All posts by Annie

Dysfunctional Families

“I think a dysfunctional family is any family with more than one person in it.”

Mary Karr (who has a new book out called The Art of Memoir)

Scheduling holiday plans, drawing names for gift exchanges, tracking down a regulation size casserole dish for your squash. All of it’s good family fun, but only in retrospect. If our faces really did freeze that way when we made snotty faces like our moms said, most of us would be walking around with our eyes permanently rolled into the backs of our heads this time of year, from the group texting arguments alone.

But, as the above quote from the wise Mary Karr illustrates, we all have crazy families. You might even be the crazy one in yours! Think about it: that was “a look” your sister gave your mom when you suggested everyone pitch in to buy a water buffalo for a struggling family instead of exchanging gifts (which is totally a thing you can do).

So instead of messaging your brother to complain, but then accidentally messaging the brother you were complaining about, make some hot dip and settle in to the couch with these movies and books about families that are (maybe?) even more dysfunctional than yours. You can also check out last year’s post, It’s All Relative, for how to cope with your specific family issues by…that’s right, reading!



Arcadia by Lauren Groff: If you’ve been on the holds list FOREVER waiting for Groff’s new Fates and Furies, her previous novel about the family that grows from a group of 12 who start a commune in New York in the 1970s ought to hold you over. And if you like it and you want more like it, watch the documentary Surfwise, the documentary of a real life family of surfers who lived in an RV and got weird.

An Almost Perfect Moment by Binnie Kirshenbaum: Every relationship between a teenage girl and her mother is dysfunctional at one point. Do I recommend this book a lot? Whatever, it’s so good and quirky and heartwarming and cringe-worthy. If you’d read it already, I’d stop talking about it. Another great book in this wheelhouse: Where’d You Go Bernadette by Maria Semple.

Byron In Love: A Short Daring Life by Edna O’Brien: This biography of the famed poet Lord Byron tends toward the illegal side of dysfunction. I’m talking about incest and drinking wine out of skulls, the latter of which maybe isn’t illegal but frowned upon.

Landline by Rainbow Rowell: If you hate the sound your partner makes when they chew turkey, just imagine that they’re away for the holidays and the only way you can talk to them is on your old landline phone and they will be 22 again. Or just lock yourself in the bathroom and read this excellent book.

ANYTHING by David Sedaris: Sedaris is the king of hilarious and peculiar families. Read it all but ESPECIALLY Holidays on Ice, this time of year. Actually, read it out loud with your own peculiar family.

Family Matters by Selected Shorts: This is an audiobook of feel good short stories, all dealing with “colorful episodes in the lives of families”. It’s read by various authors. My favorite is “The Loudest Voice” by Grace Paley, read by Linda Lavin.

Flying Troutmans by Miriam Toews: A friend sold me on this sweet book by telling me it was the Little Miss Sunshine of novels, and she was right because she’s a helluva librarian. A troubled quirky fam on a wild road trip.

The Family Fang by Kevin Wilson: Sure your parents do annoying things, but have you ever suspected them of faking their own deaths for some epic performance art? This novel has recently been turned into a film starring Christopher Walken, Nicole Kidman, and Jason Bateman.

The Position by Meg Wolitzer: More embarassing parents! Wolitzer consistently provides premises for her books that are interesting; and I always think she’s not going to be able to keep the momentum, but she always does. This one is about the aftermath of a family whose parents wrote a Joy of Sex type book in the freewheelin’ 70s.



Four Christmases: I tuned into this movie expecting some straight up cheesy hi-jinx, and I got it, but it also hit, like, reeeeal close to home.

Home for the Holidays: This is my favorite FAVORITE holiday movie (tied with It’s A Wonderful Life). Besides my obsession with Holly Hunter mentioned in previous posts, I love this movie because everyone is so annoying and/or maddening in the truest ways. It’s a rare Thanksgiving movie, instead of a Christmas movie. Robert Downey Jr. is amazing and has the best lines. It cracks me up and then I’m always sobbing by the end. GET THIS MOVIE!

Lars and the Real Girl: I’m not positive that my family would react as wholesome-ly if someone brought home a sex doll that they pretended was a real person, but I bet if it was Ryan Gosling, we’d be pretty forgiving. This is a sweet winter cozy flick.

Moonstruck: Mouthy Italian families, love triangle with brothers. On one hand Nicholas Cage, but on the other, CHER!

Parenthood: Not the TV show, but the Steve Martin movie with Keanu Reeves playing pretty much himself and a song about diarrhea that you won’t be able to get out of your head for the next fifteen years.

Royal Tenenbaums: Obvi.

The Station Agent: This is a tender little movie and no one in it is actually family, but they form a familial bond, while each of them deal with loss in their separate lives. Bobby Cannavale is about the cutest thing ever in this film. If him and Holly Hunter would make a film I would probably pass out.

What About Bob: There were other Bill Murray flicks I could have put on this list, but let’s just get to the point. WAB is the choicest. You’ll feel good. You’ll feel great. You’ll feel wonderful after watching this.




12 Things to Talk About on Facebook That are not the Starbucks Cup

Lots of times I come across things that are so brilliant, I’m like, “Why isn’t everyone talking about this all the time???” Then I check my Facebook, positive that everyone else must be thinking of their own amazing things to share. And then I’m sad.

I don’t think that we’re all only interested in Starbucks cups or memes about what a real man is or the “Top 6 Things You Need to Tell Your Daughter or Else She’ll Fail at Life”. But I think maybe we’re busy and there are so many things to talk about that we choose not to choose and share that snarky Kermit the Frog meme instead.

I’ve taken the opportunity to narrow your choices down to 12 things I personally cannot believe we are not talking about. Feel free to use them to start your own conversations. I don’t think any of them will offend your great aunt or your friend from high school, but use your judgment.


1. Popcorn: Why does anyone use microwave popcorn? Is it a secret that you can buy popcorn kernels by the bag for, like, a dollar and that they cook in a pot, just as quickly as they do in your microwave, but taste better? For one dollar, you could make popcorn twice a week for a month. This blows my mind every time I make (my husband make) popcorn. If you are unsure about the popcorn, OMG Barbara Williams has a plethora of suggestions for you in Cornzapoppin.

2. “Like Whoa”: Why did people stop saying that? I used it the other day in a sentence that went, “I am going to eat crunchy tacos like whoa”. It is such a versatile phrase and a pretty sweet Mya music video, and it fell out of use much too quickly.

3. Gilmore Girls is making more shows!!!! Why aren’t we all discussing this? Is Sookie going to come back? Catch up on the original series here.

4. Why hasn’t anyone written a self-help book about how to live better by living like a hobbit? It seems like this would be a bestselling idea. I’ll give you an outline: Live Simple. Live Friendly. Live Hobbit. Chapter 1: Find Your Gandalf, pursuing a mate that challenges you. Chapter 2: Love Yourself, hairy feet and all. Chapter 3: Second breakfast, do it. Pipe-weed. Why not?

5. We have a new book club. It’s ingenious. It’s The Book Club for People Who Don’t Have Time to Read and instead of reading a book every month, we sit around and discuss books we’ve read and would like to read. We had Doritos at the last meeting. I am shocked that it hasn’t gone viral because it is so perfect. Next meeting is December 2.

6. Speaking of not having time to read, why isn’t anyone but me talking about the anxiety produced by ever-lengthening lists of books we want to devour? I want to read everything Maira Kalman ever produced.  I still need to read Lauren Groff’s Fates and Furies. It’s the time of year I resolve to read Anna Karenina and don’t.  It makes my armpits tickle just thinking about it. There are so many beautiful words out there to read!

7. The movie Housesitter with Goldie Hawn and Steve Martin. There is no reason that this movie should not come up in conversation every day. Goldie is a con-artist who pretends to be Steve’s wife so that she can have a free place to stay and he can make his ex jealous. It’s so funny and sweet and comfortable in that way that movies from the 90s are always so comfortable because it seems like things were easier then or maybe because it makes us feel like we are catching something really good on TV on a Saturday afternoon. Didn’t a movie seem better when you caught it on TV than the same movie seems when you’ve clicked on it after scrolling through Netflix for 45 minutes? See how great this discussion of Housesitter is going?

8. How nice are blankets this time of year (you should make one)?

9. Do you want to talk on Facebook about how you are “over” Facebook and won’t be back for awhile? That’s not really interesting. Better that you leave us with a list of what you’ll be doing while you are gone. Going completely off the grid? Just zoning out and listening to some Steely Dan for a bit? Let us know.

10. I can’t stop listening to Jenny Lewis’ The Voyager and I have no one to talk about it with. It’s so good! Someone check it out so we can talk about it!

11. How genius is the public library in it’s usefulness? You knew I was going to get around to it at some point. The library can help you find a job, go vegan, read up on the new medication you’ve been prescribed, give you the correct forms to fill out for your divorce,  learn a new language, talk to you when you don’t have anyone else to talk to, study for an exam, give you a phone number, tell you whether or not a celebrity is dead, help you find resources to give your kid “the talk” and much more. There is no other place where you can go and basically say, “I’m having trouble with this area of my life” and someone will respond, “Cool, let’s figure this out”. Maybe your mom, but she’s not as good at “going online” as we are.

12. Why don’t you talk about all the things your mom has done for you more often? She would enjoy some Facebook props like whoa.

For more ideas on other things to talk about, please visit your local public library.



Creepin’ At the Library

It’s Halloween time! Here in the Midwest that means taco night, sweaters under costumes, and creepin’ around the library looking for spooky stories.

What’s hiding in the next aisle?

You just never know.

Here’s are Traverse Area District Library staff’s creepiest recommendations. Find them today before Halloween is over and your creepy creeping around the stacks becomes suspicious instead of festive.

Julie K:  “The book Helter Skelter creeped me out so badly in high school.  I was reading it while babysitting and had to call my parents to come over I was so scared.”

Aaron: For a new movie-Jenifer Kent’s The Babadook Modern horror classic! Old movies: Dario Argento’s Suspiria. High brow Ero horror… deeply spooky! And Tobe Hooper’s classic Texas Chainsaw Massacre is the least gory and most genuinely terrifyingly movie you will ever love!

Mary: The Hot Zone by Richard Preston…. some things are better left unknown!

Kathryn: Crooked Tree by Robert Charles Wilson. The U.P. and deranged bears. (U.P. is the Upper Peninsula of Michigan for those non-Michiganders.

Bruce: Twitter for Dummies scares the hell out of me.

Karen P.: Oldie, but kept me from opening my closet door for years: Wait Until Dark with Audrey Hepburn.

Christopher: Game of Thrones. It was wonderful and interesting and then the violence just kept ramping up till I couldn’t watch.

Julie: Stephen King’s IT.  Clowns and spiders should not appear together.  EVER!

Also, Don’t Be Afraid Of The Dark.  Little hairy creatures that only come out in dark rooms and tried to drag you to the cellar into a chimney that was, what I truly believe today, the gateway to Hell.    Still sleep with lights on when alone, and avoid basements whenever possible. Famous line :  in a whisper:  “We want you, we want you”!  Scarred me for life.

Jill: Without a doubt, Milton Berle creeps me out more than most anyone.  Mostly it’s the eyebrows and the lopsided grin, or maybe it’s his obnoxious demeanor.

Sarah: Nothing creeps me out like American Horror Story even though I continue to watch season after season. The show has gotten into some weird stuff over the years, but rubber suits and candy bowls made out of skulls can scar a person for life.

Gail: Psycho still makes me cringe just thinking about the sounds and the blood going down the drain.

Matt: The 1981 film, Clash of the TitansStop-motion animation of  monsters from Greek mythology may seem hokey now, but back in the day: kinda creepy!

Amy: The Pilo Family Circus. An awesome indie book. Totally recommend it!

Bill: Don’t Blink. Don’t. Even. Blink.

Now, are we creepin’ or are we creepin’? Bam.

Happy Halloween everyone!








Homecoming Reads

I love parades.I looove parades. Let me say it with feeling. I LOVE PARAAAAAAAAAAAAADES!!!

Let me say it with a GIF:

Parades are the best. They are like, “Hey, sorry it’s too cold to go to the beach now, but how about some free candy and an awesome marching band version of an old Michael Jackson song?”

And I’m like, “That sounds good. Throw in a float and we’ve got a deal.”

And then the parade is like, “Ok, but you’re probably going to run into someone you went to high school with.”

And THAT is when I started thinking: parade season is a great time to read a Homecoming Read! That is, a book about going back home, back in time. A book that might make you remember what it’s like to be a teenager living in a dead-end town or a big city with its arms wide open.

Hey guess what?: the public library has those! Here are few suggestions. Come get one! Holding one of these books will make you look super smart while you are standing on the side of the street waiting for people to throw Tootsie Rolls at you.


Shotgun Lovesongs by Nickolas Butler: Boyhood friends who grew up together in Wisconsin and a woman, once a girl, who has impacted all four of their lives at one point or another. A wonderful novel about place and the place where you come from. A bestseller and partly inspired by the life of the author’s real-life hometown friend, Justin Vernon of Bon Iver fame.

Say Nice Things About Detroit by Scott Lasser: David retreats to his hometown of Detroit, twenty five years after he left. Can he put his life back together? Can Detroit?

Life Sentences by Laura Lippman: A woman goes back to her hometown to investigate the story of an old classmate who is in jail for a heartbreaking and terrible crime. She only wants a tale to tell for her new novel. But as she digs deeper into the life of this classmate, she pulls up the dirt of her own past as well.

Two Guys from Verona: A Novel of Suburbia by James Kaplan: Two old friends meet back up at their 25th high school reunion. Both lead very different lives and each feels sorry for the other. It gets good and dark.

Maybe In Another Life by Taylor Jenkins Reid: What if you actually had married your high school boyfriend? What if you hadn’t? Reid tells both stories, one next to other, in this exploration of love and fate and time.

Local Girls by Caroline Zancan: Girlfriends who grew up together in a “one-horse” Florida town spend their restless summer nights at the local bar, where one night they run into a celebrity. Funny, relatable, and exciting.


The Fever by Megan Abbott: Get back the feeling of being a teenager while simultaneously celebrating Halloween by freaking yourself out in The Fever. Jodi Picoult called this a “panic attack of a novel”. Then get your mean girl on reading another stellar Abbott novel, Dare Me.

Ghost World by Daniel Clowes: The author says his graphic novel is  about “the lives of two recent high school graduates from the advantaged perch of a constant and (mostly) undetectable eavesdropper, with the shaky detachment of a scientist who has grown fond of the prize microbes in his petri dish.” I say it’s a engaging story about the complexities of teen friendship. Also a movie.

Rocket Boys by Homer Hickman: This memoir about Hickman’s 1960s youth in coal country was turned into the movie, October Sky. Hickman grew up to be a NASA Engineer. So now he’s a rocket scientist AND a bestselling author. But you’re probably doing ok, too.

Carrie by Stephen King: Let’s hope you’re not reliving any high school memories when you read this book. Unless you were unfortunate enough to be a teenager named Carrie in 1974.

An Almost Perfect Moment by Binnie Kirshenbaum: “For all of her loveliness, Valentine was a spaz.” This is one of my favorites. A teenager in between girlhood and womanhood in 1970s Brooklyn. High school teacher crushes, mah-jongg, heart, it’s all there.

Fear Street series by R.L. Stine: If you really want to remember what it was like to be a teen, read something you actually read when you were that young. I still can’t apply red lipstick without checking to see if someone put a needle in it (What up, Silent Night, supah chiller).


Reference Couch: Birthday Blues

The Reference Couch

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

Q: My daughter just started second grade this year and has already been invited to a handful of lavish Pinterest-worthy birthday parties by her classmates, with swag bags to boot! I don’t have the budget to throw a big shin-dig for her birthday next month and to be honest I think it’s all a bit much. How can I give her a party that’s modest enough for me and fun enough for her and her friends?


So-So on the Soirees

A: Dear So-So,

I’m not sure what kind of swag a second-grader requires and, like you, I don’t really want to spend any more time than this sentence thinking about it. But there are lots of ways your daughter and her friends can have an great celebration without breaking the bank or giving anyone “princess syndrome“.  And the library can help!!!


Punky Brewster AKA Soleil Moon Frye wrote a DIY kid’s party book, Let’s Get This Party Started, that’s more about having fun and letting kids be kids than having a picture perfect day. Her party ideas include a simple slumber party with craft activities like painting pillowcases and making your own Truth or Dare dice and a pancake recipe for the morning. Or how about an “explorer” party that’s even easier: ants on a log, black smudges under their eyes and send them out into the yard for hide-and-seek!

Birthday Parties for Kids was written before parents started renting out ski resorts and unicorns for toddlers, so it’s suggestions are decidedly low-key and focus more on activities and snacks than photo-ops and catering. My favorite is Balloon Bodybuiding, which is blowing up balloons and shoving them inside your sweatshirt and pretending to be a bodybuilder. Five or so of these types of games and a boxed cake mix and you’ve got two or three hours of fun before someone eventually gets a bloody nose.

One of my favorite party planning books is Absolutely Unforgettable Parties, written for adults but also applicable to the wee ones. Throw the party no one on Pinterest is throwing: A Reincarnation Party. “Come as you were!”

Naturally Fun Parties For Kids is a little more intense, with the laying out tasks for you to set up 4 weeks ahead of time, which is about 3 and a half weeks more planning than I prefer. However, there are some unexpected ideas for themes that you can modify to your liking. Like a Gratitude Birthday Party that encourages children to think about what they’re thankful for (and eat macaroni and cheese!) and a Wild Girls TeePee Party: the opposite of a fancy tea party, where girls can run around, make noise, and get dirty as long as they where intricate flower crowns while they’re doing it.


Though themes are amusing for adults, I don’t know any kids who would refuse to come to a party because the malted milk balls weren’t labeled as Star Wars Thermal Detonators or Yaargh Pirate Cannons or Vintage Woodland Bear Poop. They would probably just be happy with the milk balls and you would probably be happier not staying up until 3 AM when you’re going to have a bunch of six-year-olds running around your house the next day.

So don’t feel tied to making a party about one specific thing. Instead, focus on what the kids are actually going to do. Otherwise, your tiny guests are probably going to break something or cause the aforementioned nosebleed.

Get a group together to cook something fun like pizza, smoothies, soda floats or pie (Icebox Pies might be what you’re looking for for smaller children, each recipe is a no-bake). Check out yoga for kids and have a yoga party. Send them outside with the Big Book of Nature Projects or, in winter, the incredibly awesome Snow Play, which includes instructions glowing igloos and snow monsters. We’ve got lots of books about science projects like The Science Chef or Sandbox Scientist and none of the experiments will start a home fire, probably.

Don’t feel like having to lead an activity? Check out some scary movies or not-so-scary movies and pop some popcorn. Grab a dance instruction video, lock them in a room for a few hours and tell them you expect a fully choreographed routine before the cake candles are blown out. Check out old fifties music or eighties music and have a “prom”. Just don’t spike the punch.

At the end of the day, you don’t need a lot of money or a degree in Posh Crafts or even a librarian to show kids a good time (but you asked). I hope this post warms you up to parties, So-So. Happy birthday to your daughter!

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


Annie’s Best of Summer

Richard Marx is sad because summer is ending.
Richard Marx is sad because summer is ending.

Hold on to the nights.

Hold on to the memmmmorrries! 

It’s still officially summer until September 22, pumpkin spiced sundries be damned. I’ll have to close up my friendship bracelet supply/tackle box and reorganize the tights by thickness soon, but until then I can hold onto the memmmmmorrries!



Here are my best summer book memories:

Shoeless Joe by W.P. Kinsella: This is the book that Field of Dreams is based on and it is dreamy and lyrical and wonderful and makes you want to visit Iowa.




Just Kids by Patti Smith: This has been on my to-read list for awhile now. It took a road trip and the desire to read about the passion of art for me to pick up Smith’s memoir of art and deep love and New York and I’m so glad I did.


Fall, for me, is a time to get a bit juicier and darker with my reading. Here are a few on my list for the upcoming months:


Unabrow: Misadventures of a Late Bloomer by Una LaMarche is my back to school read. Blood Will Out: The True Story of a Murder, A Mystery and a Masquerade by Walter Kim and  Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff will take me through my late October dark creepy happenings stage.  The Brontes: Wild Genius on the Moors by Juliet Barker will either stave off or feed the growing madness that comes with impending winter.

I wish that I could giiiiiiiiiiiive you more, but that’s it.

Oh wait, this:


Selected Shorts

I hate shorts. I haven’t worn them since culottes went out of style. They’re uncomfortable and they’re never the right length and my thighs always stick to the chairs and they are terrible.

My mom made these in a Save the Rainforest print for me.
My mom made these in a Save the Rainforest print for me.

So this isn’t about those kind of awful shorts. This is about nice shorts. FREE Shorts. Shorts that won’t chafe.

Selected Shorts is a weekly radio show that airs readings of short stories, and also records live performances of people reading short works at the Symphony Space in New York City (new life goal: make it to one of these shows). And our audiobook collection has several of these collections, because my co-worker Betsy is awesome.

The recordings are usually based around a theme: women writers, road trip stories, baseball, food, or whodunits to name a few. They are the opposite of wearable shorts: neither too short or too long, they envelop you in comfort instead of sorrow and displeasure , and they…that’s all the shorts metaphors I can think of and I’d venture a guess you’re tiring of it as well, ay?

Anyway, they’re great. It’s the next best thing to actually attending a reading, plus you can be running errands or cleaning out your cat litter while you listen.

One of my recent favorites was listening to Holly Hunter read  “The Story of My Life” by Kim Edwards in the Wondrous Women recording. I also didn’t realize Grace Paley’s story “The Loudest Voice” was actually hilarious until I listened to it on the Family Matters recording. I even checked out the William Hurt collection and the only thing I’ve seen him in is Broadcast News (you caught me, I’m a Holly Hunter superfan). And guess what? It was amazing. He read a Tobias Wolff story and made me cry.

Listening to a story read can evoke emotions that reading in silence cannot and the added bonus of hearing the audience laugh or getting to hear a story in Angelica Huston’s voice instead of your own gives a tale so much shape. Also, you can pretend that whoever your listening to is your friend telling you a story, in my case:

It’s September now. Time for pants. So put some on, get over here and check out these Selected Shorts.



Overheard at the Library: Inspiring Quotes

We overhear a lot in the public library, but I’m not at liberty to repeat it . I know. Too bad for you. Sometimes it’s pretty juicy. BUT I will tell you something even secret-y-er. I’ll tell you what the staff at the Traverse Area District Library is hearing…in our heads.

I’ll wait while your exploded mind pieces itself back together.

I’m going to tell you what our favorite quotes are! When you’re surrounded by words all day, some get stuck in your head! Sometimes it’s the Mentos theme song, but sometimes it’s something wise or cheerful or comforting.

I’ll tell you our favorites, then you tell me yours, k? K!


First off, we like Thoreau. He’s always floating around our heads. Melanie remembers “Methinks my own soul must be a bright invisible green.” Aah, that’s nice.

Michelle likes the book As Easy As Falling Off the Face of the Earth by Lynne Rae Perkins, where a character references Thoreau’s famous drummer quote (“If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer”). The next line in Perkins’ book reads, ‘Well, Del marches to the beat of, like, I don’t know, a harmonica or something”. Michelle says that line always makes her laugh and that marching to her own harmonica has become a code phrase for her.

Anyway, speaking of Ryan Gosling, Brice‘s favorite quote is “I’d mate for life…One day at a time.” Brice says, “The line is spoken by Denys Finch Hatton from Out of Africa by Isak Dinesen (portrayed by Robert Redford in the film version), I love the honesty that comes across in this line when he discusses marriage with his lover, Karin Blixen.

Not surprisingly, a lot of us liked quotes that give us strength in times of trouble (If you’re interested in what times of trouble look like for a librarian, check out Librarian Problems). Matt likes “No. Try not. Do, or not. There is no try” from Jedi Master Yoda in Star Wars Episode V.

Linda remembers that “Perhaps the distant part of the sky always seems clearest, so that we will always strive to reach it.” from the television series Rurouni Kenshin because it reminds her to continue onward and eventually reach the sun.

Ben thinks “Don’t dream it, be it” from The Rocky Horror Picture Show is inspirational. And he didn’t tell me so, but I’m pretty sure he says it into the mirror every morning.

And I KNOW Mary M. says this into the mirror: Her favorite quote is “Party on Garth” from Wayne’s World. “Need I say more?” Mary asks. “Live! This isn’t a dress rehearsal.”

We are also non-conformists! Duh! We’ve all read too many books to know that the you don’t win in the end if you don’t march to your own harmonica:

Tony faces challenges with this quote from Lord of the Rings: Return of the King: “Forth! Fear no darkness! Arise! Arise, Riders of Théoden! Spears shall be shaken, shields shall be splintered! A sword day…a red day, ere the sun rises! Ride now! Ride now! Ride! Ride for ruin and the world’s ending! Death! Death! Death! Forth, Eorlingas!” Tony says, “When seemingly insurmountable odds and certain defeat, they decide to fight anyway. Because what else are they going to do? Let evil triumph unopposed?”

Anita likes this quote from  Winnie the Pooh because she has non-conformist ( Wobbly) spelling: “Because my spelling is Wobbly. It’s good spelling but it Wobbles, and the letters get in the wrong places.”

Christopher quotes another Christopher-Christopher McDougall who wrote Natural Born Heroes: “An outlaw outlook calls on every citizen to create, not conform; to decide what is right and wrong and act on it- not just baa along with the rest of the herd.”

So to recap, if you were to get inside the heads of our staff, you would see that we’re upbeat non-conformist Transcendentalists who have it bad for Gosling. Sound about right, guys?

Ok, deal’s a deal. What’s your favorite book or movie quote? Do we have it in the library?

Featured Image: Our featured image is a Flickr image from Claire Sambrook.





PBF | August

Party Banter Friday: 

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

Have you ever wondered where the picture we use for our PBF posts is from? You probably have, because I often forget to mention it as a photo credit at the bottom of the post. I am one of a rare breed of librarians who is not super into details. We do exist. You can spot us by our typos, mis-buttoned cardigans, and “eh” shrugs.

A post written by my type of librarian goes something like:  I type “mis-buttoned cardigan” and remember the scene in the movie Mixed Nuts, where Steve Martin confesses his love to Rita Wilson and tells her the first day he met her, her sweater was poking into her chin. And then I start writing a different post about Steve Martin-related library material. And then in that post I mostly just talk about that one King Tut skit.

If you’re thinking, “Hey sometimes I like to read actual complete thoughts, maybe even backed up by facts“, I will try to keep my thoughts from straying long enough to recommend to you Grand Traverse Journal:

GTJ is our library’s locally produced digital magazine and it features articles about local and natural history. Here you can read about mysterious Chinese laundrymen of the 1800s, fairy ring mushrooms (say whaaaaa?), electrotheraphy baths (sounds like a really bad idea, was it? You have to read to see!), roller skating as sport, and other kicky posts with “Ring a Ding Ding” in the title that catch my perpetually darting eyes. The articles are submitted by our patrons and edited by local author Richard Fidler and our library’s very own Amy Barritt, AKA Local History Whiz Kid.

Here they are!!!

Does this qualify as a party fact? Darn skippy it does. Grand Traverse Journal can provide you with all the facts you need to banter away at your weekend shindigs.

Walking in downtown Traverse City with friends? You can casually mention that Front Street was first paved in 1905.

Nothing to do? Suggest moseying over to Lake Leelanau to seek out the extremely large meteor that’s been hanging out at the bottom since 1879. 

Marveling at some club mosses on a weekend evening? You know, those are not actually mosses (it’s a spore thing).

So go now! Check out Grand Traverse Journal! Whew! That was a lot of focus for me. Wait, what else am I supposed to say here?

Oh yeah:

Photo Credit: Our featured image for PBF is a picture from our digital history collection. You can view the original image and browse our collection here.

3 to 5 with Emita Hill

3 to 5 Questions for Authors:

In Which A Librarian asks a Talented Author a Small Number of Questions

Author and lifetime Traverse City summer resident, Emita Hill, will be coming to our library (Woodmere branch) to discuss her book, “Bronx Faces and Voices” on August 27 at 6:30 p.m. Hill’s book focuses on oral histories of the Bronx community from the Eighties, voices of real people living real lives during tumultuous times.


Ms. Hill will be talking about the importance of oral histories and sharing her knowledge of the process of preserving memories at this special program, but we got the chance to ask her a few questions ahead of time!:

Q: Your book, Bronx Faces and Voices: Sixteen Stories of Courage and Community,  tells the stories of sixteen different New Yorkers living in the Bronx between the 1970s and 1980s, a time of great upheaval there. What are some of your favorite New York-centric books or films (or websites, such as Humans of New York)?


A: Definitely I’d include Humans of New York.  It’s marvelous.  Books are legion, but it’s hard to beat Robert Caro’s massive biography of Robert Moses, The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York. For the Bronx, Connie Rosenblum’s Boulevard of Dreams and Jill Jonnes’ We’re Still Here. I love fiction centered in New York and authors like Doctorow and Chabon and Pete Hamill.  That’s just a tiny sampling.  E.B. White’s tribute to New York is a must-read.


Q: What made you interested and what keeps you interested in recording oral history?


A: Oral history for me goes back to Homer and the whole oral tradition of preserving individual memories and also cultural memories.  But the beauty of our technology is that we can now record what was oral and ephemeral.  We have the best of both worlds: the uncensored immediacy of a person talking and the ability to preserve their very words first in audio and later in transcription.
I love stories.  The stories in my book are preserved in a library—the Leonard Lief Library of Lehman College, the Bronx campus of the City University of New York–on tape and with my early transcription, accessible to scholars who have used them over the years–but I’m delighted that sixteen of them are now also available to the general public through this book.  I should add that the descendants of the men and women I interviewed are thrilled to have these stories made public.  One of the men I interviewed, now deceased, expressed his pride during the interview, saying to me, “I’m pleased that I will be a part of history.”
Q: Could you give us an example of someone talking about their history that inspired you?


A: I was aware of Studs Terkel’s work when we first started our program in the Bronx.  I can’t say that any one interview or talk inspired me but I can say that both in my scholarly work and my leisure time reading I have always loved letters, memoirs, and epistolary novels, works written in the first person.


Q:  How can a beginner become involved in preserving oral history?


A: Anyone can purchase an inexpensive digital recorder and start preserving stories in their own family or community.  Libraries across the country are now encouraging this and helping train people to do it and even providing the recorders. Some schools are developing programs to help high school children record their grandparents’ stories and their parents’ stories. Key to being an oral historian is to be a good listener which means being really interested in what you are hearing and interrupting as little as possible.


Q:  If you were a Dewey Decimal number, what number would you be?


A: Which of the hundreds of Dewey Decimal numbers would I be?  Wow.  To go back to my personal scholarly field I should choose 844, literature of the French 18th century. Or following my life and career, perhaps 376, the education of women.  Or 707, education and research in the arts.  But how about 007, not assigned, not being used?  That would be fun and open-ended.


Thanks Emita! We look forward to enjoying your program and your book!
Photo Credit: The featured image shows Hill’s book cover on the left and Georgeen Comerford’s photo of Emita Hill interviewing Alice Kramer in 1982 on the left.