BookBitch Diary: April 1, 2023

Welcome, and Happy April Fools’ Day!

One of my favorite April Fools Day jokes happened several years ago when the library where I worked was closed for renovation. I posted on early social media that the library was getting rid of all the books and using the space for additional computers. Well, people lost their minds over that! Today, I figured it would be met with a shrug. But then this happened…

Vermont State University’s ‘All-Digital’ Library Fiasco

A merged institution born out of financial strain seeks to balance cost with quality, while also reaching more rural residents. But its botched announcement led to an outcry, an apology and a no-confidence vote.

I’ve always loved books. I like how they feel in my hand. I like how they smell. I love the dust jackets, the covers. Since I was a young child, and at that time, at least in my neighborhood, hardly anyone owned books. My mom had a few antique editions of Shakespeare that the decorator placed in the corner of an antique writing desk with a turquoise glass obelisk sitting on top of them, in the living room where I was not allowed to step foot. We had an old edition of The Canterbury Tales, not an antique but maybe from my father’s brief foray into higher education, that I struggled to read through first and second grade. One of my mother’s friends gave her a copy of The Female Eunuch, by Germaine Greer, which she struggled with and gave up on but I devoured.

Eventually, we got a World Book Encyclopedia set, which I constantly browsed, and in 6th grade, I won my own copy of Roget’s Thesaurus in an oral reading challenge. I bought books from Scholastic when I was in elementary school, one or two at a time as that was all we could afford. For every birthday or Hannukah, I asked for books, eventually accumulating almost all the Nancy Drews, a few Cherry Ames, a couple of the Hardy Boys (stolen from my brother who had learning challenges and hated reading,) and a few childhood favorites – Dr. Suess, The Phantom Tollbooth, Harriet the Spy, which I read over and over again. My mom gave away all my books to a friend of hers from high school who didn’t have much but had two kids, the oldest a year or so younger than me. I was pissed, but tried to be magnanimous. When I went to live with my father and his wife, I was in high school and my stepmother was a voracious reader. She gave me her first edition of Gone With the Wind that her high school boyfriend/first husband had given her. Then I found Marjorie Morningstar, Valley of the Dolls, The Godfather, and fell in love with horror – Jaws, The Exorcist, Stephen King; then thrillers, The Boys from Brazil, The Bourne Identity, The Day of the Jackal. I was always a fast reader, usually reading a book a day, and read many of these favorites repeatedly. Between reading the book and watching the Godfather movies (first 2) so many times, I can quote most of it from memory and point out the digressions from book to film.

After I was married, my husband and I moved to Dallas, Texas. We spent our weekends haunting this small chain of used bookstores, Half Price Books, I think there were maybe 10 stores or so – now well over 100 – and hitting area thrift stores. There were several that we visited regularly, and six years later when we moved back to Florida, we moved with 80 cartons of books. A collection was born.

When my children were born, the collection expanded exponentially to include children’s books. When I started working at Borders Books, we got a book allowance each month, I think about $40 to spend on books in addition to a staff discount. We also got in boxes of galleys, paperback editions of books that would be coming out, usually a few months off. Staff could take what they wanted, and surprisingly, many of the staff didn’t really care. I was happy to take any that were left over at the end of the month. Borders was also where I discovered remainders, new books that were marked down tremendously. I was in book heaven.

That was then, this is now. Twenty-some-odd years later, I have given away at least half of my books, probably more. I pretty much saved all my signed books, books in series that I love (Diana Gabaldon, Michael Connelly, Lee Child, Janet Evanovich, Stephen King, David Rosenfelt,) classics, a small nonfiction collection of about 300 books, and I still have a serious cookbook collection of about 250 books (that was pared down significantly.)

To be honest, I read almost exclusively on my iPad or Kindle now. I have some severe eye issues, and that is the most comfortable and easiest way for me to read. When the Kindle first came out, my husband bought me one, and I thought, what am I going to do with this? It was pretty much a paperweight for a long time. Well, I’m on my fourth Kindle now, and my husband just gave me an “I told you so.”

The first person I knew who was reading on a Kindle back when they first came out was a friend of my mom’s who had macular degeneration. He subscribed to the New York Times and was only able to read it on his Kindle. That was my first inkling that this e-reader was going to be a success, but I never dreamed I’d be someone who would need that technology. At least not until I was much older!

At first, I started using it for travel and even doctor visits. I was that weirdo who if I only had a chapter or two left of a book, would take two books to the doctor. Heaven forbid I ran out of reading material and be forced to read old People magazines! I took three books with me to jury duty, and read them all. I’ll say one thing about readers; we never mind waiting for anything – at least I don’t. I read during traffic jams, while waiting in line anywhere, at any appointments where I have to wait, while I’m cooking & waiting for the water to boil, the oven to preheat, and, well, you get the idea. I am a reader, and damn proud of it. Welcome to my world!

We flew to New York a few weeks ago for my grandson’s second birthday. No more baby – he is a toddler for sure. We had such a great time – and his oh-so-talented mama made him a Very Hungry Caterpillar birthday cake! His language skills are incredible; he repeats everything he hears and retains it, be it in English or Spanish, and now a bit of Hebrew, too! He tells us Shabbat Shalom, asked for hamentaschen on Purim, and read us his book on Passover; he sang the beginning of Dayenu and the four questions. I am so sorry I won’t get to spend the holiday with them, but maybe next year.

We usually go up during the summer to see them, but we have a big trip planned to Portugal* later this month, so not sure how much vacation time I’ll have left after that. It’s hard when family is so far away; we are in Florida, his other grandparents are in Chicago, and he lives in Brooklyn. Now I know how my mom felt when my son was born in Texas; I would say she’s sitting up in heaven saying I told you so, but that was never her way.

Food News

I celebrated Mardi Gras this year by baking a King Cake, with a little help from King Arthur Baking. If you are not familiar with their website, they are not just about selling the best ingredients and bakeware, they have tons of recipes – and those are all free! They have a blog, which is awesome. Recent posts include 20 spring celebration bakes for Easter, Passover, Ramadan, and beyond; A guide to different types of sugars, how to use them, and when to substitute; and Ask the Bread Coach: My dough isn’t rising — what now?  If you like to bake, or want to learn (!) this is your best bet for foolproof recipes and tips and tricks. This recent post was a real eye opener to me – if you’ve ever struggled with folding beaten egg whites into a batter using a large spatula, as I have always seen it done, be it into pancake batter or, in my most recent case, tiramisu, there is a better way! It’s tricky folding enough to not have any more white streaks but also not deflating the batter. The solution was so simple I was just gobsmacked: Things bakers know: Why a whisk (not a spatula!) is the best tool for folding. (I don’t make a dime from KA, in case you were wondering why I keep bringing them up – it’s purely my need to share good stuff!)

My husband 3D printed me a baby Yoda to hide in the cake!

Book News

First there was this, which made me so angry! I posted it on Facebook (because I’m old!)

Again I ask, why does one parent get to decide what every child reads??? If you don’t want your child to read this book, that is your choice and your responsibility. It is not your choice or responsibility to force my child to abide by your decisions. Fuck off.

Michigan prosecutor mulls charging Lapeer library over LGBTQ book

Lapeer County Prosecutor John Miller says he may file criminal charges against employees or officials of the Lapeer District Library if an LGBTQ-themed graphic novel isn’t removed from the shelves.

Some good news!

When Missouri Proposed Library Censorship, Librarians Got Organized

The librarians’ partial victory shows how pro-worker, anti-censorship organizing can work even in a conservative state. Missouri lawmakers on March 23, 2023, moved to strip state funding from public libraries in retaliation for a lawsuit challenging a new state law that bans certain materials in school libraries.

Over the 30-day comment period, Missouri residents registered more than 18,000 comments, comprising a stack of more than 20,000 pages, that forced Ashcroft to withdraw and revise the rule. It was a win for Missouri librarians and for intellectual freedom.

Be still, my heart!

Bookstore Marriage Proposal: The Strand

Other News

My husband and I are planning a trip to Portugal this spring. This is more than a tourist visit; we are thinking about retiring there in a few years. (Well, he wants to retire – I want to find some kind of part-time remote work. The thought of not doing anything at all just freaks me out!) I’d love to hear from anyone who has visited or lived there. Thanks!

As always, thanks for reading, and stay safe.

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