Sunday Lowdown #54

Interesting Notes from Class:

This week’s school assignment felt painfully hard. We were asked to run data on certain collections in the library (I chose Christmas nonfiction and oversized books, for example) to determine how well that part of the collection is serving the mission of the library and its community. However, we were not taught how to interpret that data. I learned that urban fiction has 121 books that had 96 circulations in 2019. Were they the same books, or 96 different books checked out? Is this a good turnover rate for a year? No clue. I’m hoping to learn more about collection analysis in the future.

This Week’s Blog Posts:

Thanks to everyone who shared their feelings about audiobook narrators after reading me review of Who Asked You? by Terry McMillan. I’d love to know more about how audiobook publishers choose whether to do performative or straight reads, multiple voice actors in the cast or just one, and even if male voice actors should use a falsetto to indicate women, and what say the author has in those choices.

Although I’m so excited about #ReadingValdemar 2020, I was a hot mess leading up to my review of The Black Gryphon by Mercedes Lackey and Larry Dixon on Friday! Somehow, I got behind and found myself writing the review after work and prior to yoga. Right before I wrote my review, I listened to Maureen Corrigan on NPR read one of her book reviews. As a professional, nationally-syndicated reviewer, her audience is different than mine. The result is a more professional-sounding review that avoids the word “I,” essentially removing Corrigan from the writing. If you noticed my review sounded different, it did! I’ll reel it in.

Next Week’s Blog Posts:

Have you ever thought about the benefits of book blogging? This summer, Grab the Lapels turns seven! I’ve seen a lot, and things have changed along the way — most of it having nothing to do with books. Come back to see why I love book blogging for reasons that have nothing to do with reading.

I hope you’re not tired of audiobooks because I have a review of Wise Blood by Flannery O’Connor on Thursday. Bronson Pinchot narrates — or performs, as he calls it — the Southerners in O’Connor’s story believably.

Book I’m Reading Aloud to My Spouse:

Tibetan Peach Pie by Tom Robbins is proving to be a fun nightly read. The 80-something year-old writer recalls moments that fit together under a loose theme, such as experiences with snakes or circuses. Each anecdote is short, meaning it’s easy to stop early if we’re too tired, but but pack a big dose of humor and history (Robbins grew up in Appalachia during the Depression).

Reading Side Projects:

“The Monkey’s Paw” by W.W. Jacobs did not disappoint. I borrowed the audio version (28 minutes) from the library and was not let down by my memory of it from high school. I’d forgotten small details but remembered (in general) what happened. Being reminded of those details on which the horror hangs was a real treat!

Books Added to the TBR Pile:


  1. Really looking forward to hearing your reasons for why you love book blogging! I find that blogging has pushed me to read books (and whole genres) that I wouldn’t have touched before, and taught me a lot about how publishing works. Most important, though, are the handful of blog friends I have made over the last six years! I basically started blogging because I was lonely, and it proved to be an absolutely winning formula for that.


    • Awww, Lou, I’m so glad that you feel less lonely (perhaps isolated?) thanks to your book blog. I’ve told other people about your blog, noting that you don’t post several times per week, but that each post is totally worth reading.


  2. I find it interesting that your class didn’t teach you how to analyze the data, but I also kind of think it’s not surprising. It seems to me that many of the library staff I know are afraid of math and see themselves as “book people,”so I can imagine someone creating a class and not wanting to do math in it. 😀


    • I’m going to say something about it at the end of term in my course evaluation. I mean, we didn’t even get basic info, such as what is an acceptable turnover rate, or one we should strive for.


          • I know some libraries have less circulation than others. One I used to frequent almost primarily circulated DVDs and no books. I once heard a frustrated staffer ask how she was supposed to weed when literally none of the books had moved in the past year.

            That’s just kind of their normal. Maybe it’s not great. Maybe we should be sad the people in the neighborhood apparently don’t read. (It’s not because they’re buying books–demographics show a large percentage of impoverished households in that area.) But I imagine their turnover rates and what they want from them are very different from the other local library.


            • I would imagine the library needed to get creative with marketing (mini cart pop-up displays) or recatalog a book (one about wedding vows for a gay couple in with other wedding planning books when it would be better suited to the LGBTQ books) or the library not understanding what the community actually needs, which would require a survey of patrons (not an easy task!). One idea I’ve seen is libraries that put up a huge sheet of paper on the wall that says “I would like my library to have……” and leave markers around so people can write their ideas.


              • The library actually does a really great job with displays, programming, and social media. I love going there both because I can always get popular titles right off the shelf (haha) and because it’s just a great library, altogether. I think the larger issue is that they are located in an area where, statistically speaking, people don’t read. (Statistics generally show people read less as their income goes down. Probably because they don’t have time for leisure reading/have more pressing concerns.)

                They also partnered with another agency a few years ago to do a literacy project for the community. The project was vandalized so many times that the partnering agency declined to put up the display in that community in subsequent years.

                I don’t think it’s the library’s fault their patrons prefer movies to books. I think they’re just one small piece of the puzzle when it comes to increasing literacy rates.

                I will also say the community loves to hang out there–they just don’t check out books when they leave.


                  • I really, really want to be able to borrow board games! When I say that, staff look at me and I hear them thinking, “But we don’t want to have to check for all the pieces.” :b


                    • Ugh, do they not check the books for missing pages, marks, stains, tears, etc?? Sometimes, you have to take a risk, people!

                      In my class, one student was writing that they have these bags that people can check out, and the bag includes all the stuff for a game or project to be completed in the library, but because the bag has to be checked out, accurate circulation numbers can be kept.


                    • Haha. They do check the books!

                      I suppose they could choose not to check the board games. I can’t see them sitting there counting out all the cards, for example. And just rely on patrons to let them know if something is missing? Maybe just do a quick look to make sure the main pieces are there and nothing is terribly damaged.

                      Really, I just want to be able to check out board games because the German-style ones are too expensive for me and I have nowhere to store a bunch of them, anyway.

                      Liked by 1 person

  3. Ooh, looking forward to your reflections on blogging! (Way to go, staying in it for so long!) I’ll also be interested in your review of the O’Connor audiobook.
    It sounds like it would be very interesting to look at library collections data and see how often different genres/types of books are being checked out, but it is understandably frustrating not to have quite enough info or guidance to be able to analyze that data in a helpful way. I hope you get to learn more about it going forward!


    • This week we’re talking about weeding, which I know a bit about because my library is doing a big weeding project before we retag every single book we have. But for last week it felt like the instructor didn’t match her readings with her assignment.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I hope you’ll share an update on collection data analysis in a future Sunday Lowdown! I don’t know why- stats are always interesting to me. I’d be curious to see what those stats mean.

    The Tom Robbins memoir sounds excellent. I don’t usually read memoirs- but I think that’s one I would check out.


    • This week in the collection services class we’re learning about how to weed, and I’ll do an update for that. The numbers make more sense this time around.

      The Tom Robbins is funny because he can jump around in time and place, but it’s all really clear. He just really sticks to whatever the topic is. The last two nights he’s been describing his “talking stick.” Apparently, from ages 9 to 16 he used to walk around his yard and make up stories to himself (out loud) while banging a stick on the ground — AND HIS PARENTS JUST ROLLED WITH IT. LOL!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Tom Robbins is so much fun. I’ve not read him for ages but I like what you’ve had to say about the memoir. It seems to suit his voice in his stories too. Likely I should have guessed he’d be in his 80s now, but I didn’t figure it. (Felon is really something. I recommend the interview on the NYT if you read the poems and want more, or just want to know a little more before reading. Good luck with the rest of your classes!


    • Robbins is actually 87 right now! He’s pictures are too wild; he looks like he’s in his 60s. I don’t know if it’s because he dyes his hair or has some extensive touching up done in his photos, but I would never guess 87.

      I think I’ve only read Even Cowgirls Get the Blues, and I taught it one semester, too. The students at the all-women’s Catholic college were not terribly impressed with the orgies and pro-vagina messages of the Rubber Rose Ranch.

      Thanks for the recommendation about Felon. I might have first noticed this collection when you added it on Goodreads, now that I think about it!

      Liked by 1 person

      • I’m guessing he’d be flattered by our shared sense of marvelment. Hah!

        The first I read (and fell in love with) was Jitterbug Perfume. But I liked Cowgirls a lot too (bold choice to teach – I bet the readers enjoyed it!). Skinny Legs as well. The others I read still had the same delightful language and bizarre sense of fun, but I guess maybe I didn’t connect to characters so easily?

        You might have – there was a brief discussion with someone else there who was thinking of reading it – that might have caught your eye in the feed. Hope you enjoy it!

        Liked by 1 person

  6. You have two amazing upcoming posts, whether you know it or not. Certainly about the benefits of blogging, but I also hope you’ll write a post about audiobook narration! I have many thoughts to share once you post it. 😉 I hope you’ll write other posts this year in which you reflect on what blogging has meant to you over the last 7 years. SEVEN. Wow. Are you celebrating in any way?

    It feels like publishing our The Black Gryphon reviews was SO LONG AGO. I love that you noticed how different you sounded in writing the review. Do you often write your reviews in a time crunch? I feel like the pressure of just having to get it done also affected your ability to sound like yourself. But, that’s just a hypothesis.

    Let me know what you learn about collection analysis! I do a TON of data analysis in my job. It’s awful when you don’t really understand the data. Just keep asking questions and poking holes. That’s all analysis really is– and if people don’t know the answers, be clear in your findings where you are making assumptions. You got this!


    • The Black Gryphon DOES feel like ages ago, especially since The White Gryphon is knocking on the door. I don’t often feel the pressure of writing a review — I’ve done if for so long that if I’m not massively sleepy, I can do it. But listening to the NPR review lady jacked my tone.

      The data analysis was confusing because we had zero frame of reference to interpret these numbers. You’d think 55% turnover rate would be an F (am I thinking like a professor??) but then apparently it’s really good. That sort of thing.

      Liked by 1 person

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