Sunday, March 22, 2009

What do cataloguers read?

We all know they exist – those quiet, bookish librarians and staff who catalogue our books, but who are they? Do they enjoy reading as well as applying Dewey numbers to all those items in our library? Yes - they do! And I think you'll really be surprised by the variety of books chosen.

I’ve asked our cataloguers (I’m one of them) at Halifax Public Libraries what their favorite book is and why. Most had a hard time narrowing a favorite down to one. In fact, one cataloguer just couldn’t choose, so she gave us several of her favorites.

Bite of the mango by Mariatu Kamara
It's an autobiography memoir story of a young girl from Sierra Leone, who during the civil war conflict there in the 1990's early 2000's was kidnapped, tortured and had her hands cut off. A story of a very determined, courageous young girl who now attends university in Toronto and lectures all over.”

One of my favorite books is the Canadian novel Caprice by George Bowering. While best categorized as a "western", Caprice actually defies the typical restraints of that genre. The hero is a six-foot, red-haired woman whose chosen weapon is a bullwhip. Caprice is a poet whose boyfriend is a baseball player. The characters are smart and are given to random philosophical debate. Imagine a cross between Larry McMurtry and Tom Robbins. Caprice is a delightful, tough and thoroughly original Canadian heroine.”

My favorite book was Waiting For Time by Bernice Morgan. Perhaps because my family was from NFLD and it's about the history of NFLD.”

Okay...this is one of the most difficult things I've had to decide for a LONG time...My favorite BOOK (singular)...I have a few... Fugitive Pieces by Anne Michaels. The reading experience of this book at the time of my life when I read it was so intense emotionally for me that I'll never forget it. I remember weeping, big heaving, body-wrenching sobs in the bathtub as I finished this book. The language is also so poetic and beautiful and the story moving beyond the words so expertly expressed. I think it can best be summed up by a line from the book that I jotted down in my little book that I keep of passages from books that really move/affect me:

Athos, how big is the actual heart?’ I once asked him when I was still a child. He replied ‘Imagine the size and heaviness of a handful of earth’.

If I had to pick my favorite Canadian classic, I'd have to pick The Mountain and the Valley by Ernest Buckler--not because it was the BEST, most interesting or well-written Canadian book I ever read (and I've read a LOT of Canadian fiction) but because it's main character, David, is a blossoming writer and some of the descriptive passages (although somewhat difficult to read I'll admit) shaped my own desire to create with words. I also really appreciated that the author didn't publish this book 'til he was in his sixties (it was his first novel) and truly created a great piece of timeless Nova Scotian and Canadian fiction.

[My] favorite Canadian contemporary book (and favorite short story collection of all time): The Lost Salt Gift of Blood by Alistair MacLeod. This collection of short stories is so beautifully written I could read them over and over and never get tired of them. It's also a truly Nova Scotian book that expresses the lifestyle of Cape Breton and its people magnificently with each story holding more poignancy and meaning than most novels I've read.”

The four agreements: a practical guide to personal freedom by Miquel Ruiz.
" ...reveals the source of self-limiting beliefs that rob us of joy and create needless suffering

How can you pick just one? I really have over a hundred favorites, but one that stands out in my memory is Tree of hands by Ruth Rendell. Psychological suspense at its best, this award winning novel features a character driven plot with motherhood, madness, obsession and deception as themes running throughout.”

I think my absolute favorite book is Frenchman’s Creek by Daphne Du Maurier. Not only was this the first book of adult fiction I ever read, but it was the book that got me hooked on reading. This is the story of a woman who leaves her husband in London and takes residence in a manor in Cornwall. She’s unsatisfied with what her life has become, questioning her choices, her role as a mother and her future. In Cornwall, she finds more than she’s expecting. A French pirate has been taking refuge in her home, her button-mouthed butler is not what he seems and the neighbors are barely tolerable. But, in the midst of it all, she starts to find herself. I’ve read this book over and over.”

I've been pondering this question. My first gut reaction was to say either A tree grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith or To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee but I figured they could probably both be on anyone's favorite list. So, I chose a book that as I finished reading it I remember quite clearly thinking (and knowing me probably saying out loud) ‘Wow, I can't believe he wrote this book!’ Anyone who is a suspense, adventure, thriller lover will at some point have read anything by David Baldacci (if you know someone who enjoys that type of genre and they haven't read him I highly recommend him), but his book Wish You Well was so totally NOT that type of genre. It was the story of two children whose father suddenly dies and they and their invalid mother have to move to the rugged mountains of southwestern Virginia to live with their great grandmother. Local events happen which lead to a courtroom battle for possession of their great grandmother’s property. I couldn't put the book down until I finished it. I immediately wanted to email the author and say WELL DONE! (I didn't though). The book was amazing.”

"My favorite book is Time was soft there: a Paris sojourn at Shakespeare & Co., by Jeremy Mercer. The book is set in a Parisian bookstore, what more could you ask for. Having actually been there myself makes the story even more memorable. Mercer manages to relive a chapter of his life much like I wish I could have."

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