should come as a shock to absolutely no one.

books by type

Here’s the big picture — four years of data, huzzah:

books read 2010-2013 pages read 2010-13

monthly books 4 year monthly pages 4 year

So what’s next for the bibliovore’s table here at DYHJ? I’m about halfway through an urban fantasy/noir/paranormal offering by steampunk queen Cherie Priest and have the sequel waiting in the wings, plus another Priest book in a different series that I’d like to check out. I’ve got the next two books in¬†The Hollows waiting for me; this time of year, I really gravitate toward paranormal romance/urban fantasy. I also have a lot of great YA/middle-level books that I need to read, both for myself and professionally. I probably ought to finish¬†The Dark Tower but it got to a place where I was feeling a little squeamish (the whole impending birth of a baby demon thing) so that may be a few months off. I’m anxious to read¬†The One (Cass), which comes out in May. I received The Night Circus as a gift from my book club friend Hannah, and am excited to read it once I purge this whole “canoodling with the undead” craving I get every midwinter. And of course, there will be many great book club books, random finds, and recommendations that come down the pipe throughout the year.

I’m setting a goal of 52 books again and hope that I’ll need to increase it, but we’ll see!

What did you read and love in 2013? What’s on your to-read list? Will you do the Goodreads challenge? You should!

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Seven Things About My New Job

This is my first Monday in the library, and the beginning of my third week as a middle school librarian. I’ve had several questions — from my new coworkers as well as from commenters on the DYHJ Facebook page — about how it’s going, so I thought I’d share a little bit about my new job.

1. No one would ever believe how bustling and busy this library is. I’ve never seen anything like it. When they release the barbarian hoards from the cafeteria before school, probably a hundred kids rush into the library, and we’re still checking out books for the “it’s worth it to be tardy if I can get this book” crowd after the first bell rings. That’s small potatoes compared to break, when the library fills wall-to-wall with children. Even with two people manning the circulation desk, we can’t get through the line before break ends. It’s standing room only with kids reading, visiting, playing chess and checkers, or watching other kids playing. Sixth grade lunch passes are the most coveted property on campus. In a normal week there are 40 class periods; we have 39 different classes who come in each week or every other week to check out books, not including classes who will eventually schedule library time for special projects. The library has only been open for book check-out for a week, and we currently have almost 1,700 books in circulation¬†(and a great many items on hold). This library is alive and it’s awesome.

2. Did I mention that the vast majority of our library patrons are boys? Because they are. Our library is stuffed from bell to bell with 11 to 14-year-old boys. How cool is that? And we don’t even let them play computer games!

3. I’m working with special education students for the first time. I know that sounds odd, considering I taught for five years, but as a secondary English teacher I rarely worked with students whose special needs were severe enough to require out-of-mainstream classes. I worked with many students on the autism spectrum — but only very highly functioning kids — and only ever had two with significant cognitive or physical impairment. The students in our special education classes here spend a lot of time in the library, and I’m finding myself very lucky to be getting to know them. We have an entire wall of picture books, and many of these kiddos zero in on them, but others are really fond of the illustrated nonfiction books and will check out volume after volume on their favorite subject (usually animals). I watch their teachers and aides working with them and I still feel astonished at their ability to help, guide, and instruct these students — but as I get to know them, I can understand why a person would love that career!

4. I get to go shopping. For books. With someone else’s money. What a great gig, right? In fact, we had a bit of a windfall this year, which means that I get to really go to town updating our nonfiction section to include CCSS-connected informational texts, and adding the latest and greatest to our fiction and graphic novel sections. I’m about to place a sizeable order, as a matter of fact. The flip side of this coin is that I get to/have to read a lot of middle-level books now, as I need to adjust to and keep up with the current middle level literature. I had some vague idea that I’d be reading as a part of my job, but I’ve yet to see an opportunity to just sit down with a novel while I’m on the clock. So, I’ve always got reading “homework” even when I don’t necessarily want to read something at the PG level… Talk about your problems ūüėČ

5. I’m not 100% certain where I fit in the school. I am paid as a teacher, am certified as a teacher, and even get observed and evaluated like a teacher (although I’ll be darned if I can figure out what criteria will be used for that, given the fact that I have relatively little organized student contact). On the emergency phone tree, though, I’m one of the people responsible for calling a list of teachers — keeping company with the administrators and counselors. The library is connected to the main office suite, set apart from the classrooms. I interact more often with administration than with teachers, and my duties are far more administrative than educational, most days. So what am I?¬†A teacher librarian? A library adminstrator? This school’s social structure doesn’t lend itself toward ambiguity in this area….

6. I like my new job, but I miss my old life. In fact, I really like my new job. I love my coworkers, and I love getting to do nothing but think about books all day long (haha, that’s a joke, because we’re so busy I don’t have time to think about anything, much less books!). But I have to be fair to myself and acknowledge that in leaving, I left behind all of my friends and a career that never felt like “a job.” I have over a thousand students now instead of the 170-180 about which I used to complain, and I’m getting to where I recognize a handful of them and know a few names, but I’m not going to feel close to these kiddos in the same way that I did my most sympatico high school students. I miss bantering with my nerdy almost-adults in the ITE program, or waxing eloquent about archetypes in science fiction films from the past fifty years, or scandalizing seniors by introducing them to phallic and yonic symbols and pointing them out in classical literature. I don’t miss grading essays, feeling afraid of surly¬†male students three times my size, wondering how to teach a lesson without printer ink/photocopies, or dealing with the latest student suicide attempt, juvenile detention, pregnancy, or conveniently-timed “miscarriage.” But I sorely miss hanging out in the teacher breakroom in the English wing, chatting with my friends about everything from Chaucer to church gossip, comparing pregnancies and babies, throwing our collective hands up in the air over the latest catastrophe to befall the district. CHS was one of my homes, and it’s hard (and surreal) to not be there any more, and to know how very different it is than it used to be — because even if I were still at CHS, it wouldn’t be the same CHS, because so many people have gone their separate ways.

7. Sometimes it is really hard to keep a straight face around twelve-year-olds. Without going into too many details, I had to confront a boy who was downloading inappropriate photos on a library computer, and the excuse he gave me — well, let’s just say that it’s been entertaining the staff here for the past couple of days!

FACEPALM

Back to School

Well, I survived my first week (technically a week and a half, but only four days of that was with students) as a middle school librarian!

This past Monday we didn’t have students, and because of an annoying scheduling fluke with day care (H will go to an actual day care center on Mondays) he ended up coming to work with me that day.

Lucky duck gets to make spreadsheets in his jammies.

Lucky duck gets to make spreadsheets in his jammies.

You're fired!

You’re fired!

He definitely has a village that loves him and wants to help raise him! Between all of the ladies at church, and everyone at school, he’s a very cared-about little kiddo.

Speaking of being loved, I’m a pretty lucky lady. R, who (for those of you who might not know) teaches at the same school as I, has always surprised me with flowers on the first day of school when I go to a new school. Tuesday was no exception as he employed two of the school’s administrators and various other staff members to distract me so that he could load up my desk with welcoming gifts:

Beautiful flowers in our school colors.

Beautiful flowers in our school colors.

School-colored watch straps!

School-colored watch straps!

School logo jewelry! Apparently our school shares a logo with Burberry, and R found an Etsy artist who repurposes Burberry buttons into jewelry!

School logo jewelry! (Sorry for the terrible photo quality.) Apparently our school shares a logo with Burberry, and R found an Etsy artist who repurposes Burberry buttons into jewelry!

The only word I can come up with for not being a classroom teacher is “surreal.” The first day, in particular, was a little bizarre to me; I kept feeling like a guest in someone else’s school, like I was just visiting and helping out before going back to my own classroom. The children seemed so tiny and young. I ended the day without having lost my voice. Nothing about it felt like the first day of school to me. I really loved being a classroom teacher, and it’s going to be quite an adjustment to slip into a role that feels a little bit more administrative.

As the week went on, things got busier and busier, and I found my rhythm. It’s still weird, but it has gone from feeling surreal to feeling pretty nice. I’m getting excited (all over again) about some ideas and upcoming events. I love my coworkers. And let me just say how nice it is to be going BACK to a school I already know, rather than going to an entirely new place. I always struggle to find my place socially, and here I feel like the worst of that is over.

One of my amazing assistants, B, came up with the idea of highlighting the fiftieth anniversary of the March on Washington in our end-cap displays. I found several MLK biographies and books about the March and about the Civil Rights Movement. I’m not sure if any of the kids got it, but I thought it was pretty neat and a subtle way to bring current events into the library.

We also made a display of some of the newest books in the library, which gave me some practice in reviewing past orders. I’m having a lot of on-the-job, on-the-fly training in different programs and systems and databases, and surely am thankful for my staff and their expertise and patience.

new books

There’s SO much to learn. As the Library Media Specialist, I’m not only the “book person” but also Level One Tech Support for the school. Everyone comes to us with their basic technology problems. One day, for example, we had four distinct problems with document cameras; we have frequent printer problems, issues with projectors, and — thanks to a district-wide software update — questions about how to use Microsoft 365. And it’s not as if we have consistent equipment from one classroom to the next, so I have to learn 3-4 different solutions to every problem. On top of that, of course, there’s just simply all of the details of working the library. No chance to get bored here!

It could all be a little intimidating, but honestly, nothing else is quite as intimidating as the faculty restroom nearest the library. What if it occurred unexpectedly? Are there alarms? Consequences? Such anxiety!

Even if I didn’t love my job (which I do) it would be worth it, though, to be able to walk in my front door at the end of the day and be able to spend my evening with Henry instead of grading mountains of papers or planning hours of instruction. I guess I ought to feel a little wussy or something for saying that, and I certainly don’t mean to downplay how surprisingly difficult librarianship is, but you know, I’m just at a different point in my life right now, and I’ve never believed in prioritizing work over family.

I don’t have to explain “leaving my baby to go to work” to anyone who has ever had to do it, and if you haven’t, I’m not sure I could do it justice. It wasn’t quite as hard as I’d feared, probably because he was staying with family — we are SO lucky. But it wasn’t what I’d call easy, and it made for a less enthusiastic back-to-school on my part. I’ve also found pumping to be (predictably) a PITA, but I might write more about that later. One thing about it: I’m a lot better about getting my work done within contract hours so that I can leave on time, now that I have a baby to get home to!

IMG_4637

Final verdict: I’m happy. It is different, and I miss CHS. But it is different in good ways, and it is right for me right now. I’m going to be challenged, I’m going to get to know a lot of great books and great kids, and hey, maybe I’ll even do some good for the universe. I’ve already decided that in addition to my Nerdfighteria mantra (don’t forget to be awesome) I’m going to bring in a little Jeffiness and make it my mission to make the library a place of sweetness and light for my students (all 1,000+ of them!) and my fellow staff members.

Oh, and I’m going to be eating my elephant one bite at a time, too. Mmmm, elephant. ūüôā

From Where I’m Sitting

I am sitting in a chair at the desk that will be my home base for the foreseeable future. The chair is not particularly comfortable but is a vast improvement over the ergonomic nightmare I had behind my last desk. On my to-do list is to consider bringing over one of the extra office chairs from my house; it’s just taking up room there, and I think I’d actually have room for it in this office, whereas it would have been too much in my classroom.

From this seat, I can see pretty much the entire library. The only blind spot is the tutoring table and part of the computer lab. I can also see out the impressive wall of windows facing onto McMillan; it’s trying to blow up a windstorm, but the sun is shining through the weather, making everything kind of soft and yellow-filtered. The sprinklers are on, and the wind is shattering the sprinkler bursts into ineffectual splatter patterns. There are green trees out there, blowing in the wind. There’s also a Taco Del Mar, a Jamba Juice, and two —¬†two — Starbucks across the street. One of the saddest things about my last school was that there was no coffee anywhere nearby.

Behind me, on the floor, H is lying on a quilt making hooting little baby sounds that might or might not be in response to the Saxophobia CD playing softly in the background. In the last 24 hours he’s discovered that his feet are something that he can grab onto, although he doesn’t seem to be very good at catching them yet. At this point he still prefers his favorite toy: a lightweight burp cloth (basically a dish rag) or, lacking that, any handy piece of fabric that he can grab onto and cuddle up under his chin. I’ve been trying to give him some tummy time, but it’s become impossible; once I put him on his belly, he stays there for at most thirty seconds before rolling back over onto his back. He seems delighted at this new-found control over his life situation.¬†Behold! I need not submit to the indignity of lying on my stomach if I choose not to!

If you’re in the mood for some metablogging, here’s a photograph of my desktop, in which you can clearly see this blog entry being written:

desktop

And here’s a picture of what’s behind me:

shelves

I probably need to go through the magazines, catalogs, and toppled-over binders on the right side of those shelves and figure out if I want/need all of it, and straighten it up a bit.

I’m going to have to figure out the whole pumping/storing situation. Those lovely office windows that let me see the entire library mean that the entire library can see me. Behind those shelves is another little area that I think I’ll be able to use as a private corner, but it’s going to involve signage and what seems to me to be an awkward conversation with my assistants. And these book carts are going to need to find another place to be corralled….

This is going to be a sea change but I’m looking forward to it. Yesterday, when I saw someone else’s name on my door at the high school, and when I took my keys off the lanyard and turned them in, I was feeling a little melancholy about the whole thing. But if there’s one thing I’m good at/bad about, it’s introspection; I know that it’s just hard to feel how much I’ll love this job because I haven’t actually started doing it. That’s why, even though I probably should have been doing laundry today, I came in to the library instead. It helps to be here, getting my desk together, daydreaming about displays and projects and promotions and even the day-to-day grind of it all.

These are good things. Now, as I wrap up this post, I’m holding H in my lap. Makes typing a little tougher, but then again, I have years of practice with pushy cats. (That said, I’ve never had a cat repeatedly kick the space bar or suck on my arm while I’m typing.) I can lean over and kiss the top of his head between sentences. On the far side of the library is a picture book section for special education students and other needs; H thinks it’s his section, though.

And now I’m all drooled on…. so I think I’m going to wrap things up for now. More to come. ūüôā

Transitioning

We’re (at least) halfway through the summer, so it’s time for me to get off my sit-upon and make the transition from being a teacher at one school to being a librarian at another. That means a lot of boxing things up and sorting things out (one of those jobs that seems easy enough until you walk in the room and discover how Sisyphean it truly is) in a room that is devoid of air conditioning. Bittersweet sort of thing.

It also means meeting with the erstwhile librarian to learn the ropes (or as much as I can learn without actually doing). I’m excited and a little overwhelmed — there is a lot to learn, and a lot I want to do that may constitute biting off more than I can chew. I have to ease into this whole thing and prioritize what I learn to do!

It’s a beautiful space. I’ve been in a couple of times with R and have been trying to settle into the idea that these are my new digs:

I need to get back up to speed on middle-level literature after several years in a high school. Fortunately, I have a great big room full of books written for middle school kids at my fingertips.

WatchedI started off by reading Wonder, a very good book recommended to me by the principal, a counselor, and the outgoing librarian. Really a beautiful book; I’m going to try to get R to read it, if he’ll find some time away from his computer-reading. I’d like to write about it here if I find the time and energy.

CrossedNow I’m reading Crossed (book 2 in the¬†Matched trilogy, which I started with my book club). It’s suffering a bit from SITS (Second Installment in the Trilogy Syndrome) but I still want to finish the trilogy. I’ve got the third book on standby but may read something else in between, depending on how Crossed ends.

After that, I’m either going to read Palace of Stone (the sequel to Princess Academy, which I read on audio book a couple of years ago) or The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making. And then I probably need to pick a good old-fashioned Book for Boys Who Don’t Necessarily Always Love Reading. Any recommendations from my teacher/reader/librarian pals?

I took a look at the fiction stacks and found that there are about 160 shelves (actually around 165, but some are very short and are made up entirely of very specialized series). I think I’d like to challenge myself to read one book from each of the shelves in the next year, which seems like an enormous undertaking except that middle-level books are pretty fast reads for me. If I really put my mind to it I could clear one a day, but I’m not going to hold myself to that since I know I’m going to have all kinds of responsibilities, duties, etc. with this job on top of being a mama.

Of course, I might occasionally want to read a grown-up book, too… I’ve got Bill Bryson’s Shakespeare: The World as Stage on hand, and in the process of weeding my home library I came across several books that I’d purchased ages ago and never got around to reading. Plus, as soon as I can get an affordable copy, I’ve got to read The Ocean at the End of the Lane. (Plus there’s book club — and I’m giving a little bit of thought to joining a second book club — so I have at least one outside book a month to read.) So I’m not going to formally throw down the “160 middle-level books before June” gauntlet or anything… but I’m going to sort of generally aim myself in that direction and see what happens. At the very least, arbitrarily pointing myself at different shelves will expose me to books I might not necessarily choose otherwise.

Ch-ch-ch-changes, or, How I Unexpectedly Became More Like Noah Wyle

Noah Wyle is The Librarian

As I approached the beginning of my maternity leave at Columbia, I negotiated with my administrators to take a 2/3-time contract the following year. This would allow me to come to work every other day (we’re on block schedule) teaching four classes instead of six; I could then stay home every other day with my baby, saving on child care costs (but more importantly, being with my baby).

(Because, you see, as it turns out, I wish I could just stay home with him entirely… I’m a wee bit addicted…)

Everything was all good to go. Then, the creeping blackness that is my district’s financial situation reared its ugly head, and the new new superintendent (three in one year! ah ah ah) put the kibosh on all 2/3-time contracts. This left me between a rock and a hard place: take a half-time contract, which would constitute a significant cut to my pay (because, on top of fewer salary hours, my benefits wouldn’t be subsidized as much), or take a full-time contract and make alternate arrangements for child care. I couldn’t really afford the former, and the latter — especially when I faced the specter of teaching five different high school classes, all but two of which would be entirely new content (and new lesson planning) — made me despair.

Then, in a beautiful Hollywood sort of plot twist, another window opened. Ryan’s school — LSMS, the first school I’d taught at full time — was going to need a librarian the following year, and they’d thought of me. It was a long shot; I lacked the necessary endorsement, so I’d have to weather in-district transfers, then officially-qualified applicants, and — if they still hadn’t found someone better — get approved by the district and apply for alternate authorization. I was hopeful, but didn’t dare set my heart on it.

To shorten a longer story: a couple of weeks later, LSMS called and asked me to interview. It was a good interview, and a couple of days later, I was offered the job.

So it turns out that I’m going to be a librarian.

awesome!

This is pretty awesome in a lot of different ways. On the practical end of things, I will enjoy a pay raise and employment in a more stable district, not to mention one where the newly elected school board is pro-teacher and the community is pro-education. I won’t be lesson planning or grading essays, which means that instead of staying at work until 5 and then coming home and being consumed with my job instead of my home life, I can be done at the end of the day and go home to be a mom and wife. Additionally, I’ll be carpooling with my husband now, which means that we’ll save a ton of money on fuel/wear and tear, and that we can put off buying a second baby-friendly car for a while.

On the less practical side, I get to BE A LIBRARIAN. Now, I know there is a lot more to librarianship than the romanticized notion any bookworm nurtures, but at the end of the day, I’m going to be paid to play with books. I’ll get to pursue my passion of connecting kids with something that will capture their imagination and open up their worlds. I’ll get to build bridges between students and information that, hopefully, will support them through the rest of their education lives.

I’ll also be in charge of the school yearbook (awesome) which comes with a stipend (double awesome). I’ll have a staff of two wonderful women who will help me figure out what the heck I’m doing. I’ll have to (get to) take some classes over the course of the next couple of years. Another lovely thing is that I already know a great many of the teachers and staff at LSMS, so while I’ll still be transitioning to a new job, I won’t be completely at square one socially.

It isn’t all awesome, of course. It is really extremely hard for me to walk away from Columbia. I have been happier there than in any other job I’ve ever held; I will miss my friends there terribly. I mean, I know that I’m not moving to another state or anything, but it’s different when you don’t see each other on a daily basis. Friendships don’t stay the same. I will also miss my students; they’re only in my life for a short time, four years at the most, but I do love my high school kids and will miss working with them. I especially regret leaving behind my ITE students; it’s been a rare gift to work with that crew of nerdy, brilliant kids. And it kind of sucks to have gone to all that work to develop courses like my Science Fiction class, only to walk away and leave it in the hands of someone who doesn’t really enjoy the genre. (The teacher they hired to replace me is — word of the day — awesome and I couldn’t be happier that they brought him in. It’s just hard to hand off your baby to someone else.) And there’s a small part of me that worries that I am in some way turning my back on something I’m “supposed” to do — that I’m giving up on the (hopefully good) work I was doing with teenagers.

At the end of the day, though, this was the right thing to do and I’m so happy (and slightly amazed) that it came to pass. It makes my future less clear; twenty years from now, will I be a librarian? an English teacher? a _____? But right now, I’m pretty darn okay with that ambiguity because the most important thing I’ll be is a mom, and this career shift is the best thing for me in that role.

Of course, now I have to pack up my classroom — no small task — and store my things, begin to learn how to be a librarian, and try to get the contents of my brain handed over to my replacement at CHS… yikes! I’ve been Pinning ideas and resources, and probably need to make a dedicated Pinterest account that I can organize better for library resources. I also need to start thinking about updating/rebuilding the library’s website with a dedicated URL and a platform that works on mobile devices.

I also need to get a big ole print of this photo made for my office (yep, I have an office):

Henry with Shakespeare

(He’s about two weeks old in this picture… amazing how much more he is at two months!)