All posts by trav

just a guy in need of more bookshelves.

Bicycle Library Serving Homeless Patrons

I stand by my claim that book people are, as a whole, the coolest people on the planet. This story of a bicycle library making its way around to serve books to the homeless is just one more point of proof.

Since 2011, Street Books has been pedaling around Portland, Oregon, once a week, delivering books to people who can’t check them out from the library. Yes, the public library is free, but to use the printer or check out a book, you often need things like a driver’s license or proof of residence or a utility bill. These are things that people living on the fringes of society do not have.

They even have a very short video on Vimeo which captures the spirit of what being a book lover is all about:

I love this quote:

“Because there’s a freedom that comes from kind conversations about books.”

The power of books and literature is often lauded by those of us fortunate to have plenty to read, but we often forget about the real world transformative power that books can have.

The books do get returned and exchanged for others, but if a homeless patron can’t find a bike library again, they are encouraged to just pass the book along to someone else who would like it.

It seems like every city in the world could benefit from people caring for others, through books, just like this. Kudos to the folks behind the bicycle library movement and Street Books.

FREE Rare Book School Lectures

There is one thing readers enjoy almost as much as reading and that is talking about books. And if the topic is rare books, then all the better. There’s something about the study of preservation and the hope of an amazing find at a used book store that stirs reader’s hearts at a deep level. This is why the Rare Book School exists.

The folks at the Rare Book School readers’ and book collectors’ hearts all too well. I’m sure it’s part of the reason they have made 100+ lectures available for FREE online. Most are audio-only and play in your browser, but some link to YouTube videos where you can see the lecturer and artifacts. All of the sessions last around an hour.

The oldest lecture is from 1973 and the Rare Book School just added another class session from August 3, 2016. Just click through and check out the lecture topics. It’s amazing how specialized the roster of speakers are.

The topics are very very focused and toe the line of strictly academic every second. I happen to think this makes them all the more valuable and interesting. These are real lectures by practitioners and researchers in the fields of preservation, biography, collecting and antiquities. It’d be fun to hang around after one or two of these classes and see what everyone talks about.

Rare Books SchoolIf this kind of thing strikes your fancy then I’d also recommend Rare Books Uncovered: True Stories of Fantastic Finds in Unlikely Places by Rebecca Barry. I just picked it up and am only a couple stories into, but it’s a fun collection of stories. They are all in the “that time a Hemingway 1st edition was found at a yard sale for $1” vein of wishful thinking. Dare to dream.

Books about Books, a short list

‘Books about books’ is my favorite category at the bookstore. It’s often a difficult section to find. Some shops place them in the ‘Collectibles & Antiques’ area. Others in the ‘Essays’ or ‘Reference’ sections. Some of the best book stores will gather all of the books about books under the heading of ‘Literary Non-Fiction’, which seems as appropriate, while the best shops do create a curated “Books About Books” section.

I’ve often wondered why this isn’t the first section every book shop stocks. One can pretty much guarantee that, while not every browsing customer will agree on which hot political book to read or which classic work is the best, every potential customer is someone who appreciates books. Right?

The folks at the LitHub have offered a five-book list The Best Books About Books. I’ve only read Dirda’s Browsings. But I like the sound of Tim Parks’ Where I’m Reading From, so it’s been added to my TBR list.

In hopes that you too are a kindred bookish type, I’d like to offer five books that I think are at the top of the ‘books about books’ category. These are all books I’ve read and continually recommend to folks. On LibraryThing, I keep a running list of the books about books I’ve read and have-yet-to read. My list includes both fiction and non-fiction. Please let me know if you have read a good one that I’ve missed.

Five Fantastic Books About Books

BooksAboutBooks_SMBSo Many Books: Reading and Publishing in an Age of Abundance by Gabriel Zaid – This one is only 160 pages and it outlines perfectly many of the challenges that modern publishers and readers face in today’s book world.

 

 

BooksAboutBooks_ELEx Libris : Confessions of a Common Reader by Anne Fadiman – If there were to be one book on everyone’s books about books list I imagine this 162-page book honoring all that’s beautiful about words and books would be it.

 

 

BooksAboutBooks_YLBSThe Yellow-Lighted Bookshop: A Memoir, a History by Lewis Buzbee – I can’t quite put my finger on why this book rises so much higher than all the other ‘bookstore memoir’ titles out there, but Buzbee nails just about every feeling and thought I’ve had about bookshops.

 

BooksAboutBooks_LaNThe Library at Night by Alberto Manguel – By far the heaviest and deepest book on my list, Manguel relates the philosophies, histories and importance of book collecting and reading like no one else.

 

 

BooksAboutBooks_HwBAt Home with Books : How Booklovers Live with and Care for Their Libraries by Estelle Ellis – This is a big coffee table book full of the most gorgeous and inspiring images of home libraries running alongside great interviews with the people who own them.

 

 

Reading Ability Tied to Ice Cream

Ok, so this one has a bit of a “cars with umbrellas in them get into more wrecks, so umbrellas cause wrecks” kind of feel to it, but hey, it was reported by The Economist. Which is pretty legit and their paywall is more profitable than what I’m running here at Headsubhead, so I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt.

But the numbers do track just about the same: countries that consume large amounts of ice cream treats also score very very well on literacy tests.

reading_Ice_Cream

No doubt there are many other factors here, but doing a quick and dirty back of the napkin confirmation…

Business Insider lists these ten as the top ice cream eating countries:

  1. New Zealand
  2. United States
  3. Australia
  4. Finland
  5. Sweden
  6. Canada
  7. Denmark
  8. Ireland
  9. Italy
  10. United Kingdom

And according to a Washington Post article, the most literate countries in the world are:

  1. Finland
  2. Norway
  3. Iceland
  4. Denmark
  5. Sweden
  6. Switzerland
  7. United States
  8. Germany
  9. Latvia
  10. Canada & Netherlands (tie)

So that’s 50%. Of course, while it’s easy to count ice cream cones, it’s much harder to measure literacy. No doubt some formulas would track this trend higher or lower, but it’s still pretty fun.

So, averaging the info from Business Insider, in order to maintain a high level of literacy you should consume 13.5 liters (3.6 gallons) of ice cream per year.

All of that probably isn’t true, but it sure is fun to say. And there’s math behind it! Everything with numbers is true, right? Just ask any of these politicians running for office. However if science could tell us which flavors of ice cream help us most with reading comprehension…. then we’d be on to something.