Maya Lin:  Thinking with Her Hands book jacketEvery year I make a bunch of New Year's resolutions and this year is no different.  I've decided to ditch the annual "floss daily" one and add something more captivating (and hopefully more achievable). The most fun resolutions I make are all about reading and in 2018, I plan to read more non-fiction for kids and teens.  My nerdy librarian side has decided that I will take one "Dewey century" per month (which leaves me two months to read something else!) and explore books that provide inspiration for careers and vocations within each range.  I'm not talking about books like the super useful, but not super stimulating, Occupational Outlook Handbook, but books about interesting people doing interesting things.  I randomly came across a book about Maya Lin recently, so decided to start with architects and artists,The Shape of the World book jacket thus books from the 700-799 Dewey range were on my nightstand in January.  I loved  Maya Lin: Thinking Wtih Her Hands, a small, perfectly packaged book about Lin and some of her most famous projects like the Vietnam Veterans' Memorial in Washington, D.C.  I knew exactly nothing about another architect, I.M. Pei, until I read I.M. Pei: Architect of Time, Place and Purpose.  What a fascinating guy!  Beyond these two books, I read a number of picture book biographies for younger budding architects and artists.  You can find the list here.  So if you know some kids who love their L-squares, mechanical pencils and paint brushes, hand them a few of these books and see where they go! 

P.S.  I'd love to hear about YOUR reading resolutions for 2018!

Mistletoe Murder book jacketI love mysteries any time of year, but I especially enjoy them at the holidays when I usually have a little extra time off Bitter Poison book jacketand can get cozy under a throw on the couch. Every December I try to read at least one mystery with a holiday or winter setting, but I missed out in 2016. I've made up for it this year by reading three in the last week.  Sadly, my hold on Anne Perry's latest Christmas novel probably won't arrive until January, but fortunately there were many other newish titles to read including a book of short stories by P.D. James. Two of the stories in The Mistletoe Murder feature her famous detective, Adam Dalgliesh. The other two stories are up to her usual excellent standard as well. I love being totally surprised by an ending, and James delivers!

While I generally prefer police procedurals, I’m willing to give cozy mysteries a try during December. You can’t get any cozier than Bitter Poison by Margaret Mayhew, what with its English village, a retired colonel, and a Christmas party that ends in death. If you, too, would like a good Christmas mystery, treat yourself to one on these lists.

I used to call the teen non-fiction section “Sex, drugs & rock ‘n roll” because it consisted largely of books on puberty, the dangers of drug use, and boy bands.  Happily, this collection has changed and broadened in scope over the last decade and there are some truly fascinating books that will appeal to teens (and some adults as well). Here are two new titles I enjoyed reading this month:

The 57 Bus book jacketSasha is taking a nap on the public bus on the way home from school.  It’s an hour ride, so sleeping is a good way to pass the time.  Part way into the journey, Richard and his buddies get on that bus.  They’ve got a lot of energy and are fooling around when one of Richard’s friends hands him a cigarette lighter and dares him to set Sasha’s skirt on fire.  When Richard bows to the pressure and flicks the lighter, everything changes.  One bus, one lighter, two teens and a crime that will alter their lives forever.  This compelling true story by Dashka Slater will make you think about crime, justice, gender and race in ways you may never have before.Obsessed book jacket

Have you ever had a nightmare that stuck with you long after it was over?  In Allison’s sophomore year of high school, she dreamed that she had brain cancer and was going to die young.  When she woke up, she was convinced that her nightmare was a reality and she started doing everything in her power to counteract the cancer.  It started out by not stepping on cracks, but then morphed into avoiding all sorts of things.  Blue pens were not okay.  The computer emitted cancer-causing rays.  Using notebook paper?  Nope. Food became an issue as did her clothing. In a few short months, her obsessive-compulsive disorder had turned her life completely upside down.  I knew this girl was in trouble long before her pink sweater started throwing an attitude.  The question for me was, why didn’t her parents? Obsessed by Allison Britz is a frightening memoir of one girl’s descent into mental illness and her fight to regain her life.

Here are ten books from the teen nonfiction collection that I’ve enjoyed over the last few years.

photo of Hill Top FarmThis spring I checked off one of my bucket list travel destinations:  Hill Top, Beatrix Potter's farm in the English Lake District.  Before I left, I reread many of Potter's tales and was (pleasantly) surprised by their edginess!  They weren't all sweetness and light and the stories were full of drama.  Of course I had remembered that Peter Rabbit's father had ended up in a pie, but along with parental death, there is also kidnapping, or rather, bunnynapping (Mr. Tod & The Flopsy Bunnies), sassing (Squirrel Nutkin), punishment (Tom Kitten), thievery (Benjamin Bunny), wanton destruction (Two Bad Mice) and general youthful mayhem (take your pick). What's a kid not to like?

I also wanted tbook jacket for Beatrix Potter & the Unfortunate Tale of A Borrowed Guinea Pig o better understand Potter's life and artistry before I visited the Beatrix Potter Gallery, and so I checked out several biographies including Over the Hills and Far Away and Beatrix Potter:  Artist, Storyteller and Countrywoman. I also came across The Art of Beatrix Potter which contains many full color and sometimes full-page plates of her gorgeous paintings.

Because 2016 was the 150th anniversary of her birth, a number of books about her were published that year including Beatrix Potter & the Unfortunate Tale of a Borrowed Guinea Pig, a fun and mostly true story for children of an incident in Potter's life. If you haven't checked out Beatrix Potter since your youth, consider revisiting her in some of these books for youth and adults.

 

Recently I had a heavenly vacation most of which I spent on the couch drinking tea and reading British police procedurals.  I'd been in a mystery rut; I had stalled in some of my favorite series and felt the need for something fresh, so I brought home a stack of newish books and cracked their spines.  Here are a few of the mysteries I read, all of which were written in the past few years and are either stand-alones or series starters.  If you need some fresh blood in your (reading) life of crime, check these out!

She's Leaving Home book jacket1968 London. It might be swinging for some, but for one teenager, it's deadly. DS Breen has just left another policeman alone in a dangerous situation and isn't very popular at the moment.  When a teenage girl is found lying naked and dead close to Abbey Road, Breen and his female (and newly minted) detective constable are on the case.  Can Breen redeem himself?  Can DC Tozer make a go of it in CID, a department completely dominated by men?  I loved experiencing the officers' struggles as they dealt with the challenges of the late 1960s in She's Leaving Home by William Shaw.

Moving into the 21st century, policing (and finding a guy to date) is still not necessarily easy for a woman.  DS Bradshaw is on the cusp of forty and is not particularly satisfied with her circumstances. She gets a chance to take her mind off her crappy life when a young woman goes missing from her home leaving a trail of blood.  It's up to Bradshaw and a team of detectives from Cambridgeshire to figure out what happened in Missing, Presumed by Susie Steiner.Coffin Road book jacket

In Coffin Road, a man washes up on an island in the Outer Hebrides with no idea who he is. It's possible he may have killed a man, and he and the police separately try to figure out the mystery of his identity.  This is as much a thiller as a police procedural - we see the mystery mostly from the point of view of the unidentified man.  The setting was fantastic and I got to learn about a real life mystery that took place on the Flannan Islands.

For more British police procedurals written in the 21st century, take a look at this list.

Pages