An Ode to the Public Library

In my life before my son and Grammatical Art, I was a career public librarian. I’m probably not who you imagine a librarian to be since I got into libraries when I was 23 and not gray-haired. I was lucky to appreciate libraries, having grown up with a librarian mom, but it wasn’t something that it seemed like my peers gave much thought to beyond needing their college library for research.

I’m here to tell you that in my (pretty biased) opinion, public libraries are amazing. There is so much good there, and pretty much 99.9% of it is available to you for free. If you don’t want to take my word for it, you can read Wil Wheaton’s post about libraries here or Neil Gaiman’s lecture on their awesomeness.

Here are a few of the reasons public libraries are so great:

  • Free wifi.
  • Quiet working spaces (just throwing some shade at your fav coffee shop).
  • Free materials to borrow (you’re not still in 1984, so you know you can borrow TV and movies on DVD and blu-ray, right? Also video games, toys, and some even lend tools!).
  • Free e-books for your Kindle or favorite digital reading device. The best part is: no fines or fees! The book automatically disappears from your device when it’s due. You can even check out a Kindle if you don’t own one at most libraries.
  • Classes galore: yoga, computer programming, small business info, gardening, line dancing, movie nights, storytimes, sleepovers, gaming, foreign language, maker workshops, and on and on and on.
  • Meeting spaces for community gatherings, non-profits, workshops, you name it.
  • Free help! Librarians are paid to help you with everything and anything you need. They’re available in the building, by phone, even online through email and chat.
  • Books for days, y’all. Books for days.

These things are all phenomenal, of course, but they are really all pieces of a whole. The most wonderful thing about libraries is that they are community spaces free of politics, religion, and judgment. They provide access for all and to all. Your right to freedom of information is a founding principle of our country and one that libraries and librarians fiercely, devotedly, doggedly protect, even in the face of the PATRIOT Act and as privacy becomes more vague and elusive.

At Grammatical Art, we love our books and we love our libraries. Show your library pride with our awesome tees, totes, and prints!

Book Review: Behind Closed Doors by B.A. Paris

Summer is coming. Most people start thinking about swimwear and their beach bodies, but I’m over here like, What awesome books am I going to read this summer? To me, a summer book is a specific type of book. I imagine myself sprawled out on a beach towel, or lying on the couch at night while a lazy, hot breeze works its way through the house, or frantically trying to read a few pages while my kid is tearing something somewhere apart. I like a book that’s easy. Something that moves along at a clip, nothing that requires too much thinking. Some escapism, maybe.

Enter this fun little piece of pulp fiction: Behind Closed Doors by B.A. Paris. Now, I want to be up front with you. This book is not winning the Man Booker Prize. It’s not even the best writing. But, boy oh boy, did it sickly drag me in and keep me reading.

The description for the novel teases that this is a story about the perfect couple that isn’t quite as oh-so-perfect as they seem. True enough. Jack is a handsome lawyer, and his wife, Grace, is pretty and put together. Blah blah blah. You’ve read that beginning a thousand times. But Behind Closed Doors really takes you down a deep, dark spiral.

The book bounces back and forth between the past and the present until the two eventually meet at the end. It’s hard to tell you much about the plot line without giving away some major spoilers, so I’ll say this. The women in this book are pretty awesome. Grace’s sister, Millie, has a bit of a starring role in the women’s successes, and I appreciated that the character with Down Syndrome wasn’t portrayed as incapable or less than. Grace and Jack’s neighbor, Esther, is a sharp wit, too, whose place in the last chapter really surprised me. Even Grace herself (who may drive you nuts sometimes) gets it together and finds her strength.

What I liked about this book is that it read very quickly. There’s a lot of dialogue and action. It’s pulpy; it’s digestible; you’re both horrified and desperate to keep reading at the same time. The deepness and darkness wasn’t the obvious that I had expected. At a certain point, I was able to predict what was happening, but it didn’t bother me. The book is fun and breezy. The perfect read for toes in the sand and wind in the hair.

P.S. The audiobook is great, too! Excellent reader. Good for a summer road trip, perhaps?

Happy Reading!

Book Review: So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson

We’re trying out lots of different topics for our Grammatical Art blog, so I’m bringing you a book reivew. That’s right, the resident librarian is talking about books. How could I not?

Though Jon Ronson is most known for The Psychopath Test and The Men Who Stare at Goats, I was originally introduced to him through his collection of essays, Lost at Sea: The Jon Ronson Mysteries. The title essay is about people going missing from cruise ships and it haunts me to this day.

In Ronson’s latest, So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed, he explores recent, public, often ruthless shamings, many of which you probably saw on Twitter or heard people weighing in.

Ronson sets out to interview the subjects of the shaming, uncovering the stories from their point of view. Sometimes, it seems they may have been rightfully judged by society at large (as was the case of Jonah Lehrer who was outed as a plagiarist), but that’s not really Ronson’s point. He shows us how they’ve handled their ridicule, their intentions, and how they got caught up in their situation.

He also talks with Justine Sacco who tweeted before boarding a flight to South Africa, “Going to Africa. Hope I don’t get AIDS. Just kidding. I’m white!” When she landed, she was branded a racist and her life has been forever altered. It’s interesting to consider what happened to her post-tweet and the price she paid. Most of us read or heard about the tweet, rolled our eyes, muttered “Racist,” and moved on.

Then there’s the story of Adria Richards who tweeted a photo and called out two males at a tech conference she was attending who were making jokes about dongles (use your imagination there). They all lost their jobs (yes, including Richards), but how it ultimately shook out might surprise you. I found the story complicated and fascinating, and can remember getting into a heated discussion about it with a group of friends. Was she right to post a picture of total strangers without their permission? Did the men have a right to talk and joke about whatever they wanted when they thought they were having a private conversation? Did she have the right to not be subjected to dongle jokes while at a work conference?

Overall, Ronson digs into these so-called public shamings in a way that makes his book a fast, surprisingly compelling read. When you stop to think about the fact that literal public shamings were banned back in the days of old because they were considered a more severe punishment than even jail, it makes public shaming the age of Twitter, Facebook, and gorilla mom feel a lot different. A great, quick read for a trip on a plane or poolside this summer.

Don’t forget you can borrow books, audiobooks, and ebooks for free from your local library. Click here to find the book at a library close to you!