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Author Archives:Kate Tigue

Books in the Time of Exhaustion

Reading Mom to SleepEvery expectant mother goes through a period of anxiety when she imagines what life will be like after the baby arrives. Will anything be the same? It’s one of those rubicon moments that you can’t totally fathom until it happens. Most of us realize that life will never be the same once a child enters the picture but understanding the enormity and permanence of that change can take some time to process.

One of my chief worries during pregnancy about life as a new mom was wondering how I would keep reading. Compared to concerns about the baby’s health, it’s a little trivial but reading is my only lifelong hobby. I’ve never been dedicated to crafting or outdoor pursuits or any other recreational activity. Reading has been one of the constants in my life since childhood and the one thing I truly love to do. Like many moms-to-be, I was trying to figure out how I could hang on to some small part of myself during an intense life change.

Now that I’m almost four years into this parenting gig, I can say two things for sure: 1) I’m surviving and 2) I still read. Of course, my life looks very different to the one I lived before motherhood. Do I read as much or as often as I would like? No way. I used to be able to juggle reading multiple books without missing a plot point and could remember my place in all of them without deigning to use a bookmark. I used to read for hours at a time. I could read for more than twenty minutes without falling asleep. And I certainly never woke myself up by dropping a book on my own face. I don’t know that life anymore.

But I’ve made some adjustments and figured out how to keep reading as a parent. Here are my top tips to you keep reading when you feel like you’re too busy running after little ones or carting around older kids!

  • Lower your expectations: This is decent advice for all areas of life once a baby arrives on the scene. You will not be able to read like you once did. You may not be able to read every day. You may have to change what you read or when you read. If you expect your reading life to remain unchanged, you are wrong. Allow me to phrase it as our Disney overlords do: “Let it go! Let it goooo!”.
  • Get the right equipment: Buy an e-reader. I know many of you book traditionalists will roll your eyes or try to resist. But using an e-reader or a tablet is truly the most convenient way to read as a parent. Firstly, e-readers and tablets are extremely lightweight and allow you to read one-handed, a necessity when your baby won’t let you put him or her down. In addition, these devices have backlighting so you can comfortably read in the dark, perfect for late night feedings or marathon “will you stay with me until I fall asleep” sessions with older kids.
  • Change up your format: If you’re in the car a lot, either commuting to work or waiting for kids at activities, try books on CD or downloading e-audiobooks to your phone. You can turn your drive or wait into productive reading time! If you download or stream e-audiobooks on your phone, you can also make the most of nap time or housework and listen to a book with your headphones while you get things done. The library currently provides e-books and e-audiobooks through our Overdrive catalog and Hoopla streaming service.
  • Change your style: Maybe your tastes run toward Tolstoy or Dickens or sweeping fantasy sagas with hundreds of characters. You might need to consider shorter, lighter reading material. I’m not saying parenthood kills off your brain cells but it certainly consumes most of them and you may not be able to remember all the Game of Thrones plotlines as accurately as you did before kids. If reading has become a chore or too much a challenge, you won’t do it.
  • Give yourself a break and try something new. Maybe it’s time to explore some short story collections or tear through a fast-paced thriller. Maybe it’s time for something light, something that gives your brain a vacation. Or, perhaps, you can go with the kid theme and re-read some childhood favorites or read some of the recent Newbery Award winners. Reading kid-lit can also give you an idea of what your child might be reading in the future or give you ideas of books you can share together as they grow up. Whatever you do, put those parenting books down! They’ll only make you feel bad and you need a break from the anxiety of parenting small kids.
  • Set a goal: I have my husband to thank for this one. He’s a very disciplined person who finds it easier to create a habit by setting a hard and fast goal rather than just hoping he’ll read more. He reads ten pages from one novel in the morning and another ten at night. It’s not a huge commitment but this habit has allowed him to read twenty books a year, a feat for any parent. Setting a goal can keep you focused and force you to tae time for yourself as you develop a new reading habit.
  • Find an excuse: Many parents, especially moms, can feel guilty about taking any time for themselves. When you find yourself feeling guilty for taking time to read, remember that studies show children who SEE their parents reading usually become readers themselves and are more likely to engage in reading as a leisure activity as they get older. So by taking time to read, you are modeling the behavior you want your children to emulate.
  • Make it fun: Join a book club or an online reading group. This gives you an excuse to read, get out on your own (sans kids), or at least be social. If you can’t get out, try joining GoodReads or another online reading challenge. Even using Facebook to ask for book recommendations will generate some great feedback and inspire you to get back to reading. If reading becomes a conversation point or a social outlet, you’ll be dying to get into your next book.

To me, reading is as essential to me as breathing. It’s both my escape and my way to understand the world around me. It is my lifeline to the rest of the world when my everyday life feels consumed by making mac ‘n’ cheese and potty training. It gives me something interesting to talk about with my husband and other adults. It keeps me sane and I hope it’s something I can get my daughter to love. My little one isn’t reading yet but I can only hope she gets as much enjoyment out of books as I do. And the only way that will happening is if I keep on reading!

Kate Tigue is the Assistant Children’s Librarian at the Morrill Memorial Library  in Norwood, Mass. Read her column in the May 11, 2016 issue of the Norwood Transcript & Bulletin.

New Year’s (Reading) Resolution

“You must have read every book in this library!”.  I frequently hear this comment while I’m working at the desk in the library. Most people look a bit disappointed  when I tell them I haven’t read every book in the whole library.  Not even close.  Librarians try to be well-versed in different kinds of literature but we are just like most people with different preferences. I have to admit, as much as I’d like to pretend I have broad literary taste, I am a niche reader.  I have my groove, my comfort zone, my sweet spot when it comes to books and I really have to make an effort broaden my reading horizons.  Since 2017 is almost here, it’s a great time to break out of a rut and try new things.

Personally, I love Young Adult books (or YA as we say in the biz) and have a particular fondness for YA fantasy books with strong female protagonists. I’ve read so many of these kinds of books I can easily spot something that will strike my fancy by the cover art or even by the first couple of sentences in the book! Sarah J. Maas is my current favorite Young Adult fantasy author and any new edition in either her Throne of Glass and Court of Thorn and Roses series are at the top of my “to read” list.

If you know you like reading a certain kind of book, what’s the point trying to find new things?  One glance in the bookstore or on Amazon shows us that every genre gains hundreds of additional titles daily. Publishing has exploded over the past twenty years and the industry excels at beating a dead horse by promulgating every derivative plot that comes along.  If you weren’t inclined to seek out other types of books beyond your current interest, there probably wouldn’t be a need. You’d certainly never run out of things to read in your favorite literary genre!

But variety is the spice of life!  Most of us will never get to all those things on our bucket list.  The world is wide and we may never get to see or hear or smell or do it all.  But we can read about it. As George R. R. Martin said in A Dance with Dragons, “A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies… The man who never reads lives only one.”  Reading is a way to travel beyond ourselves and our present circumstances.  As much as we all like the comfort and familiarity of same-ness, there are a few reasons you might consider branching out.

First, constantly reading the same type of books is boring. You might find yourself skipping pages in a familiar plot or reading the ending of a book or even wondering if you’ve read this particular title before!  All three are signs that it’s time to try something different.  I’ve read many dystopian young adult novels.  Only a few have really challenged my thinking or left an impression.  I know I need to change gears when I start accurately predicting the ending of a book before I get to the middle of the plot!  

Plus, reading something new and different gives you an interesting topic of discussion at your next stop at the office watercooler or holiday cocktail party.  And if you hate the new book you’re reading?  Feel free to bellyache!  Sometimes, it’s easier to find common ground with other people when we complain about the things we can’t stand rather than gushing over the things we love.

Finally, you will notice a drop in quality as you dig deeper into a genre.  As a librarian who orders a wide variety of genres for the library’s collection, I’ve seen the same types of stories over and over.  Successful, memorable books are ones that take a fresh look at familiar tropes in a genre.  For example, many people found the The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series by Stieg Larsson so refreshing because the Lisbeth Salander character challenged both the traditional roles played by detective and victim in a detective story.

When I look back at my own reading journey, I can see definite patterns emerging as I’ve grown older.  In my teens and 20s, I was exclusively a mystery reader.  Then I moved on to young adult books once I reached my 30s.  I think I’m at a reading crossroads again as I’m noticing my general impatience with authors and genres I previously devoured.  So how do I move on?  How do I shake it up?

A few strategies come to mind but they are all based on reading as a social activity.  Most people think of reading as a solitary pursuit but my time in the library world has shown me how books bring us together.  The best way to find new books is through other people.  You can definitely browse the shelves to see if anything jumps out at you but books take on a new life when another human is speaking (or writing) passionately about them.  The first place I generally look for new and upcoming titles is BookPage, a monthly bulletin featuring book reviews, interviews with authors, book lists, genre roundups and other special features.  The library gives out this publication free of charge to the public at the Circulation and Reference Desks.

Another great way to get out of a reading rut is to join a book club.  Book club leaders usually decide which book the group will read which forces participants to try things outside their comfort zone.  Some book groups are a bit more democratic and have members vote on each month’s title.  The library even runs two wonderful book groups for patrons to join.  Our ”First Thursday Book Discussion” has been facilitated for 30 years by veteran reference librarian Margot Sullivan.  The library’s other book group for 20- and 30-somethings, Titles on Tap, takes book clubs beyond the library and meets at Napper Tandy’s on the fourth Tuesday of the month.  

If in-person groups aren’t your thing, you could always try joining an online book challenge to discover new titles.  GoodReads, an online social media platform for readers, includes online book challenges and online book groups.  Groups are tagged by the genre they represent. Discussion are held on online message boards and encourage readers from all over the world to virtually connect.

Ultimately, like all things in life, the best way to find new things to read is to keep an open mind.  Even if you hear about a book and you aren’t sure if you’ll like it, give it a shot.  And don’t forget! Librarians are your greatest book recommendation resource!  We may look like a tame bunch but our staff boasts a crew of diverse readers and an insatiable drive to find the right book for every person.  We may not have read every book in the library but we certainly can FIND every book in the library.

Kate Tigue is the Assistant Children’s Librarian at the Morrill Memorial Library.  Read Kate’s column in the December 22nd issue of the Norwood Transcript and Bulletin. 

STEAM Backpacks and Binoculars

penguin-backpackThe Children’s Room has wrapped up its year long STEAM grant and we’re going out with a bang!  Or a backpack. Or a set of binoculars!  As part of our grant, we’ve filled 7 amazing backpacks with books, toys, activities, and DVDs that are all centered on one theme!  Families can check out a backpack for three weeks and have a blast with all the fun things inside.  All backpacks must be returned to the Children’s Room desk at the end of the loan period.

We also have 6 sets of kid-sized binoculars that are available to take home for three weeks!  We hope all those budding scientists out there pick up a pair and get busy observing the  world around us!  These binoculars are great for hikes, bird watching, and even people watching.

Both of these cool STEAM items are located above the cake pan shelves at the entrance to the Children’s Room.  If you have any questions, please call the Children’s Room at 781-769-0200 x225 or email us at norchild@minlib.net.

Donation Call!

Are you looking to get rid of some your kids’ junk?  We are looking for some unwanted Happy Meal prizes, small action figures, little stuffed animals and holiday/seasonal knick-knacks to jazz up our I Spy Fish Tank in the Children’s Room.  We try to change out items monthly so kids can have an exciting new challenge but we are running out of small objects to put in the tank!

The Children’s Room also accepts gently used (non-electronic) toys, games, puzzles, and craft supplies to help keep our room fun for kids!  If you have questions about donating an item to the Children’s Room, please call us 781-769-0200 x225 or email us at norchild@minlib.net!

reading from a cookbook

Schooled: Teaching Yourself the Science and Art of Cooking

If you’ve been reading this column for any length of time, especially in the past few weeks, you might have noticed the library staff are a little obsessed with food. Okay, we’re extremely obsessed with food. Need a restaurant recommendation? Call the library. One of us is bound to have a detailed review of a place that features the cuisine you desire. But many of us are accomplished home cooks and/or bakers and much of our non-work related conversation revolves around dishes we’ve made or are hoping to make. Many staff events have been catered in-house by our talented colleagues.  

I don’t think we’re alone. Americans have always been focused on the art of DIY, the ability to teach yourself a skill and the desire for constant improvement. Food is just the current focus of these desires. And most of us feed our desire for the next craving through the consumption of media. Traditional media outlets like newspapers have always featured columns for food topics and recipes to clip. According to Amazon’s magazine subscription section, there are over forty-four food related periodicals to which you can subscribe. There are multiple cable TV channels dedicated to watching chefs prepare meals and elaborate food competition shows. And then, it should go without saying, there is the Internet.

So we have plenty of information about food at our fingertips these days but where does a person begin? I am an entirely self-taught cook. I had some instruction from my parents but more in the baking department. Turns out, you can’t eat apple pie for dinner every night and maintain a healthy lifestyle! Once I had to start providing nutritious meals on a regular basis for myself and then for my growing family, I had to acquire some serious chops in the kitchen. Where should a kitchen novice start? I think some analysis and self-reflection are necessary here. Are you type A or type B? Can you deal with the possibility of failure? Most importantly, do you think cooking is an art or a science? When I started my cooking journey, my answers were: Type A, NO, and I’m not sure. While I’m still type A, I’ve learned enough tricks to turn my kitchen failures into successes and I now know that cooking is just chemistry and eating well is an art.

The very first cookbook I ever owned (and still own) is America’s Test Kitchen’s The Best Recipe. Headed up by the beloved and reviled Chris Kimball, the America’s Test Kitchen/Cook’s Illustrated franchise is all about getting results. If you need to know how to make the basics and want assurance that you will always a recipe for success you can’t go wrong with The Best Recipe. The recipes that come out of this school of thought are definitely science-focused. Every recipe is meticulously tested with multiple variables to produce the best possible version of the dish. Recipes also have a lengthy introduction that describes the methods utilized and the reasons for selecting them. There are also delightfully descriptive side notes that explain particular techniques the recipe requires. My personal favorites include chicken parmesan and the popover recipe.

If The Best Recipe represents the scientific, modern end of the spectrum for the beginner cook, Mark Bittman’s How To Cook Everything is more firmly rooted in the traditional artistic idea of kitchen basics. Bittman, former New York Times food columnist, started writing How To Cook Everything as a way to spread his belief that “anyone can cook, and most everyone should”. Bittman has a wonderful basics chapter that describes various techniques and ingredients every new cook should know. But the rest of Bittman’s approach is fast and loose and geared towards reality: busy people with crazy schedules and hungry people to feed.  Recipes are simple, straightforward, and filled with possibilities for substitutions, in case you don’t have the exact ingredients on hand.  

The only possible downfall I see is what I call the “Amelia Bedelia” factor in his recipes. In Peggy Parish’s classic, Amelia Bedelia is the literal-minded housekeeper. In her employer’s long list of instructions, Amelia is supposed to “dress the chicken”, so she makes little doll clothes for a whole chicken waiting to be cooked! Now, of course, that’s an exaggeration of how people can misinterpret directions but I could see some confusion happening with Bittman’s pared down instructions. For example, he directs his audience to “scoop out the flesh” of an eggplant in the roasted eggplant dip recipe. Scoop out?  With what? Most of us would realized that we need a spoon to accomplish this but this lack of specificity could terrify a beginner in the kitchen.

There are many more books I could recommend but like everything else in life, the Internet has revolutionized the kitchen for the self-taught cook. It began with the widespread availability of recipes online. People could now search for reviewed recipes on websites and be spoiled for choice in nanoseconds. Once the smartphone entered the game, there was no need to panic at the grocery store anymore as ingredients and amounts can be checked instantly.

Perhaps the greatest advantages home cooks now have is YouTube. I learned how to truss a chicken, seed a pomegranate and properly chop an onion from watching YouTube videos. I could recommend channels but the best thing to do is a simple Google video search for the technique you need when faced with a kitchen conundrum. Bring your laptop or tablet into the kitchen, watch, re-watch and then imitate. This is modern living at it’s finest!

You can have all the recipes, cookbooks and technology at your fingertips but the only way to truly learn to cook is to try it. It’s just one of those skills you must learn by doing. There will be failures. There will be recipes that don’t have quite the right timing or the right temperature. You’ll forget something; the smoke alarm may go off. But that’s ok. Great chefs aren’t born, they are made in the kitchen!

Kate Tigue is the Assistant Children’s Librarian at the Morrill Memorial Library. Read Kate’s column in the September 29th issue of the Norwood Transcript and Bulletin.

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