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Tuesday, December 31, 2019

MLC 2020 Reading Challenge

Are you ready for 2020? We sure are! We've been thinking about New Year resolutions as well as the books we're going to read this year, too. While not everyone who works in a library loves to read, a lot of us try to read at least a little to broaden our horizons, learn new things, and just relax. (Okay, okay, a lot of us love to read, too.) Our list of the books we loved reading in 2019 made for quite the eclectic hodgepodge of books. We noticed that even though there were thirteen contributors to our list of 52 books, certain patterns did emerge. We've created this 2020 Reading Challenge from the categories that suggested themselves to us. Drum roll, please!

books are lying on a wooden surface Daisy jones and the 6 in audio, on a sunbeam and misadventures of an awkward black girl in regular print, and the kiss quotient and great believers in large print

January 2020
Read a picture book
Inspired by Nobody Likes a Goblin, What Do They Do With All That Poo?, and Sulwe

February 2020
Read a romance novel by an author of color
Inspired by This is How You Lose the Time War and The Kiss Quotient

March 2020
Read a book by a past or present Fay B. Kaigler Children's Book Festival author
Inspired by Julián is a Mermaid and The Day You Begin

April 2020
Read a book of poetry
Inspired by Gmorning, Gnight! and Deaf Republic

May 2020
Read a book about the immigrant experience
Inspired by Dreamers, The Best We Could Do, and Exit, West

June 2020
Read a book based on historical events
Inspired by The Guardians, The Great Believers, and The Ghost Map

July 2020
Listen to an audiobook
Inspired by Daisy Jones and the Six and Lincoln in the Bardo

August 2020
Read a book by a past or present Mississippi Book Festival panelist
Inspired by The Hate U Give, Furious Hours, and Souls of America

September 2020
Read a biography, memoir, or autobiography about a person of color
Inspired by Becoming, The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl, and Malcolm X

October 2020
Read a book about one of your favorite hobbies
Inspired by The Book Lover's Anthology, Ariadne's Threads, and Clothing of the Ancient Latvians

November 2020
Read a book that was published at least 50 years ago (1970 and before)
Inspired by Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee and The Black Cauldron

December 2020
Read a manga or graphic novel
Inspired by My Brother's Husband, New Kid, Sanity & Tallulah, Hey, Kiddo, and On a Sunbeam

We'll be talking about possible books for each category in the Great Read Mississippi group on Facebook, as well as here on the blog and our social media accounts on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Your local public library and our Bookmatch service are also great ways to find possible reads. We can't wait to read new books with you in 2020. Until next time, happy reading!

Thursday, December 26, 2019

Books We Loved Reading in 2019

Welcome to our annual roundup of our staff's favorite books! Every year we take a little time to reflect on the books that brightened our year and made us laugh, the ones that made us think, question, and even cry. Early next week we'll present a few ideas to get your 2020 reading started, but today, sit back and enjoy our list of books that we enjoyed.

collage of book covers of the 52 books listed below

Adult Fiction

Fleishman is in Trouble
Taffy Brodesser-Akner (2019)
Recommended by T. Carr

This Is How You Lose the Time War
Amal el-Mohtar and Max Gladstone (2019)
Recommended by K. Gill
Two time-travelling operatives on different sides of a war spanning all of time and space write letters to each other, get to know each other better, and fall in love. This is a quick, short read that leans into the inherent chaos and goofiness of time travel but comes out with something intensely poetic & romantic.

Leopard's Run
Christine Feehan (2018)
Recommended by L. Myers

Vengeance Road
Christin Feehan (2019)
Recommended by L. Myers

The Guardians
John Grisham (2019)
Recommended by H. Bivens
If you live in Mississippi, the reader must maintain knowledge of the writing of John Grisham and my choice reading from his pen this year was The Guardians which tells the story of an injustice done to one person that was ignored by many. Like many of Grisham’s books, this story is loosely based on a real event.

The Dressmaker
Rosalie Ham (2015)
Recommended by A. Ruffin

Exit, West
Mohsin Hamid (2017)
Recommended by N. Dunaway

The Kiss Quotient
Helen Hoang (2018)
Recommended by L. Myers

My Dog: The Paradox: A Lovable Discourse about Man's Best Friend
Matthew Inman (2013)
Recommended by C. Simpkins

The Broken Earth trilogy: The Fifth Season, The Obelisk Gate, The Stone Sky
N.K. Jemisin (2015, 2016, 2017)
Recommended by E. Scott
I've been meaning to try N.K. Jemisin for a while and I'm so glad I finally did. Her Broken Earth trilogy was rough and beautiful and otherworldly. Somehow I found myself identifying strongly with almost all of the characters, even those with whom I seemingly have nothing in common. 

The Lost Girls of Paris
Pam Jenoff (2019)
Recommended by H. Bivens
A period story is told about three women operating as part of a spy ring during World War II. Their heroics play out as the central theme of this work.

Devil's Daughter: The Ravenels meet The Wallflowers
Lisa Kleypas (2019)
Recommended by L. Myers

The Great Believers
Rebecca Makkai (2018)
Recommended by T. Carr

Elizabeth McCracken (2019)
Recommended by T. Carr

Ann Patchett (2016)
Recommended by M.R. Beal

Splintered: A New Orleans Tale
Brandi Perry (2018)
Recommended by S. Frazier

Daisy Jones and the Six
Taylor Jenkins Reid (2019)
Recommended by M.R. Beal, K. Gill, and L. Whitfield-Smith
I highly recommend listening to this one as an audiobook. I honestly felt as though I was listening to an interview of an actual band. (MRB)
This oral history of a fake 1970s rock band details the creation of the best album you’ve never heard. The book does an amazing job capturing the time period and creating fleshed-out characters as delightfully messed up as real people. (KG)

The Highlander's Promise
Lynsay Sands (2018)
Recommended by L. Myer

Lincoln in the Bardo
George Saunders (2017)
Recommended by N. Dunaway

One Day in December
Josie Silver (2018)
Recommended by M.R. Beal

My Brother's Husband, volumes 1 and 2
Gengoroh Tagame and Anne Ishii
Recommended by E. Scott
I know next to nothing about Japanese culture, but Tagame's characters, narration, and scenery gave me a joyful and thought-provoking introduction. 

Adult Nonfiction

Columbus: The Four Voyages, 1492-1504
Laurence Bergreen (2011)
Recommended by D. Arrington

The Book Lovers' Anthology: A Compendium of Writing about Books, Readers and Libraries, second edition
Bodleian Library, editor (2016)
Recommended by A. Ruffin

Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee
Dee Brown (1970)
Recommended by D. Arrington

The Best We Could Do: An Illustrated Memoir
Thi Bui (2017)
Recommended by E. Scott
Like many Americans, my knowledge of the Vietnam War is woefully lacking. Thi Bui's muted palette underscored the years of conflict and deprivation in Vietnam even before the USA joined the fracas and painted a heartbreaking and hopeful story of the past and future.

Furious Hours: Murder, Fraud, and the Last Trial of Harper Lee
Casey Cep (2019)
Recommended by H. Bivens
A surprise quality read is Furious Hours by first-time author Casey Cep who appeared at the 2019 Mississippi Book Festival. This book is something of a non- fiction / fiction story. The non-fiction part concerns the actions of a minister in south Alabama, the multiple family members he is suspected to have killed, the life insurance collected on multiple suspicious deaths, the attorney that represents the minister at trial, the family member who kills the minister as he is in trial, and the change of course for the attorney who then defends the killer of the minister in court. The fiction part of the story begins with the fact that To Kill A Mockingbird author Harper Lee attended the trial of the minister and the trial of the family member who killed the minister. The, author Cep weaves her story around the guess that Harper Lee was going to write another courtroom novel using the facts of the minister’s life. Providing a story of maybes moving toward the belief that Harper Lee was going to write her own In Cold Blood novel, this book is most intriguing.
Southern Lady Code
Hellen Ellis (2019)
Recommended by M.R. Beal

The Ghost Map: The Story of London’s Most Terrifying Epidemic—and How It Changed Science, Cities, and the Modern World
Steven Johnson (2006)
Recommended by T. Carr

Ariadne's Threads: The Construction and Significance of Clothes in the Aegean Bronze Age
Bernice R. Jones (2015)
Recommended by K. Kelly

Deaf Republic
Ilya Kaminsky (2019)
Recommended by H. Bivens
A finalist for the T.S. Elliot prize, this work of poetry looks at political unrest, its affects, and the potential atrocities that may result. It is a most unusual read that many readers in today’s USA will probably find interesting. Something of a combination of Fox News, CNN, and MSNBC rolled together, this book gives a different look at the politics of mankind...

Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention
Manning Marable (2011)
Recommended by D. Arrington

The Amazons: Lives & Legends of Warrior Women Across the Ancient World
Adrienne Mayor (2014)
Recommended by K. Kelly

Souls of America
Jon Meacham (2018)
Recommended by D. Arrington

Gmorning, Gnight!: Little Pep Talks for Me & You
Lin Manuel Miranda and Jonny Sun (2018)
Recommended by M.R. Beal

Michelle Obama (2018)
Recommended by M.R. Beal

The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl
Issa Rae (2015)
Recommended by A. Ruffin

The American Story: Conversations with Master Historians
David Rubenstein (2019)
Recommended by D. Arrington

Clothing of the Ancient Latvians
Anna Zariņa (1970)
Recommended by K. Kelly

Juvenile Fiction

The Black Cauldron
Lloyd Alexander (1965)
Recommended by K. Gill
Don’t judge a book by it’s dubious Disney adaptation! This book & it’s accompanying series are well-written, classic, beautifully paced staples of the fantasy genre that can delight both kids and adults.

Sanity & Tallulah
Molly Brooks (2018)
Recommended by L. Whitfield-Smith

New Kid
Jerry Craft
Recommended by C. Simpkins

How to Build a Hug: Temple Grandin and Her Amazing Squeeze Machine
Amy Guglielmo, Jacqueline Tourville, and Giselle Potter (2018)
Recommended by C. Simpkins

Nobody Likes a Goblin
Ben Hatke (2016)
Recommended by E. Scott
Ben Hatke is one of my new favorite author-illustrator discoveries. This particular book rethinks the role of an adventuring party and totally fed my new addiction to all things fantasy and D&D. Who really is the hero of our tale?

Hey, Kiddo
Jarrett J. Krosoczka (2018)
Recommended by L. Whitfield-Smith

What Do They Do With All That Poo?
Jane Kurtz and Allison Black (2018)
Recommended by C. Simpkins

Julián Is a Mermaid
Jessica Love (2018)
Recommended by E. Scott
The love the grandma feels for her grandson and the way she expresses it made my heart squeeze. The illustrations are gorgeous and the little boy is simply amazing. I adore everything about this picture book.

Yuyi Morales (2018)
Recommended by E. Scott
Based on the author's own experiences, this picture book about moving to the US, starting a new life, and discovering a new community at the local public library is a beautiful tribute of immigrants who add to the vibrancy and richness of our country.

Lupita Nyong'o and Vashti Harrison (2018)
Recommended by A. Ruffin

Patron Saints of Nothing
Randy Ribay (2019)
Recommended by L. Whitfield-Smith

The Hate U Give
Angie Thomas (2017)
Recommended by C. Simpkins

On a Sunbeam
Tillie Walden (2018)
Recommended by E. Scott
This YA graphic novel hit all the right spots: there's a little romance, a little mystery, and a lot of space. I liked it so much I asked for it for Christmas!

The Day You Begin
Jacqueline Woodson and Rafael López (2018)
Recommended by A. Ruffin

We hope you've enjoyed our list of books we liked and found a few interesting reads you'd like to try. Join us early next week for our 2020 Reading Challenge, but until then, happy reading!

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

What's In Your Wheelhouse?

Sometimes, it can feel a little hard trying to decide what to read next. Between hard copies, e-readers, and audiobooks, it can feel like you’ve got the entire literary world at your fingertips. The choices can be overwhelming. And if you’re anything like me, you’ve got limited reading time in the first place! Of course you’ll want to focus on a book you think you’d like: but how do you find that to begin with? Focusing on traits that you might enjoy is a good way to help level the playing field. And a good way to find those specific traits is to find your reading wheelhouse.

I first came upon this term via the book podcast Reading Glasses. Hosts Brea Grant and Mallory O’Meara define a reading wheelhouse as genres, settings, character traits, plots, etc. in books that you enjoy reading about. A reading wheelhouse can be used to narrow down the wide world of books and help you pinpoint specific traits and tropes that you’re more likely to enjoy.

But how do you find your reading wheelhouse? Certain parts might be easy to find: genre is an easy one. But what about if you read books from different genres? Or you just can’t think of any commonalities between your favorite books off the top of your head? A good way to help find those connections is to write it down. Write down the title of some books you like (at least four, though the more you write, the easier it will be to find those connections). List out some traits about the book itself (genre, format, length) and some specific aspects about the book you really liked (worldbuilding, characters, plot).

Here’s an example of some books I liked and some traits about them:

Already, a few similarities spring up. I like period pieces, fantasy, wizards that are jerks, and bickering to love style romances. Look over your wheelhouse again and see if you wrote one trait in different ways: ‘strong female protagonist’ and ‘well-developed female lead’ are kind of the same thing. Finally, look at some of your stand-alone traits and see if they fit together in a larger designation. I like the use of letters in This is How You Lose the Time War, footnotes in Jonathan Strange and the oral history style of Daisy Jones. Maybe the three of those can be combined into a larger category like ‘unique writing styles.’

Don’t worry if some of your favorite books have opposite traits--that just means you can go either way on that trait. For instance, length isn’t a factor in my wheelhouse. I like short books just as much as I like long ones. Likewise, don’t worry if one of your favorite books doesn’t seem to link up to the rest. There’s only one or two traits that The Scarlet Pimpernel shares with the other four books, but by listing out what I like, I see that I might enjoy a book with a focus on secret identities.
So, now you have your wheelhouse. Mine is period pieces, fantasy, abrasive wizards, bickering to love style romances, well-developed female protagonists, and unique writing styles. Keep that information in mind when browsing Overdrive, reading book reviews, or scanning book descriptions on Amazon to try and see what you should read next!

Or, take what you’ve learned by finding out your wheelhouse and ask a librarian for help! Services like MLC’s BookMatch help librarians recommend books for patrons and find that perfect fit. The more you know about what you like, the easier it is to find a match.

As for me, I’m going to give The Ten Thousand Doors of January a try. It’s a period piece in the fantasy genre with a strong female protagonist and a unique writing style--a perfect fit for my wheelhouse!

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

The Value of Lifelong Learning

In the world of public relations, it is critical to stay on top of current trends and learn new ways to tell the story of whatever you are promoting. It is the only way to stay relevant in today's ever-changing, technology-filled society. Keeping the mind sharp and well-informed is important to stay at the top of your game in this profession.

I recently had the opportunity to travel to St. Louis, Missouri, to soak in some valuable information specific to promoting libraries. The Library Marketing and Communications Conference was a two-day gathering, held November 13 and 14, of marketing and public relations professionals from libraries across the country. This in-depth continuing education offering is put together by a group of volunteers who understand the value of staying fresh and current. They worked extremely hard to make this an amazing learning experience!

Overhead projection titled Where to Learn about Memes with Reddit, Instagram, and Twitter accounts to follow and a meme to the side
Memes are really big in the PR world!
At the conference I ran into two Mississippi friends: David Brown with First Regional Library System and former Flowood Library branch manager Ashley Biggs, who is now in Baltimore. It was great to connect with friends from home!

2 smiling women lean into smiling man in middle 1 woman is holding a service dog
Susan Liles, MLC PR Director, David Brown, Brand and Marketing Strategist at First Regional Library,
and Ashley Biggs, Outreach Librarian for the Maryland State Library for the Blind & Physically Handicapped
Some of the sessions I attended included Accidental Partnerships, Memes of Engagement, Effectively Create and Market Your Library with Videos, Unified Brand Strategy, and many more. I came away from the conference with a renewed excitement about my work at MLC and how I can help libraries better tell their important stories. Stay tuned to our social media channels for more information coming soon!

woman with face in shadows takes a selfie in front of the saint louis arch. snow is on the ground
Of course I had to take a selfie with the famous Gateway Arch!

Monday, December 2, 2019

A Mississippi Holiday of a Lifetime

December is here, and so is the frantic rush toward one of the biggest Christian holidays of the year. To help slow things down, give us all time to reflect on the meaning of the season, and create space to spend some special time with family, friends, and community, the Mississippi Library Commission and the Mississippi Film Office have partnered to offer a free screening of Christmas in Mississippi in three Mississippi communities. After each film screening, guests are invited to participate in some lively discussion about what makes their community special during the holidays.

holiday of a lifetime in stylized text in the middle, blurry christmas tree with MLC and Mississippi film office logos in corner

This feel-good Lifetime movie, which was filmed on location in Gulfport, Mississippi, is produced by Daniel Lewis and stars Jana Kramer, Faith Ford, and Barry Bostwick, and provides holiday fun for the entire family. Three Mississippi library systems are serving as hosts for the screening along with their community partners. The dates and locations are as follows:
  • December 7
    Canton’s Historic Courthouse on the Square
    hosted by the Madison County Library System and Canton Tourism
    Facebook event
  • December 12
    Laurel-Jones County Library, 530 Commerce Street, Laurel, MS
    hosted by the Laurel-Jones County Library System
    Facebook event
  • December 12
    The Marion Theater, 604 Courthouse Square, Columbia, MS
    Hosted by South Mississippi Regional Library System, Columbia Main Street, Marion County Development Partnership, and the Marion Theater
The leaders of each agency were quick to share their thoughts about this important partnership that will bring families together during the holidays. Mississippi Library Commission Executive Director Hulen E. Bivins stated,
In the hustle and bustle of the holidays, many times what is lost is the human dimension of family, friendships, and associations. The Mississippi Library Commission cherishes the opportunity to, in this cooperative venture, promote the preservation of the many joys of the holidays and the joys of being Mississippians.
Nina Parikh, Director of the Mississippi Film Office added,
What a gift to partner with our friends at the Mississippi Library Commission to celebrate the holidays in communities across the state, showcasing the locations in Gulfport used in the Lifetime television movie Christmas in Mississippi.
We can't wait to see you and your community at these fun and relaxing Christmas-themed events!
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