READ: 2014 Book Preview

The other day at the San Diego Central Library I noticed a card catalog and it reminded me of the way I used to do research projects in high school and the first year or two of college. I have not opened a card catalog in almost twenty years. I loved research projects in school because they would lead to unexpected discoveries and open up unknown worlds. The first research project I remember was in fourth or fifth grade in my “Program for the Academically Talented” class (do they still have this program or is it a remnant of the 80’s?). The project involved Greek and Roman Gods, and as soon as I started learning about them I wanted to know everything. One discovery led to another, and over time the little bit that I learned led me to Homer, Sophocles, Socrates, and so much more.

200px-Gatsby_1925_jacketZelda Fitzgerald was the subject of my 9th research project and I chose her because of my obsession with “The Great Gatsby.” Researching Zelda led me to authors like Edna St. Vincent Millay (same biographer), Ernest Hemingway (Zelda could not stand him), and Sylvia Plath (she always reminded me of Zelda). Learning is a continuous, exciting cycle where little flickers of interest move us to diverse things.

Part of the fun of reading for me is deciding what to read next, I like researching upcoming books. The sources I turn to the most are IndieBound, the New York Times, and The Guardian. I also get ideas for what to read next from walking through bookstores. The books below are all going to be added to my library list in 2014.

“California” by Edan Lepucki (expected Summer 2014)

I am a little jealous of this book because it sounds like an idea I had a few months ago. Of course, I never even wrote the first sentence, and this woman wrote the entire book…The book centers on a couple in post-apocalyptic California. It sounds as though it takes place in the near future and it explores love, humanity, and resilience. Can’t wait to read it.

“The Invention of Wings” by Sue Monk Kidd (out now)

Oprah brought her book club back about a year ago as Oprah 2.0. I am an Oprah junkie, and have read almost all of her book picks over the years, so I’ll be reading this one. She only picks about two books a year, the last two books, “Wild” by Cheryl Strayed and “The Twelve Tribes of Hattie” by Ayana Mathis were great reads.

“Cutting Teeth” by Julia Fiero (expected May 2014)

I found this book on Flavorwire’s 15 most anticipated books list. I am intrigued because Fiero has been compared to Meg Wolitzer, and Karen Thompson Walker (who wrote “The Age of Miracles”) wrote, “Fiero’s writing feels like real life. She captures the anxiety of our times with authority, insight, and humor.”

“The City of Mirrors” by Justin Cronin (expected Fall 2014)

If you have not read the first two books in this trilogy, “The Passage” and “The Twelve,” you still have time to get caught up before the final book comes out next fall. “The City of Mirrors” will be the end of The Passage Trilogy and I am hoping for a satisfying ending. These books are creepy and will keep you awake all night. Cronin writes incredibly well, and the world he has created in these books will always haunt me.

“Oh She Glows Cookbook” by Angela Liddon (expected Spring 2014)

Angela creates no-fail recipes on her blog www.ohsheglows.com and I know this book will be full of delicious recipes and gorgeous pictures.

“Delicious!” by Ruth Reichl  (expected Spring 2014)

Reichl is a memoirist who wrote two of the best book memoirs of all time: “Comfort Me With Apples” and “Tender at the Bone: Growing up at the Table.” This book will be her first work of fiction. The Amazon website describes it as a: “…dazzling fiction debut—a novel of sisters, family ties, and a young woman who must find the courage to let go of the past in order to embrace her own true gifts.” Reichl has a gift for storytelling, so I think this will be fantastic.

“And the Dark Sacred Night” by Julia Glass (expected Spring 2014)

“Three Junes” will always be one of the books on my Top Ten books of all time list. I am so excited about this book because she brings back characters from that book. Glass published her first book in her late 40’s – inspiring!

“The Museum of Extraordinary Things” by Alice Hoffman (February 2014)

Alice Hoffman. Enough said.

“The Bone Clocks” by David Mitchell (Fall 2014)

If you have not read Mitchell’s “Cloud Atlas” you are missing out!  The website The Bookseller says the following about his upcoming novel:  “The “rich and strange” novel will follow the story of Holly Sykes, who runs away from home in 1984 and 60 years later can be found in the far west of Ireland, raising a granddaughter as the world’s climate collapses.” Mitchell tells unique, haunting stories that should not be missed.

Untitled Short Story Collection by Margaret Atwood (Fall 2014)

I will read a grocery list if Atwood writes it. Can’t wait to read these stories.

READ: ALLEGIANT by Veronica Roth

I just finished “Allegiant” by Veronica Roth, the final book in her “Divergent” trilogy. I’m underwhelmed, but I’m reviewing it because the first two books had me waiting for the third one. Two out of three good books is pretty darn good for any author. And if you a start a trilogy, you have to finish it to find out how it all turns out.

I am a “Hunger Games” fan and that is what led me to this series. Young adult science fiction is huge right now  – in books and movies. “Allegiant” sold half a million copies on its first day of being published. Like the “Hunger Games,” the “Divergent” trilogy is being made into a movie, and of course, I’ll be watching it:

In two sentences, here is what the “Divergent” trilogy is about: The main character, Tris Prior, lives in a future version of Chicago where (almost) every person is a part of a faction (Dauntless, Amity, Abnegation, Erudite, and Candor) determined by their strongest traits. Tris falls in love with Tobias and together they start a revolution that uncovers the truth about their fenced in city.

The book offers a believable, bleak future. Tris is no Katniss, but she is a tough, brave woman who refuses to accept the status quo. The series explores themes like the nature of evil, eugenics, knowledge vs. ignorance, what is worth fighting and dying for, and growing up. Roth explores common ideologies: “What if my parents’ God, their whole belief system, is just something concocted by a bunch of scientists to keep us under control? And not just their belief about God and whatever else is out there, but about right and wrong, about selflessness? Do all those things have to change because we know how our world was made?”

I don’t like reading books that I think I could write. I kinda thought I could have come up with a better storyline in the third book. Parts of “Allegiant” were not written well, I cringed as I read several parts of it. For instance, during an intimate scene with Tris and Four, Roth writes, “But now I know I am like the blade and he is like the whetstone-” Ugh. The only reason I continued reading after that horrific line is because there were only a few chapters left of the book.

The ending of the series upset a lot of fans. In fact, Roth addresses fans of the series directly on her blog to discuss the end of the series. I actually think the plot works out okay, but the pacing of it, character development, and the overall writing were unsatisfactory.

I think Veronica Roth has more good stories in her, and she will keep getting better. She is ONLY 24!! So even though “Allegiant” did not live up to my expectations, I am excited to read what she writes next.

READ: Best Books of 2013

This is the time of the year when all of the best books of 2013 lists come out. Of course, the lists come out right before Christmas. I am sure that is not intentional.

For the most part I am doing a book Christmas this year, it is my way of fighting the commercialism of the holiday season. Books are lasting gifts that can be passed from person to person so the cycle of giving can continue.

I love “best of” lists (Remember Nick Hornby’s book “High Fidelity” where they compile a Top Five list for everything? So great). I obsess over the best book lists that come out and immediately start reserving books from the library. After reading the lists below, my library reserve list has thirty books.

Here are some of my favorite best book lists of 2013 (click on the links to visit the lists):

In a few weeks the Morning News of Books  Tournament will announce the best books of 2013. They hold a March Madness of books with a champion crowned. Great fun for those of us that love books! The last two winners of the tournament have been my favorite books of that year. In 2012, “The Orphan Master’s Son” by Adam Johnson won and in 2011, “A Visit from the Goon Squad” by Jennifer Egan won. See below for my favorite book of 2013/prediction for the winner of the tournament.

My top books of 2013 were:

  • MaddAddam” by Margaret Atwood. This is the last book in the “Oryx and Crake” apocalyptic trilogy. It is creepy, horrible, and so believable. Atwood continues to amaze me.
  • Life after Life” by Kate Atkinson. I’ve talked about this book in a previous post. It is so good. Read it.
  • “And the Mountains Echoed” by Khalid Hosseini. I have also mentioned this devastating and wonderful book in a previous post.
  • Transatlantic” by Colum McCann. McCann is a phenomenal storyteller who weaves multiple story lines together. This book is historical fiction that covers normal lives filled with happy and sad moments.
  • Me Before You” by Jojo Moyes. This book surprised me, because I did not expect to like it. It is an unconventional love story that I am sure will be made into a movie.
  • “The Interestings” by Meg Wolitzer. A big, juicy book that covers the lives of a group of six friends from New York.
  • Tenth of December” by George Saunders. My FAVORITE book of the year. A beautiful collection of unrelated short stories that explore capitalism, greed, stupidity, and the absolute beauty of life.

This list is not complete because I have a lot of 2013 books to read. I just picked up Veronica Roth’s “Allegiant” and Elizabeth Gilbert’s “The Signature of All Things” from the library. I am also very excited to read Mary Oliver’s new collection of poems and “Goldfinch” by Donna Tartt.

In a week or two I’ll have a post on the books I am most looking forward to in 2014.

Happy Reading!

Christmas is on its way
Christmas is on its way

READ: The Girls of Atomic City by Denise Kiernan

I think a lot about nuclear bombs. They have been an unhealthy preoccupation since I learned about them in third grade. Knowing that we have these terrible weapons on earth will always frighten me. I read as much as I can about them, because somehow it makes me feel better, instead of worse.

The development of the bomb and the history of the Manhattan Project has strange and fascinating characters, unstoppable technology, and huge political decisions – it all adds up to a dramatic story. I’ve read a lot about all of the men who contributed to the development (and use) of the bomb; “The Girls of Atomic City: The Untold Story of the Women who Helped Win World War II” by Denise Kiernan tells a different narrative, the women’s side of the story.

The Girls of Atomic City

Everything related to the Manhattan Project was super secretive and as time passes more and more information becomes available. Kiernan is a master storyteller who uncovers the story of the women who worked at Oak Ridge, Tennessee on the production of materials for the bomb. Oak Ridge was created in 1942 for the sole purpose of the Manhattan Project. Built fast for 70,000 people (at its peak production), the secret city expanded from a vast expanse of mostly vacant land to a huge city in less than two years. Kiernan writes: “Women infused the job site with life, their presence effortlessly defying all attempts to control and plan and shape every aspect of day-to-day existence at Oak Ridge. The Project may not have known what was to become of the town after the war, but the women knew that while they were there, they would not only work as hard as the men, but they would make it home.”

There are so many history books that are boring, but this is not one of them. Kiernan paints vivid pictures of the young women who were working at Oak Ridge and the lives they had while they were there. Dating, dancing, drinking, slopping in mud, friendships, and marriages were all a part of the activity at Oak Ridge. I kept envisioning my Grandma and Aunt Nanc because they were around the same age as the women who worked there. Parts of it reminded me of stories they have told me. In seventy years the role of women has changed dramatically and these women were true trailblazers. Kiernan writes about some of the women being excited about getting to wear pants to perform the work, “She remembered the first time her little sister Jo saw their mother in pants and a kerchief. Jo started sobbing and wouldn’t stop. She wanted to know where her mom had gone.”

My grandmother and Great Aunt Nancy in the late 1930's. They are still this beautiful.
My grandmother and Great Aunt Nancy in the late 1930’s. They are still this beautiful.

The most interesting part is that the vast majority of the people who worked at Oak Ridge had ABSOLUTELY no idea what they were doing and they didn’t find out until the first bomb was dropped on Japan. They did not ask questions because they were told not to. They heard rumors, but no one wanted to talk about it because they knew that they were always being watched. Signs were posted that said things like “Your pen and tongue can be enemy weapons. Watch what you write and say.”

Kiernan writes: “The result made for a potent mix of anxiety and inspiration for some: the anxiety of not knowing, of being watched, of worrying you might say something out of turn, and the inspiration to stay on the job and do it well, because whatever you were working on was going to end the war. That much you knew, that much you had been promised.” A secret like Oak Ridge could never exist today. This story is unique and extraordinary. I don’t know if anything like it will happen again.

“The Girls of Atomic City” provides a great introduction to the Manhattan project and the basic science that went into making the bomb, so even if you don’t know anything about it you’ll be fine reading the book.

If you read this book and like the nuke aspect of it, I suggest reading Lydia Millet’s speculative fiction novel “Oh Pure and Radiant Heart.” And if you liked the historical part of it, read “Those Angry Days: Roosevelt, Lindbergh and America’s Fight Over World War II” by Lynne Olson. It is a well-written account of isolationists vs. interventionists, and all of the politics involved in WWII.

READ: Literary City Guide San Diego, California

Just a quick post to share something I am excited about. Eat this Poem is one of my favorite blogs because it involves two of my favorite things: poetry and food. Nicole blogs about these two items that have brought me lots of comfort and joy over the years, so of course, I am a fan. I also think the literary city guides that she posts are spectacular!

I contacted her a few weeks ago with my ideas for San Diego, and it came together yesterday. I am excited to join all the fantastic literary city guides that are on her blog. San Diego is a great city and I love sharing things that I’ve discovered. Please check out my Literary Guide to San Diego here.  I hope it makes you want to come visit.

Coronado Beach

LIFE: Meditation

I am on Day 5 of the Oprah and Deepak 21-Day Meditation Experience. I encourage anyone reading this to join in on this free three-week series. It is the third time I have participated and it is a great way to experience the benefits of meditation. The theme of this three week journey is Desire and Destiny, finding your passion and purpose.

I understand that time is a luxury, but it is crucial to find time for things that improve our well-being. Depending on the day, I’ll meditate in the morning or on my lunch hour. I prefer to do it first thing in the morning and begin with a cup of coffee as I listen to Oprah and Deepak introduce the meditation. Each session is about 8 minutes of them talking about desire and destiny, and then 10 minutes of meditating. This morning Oprah reminded listeners to “Pursue the moments that light us up.”

Birch trees in Upper Michigan
Birch trees in Upper Michigan

Mantras and visualization help me when I meditate. A mantra is a phrase that is repeated in our mind to help us relax and concentrate. Deepak gives a different mantra each day of the 21-Day Meditation Experience. If I forget his mantra while I am meditating, I start to use my favorite mantra, which is Om Shanti. To begin the meditation I picture myself at places that I love, like on my Aunt Nanc’s porch in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula listening as the wind goes through the trees. When I start thinking about things I have to do I re-direct my focus to the mantra and to a place where I am calm.

Some days are harder than others to meditate. I try really hard not to judge myself and to keep doing it. You can’t do meditation right or wrong, you just need to do it. I find that I am a more considerate and aware person on days when I meditate, and that is why I do it. I know this sounds new-agey, weird, hippyish…but it works for me and I wish more people would do it every day.

Like a lot of women my age, Elizabeth Gilbert’s “Eat, Pray, Love” was a life-changing book for me. It came to me in 2006, at just the right point in my life, and I feel like it helped me through a lot of things I was working on. (A few years ago, I was at a talk by one of my heroes,  Bill McKibben, and he said, “The Holy Spirit is the one that puts one book in your hand instead of another one.” I know that is true. Books always seem to enter my life at just the right moment – I plan on writing lots more about that in this blog.) Italy (Eat), India (Pray), and Indonesia (Love) are all a part of Gilbert’s journey; the India section spoke the loudest to me because of her descriptions of her meditation experiences.

She writes, “Why have I been chasing happiness my whole life when bliss was here the entire time.” She describes all of the frustrations that came up while she was practicing meditation at an Ashram in India, more importantly she talks about what the meditation does for her spirit. Gilbert writes, “The Yogic path is about disentangling the built-in glitches of the human condition, which I’m going to over-simplify define here as the heartbreaking inability to sustain contentment.”

If you have not read “Eat, Pray, Love” I think you should. It is an ESSENTIAL read. Also, it is not to late to join the Oprah and Deepak 21-Day Meditation Experience. You can still start at Day 1.

Namaste

READ: And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini

It’s been a busy week. I spent the last six days traveling in San Francisco, Napa and Livermore for work and fun. In addition to my husband, Sean, I had another great companion for traveling, Khaled Hosseini’s new novel “And the Mountains Echoed.” This is an essential read. I finished the book on the plane ride home and I have not stopped thinking about it.

I remember being devastated after finishing “The Kite Runner,” and this novel left me feeling the same way. Hosseini is a master at capturing complicated family dynamics and feelings of guilt that can last a lifetime. In this new story he uses different narrators with unique voices for each of the nine chapters. Each of the chapters is linked to the others, but it could also be read alone. My heart broke a little more with each consecutive chapter.

And the Mountains Echoed

The story begins “So, then. You want a story and I will tell you one. But just the one.” Hosseini then tells a story that spans three generations, three continents, and multiple tragedies. Over and over again we are reminded of the many ways a family can fall apart or come together.

Like his other stories, the main protagonists are from Afghanistan; in this one, he focuses on the love between  Abdullah and his sister, Pari. These young siblings have an uncommon, unbreakable love for one another. Within the first thirty pages they are separated and the reverberation of this is explored throughout the book. Some of the narrators are intricately connected with the main story, and others are related by small associations. The connections are sometimes revealed slowly, which made me want to keep reading to see how it fit together.

My favorite chapter/story in “And the Mountains Echoed” focuses on two men who are Afghan Americans. After living their entire existence in California, they visit Afghanistan to reestablish ownership of their family home. The two men interact with medical relief workers and visit a young girl who has been horribly disfigured. The meeting with the girl demonstrates the true nature of each of the men, and it reveals that good intentions and actual actions are completely different.

Setting and where “home” is are important elements of the novel. It moves from isolated villages in Afghanistan, to large homes in Kabul, to feelings of displacement in California, to sophisticated Paris, and to a remote island in Greece. Over and over Hosseini shows how our environment contributes to the people that we become. It is an inescapable part of our character.

This novel will stay with me for a long time. The imperfect characters, well-drawn environments, and beautiful imagery created a space that I did not want to leave. I was rooting for all of the characters to have satisfying outcomes, but of course, life is complicated and there is no such thing as a happy ending.

Right before “And the Mountains Echoed” I read “Survival Lessons,” Alice Hoffman’s teeny tiny new booklet that was recently published. Hoffman is one of my favorite authors so I read everything that she writes. She wrote this after battling breast cancer and it is a gentle reminder to appreciate all the beautiful, wonderful things around you even during the darkest times of your life. She reminds the reader over and over again that “There is always a before and an after.” It’s a nice book to read when life feels unbearable.

More to come on my trip to Northern California soon!

READ: The Light in the Ruins by Chris Bohjalian

There are an infinite amount of stories to tell that involve World War II because virtually everyone in the world was touched by it. Every country, and every individual, has a different point of view about the conflict. Chris Bohjalian explores the perspective of an Italian family in his new novel “The Light in the Ruins.” Bohjalian is the author of one my favorite Oprah Book Club picks, “Midwives,” and because of that I have read almost all of his work. His books have engaging story-lines, well-written characters, and solid writing.

"The Light in the Ruins"

“The Light in the Ruins” is a revenge novel set in 1955 that involves a merciless killer who targets members of the Rosatis, a prominent Tuscan family. The story moves between the last years of WWII and 1955  and introduces quite a few characters into the story, which means that there is no shortage of suspects for the unknown killer.

The central WWII story focuses on Christina Rosati, who is young, innocent, and in love with a German officer. The interwoven story line centers on Serafina Bettini; a detective trying to figure out who has a vendetta against the Rosati’s, as she comes to grips with her own history that involves them. The different threads of the story come together in an ending that is a bit anti-climatic. This novel is best at demonstrating that nobody comes out of war fully intact, and decisions that are made under horrible conditions can have a lasting impact.

“The Light in the Ruins” is a good read, but I would not add it to the top of my reading list. There are several other books that involve WWII that I’ve read over the last year that are ESSENTIAL reads. If you’ve missed the below books, I recommend grabbing them:

  1. The Invisible Bridge” by Julia Orringer. I love this book! It is a massive, devastating tale about a Hungarian Jewish family during WWII. It takes place in Budapest and Paris, two of the best places I have ever visited, and it shows the unimaginable ruin that these cities endured. The characters are unforgettable, even though, as Orringer writes about the main character, “He was just an animal on Earth, one of billions.”
  2. Burnt Shadows” by Kamila Shamsie. This book begins in Nagasaki when the bomb was dropped and ends with 9/11. It follows the lifetime of a Japanese woman and her multi-cultural, complicated family. Shamsie is an incredible writer who brings all of her characters to life as they face the political situations of their countries.
  3. Unbroken” by Laura Hillenbrand. This is based on the true story of Louis Zamperini, a United States Air Force bomber in WWII. Zamperini crashes into the Pacific Ocean and endures unbelievable events for the next three years. It is hard to read because it is so descriptive, but Hillenbrand’s gift for narrative had me staying up late to read another chapter. She writes, “As he watched this beautiful, still world, Louie played with a thought that had come to him before…such beauty, he thought, was too perfect to have come by chance. That day in the Pacific was, to him, a gift crafted deliberately, compassionately, for him and Phil.”
  4. No One is Here Except All of Us” by Ramona Austebul. Austebul has a very unique voice and her narrative beautifully illustrates the power of stories and how they keep people alive. An isolated Romanian village comes up with a very strange way of hiding from the world, but of course, there was no escaping the horrors of the Holocaust.
  5. Life After Life” by Kate Atkinson. This novel is set in England and has a central character, Ursula, who continues to be reborn and re-do her life during the years leading up to WWII. It is so good! One of her paths involves a Hitler murder story, and others involve the bombings of London in WWII. This books demonstrates all the different paths our lives can take and all the simple, basic decisions that we make can change everything.

All of the books listed above are fantastic, “The Invisible Bridge” is the one that I’d recommend the most. Let me know if you’ve read any of the above and what your thoughts on them are!

Make sure to watch (or Tivo) “Super Soul Sunday” on OWN this weekend – Anne Lamott will be on it! I have watched her speak live twice before and she is always candid, funny, and inspiring. In the previews for the show, Lamott is saying “To be born is a miracle.” I can’t wait to watch the full interview.

READ: Unsaid by Neil Abramson

In this section I will be writing short blurbs about the books I am currently reading. I won’t give out spoilers because I never read the last page of the book first.  If a book is horrible, it won’t be mentioned on the blog. If a book can not be missed, it will be marked as an ESSENTIAL READ. I’ve kept a book journal since 2004 and I’ll also be adding older ESSENTIAL READS to the blog. 

I always hesitate when I pick up a book about animals because I know I will be in tears by the end of it. “The Art of Racing in the Rain,” “Marley and Me,” “The Good Good Pig: The Extraordinary Life of Christopher Hogwood” — all of these great books hit me in the gut, but I still loved them. Inevitably, the animals in these stories become characters that I don’t ever forget. When our lab mix, Ruby, stares at birds and watches them in the sky we call her Enzo because of his obsession with the crows in the “The Art of Racing in the Rain.” When we have Ruby at a restaurant (very common in San Diego), we never put her leash around the table because we know she will pull a Marley and drag the restaurant table to wherever she wants to go. And Christopher Hogwood made me want to rescue a pig immediately (I will someday).

In “Unsaid,” the tears start on the first page and do not stop until the final page. My husband picked up the book, read the first few pages, and told me not to read it because it was horribly depressing. The book begins, “Every living thing dies. There is no stopping it.” Abramson continually reinforces the brevity of all life. The book includes many things I feel passionate about: the role of animals in our life, work/life balance, marriage, compassion, and the belief that we can make the world a better place with our actions.  I finished all 353 pages of the book in two sittings.

The narrator of the book is Helena, a young veterinarian who has just died (that sounds like a horrible way to start a book and not like the best kind of a narrator, but it works in this novel). Helena has left behind a workaholic lawyer husband, a grieving partner at her veterinary practice, an ex-colleague nearing the end of a grant that involves chimpanzees, and a slew of animal companions. All of these characters are at a complete loss after her death and are trying to find a way to carry on. Her husband has no idea how to balance his career and take care of their three dogs, six cats, two horses, and pig. Her veterinary practice partner has experienced multiple terrible losses, and may now lose the vet practice. The ex-colleague is trying to rescue a young chimpanzee, who has the communication skills of a four year old human, from animal testing. And her animal companions are adjusting to a new normal; especially, Skippy, the young rescued schipperke with a heart condition who was never supposed to outlive Helena.

All of these lives intersect and come together to form a cohesive story that explores redemption and communication. I am a firm believer that animals and humans can communicate, just not in the “normal” way. I am 100% positive that Ruby understands at least 100 words, and she knows better than most humans when I am happy, sad, scared, flustered, etc. Abramson writes, “There is a difference between unspoken and unsaid…just because chimpanzees can’t speak does not mean they have nothing to say; the ability to vocalize thoughts is not the same as the ability to acquire and use language.” A good story, and a good life, often have an animal in it.  Every single animal has a story.  I look forward to exploring that more on this blog.

Ruby the Ridiculous
Ruby the Ridiculous

FIRST POST: San Diego Central Library

San Diego Central Library
San Diego Central Library

It is so fitting that my first blog post is about a library. I have loved libraries for as long as I can remember. I remember exact details and locations of books in my elementary school library, the book mobile, every public library I have ever visited and all of the university libraries I have spent time in. As a kid, librarians were my heroes.

When I came to San Diego six years ago I was so disappointed in the Central Downtown library. The book selection was fantastic, but it was not a place that anyone would want to spend any more time in than necessary.  It smelled like mildew and always felt dirty. I’d run in, grab my books from the reserve section, and then clean the books with disinfectant wipes when I got home. I lived in the East Village part of downtown San Diego for over three years and a new library was always a rumor, but it never felt like it was going to actually going happen, especially with the recession of 2009. I moved from East Village about two years ago and I’ve tracked the progress of the new library – it has been exciting to watch the San Diego skyline change with the addition of the unique steel dome that can be viewed on the Coronado bridge, flying into Lindbergh Field, and at the end of my street.

San Diego Public Library Lobby
San Diego Public Library Lobby

People, this building was worth the wait. The new library is a museum, school, park, community center, viewing area,  event space, and reading room. It made me so happy. Around every corner and at every level there are new surprises and architectural features. The building is concrete and steel that have been warmed up with innovative design and beautiful light. It is full of sunny nooks to read in, a Seuss-filled children’s section, a teen reading area, an astounding rare books room, a store, a cafe, and spaces for weddings and other events (!!!). My favorite part of the library is the Helen Price Reading Room. It highlights a San Diego bay-view that people would pay millions for. Unfortunately, I only had my iphone and I couldn’t get a shot of the room because there was so much reflection from the ginormous windows. The views from all areas in the library are spectacular and make San Diego, in particular the continually up-and-coming East Village area, shine.

photo 1

Since this is downtown San Diego, it is inevitable that this space will have quite a few homeless people visiting it…unfortunately, I know some people will care a lot about that and refuse to go. I also know that it cost a lot of money (200 million!) and I am fully aware that a large majority of people think that libraries are going the way of the dinosaurs, but libraries are one of our most important resources. The United States public library system is quite extraordinary. It offers free reading, internet access, and education to millions. It is our tax dollars making a positive difference. I would be broke if I didn’t have library access. I take full advantage of free reading and I always have a reserve list that has about twenty books on it. If you are a reader, I recommend that you do the same.

There were three long lines of people waiting to get library cards when I was walking out. I’ve never seen anything like that at a library.  Hopefully people stay excited and keep visiting.  I plan on coming at least once or twice a month.

We read to know we are not alone

This library seemed to take forever to come to fruition, and I feel like this blog has been the same. I have been talking about starting a blog for the last five years. I am not sure what my problem is and why it took me so long. I’m here now, and as this blog gets rolling, I look forward to sharing information on what I am reading and watching and doing and eating. I have a lot of work to do as I figure out how to do everything that I want to on this site. Thanks for hanging around as I begin this long-delayed project.  I hope that, like the new library, this blog will be worth the wait!