After my pandemic-time Outlander reading marathon (eight purchased books of nearly 10,000 pages), thoughts again turned to my local library this past week.
Fortunately, curbside pickup is now available, so I dove into a process that you might also be experiencing in your own town. I visited the library website this past Wednesday, searched for books I wanted, and set up a Friday appointment to pick them up at a table under an open-sided tent in front of the still-closed building in Montclair, New Jersey. (See the above photo I took.)
The process wasn’t totally seamless; the novels I chose Wednesday were no longer listed for me when I checked my online library account Thursday, so I had to contact a staffer to re-reserve them. The time lag resulted in me losing one book that had apparently been reserved by someone else in the meantime, but the rest of the novels were there Friday in a big paper bag when I drove up and parked in one of three dedicated curbside spaces.
Based on recommendations from readers of this blog, I borrowed Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman, The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein, and The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas. I’ll discuss all of them during the next few weeks; I suppose I should read them first. 🙂 (I’ll mention who specifically recommended each novel at those points.) The book I missed out on in the reserving snafu was Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go, but I’ll get to it eventually.
Prior to my future reading of the four novels I did snag, I finally tried a Nancy Drew mystery thanks to mentions of the series by my wife Laurel Cummins and frequent commenters Clanmother (Rebecca Budd) and Liz Gauffreau. It was The Secret of the Old Clock (1930), the first of MANY installments of the Nancy Drew series and a book my wife owns in a 1987 edition. I thought the novel was very good — in it, Nancy is quite brave and smart and inventive, albeit almost weirdly saint-like. And the interaction between her and her widowed attorney dad had a bit of a Scout Finch/Atticus Finch feel from To Kill a Mockingbird. (Did Harper Lee read Nancy Drew as a kid?)
Speaking of kids, I quickly realized The Secret of the Old Clock was more a children’s novel than the young-adult novel I had expected, so it was quite a change-of-pace after reading Diana Gabaldon’s mature, complex Outlander books — which I had received as a late-March birthday present from my wife. As I mentioned on my Facebook page last Thursday: “I loved this story about the 20th-century doctor Claire who ends up in the 18th century and falls in love with charismatic Scottish warrior Jamie. Plus many other characters — as well as frequent plot twists, plenty of humor, and lots of social commentary (including accurate depictions of how difficult, sexist, racist, and homophobic life could be in the 1700s). Two more not-yet-published novels to go in the planned 10-book series…”
Anyway, back to libraries and curbside pickup. Are you using your local library again? Or did you never stop — borrowing eBooks and such? As I’ve said before, I look at screens so much (my laptop and phone) that I’ve stuck with old-fashioned print novels to give my eyes a break. Plus it’s a longtime habit thing, I love the idea as well as the feel of physical books, and I really enjoy library visits. I’m greatly looking forward to when my local library lets people inside again.
My literary-trivia book is described and can be purchased here: Fascinating Facts About Famous Fiction Authors and the Greatest Novels of All Time.
In addition to this weekly blog, I write the award-winning “Montclairvoyant” topical-humor column for Baristanet.com. The latest piece — which includes what my town might do about schools this fall during the pandemic — is here.