TBR List Declutter Week 23

It’s the week before Thanksgiving in the U.S., but as I’m writing this, it’s only November 4. It’s a kind of lame sort of time travel, but it’s all I’ve got. Well, I guess I could do the opposite and write a blog post today and then date it in the past. Then I can predict the future. Or I guess I’m kind of doing that in this post, predicting what I’m going to cut from my TBR and what I’m going to keep in two weeks. I never really thought of just how powerful I am on my own blog. Welcome to my kingdom. (Queendom? Realm? Domain? Fiefdom?) I’m a benevolent ruler, so I’ll let you choose your own tribute.

Wondering what this is all about (Aren’t we all right about now?)? Check out the introductory post.

Titles 221-230: Read More

Crying in the Library of Congress

My family are library super-users. We manage holds, checkouts, renewals, and returns with a carefully balanced choreography. We love libraries so much that when my children go to bookstores, my daughter spends an hour reading portions of books, taking note of the titles she wants to check out from the library, even when we’re there for the express purpose of buying a book to take with us while we’re traveling.

When my children learned that on our recent trip to Washington, DC, they would have the chance to visit the largest library in the world, they were thrilled. “How many books do they have?” “Do they have translations?” “Do they have movies?” “Do they have the Warriors series [by Erin Hunter]?” “Can you check things out?”

Most of our questions were answered by looking at the Library of Congress website. 164 million items, including 38.6 million+ books in more than forty languages. They do have movies. They probably do have the Warriors series. You can’t check things out until you’re sixteen, when you can get a card to check things out within the library.

“How do you check things out within a library?” they asked. I assured them that was a question that we could ask our tour guide. Even not being able to check things out, they were excited to look at so many books.

The afternoon we’d set aside for our visit, we set out from our hotel to walk to the library. It took a little longer to walk there than we’d anticipated, and we found ourselves running up Capitol Hill, getting through security at the library, and arriving, breathless, just in time to join the tour group as they were walking up the stairs.

The tour was really cool. The library is incredible, with murals and statues and mosaics on every surface; you couldn’t swing a cat without hitting an allegory. If security would let you bring a cat into the Library of Congress. And if you felt like swinging it.

My children waited patiently throughout our hour-long tour, learning all about the art and the history of the library.

Once my daughter pulled me aside and in a stage whisper said, “It’s been forty-five minutes, and we haven’t even seen any books.”

“Don’t worry,” I assured her. “It’s a library. We’ll get to see books.”

And just a few minutes after, we did get to see books…from the Main Reading Room observation deck a couple of stories up and enclosed in glass. There were rows and rows and rows of books, and my children were practically salivating to get in there with all of them.

And then that was it.

As the tour ended, our tour guide, Harvey, said, “The greatest thing about the Library of Congress is that it’s for everyone! You just need to be sixteen or over and have a valid drivers license or passport to use the reading rooms.”

My daughter asked, “Is there any way someone under sixteen can go into the reading rooms?”

Harvey looked from my son to my daughter and then to me. “No, I’m sorry. Maybe you could ask Congress to make an exception.” Laughter from the rest of the tour group.

It turns out that not only can someone under sixteen not check things out, they can’t even go into the reading rooms. They can’t even, ironically, check books out from the Children’s Literature Center, the contents of which are held in the General Collections, which are only available to those with a readers card, i.e., those over sixteen.

For example, they do, in fact, have Erin Hunter’s books—like her Firestar’s Quest, but you have to request them from the Jefferson or Adams Building Reading Rooms, to which my children do not have access. Screenshot of what you get when you look up Firestar’s Quest in the the LOC online catalog:

My children were not prepared for this.

Crestfallen, we went across the entryway to visit the re-creation of the Jefferson library. There my son looked up at me and began to cry.

“Mommy, he lied.” (“He” meaning Harvey.) “He said that the library is for everyone, but it’s only for people sixteen and older.”

My daughter was more stoic, but still I found myself hugging and comforting my children in the middle of the Library of Congress, surrounded by books they could neither read nor touch.

Luckily there was a Young Readers Center, a room where my kids could sit around reading books that were great for middle-grade readers but lacking for those between the ages of twelve and sixteen. It was like margarine when you’re expecting butter, but it was down an echo-y and very reflective hallway, which they enjoyed. It salvaged the trip for them a little, but the injustice still stings.

At bedtime that night, I told them a story (shamelessly paraphrased from From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler) about two children and their mom who hid out in a bathroom at the Library of Congress and then snuck out after the library was closed to read books all night in the Main Reading Room. We talked a bit more about how unfair it was that they couldn’t use the library.

“I know Harvey was kind of joking,” I said, “but you really could write to Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey when we get home. And to our representatives. And we can ask all of our friends in different states to write to their representatives in Congress and ask them to change the rules.”

“Senators must get a lot of mail,” my daughter said.

“Yes, they do. But if enough people write, the letters will catch their attention. They’ll think there’s a groundswell of public support for allowing people under the age of sixteen to use the Library of Congress.”

“What’s a ‘groundswell of public support’?”

“Time for bed now, my darlings.”

TBR List Declutter, Issue 22

For me, this November is a month packed with so many fun things. I’m scheduling several weeks in advance, so if something really big happens and I fail to mention it, that’s why. Well, something big besides more books disappearing from my TBR.

Want to know what this is all about? Check out the introductory post.

Titles 211-220: Read More

TBR List Declutter, Issue 21

According to my handy graph, November for me is the start of two months of increased TBR growth. Will I be able to make it to the first of the year without completely sabotaging my TBR Declutter? Ah, the suspense!

Wondering what this is all about? Check out the introductory post. Read More

Bookends: October 2017

With October’s Dewey’s 24-Hour Readathon, I have read my way out of my September slump, but I’ve developed an unhealthy taste for YA novels. Unhealthy not because YA is inherently non-nutritious (although oftentimes it is) but because I feel like I’ve become accustomed to fast-paced, plot-based, and/or melodramatic fiction, and that doesn’t bode well for all of the more substantial books on my TBR. Alas!

An update on our pet snails: We released them a few weeks ago, and I presume that they are now cavorting happily in our garden, storing nuts and seeds and building cozy little cabins in preparation for the New England winter.

Now on to my October books!

Read More

Halloween Pie 2017

This Halloween continued the trend of child-led costume assembly that began last year. I’m all in favor because it appeals to my general laziness and to my “bah, humbug” attitude about holidays, especially holidays that don’t involve roast turkey.

So, my children took the reins with decorating and costume assembly while I served as a consultant and occasional assistant. There’s a lot less swearing this way.

My daughter used a white bedsheet to create a chiton (I helped with safety pins) and I put her hair in a bun, and she became a woman from Ancient Greece. She looked so tall and confident and womanish it made my heart hurt to look at her.

My son donned a black sweatshirt, black sweatpants, my red scarf as a sash, and two coffee filters around his neck as a 17th-century collar to become Albrecht von Wallenstein, whose army helped out Frederick II and the Holy Roman Empire during the Thirty Years’ War. For more information about Albrecht von Wallenstein and the Thirty Years’ War, visit your local library or Wikipedia.

They hit the very quiet streets and came back with a decent haul, probably because our neighbors were, like us, desperate to get rid of their candy on a strangely kid-light Halloween.

As is the tradition here on Imperfect Happiness, here are the candy pies:

Daughter's Candy 2017

Son's Candy 2017

Read More

TBR List Declutter, Issue 20

Today I reached title number 200! Only 550 to go! (Putting it that way takes some of the wind from my sails, even with the exclamation points.)

Wondering what this is all about? Check out the introductory post.

Read More

Dewey’s Readathon Wrap-up (Oct 2017)

3:00pm, October 22: I tacked seven more hours onto my reading time to make up for sleeping overnight, and I finished two more books (one of which is shown below).

Final stats:

Books Completed:

1. Fierce Kingdom by Gin Phillips (definitely recommend!)

2. Infinity by Sherrilyn Kenyon

3. Castle Waiting by Linda Medley

4. A Spoonful of Sugar by Brenda Ashford (audiobook that had only about an hour left on it when readathon started)

Books Started:

If I Stay by Gayle Forman (43 pages read)

Total Pages Read: 1,238

I definitely want to participate in Dewey’s in April 2018, and since that’s so long to wait, I’m going to try my best to do the next 24in48, too. Hopefully I will one day learn how to put together a somewhat realistic readathon stack.

In the meantime, here’s my victory lap:

Readathon Update: Two books finished!

9:30pm: I finished my second book of the readathon!

Infinity is not nearly as good as Fierce Kingdom. Not remotely. But my daughter recommended it and it’s a quick read so I stuck it out. The only reason I can see continuing with this series is that I sometimes find it cathartic to write scathing reviews. Not a very compelling reason with all of the other wonderful books on my TBR.

I’m going to finish an audiobook I started before the readathon and start another book, but the antihistamine I took for my allergies might have other plans for my consciousness.

Readathon Check-in: One book down!

1:30pm: I finished one whole book! 

Fierce Kingdom is awesome, and if you’re familiar with my book reviews, you know that I rarely call a book “awesome.” It drew me through the pages, and when I got to the last page, holy heck. I’ve cried at books before, but this is the first time I’ve ugly-cried.

The whole book was just so real and vivid and it didn’t let me fall into the “good guys, bad guys” dichotomy, which would have been very comforting. 

I’m going to keep this mini-review obtuse because I don’t want to reveal too much, but I’ll say that I do wonder if I would have reacted so strongly before I had kids…and if I weren’t the main character’s age and if I didn’t go to zoos all over the United States and so have a clear mental picture of just how this might happen in real life. Too much to relate to.

This would make a great movie, but I really hope they don’t make one out if it, even though that’s probably not fair to Gin Phillips.