For our first ever live show, we went back to the basics and talked about books! Listen to our librarians as they match audience members to books on the spot, reveal what, in fact, is the real number-one-checked-out-book in Brooklyn and recommend their favorite reads of 2019. This episode was recorded during the Brooklyn Podcast Festival at Union Hall on January 26.
Want to read more about the topics brought up in this episode? Check out the following links:
Krissa Corbett Cavouras Hi, Adwoa.
Adwoa Adusei Hey, Krissa.
Krissa Corbett Cavouras We are pretty excited today, aren’t we?
Adwoa Adusei We really are. Should we let everyone else in on why we’re so excited?
Krissa Corbett Cavouras Yeah, why not … we just had our first live live show for Borrowed on Sunday night.
Adwoa Adusei It was so much fun, wasn’t it?
Krissa Corbett Cavouras Yeah, it was great.
Adwoa Adusei Did you have a favorite part?
Krissa Corbett Cavouras Yeah, you know, we had a panel of librarians up there with us and then at one point we all talked about our favorite books, and what I really liked is that we weren’t just talking about the books themselves but also what kind of readers we had been that drew us to those books, you know, in that particular time. And I think that just was a very universal experience like it's not just the book you read but when you're reading it. What about you?
Adwoa Adusei We had so many chuckles from the audience. That was probably the best bit.
Krissa Corbett Cavouras They were into it.
Adwoa Adusei They really were. I just loved that we kept the whole Moby Dick thread through out the whole episode ...
Krissa Corbett Cavouras We really kept that really kept that bit going. So, you know, we had this great crowd come out to support us for this live show and I just want to thank everyone who came to Union Hall in Brooklyn. And, obviously, we know that most of you did not get on a plane to come to Brooklyn, but lucky for you we're going to play that live show now.
Adwoa Adusei Yes. And we've got that transcript for you up on our website: BKLYN Library [dot] org [slash] podcasts. We've also got a BookMatch list with all the books we talked about during the show. So, you don't need to take note right now.
Krissa Corbett Cavouras Without further ado, we present our live show.
Angie Miraflor Everyone's library quiet right now.
Adwoa Adusei What a hush, what a hush. Welcome, everyone! Thank you so much for coming out tonight. We're really excited to be a part of the Brooklyn Podcast Festival. This is our first ever live recording of Borrowed, Brooklyn Public Library’s flagship podcast.
Krissa Corbett Cavouras I am one of our co-hosts. I am Krissa Corbett Cavouras.
Adwoa Adusei And I'm Adwoa Adusei.
Krissa Corbett Cavouras We are your hosts. Thank you so much for coming to Union Hall. Today we have a particularly special treat for you. because as any Borrowed listeners in the audience know: we don't actually spend a lot of time talking about books.
Adwoa Adusei We really don't. It’s very true.
Krissa Corbett Cavouras Though tonight, we're breaking with tradition. We are putting on our book nerd hats just for you and spending the next hour book talking. And I'm here with our wonderful panel of some of our favorite Brooklyn Public Library librarians: Angie Miraflor, Amy Mikel and Brian Muldoon. Let's get a round of applause!
Adwoa Adusei So for this live show we're gonna be breaking down some common misconceptions that people have about what librarians do all day. But first in a manner of, like, a matchmaking game show I'm going to have our panelists introduce themselves with their title, what that title means, and where in Brooklyn they're based for BPL.
Angie Miraflor Hello, everyone. My name is Angie Miraflor and I'm the Director of Customer Experience at Brooklyn Public Library. I am housed over just right down the street … shelved so to speak, at the Grand Army Plaza Central Library branch. And probably the most interesting part of my job is that I oversee our collections budget and how we spend our money to make sure that we get the books in the right hands of our community members and what they need.
Amy Mikel That's a big deal. So you should all give her a round of applause. What's your book budget?
Angie Miraflor Eleven million dollars. Which is … we need more. So please talk to your council people.
Amy Mikel I'm Amy Mikel. I'm also based out of the Central Library. And, as of this fall I moved into a new project. I'm overseeing the library's 2020 census campaign. Yes!
Krissa Corbett Cavouras Amy, should we should we all be filling our census forms?
Amy Mikel Yes. So basically Brooklyn had a really poor showing in 2010 in the census. So y’all better fill out your census form in basically eight weeks. That's coming out. So, I'll find you, I’ll make sure you do it.
Brian Muldoon Before I introduce myself, I just want to say that it feels especially good to be on this stage because I told all my comedian friends that I was speaking at Union Hall and it makes them so jealous. Apparently, it's public service not improv classes to get you booked at Union Hall. Anyway, I'm Brian Muldoon, I work at the Clinton Hill branch. I'm the children's librarian there, which means I'm on the front lines working with the actual public in that neighborhood.
Angie Miraflor You know, I work with the public too!
Brian Muldoon Nobody said you didn't, Angie. Anyway, so I do all the children's programming there. So I do story times and art programs, as well as just kind of helping people navigate the various services we've got in the branch. So, pretty much it's me helping people with their resumes and making little kids go nuts.
Amy Mikel That’s a big deal too, round of applause. Big deal.
Krissa Corbett Cavouras Brian is such a popular children's librarian that we get Facebook messages being like, “Is Brian going to be there this weekend for story time?”
Brian Muldoon Really?
Krissa Corbett Cavouras Yeah that’s a thing that’s happened.
Amy Mikel And apparently you even go to concerts and people are like, “Hey! He does story time for my kid!”
Brian Muldoon True story.
Krissa Corbett Cavouras Thank you guys for being here and, to everyone in our live audience speaking of book matching and librarians, I want to mention the sheets of paper that you're all holding. If you don't have one Fritzi, our press officer, will float around and give you one. These are our BookMatch forms which is a perennial service that we do with a library which is an online form that you submit. Tell us what you love to read, tell us what you're looking for, and one of our librarians will create you a personalized book list. In this context we're doing it live on stage at the end of the show. So, for the first twenty minutes or so, while giving intense focus to us, we would like you to also fill out your form if you're interested in having a life book match from that. Does that sound good? Everyone wants their next great read from a librarian? Yeah. Let's do it.
Adwoa Adusei Yes, let's get into it. We know that there's a disconnect between what the public thinks we do and what we actually do. So, for the next slide. Yes. For the listeners on the podcast, you can't you can't see the slide up behind me, but it's a meme of a librarian at a desk and it reads: “I wish I had more to do at work. All I do is read books all day. Said no librarian ever.” Once and for all, you've mentioned a little bit about what you do, but specifically, how much of your day is actually spent reading, if any?
Angie Miraflor Emails or books?
Amy Mikel We're actually not allowed to read books at work, really. No I'm not even kidding.
Brian Muldoon I do occasionally just for the pure transgressive irony of it. It's just a really good feeling. I have to read like picture books and stuff like that. That’s about it. I don’t really have time …
Krissa Corbett Cavouras And so like what … even just dealing with books and the topics they're in. Like, what is that of your day?
Angie Miraflor For me I think it's a little bit different. From Brian and Amy, because I see the … what we're purchasing for the entire system. So, even though I don't read any books during the day. I am looking at like what kinds of books are going to what branches? Are they serving the community that we need? You know, what they're asking for and then you know I'm also getting a lot of suggestions of like authors who want to have their books in our system. So definitely books and other kinds of items are always going through the library, but it's it's a little bit different than just like sitting back and reading a book with a beer.
Adwoa Adusei So although we're not actively reading on the job, part of the job is to suggest books to patrons as they come in. Can you speak a little bit to the idea of, you know, you're recommending books and not everyone is a book lover per say.
Brian Muldoon I had this woman and for about a year she would come in like maybe every two weeks and come up to me and just say, “I'm looking for a page turner.” And I’m like, “Okay, ma’am. Do you like mysteries or romance?” “No I want a page turner.” “What are some books you read in the past that you enjoyed?” “You know, page turners.” Okay … so I just kind of walk her around and you know recommend things and you know and usually she'd end up with something like The Da Vinci Code or like a James Patterson book and then she would come back and she would give me a review. And it would either be, “that was a real page turner.” Or, “that was not a page turner.” Every once in a while since I had pretty much free reign I would just try and give her something it was a little more literary, and she would just take one look at the book …
Angie Miraflor But Brian I think that goes into something else that we do as librarians too. Like you said, yeah it's kind of funny that she comes back and tells you about the book. But there's something about that, right? Like, she wants to come back and talk to us. And I think a lot of times we do help with … especially if they're older adults, like isolationism is a big thing. And I think it's really important that we're that we do go out to the community and we're talking to people and connecting them with what they want to read. So, good for you, Brian.
Amy Mikel Such a hero.
Krissa Corbett Cavouras And what you’re getting at is what we call readers’ advisory, right? Which, for those of you—I’m assuming most of you are not librarians—you know, we treat reference this as this big umbrella that we … any interaction we have with a the patron, we treat that as reference. Readers’ advisory is this more specific interaction where we're really talking about putting someone together with the next book. And, as a reminder, hopefully you're all filling out your BookMatch forms! But, readers’ advisory is something that you, Amy, particularly made happen a little bit at the library. So we have a service called BookMatch that Amy you helped found at BPL. Want to talk about it?
Amy Mikel Yeah, but I don't want this to sound like readers’ advisory didn't exist at the library before BookMatch started.
Krissa Corbett Cavouras No, you invented it
Amy Mikel Right. I invented it. They teach it in library school now.
Krissa Corbett Cavouras Right, your name. Yeah.
Amy Mikel Yeah. Amy Mikel’s readers’ advisory. Readers’ advisory is making making book suggestions to people. But, if you really want to boil it down, it's matching the right book to the right reader. And we just wanted to take it online.
Krissa Corbett Cavouras Book match is really about giving you a lot of ways in to your next good book. But to me this seems like there's books that like … are everywhere. You know, so like a few years ago it was The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.
Angie Miraflor Which was a good book. In my opinion, all books are good books …
Krissa Corbett Cavouras The Goldfinch was everywhere, you know. So, Angie do you have some thoughts about why we end up with these blockbusters?
Angie Miraflor I mean honestly I think it really goes back to marketing. You know, because of the nature of my job I get this box of books … which when you're a librarian, it's the best thing ever. You get this box of like a dozen books, of books that are going to come out in the next three to six months. And you're like “oooh,” and you want to read them on the subway so everyone can see it's coming out November 2020. And you’re like, “I got this!” And then I would read the book and then you know six months later at The Strand which—I mean, you should be borrowing your books and buying them—but at The Strand, you would see that they're like the most popular titles and I thought I was just awesome. I was like, I like I keep picking the best sellers to read … I am my natural talent. But those dozen books are the ones that the publishers are pushing. They're going to go on a tour and they already have the posters out … So I think a lot of that is like pressure. And, that's fine. Like. I mean, most of the books are pretty good and everything's objective, right? Like, I was not the biggest fan of Where the Crawdads Sing. Oh! Applause. Thank you.
Krissa Corbett Cavouras Some unpopular takes in the crowd.
Amy Mikel But it also goes back to why people write to us in the first place. Because it’s sometimes, people just are so overwhelmed, they don’t know how to find the next book. So they pick up what they’ve been hearing about, what their friends are telling them about, what their book club wants to do.
Krissa Corbett Cavouras What Reese’s book club wants you to do.
Amy Mikel Right, what Reese Witherspoon says.
Krissa Corbett Cavouras Oprah.
Angie Miraflor Oh, should we not get into that book? Anyway …
Amy Mikel And so people, not to sell anybody short, but like that's what happens when you're just looking for something to read, and people are like, “well I loved this book.” And then you're like, “that was an okay book.” But that's very different from having someone talk to you about you and what you like to read. Right? You see this all the time on Facebook. Someone posts and they’re like: “What's my next book? I'm going on vacation.” And people post, post, post, and they just list what they like to read. And very little is it about asking that person who originally posted: “Well what do you want to read, and I'm going to cast about in my knowledge and try to come up with something.” Right? So that's how that conversation normally plays out.
Angie Miraflor So this is where I want to plug the library’s Literary Prize. Brian may be on the committee. Maybe. So we've had it for about five years now we're working on our sixth year for the Literary Prize. And the whole point of this Literary Prize is a couple things. All the books are suggested and chosen … like the suggestions and the selections at the end, like the winners, are all our library staff, our librarians …
Krissa Corbett Cavouras Who are picking them, right? Not writing them.
Angie Miraflor Oh yeah, sorry. They’re picking them, not writing them.
Krissa Corbett Cavouras Right, we’re just giving ourselves awards ...
Angie Miraflor Or we could write them. There's no rule. But the whole point is that the books are representative of the values of Brooklynites. So even though Michelle Obama's biography was a great read and a lot of people read it, it probably didn't get chosen as a Lit Prize winner because we want to kind of pull away from those things that might have been heavily marketed. And we want to get into these books that have truly great stories in them but may not, it might be a first time published author, or it just may be addressing an issue that's truly important to the people who live here, and we want to make sure that those authors really rise to the top and get some recognition from at least from a group of librarians.
Adwoa Adusei Yeah. All right. So, switching from popular books we're going to talk about our favorite books that we read in 2019. You know, it's only the beginning of 2020 so we're not that far out of the realm of the “best of” lists.
Angie Miraflor I like how you said popular books and this one is a Nobel Prize winner. So the title of the book: Drive Your Plow over the Bones of the Dead—that title alone you should be writing down to read because how could you not want to read a book with a title like that? So Olga Tokarczuk, she did win the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2018 and was awarded this year. She's a Polish writer and it's a suspense, it's a thriller. And it also questions who is sane, who is not sane. Do we really have the idea of who these people are? And people told me that I can't read off of anything, but I'm gonna read this anyway. Because this is the one of the first times I've ever taken pictures of pages in the book because the writing was so good. So I'm gonna read a couple sentences, so maybe hopefully enough I don't have to pay her royalties. Okay. “Here mankind is not governed by the rules of reason, stupid and strict, but by the heart and intuition. The people do not indulge in idle chatter, parading what they know, but create remarkable things by applying their imagination. Sometimes I think that only the sick are truly healthy.” How could you not want to read a book like that? Okay, that's my recommendation. Thank you.
Adwoa Adusei Thank you, Angie.
Brian Muldoon So my selection was Sabrina and Corina which is a debut short story collection by Kali Fajardo-Anstine. She is a young Latinx author from Denver, of indigenous ancestry. This was a absolutely fantastic collection. The prose in it are super lean and very incisive but not not like beer-and-a-shot Hemingway style. So she does a really good job of deeply exploring familiar bonds and the Latinx community in and around the Denver area. Most of these stories are about female relationships. Pretty much all of them are, and most of them are intergenerational relationships, and just there's so much heaviness in these. It deals with a lot of topics like gentrification and the plight of migrants, the plight of immigrants. But there's also so much warmth in these. These are just like so laden with love … all the relationships in it are super complex but very, very well drawn. Even the ones that are fraught and deeply unhealthy are so compelling, and there's still a lot of light in them. I couldn't recommend this enough. I'm really excited to see what she's going to do when she starts writing long form fiction.
Adwoa Adusei Amy now ...
Amy Mikel Yeah … my book won the Pulitzer.
Brian Muldoon Okay, mine didn’t have the emblem but it was shortlisted for the National Book Award.
Amy Mikel So, basically, I struggled with finding my best book from 2019 because I didn't read a lot last year, I'm going to be honest.
Krissa Corbett Cavouras It's okay.
Amy Mikel You won't tell anyone, will you?
Krissa Corbett Cavouras No, no.
Angie Miraflor You just told everyone.
Amy Mikel So, the way I thought about this question was, what kind of a reader was I last year? Or what kind of a reader was I trying to be last year? Or what were the circumstances in my life that affected the way I could or couldn't be the reader I wanted to be? So I have kids at home, I had a new baby born last last year January. So, just busy job, busy life. Really hard for me to stick with a book. And, so some some point through the year, I was like, you know what I keep picking up the same book over and over is not working for me. I decided I'm going to try nature writing. I'm just going to like find books that make me slow down, that the entry to that book is more about the language, the way it's being told … So that's how I landed on this book The Overstory by Richard Powers and this is a book about nine humans who each themselves have some sort of significant relationship with trees or a tree in their life, or a tree in their history of some sort. And then throughout the book their stories become intertwined and they come together. It's the kind of book that that didn't make me feel like I was reading. Didn't feel like a chore, and just was just a pleasant experience, like a pleasure to sit with.
Adwoa Adusei Krissa?
Krissa Corbett Cavouras Yeah I had Amy's year in 2018, where I was like, what are books? Because I'm also a new parent. So The Golden State by Lydia Kiesling … so again, tiny little book no one's read. This is really—on Amy's theme of like books that you need to read in a given moment, I read a lot about motherhood in my first few years of becoming a mother. I sort of became kind of voracious about reading stories of motherhood, mostly in fiction. But on its face this book is like not my kind of book. It's kind of a road trip novel, it's very slow. In the beginning a lot of the action is between the main character Daphne and her non-verbal like 16-month-old. So like it's literally two characters, one of whom doesn't speak English. And there's just this intense realism that comes from the way Kiesling writes those interactions, where your whole world is wrapped up in this creature who like needs you and loves you and whom you love but who basically isn't talking. So she does build to some traditional plot but she does it so slowly bit by the time I’m rollicking down the road through the plot in the last third of the book, I'm like I'm in the car with these people. And so I just, I couldn't stop thinking about it. I pressed it into the hands of everyone I know. And yeah, I loved it. What about you, Adwoa? What's your book?
Adwoa Adusei So for me thinking about my favorite books of 2019 was more about like what made the most impression on me. And it wasn't about a book that I couldn't put down, but more one that I wanted to actively throw across the room. And so, Kiese Laymon’s Heavy: An American Memoir is his letter to his mom, basically, about growing up in the South as a young black, overweight boy. And the way that trauma is enacted on his body, his mind, his spirit. And then inevitably how writing actually was a way for him to get out of the South and him to get out of the trauma. And so I was listening to it as an audio book. I recommend hearing an author if they're talking about their life. But this one I had to press pause several times and then I was like, you know, I need to take a break. And then I picked it up in print and it was like, I'm so glad I did, because his the way he writes is just so beautiful. And I was able to take a little bit more time with it and not hear the trauma in his voice. So that was my favorite.
Krissa Corbett Cavouras We do this thing every year with the other two library systems, because inevitably the press asks … Oh, by the way, we’re separate library systems. You guys know that, right? Cool. This is not NYPL. The Gothamist this past year did a roundup of all of the best books checked out of the library system because we have a super rich dataset, and so we just thought it would be interesting to look at this list a little and talk about what we all think about when we think about books and our own reading. And this is this is it, this is our top ten checked out books of the year. I was going to quiz Angie on this and be like, “Don't turn around. What's the first one?” And she got it in rehearsal … she was like, “It's Becoming, right?” And I was like, yup. So, yeah, what is there to say about these … ? Like are there trends? Do you do we see these things coming down the road? Do things surprise us year over year?
Angie Miraflor I will say kind of going back … This is not to say that I want to talk poorly about marketing. I think there is something about that. But I will say a lot of these books are ones that the publishers were really pushing like even six months in advance. And so people hear about that and then they're putting the books on hold. I mean how many of you have been, like, number 100 on a hold for a book? Oh God, sorry. We try. We're trying. But yeah, I think a lot of it like is just like once an author becomes really popular, like the next book is gonna be really popular, right? Like James Patterson's on there twice. How do they possibly write two books in one year? I can’t even write like one email.
Brian Muldoon I think we're seeing some ghost writers.
Angie Miraflor Are you one, Brian? Are you a ghost writer?
Brian Muldoon Yeah. I mean Danielle Steele has been dead years.
Angie Miraflor Nooo! She has a wonderful house in San Francisco. Actually, the funny thing is I've only read one book on this list. Anyone want to guess what it is?
Krissa Corbett Cavouras It’s not Becoming by Michelle Obama?
Angie Miraflor It might be Where the Crawdads Sing. Yeah a lot of these books, I think are just like they become the really popular reads. But. It's also, I will admit that this list is a little messed around with. Because we're looking at adult fiction, I'll say that. So a lot of our top circulating books, I am proud to say are children's materials and young adult materials—
Brian Muldoon You’re welcome.
Angie Miraflor I want to specifically thank Brian for this. You know, we actually looked at like the top circulating book of all time. I think we should try to do, like, of all time just to see … and it was something like Diary Of A Wimpy Kid Three. I’m like, not one or two? But three. So, you know so—
Krissa Corbett Cavouras Tokyo Drift there?
Angie Miraflor So I want to say I think our children's—even though I know all of us are reading adult fiction or adult nonfiction—like our children's collection is huge and it makes a really big impact on the young ones over here in Brooklyn. And they are the ones that really check out the stuff. So, that's my commentary which strayed away from the commentary of this topic.
Amy Mikel But this is also not trends. You know what I mean? Because that was the other part of your question … this is the most circulated books, the most checked out. A lot of these are page turners. You know, they're meant to be consumed quickly so you're done with it. And the next person can check it out. Other books are there to slow you down and be savored, right? But we do see a lot of trends through BookMatch. Definitely in the course of a year or depending on what's the most popular book or TV show or whatever, like Sharp Objects or Gone Girl or I can’t remember if The Help … No, The Help was pre-BookMatch. Yeah, that was like eight years ago.
Angie Miraflor Current events too, right, affect what’s happening.
Amy Mikel Cultural trends. And yeah, it's interesting to see that people do sort of gel towards certain themes or trends year over year.
Brian Muldoon Yeah, I mean I've been seeing more and more and more people asking for like queer female writers of color. Just like, that's like a very specific thing people are asking for.
Angie Miraflor On all age ranges, I would say.
Brian Muldoon Yeah. It's also just because there's been a wealth of that kind of stuff coming out, a lot more representation.
Krissa Corbett Cavouras Well that's a good thing to say for marketing, Angie, right? I mean we need diverse books as like a ground up movement to say, “this is what we want to see on the shelves.” And now we're seeing it, kind of at the end of that lifecycle. Those books are turning up, and people are asking for them.
Angie Miraflor And also I want to say that I'm not a book snob by any means. And I think most librarians are not, we just love the fact that people are reading. Like there's stats that come out every year that like a very low percentage of people read an entire book per year. So I don't care what you're reading … all the James Pattersons. That's cool. Just read. And please check them out. Do not buy them.
Brian Muldoon I'm a pretentious snob.
Angie Miraflor Oh, okay. What did you think of Diary of a Wimpy Kid Three?
Brian Muldoon Not its strongest showing.
Amy Mikel But that's actually—I'm remembering, I think partly why we added that whole podcast/movie/video game question because actually BookMatch isn't about helping people who already love to read find more books they love to read. We're also trying to draw in people outside of this like cliquey reader crowd. We’re like, no come on in and join us. You know, like, haven't picked up a book in five years? You love podcasts, movies, whatever … that's cool. Just tell us about that stuff and we'll actually use that to try to help connect you with a book again, right? Because we hear from that … people are like, “I haven't loved a book in a while.” Or “I want to trade it back into reading.
Krissa Corbett Cavouras It’s confessional. They're nervous to tell us that.
Amy Mikel Yeah and the online helps.
Brian Muldoon Yeah I was going to say, I think that's like a really big boon of it being online and kind of anonymous is these people can admit like, “I haven't read a book in seven years. Please help me.” And not have to feel weird or judged by it.
Amy Mikel Yeah, or people say: “All I read are books about dirty, dirty sex.” And it's online …
Krissa Corbett Cavouras And murder. Don’t forget about murder.
Amy Mikel Not that there's anything wrong with it. But, people might not feel as comfortable walking up to Brian, you know, the children's librarian …
Adwoa Adusei I mean some people …
Angie Miraflor Do you guys want to cool like romance tid bit? Because we were just talking about romance just a while ago. So this comes from a friend of mine who's very good … she is like the queen of readers’ advisory, Stephanie Anderson. She said that you can tell the, like how gratuitous the content we'll be in a romance novel by the cover. Like the Harlequin. So like if they're not touching and fully clothed and everything, like probably pretty good G-rated, PG. But like if the lady's dress is off her shoulder or if she's sitting on his lap, like that means it'll be a little bit more racy and like, I thought that was very interesting.
Amy Mikel Can I tell another fun fact? Because you know the other term for romance is bodice ripper, right? You've heard about that? So there's this whole sub-genre of romance, a clean romance set with Amish characters and Amish themes. And those are called bonnet rippers. But they don't—those are very clean, no dirty sex in those, obviously, but very well written.
Krissa Corbett Cavouras I don't say this often but, TIL: bonnet rippers?
Brian Muldoon A lot of suggestive butter churning.
Angie Miraflor Give me that BookMatch form back.
Krissa Corbett Cavouras I like that at least something is getting ripped off in the Amish romance—booming Amish romance genre. So this is it. I've got—I'm sure all of you are asking for Amish bodice rippers.
Brian Muldoon We can do Mennonites too.
Amy Mikel Beverly Lewis.
Krissa Corbett Cavouras The way we're going to do this is Adwoa and I are going to read a couple and then we're just going to put these wonderful human beings on the spot. So this is from Becky. She's looking for adult or teen slash YA. Let's see, any specific reading recommendations? “Fiction well-suited for commuting.” I like that. So, you know, you know what, Brian. No Moby Dick.
Brian Muldoon When I blank out, I have a tendency just to recommend Moby Dick.
Krissa Corbett Cavouras “Fiction with a social conscience” is what she likes. So, otherwise please share some authors you love. “Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi." Oh my God, I just read that I loved it. “Anna Karenina.” Good old school. “The Hate U Give and Everything is Illuminated.” And then, are there any types of authors or books that you don't like and why? Oh my God this girl and I … “I dislike Kurt Vonnegut.” Sorry, same. “and all other books with too much violence.” I'm gonna pass this down. You guys can take a look and start thinking.
Brian Muldoon Let's see if you liked Homegoing, Here Comes the Sun by Nicole Dennis-Benn. That's a fantastic one. It's about Jamaica. It follows a group of sisters each one was kind of a different experience, one of whom is gay. And it's also a lot about the gentrification of Montego Bay. So it gives you a very interesting window into another culture as well as … I'm gone. Uh, Moby Dick.
Angie Miraflor You know, I'm gonna go super old school on this. Because of the YA and the commuting. So Walter Dean Myers is a well known YA author, right? And I remember one of the first YA books I read was Monster. So, it was written … the reason why I say commuting because the format is really good and it does bring social issues, right? And it's written like a play where it goes back and forth, I believe from someone who's incarcerated and then the person that they're in love with who's still out—like not incarcerated. So I would suggest, I'm just gonna go old school on that because I think—
Krissa Corbett Cavouras What's the name of the book again?
Angie Miraflor Monster. So that was like from my first YA class a long time ago.
Brian Muldoon Piggybacking off of that like, Jason Reynolds is kind of like the … taking up the mantle of Walter Dean Myers. He writes as many books as James Patterson does. He writes a lot for kids but he also writes some YA ones and they're all fantastic. Like just super complex characters, like amazingly written.
Adwoa Adusei Good? All right. So let's move on to the next one. This is from Mindy. “Children's books to expose my child to diverse cultures, genders, and sexualities. Kindness for all, including animals.” And then in terms of authors or types of books that she's not looking for… “No know girl equals princess or boy has to be G.I. Joe.” So throw it your way …
Amy Mikel First book that comes to mind is Julian is a Mermaid.
Krissa Corbett Cavouras Yeah. Such a good one.
Amy Mikel Oh, Jessica Love is the author. It's set in Brooklyn, based on the story ... but do they ever specifically say Brooklyn? I mean, he’s going to the mermaid parade on Coney Island.
Brian Muldoon They don't specifically mention it, but just like the the artwork and all the street scenes and stuff. It's gorgeous. She's like a debut … this is her debut. It came out a couple of years ago. It was one of my favorite picture books to come about in years.
Amy Mikel It's not preachy. It's just about a young boy. He's on the subway. He sees three human beings just fabulously outfitted in mermaid attire. And he talks to his grandma or his auntie about it, and he goes home and he fashions himself a costume and his grandma or aunt or whoever is like, cool. And that's kind of the story, you know. But yes it's beautiful. And then they ran out of room and that's … you got to keep it short.
Brian Muldoon There's a sequel coming out, I think.
Krissa Corbett Cavouras It's actually really beautiful because abuela gives him the necklace. Like he's nervous that he's dressing up …
Angie Miraflor Is that a spoiler?
Krissa Corbett Cavouras Yeah I'm spoiling it for these room full of adults.
Angie Miraflor Spoil a children’s book.
Krissa Corbett Cavouras Sorry, y’all.
Amy Mikel Spoiler: the grandma doesn't make him feel wrong.
Krissa Corbett Cavouras Can you imagine, it's like ,and then grandma makes them feel terrible and then we all go home feeling terrible … happy story time, folks!
Amy Mikel Also a plug for Drag Queen Story Hour. If you're not aware of it, this is this is what they do in those programs. They they read books that have generally themes about this character, this situation is different and this is how this character feels about it and this is how we can help this character accept who they are, that kind of thing.
Brian Muldoon I would recommend the author Atinuke, who is British Nigerian. She does picture books as well as very short chapter books, most of which take place in Nigeria. They're really great because they just kind of depict it like everyday life for like a middle class Nigerian family. They’re beautifully illustrated. It gives you like a very very clear window into another culture. And they're just fun and cute and funny. And I would also recommend Interstellar Cinderella, which is like one of my favorite feminist retellings picture books, by Underwood. Yeah. That one’s a lot of fun.
Krissa Corbett Cavouras All right I think we have time for two more. So I have Caroline who's looking for adult books and she says she's loving memoir lately. But also “good fiction and not overly literary.” So, you know, Moby Dick. Um, “Entertaining, interesting nonfiction and diverse authors are always a plus.” So, some stuff she liked, so you guys can bounce off of it: City of Girls and then Bad Blood and then lots of memoirs that she loves. And what she does not love is anything overdramatic, messy family dramas, of which there are so many. And then sci-fi that feels inaccessible. So, that seems like it's open. Like give me some accessible sci-fi.
Angie Miraflor Who is this? Her name is Caroline? Caroline, if you're okay with audiobooks, I listen to Tiffany Haddish’s autobiography The Last Black Unicorn. It's hilarious and because she's reading it, like it just has her style, right? So I would say it covers all that stuff, it's really easy to read. I'm on the treadmill and like laughing it's so funny. So, my suggestion.
Krissa Corbett Cavouras These two are like … come on let's crack open the process here. What's going on over here?
Brian Muldoon We're failing.
Angie Miraflor Boom. Angie wins. Was this a contest?
Krissa Corbett Cavouras You get a prize.
Brian Muldoon Well Melville did include a lot of ...
Krissa Corbett Cavouras No messy family drama there in Moby Dick?
Brian Muldoon It’s pretty straightforward. They want to get that whale.
Amy Mikel Angie, can you pull out your phone, we’re blanking on the title…
Angie Miraflor Oh now we want to use my phone ...
Krissa Corbett Cavouras Wait, wait what—is it blue, is the cover blue?
Amy Mikel My friend read it …
Krissa Corbett Cavouras It's a page turner.
Amy Mikel: It was on the literary prize list last year.
All Sour Heart by Jenny Zhang
Amy Mikel Good job, everyone.
Krissa Corbett Cavouras We did it.
Amy Mikel Sour Heart by Jenny Zhang. You know, short punchy, stories, kind of kind of bleakly dark. King of satirical. No one can tell the story enough. Like what it's like having one foot in one culture and another foot in another culture. And sometimes the ridiculousness that that brings, and some people just tell it so well. So that's a great one, Sour Heart.
Brian Muldoon Let’s see, Alexander Chee’s How to Write an Autobiographical Novel which is not a novel nor a biography. It's more or less a biography just written in like different essays. It kind of marches through its life chronologically and just kind of him becoming a writer, him coming out as gay, his is work for ACT UP and just kind of like the various places his life has taken him. A lot of those are really funny, really interesting. He's an exquisite writer, like his prose are just amazing.
Amy Mikel There's a graphic novelist who's quite young, she's probably in her early 30s at this point, but she's already done like four or five books. Her name Lucy Knisley. She debuted with a book called Relish, which was again it's a graphic novel so it’s this illustrated story of her growing up with her mother, who is either a chef or a caterer or something. And the role that food played in her life. And I think you would like this because they're not overdramatic. They're not messy family dramas but they're—she has a lot of stories to tell about her life, you know, and how challenging it's been.
Adwoa Adusei And for the last one, this is from Lee looking for adult work. “Poetry for people who don't usually like poetry,” which is me … so I will be taking notes too Otherwise, other things that they like are well-written novels with good character development and things that they don't like are nonfiction.
Brian Muldoon One of my projects this past year a reader was to really dig into contemporary poetry. So, I've read a whole spectrum. I read probably about thirty collections this year. The ones that stuck out to me, especially for people who are looking for stuff it's a little more accessible, anything by Danez Smith. They just had a new collection come out called Homie, which is all about friendship. Their stuff is really punchy, very affecting. Talks a lot about contemporary issues. They're hilarious and it's just like, some of those lines just make you want to cry they're so well written.
Krissa Corbett Cavouras They were also nominated for the Lit Prize a couple of years ago.
Brian Muldoon Yeah, they won the short. One that I discovered recently, and I think she has her second collection coming out soon, was one by Natalie Diaz called When My Brother Was an Aztec. She's of Mexican and Native American ancestry and her stuff just like, she she goes all over the place with her style and she does each one exquisitely. Some of them almost read like short stories. Other ones are just like these kind of amazing allegories. Some something a little more abstract. So those ones, if it’s too dense you to can skip over. There's something for for everybody. Those are two that I would really dig into.
Amy Mikel This request kind of speaks to me because as much as I want to read poetry I never do. But I definitely pick up novels with very lush writing. And so I'm going to recommend a couple of those, where the writing is poetic but it's not poetry. So the first one's—pretty famous author you probably heard of him—Dennis Johnson. That's one of the earliest authors I started reading in college and I felt like I was reading poetry, without reading actual poems. He’s done a couple things. Jesus’s Son was one of his earlier ones and then Tree of Smoke, which is like big brick of a book about the Vietnam War. And then the other similar in that category is Tommy Pico who is a modern day author, queer author.
Krissa Corbett Cavouras Another Lit Prize.
Amy Mikel Yeah, another Lit Prize winner. But, the way people communicate now is not just in conversation it's with texts, it’s with other stream of consciousness kind of thinking, and that's the kind of stuff he pulls into his writing. It’s really interesting.
Brian Muldoon And I’ll say, that's kind of become a trend in poetry lately, and a lot of it is not great, at least in my opinion.
Amy Mikel A lot of poetry is not great anyway, right?
Angie Miraflor Dang.
Krissa Corbett Cavouras Hot take!
Amy Mikel No! That’s not what I meant! It’s really hard to write poetry.
Brian Muldoon Well poetry more than anything really kind of depends on the mood you’re in.
Krissa Corbett Cavouras This is a poetry podcast, get out. Also, Dennis Johnsons’s poetry is great as well as his novels.
Amy Mikel But you were in the middle some something.
Brian Muldoon I was just saying how Tommy Pico kind of knows how to integrate more modern forms of communication well, as opposed to feeling really gimmicky or cheap.
Adwoa Adusei That's a good note to end on, bashing poetry.
Amy Mikel That came out really bad.
Adwoa Adusei So that's actually all we have time for tonight. We made it! We did it. Thank you.
Amy Mikel Oh man.
Angie Miraflor You guys survived it.
Adwoa Adusei If you filled out one of the forms and you weren't one of the people who we gave suggestions to for BookMatch, you can still go online and fill out a form there. It's very similar to the form that you you had tonight. We are at BKLYN Library [dot] org [slash] bookmatch. It’s a really easy form to fill out.
Krissa Corbett Cavouras And we just want to thank Brooklyn Podcast Festival for having us here tonight. This is our first ever live show audience, thank you so much!
Adwoa Adusei This show was produced tonight by Virginia Marshall, our excellent producer. As well as as by Fritzi Bodenheimer who was our Vanna White tonight handing out the BookMatch slips, she's BPL’s press officer. The show itself is also produced by Robin Lester Kenton who's the VP of Marketing for the library and Meryl Friedman, she did our logo, our lovely logo up there. And if you listen to us you know that Billy Libby is our musical composer. And Jennifer Proffitt was bumping this on social media all week long, and she's our social media maven at the library. So we want to thank them as well.
Krissa Corbett Cavouras And I just want to, we have a little bit of a Wizard of Oz behind the curtain: my co-worker and wannabe librarian Lauren Rochford has been helping us.
Amy Mikel Just in case we totally blanked out.
Krissa Corbett Cavouras Right, to corral our BookMatches into some order. And then I would like to give a huge round of applause to my fearless panelists: Angie Miraflor, Amy Mikel, and Brian Muldoon for doing our live book matching.
Brian Muldoon I'll be signing copies of Moby Dick in the back.
Krissa Corbett Cavouras Thank you so much.
Adwoa Adusei Thank you for listening.
Amy Mikel Thanks, everyone.
- BookMatch for "Borrowed, Live!"