Book Fitting: Cheap and Thoughtful Gifts

Book Fitting: In Which a Librarian Tries On a Book

I can tell you of a gift card that you can get for free. It doesn’t expire if you keep using it and you can get probably, oh, I don’t know, like a million dollars worth of stuff with it.  Can you guess what it is? Wait for it…

It’s your public library card guyzzzzz.

Don’t roll your eyes at me. It’s true. The library is your Santee Claus. And this year, if you’re good, your library card will not only provide you with gifts aplenty, it can even help you give gifts. No money to buy your loved ones presents? No idea what to do except panic? No problem.

Here is a list of books to help you give the best gifts this holiday season.

Are you crafty?

If you’ve graduated from using safety scissors, you can make a thoughtful gift using one of these books. I would pretty much love anything from Danny Seo’s Upcycling, especially the plastic banana fruit tray and bad art glitter (in case I’m on your list).


50 Knitted Gifts for Year-Round Giving, Last-Minute Patchwork & Quilted Gifts, Simple Times: Crafts for Poor People, Paper Crafts with Style, WrapagamiUpcycling: Create Beautiful Things with Stuff You Already Have

Are you long-winded?

Got a way with words? Make your friend a comic book. Write a letter or a poem or come over and use our genealogy section to research your family’s history and give your relative a family tree, or as I like to call it (begin echo) THE GIFT OF KNOWLEDGE .


Drawing Words and Writing Pictures: Making Comics, For the Love of Letters: A 21st Century Guide to the Art of Letter Writing, Raw Art Journaling ,

Are you stylish?

If you have taste or if you have friends who think you have taste, make an awesome winter flower arrangement (out of paper) for them, create your BF’s signature scent, or offer to help re-do their closet for them.


Ikebana: The Art of Arranging Flowers, The Exquisite Book of Paper Flowers, The Perfume Kit: Create Your Own Unique Fragrances, Adorn: 25 Stylish DIY Fashion Projects, Style Bible

Are you hungry?

There are lots of creative and easy foodie gifts to make. Who wouldn’t love a homemade cheese and beer kit (I would!)? Or delicious holiday pudding (me again!)?


One-Hour Cheese, Treats: Delicious Food Gifts to Make at Home, Mini-Farming Guide to Fermenting, Puddin’: Luscious and Unforgettable Puddings, Parfaits, Pudding Cakes, Pies, and Pops

Are you surly?

Don’t tell The Mall, but it’s actually not required that you buy gifts for people at all. At least not according to this guy: Scroogenomics: Why You Shouldn’t Buy Presents for the Holidays by Joel Waldfogel.









Did you get or give a library-inspired gift? Share it with us!


Reference Couch: It’s All Relatives

The Reference Couch

In Which A Librarian Tries to Solve Your Personal Problems with Literature

Q: Thanksgiving with the fam has made me a Scrooge. How do I celebrate the rest of the holidays with my relatives without getting into an argument about my living situation/employment status/sexual preference/looking at my phone too much/ dietary restrictions/use of language/how often I wash my hair/political opinions/riding a bike instead of driving?

A: Gol-ly, that’s a lot of conversation topics to successfully avoid. Still, you’re not alone. I’d venture to say that the majority of people crammed on their relatives’ couches for the festivities can’t escape without at least one good choke-on-your-pie-because-you’re-biting-your-tongue moment.

Your query makes me think of this great simple poem by Louis Simpson which you can find in Louis Simpson: Collected Poems or the poetry collection Good Poems, edited by Garrison Keillor:


Ed was in love with a cocktail waitress,
but Ed’s family, and his friends,
didn’t approve. So he broke it off.

He married a respectable woman
who played the piano. She played well enough
to have been a professional.

Ed’s wife left him…
Years later, at a family gathering
Ed got drunk and made a fool of himself.

He said, “I should have married Doreen.”
“Well,” they said, “why didn’t you?”

Great poem, right? So, a short answer to your question would be to just keep that little poem in your pocket or your head or your heart and repeat it to yourself when Uncle Biff taps your full dinner plate and sputters, “Minute on the lips, forever on the hips!” Just try and think of Ed instead.

If you’re looking for help for more specific problems, here a few more recommendations:

Problem: Your aunt keeps tsking, “You kids and your phones/gadgets.” You are 33 years old.

circleAnswer:  You might calmly inform Auntie that the current generation actually reads more books (like, book books) than the older. Although you tend not to use the library as much (passive-aggressive sigh…). Here’s an article about it.  Then, you two can read The Circle by Dave Eggers together and have a great discussion about technology and what it means about privacy and human contact and life as we know it. If you’re anything like my book club, the next eight times you see your aunt there will be less tsk-ing and more holding hands and gasping, “It’s just like The Circle!”

Problem: Everyone in your family drives SUVs and pick-up trucks and you get teased when you come in the front door with your bicycle helmet. An unidentified relative has replaced your stocking with a little girl’s bike basket.

goingAnswer: Uh, biking can be totally BA.  To prove this, check out Going Somewhere: A Bicycle Journey Across America, a travel memoir by Brian Benson. Dude went on a cross-country bike ride with a new girlfriend, so the man knows pain and knows how to write about it with skill and humor. Casually drop the knowledge gleaned from this tale into dinner conversation and mention the gnarly windburn you got last week. Then sneak a “Share the Road” bumper sticker on everyone’s cars on the way out.

Problem: Grams is straight-up angry that you don’t eat animal products. You used to love her cheesy SPAM potatoes!

afroveganAnswer: Behind those pursed lips, Grandma just wants to know you’re getting all your vitamins. I myself am mostly vegetarian and nary a phone call from my Mom ends without her wondering if I’m getting enough protein. But there is a great way you can convince Grams that vegans love cozy delicious stick-to-your-ribs grub just as much as SPAMmers; and that is by bringing a side dish from Bryant Terry’s Afro-Vegan cookbook, a vegan take on African cuisine. Bring a side of Terry’s roasted parsnips in barbecue sauce or slow-braised mustard greens. Or win the whole family over for dessert with a cocoa-spice cake with coconut-chocolate ganache. Yum.

Problem: Your cousin made a sexist comment during the lighting of the hannukkiyah you are now determined to spend the rest of the eight nights at the kids table teaching your nieces and nephews alllllll about feminism.

cover_bad_feministAnswer: Wave after wave, baby. We’ve got all the classics as well as some popular new feminist reads (see below). Before long, those whipper-snappers will be quoting Gloria Steinem and Daniel Radcliffe alike (yes, Harry Potter is a feminist!).

Classics: The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan, The Second Sex by Simone de Beauvoir, Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions by Gloria Steinem

New classics: Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay, How to Be A Woman by Caitlin Moran, Feminism Unfinished: A Short Surprising History of American Women’s Movements by Dorothy Sue Cobble

Problem: You promised your mom you would not get into another Baby Boomers VS. Millennials argument like last year. But you don’t know if you can control yourself.

Boomsday-coverAnswer: Perhaps your best option would be to get your generational woes off of your chest before you’re asked to stand at the head of the table and give a holiday toast. Do this by reading Boomsday. Christopher Buckley was debating about Boomers way back in 2007 when we Millennials were too enamored with the invention of the iPhone to notice. All sides are poked fun at in this political satire. I suggest it on audio because it is read by hilarious Gen-Xer, Janeane Garafolo.

Problem: Your sister isn’t coming this year because her partner doesn’t feel welcome.

youAnswer: The library is a great place to check out temporary coffee table books that can spark productive discussions with their mere presence (and even more so if you actually open them). Try You Can Tell Just By Looking: And 20 Other Myths About LGBT Life and People. If you need more time with it, you can renew it in person, by phone, or online.

Problem: Everybody is angry about what everybody has been posting on Facebook all year long.

Answer: This is the easiest fix of them all. Call a family truce and have the whole gang share a link to Fine Print! It’s that blue button with the “f” right down there.

Got a question for The Reference Couch? Email us at, or send a message to us on Facebook.


Library Lurve: Not So Traditional Holiday Movies

I’ll be hosting my brother and his family during the holidays and it’s always a tradition for us to make homemade pizza and sack out on the couch for family movie night. Sure, I love the holiday movie classics but over the years I’ve come to enjoy some more recent movies that have joined the ranks among my holiday favorites. Some may be a little unexpected and hopefully offer a pleasant surprise to inspire your own movie night this holiday season.

Ready? Ok, here they are, my top 5 holiday movie picks (available at your library…for FREE! Srsly, free).


1. Edward Scissorhands (1990) written and directed by Tim Burton
The ultimate Tim Burton movie as far as I’m concerned. The costume design, the make-up, the Depp. It’s a touching story of an almost human creation who is first accepted by his suburban neighbors and then cast away and shunned but not before he creates the most beautiful snow angel for the most beautiful snow dance ever. This movie brings tears to my eyes for many reasons.

2. The Family Stone (2005) written and directed by Thomas Bezucha
Experience an entire family’s worth of drama overflowing with legit moments of genuine emotion and awkwardness in all things that are love and family. Fly your freak flag!

3. Rare Exports (2010) written and directed by Jalmari Helander
I first saw this movie on the big screen at the State Theatre. It was a little more demonic than I had anticipated, which I loved! It’s a Finnish film offering an exceptionally odd sense of humor. This movie will forever change the way you think of Santa.

4. Gremlins (1984) directed by Joe Dante and written by Chris Columbus
What if your cute, fuzzy Christmas gift turned into pure evil? Well, that’s what you can look forward to in this comedy/horror film starring Billy and Gizmo. I must admit when I was younger and first watched Gremlins I was more horrified than amused. But, watching it now…it’s pretty funny.

5. The Royal Tenenbaums (2010) written and directed by Wes Anderson
Add this move to your annual playlist for full enjoyment of this Anderson masterpiece. With each viewing I find something new and surprising that I hadn’t noticed before. An estranged family of former child prodigies reunite in their childhood home after the news that their  father is terminally ill. It’s a movie about a weird family and what better way to celebrate the holidays than hanging out with your own weird family while you watch and celebrate another on the screen.

Library Lurve: Holiday Gift Guide

Need some holiday gift ideas? We’ve pulled together a great list of new and recommended titles for all ages (youth, teen, adult) to offer some inspiration during this holiday gifting season. Check out the books listed below from us, your library, then shop and buy local at your community book stores for your gift giving needs. Happy Holidays!

youth gift guide 14

1. A Cookie for Santa by Stephanie Shaw This picture book features the Gingerbread Boy meeting Santa; a cheery Christmas tale.  
2. Eerie Elementary by Jack Chabert This series of illustrated early chapter books is fun and engaging.
3. Flora and the Penguin by Molly Schaar Idle Flora is back with a new friend, Penguin!  This wordless picture book is beautifully illustrated to tell a story of learning to treat each other with respect and kindness.
4. Little Kids First Big Book of Animals by Catherine Hughes This introduction to animals is well suited for the younger child.  With big, bright pictures splattered across the pages along with short, concise information this book is sure to be a hit with animal lovers.
5. Nuts to You by Lynne Rae Perkins Squirrels, hawks, power lines and change highlight this delightful animal fantasy story where nothing is as it seems.  Newberry Award medal winner Perkins has delivered yet another captivating tale.
6. Rags, Hero Dog of WWII: A True Story by Margot Theis Raven Rags (a stray dog) and a U.S. soldier in France find comfort and companionship in one another. Rags stays with Sergeant Donovan throughout the war, carrying messages for the troops and raising spirits with his company.
7. The Quest for the Diamond Sword:  An Unofficial Gamer’s Adventure, Book One by Winter Morgan A great read for your Minecraft enthusiast!  This first chapter book in a series is filled with adventure, mystery and crafty challenges.
8. Rain Reign by Ann Martin Rain Reign is the story of Rose (Rows), who has Asperger’s Syndrome and is fascinated by homonyms. During a storm her beloved dog, Rain (Reign) runs away and Rose must find the courage to step outside her self-imposed boundaries to save Rain.
9. Tickles, Pickles, and Floofing Persnickles: Reading & Writing Nonsense Poems by Jill Kalz This book is a fun way to introduce basic poetry forms and terms though the use of original nonsense-themed poems.
10. Who? by Leo Lionni Along with titles Where?, What?, When?, this board book series, illustrated by the award-winning Leo Lionni, features friendly mice discovering other animals, places, objects, and seasons in their world.

teen gift guide 14

1. Bomb: The Race to Build and Steal the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon by Steve Sheinkin This nonfiction title reads like a spy thriller. Sheinkin opens with FBI agents confronting Harry Gold in his home, rifling through his papers, and poking holes into his double life. Harry becomes the thread that ties the story together. The story covers everyone involved in creating the atomic bomb, from Oppenheimer to Roosevelt to Stalin. This book would appeal to fans of the military, U.S. and world history, and spy novels.  
2. Monstrous Affections: An Anthology of Beastly Tales Edited by Kelly Link and Gavin Grant This anthology of stories includes works by some of today’s top young-adult authors. It explores the intersection of fear and romance, ambition and sacrifice, loneliness and rage, love requited and avenged, and the boundless potential for connection, even across extreme borders and the cover looks cool and creepy too. 
3. My True Love Gave to Me: Twelve Holiday Stories Edited by Stephanie Perkins Twelve holiday stories by twelve bestselling young adult writers, edited by the international bestselling Stephanie Perkins. Whether you enjoy celebrating Christmas or Hanukkah, Winter Solstice or New Years, there’s something here for everyone. Including works by: Jenny Han, David Levithan, Laini Taylor, Rainbow Rowell, Gayle Forman, and more.
4. Unbroken: An Olympian’s Journey from Airman to Castaway to Captive by Laura Hillenbrand In this captivating young adult edition of her award-winning #1 NY Times bestseller, Hillenbrand tells the story of a man’s breathtaking odyssey and the courage, cunning, and fortitude he found to endure and overcome. History buffs and fans of the movie will enjoy this book. 
5. Searching for Sky by Jillian Cantor Sky and River have lived on an island since they were very young. On Sky’s sixteenth birthday they are “rescued” and taken to California. There, Sky is separated from River and forced to live with a grandmother she has just met. With no frame of reference for our modern world, Sky struggles to adapt. This gripping story of love and survival is lyrical and haunting.
6. Story of Owen: Dragon Slayer of Trondheim by E. K. Johnston Carbon eating dragons are flourishing in our industrialized world. Michigan, long a bastion of industrialization, has been overrun with dragons and abandoned by people. Owen, a dragon slayer in training, moves to a small town in Canada with his aunt and father. There, Owen and his bard, Siobahn, fight to keep the dragons from encroaching further on humans. This fantasy adventure is set in the modern world and will appeal to adventure readers who don’t mind a bit of school and family issues mixed in. 
7. V is for Villain by Peter More Brad Baron is used to looking lame compared to his older brother, Blake. Though Brad’s basically a genius, Blake is a superhero in the elite Justice Force. And Brad doesn’t measure up at his high school, either, where powers like super-strength and flying are the norm. Being moved into the ‘remedial’ program is a new low for him. Until he starts to question the status quo. Could he have finally found a direction for his life? Villainy is in the eyes of the law makers. Who says they are right?
8. We Were Liars by E. Lockhart Cadence Sinclair Eastman doesn’t remember what happened the summer she was 15. She is the eldest Sinclair grandchild. Beautiful. Privileged. Damaged. Liars. In the summertime all the Sinclairs live on a private island off the coast of Massachusetts. They live a life of carefree luxury. They are cracked and broken. A story of love and romance. A tale of tragedy. Which are lies?  Which is truth?
9. The Wrenchies by Farel Dalrymple They’re strong, powerful, and if you cross them, things will quickly go very badly for you. Only one thing scares them—growing up. Because in the world of the Wrenchies, it’s only kids who are safe… anyone who survives to be an adult lives in constant fear of the Shadowsmen. All the teenagers who come into contact with them turn into twisted, nightmarish monsters whose minds are lost forever. Not for the faint of heart, the images are dark and disturbing and some may find the language offensive. Give this to older teen readers who want something unique that they won’t soon forget.

adult gift guide 14

1. All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr Doerr’s gorgeous combination of soaring imagination with observation is electric. Deftly interweaving the lives of his characters, illuminating the ways, against all odds, people try to be good to one another. 
2. The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher by Hilary Mantel A brilliant collection of contemporary short stories that demonstrate what modern England has become. Enjoy the classic wicked humor of Mantel, found in each story–which range from a ghost story to a vampire story to near-memoir to mini-sagas of family and social fracture.
3. Bird Box by Josh Malerman Michigan author, Malerman, shares his propulsive, edge-of-your-seat horror thriller, set in an apocalyptic near-future world. It’s been hailed as a masterpiece of suspense from a brilliant imagination.
4. The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters Set in London in the early 1920’s where ex-servicemen are disillusioned, the out-of-work and the hungry are demanding change, impoverished widow Mrs. Wray and her spinster daughter, Frances, are obliged to take in lodgers at their genteel Camberwell villa where the lives of all will be transformed.
5. Plenty More by Yotam Ottolenghi In this follow-up to bestselling Plenty, Ottolenghi continues to explore the diverse realm of vegetarian food with a wholly original approach. From inspired salads to hearty main dishes and luscious desserts, Plenty More is a must-have for vegetarians and omnivores alike.
6. Redeployment by Phil Klay Redeployment takes readers to the front lines of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, asking us to understand what happened there, and what happened to the soldiers who returned.
7. Sparrow Migrations by Cari Noga Local author and recipient of the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award, Noga offers a braided narrative of ordinary people transformed by an extraordinary event, the “Miracle on the Hudson” – and by each other. 
8. Station Eleven: A Novel by Emily St. John Mandel Sometimes terrifying, sometimes tender, Station Eleven tells a story about the relationships that sustain us, the ephemeral nature of fame, and the beauty of the world as we know it set in the eerie days of civilization’s collapse.


Party Banter Friday | December

Party Banter Friday: 

In Which A Librarian Provides You With An Interesting Fact to Make You More Popular During Weekend SocializingMARIEEDIT

TGIPBF guys! We know the facts. And because we work with the public, we also know that talking to people can be awwwkward. So instead of hanging out by the snacks all night or rehashing that one time you almost met a semi-celebrity, look here Fridays for a compelling and/or amusing fact to wow your bosses’ husband or your Tinder date or your sleeping cat with this weekend.

This week’s fact is from The Book of General Ignorance: Everything You Think You Know is Wrong by John Lloyd and John Mitchinson:

According to the Johns, it was not Marie Antoinette who uttered the famous words “let them eat cake” in 1789 in regards to the rioting poor who had no bread to eat. Antoinette’s biographer claims it was “Queen Marie-Therese, wife of Louis XIC, the Sun King” who said it and even then, she wasn’t talking about cake. Rather, she was referring to brioche, a buttery egg-y pastry.


If you found that fact so engaging that you’d rather stay in and read than socialize with people, we can’t blame you. The book is available here.

If the last three paragraphs were the longest thing you’ve read since your 5th grade book report on Hatchet and you’ve had your fill of the written word, visit our Sight & Sound department for movies and music.

If what you took away from this fact was, “Unh…pastries”, please check out The Art of French Pastry by Jacguy Pfieffer.

Photo credits: ChrisGoldNY via photopin cc; our featured image for PBF is a picture from our digital history collection. You can view the original image and browse our collection here.