Discuss: Awesome Literary Things

Photo credit: Robert Dawson Exterior, Willard Library, Evansville, Indiana, 2011.
Photo credit: Robert Dawson
Willard Library, Evansville, Indiana, 2011


Last week we discussed your dream home library, but that can be a difficult thing to attain. You need money and space, and most of us don’t have either of those things on hand. But public libraries are always there for you. Libraries are amazing resources in your community and I think you should utilize them at every chance you get, especially in the summer! To me, the summers were always a time to get involved with libraries’ summer reading programs and stock up on books for weeks of exciting reading. Libraries can be meeting places, sources of adventure, ways to educate yourself, and so much more.

In honor of libraries, I want to link to this Flavorwire article that profiles many interesting libraries across America. There are some really amazing libraries on this list. There is the adorable Willard Library in Evansville, Indiana; there is the Queens Library bookmobile in New York that was in operation following Hurricane Sandy; and there is even a combination Super Bingo, Family Dollar, and Mockingbird Branch Library in Abilene, Texas. If anything, this list shows us how America is keeping the library alive in more and more creative ways.

But what about your library? What was your library like when you were growing up? What is the library that you now hold allegiance to? What role does the library play in your life?

I’ve always had small libraries in my life. Growing up, the public library was not too far from my house and sometimes we would bike there when the weather was nice. It didn’t matter that it was small because I was small, too, and I honestly had so much fun reading through the stacks at that library. After grade school, we moved and I had another small, cozy library to check out. Although it didn’t always have the books I wanted, the library was part of an expansive network and I could have plenty of books transferred in for me to read.

Let us know in the comments what libraries mean to you, and which library you love.

— Jet Fuel Blog Editor, Mary Egan

Discuss: Winter Reads


For those of us caught in the polar vortex, it seems that the weather is a mixed blessing. On one hand, we’re frozen into icicles every time we step outside. On the other hand, we have plenty of time to get cozy inside and do some reading. I know that my reading always ramps up when the weather grows nasty, so I don’t really mind when a polar vortex comes swooping through my area. If you’re more of a warm weather person, but you’re also a reader, then you might want to try making a list of winter reads. Hey, we have beach reads, don’t we? Might as well make a list of books you can read when you don’t want to be outside.

Over at Flavorwire, they have compiled a list of 26 Winter Reads that you might want to check out. On this list are books such as The Woman in White, by Wilkie Collins, a book that has been on my shelf for years and has been sadly neglected. There is also Labyrinths by Jorge Luis Borges, which is a very entertaining collection of short stories to cozy up with. The list also contains Middlemarch by George Eliot, which is another book I’ve been meaning to get to. For some reason, the absolute massiveness of this book connotes a winter read. And, of course, modern classics such as Meg Wolitzer’s The Interestings and Donna Tartt’s The Secret History.

In addition to the books shown on this list, I would like to suggest some of my own. If you’re into fantasy and want to relive a book you might have read as a child, I would suggest The Chronicles of Chrestomanci by Diana Wynne Jones. I loved Diana Wynne Jones’ books as a child, but I never got around to this particular story. I read it last year just as it was beginning to get cold and it reminded me of being a child on winter break. I find that Jane Austen is always good to read during the winter months, if only because her works make you grateful that you don’t live in some drafty, old estate in the English countryside. And, of course, if you’re stuck inside then it would be an opportune time to re-read the Harry Potter series. I’m always looking for an excused to re-read the Harry Potter series.

What are you reading this winter? Do you have any books that you read every year when it gets cold outside? What is your list of books to be read now that 2014 has begun? Share in the comments!

— Jet Fuel Blog Editor, Mary Egan

Discuss: Indie Bookstores


The holidays are coming up! Some of us want them to back off and some of us want them to come sooner. Whichever camp you’re in, you’re probably beginning to think about gifts for your friends and family. As far as I’m concerned, the most perfect gift you can ever give someone is a book. Wait — I take that back. The best gift you can ever give someone is a gift card to their favorite bookstore. There are some people for whom you can buy a book, but in most cases you’re safer getting them a gift card. This ensures that the person can then choose whatever they’d like to read. So, yes, bookstore gift cards.

When you’re looking to get a gift card, though, don’t stop looking once you’ve found your local Barnes & Noble. While it’s true that all bookstores need our support (hell, even Borders went under), the independent bookstores in your community need support more than Barnes & Noble does. Flavorwire recently did a great post about 45 indie bookstores across the country that you can support this holiday season.

First on the list is the great Parnassus Books, which was founded by author Anne Patchett to fill a bookstore void in Nashville. If I lived in the Nashville area, I would definitely do some holiday shopping at Parnassus. Quimby’s, located in the Wicker Park neighborhood of Chicago, is on the list as well. This quirky bookstore sells homemade, indie zines and underground publications. I can personally recommend the Housing Works Bookstore in New York, having been there earlier this year. The interior is just stunning and their proceeds go to a very good cause. The Last Bookstore, located in Los Angeles, is also on the list. One day I hope to check out this amazing bookstore. If you don’t know anything about it, you should totally check it out.

Click through the list on Flavorwire and see if there are any indie bookstores in your neighborhood. Another great place to find these stores is Indiebound. Check it out and support your local bookstores this holiday season!

— Jet Fuel Blog Editor, Mary Egan

Discuss: Awesome Literary Things

Hurlingham Books, London http://www.bookstoreguide.org/2012/02/hurlingham-books-london.html
Hurlingham Books, London http://www.bookstoreguide.org/2012/02/hurlingham-books-london.html

Awesome Bookstore Windows

A storefront window is the best way for a shop to compete amongst many other shops. If they have a creative flair, then that storefront window will hopefully catch the eyes of many potential consumers. For a bookstore, I would not think they’d have to do much in order to have customers strolling into their store. Speaking as a self-professed book addict, I know that it doesn’t really take much to get me into a bookstore. If there are some interesting titles and a few aesthetically pleasing covers displayed, I’m probably walking in. Let’s be honest, if the word “book” is somehow in the name of the store, I’m probably walking in. But some storefront windows just go above and beyond, and that’s always appreciated.

Recently, Flavorwire made a post containing 30 Excellent Bookstore Windows from Around the World. There are some simple windows that are just a bit cluttered and cozy-looking. There are places like Reed Books 2 in Suffolk, England that have an array of books displayed, each with a face on the cover. There is Hurlingham Books in London, whose windows are almost completely obscured by books stacked in them. There is an adorable display of a paper cut-out girl reading at Toko Buku in Indonesia. All of these are just lovely and are an added bonus to walking past your favorite bookstore. They’re also likely to get you to walk inside.

Do you have any favorite bookstore front window displays? What would be a good display to draw you into a bookstore? Share in the comments!

— Jet Fuel Blog Editor, Mary Egan

Discuss: Young Literary Heroines

Anastasia Krupnik, http://slimmette.com
Anastasia Krupnik    http://slimmette.com

As a young woman who loves reading, I’m sure it’s not a surprise when I tell you that I was once a little girl who loved reading. And as a bookish little girl, I loved finding books about strong, funny, smart, adventurous girls. These literary gals were my role models as I was growing up and spending all my time reading. So I had a lot of fun scrolling through Flavorwire’s list of 20 Classic YA Literature Heroines and remembering reading about them.

I was very pleasantly surprised to find that number one on Flavorwire’s list was Emily Byrd Starr from the Emily of New Moon series. When I first stumbled upon the Emily books — which are written by L.M. Montgomery, who is more well-known for Anne of Green Gables — I was delighted to find a girl who enjoyed writing at such a young age. And, as Flavorwire says, Emily was “delightfully weird.” She just appealed to me and I still have fond memories of reading those books.

Numbers two and three on the list are also very formative heroines for me — Harriet the Spy and Anastasia Krupnik. Though I was more connected to the film version of Harriet, I count her among my favorite heroines. Anastasia Krupnik is, as far as I know, very obscure. I’ve never met anyone else who has read that series, but I adored the books starring her. Anastasia is a feisty pre-teen who has lots of creative, crazy ideas about life, love, and family, and who kept endless lists that inspired me to do the same in my notebooks. I’m still on a quest to find and purchase all the books in that series (with the original, 1980s-style covers, not those modern ones).

The list also names some more modern heroines such as Hermione Granger (another really important one for me) and Katniss Everdeen from The Hunger Games series. There’s Jo March from Little Women, Meg from A Wrinkle in Time, Scout from To Kill a Mockingbird, and Nancy Drew. It’s a formidable list and I think everyone named deserves to be there.

Go check out the list on Flavorwire and share in the comments who your favorite literary young ladies are!

— Jet Fuel Blog Editor, Mary Egan

Discuss: Importance of Libraries


Libraries are important to me. They’re a fixture in my summer memories and they remain a refuge for me if I’m in a new and unknown place. Recently I had jury duty and that meant that I was in an area that I’d never been in before. When we were dismissed for lunch, after I had eaten, I went straight for the library because it was nearby. Libraries are a quiet, cool place to spend summer afternoons and they can be a cozy cocoon in the winter. Being surrounded by books is, frankly, pleasurable and it never fails to make me feel safe and at ease.

Aside from my personal and very sentimental reasons for thinking libraries are important, they are also bastions of knowledge — free knowledge. This means that anyone can access the books, computers, magazines, and periodicals within the library’s walls. Personally I think this is a very important institution to maintain in our country, no matter how strapped for cash we become as a nation. Libraries should never be the first thing to go when budgets are considered.

Flavorwire did a post a couple of months ago that had quotes all about libraries and their importance to us as human beings and as a society. I thought I would include two of my favorite quotes from their list here.

“Libraries store the energy that fuels the imagination. They open up windows to the world and inspire us to explore and achieve, and contribute to improving our quality of life. Libraries change lives for the better.” – Sidney Sheldon

So true. Not only are libraries a place where you can find your favorite books, they’re also a place where you can find new books. Exploring the shelves of a library is a great way to open your imagination and expand your world view without even leaving your town.

“Libraries will get you through times of no money better than money will get you through times of no libraries.” – Anne Herbert

This quote corresponds to what I said earlier regarding budgets and it’s something that I firmly believe. Whether you’re speaking personally or collectively as a society, I believe that lean times can be gotten through if you have knowledge, imagination, and an escape such as books.

What do libraries mean to you? Why do you think they are important? Leave your thoughts in the comments!

— Jet Fuel Blog Editor, Mary Egan