Ten Reasons I Love Book Talking (And Maybe You Will, Too!)

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First, let me clarify. I love book discussion in all its varieties – one-on-one, online, group discussion about one title, panel discussion – you name it.  If it’s about books, I’m there!

My favorite format is book talking. I learned the term when I was a new librarian attending my first Oklahoma Library Association conference.  There was a session going on that seemed to be attracting a large audience.

I scanned the room and found an empty seat; it might have been the last one. I sat and waited for the speaker. When the session began and the introductions were done, I could see that there would be more than a dozen speakers.  I wondered how they would all fit themselves in during the one allotted hour.

Then it started.  Each speaker went to the center of the stage with one book (in this case, the books showcased were Oklahoma’s Sequoyah Award Nominees) and spoke about it. No, that is not quite accurate.  They sold it.

The audience around me was busy writing notes and I decided it was time to do the same. Each presenter spoke for a couple of minutes  –something about their passion for the book, for what made interesting, and just enough to draw us in and want to read it ourselves and recommend it to others. It drew us in and kept us there.

One after another, without a break in between, we heard from readers who loved books, but more importantly, loved the book he/she was holding.

I was almost out of breath when I left the session, after learning something else about what librarians do – what I would be doing for the next 25 years. I would be talking about books and telling our customers why they might like them – why the book I was holding might be their “next best book” or their favorite book of all time.

I still love to do that (even though I am retired) and I still love to listen to book talks. I especially look forward to the “Book Buzz” presentations done at the Pioneer Library System branches by the Penguin Random House representatives, when they book talk the latest and upcoming books for the season. (It doesn’t hurt that they give away advanced readers copies and book bags, or that the librarians and the Friends of the Library prepare delicious food for us.)

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What I love best, though, is “Ravenous Readers”, a group of about 20 members who meet each month at the McLoud Library to talk about the books we’ve read. It’s always fast and furious around the table because several of us bring more than one to share.

The book talks are as individual as the members who present them and each member has his/her own style of presentation. Some read passages, some talk about the author, and some tell us about their own emotional response to the book.

Someday, someone will probably put their book talk to music, as I did once during my librarian days. We also share or lend our own personal books and share items such as bookmarks and pens provided by indie book stores we visit. Again, the wonderful pot luck dinner we enjoy is “icing on the cake” (pun intended).

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What I am suggesting is that you consider the “book talk” format if you’re planning to join or begin a book group.  Here are some reasons you might enjoy book talking as much as I do:

  1. Book talk groups put very little pressure on the members. Each can choose his/her own title(s) to read and share.
  2. It isn’t necessary to gather multiple copies of one single title for discussion. (Pioneer Library System makes book discussion kits with multiple copies of the same title available to book groups, but not every library can provide this service.)
  3. Book talking doesn’t require a moderator or that discussion questions be prepared.
  4. Each meeting provides several recommended titles for each member’s “to read” list.
  5. Members can often trade books on the spot if a title sounds interesting to another member.
  6. There is a lot of flexibility for groups as far as desired number of members, locations (homes, restaurants, the library, community meeting rooms), etc.
  7. Refreshments can range from pot luck or restaurant fare, from desserts and coffee to wine and cheese, but food and drink enhances the experience!
  8. Book talking can be integrated into an existing group’s discussion format. A twice-a-year book talk session can result in multiple titles to consider for traditional book discussion sessions.
  9. Members can focus on subject areas for specific meetings. For example, Women’s History Month in March, or Christmas titles in December.
  10. Enthusiasm for book talk groups doesn’t seem to waver. Just ask the members of the Ravenous Readers – 20 years and going strong!

I hope to see you one day at a book talk group, or better yet, hear that you have begun one!

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Alien Landing (1938) Results in Nationwide Panic

Will There Be a 21st Century Version?

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The invasion wasn’t real.  The panic was. It occurred on Halloween Eve, when a radio adaptation of H.G. Wells’ novel “The War of the Worlds” was narrated by Orson Welles over the Columbia Broadcasting System. It was on a Sunday evening, so some people were arriving home from church and turned on their radios, or perhaps were just doing their version of “channel surfing”.

Many of those who didn’t hear the introduction thought the alien invasion was real. I learned about it at my aunt’s 100th birthday celebration.

She told us about my grandparents’ ever-present faith and assurance that God would be with them even at the end of the world, coupled with the desire to have all of their family together when it happened.  They got into the car to drive the few miles to meet the rest of the family. As they drove, they took notice of their neighbors standing out by the road, pointing to the sky, looking for the signs of the aliens they had heard described on the radio.

This happened across the country. It was a true panic, caused by a misunderstanding of the “truth”.

But that was almost 80 years ago, wasn’t it?  Things were different and people didn’t have access to much in the way of news and information.

Fast forward 25 years to 1963. A few weeks after Halloween and we were watching, almost as it happened, the assassination of our president and the days following. No mistake, no misunderstanding, and we had direct access to the context of a tragic historic event. Our despair at what was happening kept us from any feelings of elation at how far communication had brought us, but we were truly able to celebrate when, just a few years later, we watched Neil Armstrong walk on the moon.

But it was just beginning, wasn’t it?

Fast forward another 25 years. We were learning new concepts and new words such as the “World Wide Web” and the “Internet”.  People were interested in what we could do and the information we could find on our computers. We rushed to buy the newest versions, marveling at “windows” that introduced visual depictions, printers that would give us hard copies and scanners that would let us add our own documents and pictures to the mix. We could “upload” and “download” and compare “servers” and “search providers.”

Fast forward another 25 years (more or less) to today.

We have phones that seem to be “smarter” than we are, and millions of apps to help us solve any problem. We can talk to and with each other and share as much of our lives as we please with a stranger across the country or around the world. We have access to science, math, literature, history – enough to fill uncountable libraries – with just a flick or a click or a scroll.

But have we really learned anything in the past 80 years? Can we discern what is real and what isn’t, what is important and what isn’t, what is urgent and what isn’t?  Do we scroll through tweets for our news and commentary, risking today’s equivalent of reading about an “alien invasion” and mistaking it for the pressing realities that face us? Do we expect a sound bite or a short video or post to give us the context we need to understand what is going on? Are we too busy to care? Are we that easily mislead?

It’s almost Halloween. How many of us will be pointing to the sky in the coming weeks and months? How many of the rest of us will be demanding the tools we need from our leaders (truth, accuracy, veracity, consistency, empathy, context, statesmanship) so that we can focus, at last, on our best hopes for the coming years?

We don’t want to see a headline like this in our future:

National Crisis Results in Nationwide Panic

20 Reasons to Consider Reading Ebooks

My most recent post was about my love of the traditional, bound book format. Many of my friends are also in a never-ending love affair with traditional books, but some of us are “cheaters” in that we also adore and depend upon ebooks to supplement our reading habits. Maybe you will recognize yourself in these descriptions.  If you do, an ebook and reader (or smart phone or other device) will probably be in your future.

 

  1. You sometimes ask the waitress if you can keep the menu if there’s nothing else handy to read.

 

  1. You find yourself reading the newspaper over a stranger’s shoulder or six-month-old magazines in the doctor’s office if you’ve forgotten your own book.

 

  1. You absolutely need several books with you when you travel. One or two won’t be enough, because you never know what you’ll be in the mood for. Besides, you may finish what you’re reading and need a backup, or five or six.

 

  1. Speaking of travelling, you often take an extra bag to hold the books you’ll be bringing home because you just couldn’t resist purchasing them, then and there.

 

  1. You often read more than one book at a time, sometimes alternating between fiction and nonfiction or between genres.

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  1. You never know when you’ll get stuck in traffic, or in an elevator, or on a stalled roller coaster.

 

  1. You’ve been known to take a book to read during a football game, or a boring lecture, or a family reunion.

 

  1. You wish you could adjust the page and font to your own visual needs.

 

  1. You would like to highlight what you’ve read, make notes and see other readers’ highlights and notes.

 

  1. You’re doing research and would like all the books you’ve read on your topic easily accessible.

 

  1. You would like to build a library of titles on a particular topic or by a particular author.

 

  1. You would enjoy the convenience of choosing a new title in the middle of the night and having it available almost immediately.

 

  1. You are moving to a smaller home, apartment, dorm room, retirement home or assisted living center and must downsize your library.

 

You absolutely need several books with you when you travel. One or two will not be enough, because you never know what you’ll be in the mood for. Besides, you might finish what you’re reading and need a backup, or five or six. 

 

  1. You enjoy reading lengthy books, but sometimes wish they weren’t so darn heavy.

 

  1. You sometimes lend, give away, or donate a book and then wish you hadn’t.

 

  1. You have access to a library that lends ebooks, so that you don’t have to purchase them.

 

  1. You like to keep your books organized, but don’t particularly enjoy moving them from place to place on the shelves.

 

  1. You like to have your books cataloged, but don’t enjoy the cataloging.

 

  1. You like to have the particular book you want at your fingertips, not in one of many stacks or on one of many shelves in your home.

 

  1. You’re a person who likes to adjust your life choices to your particular needs, and not get too tied down to old preferences, habits and traditions.

Other reasons you enjoy your reading device and ebooks?  Share here!