2019 in books – or the year of did not finish

2019 was my ‘worst’ year of reading for a long time. I abandoned more books than I finished. My bedside table has unread books on it from the start of 2019 and my various iPad book apps are loaded with books returned after a few pages or just left to automatically return without being finished.

I’ve spent a few days trying to pinpoint why this happened and haven’t reached any conclusions. My preferences haven’t really changed – fantasy, YA, fairytales, historical fiction, non-fiction…I am focusing more on female, LGBTQIA+ and non-binary stories and character.

I do know that my tolerance for stories about women being assaulted, treated badly, used as a crappy excuse for a plot device or any awful behaviour towards women (that goes for film and TV too) is zero. One of my last attempted reads of 2019 was a beautifully written book, however the sense of foreboding and impending doom of the main female character was too much and I had to stop.

Do I put it down a challenging year with not much head space left for reading for pleasure? Maybe.

What did I finish and love this year? Here are my best reads of 2019.

The Poison Song (Book 3 of The Winnowing Flame Trilogy) by Jen Williams. I’ve raved about this book quite a bit on Twitter and to anyone who will listen. Jen has written the perfect ending to a fantasy story I absolutely loved. There were many tears shed over this book, and the story if full of strong, feminist characters that take no shit. Glorious, funny, brilliant. 5 million stars.

The Binding by Bridget Collins. This novel that has stayed with me since finishing. I went back and re-read it straight away and have just downloaded the e-book. This story is beautiful, haunting and unexpected. Also 5 million stars.

That’s it! A slow year for me (and a very out of date GoodReads list…).

Got any book recommendations for me? Leave a comment or hit me up on Twitter!

Note: I started Will Grayson, Will Grayson by David Levithan and John Green on 1 January and finished it on 2 January and loved it. Fingers crossed 2020 will be year of more finished books!

10 career building tips for library students and new graduates

I recently spoke at an online careers evening, with two other library professionals. The central idea for my talk was “It’s Up To You” and I wasn’t surprised to hear the other speakers talk about taking control of their career post-study, reinforcing my theme perfectly! And I wasn’t surprised to hear that both speakers talk about seizing opportunities, making hard decisions around study, moving for work and joining special interest groups to network and learn.

Once you have graduated from your library course, the learning begins all over again. You might secure a role straight away and HELLO! time to learn all the things about your organisation and job. Or you may be job searching or learning how to maintain your enthusiasm and library knowledge whilst working in another industry. But how do you find the right people to connect with, find a mentor or learn more about the specific area of library/information you are interested in?

Before the information session started, I created a Google Doc to capture articles and links that would be useful for those attending, and of course I shared it on Twitter and the Turbitt & Duck Facebook group, with a request for my fellow library people:

The collaboration and knowledge sharing game is strong in the library and information world, so here are ten tips from the It’s Up To You Google Doc, Twitter discussion, information session and me!

  1. Join Twitter – it’s brilliant for following conferences from afar, connecting with people, finding resources and sharing knowledge.
  2. Brush up on your interview skills.
  3. Ask a colleague or friend to review your resume or use a resume review service. If it’s been a long time since you’ve updated this document, do it now.
  4. Join a special interest group. You will expand your networks and find opportunities very quickly!
  5. Be curious! Ask questions and read widely.
  6. Create networks. If you are happy to do this online, join Twitter, Facebook groups, participate in online chats. If face to face is your thing, find a local group or event or start one.
  7. Volunteer at GLAM events. You’ll meet people, hear from industry experts and flex your networking muscles.
  8. Professional development comes in many forms – articles, blog posts, YouTube videos, podcast episodes, hands on learning, books, online discussions  . . . get creative!
  9. Spend time learning about transferable skills and how to translate what you already have into library and information terms.
  10. Don’t expect your employer to provide opportunities for you. It’s up to you to develop the skills, attributes and knowledge you need.

The “It’s Up To You” doc will stay open to all, so if you have something to add, please do! And thank you to everyone who has contributed, let’s keep adding and sharing!

One hashtag, many ideas

If you want an idea of how diverse the interests are of people in the library and information world is, look no further than #blogjune. Career planning, film festivals, imposter syndrome, morning coffee, technological obsolescence, books that you didn’t read – so many gems in one hashtag.

Take the time to read some of the posts, share them with friends and leave a comment on a post or too (trust me it’s quite exciting to receive a comment!).

Having never successfully joined #blogjune before (a couple of ‘meh posts and I was done), I’m happy to report that it’s a great community with plenty of support and good cheer. It’s not too late to join in, or at least put it on your list for next year.

In the meantime, get reading!

The DNF list

Do you persevere with a book even if you’re not enjoying it? Since I learnt to read until about 5 years ago, I did. I’d grumble and sigh my way through books (films and tv too), reading right until the bitter end. Maybe I thought there was some sort of medal for sheer bloodymindedness in book reading…who knows? At some point I came across the 50 page rule (if you’re not engaged with the story when you hit the 50 page mark, walk away from the book) and it was a revelation! If you’re shaking your head at this point, yes it’s completely silly, I agree.

Anyway, looking through my Goodreads lists the other night for the 3 books I’ve loved (recently) post I looked at my DNF list and what an odd mix of books it is. And I can still remember why I stopped reading each of the books…

The Elegance of the Hedgehog – the narrator didn’t work for me (a narrator that doesn’t engage or simply confuses me is an instant turn off). I wanted to like it but alas, I even tried to read this one a second time but no dice. Perhaps third time is a charm?

One Hundred Years of Solitude – sooo long, sooo many descriptions, too wordy and flowery and NOPE. This probably makes me a literary philistine, oh well!

The Great Gatsby – see One Hundred Years of Solitude.

Use Your Words: A myth-busting, no fear approach to writing – at the height of my frustrations about wanting to write but not getting anywhere (assisted by me actually not writing at all!) I picked up this book. A few chapters in, the author, Catherine Deveny suggests that if you don’t want to write, stop reading the book immediately and do something else. So I did. And then I started writing. Weird.

There are a few more on that list, and recently my selections from the library have been pretty average so there are some more to add.

Learning to stop reading has (I think) taught me to be more discerning and to think more about why I didn’t make a connection with the story – was it the tone, the writing style, characters, narrator? Actually it has made reading much more enjoyable – do you have a 50 page rule?