Not-So-Holiday Reads

Libraries have always been an oasis of calm in a busy world; a comforting place where order and the tidy classification of items is paramount.  Books and other materials are checked in and checked out in a pattern that is so reassuring you could equate it with the arrival of the tides – it takes a lot to stop the natural flow of the library and this is always so comforting.  The library is reliable, consistent, and peaceful.  Even when a new library is built with extraordinary fanfare about the architectural elements and unique features, they still have to make space for shelves, desks, windows (natural light is so good for reading) and people to enjoy the space.

The 217th library in the NYPL system opened this September and it is just gorgeous to look at (although some of their design decisions are having a negative impact on customers and are being rethought) – it looks like something out of a recent Star Trek film – but it will still have that wonderful feeling of peace that can be wonderful during the busy holiday season.

Most public libraries, WPL included, mark significant dates on the calendar with library programs for children, teens and adults but the library itself remains unchanged, calm, and consistent.  As I arrive at the library each day it is so reassuring to see library materials sorted neatly onto carts and shelves whether our staff are busy working on events for Diwali, Easter or the arrival of the New Year.  The library is a quiet escape from everything associated with celebrating a holiday and I’ve often heard from library customers that they find this relaxing.

With the stores, frantic online marketing, and constant reminders that we should be ‘getting ready’ that begin in early November it is such a pleasure to know that the library is your respite.  Visit the library to break free of the commercialism of the holidays, for a neutral environment, or if this is a year when the holidays just feel like ‘too much’.  The library is your place to relax and find something to enjoy that perfectly suits you at this time of year. And if you happen to want to attend a program in celebration of the holidays – view our Holiday Program Guide online – we have so many fabulous things happening at all of our branches.

I’ve been enjoying books that are perfectly distracting lately, things that take me 100% out of my everyday life, and have found success in recently published biographies and autobiographies.  Some have been easy reads like Eric Idle’s Always Look on the Bright Side of Life where I learned any number of new things about his life and his role in the comedy group Monty Python.  His perspective was different than what I had read in books from other members of the group but the same incredible feeling of being on the sidelines while something absurd is being created rings true.  You will laugh while you read it.

Jayson Greene’s memoir Once More We Saw Stars was on every book list this year and it took me a few tries to open the first page but I am so thankful that I did.  He and his wife suffered an almost incomprehensible loss when their two-year old daughter dies after she and her grandmother are hit by a piece of masonry that falls from the building above the park bench where they had been sitting.  The story is exactly what you expect it might be – their daily attempts to exist without her – but it is also about rebuilding their relationship, helping the grandmother to heal, and learning about the different ways people can approach grief.  Memoirs are one of the best ways to escape from the every day and learn a little bit about the world outside our own – whether it be Jayson Greene’s New York apartment life or Eric Idle’s early days with the BBC.

We talk about this all the time – the library is so much more than books – but I realized that, after several months of helping customers try out new items from our board game collection, they are also available to me for check out on my own personal card!  I can’t suggest this to you enough for a treat in the next few months.  We have games that will appeal to those who are drawn to the classics like Monopoly and Clue and we have some that take a bit more of an imaginary leap like Avalon: the resistance.  Games that seemed like I would not enjoy them at all – like Dixit – have become favourites and I would never have known this if we didn’t have the board game collection here at the library.  The satisfaction of talking about the games with customers and learning about what makes a game interesting has led me to take them home when I never would have done so using an online review.  It’s the perfect antidote to a cold, unfriendly winter night.  When a game hasn’t suited me (and there have been a few) it’s so easy to return them to the desk and try something new.

Should you find yourself in the mood for a book that looks like a holiday read but isn’t overflowing with festive cheer I have one to suggest.  I had this book on hold from the moment that I learned it would be published because it is the fourth one from author Jasmine Guillory and her previous three contemporary romances were bright and funny, with engaging side characters, and storyline that always features a woman who seemed like she lived in the real world.  Guillory’s fourth book, Royal Holiday, has a sparkly dress on the cover, a splash of holly, and a title that looks like it was written in ribbons but it is far more than the images suggest.  Romance exists in the story of Vivian Forest and Malcolm Hudson but as both have been divorced and live busy lives – she as a social worker in California and he as the Queen’s private secretary (it’s a royal holiday, you know) – but mainly they travel throughout London, visit with friends, have wonderful conversations and enjoy a holiday together.  When conflict arises it is between two people who feel confident in their lives so they argue thoughtfully making the book was a light but interesting read.  It will absolutely go on my carefully curated ‘TBRA’ list which is my to-be-read-again list for next year or another time when a satisfying book is required .  Some books are so pleasant they deserve to be read twice, in any season.

We can help you to find those perfect books, games, or magazines here at the library and if you find yourself wandering the shelves of the library and can’t think of anything that will lift your spirits we can always help you with a little bit of Monty Python.

— Penny M.