SUMMER READING — FOR ADULTS!

As an adult, one of the things I really miss is summer.

Oh, not the heat and humidity.  I never liked that aspect of summer even when I was a child, and I like it even less now.  But summer as a time when you’re not in school and you don’t have responsibilities and so you can go to the library and take out a stack of books and just sit back and read under a tree or in your room for hours: that’s what I miss.

When my daughter was young, she was involved in the summer reading program at our library. It was great: she got to read lots of books (which she loved to do anyway), she would report on them at the library, she’d get stickers to put on a plastic banner that moved around the room based on how many books she read, and then at the end of the summer she’d be invited to a pizza party.  I was jealous, frankly, of all the fun she had with the summer reading game.

But what’s to stop us as adults from having that kind of fun?  Our dignity?  Our busy-ness? The fact that nobody’s offering us a game with prizes and the like?

Well, I have nothing to do about your sense of dignity or busy-ness, but this year I am running a summer reading program for adults at our library. It started on July 1, it’s ending on Labor Day, and it’s almost ridiculously easy to play.

You come to the library and you sign up. You get a sheet to keep track of your reading, and you get the makings of a game piece, which you decorate and return.  Then you read!  And read and read and read, and keep track on your sheet of whatever you’ve read and how many pages it was.  You bring that sheet in to the library, where we copy the information onto the sheet we keep at the front desk, and then you get to move your game piece around on our game board, one space for every 150 pages you read.  Along the way you get prizes!  Yes, some of the prizes are cheesy (little emoticon erasers, pens with clips to hang them on your belt loop or purse strap, little bright colored notebooks), but some of them are cool (advance readers copies of books that haven’t been published yet!).  You also get a raffle ticket for every 150 pages you report, and at the end of the summer we’ll pull one ticket for the grand prize (which I haven’t chosen yet, but which will be awesome).  And of course there will be a party for everyone who gets to the finish line on the board.

There are no limits on what “counts” as reading.  Audio books count, graphic novels count, paperbacks count, YA books count, whatever you’re reading counts.  We’re not here to tell you what to read or to judge your reading choices.  We’re here to encourage reading!

And the real prize is the pleasure of reading, of giving yourself permission to read your heart out, even if summer isn’t the responsibility-free time it was when you were a kid.

If you’re not within the reach of our library, I still encourage you to create your own summer reading game.  Keep track of your reading.  Give yourself prizes (cheesy or otherwise) as you reach certain milestones.  Compete with yourself in previous years, or get some reading friends together to have a little friendly competition (your book group?  Your neighbors?).  Summer is for reading.

Let’s bring back the fun of summer reading!

So You Didn’t Read the Book Group Book . . .

One of the things that really disappoints me as a leader of book groups is when people don’t show up for a meeting at all because they didn’t read or didn’t finish the book for the month.  Now, obviously I can’t speak for every book group leader, but speaking for myself, I would prefer to have people come to the meeting even if they didn’t finish (or didn’t get close to finishing) the book for that month.  

Why?

Well, from my perspective, when someone just doesn’t show up at all, I have no idea why. Sometimes there are scheduling conflicts and I get that, but if someone’s not showing up because they couldn’t bring themselves to finish the book, I have no way of knowing that.  I’m left to wonder if they’re dropping out of the group entirely or if they had a scheduling conflict this month or if they really hated the book.  I’d rather know than wonder about things like that.

And from the perspective of the member of the group, it’s perfectly all right to come to a meeting if you haven’t been able to read the book.  There are all kinds of reasons for that, after all: maybe it was a bad month and you couldn’t get the time to read it. Maybe you really hated everything about the book. Maybe you started it and then got distracted by other priorities and you still want to read the book eventually.  

Come to the book group meeting!  You’ll get to hear what other people thought of the book, which might help you decide if you want to struggle through it (you might be encouraged to discover that other people had trouble with the beginning but that the book got better as you went along) or ditch it altogether.  If you weren’t thrilled with the book but you really wanted to find out who did it or what the secret was the characters kept dancing around, you can find that out at the meeting without having to go all the way through the book.  If you really hated the book, you might find out that your fellow book group members felt the same way, so you can reassure yourself that it wasn’t you, it was the book.  And if the others in the group didn’t hate the book as much as you did, you can inject some excitement into the discussion by explaining what bothered you the most about the book (of course you’ll do so by talking about the qualities, or lack thereof, of the book, and not by attacking your fellow group members no matter how deluded you might think they are for liking the book).  Sometimes it’s kind of fun to be the one person who has a completely different perspective on something the rest of the group is pretty uniform about. 

Now, obviously if you NEVER read the book for the book group, you probably want to think long and hard about whether you really should be in this particular group, since clearly there’s something that’s not working there. But if you’re a more average book group person, and every so often you hit a book that just doesn’t do it for you (or that enrages you), come to the meeting and share your opinion, or just listen to what other people have to say. If you’re in one of my groups, I promise I won’t give you a hard time for not finishing, as long as you’re there to be a part of the experience. 

READING AS A BOOK CLUB LEADER

All my life I’ve been a voracious reader.  For the last several years, I’ve also been the leader of book groups (at the moment, I’m leading three different ones), and as such, I’ve been the one who’s chosen the group of selections from which my group(s) would choose the next month’s book.  In general, as I’ve written before (here), at least one aspect of the selections I make is their availability in the library system (and, for my senior citizens’ group, the availability of large print copies in the system), but obviously that’s not all I use.  I read various blogs about books, I look for prize winners (of all sorts of prizes from the most well known to the more obscure ones), and I plunge into the end of year lists where different reviewers choose what they consider to be the best of the year.

I also use my own reading to help me choose what books I think would work.  On a number of occasions (mostly in Field Notes, but that’s mostly because that’s the longest-running of my groups), I’ve offered books I’ve already read as selections, not because I’m lazy or know I won’t have enough time to read yet another book (though I have to admit, sometimes that’s the case), but because I’m familiar with the book and know that it would fit the group and provide for a good discussion (one of the recent instances of that was when we read The Echo Wife for the Field Notes Group).  Sometimes when I’m describing the selections up for a vote, people will ask me whether I’ve read the book or not, and often I’ll feel a stab of guilt if I haven’t read it.

Lately I’ve begun to notice that leading book groups has changed the way I read all my books, including but not limited to the ones I offer my groups.  It’s not that I take notes along the way of what happens in the book, or who the characters are or the like.  There are members of two of my book groups who do that to the books we read, and I find it admirable, but it’s not the way I work, not even if it would make my life easier.  No, the change in my reading is more subtle than that, but it’s definitely there.

There’s a part of me, whatever I’m reading, that’s always evaluating my book for a potential choice for one of my groups.  It used to be that I could just dive into a book and absorb it with no thoughts beyond “what’s going to happen next?” or “wow, this is a fun read!” or variations on those themes, and while I still have those thoughts, they’re no longer the only thoughts running through my mind. Now there’s also a part of me that’s evaluating the book with the members of my book groups in mind (e.g., “She would never like this part,” or “this is the kind of book he would really like” or “what on earth would we discuss about this one?”), looking at the length of the book, the way it’s structured, the kinds of plot lines, the language, with thoughts of which people would reject the book because of this and which people might be able to enjoy the book despite these quirks. It’s as if there are two people reading at the same time, one who’s just having fun with the book, and the other who’s analyzing it as a possible choice for discussion. Sometimes having that second reader in my mind detracts a little from the pleasure the first reader is having with the book.  That analytical reader never really adds anything to the enjoyment of the book as a book, and the only reason I still have that other reader sharing my books is because I can’t seem to get rid of her.

When you consider that I come up with at least a dozen books for my groups to peruse a month (sometimes I offer five choices per group, but it’s never fewer than four), it makes perfect sense that I’m using my voracious reading habits to help me make those choices.  And I have to admit that it’s satisfying when a group chooses a book that I’ve already read and enjoyed, because then I know I’m going to like the book, whatever the group feels about it (at the same time, it can be hard to take when the group as a collective doesn’t like a book I was crazy about, and that’s happened, too).

Possibly at some point, when I’m no longer leading book groups (if and when that ever happens), I’ll be able to read purely for pleasure again, but in the meantime, these days whenever I’m reading anything, be it fiction or nonfiction, I’m always reading it with two sets of (metaphorical) eyes.

MURDERBOT KILLS THEM AT WORLDCON

I am more than delighted to report that Network Effect, the most recent Murderbot book by Martha Wells (and the first Murderbot novel — the rest have been novellas), won the Hugo award for Best Novel in 2021.  And, I might add, it won over a very tough field of competitors, including The City We Became, which I also loved.  On one hand, I’m glad I didn’t have to vote in this competition, but on the other hand, I am so very happy that Murderbot won again, not only because this was a wonderful book that I pretty much inhaled when it first came out, but also because winning awards means the series is likely to continue for more volumes, giving us something more to look forward to.

Just adding a little icing to the cake, Murderbot also won the Hugo for Best Series, and while I might be a little prejudiced in its favor, I have to say it’s been consistently a fun read, filled with action and great characters, including ART (one of my personal favorites, and a character in Network Effect), Dr. Mensah, and, of course, Murderbot itself, irascible, sarcastic, wishing only to be let alone to watch its series but still always finding itself saving those pesky human beings. 

Congratulations to Martha Wells for her splendid achievement, and may Murderbot continue to grumble and complain and roll its eyes at us ridiculous human beings for many years to come.

BOOK GROUP YEAR IN REVIEW: AN EXCELLENT IDEA

One thing I’ve started to do in the last few years with my book groups is to have a little review at the end of the year, letting people vote on which of the books we read together was their favorite and which ones they liked the least. It’s such a good way to wrap up a year together, for all kinds of reasons.

The obvious one is to see what kind of books the group enjoyed most, to help figure out what to suggest for the upcoming year.  Sometimes the vote is straightforward, and there were one or two books which everybody liked, but of course sometimes (especially if your book group tends to be a bit opinionated and contentious) there aren’t any clear “winners.”  Even if there isn’t one book or type of book that comes out ahead with most of the people in the book group, you can still get a sense, in that retrospective, of what people tend to prefer.

But it’s also good because it gives the members a chance to remember what they’ve read over the course of the year. More than once I’ve presented a list of the books from a book group and people looked at it and had no idea what certain books were, even when they were given the titles. We read a lot of things, both in and out of book groups, and often the things you read most recently crowd out things you’ve read long ago.  It can be such fun to be reminded of something you liked when you read it six months ago but that you haven’t thought of in months.  And if a book sparked a lively discussion when you first encountered it, odds are good people will remember that discussion and maybe even return to it (lively discussions are always a good thing in book groups; dead air is a problem). 

And finally, the best thing about a retrospective of the year’s books is the way it reminds all the members of the group of their adventures together over the course of the year. A good book group (and I believe all my book groups are good ones, though I might be slightly biased) will develop a certain camaraderie over time, connections between and among members, a sense of community.  Recalling our past discussions, the things we laughed at and the things we argued about reminds us all of how connected we are as a group, and helps us all keep together over the course of the upcoming year.  Especially in a (maybe) post-pandemic year when we’ve run the gamut from zoom meetings to live and in person meetings, anything that reminds us of what keeps us coming back is a strength, and something to encourage.

So if you’re in a book group, or running a book group (have I mentioned how much I enjoy running book groups?), consider a year end retrospective, looking back on all the things you’ve read together over the year.  You might be surprised at how enjoyable that is, and you might end up making it a book group tradition.

WHY A SILENT BOOK GROUP IS A WONDERFUL THING

As you know if you’ve been following this blog, I am very big on book groups.  I should be, since I’m running three different ones every month.  I’ve written here about the delights of joining a book group, why you should join one, how to do a better job of selecting books, and even what to do when you hate the book that your book group selected.  This month I started a very different book group, the Silent Book Group.  

I take no credit for the idea of a silent book group; I’ve read about it in numerous places online before I got psyched up enough to try it for the library.  Basically, the idea is that you come to a room, take a chair, sit down and read.  That’s it.  For an hour and a half.  There’s coffee and tea provided, and there’s a whiteboard in case you want to write down the name of a book you’re reading that you think other people might enjoy.  There are no cell phones, there are no distractions, there’s no discussion of any kind. It’s just a time and a place for uninterrupted reading.

And why is that a good idea?  

There are probably some people for whom this doesn’t work.  People who are really extroverted and who can’t sit quietly for any period of time would find this torture.  People who live alone and are free from distractions at home probably wouldn’t see the need for this kind of space.

But the rest of us?  All of us who want more time to read but can’t squeeze the time in, who live with other people who somehow don’t understand that you shouldn’t be interrupted while you’re reading (except in the case of an emergency, and that’s a stringently defined term), all of us who find too many distractions when we’re home to be able to concentrate on reading for more than a few minutes at a time, we’re the people who would really enjoy a silent book club.

Think of it: once a month you can tell everyone around you that you have to go to your book group, and you leave the house.  You get to the room and you can just sit down, read and relax for a whole block of time.  Think of how far you could get in the book you’re working on if you could just read it for an hour and a half straight!  Think of how comfortable it would be to read in the company of other people who are also just reading quietly (trust me, it is).

If you’re shy around people, if you have social anxieties, if you don’t want to join a book group because you don’t want to have to talk to other people about what you’re reading, this is ideal.  If you don’t want to join a book group because you want to choose your own books and not have to read something because the group wanted to read it, this is your kind of book group. 

We only had two people (other than me) at the first meeting, but I think that’s because people didn’t realize what a great thing this is.  The three of us sat and read.  I finished one of my books and started another.  One person made serious inroads in a long book she’d recently gotten but hadn’t been able to start yet.  I’m going to keep making this available every month, as long as people are willing to come, because I think that for a lot of readers, this could be an oasis in a desert of distractions and interruptions.  Come by in November and check it out.

GREAT NEWS: SAGA IS COMING BACK

When I read the last page of Brian Vaughan and Fiona Staples’s 9th volume of Saga, the amazing science fiction graphic novel series, I was heartbroken (you know why, if you read it, and if you haven’t yet, I’m not going to spoil it for you), but I was even more heartbroken when years passed and there was no succeeding volume.  The creators said they were burned out and needed time to regroup, but I was afraid (and I bet a lot of other fans were, too) that the writer and artist would never come back to this series and that heartbreaking spot would be the end of it.

Fortunately for all of us, Saga is not dead, and the next edition will be published in January, 2022, and will continue for years to come. 

Now, if you’re asking why you should care, let me explain why Saga is such an outstanding series.  If you’re a reader of speculative fiction, or if you’re a reader of graphic novels in general, you owe it to yourself to read this terrific series, which has won numerous awards including the Eisner (in graphic novels) and the Hugo (in speculative fiction).

But even if you don’t consider yourself an aficionado of either of these genres, you’re missing out if you don’t at least try Saga, and let me tell you why.  It’s science fiction with a heart, telling the story of two star-crossed lovers from different planets which happen to be at war with each other.  Alana met Markos when he was a prisoner of war and she his guard, and they ultimately fell in love with each other and had a child, Hazel, together. Their marriage, and especially their child, have put them in the cross hairs of the leaders of both sides of the war, and they are on the run for their lives for most of the series. After all, if Alana’s people and Markos’ people can fall in love and have children together, how can you continue to justify this endless war?   Along the way they encounter all kinds of aliens, some of whom become their allies and their found family, some of whom are out to kill them.  The worldbuilding alone, the variations on the different kinds of beings that populate those worlds, are incredible, but at no point do the author and artist forget that the beings they’re depicting are individuals, shaped by their different cultures but accepting or rebelling against those cultures in their own individual ways.  It’s so refreshing to have authors who don’t treat other cultures, including alien cultures, as monoliths.  And what characters fill these pages!  We all have our favorites (Lying Cat is extremely popular, for instance), but the most important thing is that none of them is flat, all of them have the potential to change and most of them do, over the course of this long story.  We care so much about these characters that when bad things happen to them (and they do), we hurt for them.

You have time between now and next January to start the series and get caught up, and I encourage you to do that.  You will not be sorry.

WHEN YOU HATE THE BOOK CLUB BOOK

Everybody knows I’m a booster of book groups (I run three myself).  I believe book groups can be a lot of fun, introducing you to interesting people and to books you might not have read otherwise.  Of course, not all book groups are created equal, and some don’t live up to the high standards of the best ones, but for the purposes of this discussion, we’re going to assume that you’re involved with a good book group.  

Even the best book groups, though, can sometimes choose a lemon of a book. The best processes for choosing books, which include reading reviews and looking at “best of the year” lists and award winners (and books shortlisted for awards), can sometimes lead you to a book that you can’t stand, and sometimes you don’t know you can’t stand it until you start reading.

What do you do then?

My first suggestion is to push a little longer.  There are books that start off badly but pick up later on, and books that don’t make any sense (or don’t seem to make any sense) at the beginning but develop into something meaningful.  While I’m not a person who believes you have to finish every book you start, generally if you’re in a book group, you’re making an implied promise that you’ll try to read the book the group selects.  

But let’s say you’ve given it a good try and you still can’t stand it.  The writing’s terrible, or the characters or plot are offensive or annoying and you find yourself skimming or repeatedly checking the last page to see how close you are to finishing it. At that point, it may be worth your while to talk to other members of the group about the book, off line, so to speak.  You may not be the only one who feels that way about the book.  If it’s early enough, maybe you can talk to the leader of the group and the group can choose a different book for the month.  I’ve done that in two of my book groups (one time I, as the leader, read and hated the book, and offered an alternative to the group, which they agreed to), and it’s not the end of the world.

If that’s not a possibility, you have two choices: don’t read the book or hate-read it.  In either event, come to the group meeting.  If you haven’t read the book, your ability to discuss it will, of course, be limited, but maybe you’ll see different things in the book when you hear other people talking about it.  You might be inspired to give it another try.  There’s a definite possibility that you’ll hear spoilers in the discussion, but if you’ve absolutely given up on the book, that shouldn’t be a problem.  Alternately, if you hate-read it (reading it to find things you loathe), you can contribute to the discussion, if only as a counter to the people who loved the book or liked it.  Of course you’ll be polite and considerate while you’re explaining why the book was loathsome, but it can be really cathartic to talk about why you hated a particular book, and you may find that other people in the group share your feelings.  Disagreements among book club members (if conducted politely and with consideration, naturally) can be what brings the group to life.  Sometimes those meetings are more fun than the ones where everybody loved the same things in the book, or just all loved the book. 

If this happens once in a while in your group, all you can do is grin and bear it and try some of these techniques to deal with it.  If, however, you notice that you’re having to read a lot of books that annoy you, you might need to talk to the other people in your group about the way you’re choosing the books for the group, or consider whether maybe this is the kind of group you want to be in. There are lots of groups out there that might be a better fit for you, and you deserve to have a great book group experience.

HOW TO PICK A BOOK FOR BOOK CLUB

Sometimes it just happens: you’re the one who has to choose what book your book group is going to read next.  How do you decide?  Well, as someone who’s running three book groups at the same time, let me offer a little advice.

One thing that’s worked so well in all three of my book groups is letting the group itself make the final decision on what we’re reading.  When I was new to the game, I would choose a book and hope the group wanted to read it, but I soon discovered that people like to have a little skin in the game. If they’ve had a hand in choosing the book, they’re more likely to read it (and to come to meetings, which was a problem I had in the beginning).  In my regular book group, my mystery book group and my senior citizen book group, the last part of the meeting will always be a vote on the possible books for the following month

Usually, I give the group members a choice of at least four and sometimes five possibilities.  Four is close to ideal, I believe: enough possibilities that people will feel they’ve been given a real choice, but not so many that people don’t know how to decide. 

Naturally, the first thing I make sure of is that the books are available in the library system, in sufficient numbers and in the right formats for the group.  For instance, for my senior citizens, I have to be sure there are enough large print copies of the books available. If a book for my regular book group has audiobook possibilities, that’s a bonus (there are a couple of members who like to listen to books), and also if there are large print versions, that’s also good, but neither one is necessary.  If there’s a good book that has enough copies available but it doesn’t have audio or large print versions, I may still offer it as a possibility. 

The second thing I look for is a book that will lead to discussion.  As far as I’m concerned, a book everybody loves but nobody can think of anything to say about it other than “I really liked it” is a bad book for a book group.  A book that half the group likes and half the group hates is more likely to be a good pick, because you can pretty much guarantee the differences of opinion will spark good discussions.  In this regard, my experience has been that for the most part, fiction is better tinder for discussion than nonfiction, though we’ve certainly had lively discussions about books like Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania, and memoirs, too, have brought out vigorous debates.  Thrillers tend not to be good candidates unless there’s more going on than just a ticking time bomb and people trying to keep it from blowing up (figuratively speaking). 

At the same time, I want all the options to be the kind of books I would enjoy reading, since I can guarantee that I’ll be reading the book, even if nobody else does. It’s not a lot of fun to lead a group if the rest of the members all love a book and I hated it.  This isn’t that much of a limitation, though, because I have eclectic tastes and am willing to read all kinds of books. I tend to shy away from memoirs in general, because people are seldom as interesting as they think they are, and I tend to gravitate away from books where nothing happens, no matter how lovely the prose is or how deep the ideas.  Because they’re library-sponsored book groups, I steer clear of political books, no matter how lively the discussions between people of different political bents might be. 

Looking at “best of” lists can point you to books you might not have considered before, and if you’re looking at the “best of “ a prior year, you’re more likely to find enough copies in the library system to make it a good choice.  However, you shouldn’t assume that just because a book was listed by a group as  one of the “best of the year,” it’s a good read or a good choice for your group.  The book my regular book group hated the most was one that made several “best of the year” lists (which made us wonder exactly what book those critics were reading).  

Check book reviews, and Goodreads, to get a sense of what the book is really like.  Yes, it might have a Stephen King quote calling it outstanding (really, he praises a lot of books, so many you wonder when he has time to write his own), or it might have praises from other well known writers, but it still might not be the right fit for your group.  If you know the people in the group (one of the great pleasures of running a book group, in my opinion), you’ll have a sense of what kind of book they will like or not like, what kind of book they’re going to want to read.  If the reviews make it sound like the kind of book your group won’t like, it doesn’t matter how many other people think it’s wonderful.

But you don’t want to keep reading the same kinds of books all the time, either. That’s boring. So I like to throw in a wild card now and then, a book that’s different from what the people in the group ordinarily read, but that’s interesting and even unique for other reasons.  Sometimes people like to read outside their comfort zone, and sometimes a book group selection is the best way to give people a look at something they wouldn’t ordinarily read (sometimes people will thank you for giving them a different option).

If you’re fortunate enough to be picking books for a book group or two (or three!), good luck, have fun, and enjoy the process.

HOW TO DO CONTACTLESS DELIVERY RIGHT

So here we are in this brave new world.  The library is sort of open; we’re doing what’s called “contactless delivery” (can’t call it “curbside” because we don’t really have a curb people can pull up to), which means that you can call in for items, and if we have the item on our shelves here, we put it on hold, set up an appointment for you to come and get it, check it out to you and then you come at the scheduled time and take the bag with your items.  Yes, it’s a bit cumbersome, and yes, we’re all getting used to this business, and yes, we’re doing this to keep all of us, staff and patrons, as safe as we can, but (you knew there would be a but, didn’t you?) it can be difficult to work from the patron’s side of things.

Some people are really organized; they know who their authors are and when their authors are coming out with new books.  They put the books on hold as soon as they can, and when the books come out, their copy is waiting for them. 

Many people, though, don’t necessarily know what they want.  That’s the reason we have browsing in libraries, and set up displays to help people see what’s new or what’s interesting that they might not have known about.  These people are having a hard time of it, since you can’t really browse our shelves and pick up that intriguing new book that you wouldn’t have heard of but that strikes you when you see the cover or read the description on the flap.  How can you get the books you want if you can’t come in and browse?

Well, one thing you could do is wait.  This contactless pickup phase isn’t going to last forever, and eventually we will be open again for patrons to come in and browse (with some restrictions, of course).

But if you’ve been waiting too long already for a real, physical book, you still have other options.

Let’s say you have a favorite author.  The obvious thing you can do is go online and see if that author has something new coming out (if you can’t go online, you can do this by calling and asking a librarian).  If your author is someone prolific (hi, James Patterson, Nora Roberts, Danielle Steel, Stuart Woods!), you’ll probably find something new you can ask your library for. 

If your author isn’t as prolific, maybe it’s time to find other authors who are like your author.  You can do that through Amazon or Barnes and Noble, both of which have “people who have bought this also bought . . .” lists, or you could go through the Westchester Library Association’s website.  It’s a little complicated but pretty cool: go to www.westchesterlibraries.org, check out the tab marked “listen, read and watch” and go down to NoveList Plus.  There you can type your author’s name in the search box, and when a list of their books comes up, you can find “Title Read-alikes” or “Author Read-alikes”.  Click on one of them and you’ll get a list of suggested books and/or authors who are similar to the one you’ve been reading. 

Or maybe you don’t have a particular author in mind.  Maybe you’re more interested in a genre.  You can search in the system’s catalog by going to the “Account/Catalog” tab on the library system website, and searching under “subject” rather than “keyword” or “title” or “author” (of course, you could use any of those categories as well).  To make it easier to figure out what you can actually get from your library right now, you could change the search category from “Westchester Library System” to your own library.  Your search will give you a list of all the books in that category (science fiction, romance, history) at your library, and then you can place the holds directly from that screen.  Or you could call the library and place holds that way.

NovelList will also give you, on the home page, categories of books that are organized by genres, so you can see what’s out there in a particular genre, and, when you drill down, you can see if our system has the book and if your library has a copy.  You could easily get lost in NoveList, finding new books and authors.

Or, if all else fails, you can call your library and ask us for recommendations.  You can tell the librarian what you’re interested in (“books about the Great Pandemic of 1918” or “books about the Yankees” or “the newest Highlander romances”, for instance), and we’ll be able to find something for you, or at least we’ll try our best.

So give us a try.  Even if you can’t browse as you used to, you can still find books to read and get your hands on some physical books, and we’ll be happy to help any way we can. And remember, we will be slowly phasing our way back to normal library services, so hang in there with us.