Tag Archives: Being a reader

Fun With Evergreen: Window-Shopping Your Next Read

I don’t know about you, but looking for a new book to read can stir up some pretty conflicting emotions.  On the one hand, the idea of finding a super-terrific, gripping, emotional, can’t-put-down, talk-to-strangers-about-it, miss-your-bus-stop-because-you’re-reading book is the kind of thing for which I go on living.  But when you’re finished with that book, how can you tell which book to read next?

Or perhaps you found a new favorite author, and are eager to put all her books on hold right now…is there a way to know that all of her other books are as gripping and intriguing and well-written as the one in your hands?

Or maybe you and a younger reader in your life are looking for a book to share.  How can you tell if the book is the correct reading-level, or has a story that will keep you both interested?

One solution to this conundrum, clearly, is to seek out the book yourself and give it a browse.  But if that book lives far-away, on the shelves of another NOBLE library, that just isn’t feasible.  So what is a reader to do?

Well, one option is to window shop that book via our online catalog.

The NOBLE catalog is linked to Google Books, which allows readers to see a preview of any book listed in both places.  This means the process is not a fail-safe one, as it relies on the book being both in the NOBLE network and in Google Books, but it is a helpful tool in most situations.

Here’s how it works:

Find a book you are interested in reading on our catalog.  For this example, I have chosen Mick Herron’s Reconstructionseeing how it’s a book I want to read.  Here is the page in our catalog (please click on the image to enlarge it):

If you look on the right-hand side of the page, you will see a link to Google Preview:

Note the stellar hand-drawn arrow, as well!

Clicking on the “Google Preview” will open a new browser window that will allow you read the first few pages of the book in question.  Your page may look slightly different depending on the book you selected, but here is Reconstruction:

From here, you can scroll down the page to read the opening of the book.

While this tip won’t save you from all book-related heartaches and disappointments, it is a nifty way to meet a book before committing to it, and also a fun way to meet new books that you might not have considered reading before.

Check in soon for some more fun tips and tricks to help you find your new favorite reads in Evergreen!

Announcing The Staunch Book Prize

…How many thrillers can you count that open with the body of a dead woman?  Or thrillers that focus on physical harm or the threat of physical harm being done to a woman?  That feature a woman being stalked or threatened?  If you stop to think about it, the answer might be surprisingly high.

It’s a little disconcerting to think about how many stories rely on violence against women to drive their plot; whether it’s the discovery of a body, or a report of violence that launches a plot (see, for example, Law & Order: SVU).  Or stories that use a character’s history of violence against women to indicate their villainy, or to make them a suspect in a case.  Or are driven by the (often violent or deadly) disappearance of a women years in the past?

It’s even more disconcerting to think about what that means culturally and historically.  I discuss with my students regularly about the implications of incidents like, for example, Jack the Ripper…the subject of goodness knows how many books, television series, shows, movies, radio plays, stage production, etc.  Some are good, some are great, while others are forgettable and regrettable.  But they all hinge on the story of a person (or persons) who murdered women who were economically, socially, and physically incapable of defending themselves.  Those women are only known to history because they were murdered in brutal fashion.  In some cases, the only reason we know what those women look like is from their autopsy photos.  Similarly, in the books we read, we meet so very many women only when, or after, they die.  Only after they are labeled as a victim.  Only after they have suffered.  Only because they have suffered.  And how does it affect the way we look at actual, real, flesh-and-blood women who are hurt, victimized, or used in the way that fictional characters are?

And, what do we do about it?  Is there anything that can be done about it?  Well, last week, writer and educator Bridget Lawless announced The Staunch Book Prize, an award to be presented to “to the author of a novel in the thriller genre in which no woman is beaten, stalked, sexually exploited, raped or murdered.”  According to the Staunch Book Prize website, “As violence against women in fiction reaches a ridiculous high, the Staunch Book Prize invites thriller writers to keep us on the edge of our seats without resorting to the same old clichés – particularly female characters who are sexually assaulted (however ‘necessary to the plot’), or done away with (however ingeniously).”

The award is a part of the #MeToo movement, in which women, men, and people around the world are not only sharing stories of their own sexual victimization, but also championing attempts to change the way the world works, and to ensure a more just, inclusive, and safe society for everyone.  Within this context, the Staunch Prize argues that making women victims, that hurting women as part of a plot, is a cliche that has gone well and truly stale.  As author Andrew Taylor described it in a quote to The Guardian:  “It has to be good in principle that someone’s drawing attention to crime fiction, on page and screen, that uses women-as-victims-of-violence as … a sort of literary monosodium glutamate: ie, as a gratuitous and fundamentally nasty flavour enhancer lacking moral or artistic purpose.”

The announcement of the prize has set off quite a bit of debate, not only among mystery writers, but among activists and readers, as well.  Laura Lippman, a multiple-award winner mystery writer, was quoted by NBCNews as saying “My first reaction was, that’s so well-intentioned and probably impossible.  Because it’s not the topic of sexualized violence that’s the problem. It’s the treatment…There are literally mysteries in which the cat solves the crime, and then there are these incredibly hard-boiled, how high is the body count, how many prostitutes are you going to murder for the sake of the hero’s development mysteries.”

In other words, how we discuss violence against women is important.  Is it possible to use an example of violence against women to comment on, criticize, and actively contest violence against women?  As award-winning author Val McDermid noted to The Guardian, “My take on writing about violence against women is that it’s my anger at that very thing that fires much of my work. As long as men commit appalling acts of misogyny and violence against women, I will write about it so that it does not go unnoticed.”

But some authors feel that this award is a form of censorship, both artistically and socially.  Val McDermid was also quoted in The Guardian piece is saying, “To impose a blanket ban on any writing that deals with this seems to me to be self-defeating.”  But let’s be clear, hear–the award isn’t punishing books that feature women as “beaten, stalked, sexually exploited, raped or murdered.”  Instead, it is awarding books that do not feature these things.  The Man Booker Prize isn’t a punishment for books that are not written in English.  Nor are the National Book Awards a punishment to books not written by Americans.  What it seems to be, most of all, is a challenge: to re-imagine the thriller genre as a place where female characters can exist and develop without victimization.  To think about what such a world might look like.  Because that seems like a concrete first step to changing the power imbalances in real life–to realize how hard it is to imagine a world without those imbalances.

So what do you think, dear readers?  Will the Staunch Book Prize inspire your reader habits?

Love What You Love

Conversations about books are some of my favorite conversations.

Via https://3appleskdk.wikispaces.com/

recent discussions among some book-minded companions led to a fascinating discussion the other day regarding “books that you love but that are in some way objectionable to others.”  It’s a tricky subject, and one with which a lot of readers tend to grapple, especially as they grow up, and realize that the books they loved at one stage of their development might not fit them and their world view now.

Let’s use my own experience as an example: It’s something of an open secret that I love Jane Eyre.  It’s a book that enchanted me as a fourteen-year-old first discovering early Victorian literature, and one that sustained me in high school amidst all those books I had to read.   But, as an older reader, out of high school and navigating what we usually call “the real world,” I began to realize how whiny, self-centered, and, let’s be honest here, how reckless and dangerous his behavior was.  Secrets aren’t sexy, Edward.  Especially when they involve fire, bleeding, and/or locking people up in towers.  (To be fair, I would argue a great deal of the Rochester mystique is a product of more recent times, but still…).  But, after some soul searching, I realized that I could, and still did, love Jane Eyre.  Because, as I grew older, I began to really appreciate just how strong, how self-reliant, and how confident Jane had to be in herself to survive in the world she did, and to protect herself from Rochester’s more harmful tendencies.  Jane Eyre herself became one of my favorite characters all over again as a grew up, even as I got more and more fed up with Rochester’s fragile ego and his ceaseless emoting.

Similarly, a friend related that they had grown up adoring Stephen King’s Dark Tower series, and that they still turned to it when life was being difficult and they needed something familiar to love.  Stephen King is a sensational author and a super guy, but, as my friend noted, Stephen King doesn’t do very well writing about people of color.  They tend to fall pretty hard into the character trope known as the “Magical Negro” trope (Note: the word ‘negro’ is used to denote the archaic view of Black people that this trope embodies).  Briefly put, “Magical Negroes” are characters (created by white authors) who are generally (though not always) outwardly or inwardly disabled as a result  of discrimination, disability or social constraint, and who appear to save the white protagonist through magic.  In other words, they are not human in the same ways that white characters are human.   In the Dark Tower series, Odetta Susannah Holmes is a”Magical Negro”; she is disfigured by a subway train after a white man pushes her onto the tracks.  She suffers from a magical kind of personality disorder in which she embodies two people (each figured and disfigured by American racism) and she is repeatedly victimized to save Roland, who is a white male in the novel.

This is not in any way, shape, or form to imply that Stephen King is a racist.  Far from it.  But it does indicate that he might not be the expert on creating realistic, thoughtful characters of color.

But sometimes, it can be an issue with the author.  Another book brought up in this discussion was Orson Scott Card’s classic sci-fi novel Ender’s Game.  This is a novel that shaped the childhoods of many, and is still beloved by readers around the world.  However, it’s very difficult for many readers to reconcile their love of this book with the knowledge that Orson Scott Card himself holds very public, anti-gay and xenophobic views.  For those who find these views troubling, spending money on purchasing an author’s work can be difficult. It can also be difficult to separate the author’s views from one’s love of the books they write.

So what is a reader to do?

First and foremost, love what you love.  If a book or a film or a song has personal meaning for you, helps you to grow, or guides you through a dark time, or makes you a better person, then you deserve that thing in your life.  As The Velveteen Rabbit taught us, the things we love become real, and become a part of us and who we are.  I became a stronger person by reading Jane Eyre, even as I learned not to put up with whiners like Rochester.  My friends learned fortitude and strength and insight from the books they loved, above and apart from the problematic aspects of their construction and their authorship.  This does not mean to be blind to their faults or shortcomings, but, instead, to love the thing for how it helps you.

Secondly, as in so many other matters, the library can help you in these circumstances.  For example: do you love an author, like Stephen King, who may not be the best at portraying people of color (…or women? …or another group of people?)?  Why not come to the Library and learn about some authors who do?!  Use your favorite author or series as a jumping-off point to explore other works of literature than can become new favorites.  In the case of the Dark Tower series, we might recommend books by N. K. Jemisin, or Nnedi Okorafor, for example.

Finally, the library is a super-terrific place to access material that you might not otherwise want to contribute your hard-earned dollars.  As we discussed in our post on Fire and Fury, you can have your literary cake and eat it took by borrowing the book from us.

Ultimately, it’s a win-win-win situation when you come to the Library and learn to love the things inside it.  And we are here to help you find the books and films and music that you can and will love, and that will help you be better.  Just keep loving what you love, and we’ll be here for the rest of it.

 

Talking about “Trashy”

Today, we’re taking a look back at a post from October 2015, an oldie-but-goodie that we hope you enjoy!
womenreading

Yesterday, the fabulous book blog BookRiot posted a sensational review of “The Books That Made Us Romance Readers”–a collection of the books that changed their ideas of romance, and made them passionate, devoted genre readers.  It was a wonderful article, with some truly sensational recommendations.  But part of the introductory material really grabbed my attention: Author Nikki Steel mentioned her umbrage with The Word.  That Word that so grates on my own nerves.  That Word that always comes out when we talk about romance novels.

TRASHY.

It’s a word that gets used so often in describing romances, and has been used for so long, that I think we may just take it for granted.  But we shouldn’t.  Because it’s a word loaded with so much meaning and judgement that it often keeps people from even picking up a romance novel, let alone enjoying all that it has to offer.

2015-05-05-1430841078-9909489-romancenovelreader1-thumbIf I told you that a specific genre comprised 13% of all adult fiction sold, and over 50% of all paperbacks purchased, had a regular readership of 29 million people, and collectively earned $1.44 billion last year (which is 20% of all adult fiction sales), what word would you use to describe that genre?  Powerful?  Probably.  Influential?  Certainly.  Trashy?  Most likely not…unless we are talking about romance.  We talk about spy novels, political thrillers, mysteries as “light reads”, “easy reads”, or “fun reads”.  But very, very seldom does anyone call these genres by the T word.  Also, I have never seen anyone act shyly about checking out or reading a book with explosions, military paraphernalia, or espionage-type briefcases and trench-coats on the covers.  Yet there remains a stigma about romances that no statistics can seem to shake.  Why?

In a career retrospective, playwright Vicky Featherstone recalled some advice she had been given years ago: “We’re really used to living in a society where the main narrative – politicians, kings, judges – the main narratives on-stage and in our lives are male-led. And actually, we don’t know whether we’re very good yet at watching a female narrative, especially with a flawed character.”  I hold that this fact is true on-stage, in our lives, and in our books, as well.  The idea of a male spy, a male army general, or a male detective isn’t at all revolutionary, or in any way dangerous.  They have a cultural sanction to be the heroes of the story, and to have women as their sidekicks, their assistants, their lovers, wives, girlfriends, or victims.  But the idea of a female spy (who isn’t  femme-fatale), a female general, or a female private eye presents a challenge to many.


Putting-Women-in-a-BoxFor centuries, female characters have been put in boxes.  Medea is insane; Lady Macbeth is a villain; Bella Swan in an ingenue; Hester Prynne is a victim.  And many people are still very uncomfortable when women break out of those boxes and become the uncontrollable, unpredictable heroine of their story (I’m looking at you, Gone Girl).  Male heroes don’t challenge the status quo, just as male-dominated narratives don’t make us think twice.  But women with narrative power calls all the things we consider ‘normal’ into question.  And it is, sadly, a part of human nature to strike out at things that make us uncomfortable–to deny them their power in order to make things go back to ‘normal’.

 

220729ede753d421406c10cf64228b4dHence, the unfortunate rationale of That Word, and a major reason for the stigma surrounding romance novels: women in charge of their own lives, calling their own shots, and demanding happiness on her own terms challenges most of the narratives we have read throughout history.  Perhaps most disheartening of all, though, it also stigmatizes readers.  Readers who, according to the stats, tend to be college-educated people with jobs and incomes.  But readers who are told time and again that romances aren’t “realistic” (because the idea zoo animals plotting to kill us all, or a zombie virus that can only be combatted by two male heroes is in any way more realistic?); that they give us an “unhealthy worldview” (if that were true, then we should all stop reading books about serial killers immediately).   That they give unreasonable expectations…

But breaking out of those boxes, and having limitless expectations is precisely what romances allow female characters to do–indeed, it rewards them for it; not necessarily with marriage or with a man, but, more importantly, with fulfillment and self-affirmation.  As the brilliant Maya Rodale explained in an article for Bustle: “the HEA [happily ever after] is the heroine’s reward for embarking on an adventure, defying expectations for herself, creating her own story, discovering what makes her happy and learning to live and love on her own terms. And the real reward isn’t the ring or the guy, it’s getting to be happy.”  They encourage their female readers not to settle, and to refuse to stay put in the box.

So rather than label romances with words that strip them, their characters, and their readers of power and agency, let’s find a new way to describe them, shall we?  Progressive?  Revolutionary?  Empowering?

…Or we can just start by calling them books.  And reminding readers that they have brains and feelings and the individual right to read whatever they want.

 

 

On our Childhood Libraries…

Recently a college friend of mine sent around this article, written by a fellow alumnae, author J. Courtney Sullivan.

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/24/books/childrens-library-collection.html?mcubz=3

The article focused on Sullivan’s quest to rebuild her childhood book collection as an adult, and the memories that each of those books held for her now.  Some were of reading with her dad:

When I received the “Stickybear” books by Richard Hefter and saw the familiar endpapers covered in strawberries, I recalled how my dad would read the strawberries as part of the text. Example: “The end. Strawberry strawberry strawberry strawberry strawberry.”

While others helped her realize how differently younger readers absorb and learn to love literature:

Childhood is where a love of reading is forged through the tactile. The stories themselves matter, of course. Sometimes I think about Beverly Cleary’s “Ramona,” with her tubes of toothpaste, her bites of apple. Nothing I’ve read since, no single image, stands out as these do. But in adulthood, it’s always the text I admire. In childhood, the book as object matters most.

It’s a lovely article, and the quest itself upon which Sullivan embarks may be familiar to many of you–she notes that a number of book sellers with whom she dealt were curious about all the early-to-mid 1980’s picture books that were suddenly enjoying a resurgence in popularity.

And, of course, it got me thinking about the books that defined my own childhood.   I realized, pretty quickly, that most of the books that defined my growing-up years were ones that I shared with others–usually, they were books read to my by my Father, or my teachers, or books that I learned to read myself (see below).  I always had trouble as a kid with the thin line between fiction and reality (I still do, let’s be honest here), and it was (is) a source of constant frustration for me that I was the only person who knew the members of the Baby-Sitters’ Club, or who had wandered around Gormenghast castle with Steerpike, or bought fancy shoes with Polly from An Old Fashioned Girl (let it not be said that I didn’t have eclectic tastes as a young-in’!).  So in picking books that were important to me, I realized that I was also picking moments in my childhood that were significant, or people, or places.

In that sense, nothing has changed for me.  Some of my favorite literary memories are from reading specific books in specific places (I first read ‘Salem’s Lot in the Belfast Botanical Gardens, and Oscar and Lucinda in Harvard Square one blustery autumn week).  And the specific people with whom I shared them.  So here are some of the first titles that leapt to my mind upon reading Sullivan’s article:

But No ElephantsFor some reason, I was obsessed with this book as a little kid, and made my parents read the adventures of Grandma Tildy and her willingness to take any animal–except for pachyderms–so often that by the time I was about two, I had the whole book memorized, including when to turn the pages.  It then became my parents’ favorite parlor trick to set me up on the couch when company was over and tell them I could already read.  I rediscovered this book when I was a bit older, and still found plenty to appreciate here–especially the brave little(ish) elephant who proves his worth to his new family when Grandma Tildy finally relents enough to take him in.

Ramona the Pest: My second grade teacher was so good at reading stories out loud that we would do any math exercise, any spelling test voluntarily in order to make time for reading at the end of the day.  We made it through most of Beverly Cleary’s Ramona books by the end of the year, but this one I remember most vividly because, in it, Ramona learns how to tell time.  Or learns that she doesn’t know how to tell time.  And it wasn’t until that scene that I realized that I didn’t know how to properly tell time either!  Digital clocks were just becoming a think (I’m old, I know, it’s fine), and so I had been able to avoid analog time-telling up to this point.  It’s a rare day when I put on my watch that I don’t think fleetingly of Ramona heading off to school, and of my teacher who brought her stories to life for us.  (Note: this was absolutely not the cover of the book we had.  Our class book was printed in the 1960’s, so I think it was avocado green or something….)

There’s  A Boy in the Girl’s Bathroom: I’ve told about my love of Louis Sachar’s wild imagination a few times before.  But this book was the first “realistic” one that I read.  Or, specifically, that my Father read to me.  We had a nighttime reading ritual of a chapter a night, and I loved this book…right up until the last chapter.  Essentially, the main character, a boy who everyone considers ‘unmanageable’, has quite the imagination, and creates beautiful, elaborate stories with his figurine collection.  He finds the courage and tools to begin socializing with his peers after working with his school’s counselor.  And he sends her a gift in the end.  And because my imagination was as good, if not more tenacious than his, I cared way more about his figurines than his actual friends.  And I lost it.  Ugly crying everywhere.  Luckily, I have a Father who gets it, and he and I set about re-writing the ending to the book, so that, in our world, at least, it ended properly.  And it’s a trick I’ve used to endure books with “bad” endings ever since (and here, “bad” is defined absolutely, positively subjectively).

How about you?  What books, moments, places, and people make up your early literary history?

The Girl Who Is Sick and Tired of All These Girls…

Alright, beloved readers.   It’s time we had a talk about all these books with ‘girl’ in the title.

A number of people wiser, sager, and probably more rational than I have weighed in on this topic already, so let’s take a look through them first.  Perhaps the most statistically interesting factoid about “girls” in books came from Emily St. John Mandel, best-selling author of the National Book Award finalist Station Eleven. 

St. John Mandel and her research assistant used Goodreads to track titles with “girl” in it, and gather data from those results. They whittled down the 2,000 most popular books with “girl” in the title, eliminating children’s and young adult books, eventually getting a list of 810 books.  You can read the full break-down of her data in an article published at fivethirthyeight.com, but the two points that most media sites picked up on was that the “girl” in question was rarely “girl” aged.  68% of the time, she was usually a grown-up woman.  Secondly, “girl” books written by women had a better chance of surviving the book than “girl” books written by men:

via fivethirtyeight.com

First and foremost, can we talk for a moment about how there were more than 810 books with “girl” in the title for St. John Mandel to use?  That is a colossal number–and it seems to be rising.  Though this graph is a little dated at this point, you can still see how many novels are have “girls” in their title and in their plots:

Via fivethirtyeight.com

There are reasons for this: first, publishing is a precarious, unpredictable, and downright weird business.  If publishers can find a trend that works, they will milk it for every tiny drop they possibly can.  So when “girl” books like The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, Gone Girl, and The Girl on the Train did so colossally well (and their movie adaptations, by and large, succeeded, too), there was a huge push to get more and more books that would attract readers looking for a new fix.  There are a lot of thematic parallels in these books–unreliable narrators, women in peril, noirish themes, conspiracies, small town/home town settings, etc–and publishers are banking on the fact that you will finish one “girl” book and head right for the next.  That’s why they all look so similar, too!  In a piece for The GuardianEva Wiseman described them as “embossed covers in shades of storm”.  And as each “girl” book succeeds, the need for more grows.

But there’s way more to it than just linguistics and marketing.  There’s that 68% of “girls” being grown-up women, and everyone still calling her/them “girls”.

Eva Wiseman sees the trend as subversive, because “the girl is a “girl” not because she’s weak, but because she is on the verge of changing into something else. She’s not simply a victim, or a wife.”  Robin Wasserman also argues there is potential in the word:  “To be called “just a girl” may be diminishment, but to call yourself “still a girl,” can be empowerment, laying claim to the unencumbered liberties of youth. As Gloria Steinem likes to remind us, women lose power as they age. The persistence of girlhood can be a battle cry.”  Emily Roese argues that “When ‘girl’ is not taken to mean naïve or innocent, but instead flexible and susceptible to change, the term can be a highly empowering label that neither whittles the protagonist down to a shell of a woman stripped of motherhood, nor demotes her to a naive youth. Within this terminology, woman’s wisdom and awareness is retained, while girl’s ingenuity and creativity can resurface.”

I don’t think any of these wise interpretations are necessarily wrong.  But I think there is something more to it.  But these “girls”, and this is important, are acting independently.  Whether it’s in vanishing, or in solving a mystery, or through lying, or through truth-telling.  These “girls” are, to whatever extent is possible, controlling their own narrative.

In literature, typically, when “girls” grow up, they are supposed to become “wives”, or “mothers”, or fill a position that is inherently relationship-oriented, but “nurse”….Which also explains the rash of books out there called “The [Insert Profession]’s Daughter“, or “The [Insert Profession]’s Wife“, with the assumption being that the [Professional] discussed in a man.  Men are defined by their professions; women are defined by their relationships to men.  But these “girls” are not “wives” or “mothers”, whose existence is dependent on their relationship to another.  They are independent entities, demanding to be the center of the story that is being told.

That we are highlighting the actions and roles of women in these stories is also pretty significant.  But to keep calling them “girls” traps these characters in a kind of fairytale world where young ladies went where they weren’t supposed to go.  The fact that these The “girls” in these titles are very often portrayed as vulnerable, breakable, and, possibly, insane, reinforces that.  Or else it uses “girls” in the same way we say “girls’ night” or call things “girly”.  It trivializes the power and agency these characters have in their stories.

I realize that “girl” is quicker to say and potentially easier to remember than “woman”.   And I also realize that there are times where “girls” are more appropriate to the story than “woman”–I’m thinking specifically of Emma Cline’s The Girls…But we shouldn’t be afraid of “women”, in books, or in real life…in both fiction and reality, women do lots of things all the time, all by themselves. But by insisting on referring to these characters as “girls”, we’re downplaying a really fascinating literary trend, as well as the characters who made that trend possible.

Books–Coming to a Screen Near You!

How do we feel about film adaptations of books, dear readers?

To be honest, I don’t have a personal consensus about this issue, so I doubt we as a group are going to come up with a unilateral stance.  If Games of Thrones has taught us anything, it’s that books can be adapted well…and that they can also get in the way of the books (figuratively and literally!) just as easily.  On that note…stop toying with us, George R.R. Martin.  We are suffering enough.

Anyways, there are precious few adaptations that I enjoyed more than the books–like The Painted Veil with Edward Norton and Naomi Watts, as I think I’ve mentioned previously here.  It’s difficult (as I know we’ve discussed here) to stuff a many-hundred page book full of literary symbolism, sensory detail, and emotional descriptions into a two-hour film.  Yet books still form the basis of a significant number of films and tv shows, precisely because they come with so much insight, intrigue, and development pre-packaged.   And, regardless of what Some People say about the death of literature, there is clearly a devoted following of literary fans who make these shows and films popular, and create the drive to make more.

So here, for your reading and viewing pleasure, are a few of the bookish film adaptations that have been discussed recently.  Feel free to air your opinions on them here, and to come into the Library and check out the books before they hit the screens, so as to taunt your friends and family with non-spoilery spoiler hints for months to come!

Little Women: I love Little WomenMy adoration of this book, of Louisa May Alcott, and of her family, has been well-documented.  And for that reason, I personally cannot bear another adaptation of the book, even if it is PBS Masterpiece putting it all together.  It’s like having a little bit of my soul taken out and manhandled by a major production company.  Nevertheless, there are a lot of people who are genuinely excited about this one, and I want there to be a really good adaptation on film, so I can only hope that this is the one that will prove that Little Women can be made into a meaningful, timely, and non-hokey production (if you’ve seen the BBC adaptation from the 1960’s, you know what hokey looks like).  As the Masterpiece website notes, “Little Women is a truly universal coming of age story, as relevant and engaging today as it was when originally published in 1868″, and we need those messages of hope, of strength, of determination, and of everyday feminism and female support that the March sisters learn from each other during their coming-of-age.  So please, please, please, Masterpiece, get this one right.  On the plus side, Angela Lansbury, Tony Award winner and creator of my personal heroine Jessica Fletcher, is slated to play Aunt March.  I will tune in for that, if for no other reason.

Alias Grace No doubt the huge popularity of The Handmaid’s Tale, convinced the Powers That Be that adaptations of Margaret Atwood’s books were a good idea.  No doubt Margaret Atwood’s stunning writing and incredible insight helped, as well.  Though one of her lesser known works, Alias Grace is another fascinating (and feminist) book that centers on the 1843 murders of Thomas Kinnear and his housekeeper Nancy Montgomery in Canada. Two servants of the Kinnear household, Grace Marks and James McDermott, were convicted of the crime. McDermott was hanged and Marks was sentenced to life imprisonment.  Atwood’s tale is told by the fictional Doctor Simon Jordan, who is ostensibly researching criminal behavior, but finds himself swept up into Marks’ story, and the paradox of the mild-mannered woman he knows, and the horrors she is supposed to have committed.  This new adaptation of Alias Grace will air in Canada beginning in September and will be streamed to Netflix afterwards.  For those eager for a taste of what’s to come, take a look at the trailer here.

Bird Box: One of the newer announcements regarding literary adaptations is the production of Josh Malerman’s dystopian horror novel Bird Box (soon to be starring Sandra Bullock) about a mother and her two small children must make their way down a river, blindfolded, lest they behold the dreadful entity that has destroyed everyone else around them.  Malerman’s use of sensory details and creeping weirdness made for an absolutely immersive page-turner of a book…but it is, nevertheless, a book about about a world that’s been devastated by “The Problem”, and one glimpse of those…’Problems’ is enough to induce a deadly rage into anyone who sees them.  Though there are flashbacks and traditional scenes, the most memorable, heart-pounding moments of this book come when the characters are blindfolded.  So how is that going to translate onto a screen?  Can it?  We’ll see when Netflix brings this adaptation to life…

So what say you, dear readers?  How does it feel to watch books on the screen?  Are there any adaptations you’re eagerly awaiting?