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Photo: The Guardian
Mashed Mahjor says she started Book Cottage in Afghanistan because there children don’t have a lot of opportunities to talk freely and ask questions.

Today’s post is another in a series about what books mean to people. At least since the age of 10, I myself have found that getting lost in a book is about the most consistently comforting thing I do, and it seems that many other people feel the same.

Stefanie Glinski writes for the Guardian, “In a dimly lit room in west Kabul, stacked with shelves full of books, a small crowd gathers around the warmth of a gas heater. Books clamped under their arms, they are eager to share the stories they’ve read over the course of the week.

“Members of Afghanistan’s youngest reading club, the Book Cottage, range in age from four to 13. The club is just one of many reading circles that are springing up across the capital and reviving a book culture that, once lost, is now vibrant, liberal and expanding once again.

” ‘You have to start them young,’ explains the initiative’s founder, 25-year-old Mashed Mahjor. ‘The country is still at war, so children don’t have a lot of opportunities to talk freely and ask questions, especially girls. We have to bring our book culture back to life.’

“After starting the reading club six years ago, she now has up to 20 regular members – and hundreds of book donations from all over the world.

“But trends are shifting. In west Kabul, a neighbourhood with laid-back coffee shops, small startup businesses, a quick-growing dating scene and – at its heart – Kabul University, reading circles for all ages are expanding. They have started to provide a platform for Afghans to discuss, in a mixed-gender environment, issues not on the public agenda of a conservative society. …

“One such space is found in a basement room of one of the city’s universities, where a group of up to 20 book lovers meets weekly. Some travel the length of the city to participate.

“ ‘It’s worth it,’ says Attash Mashal, a civil engineer and government employee. ‘Most of the books we read can’t be accessed in Afghanistan, so we search for them online and print out copies. We read novels, poetry and philosophy.

“ ‘This one is censored though,’ he adds, holding a copy of Albert Camus’ The Fall. ‘We just found out.’ …

“It’s the translations that most people are after, as it can be difficult to read books in English or other languages. At Aksos, the city’s biggest and most diverse book store, people squeeze into the tight space, examining new titles, reading in corners, or taking selfies against a backdrop of bookshelves. Books are the new cool.

“Aksos holds anything from The Kite Runner – another book previously banned in the country – to The Daydreams of Ashraf Ghani, the country’s president.

“ ‘Once again, the city is boasting poets, writers and creatives pushing against the recent norm,’ says [Syeda Quratulain Masood, who has been researching Kabul’s book culture for her PhD at Brown University in the US].

“ ‘I think it’s because in book clubs, or when writing poetry, we can share our ideas and beliefs without restrictions,’ says Yalda Heideri, a student in her twenties who attends a university book club.

“ ‘Afghanistan has restricted us a lot, especially us women, so we found a way to have discussions that would be embarrassing or even impossible outside.’ But for Heideri, literature has also become an escape from daily life in a wartorn country where there were 3,804 civilian deaths last year, according to the UN assistance mission in Afghanistan.

‘When I get tired of it all, I escape into poetry. It’s a whole different world.

” ‘Kabul is improving and becoming more open, which makes me hopeful. But regardless of where peace negotiations are going, we have to find our own way to cope, and books are just that for me.’ ”

More at the Guardian, here.

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Photos: Sian Cain/The Guardian
Where libraries are scarce, Indonesians have risen to the challenge. Sutino ‘Kinong’ Hadi, above, runs the Bemo mobile library in a Jakarta suburb.

Books are important for children, but there are many places around the world where books are scarce. Caring adults do what they can to fill in the gaps, sometimes even going without food in order to buy more books.

Sian Cain writes at the Guardian, “With a great heave, a young man pushes the ancient, three-wheeled rickshaw down a ramp and it splutters to a start. The driver, Sutino ‘Kinong’ Hadi, laughs as he putters his tiny Bemo in a loop outside a preschool in Tanah Abang, in central Jakarta. It’s all the signal the children need; around 20 flood out to envelope the car, pulling at hangings, clambering into the front seat. It’s an exciting time: their library has arrived.

“Kinong is one of thousands of Indonesians who have opened their own library in their own communities. Estimates suggest there are thousands of such libraries in Indonesia, started by ordinary people with great initiative to address the lack of books in their area and funded by occasional donations.

“There is the Perahu Pustaka, a library boat that sails around West Sulawesi. There are libraries on the back of vegetable carts, shelves lugged around by horses in Serang and in West Papua. Across Banten, a 200-strong motorbike gang called the Komunitas Motor Literasi (Moli), brings books to homes from a box attached to their vehicles, delivered with the ease of a takeaway. …

“The persistent myth that Indonesians aren’t interested in reading still pervades; last September, Jakarta governor, Anies Baswedan, told the Jakarta Post: ‘We are challenged to improve our reading interest, particularly in an era where people are far more interested in reading WhatsApp [chats] than in reading books … People nowadays prefer to skim rather than read.’

“But civilians argue that interest isn’t the problem, it’s the lack of infrastructure. ‘Reading appetite isn’t low in Indonesia, it’s just hard to get books,’ says Laura Prinsloo, a publisher … ‘A lot of the people operating these libraries don’t have an education, which makes it hard in a place where it’s about who you know. So if you don’t know anyone, you just do it yourself.’

“Like Andri Gunawan, a wiry young man who heads up the Komunitas Motor Literasi. He never had a library in any of his schools and only became a voracious reader as an adult. ‘Contrary to what a lot of people say, it’s not that there is no interest in reading, it is that there are no books,’ he says. …

“Or Kiswanti, a 52-year-old woman who started out delivering books door-to-door for free on her bicycle. Now, her library and school Warabal, found in Parung, Java, is 21 years old and houses 15,000 books, looked after by 25 volunteers for 1,700 members. …

“ ‘My father apologised as he couldn’t send me on to further education’ she says. ‘But he told me, if I wanted to be smarter, I had to read.’ …

“When Kiswanti opened Warabal in 1997, she even began fasting 10 days each month to buy more.

‘I needed 3,000 rupiah (16p) to eat a day,’ she explains. ‘If I didn’t eat, I can save 30,000 (£1.66) in 10 days – so I could take our best students by taking them to bookshops and buy them any book they want.’ …

“ ‘Reading transports me and introduces me to new worlds – I want to give children that.’ ”

More at the Guardian, here. For similar stories on seat-of-the-pants libraries around the world, search the blog on the word “library.”

This mobile library has been running since 2013. The children are eager for books, but Hadi has found it’s not advisable to let the books go home if  he wants them back.

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020319-periodical-room-Concord-Library

Poetry readings are held every few months in the periodical room of the library. The tables are moved, and rows of folding chairs get set up.

I like going to poetry readings. The Friends of the Library present poets every couple months, and I go to as many readings as I can. The most recent featured work by poets Adam Scheffler, Carla Schwartz, and Alison Stone. The poems were remarkably accessible as well as profound, funny, and inspiring. The following is not meant to detract from my overall admiration.

When I got home after the reading, my husband asked me if any readers had used the Poet Voice, and I said I had heard it a little. He went straight to the web to see what others say about the phenomenon. Turns out, I’m not the only one who has noticed contemporary poets dropping into this odd, monotonous reading style.

Rich Smith, a poet himself, made a good effort to define the Poet Voice in a 2014 article at City Arts, here: ” ‘Poet Voice,’ is the pejorative, informal name given to this soft, airy reading style that many poets use for reasons that are unclear. The voice flattens the musicality and tonal drama inherent within the language of the poem and it also sounds overly stuffy and learned. In this way, Poet Voice does a disservice to the poem, the poet and poetry.”

Smith recommends that poets adopt a character suited to each poem as an actor might, or — if reading is not a strength — have someone else do it, or even refuse to give readings! He does come up with an example of the Poet Voice used appropriately: Yeats reading “Innisfree.”

Atlas Obscura describes the listener experience: “You walk into the bookstore. You sit in your folding chair, or on the floor, with your paper cup of wine. The poet approaches the microphone, affably introduces himself, and maybe cracks a joke. He shuffles his papers, launches into his first verse — and all of a sudden, his voice changes completely! Natural conversational rhythms are replaced by a slow, lilting delivery, like a very boring ocean. Long pauses — so long — hang in the air. Try and get comfortable. There’s no helping it. You’re in for a night of Poet Voice.

“Many performance-related professions and avocations,” says Atlas Obscura‘s Cara Giaimo, “have developed an associated ‘voice’: a set of specific vocal tics or decisions. Taken together, these mannerisms make up a kind of sonic uniform, immediately cluing a listener into who or what they’re listening to. There’s ‘Newscaster’s Voice,’ for example, characterized by a slow cadence and a refusal to drop letters. There is ‘NPR’ or ‘Podcast Voice,’ which the writer Teddy Wayne has diagnosed as a ‘plague of pregnant pauses and off-kilter pronunciations,’ and which radio host Ira Glass once said arose in direct response to those butter-smooth anchors. And then there’s Poet Voice, scourge of the open mic and the Pulitzer podium alike.”

So there you have it. It’s been puzzling me for years, and I still don’t know why poets use it. Below, you can hear Pulitzer Prize winner and former poet laureate Louise Glück reading from Faithful and Virtuous Night in the Poet Voice.

By the way, I know of several poets who read this blog, and I would love it if they would weigh in.

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120218-Luna-and-Stella-rings-Knausgaard-book

I’m reading Book Six of Karl Ove Knausgaard’s My Struggle. The rings with the birthstones of my grandchildren are from Luna & Stella.

It’s always nice to learn that something you do anyway is good for your health. For example, I love to read. Now an article in the San Diego Union-Tribune tells me that reading books may help older folks stave off dementia.

Doug Williams writes, “If you want to live a long, healthy life, be sure to exercise, eat your veggies, get plenty of sleep and surround yourself with family and friends.

“Oh, and read a few good books each year, too.

“Several studies in recent years indicate that reading — especially reading books — is beneficial to health, wellness and even longevity.

“In 2016, research done by a team at the Yale University School of Public Health found that of more than 3,600 men and women 50 and older in a long-term health and retirement study, book readers — reading at least 3½ hours per week — had a 20 percent lower risk of dying over the next 12 years than non-book readers.

“Books, even more than long magazine or newspaper articles, seem to enhance quality of life, the researchers said.

“ ‘You have to engage more, hold on to information longer,’ says Avni Bavishi, one of the researchers and authors of the study done while she was completing her master’s in chronic disease epidemiology at Yale. …

“Bavishi, now a medical student at Northwestern, says regular book readers can find relaxation in reading. That can be an oasis — an old-school refuge — in this era of constantly changing stimuli from the Internet and 24-hour news cycle. Lifelong readers, too, may develop better critical thinking skills, vocabulary and empathy that can improve quality of life.

“The researchers believe books promote ‘deep reading’ that is a slow, immersive process. That cognitive engagement may help a reader over his or her lifetime to develop better skills for reasoning and concentration that can improve quality of life (better schools, jobs, income, standard of living). Plus, reading books can ‘promote empathy, social perception and emotional intelligence’ that can help create what they call a ‘survival advantage.’ …

“A study published in the journal Neurology in 2013 also cited the benefits of a lifetime of reading as a barrier to ‘late-life cognitive decline.’ It found that although there is no cure for dementia, ‘reading, writing and playing games’ can slow the progress of that affliction. …

“In a 2009 study at the University of Sussex in the United Kingdom, researchers found reading reduced stress levels by 68 percent, better even than listening to music or taking a walk. Stress reduction was indicated by a lower heart rate and reduced muscle tension.

“Other studies show reading — especially before bedtime — promotes better sleep. It also can enhance social skills and can boost overall intelligence and academic success. …

“In 2012, Stanford researchers — using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) — tracked blood flow to the brain of men and women critically reading excerpts of a Jane Austen novel. They found positive physical results, including increased blood flow to the brain in general, not just to the areas responsible for ‘executive function.’ ” More here.

FYI, I post mini reviews of all the books I read at GoodReads. You can email me at suzannesmom@lunaandstella.com about that.

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Photo: Bookstr
This is a short story vending machine.

What do you do when you have to wait a long time in a line? Or when you are alone in a restaurant and forgot to bring a book? You know perfectly well that your phone is not always interesting.

That’s when you need to pull a short story out of a vending machine.

Laura M. Holson reports at the New York Times, “Short Edition, a French community publisher of short-form literature, has installed more than 30 story dispensers in the United States in the past year to deliver fiction at the push of a button at restaurants and universities, government offices and transportation hubs. …

“Here’s how a dispenser works: It is shaped like a cylinder with three buttons on top indicating a ‘one minute,’ ‘three minute’ or ‘five minute’ story. (That’s how long it takes to read.) When a button is pushed, a short story is printed, unfurled on a long strip of paper.

“The stories are free. They are retrieved from a computer catalog of more than 100,000 original submissions by writers whose work has been evaluated by Short Edition’s judges, and transmitted over a mobile network. Offerings can be tailored to specific interests: children’s fiction, romance, even holiday-themed tales. …

“Short Edition gets stories for its catalog by holding writing contests. It is currently holding one for students and faculty at Penn State called ‘New Beginnings.’ [Scott Varner, executive director of strategic communications for Columbus City Schools in Ohio,] asked if the company might hold a contest for stories about Columbus by local students and they are considering it, he said.

“ ‘It would be great to have 10th graders writing stories for third graders,’ he said. …

“The dispensers cost $9,200 plus an additional $190 per month for content and software. The only thing that needs to be replaced is paper. The printed stories have a double life, shared an average of 2.1 times, said [Short Edition export director Kristan] Leroy.

‘The idea is to make people happy,’ she said. ‘There is too much doom and gloom today.’ …

“[Andrew Nurkin, the deputy director of enrichment and civic engagement at the Free Library of Philadelphia,] has high hopes for his city. ‘We are interested in finding sites to engage audiences who aren’t necessarily coming to the library,’ he said. So much so, the library is considering installing dispensers at the Family Court Building and the Philadelphia International Airport.”

What a great concept! Surely, every motor vehicle office in America should have one. Hmmm. Maybe those stories would have to be longer.

More at the New York Times, here.

PS. The Guardian was two and a half years ahead of the Times on this innovation. I blogged about the roll-out in Europe here.

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Photo: Star Tribune
Police officers working to build a free-standing Little Free Library in Minneapolis as part of an initiative to encourage reading.

According to Libor Jany at the Star Tribune, some Minneapolis police officers are starting to engage with communities in a new way.

“In a partnership with Little Free Library, the department will turn a pair of its police cruisers into bookmobiles with the hope of teaching the importance of reading.

“Community policing officers will carry books while they are making their rounds on the city’s North and South sides. They’ll still respond to certain emergencies, but won’t be dispatched to calls for help, freeing them up to visit neighborhoods without libraries and give away books to anyone who wants them.

“The program is the first of its kind in the country, organizers say. …

“From a distance, the [Little Free Library] boxes could be mistaken for a birdhouse or an oversized mailbox. An unfinished dollhouse, even. But when they’re finished, officials say they’ll be stocked with dozens of all kinds books. People are encouraged to take a book or leave a book, without fear of overdue fines. …

“Police Chief Medaria Arradondo said in a statement that he was thrilled by the exercise in community building, ‘an incredible way to empower our youth and reach them in a positive way.’ …

“Little Free Library Executive Director Todd Bol started the book exchange in his hometown of Hudson, Wis., in 2009, building the first mini-library out of an old garage door in honor of his late mother. Today, there are more than 60,000 libraries in all 50 states and more than 80 countries around the world. In recent years, the little book boxes have sprung up in far-flung places like Australia and Qatar. …

“For now, available titles to be given away range from children’s books like ‘Camp Wildhog’ and ‘The Box Car Children: The Yellow House Mystery’ to more adult fare, including a well-thumbed unauthorized biography of Martha Stewart.” More.

Trust those Minnesotans to take a great concept a step farther!

A couple of my other posts on Little Free Libraries may be found here and here.

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Photo: DollyParton.com.

For years, country music legend Dolly Parton has been giving back to the community with an initiative to boost child literacy. It started small in Tennessee and spread across the world.

What’s interesting, writes Melville House editor Ryan Harrington at mhpbooks.com, is that the small Knoxville mailing service that her foundation tapped to help in the literacy effort has kept up with the demand.

“Way way back in 2012,” writes Harrington, “we wrote about the international impact of Dolly Parton’s child literacy initiative, Imagination Library. We offered this bit of background on the project:

Launched by singer/actress Dolly Parton, the Imagination Library is a literacy program run by Parton’s Dollywood Foundation that sends enrolled children a free book every month from the month of their birth until they enter kindergarten. Growing up in rural Sevier County, Tennessee, Parton had friends and relatives who were illiterate, which was part of what led her to start a literacy program in her home county. The Imagination Library has been reproduced in 566 counties in the US, across 36 states, as well as in Canada. …

“The story of Dolly’s project is one of non-stop growth — and the once-tiny Knoxville company contracted to manage the original mailings has kept up with an amazingly increased volume.

“Direct Mail Services began its relationship with the Dollywood Foundation twenty years ago, mailing 1,000 books per month to children around Sevierville. A few years later, the foundation announced that the program would be open to any communities across that US that wanted to participate, and Direct Mail Services’ business exploded. …

“The company is preparing for more growth, as the foundation remains committed to expanding its reach. [Cortney Roark reporting for the Knoxville News Sentinel says], ‘Five percent of the U.S. population younger than 5 years old receives a book through the program. The goal is to reach 10 percent by 2024.’ ”

I could easily imagine a small company crumbling under such sudden high demand, so congratulations to Direct Mail Services for rising to the challenge.

More at Melville House, here.

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Just saw this 2015 article on Facebook. Originally reported in the Telegraph Herald, the story is about a remarkably wise barber in Iowa.

“Dubuque, Iowa, barber Courtney Holmes is a member of the Dubuque Black Men Coalition (DBMC,) an organization that works to improve the quality of life within their community by providing support and leadership to programs that seek to make a difference in the lives of African-American youth.

“As a father of two, he understands the importance of encouraging kids to read, but also realizes that not all parents share this sense of encouragement, so he decided to take matters into his own hands by rewarding children with a free haircut, if they read books to him while he works.

“The concept began at a back to school event in Comiskey Park, where non-profit organizations gather to support kids in getting ready to go back to school. Holmes started with a few kids, and before he knew it there was a line of over 20 kids getting ready to read a story in exchange for a new look. At the end of the event there were still kids in line so he decided to give out vouchers for them to come back to the salon to read to him and receive their hair cut. …

“Holmes hopes to continue his good work through a monthly event at the salon. He’s also been receiving books from people who want to help keep the movement alive.

‘There’s a lot going on in the world. But it only takes one person to change something. I am just trying to make a difference.’

Check out the rest of the story at Earthables.

Photo: Telegraph Herald
Courtney Holmes, a barber and member of the Dubuque Black Men Coalition, offers free haircuts for children who read to him.

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Are you familiar with the “Lens” blog at the NY Times? It focuses on “photography, video and visual journalism.” Here David Gonzalez writes about the photos of Putu Sayoga.

[Hat tip: Asakiyume on twitter.]

“If you live in a far-off place, a library may be something you’d only read about in books. That is, if you had books to begin with.

“That became the mission of Ridwan Sururi, an Indonesian man with a plan — and a horse. Several days a week, he loads books onto makeshift shelves he drapes over his steed, taking them to eager schoolchildren in the remote village of Serang, in central Java. ..

“Mr. Sayoga, a co-founder of the collective Arka Project, had seen something about the equine library on a friend’s Facebook page. It reminded him of his own childhood, where his school had only out-of-date books. Intrigued, he reached out to Mr. Sururi, who offered to put Mr. Sayoga up in his home while he spent time photographing Mr. Sururi on his rounds. …

“Mr. Sururi made a living caring for horses, as well as giving scenic tours on horseback. One of his clients, Nirwan Arsuka, came up with the book idea as a way of doing something to benefit the community, specifically a mobile library. He gave Mr. Sururi 138 books for starters. Most were in Indonesian, and the books included a lot with drawings.

“Children at the schools he visits can borrow the books for three days, and demand has been so great that he now has thousands of books.” More here. Check out the slide show.

Photo: Putu Sayoga

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Do we praise the work of librarians enough? I started following the Ferguson Library on twitter and Facebook after reading how it was the calm eye of the storm in Ferguson, Missouri, amid the 2014 riots. As a result, I now get good leads about other libraries. Here is a report on Ohio librarians who go the distance — and beyond.

Katie Johnson at School Library Journal describes her experience with “Play, Learn and Grow, a pop-up storytime and early learning program created through a collaboration between Twinsburg (OH) Public Library and Akron Metropolitan Housing Authority (AMHA). …

“I noticed that none of the children living in the housing development were coming to storytime at our library. I reached out to AMHA representatives, hoping they would be open to the idea of the library hosting a weekly program at the development. They were, partnering me with one of their employees, Kellie Morehouse, who was already working with families within the complex.

“We set up Play, Grow, and Learn in an unused room behind the apartment leasing office. Our initial goal was to get to know children age five and younger and their families through storytime, crafts, and free play. As the weeks went on, we saw everything that these families lacked: employment, education, transportation, healthy food, proper healthcare, access to preschool, even reliable phone service.”

They got involved in all those areas — helping children get vaccinations and nutritious food, for example, and arranging for isolated young mothers to address depression.

“Early experiences with storytime revealed a desire of the young mothers to interact with one another.  This led the AMHA representative to suggest teaming storytime with one of the organization’s programs for moms.  AMHA and a local behavioral health agency had been working together to provide maternal depression support groups to low-income women in other parts of the county. …

“Twice a month, the moms in our storytime are able to meet in a group setting with a professional to discuss their frustrations and worries. Mom-ME Time has become key, as so many of our moms are dealing with heavy pressures every day, and most do not have a strong support network. Being able to vent and get helpful parenting advice can be crucial to the choices they are making for their young children.”

It is worthy of applause when a librarian sees the whole child, not just a child in storytime, and tries to tackle the barriers to a better life. More here.

Photo: Katie Johnson/School Library Journal
Moms are included in programming for children.

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It always seems so limiting to put anything in a category. Some WordPress bloggers are good at categorizing their posts, and I’m sure that helps many readers, but my posts are never about one thing only.

Netflix makes movie recommendations based on categories that pigeonhole movies we’ve rated highly. But the approach seems clunky. Just because we have liked a lot of foreign films (Wadjda, Son of Rambow, Princess Mononoke), that doesn’t mean we like all foreign films. Maybe we like the ones we’ve seen for some other reason than being foreign. Maybe they are less glitzy, more honest, or more entertaining.

He are some funny categories Netflix recommended for my husband and me: “emotional, independent films based on books,” “critically acclaimed foreign movies,” “mind bending movies,” “anime,” “musicals,” “social & cultural documentaries,” “critically acclaimed emotional movies,” and “horror movies.” Horror!? Where did they get that?

At the late, lamented Kate’s Mystery Books in Cambridge, you could get pretty sound advice on books from Kate herself. She would ask you to name some mysteries you liked, and you might say you had read all of Tony Hillerman and Arthur Upfield. Then she would say, “Different cultures.”

Well, ye-es. But what kept me coming back to those authors were detectives who were likable and endings that were positive in some way. no matter how small. Kate did give me some authors I loved, like Eliot Pattison (mysteries about Tibet and, more recently, several about 18th century American Indians), but other books about different cultures might be too noir for me or too fluffhead, like mysteries with animal detectives.

I suppose categories help a bit. I just think they are clunky. Where would I file this post, now? Movies? Books? Retail? Misconceptions? Colin Cotterill, Dr. Siri, Laos?

Colin Cotterill writes a series that is both funny and deadly serious about a 70+ coroner in Laos, Dr. Siri, a likable antihero with an offbeat bunch of equally likable cronies.

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Jordan Teicher at National Public Radio reports that Icelanders really love their books.

“Iceland publishes more books per capita than any other country in the world,” writes Teicher, “with five titles published for every 1,000 Icelanders. But what’s really unusual is the timing: Historically, a majority of books in Iceland are sold from late September to early November. It’s a national tradition, and it has a name: Jolabokaflod, or the ‘Christmas Book Flood.’ …

“Iceland has a long literary history dating to medieval times. Landmarks of world literature, including the Sagas of the Icelanders and the Poetic Edda, are still widely read and translated there, according to the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization. …

” ‘Generally fiction and biographies would be the mainstays, although it varies a lot,’ [book researcher Baldur] Bjarnason says. Two years ago one of the surprise best-sellers was a pictorial overview of the history of tractors in Iceland.’ …

“The Book Flood tradition, according to The Reykjavik Grapevine‘s Hildur Knutsdottir, dates to World War II, when strict currency restrictions limited the amount of imported giftware in Iceland.

” ‘The restrictions on imported paper were more lenient than on other products, so the book emerged as the Christmas present of choice. And Icelanders have honored the tradition ever since,’ Knutsdottir writes. …

“The book in Iceland is such an enormous gift, you give a physical book. You don’t give e-books here,” [Bryndís Loftsdottir of the book chain Penninn-Eymundsson] says.”

More at NPR, here.

Turning briefly to the UK, here’s a columnist who believes in books. She aims to solve any personal problem you send her by recommending a book.

My own advice? Reread another Dickens.

Photo: Bryndís Loftsdottir
Browsing at an Icelandic book chain.

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Renée’s Christmas letter said she sometimes got children’s book ideas from this blog, which inspires me to increase my effort in that department.

Maria Popova’s extraordinary Brain Pickings website is a great source for children’s book recommendations, and I love that she often makes her finds in libraries.

Recently she described a sweet book called The Jacket, about a little girl who falls in love with a book.

Popova begins, ” ‘A book is a heart that only beats in the chest of another,’ Rebecca Solnit wrote in her sublime meditation on reading. But how that transplant happens is a matter wholly subjective and deeply mysterious. In the unusual, wonderful, and magically meta picture-book The Jacket (public library | IndieBound), writer Kirsten Hall and illustrator Dasha Tolstikova explore the beauty and terror of falling in love with a book from the perspective of the book itself. …

“ ‘Book was a book that had just about everything,’ the story begins. ‘He was solid and strong. His words were smart and playful. The problem was, Book didn’t feel special.’

“Book does want to be noticed … And then, one day, it happens. A little girl walks into the bookstore and falls in love with Book.”

But Book has to compete with the little girl’s dog for her affection. One day at a picnic, the dog accidentally splatters Book with mud.

“That night, her mother helps clean Book up, but the girl is ‘too sad and gloomy’ to read. … But when the girl opens her eyes in the morning, ‘something had changed.’

“She has a plan. With quiet excitement and optimism, she sits down at her desk with some art supplies as [her dog] and Book wonder what she’s working on.

“And then, the reveal: a colorful handmade jacket for Book, which she wraps around him as she beams a smile.” You learn how to make a jacket for your own book.

I love that after the girl sleeps on her problem, she wakes up with a solution, a feeling that she can do something about this. Strangely perhaps, my associations are to the Prodigal Son (“And when he came to himself, he said …”) and the ancient Greeks (“A dream came and stood at her head and said …”).

More at Brain Pickings, including lots of pictures.

Art: Dasha Tolstikova
Maria Popova says, “The Jacket comes from Brooklyn-based Enchanted Lion Books, by far the most intelligent and imaginative picture-book publisher today.

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Adele Peters writes at FastCoExist that some schools, “like Ward Elementary in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, are starting to fill classrooms with exercise bikes, so students can work out while they learn.

“The Read and Ride program at Ward began five years ago. One classroom is equipped with enough exercise bikes for a full class of students, and teachers bring students throughout the day to use them. As they ride, they read. The combination burns calories, but it turns out that it also helps students learn better. As the elementary school analyzed testing data at the end of school year, they found that students who had spent the most time in the program achieved an 83% proficiency in reading, while those who spent the least time in the program had failing scores–only 41% proficiency.” More here.

The concept, which I learned about at Andrew Sullivan’s blog, is interesting. I hope most such efforts are in addition to recess, not instead of, but I know from experience that physical motion can helping with learning. And if the kids like it, so much the better.

Photo: Read and Ride

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I have blogged before about the Little Free Library movement (for example, here), and I have sometimes wondered if everyone uses the libraries as intended, taking a book and returning it or contributing another.

Today John sent this link from BookRiot.com. A woman who sponsors a Little Free Library, Swapna Krishna, is stamping all her books with a message that folks should play by the rules.

She writes, “One thing I started doing a month ago (and I’m very glad of now) is that I ordered a custom stamp for my library and started stamping the books I put out. It doesn’t require that the person return the book (and honestly, I don’t care whether they do or not), but it does tell a used bookstore or library that they really shouldn’t be buying that book or accepting it for donation. And I hope that if something like this happens, they’ll make their way back to me eventually.

“I purchased the stamp off Etsy from TailorMadeStamps. They were easy to work with and did a pretty awesome job in not much time!” The stamp is below, with her address blotted out for the Internet.

I love the idea of TailorMadeStamps and can think of a number of stamp messages that might come in handy. How about this variation on an old friend’s rejection to rejection slips: “Thank you for your recent scam letter about reducing my debts. I’m obliged to inform you that it does not meet my needs at the current time. However, I have forwarded it the attorney general, who may have a use for it.”

On second thought, that might be a little too long for a stamp — and expensive. How about “Just returning your unsolicited credit card account offer in this unstamped envelope”?

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