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Cross-reading: Sample something from the other library shelves

By Jenny Hubbard

Rowan Public Library

I have been a patron of Rowan Public Library from the time I could hold a pencil, and I’ve been safe and cozy in my own little bubble of fiction ever since. But now that I’ve begun working here, I’ve been making a valiant effort to stretch myself beyond my comfort zone.

You’ve heard of cross-training? How about cross-reading? If what’s good for the body is good for the soul, then surely what’s good for the soul is good for the body.

Let’s say that you, too, are a fiction reader from way back. I would advise going easy on yourself at first. Visit the children’s room. Browse the shelves. Reunite with a book that you loved as a child. Forty-two years ago, I linked arms with three girls in turn-of-the-century Minnesota, and when I reread “Betsy-Tacy and Tib,” by Maud Hart Lovelace, I was right back there with them. Not only was I was delighted to learn that I had excellent taste in literature at the tender age of 9, I was also able — actually able — to feel 9 again. Time travel does exist, ladies and gentlemen, when you open yourself to pages you’ve opened before.

Let’s say you’re married to a rabid reader of non-fiction (as I am). What my husband can whip through in three days might take me three weeks, but that doesn’t mean I’m not appreciating the adventure.

Non-fiction as riveting as any fiction I’ve read includes “Seabiscuit: An American Legend,” by Laura Hillenbrand (about the racehorse); “Devil in the White City,” by Erik Larson (about a serial killer during the Chicago World’s Fair); and “The Children’s Blizzard,” by David Laskin (about an 1888 snowstorm on the prairie that blindsided hundreds of recent immigrants).

A more natural transition from fiction to nonfiction lies in the arms of the memoir, which used to be called autobiography and was, more or less, a record of deeds and accomplishments. Memoirs are personal, intimate, first-hand accounts that do not necessarily tell stories of glory. Here are two memoirs that neither I nor my students (when I taught high-school English) could put down: “The Glass Castle,” by Jeanette Walls, and “The Tender Bar,” by J.R. Moehringer, who edits the yearly “The Best American Sports Writing,” which, by the way, is excellent material for cross-reading for you and your teen.

If you’re ready for an intellectual challenge that will also charm you to the core, New Yorker columnist Adam Gopnik is your man. I’ve told my husband that if I ever have the chance to go on a date with Adam Gopnik, I’m going. (Steve has the same carte blanche with Alison Krauss.) You’ll understand when you read Gopnik’s “Paris to the Moon,” a collection of essays about living with his wife and young son in Paris. At the very least, it will inspire your tastebuds. Gopnik is a gourmand who will make you yearn for an authentic French meal.

And that takes us straight to cookbooks, which can be super-fun reads. There are almost always gorgeous photographs of the food, and often the cookbooks include anecdotes to accompany the recipes. The library has shelves and shelves of cookbooks, located in the 641s. When I searched “cookbooks” in our online card catalogue, I discovered one written for teens by teens, called “The Green Teen Cookbook.” Clever parents, take note. This particular cookbook also offers lessons on how to shop on a budget and how to make the most of what is already in the pantry.

The next time you visit your local branch of the public library, allow yourself 10 or 15 minutes to wander the aisles. Exercise for the body, exercise for the mind — it’s here for the taking, and, as always, it’s free.

Cartoon festival: Aug. 27, Saturday Morning Cartoon Festival, 10:30 a.m.-noon, East branch, Rockwell, featuring Donald Duck. Light refreshments.

Friend of RPL Concert Series: Headquarters, Aug. 30, 7 p.m.; doors open 6:30. Bob Carlin, one of the best-known clawhammer banjo players. He has traveled through the country and the world with his Southern banjo style. He is also a music producer and traditional music researcher. Free.

Book Bites Book Club: South (China Grove), Tuesday, Aug. 30, 6-7 p.m. Free, open to the public. We discuss a different book each month and serve refreshments loosely related to the theme. “Peter Pan.” Need a copy? Call 704-216-7731.

Displays: Headquarters, Communities in Schools and Anime; East, pottery collection by Lennie Cooper; South, dolls, by Rowan County Doll Society.

Literacy: Call the Rowan County Literacy Council at 704-216-8266 for more information on teaching or receiving literacy tutoring for English speakers or for those for whom English is a second  language.



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