Friday, April 18, 2014

Booknote: The Readers' Advisory Guide to Horror (2nd Edition)

(Crossposted from my personal blog, The Itinerant Librarian)

Becky Siegel Spratford, The Reader's Advisory Guide to Horror (2nd edition). Chicago: ALA, 2012. ISBN: 9780838911129. 

Genre: Nonfiction
Subgenre: Library science, readers' advisory, horror


This book was a serendipity find for me at the public library. I picked it up to get a refresher on the genre and help keep up my RA (readers' advisory for my non-librarian friends) skill set. I did take the coursework for RA in library school, but I am also an avid reader and strive to keep up with various genres. After all, if this academic librarian gig does not pan out, I think I can still get employed at a public library. Plus, for me, reading is fun. As for the horror genre, I would not consider myself a "horror reader," but I do read in the genre, which I enjoy now and then. This book is part of ALA's RA series, and it was pretty good in providing an overview of the genre. It is a good aide for librarians who may not know much about horror.

The book focuses on horror; it does address what could be labeled as "related" genres such as dark fantasy or paranormal, but the bottom line here is true horror. However, in this day and age where paranormal fiction (often romance with paranormal elements) is such a big hit with readers, it needs to be acknowledged in any discussion of horror, and the book does that, providing some small guidance on those given the crossover appeal. This is to address, for instance, the nice lady who reads, for example, Laurell K. Hamilton's Anita Blake series and wants to read more "horror." What that reader probably wants is more paranormal fiction, possibly with romance elements, but it has vampires and werewolves, so it has to be horror, right? The librarian does not have to "correct" the lady. Just know the distinctions so you can provide the best advice possible and help your reader get to their next great read. Yet at the end of the day, the core of the book is horror.

For the purposes of the book, the author defines horror as:

 "a story in which the author manipulates the reader's emotions by introducing situations in which unexplainable phenomena and unearthly creatures threaten the protagonist and provoke terror in the reader" (13). 

That definition is the starting point.

The book's first three chapters provide a history and genre overview. The next set of chapters provide annotated lists with some readalike suggestions in these horror topics:

  • classics, 
  • ghosts and haunted houses
  • vampires
  • zombies
  • shape-shifters
  • monsters and ancient evil
  • witches and occult
  • Satan and demonic possession
  • comic horror.
The last two chapters deal with using your collection and marketing. The chapter on whole collection RA was good as it reassures librarians they may already have many horror titles in the collection they can start promoting right away. This chapter also looks at other genres such as supernatural, paranormal, nonfiction, and graphic novels that horror readers may like as well.

The book is mainly designed for librarians, especially public librarians. However, I think the chapters with book lists could help some advanced horror readers as well as readers new to the genre. As I mentioned, I do read some horror; I have read some of the basics, including some mentioned in the book, but I also found some new reading suggestions that I jotted down.

Overall, this is an accessible, concise book that provides a lot of reading ideas and suggestions. As a reader and librarian, I really liked this one. It does make me willing to go look for other books in the RA series too.

I am giving it 4 out of 5 stars.


* * * 

This is the list of titles I jotted down from the book to add to my TBR list. In parenthesis, I am putting the label the book used and any comments I may have. I am also including WorldCat links to help my four readers and me find them later.


Books I jotted down from the opening chapters (i.e. caught my eye right away):

  • Joe Hill, Heart-Shaped Box (I have been told this is pretty much classic. Only Joe Hill I have read, which I enjoyed, is his Locke & Key graphic novel series.) 
  • Brian Keene, Castaways (the author mentioned this book a few times, deals with one of those "Survivor" type of reality shows.)
  • Ray Bradbury, Something Wicked This Way Comes (I have read Bradbury, and I can't believe I have not read this. We need to fix that gap.)
  • Arthur Conan Doyle, Tales of Terror and Mystery. (1906)
  • H.P. Lovecraft (I have actually read some of his works, but would love to read more)
Other books I jotted down as I read the book:

Friday, March 07, 2014

Booknote: The Library at Night

(Crossposted from The Itinerant Librarian. Given it deals with libraries, reading, and literacy, I figure it can be shared here as well.)

Manguel, Alberto, The Library at Night.  New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2006. ISBN: 978-0-300-13914-3.

This is a beautiful and pleasant book book that sings the praises of libraries, books, and those who work in them and use them in an erudite and elegant way. If you are feeling down from bad news of library closings or not getting enough funding, or are you just sick and tired of the next "trend" in libraries making it sound like libraries are dead fossils, then toss all that away and curl up comfortably with a serving of your favorite beverage and this book.

Manguel employs rich language and imagery to create a book that is not just to be read. It is one to be savored. In a time when librarians think everything will go online and some even scoff at the idea of physical libraries (you know, the ones who see themselves more as "information professionals" or other fancy non-librarian title), Manguel shows us the significance and importance of libraries through the ages and in all forms, even the electronic ones, with reverence and respect. If you are a librarian,  you will likely embrace this book. If you've used a library and/or you have one of your own, this book will bring warm feelings and evoke great memories.

Overall, this is one I definitely recommend. I am giving it the full 5 out of 5 stars.

Books I've read with similar appeal that I have read (links go to my reviews):



* * *

Additional reading notes: I found myself making notes as I read and jotting down passages and quotes to remember. If interested, you can feel free to read on.

I loved this image:

"I like to imagine that, on the day after my last, my library and I will crumble together, so that even when I am no more I'll still be with my books" (37). 

It is a very romantic ideal, to take your books with you in eternity. I think I would that for some books, but let the rest in my personal library be sold or given to friends and family so that, as another writer I read once said, others may experience the joys of reading and discovery in those books as I did. 


Even Manguel knows:

"And yet, both libraries-- the one of paper and the electronic one-- can and should coexist. Unfortunately, one is too often favoured to the detriment of the other" (77). 

Unfortunately, even a good number of librarians favor one to the detriment of the other. Let's not even go into the many problems of electronic record preservation, which Manguel does discuss well in the book by the way. Further on, Manguel writes,

"In comparing the virtual library to the traditional one of paper and ink, we need to remember several things: that reading often requires slowness, depth, and context; that our electronic technology is still fragile and that, since it keeps changing, it prevents us many times from retrieving what was once stored in now superseded containers; that leafing through a book or roaming through shelves is an intimate part of the craft of reading and cannot be entirely replaced by scrolling down a screen, any more than real travel can be replaced by travelogues and 3-D gadgets" (79). 

On the power of readers:

"The power of readers lies not in their ability to gather information, in their ordering and cataloguing capability, but their gift to interpret, associate and transform their reading" (91).

Libraries as subversive and even immortal:

"Libraries, in their very being, not only assert but also question the authority of power. As repositories of history or sources for the future, as guides or manuals for difficult times, as symbols of authority past or present, the books in a library stand for more than their collective contents, and have, since the beginning of writing, been considered a threat. It hardly matters why a library is destroyed: every banning, curtailment, shredding, plunder or loot gives rise (at least a ghostly presence) to a louder, clearer, more durable library of the banned, looted, plundered, shredder or curtailed. Those books may no longer be available for consultation, they exist only in the vague memory of a reader or in the vaguer-still memory of tradition and legend, but they have acquired a kind of immortality" (128). 

On why it's good to have a study. Also why I cherish mine:

"A study lend its owner, its privileged reader, what Seneca call euthymia, a Greek word which Seneca explained means 'well-being of the soul,' and which he translated as 'tranquillitas.' Every study ultimately aspires to euthymia. Euthymia, memory without distraction, the intimacy of a reading time-- a secret period in the communal day-- that is what we seek in a private reading space" (188).

Manguel does not that sometimes we can also discover euthymia in the communal space of the public library.

On a library reflecting its owner:

"What makes a library a reflection of its owner is not merely the choice of the titles themselves, but the mesh of associations implied in the choice. Our experience builds on experience, our memory on other memories. Our books build on other books that change or enrich them. . . " (194).

I love that idea. I wonder what associations I would see in the books I've chosen for my personal library.


On readers choosing books to read:

"We pick our way down endless library shelves, choosing this or that volume for no discernible reason: because of a cover, a title, a name, because of something someone said or didn't say, because of a hunch, a whim, a mistake, because we think we may find in this book a particular tale or character or detail, because we believe it was written for us, because we believe it was written for everyone except us and we want to find out why we have been excluded, because we want to learn, or laugh, or lose ourselves in oblivion" (222).

A lot of this sounds just like I do when I choose my next book to read. How do you choose your next book to read. Feel free to comment and let me know.

 On "have you read all these books?"

"The fact is that a library, whatever its size, need not be read in its entirety to be useful; every reader profits from a fair balance between knowledge and ignorance, recall and oblivion" (254). 

And further on Manguel adds,

"I have no feeling of guilt regarding the books I have not read and perhaps will never read; I know that my books have unlimited patience. They will wait for me till the end of my days" (255). 

I think I should use that answer when anybody asks that about my personal library and books.

And finally, a quote, a verse,

"Those who read, those who
          tell us what they read,
Those who noisily turn
         the pages of their books,
Those who have power
         red and black ink,
         and over pictures,
Those are the ones who lead us,
        guide us, show us the way."

--Aztec Codex from 1524, Vatican Archives.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Booknote: Not Your Ordinary Librarian

(This post is cross-posted from my personal blog, The Itinerant Librarian. As the book is a library science book, I am posting my booknote on it here as well).

* * *

White, Ashanti, Not Your Ordinary Librarian: Debunking the Popular Perceptions of Librarians. Oxford, UK: Chandos, 2012. ISBN: 9781843346708.

Genre: Nonfiction
Subgenre: Library science, popular culture. 


My review:

The book is organized as follows:
  • An introduction that sets up the context and tells you how the book is organized. 
  • Chapter 1 outlines origins of the library profession. Highlights Belle da Costa, J.P. Morgan's personal librarian, as a contrast of the "stereotypical" librarian. 
  • Chapter 2 looks at the librarian in popular culture with special attention to the films The Mummy and The Librarian (this one is a series, three movies so far). Argument made that these films challenge yet embrace the stereotypes. Personally I do not think they challenge that much, but that is the argument the author makes. 
  • Chapter 3 looks at librarians in children's and adult programming. 
  • Chapter 4 looks at images of librarians in juvenile and adult books. 
  • Chapter 5 argues why librarians need to be concerned with image. The author draws on personal experience to argue that some of the perceptions out there can cause harm to the profession. 
  • Chapter 6 looks at library anxiety and recruitment efforts in the profession with attention to how the perceptions affect those elements.
  • The author's conclusion. 
  • A set of appendixes listing films with librarians in some way (whether in main or minor roles, that they mention librarians, and in foreign films). There is also one appendix on "good" librarian websites chosen by the author. 
  • A bibliography. 

Overall, I was not impressed with this book. It was basically an OK book. There is nothing here terribly new or revolutionary. In fact, the book often felt like I was reading a series of blog posts, especially in the material other than the pop culture depictions; in other words, much of that I have already seen in either blogs or in some online forums where librarians gather to kvetch about the librarian image. However, the book is a nice, adequate summary of the status of the librarian image in popular culture blended with some personal experiences of the author and a few suggestions. The book is a nice one-volume stop for learning about librarian depictions in the media and in culture. In the end, we seem to be trading one stereotype for another. This leaves open the question whether that is a good thing or not. This is a book to borrow, not buy. Only folks I think may want to buy it are library schools with comprehensive LIS collections, and I make that suggestion with reservations, or maybe a library that collects material in popular culture.

It is getting 2 out of 5 stars for me.

(The review portion ends here. Below are notes I made as I read the book. Read on if interested)


Some of my reading notes from the book:

White points out that she gets the common "you don't look like a librarian" statements and questions. She goes on to state:

"Admittedly, I did have a unique look that is typically unexpected of one in the library profession. The brightly colored, frequently changing hair, the blatant tattoos, and eccentric clothing often confound people who expected more inhibited attire and less self-expression" (2). 

I might have been a bit more sympathetic a few years ago, maybe a decade ago. But given the amount of articles about hipster librarians, tattooed/inked/pierced librarians, librarians who may be seen/perceived as eccentric in some way, I think we are past seeing those things as unexpected. Even before I read further, I am willing to suggest that, in some areas of librarianship or some locations, her look and that of those like her may well be expected. I dare to ask if we (society, the profession, so on) are actually moving towards a new stereotype. It turns out the author will go on to argue just that, to an extent.

At one point, I had to simply ask as a reader if the author is really a freak of nature for doing her job and giving good customer service. She mentions this in the same context of being an "unexpected librarian." Really?

"Rarely was I sitting behind a desk; I was more than willing to cease my current task to locate items for which the patrons were searching. . .  I passed our customers with a 'hello;' I asked if they needed help finding anything" (2). 

So, is the author saying that sitting behind the desk being surly is the common expectation for librarians? I am sure a good number of librarians. quiet ones as well as those more vocal and expressive would beg to differ. I would beg to differ because a lot of my job is away from a desk working with patrons. I may not be some hot shot librarian or an author, but I do know the basics of common courtesy and human decency. So, the author distinguishes herself because she does her job as it should be done? I am two pages into the book, and I am not impressed, wondering who exactly this book is for. Really to dispel "stereotypes"? Preaching the choir, or rather a section of the choir? We shall see. Now, she may have a point on cultural minorities; valid, but that other stuff about doing the job sort of diminishes the good a bit. In the end, a vibe I am getting is she is a young, hip librarian versus the dowdy deadwood that hates teens. OK, got it.

Early librarianship did not really have stereotypes, argues White:

"Stereotypes, save for intelligence, were not assigned to early librarians. It was not until the establishment of libraries in the United States that current librarian stereotypes began to take shape" (12). 

Historically, librarian/archivists (often one and the same) were male, often priests, scribes, and government functionaries. So what happened when librarians started in the United States? Is the image obsession a "U.S. thing"? Well, in the U.S., women were not excluded fro librarianship as they were in other professions. Given this, women could be (and even today in general are) paid less than men. This is not right, but, as the author points out for instance, during the Great Depression that salary differential did mean many libraries could stay open. In addition, librarianship did capitalize on the image of women as nurturing, an image that pretty much is alive in many places today. Today, the job overall does not pay very well, regardless of your gender (though women likely still get paid less overall). As for librarian respectability today, when compared to the "old days," mileage varies greatly on that.

On the connection between librarians and cats: "cats were deemed to be the paranormal servants of witches. . . " (24). So, the parallel runs: librarian--spinster-- cat lady.

J.P. Morgan's personal librarian was one that did defy stereotypes. I made a note to look up the biography the author cites, which I am jotting down here as well:

Ardizzone, Heidi (2007), An Illuminated Life: Belle da Costa Greene's Journey from Prejudice to Privilege. New York: W.W. Norton.

Again, on the smiling. Do people really need to be told this in this profession?On the same page with the smiling reminder, was this quote:

"Librarians want to be recognized as engaging, helpful personalities, for the information they collect and share, and for the policies implemented to ensure that current and potential customers receive the best resources and services" (169). 

I can agree with that statement. Notice that there is not a word about image or looks in that statement. In other words, we should be known for our work that is well done. Pure and simple.

The author does come around to saying what I anticipated, that we have traded one stereotype (the old maid, the policeman librarian) for another (the hero and/or the parody librarian). Not sure that is much to celebrate.  In that same section, White writes about how librarians are embracing technology more:

"Librarians are posting YouTube videos and Twitter images;  they are creating Facebook pages and blogs that show their individual interests and talents. Most importantly, librarians are taking their service outside of the library. A number of websites allow 'customers' to connect with librarians who can assist them with locating the information that they need. These new-age librarians are defying the stereotype (or explaining it) so the public better understands who we are" (179). 

I definitely agree that technology has been revolutionary for our profession, and that many librarians are embracing it (even if some have to be dragged to do so). You are reading this on a blog, so you can tell I have created a blog. Now to say that librarians are taking their service outside as if it was now and new, not quite. I am sure librarians who before technology have had bookmobiles, outreach to their local schools and prisons, to the home bound, so on would probably have something taking the library service outside of the library, and doing long before new technologies came around. In other words, the "new-age" librarians did not just "invent" taking service outside of the library. They may have expanded on it, found new ways to do it, but they did not just out of the blue come up with it.

Friday, January 17, 2014

My Reading List for 2013

Made it to 2013. We are in the middle of January 2014; it feels like I am running a bit late in terms of doing my annual reading report, but it's all good in the end. I feel this has been a good reading year. It was not as good of a blogging year, at least for the professional blog (this one), but I am at peace with that. It's not that I have stopped writing. I keep writing, but I often do more of my reflections about librarianship both my work and the profession in the privacy of my journal. I've also learned to simply stay away from the drama and soap opera that Librarian Blogsylvania (and a couple other forums) often displays. So, I blog here as I feel the need to or when I want to document something I feel important.

On the positive, I have been blogging more over on my personal blog, The Itinerant Librarian. For one, I decided to go back to posting my book notes here on the blog after I make notes for them in my journal. In part, I was motivated by GoodReads being bought by Amazon, and in part, well, I just wanted to post more book reviews. Reading has always been an important part of my life. As a librarian, I take pride in the fact that I read a lot, and I try to read a variety of things. Sharing them on the blog is a bit of fun, is a way to have some content on the blog, and maybe some other reader out there finds a good reading suggestion or two from my book notes.  

In addition, this was the year I registered with NetGalley, and shortly after with Edelweiss. Also, this year I can say is the year I started reading more e-books via the iPad, using apps, mainly Bluefire, but also Overdrive for library books and Kindle. I may write later on some of my experiences reading e-books with these devices and software. I can say that I have slowly but surely built up as a book blogger, and I am enjoying it very much. This has allowed me to read more I think, and it has allowed me to try out a few new things; for instance, I have always read erotica (something the Better Half and I enjoy very much), but it was not something I shared publicly (in part due to that whole pesky "librarian image" thing). This year I finally decided to share some of those books and review them as well on the blog. Don't worry. I am not going into full "sex blogger" mode; this is more just adding some depth and variety to my book blogging with something I have always read and enjoyed. If one of the four readers is too prudish, well, there are other blogs out there he or she can read. To sum up, the risk is a bit lower when you read a galley or review copy, so trying new things feels easier. Now on The Itinerant Librarian, I strive to combine reviews from newer things (many of these items via NetGalley, Edelweiss, or the one or two publishers who have me on their reviewer lists-- another small experience to write about later) plus new and old things on my "to be read" lists, things from the library (yes, I still check out books quite a bit), and things I purchase. It's been fun; it's something I enjoy sharing and writing about, and as a librarian, it has none of the drama. Life in that regard is good. 

I also tried a book challenge this year, which sadly I did not get to complete mainly due to the very serendipitous way in which I read. I will write about that soon.  The other experience I enjoyed very much was participating in my local public library's summer reading program. This also got me to read more, and I did read a few new things outside what I usually read. I have been meaning to write about it, so I hope I can do so soon. Overall, it was a good year of new experiences in reading, and I hope this new year keeps the positive reading experience coming. 

So, let's see how we did in 2013: 


The basic numbers:

I read 173 books this year, including 2 re-reads.

Number of books read in 2012: 117, with 6 re-reads (the 2012 list).
Number of books read in 2011: 119, with 3 re-reads (the 2011 list). 
Number of books read in 2010:  119, with 6 rereads (the 2010 list).
Number of books read in 2009: 98, with 5 rereads. I believe this is the first time I started to actively track rereads. (the 2009 list).
Number of books read in 2008: 111 (the 2008 list).
Number of books read in 2007: 85 (the 2007 list).
Number of books read in 2006: 106 (the 2006 list).
Number of books read in 2005: 73



I read a lot more this year; 56 more books than last year. As I noted, this was the year I joined NetGalley and Edelweiss. I have been more active on NetGalley (easier to use), and it shows. Many of the books I read in 2013 were either e-galleys or e-book review copies (on NetGalley, sometimes they send a rough galley, and other times they do send a full e-book version). 

I did not reread much this year. One of the two rereads was Batman: The Long Halloween, which is a small tradition for me around Halloween. Rereads are marked in the list with an asterisk. As I did in 2012, I now track how many books I borrow from libraries (my library or others, say ILL), and I will go over that and other numbers in the commentary below the list. As always, if a book title is not as clear, I have added small details in parenthesis (say to make clear it is a graphic novel or part of a series). Most of the books listed below have been reviewed on my blog, The Itinerant Librarian, or you can find brief reviews on my BookLikes profile (this would apply more for older things before I restarted book reviewing on the blog, and it was imported from GoodReads. My BL profile is linked on the right side of the blogs). To read reviews at The Itinerant Librarian, simply click on the label for "books and reading." The only exception: the professional books I read and review go here at The Gypsy Librarian

So, finally, here is the my reading list for 2013. I will add comments and thoughts, as I always do, after the list: 

January:


  • Gav Thorpe, Path of the Seer (Path of the Eldar series, Book 2, Warhammer 40K). 
  • Ben Counter, Galaxy in Flames (The Horus Heresy, Book 3, Warhammer 40K). 
  • Kagan McLeod, Infinite Kung Fu
  • David Borgenicht, Star Trek Book of Opposites
  • Robert Kirkman, The Walking Dead, Book 8 (hardcover compilation).
  • Pascale Le Draoulec, American Pie.
  • Howard Stelzer and Ashley Stelzer, Beer Cocktails
  • Henry H. Owings, The Indie Cred Test
  • Nathan Edmondson, Who is Jake Ellis? Vol. 1
  • bell hooks, Appalachian Elegy: Poetry and Place.
  • Lisa Dodson, The Moral Underground
February:


  • Christian Dunn, ed., Treacheries of the Space Marines (Short story collection, Warhammer 40K).
  • Don McLeod, How to Find Out Anything
  • James Swallow, The Flight of the Eisenstein (The Horus Heresy, Book 4, Warhammer 40K). 
  • Stephen Colbert, America Again
  • Willie Nelson, Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die
  • Mike W. Barr, Star Trek Archives: The Best of DS 9
  • Howard Chaykin, Batman: Thrillkiller
  • Christopher De Hamel, Bibles: An Illustrated History from Papyrus to Print
  • Geoff Johns, JLA, Vol. 18: A Crisis of Conscience
  • Frank Miller, Ronin
  • Frank Miller, 300
  • Mathew Inman, How to Tell if Your Cat is Plotting to Kill You
  • Shouji Sato, Triage X, Vol. 1
  • Larry Kramer, The Normal Heart
  • Quino, Mafalda 2*.

March:


  • Jeph Loeb, Absolute Batman: Hush
  • Scott Tipton, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine- Fool's Gold
  • Dwayne Mack, et.al., eds., Mentoring Faculty of Color.
  • Frank Tieri, X-Men: Apocalypse/Dracula











July:

  • Ben Counter, Battle for the Abyss (Horus Heresy, Book 8, Warhammer 40K). 
  • Heather Arndt-Anderson, Breakfast: A History.  
  • Robert Lanham, The Sinner's Guide to the Evangelical Right.  
  • John Ostrander, Star Wars: Dawn of the Jedi, Vol. 2: Prisoner of Bogan.  
  • Erik Burnham, et.al., The New Ghostbusters, Vol. 1.  
  • Stuart Moore, Wolverine Noir.  
  • Kristina Wright, ed., Best Erotic Romance 2013
  • Nathaniel Marunas, Manga Claus: The Blade of Kringle.  
  • Geoff Johns, et.al., Superman: Brainiac.  
  • John Owens, Confessions of a Bad Teacher
  • Darwyn Cooke and Amanda Conner, Before Watchmen: Minutemen/Silk Spectre
  • Len Wein, et.al., Before Watchmen: Ozymandias/Crimson Corsair
  • J. Michael Straczynski, Before Watchmen: Nite Owl/Dr. Manhattan
  • Brian Azarrello, Before Watchmen: Comedian/Rorschach

August:

  • Neal Thompson, A Curious Man: The Strange and Brilliant Life of Robert "Believe It Or Not" Ripley.
  • John Jackson Miller, Star Wars: Kenobi
  • Fred Van Lente and Steve Kurth, G.I. Joe, Vol. 1: Homefront
  • Tom Sniegoski and Johnny Desjardins, Vampirella Strikes, Vol. 1: On the Side of Angels
  • Rachel Haimowitz and Heidi Belleau, The Flesh Cartel, Season 1: Damnation.  
  • Agatha Christie, Thirteen at Dinner
  • Harvey Kurtzman, Corpse on the Imjin and Other Stories by Harvey Kurtzman
  • Eduardo Galeano, Los hijos de los días.
  • Charles M. Schulz, The Complete Peanuts: 1959-1960
  • Tom Nissley and Joanna Neborsky, The Reader's Book of Days.  
  • Jim Heimann, ed., All American Ads of the 20s.  
  • William Sitwell, A History of Food in 100 Recipes.  
  • Scott Adams, Build a Better Life by Stealing Office Supplies
  • Eugene Byrne, Darwin: A Graphic Biography.  
  • James Sturm, Market Day


September:

  • Ronald L. Collins and David M. Skover, On Dissent: Its Meaning in America
  • Grumpy Cat, Grumpy Cat: A Grumpy Book
  • Chris Roberson, Sons of Dorn (Warhammer 40,000 novel)
  • Andrew E.C. Gaska, Classic Space 1999: To Everything That Was: Selected Remastered Works
  • Matt Wagner, Green Hornet: Year One Omnibus.  
  • Scott Adams, It's Not Funny If  I Have to Explain It.
  • Eva Talmadge and Justin Taylor, The World Made Flesh: Literary Tattoos from Bookworms Worldwide.
  • Mairghread Scott, Transformers Prime: Beast Hunters, Volume 1.   
  • Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples, Saga, Vol. 1
  • Matthew Chojnacki, Alternative Movie Posters: Film Art from the Underground.  
  • Brian K. Vaughan, Saga, Vol. 2.
  • Mike Costa, G.I. Joe: The Cobra Files, Vol. 1
  • Marion Nestle, Eat Drink Vote: an Illustrated Guide to Food Politics
  • Mike Mignola, Hellboy: The Midnight Circus
  • Sohaib Awan, Jinnrise, Vol. 1
  • Charles Schultz, The Complete Peanuts: 1961-1962
  • Tom Taylor, Injustice: Gods Among Us, Vol. 1.

October:

  • Bernie Wrightson, Creepy Presents: Bernie Wrightson.
  • Russell Shorto, Amsterdam: a History of the World's Most Liberal City
  • George Grant and Karen Grant, Shelf Life
  • Jason Rodriguez, ed., Postcards: True Stories That Never Happened
  • Matz, The Killer Omnibus, Vol. 1
  • Dennis O'Neil, et.al., Nightwing: Ties That Bind
  • Rachel Haimowitz, ed., Bump in the Night
  • Ed Brubaker, Uncanny X-Men: The Extremists
  • James O'Barr, The Crow: Curare.  
  • Sean Michael Wilson, The 47 Ronin
  • Jamyang Norbu, The Mandala of Sherlock Holmes
  • Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale, Batman: The Long Halloween.*
  • Various authors, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Villains Micro-Series, Vol. 1
  • Scott Snyder, Batman, Vol. 3: Death of the Family. (The New 52)
  • Ed Brubaker, X-Men: Deadly Genesis

November:

  • Mike Mignola, B.P.R.D.: Vampire.  
  • Ian Doescher, William Shakespeare's Star Wars
  • Mike Mignola, Hellboy, Vol. 10: The Crooked Man and Others
  • Si Kahn, Creative Community Organizing.
  • Scott Lobdell, Teen Titans, Vol. 3: Death of the Family. (The New 52)
  • Charles M. Schulz, The Complete Peanuts: 1963-1964.
  • Monty L. McAdoo, Fundamentals of Library Instruction
  • Matt Frank, et.al., Godzilla: Rulers of Earth
  • Howard Zinn, et.al., A People's History of American Empire
  • Devon McCormack, Clipped
  • Patrick Shand, Robyn Hood: Wanted
  • Peter Tomasi, Batman and Robin, Vol. 3: Death of the Family (The New 52). 

December:
  • William Stoddart, An Illustrated Outline of Buddhism
  • Stephen D. Korshak, ed., Frank R. Paul: Father of Science Fiction Art.
  • Devin Grayson, Batman: Year One- Ra's Al Ghul
  • Tom Taylor, Star Wars: Blood Ties- A Tale of Jango and Boba Fett.
  • Michael A. Stackpole, Star Wars: X-Wing Rogue Squadron- Blood and Honor
  • Chris Metzen, Transformers: Monstrosity.
  • John Ostrander, Star Wars: Darkness
  • Michael Walsh, The X-Files: Season 10, Vol. 1
  • Diane E. Muldrow, Everything I Need to Know I Learned from a Little Golden Book
  • Nick Reding, Methland
  • Neil Gaiman, Signal to Noise (new edition).
  • Stephan Pastis, Rat's Wars (Pearls Before Swines collection).
  • Cullen Bunn, The Sixth Gun: Sons of the Gun.



Comments and thoughts:

  • Though I still prefer to read in print, this was the year that I truly took off in terms of reading e-books. I use my iPad, and on the iPad I mainly use the Bluefire app., followed by the Kindle app. For e-books, it is mostly free stuff. I do not buy e-books (I do very little shopping online overall, in part because I dislike using credit cards for that purpose, so I avoid it). E-galleys have been one way for me to read e-books. Another way has been a few online freebies I learn about from various sources; this is the only reason I have an Amazon account, for the occasional book freebie. In addition, I have also borrowed e-books from my local public library using Overdrive, which gave me exposure to that system. However, reading on the iPad is not always the most pleasant experience. In addition to its weight, it is still reading on a computer screen (eye strain issues, so on). Turning pages is not as seamless as the makers of e-books make out to be (and on iPad, at times, e-books do briefly "freeze" for seconds, frustrating when you want to read the next page, and it won't turn). Plus, for bedtime, where I do a lot of my reading, I tend to prefer reading in print as a way to disconnect. So while I do read a lot more e-books, print is still my preferred reading method, and I still read a lot in print. I have not given up for print for electronic as other people have done, and I don't foresee doing it anytime soon. 
  • These days I am using BookLikes to both keep track of my books as well as just a bit of book blogging for fun. You can see my BookLikes profile here (or click the link on the right column of this blog).  In a nutshell, it is like a hybrid of what GoodReads does with Tumblr. It may not be as robust for some things librarians tend to like, but it works pretty well for me. Only thing I use GoodReads for these days is mostly to post links to reviews of books I have read for review, in other words, books from NetGalley, Edelweiss, or a publisher. Those folks tend to like it when you post in "big shot" places like Amazon and/or GoodReads. Amazon is not going to happen because to post a review there,  you have to have made an actual purchase (freebie downloads do not count), and I am not planning on doing one any time soon. However, since I already have a GR account, copying a link there when I add one of those books to my shelf is no big deal. I don't give GR any more than that in terms of info. In terms of community, so far, people in BL seem fairly nice overall so far. 
  • I still read a lot by serendipity. This is based on either mood or whatever I find interesting at a time. Sure, I keep TBR lists in various places, but I do a lot of "ooh, shiny new book" grabbing when I see something. That is just life, and I am perfectly cool with that. As I have noted before, some of my TBR lists you can find over at Alchemical Thoughts (just click on the "books and reading" tag when you get there). I also browse a lot, and I make notes. Still loving my pocket notebook, which works well for me because it is great for reminders, including jotting down books I want to read, which I then add to a list on the scratch pad, or borrow or buy depending on mood. 
  •  Number of books read in the best month: 17 in September. Some good stuff that month, including the first two volumes of Saga.
  • Number of books read in the worst month: 11 in January, so I still did pretty good. Usually, if I get 10 books in a month, I feel in good shape. However, if I do less, I don't lose sleep over it. I read what I read, and let the rest fall into place. 
  • Fiction: 122. A lot of what I read this year fell under graphic novels, and most of those are fiction. I did read some nonfiction graphic novels, but the majority were fiction. This is exactly double the amount of fiction from last year.
  • Nonfiction: 51. I read five books less in nonfiction this year. I only read 2 books that would be classified as LIS. On this regard, I still do most of my LIS reading via articles. Though I have not made as many article notes this year, I do still keep up with the literature (some of it may be I read stuff, but I don't consider it good enough to blog about it and share it). My remarks from last year regarding LIS books still hold this year. I did nonfiction in other areas of interest to librarians (or I think they should interest librarians) such as the topic of books and reading and the topic of community organizing. 
  • Books borrowed:102. This breaks down as follows: 
    • 79 books from my local public library, Madison County Public Library (I use the Berea branch, which also let's me request items from the main branch as needed). I have to say we are very pleased here with the public library system. For a small system, they are very responsive; they do some pretty good collection development, and they are very open to suggestions from patrons. I know given that I have turned in suggestions for possible purchase. They got the items in pretty quick. 
    • 2 via Overdrive. Out of the 79 above, I gave my public library's Overdrive offerings a spin. 
    • 8 Interlibrary loans (ILL) through my own library. If my public library does not have it, I go the ILL route. Most of my reading in the Horus Heresy series has been via ILL. I am not shy at all about using ILL whether for academic or popular stuff. Way I see it, it's what it's there for. 
    • 15 books from my own library, Hutchins Library of Berea College.
  • Books read via NetGalley: 46. These were mostly graphic novels. However, I did get some nonfiction and fiction items this way as well. 
  • Books read via Edelweiss: 3. I don't like their interface as much, so I tend to use it less. However, for librarians, this may be a good source even if you do not request galleys for review because of the access you can get to publisher catalogs. Also, for galleys, they do tend to have some backlist items. 
  • Books from other sources: 7. This would include books I have gotten directly from a publisher for review (one publisher I work with fairly regularly; the other more irregular) and a book or two won in some online contest. 
  • Books that are mine: 13. This means books I have purchased (that were not review copies-- I sometimes do get actual books-- or galleys). Out of these, 2 were the rereads.This is part of why I failed my TBR challenge. I did not pay that much attention to the books I have already. Know what? It was still fun and worth it to do all that reading.
  • Graphic novels and comics: 98. Definitely a good year for graphic novels and comics. Many of these I read via NetGalley, mostly newer things such as the Before Watchmen series.
  • Mangas: 3. These three were part of my personal collection (they are mine). I have a good stack of mangas, so I hope to read a few more over this new year. I particularly enjoyed the Triage X series, upon which I will comment some more below. My comments from last year in terms of difficulty finding titles still apply. I still do my runs to "the big city" (Lexington) when I want to get a good bookstore. However, since I am reading more via NetGalley and/or other review methods, buying books has not been as urgent as before. But I still hunt for specific things to add to my personal collection.
  • Other categories: I read a couple of poetry books by Appalachian writers. Living in Appalachia as I do now (on the edge, but we are still Appalachia), I have felt a need to read about the region as well as explore writers of the region. You will probably see a few more of those kinds of books on my list for this year down the road. Got in some art books as well. Also, as I mentioned, some erotica, which I have always read, but this is the year I decided to go public in terms of reviewing it.
  • Book challenges: I did not complete the TBR book challenge as mentioned. I will write a separate post for that soon. 

If you are still here, I am glad you stuck around. Let's look at the part my four readers have been waiting for: my favorites of 2013. This definitely was a very good year in terms of good stuff to read. I will like to my reviews if I have a published review (for some, I have reviews completed, but scheduled for later on). Some of my favorites include:

  • Brian K. Vaughan's Saga. This series for me was a pleasant discovery. I read the first trade paperback volumes, and I have to say this is among the best things I have read recently. It definitely deserves every positive accolade it has gotten. I will be looking for more volumes down the road. If you enjoy science fiction, fantasy, good stories, fables, so on, you need to be reading this. I wrote the review, and it will be appearing on this blog later, so stay tuned. 
  • The Horus Heresy series. This has not been perfect, but overall it remains a favorite of mine. Some volumes have been excellent, some average, and at least one bad one. The bad one, so far, was volume 6, Descent of Angels (link to my review). I am currently reading Mechanicum, volume 9 of the series, and I do plan to continue reading the series. Fans of Warhammer 40K will certainly enjoy this series as well, with the caveat that, like many series with various authors, some volumes may be better than others, but so far, the positives have outweighed any negatives. 
  • Dwayne Mack, Mentoring Faculty of Color.  This is one of the academic books I read this year. A bit from my review: "The book fills a very important gap in the literature of higher education: how faculty members of minority groups go through getting tenure, the obstacles and challenges they face, and the various paths they take in creating a way out of no way." 
  • The Manhattan Projects, Vol. 1. This is another series I will be looking for. It is an alternate history take on the Manhattan Project. 
  • Serving Him: Sexy Stories of Submission. When I tell people who have read, or are considering reading, 50 Shades of Gray to do themselves a favor and find better erotica, Kramer Bussel's book is one that I recommend right away. In addition, this book has the Better Half "Seal of Approval."
  • The Resurrectionist: The Lost Work of Dr. Spencer Black. This was just a cool book. A great combination of gothic horror fiction and art. The art plates of the mythological creatures are excellent. 
  • Fat Girl by Carlos Batts. An erotic photography collection featuring April Flores. I read this as a review copy via NetGalley, but it is one I would add to my personal collection in print. 
  • Punk Rock Jesus by Sean Murphy. The premise? A reality show features a clone of Jesus. Yes, THAT Jesus. 
  • Bob Fingerman's Maximum Minimum Wage. An oversized collection of Fingerman's comic strip about a graphic artist in New York City, his girlfriend, and his friends. This is like a sitcom on print, but in this case, it is a sitcom done right, and it does contain some adult themes. 
  • Darth Vader and Son and Vader's Little Princess. Both books by Jeffrey Brown. A pair of delightful little books that every Star Wars fan has to read. Brown imagines what would have happened if Darth Vader had to raise his kids. Who knew the Dark Lord of the Sith could make a pretty good dad? Link to my review. Great humor for all ages. 
  • Neal Thompson's A Curious Man: the Strange & Brilliant Life of Robert "Believe It Or Not!" Ripley. A biography of the man that reads like a good yarn. You thought his comic strip and his stories were amazing? Well, his life was amazing as well. My review of this is coming soon. 
  • The Flesh Cartel, Season 1: Damnation. A very explicit psychosexual thriller about an organization that "could teach even the KGB a thing or two about breaking a human mind. Fortunately for their ultra-rich clients, they’re just as skilled at putting people back together again—as perfect pets, well-trained and eager to please" (from the book's description). As I wrote in my review, "this is erotica for readers who like their kink very dark and very rough." It is also very enthralling and well-written, but not for the faint of heart. This is the first compilation of the series.
  • Luc Jacamon and Matz, The Killer Omnibus, Vol. 1. This is a hard boiled noir series about a professional killer who reflects upon his life and work. Is the stress catching up to him? Definitely worth reading. Review coming soon. 
  • Bump in the Night. An erotic horror collection that makes a very good read around Halloween, but you can read it any time. From my review, "if you like your horror with an element of edgy erotica, or you like your hard erotica with an element of terror and suspense, then this can be the anthology for you."
  • And last, but not least for this year, William Shakespeare's Star Wars. Right away, I will say this is just a hoot. Fans of Star Wars and fans of Shakespeare have a reason to come together. From my review, "the author in essence has channeled the great bard to envision the Star Wars epic in a new light."
What I am currently reading. As of this writing, I have already read 8 books for January 2014. I am currently reading the following:

  • The Big Book of Bizarro, edited by Richard Bottles and Gary Lee Vincent. This is a big anthology, so it will likely take me a while. What I have read so far, I have enjoyed. 
  • Alex Strick van van Linschoten, et.al, eds., Poetry of the Taliban. It turns out the Taliban are not only the repressive former rulers of Afghanistan, but also many of their members have a poetic side. The poetry reflects much of the poetic tradition of the nation and its people. The editors sought works done by ordinary people as opposed to literary works that were clearly just propaganda from that regime. An interesting anthology so far. 
  • Graham McNeill's Mechanicum. This is book 9 of the Horus Heresy series, and it focuses on the Mechanicum of Mars, the technocult that builds the weapons and supplies for the armies of the Emperor. The civil war of the Horus Heresy finally reaches Mars. If you wanted to know more about the Mechanicum, this may be the book for you. Pretty good so far. 
  • Mark Rahner, Dejah Thoris and the Green Men of Mars, Vol. 1. Collection of comics based on the works of Edgar Rice Burroughs. This is a NetGalley selection. 
  • The Best of Pantha: the Warren Stories. A collection of tales about the character of Pantha from Vampirella magazine. This is another NetGalley selection. 

P.S. In case you are interested (assuming you read this far, for which I thank you), here are a few other folks who gave their year-end reading reports. I include these because I always find interesting the diversity of books that other people out there read, even the books that are not in my reading horizon: