Top 5 Recent Bestsellers At The Library

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Since the Union library is an academic one, the books we have on our shelves are primarily for research and school-related purposes. However, we also have some “fun reads” and bestsellers in our Recreational Reading section (which is on the 2nd floor near the DVDs). Several of these bestsellers have been popular here at the library, appearing on our most checked out items list for several months now. You can find brief descriptions of them, as well as links to where they are located in the library, below:

 

Educated by Tara Westover

Publication Year: 2018

Genre: Memoir

Description: Tara Westover describes her upbringing in an isolated, survivalist family who did not trust conventional schools or medicine. Westover eventually went to college and learned about the world beyond her mountains.

 

Where The Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

Publication Year: 2018

Genre: Mystery

Description: The “Marsh Girl” is a local legend in Barkley Cove, North Carolina. This mysterious figure emerges in the midst of local crime.

 

The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead

Publication Year: 2019

Genre: Historical fiction

Description: Two boys struggle to survive the horrors of their juvenile reformatory and racism in the Jim Crow era.

 

The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah

Publication Year: 2018

Genre: Historical fiction

Description: A family moves to Alaska in the 1970’s and deals with harsh wilderness, PTSD, and complicated relationships.

 

The Testaments by Margaret Atwood

Publication Year: 2019

Genre: Dystopian fiction

Description: More than 15 years after The Handmaid’s Tale, the oppressive Gilead regime is still standing- but there are signs that it is beginning to rot from within. (You can read our review of The Testaments here.)

 

 

 

Harry Potter: Expectations and Isolation

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In this blog post, student assistant Donny Turner recounts his experience of reading the Harry Potter series for the very first time!

Warning: This Blog Post Contains Spoilers

When I was growing up, parents were skeptical about the Harry Potter fad. Like many Christian kids, I was not allowed to read the Harry Potter books until I was 13. As I grew up, the series became something of an urban myth to me- the taboo of something I felt like I was not supposed to have. In my head, the stories became something of a legend, and I kept building up how amazing the books were going to be once I turned 13. By the time I turned 13, my expectations towards the books became something that no book, no matter how good it may be, could match. So, when I ended up starting to read the first book, I was admittedly underwhelmed. The book was great, but when I found out that Harry Potter was an adventure story about a group of friends trying to save the world and it just happened to include magic, I was almost disappointed. I never even finished the first book, and for years I had no desire to read the other Harry Potter books. Throughout all of this I felt extremely out of touch and alone with a lot of my friends who had been obsessed with and read every single Harry Potter book.

Years later, in my sophomore year of high school, I stumbled upon the entire Harry Potter series in a used book store. I was able to purchase the collection for less than $50, and I was really excited about getting all of the books. I decided to attempt to read the series again, and for a while, it worked. I read through the first 3 books in less than a month, but then I stalled about 200 pages into the 4th book. For whatever reason, I just could not get past the Quidditch World Cup. I would read the first 200 pages, get busy and it would get set aside for a few months, and I would have to reread those pages again. Another few years would pass before I was able to get past those first 200 pages. Eventually, I began to read less in general; it just never took a precedence in my life.

When I first began college, I once again experienced a feeling of isolation again. I was at a new school full of new people that I had to meet. Often times I felt like an outsider at school; I had a very difficult time finding my niche. For the most part, I felt isolated and outside of the whole community. I remember thinking back to how I felt when my friends were talking about the Harry Potter books. Everyone had these shared ideas, and I couldn’t latch on to them. I felt detached from others. Eventually, I did find my groove, but those first few months of school were difficult.

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In my junior year of college, during the month of January, I found myself having to drive 4-10 hours a week and listening to music in the car was getting old; I needed something new. I realized I was able to check out the 4th Harry Potter book from the library (here), and I decided to listen to it on my long drives. While on the road, I was able to get about 400 pages into the book, and then I decided I had to start reading it in print. I flew through the last 400 pages in less than a month, and I immediately picked up the 5th book.

The 5th book is quite a bit darker than all the others. The tone is more somber and there is an edge to everything that is going on. Voldemort, the main antagonist, is on the rise, and it seems like something bad could happen at any moment. Throughout all of this Harry beings to feel more and more isolated. None of the awful things that are happening seem to be happening to anyone else. Harry begins to feel more depressed and more alone as time goes by. To top it all off there is a new professor at the school that is the literal worst. She specifically targets Harry, and she actively attempts to make Harry’s life worse. Harry feels utterly alone. The story focuses around this idea of loneliness and builds more and more that Harry has to learn to rely on his close friends. He must realize that he is not, nor was he ever, alone in any of what is happening to him. At the end of this book, the closest thing Harry has to a father figure, Sirius, dies. Once again, Harry experiences those feelings of expectations being destroyed and a great feeling of isolation. Once again I was able to relate very strongly to the character.

The 6th book of the story has some lighter tones, but ultimately ends on a very dark note. Harry is growing older, and Voldemort continues to gain more and more power. He is learning more about the history of who Voldemort is, and through these lessons, Harry learns of some of the humanity of Voldemort. The main antagonist is still extremely evil, but through multiple backstories, we are able to better understand Voldemort as a character. He is revealed to be more human, although definitely a very sociopathic human. Harry’s expectations of him change as a whole. He understands that he has love while Voldemort never will. Also, Harry’s expectations shift slightly towards the end of the story towards Draco Malfoy. Throughout the entirety of the series, Draco has been considered the antithesis of Harry Potter, and Harry absolutely suspects him of malicious intent at different times throughout the story. As the story is nearing its ending, Draco, ordered by Voldemort, matches up against a very weak Dumbledore and is poised to kill him. Yet, he cannot do it. There is a flicker of humanity in Draco, and he is unable to murder his headmaster. Harry, watching silently in the room notices this. Harry’s perception of Draco has changed in this moment, if only slightly. Where previously Harry had not seen any humanity there was some.

At this point, I was totally hooked on the books. Much of my free time was spent reading on and talking about the books. I can now say with certainty that the 6th book is my favorite, and I would tell anyone who would listen about it. Unfortunately for me, the fad of Harry Potter, while still quite prevalent, has definitely faded. I was dealing with isolation once again. Most people don’t want to listen to someone talk about how much they adore Harry Potter. Nevertheless, I persisted on towards the 7th book.

If you’ve ever read the 7th Harry Potter book, you know how different this book is compared to the rest of the series. The protagonists are no longer at Hogwarts, everything around them seems to be falling apart, and many of the main characters that you have grown to love end up being killed off. The book is gut-wrenching, and it seems like every chapter has a new main character dying. With each death, I felt more and more sadness and isolation. Throughout this book, the main characters become more and more removed from everyone as they are trying to find and destroy the horcuxes, the items that contain Voldemorts soul and ensure his survival.  At one point, Ron leaves Harry and Hermione, leaving them even more alone than they already were. Without Dumbledore, and with wicked stories of what Dumbledore has done, the main characters feel utterly alone.

As the story nears the end, however, the main characters learn of all the different people that are still on their side, supporting them. They are encouraged, and they are able to find and destroy almost every single horcrux. It is only when Harry returns to Hogwarts at the end of the story that he realizes he must sacrifice himself to save everyone. This singular moment, the moment he realizes that he must die in order for everyone to live, is a pivotal moment. This is when he reaches his most isolated, but he stays brave and dives deep into the darkness. He sacrifices himself, and through his sacrifice he is able to destroy the last bit of Voldemort that exists. Through his sacrifice, he is given the option to live again. In the moments proceeding his death, he is given a choice. He can decide to stay dead, and go on to the afterlife or whatever happens to witches and wizards after they die, or he can come back to a life that has caused him suffering and pain. He has to choose to make another sacrifice, and once again he makes the choice to come back and fight one last time to save his closest friends.

Despite his isolation and fear, Harry Potter is able to be strong and courageous when he needs to be. Sure, he absolutely makes a lot of really dumb decisions throughout the books that would have saved everyone a lot of time and pain, but I think that is what makes these books so special. Many of the characters are flawed, and even some of the main characters that seem downright evil throughout the entire series have redemption arcs. The Malfoys end up regretting their actions, and, most famously, we get to see and understand why Snape made the decisions that he did. We get to understand his love for Harry’s mother and how isolated and alone he has been throughout most of his life. Finally, the reader is able to understand why Snape acts how he does, and that he was actually acting out of love this entire time. He clings to one aspect of his life that will keep him from being completely isolated, and as a result, dies for an extremely heroic cause.

Every single Harry Potter book has some themes of isolation, and dealing with feeling misplaced or alone in the world. Reading these in the first years of college or whenever you are in a new place in your life can be especially helpful because often people feel out of place and alone at times of change. These books can help give one perspective about isolation, and they can show how one can emerge from that isolation and be a much stronger and better human being.

Plus, the books themselves are fantastic stories, with deep characters. These books are probably the most famous series of the 21st century. They personally have helped me get through a challenging time in my life. Harry Potter is absolutely incredible and 100% lives up to the hype, and if you have not read them yet, there is no time like the present.

 

*written by Donny Turner

Featured Book: “How To Decorate”

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If you’re looking for a book with beautiful photos, watercolor typography, and tons of do-it-yourself ideas, How To Decorate is the right choice for you. The book’s author, Shannon Fricke, leads workshops on decorating for beginners, and How To Decorate collects her wisdom from these events and presents them in an easy-to-access format. Along with Fricke’s advice, the book is packed with full-color photos from photographer Prue Ruscoe.

How To Decorate starts off by emphasizing the importance of your own workspace. Before you can begin to decorate your house or workplace, you need a personal space to begin brainstorming and collecting supplies. Fricke writes:

Fashion your workspace exactly as you need it to operate for you. Always underpin it with a degree of order, and then layer it as colourfully and creatively as you like.

Fricke encourages her readers to take it slow, and to develop a plan before just buying furniture to fill up a room. Decorating your home is about telling your story- and that may look different for each individual. While decorating according to what’s currently in fashion can be fun, it is not necessarily long-lasting. Fricke suggests instead to decorate with people in mind: who will use this space? What do they require to feel comfortable or inspired?

Once you’ve begun answering questions about your lifestyle, you can move on to more hands-on brainstorming. By gathering different items- color swatches that you’re drawn to, pieces of ribbon or cloth, etc.- you can create a moodboard. Moodboards help set the tone of your decorating, and can bring together disparate ideas into one cohesive brand. They can also be made virtually, whether on Pinterest, Microsoft Publisher, or a blog.

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Finally, Fricke elaborates on how to make a floor plan for each room of your home and how to use the existing architecture to your advantage. Everything from color theory to floor types is examined and explained. Fricke warns the reader to cull items before bringing in new concepts, since it’s easier to work with less.

How To Decorate ends on a positive note, with the mantra “When we decorate our home thoughtfully and with love (not necessarily with large funds), we’re creating a space we love living in, a home with meaning, a house that feels comfortable, a place to feel at peace with ourselves.” Pick up this book if you’re looking to feel refreshed in your space!

Book Review: “To Shake The Sleeping Self” by Jedidiah Jenkins

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Jedidiah Jenkins was a seemingly random traveler I found on Instagram. He was always taking beautiful landscape photos of places I’d never been; I warmed to the creative clothes and cultures of Latin America and the busy importance of U.S. cities that he depicted with his photography. When I read his captions, I realized he was a writer as well, and actually a really good one. He talked about what he was learning on his journey- about himself and his preconceptions, and how he was growing. I enjoyed following his story and got even more excited when his trip ended, and Jenkins began writing in earnest to make a book about his experiences.

Now, that book has been released as To Shake the Sleeping Self, and it came to rest on our library bookshelf this October (annoyingly, it arrived at the library before I received my own pre-ordered copy for my personal bookshelf). The older I’ve gotten, the more I’ve turned to nonfiction when I want to read something. Maybe I’m looking for advice, or maybe I just want to know how other people live, and think, and figure things out. To Shake the Sleeping Self is the perfect book to get inside someone else’s mind and feelings. Jenkins writes in a genuine, self-aware tone. He’s easy to relate to because he wonders about things we all do- who he is and who he will be in the future.

Jenkins grew up in a setting familiar to many people at Union: a Nashville, TN, Christian-based home. However, as Jenkins grew older, he began to face doubts about his faith and how to live it out in the modern world. Jenkins thoughtfully discusses these struggles in To Shake the Sleeping Self. He not only shares his personal reflections with the reader, but he also records conversations that he had with friends about spirituality, mysticism, sexuality, theology, and different cultures and lifestyles. These conversations provide an intimate look into the lives of other twenty and thirty somethings who are figuring things out.

The book also records comic adventures that stem from Jenkins’ differences with his cycling partner, Weston. While Jenkins tries to play by the rules, Weston enjoys rebelling and pushing the limits. The contrast between these two men can even be seen in their two bikes: Jenkins bought the nice, sturdy bike that the shopkeeper recommended for his journey, while Weston chose a cheap, rundown bike that constantly breaks down at inconvenient times. Despite their differences, the two men seem to learn from each other and rely on each other for most of the trip.

From the cities of Colombia to the jungles of Machu Picchu, Jenkins takes the reader through each part of his travels. To Shake the Sleeping Self is an honest look at one man’s self-discoveries through the metaphor of discovering places he’s never been, via unwieldy transportation that he is responsible for. It’s a great book for those who love travel and who seek out prompts for contemplative introspection.

You can check out this book right here in the library- it’s located in our Recreational Reading section.

Content note: language, sexuality, substance abuse

Top 5 Travel Books For Fall Break

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With fall break comes much-needed time away from school and (hopefully) some beautiful weather! If you find yourself with some free time this break, you may want to pick back up the tried-and-true habit of “reading for fun.” We’ve compiled a list of the best travel books in the library, so that you can read on the go this break (or travel to fun places through the world of literacy, even if you’re still in your dorm)!

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On The Road by Jack Kerouac.

A cult classic, On The Road features two young friends and their experiences in a changing America.

 

To Shake the Sleeping Self by Jedidiah Jenkins.

This brand new travel memoir describes the author’s journey from Oregon to Patagonia, via bike. Jenkins originally documented his story through Instagram.

 

My Life on the Road by Gloria Steinem.

From following campaign trails to roadtrips with her father, Gloria Steinem has traveled near and far. She tells her stories in this inspiring autobiography.

 

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Wild by Cheryl Strayed.

Cheryl Strayed needed a change after several tumultuous life events- so she hiked the Pacific Crest Trail. Edgy and honest, Wild shows Strayed’s journey through ups and downs.

 

Blue Highways: A Journey Into America by William Least Heat-Moon.

Ever wanted to drive down America’s many backroads? William Least Heat-Moon not only traveled these paths, but he also wrote about how he did it and the people he met along the way.

 

Take off on your trip with one of these great travel books! Or stay at home and dream of faraway places- that’s what books are for.

Our Books Are Shifting!

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This summer, we are moving books onto different shelves to make room for- you guessed it- more books! The Recreational Reading section has been moved to the shelves behind the DVDs, and sections A (General Works) & B (Philosophy, Psychology, & Religion) will be shifted to the left. If you’re having trouble finding a book during our shifting period, please ask us about it at the Circulation Desk. We’re happy to help!

Yoga For Readers

In honor of International Yoga Day, student assistants Kayla and Shelby have agreed to demonstrate their favorite poses for exercising both mind and body. Whether you are a seasoned bookworm or you are using the library for the first time, we have a way for you to settle in and get the most out of your library time!

Level: Beginner

BlogPhoto1Relaxed Pose: This is a comfortable position for marathon-reading a fun book of your choice. The arms of the chair provide support for your back and elevation for your feet, combining to create the ultimate casual reading experience. Note: This move is not recommended for use while studying or reading intense fiction.

 

BlogPhoto9The Finals Week: To properly execute this move, you must get to the library early in order to claim enough space and furniture to stretch out to your full length. This is perfect for the evening before your most difficult exam, as it allows you to switch back and forth between studying and power naps efficiently.

 

Level: Intermediate

BlogPhoto6Modified Plank: This position will allow you to strengthen the two most important muscle groups- the core and the brain. Form is particularly important to prevent excess pressure on your elbows and strain on your eyes.

 

 

BlogPhoto5The Upside Down Turtle: When you’ve been sitting in uncomfortable classroom chairs all day, this pose will relieve back pain by elevating your feet and taking pressure off your spine. It is enhanced by reading John Green’s latest novel or any turtle-related book in our Family Room, which will cure textbook-induced headaches.

 

Level: Advanced

BlogPhoto2The Inverted Bookworm: Sometimes it is helpful to get a different perspective on what you are reading. Turning upside down is the perfect way to do just that! Having your head closer to the ground will change the way you see the world while improving circulation to your brain.

 

BlogPhoto10The Sneaky Reader: This pose is perfect for when you see your Welcome Week Crush in the library studying. Bonus points if you can do this with their favorite book so you have something to talk to them about when you finally get the nerve.

 

 

What are your favorite reading and/or yoga poses?

Light Reading for Spring Break

The library’s Recreational Reading collection (upstairs on the left) is your destination for refreshingly un-assigned spring break reading.

Whether you’re the sort who can’t wait to curl up with a long book and a huge cup of tea or you’re just looking for something to do on the plane ride home, we’ve collected a wide selection of popular fiction and nonfiction for you to enjoy in your spare time. Stop by the library before you leave campus and pick out a book!

Here are a few of our newer fiction titles:

National Reading Day

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Did you know that January 23rd is National Reading Day? It’s a perfect excuse to visit the library and pick out a new book!

Some of our latest additions are listed below:

  1. Share Jesus Without Fear by William Fay & Linda E. Shepherd
  2. Imperfect Justice by Cara C. Putman
  3. The Woman Who Would Be King by Kara Cooney
  4. Napoleon: A Life by Andrew Roberts
  5. The Healthy Living Handbook by Laura Harris Smith
  6. Gladiator: The Roman Fighter’s (Unofficial) Manual by Phillip Matyszak
  7. The Austen Escape by Katherine Reay
  8. Magic and Religion in Medieval England by Catherine Rider
  9. The Deepest Human Life: An Introduction to Philosophy for Everyone by Scott Samuelson
  10. Artemis by Andy Weir

 

 

You can find most of these books in our New Books section or the Recreational Reading section, both on the second floor. Happy reading!

Featured Book: “The Revenant”

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It is a rare feat for someone as busy as the U.S. ambassador to the World Trade Organization in Geneva, Switzerland, to find the time to write what would become a best-selling book. Yet that is exactly what Michael Punke did.

Inspired by the true story of frontiersman Hugh Glass, Punke penned a fictional tale of survival and revenge which would inspire the Oscar-nominated film of the same name. The Revenant follows Hugh Glass as he struggles to persevere through both a vicious bear attack and a monstrous betrayal by two members of his team. What unfolds is a stark examination of man vs. nature; Glass must drag himself across uncharted territory, all the while fighting off would-be attackers, dangerous animals, and his own massive wounds. If he lives through his physical ordeal, he will then have a moral dilemma to face: whether or not to deliver revenge to those who left him behind.

The Revenant is available for check-out at the library in the Recreational Reading section. More information can be found online here.