by Chelsea Bennett, Reference Department
Have you ever participated in National Novel Writing Month? A friend and I took part for the first time last year, and this year we recruited two more. I learned a lot from the first go-round. This time, I hope to approach the challenge with more wisdom and strategy – and that includes looking for help.
Maybe you don’t know what I’m talking about. National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo for short, happens every November. You can read about its history and purpose at www.nanowrimo.org. Essentially, the goal is for an individual to complete a 50,000-word novel (about the length of The Great Gatsby ) during the month of November – for no other reason than personal fulfillment. And if the nickname “NaNoWriMo” weren’t so catchy, they might rename it International Novel Writing Month: in 2017, there were “468,104 participants on six continents”! 
That’s great news for first-time Wrimos (yeah, that’s what we’re called) and veterans alike. The NaNoWriMo community connects through message boards on the organization’s website, as well as through social media and in-person meet-ups. By fostering camaraderie, inspiration, and accountability, these groups provide support for novelists during the 30-day challenge.
But sometimes even the most accomplished writer needs concrete resources to fall back on. During NaNoWriMo, flagging creativity is especially bad news. So bookmark this post, fellow Wrimos, for I’ve done my best to scrounge up some fun resources and practical ideas that are guaranteed* to help you reach that 50,000 word goal.
1) Don’t feel excluded if you don’t have Microsoft Word. Plenty of word processors do the job for free, such as OpenOffice and LibreOffice. Apple’s free offering is called Pages. Windows users may also like Atomic Scribbler; it’s designed with novelists in mind.
2) All writers have a preferred writing “soundtrack,” be it absolute silence, a curated playlist, the sounds of nature, or the bustle of a coffee shop. If the latter applies to you, but you’re not willing to increase your latte budget, try an app like Coffitivity. It “recreates the ambient sounds of a cafe to boost your creativity and help you work better.” 
3) Keep track of those great ideas that strike at inconvenient moments. Carry a notebook that fits in your pocket or purse, or use the built-in note and voice memo apps on your phone. For more in-depth note taking, Wrimos often suggest Evernote and OneNote. Both let users keep track of ideas in many forms – text, audio, photos, drawings, etc. – and access them on other devices.
4) With only a month to write, web-based app Sprinter helps make the most of your limited time. With distraction-free design, it gives you “a 15-minute goal which is meant to get [you] quickly started and stay engaged despite being surrounded by the Internet.”  You can also adjust the length of the timer. For Wrimos without the luxury of large chunks of free time (hello, parents of young children!), fifteen minutes of focused writing could make all the difference.
5) Glean wisdom from those who have already been where you want to go. The NaNoWriMo forums feature tons of practical tips on technology, time management, technique, and more, all from Wrimos who know what you’re going through.
6) Yes, research is important; but to “win” NaNoWriMo, you can’t obsess over details. November’s not for editing! Using symbols and keywords in your draft, such as “[[RESEARCH]],” so you can easily find them during revision. Keep a separate notebook or file of things you need to research, too.
Bookmark sites like Refdesk.com (“Fact Checker for the Internet”), WritetoDone (“Unmissable Articles on Writing”), and OEDb’s 150 Writing Resources (“…to help you write better, faster, and more persuasively”). Come back to them after the rush of November is over.
7) Almost everyone writes on a computer or tablet these days. Tablets in particular have gotten less expensive, and computers are pretty readily available. (The Franklin branch of the WCPL system even has new laptops for patrons to use while in the library.) With internet access, writers can quickly access a wealth of information to make their stories more authentic. But all that connectivity comes at a high cost: distraction. (“Wikipedia wormholes” are a real thing, y’all.)
Sure, you could switch to pen and paper. Lots of Wrimos do, and they love the experience. I myself have opted for an outmoded piece of tech: the AlphaSmart 3000. I love its full-size keyboard, Y2K-era translucent plastic styling, long battery life, and USB connectivity. “That would make me crazy,” said one friend when I showed off my acquisition. And yeah, maybe I’ll get some odd looks when I schlep it to the pub for a writing session. But, for me, it’s a happy medium between writing by hand and typing on a laptop.
If you’re not willing to go to such anachronistic lengths to avoid temptation, though, there are computer-friendly options designed to minimize distraction. My favorite is Calmly Writer Online. Put it in full-screen mode, and you’ve got a blank page with a nice typeface and bookish margins. (You can access the menu by clicking on a subtle lotus icon.) It instantly soothes and sharpens focus.
8) And don’t forget your local library! Whether you need to brush up on your “elements of style,” learn more about writing within your genre of choice, or find a mentor in legends like Ursula K. Le Guin (Steering the Craft) or Steven King (On Writing : a memoir of the craft), if you browse the 800s in Non-Fiction, you won’t leave empty-handed.
What are your favorite writing resources? Share them in the comments below. Then read some fun NaNoWriMo facts from our 2015 post, and go deep into the writing process – from gathering inspiration, to free self-publishing resources the library provides – from my previous NaNoWriMo post. Good luck, Wrimos!
* Guarantee not guaranteed by this blogger, the WCPL, or anyone else for that matter. In fact, we’ll be proud of you whether you finish or not.
By Chelsea Bennett, Reference Department
Originally posted September 14, 2018
Can you believe we’re living in The Future? For decades, the year 2000 seemed impossibly far away. Folks imagined that, by now, we’d have robot teachers and colonies on Mars, and the end of all disease. Companies would add the number “2000” after model numbers to connote cutting-edge technology from the bright, distant horizon. Marty McFly’s 2015 was a land of flying cars, expanding pizza, and self-tying shoes. (And fax machines. Fax machines were everywhere.)
Some of those visions for the future were spot on; others now seem charmingly out-of-date; and we’re still waiting for many of the rest to be invented. But isn’t it fantastic how often we hear about inventions that were inspired by Science Fiction? If “[science] is magic that works,” as Kurt Vonnegut says in Cat’s Cradle, then Science Fiction is the root of much of that magic. Imagination becomes ideas, which in turn become experiments. Experiments lead to discoveries, then inventions, and ultimately to the commonplace wonders we take for granted: such as the submarine (Jules Verne’s Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea), the cell phone (the direct descendent of the “communicator” from the original Star Trek series), and even nuclear power (H.G. Wells’ The World Set Free). 
Wait. A fiction writer born in the 1800s gave the world the idea for nuclear power? It’s true! Decades after its publication, a scientist named Leo Szilard “read [The World Set Free] and was immediately inspired to create what Wells had dreamed up” – for better or for worse.  And when a teenaged Robert H. Goddard read Wells’ The War of the Worlds, it set him on a path of “research [that] culminated with the Apollo program, and man’s landing on the moon.”  So there’s an undeniable link between the Science Fiction genre and humanity’s incredible achievements. Keep that in mind the next time your friends give you a hard time for being a sci-fi geek!
Another cool thing about the sci-fi genre is that it often combines elements of many other genres, as well. There’s sci-fi horror, sci-fi thriller, sci-fi mystery, sci-fi romance… You get it. So, without further ado, I’m going to leave you with a great list of Science Fiction authors (many of them you’ll find on our genre bookmarks in the library), titles of some of their works, and sometimes the additional genres that come into play. (For example, when you see “humor,” think of it as “sci-fi + humor,” and so on.)
- Douglas Adams – The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series (humor)
- A. American – Survivalist series (pulpy but fun)
- Charlie Jane Anders – All the Birds in the Sky
- Hiromu Arakawa – Fullmetal Alchemist (manga)
- Catherine Asaro – Quantum Rose
- Isaac Asimov – Foundation series; Galactic Empire series; Robot series
- Gertrude Barrows Bennett – Citadel of Fear (under pseudonym “Francis Stevens”)
- Alfred Bester – The Stars My Destination (cyberpunk); The Demolished Man
- Leigh Brackett – The Long Tomorrow
- Ray Bradbury – The Martian Chronicles; The Veldt (short story)
- Octavia E. Butler – Xenogenesis series
- Pat Cadigan – Synners (cyberpunk)
- Orson Scott Card – Ender’s Game series (YA)
- Margaret Cavendish – The Blazing World (published in 1666!)
- Becky Chambers – A Closed and Common Orbit
- C. L. Cherryh – Downbelow Station
- Arthur C. Clarke – 2001: A Space Odyssey (there are four books in the series); Childhood’s End
- Ernest Cline – Ready Player One; Armada
- Peter Clines – 14 (mystery, horror, paranormal); The Fold (thriller)
- Michael Crichton – Sphere (psychological thriller); Jurassic Park; Prey
- Philip K. Dick – Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?; Ubik; A Scanner Darkly (police procedural)
- William Gibson – Neuromancer (cyberpunk); The Difference Engine (written with Bruce Sterling) (steampunk); Virtual Light (dark humor, detective)
- Charlotte Perkins Gilman – Herland
- Joe Haldeman – The Forever War series; The Accidental Time Machine
- Frank Herbert – Dune saga
- Hugh Howey – Silo series (post-apocalyptic)
- Kameron Hurley – The Stars Are Legion
- Aldous Huxley – Brave New World; Ape and Essence
- P. D. James – Children of Men
- Nancy Kress – Beggars in Spain
- Larissa Lai – Salt Fish Girl
- Ursula K. Le Guin – Hainish Cycle; The Eye of the Heron; The Left Hand of Darkness
- Madeleine L’Engle – Kairos cycle (beginning with A Wrinkle in Time) (children’s, “science fantasy”)
- Cixin Liu – Remembrance of Earth’s Past trilogy (hard science fiction)
- Katherine MacLean – Pictures Don’t Lie (stories)
- Emily St. John Mandel – Station Eleven
- George R. R. Martin – Tuf Voyaging; the Wildcards universe
- Robert Masello – The Einstein Prophecy (historical fiction, mystery, thriller)
- Julian May – Pliocene Exile series (high fantasy)
- Anne McCaffrey – The Ship Who Sang
- Seanan McGuire – Parasitology Trilogy series (sociological, under pseudonym “Mira Grant”)
- Maureen F. McHugh – China Mountain Zhang
- Judith Merril – The Tomorrow People
- Elizabeth Moon – The Speed of Dark
- Larry Niven – Tales of Known Space series; Ringworld and the Fleet of Worlds series
- Alice Norton – The Time Traders (under pseudonym “Andre Norton”)
- Christopher Nuttall – The Oncoming Storm (military, space opera); The Royal Sorceress (steampunk, alternate history)
- Nnedi Okorafor – Who Fears Death
- Malka Older – Infomocracy
- George Orwell – 1984 (speculative, “social science fiction”)
- Frederik Pohl – The Coming of the Quantum Cats; the Heechee saga (space opera)
- Kim Stanley Robinson – Mars trilogy (literary)
- Joanna Russ – The Female Man (experimental and not what you think)
- Mary Doria Russell – The Sparrow
- Carl Sagan – Contact
- John Scalzi – Redshirts; Old Man’s War series
- Alice Bradley Sheldon – Her Smoke Rose up Forever (stories, under pseudonym “James Tiptree, Jr.”)
- Mary Shelley – Frankenstein
- Dan Simmons – Ilium series (fantasy); Hyperion Cantos series (fantasy)
- Neal Stephenson – Cryptonomicon (historical fiction); Snow Crash (cyberpunk)
- Karin Tidbek – Amatka
- Jules Verne – Journey to the Center of the Earth (adventure)
- Thea von Harbou – Metropolis
- Kurt Vonnegut – Cat’s Cradle; Slaughterhouse Five; The Sirens of Titan (all conceptual/unconventional)
- Sabrina Vourvoulias – Ink
- David Weber – Honor Harrington series (military); The Apocalypse Troll
- Andy Weir – The Martian; Artemis
- H. G. Wells – The Time Machine; The Island of Doctor Moreau; The Invisible Man; The War of the Worlds
- Martha Wells – The Murderbot Diaries series (described as a fun read!)
- Connie Willis – To Say Nothing of the Dog (historical fiction, rom-com, humor, time travel)
That’s enough to get you started, right? Remember, if we don’t have a book at the Williamson County Public Library, we’ll try to locate it with Inter-Library Loan. Enjoy – and be inspired!
I sourced most of the woman authors and their works from this excellent list: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/blog/sci-fi-fantasy/50-sci-fi-must-reads-by-women
By Chelsea Bennett, Reference Department
“To me, art begets art,” wrote Susan Vreeland, author of Girl in Hyacinth Blue. “Painting feeds the eye just as poetry feeds the ear, which is to say that both feed the soul.”  If you’ve choreographed an impromptu dance routine while listening to a favorite song, for example, or illustrated a beloved poem in watercolor, then you’ll know what she meant.
Sometimes those creative links span decades and genres. Who could have guessed that an “art pop” song based on the plot of a gothic tragi-romance would sweep the music charts in 13 countries and both hemispheres? But that’s exactly what happened when teenaged English artist Kate Bush released her first single, “Wuthering Heights,” in 1978.  That song – and its gloriously, theatrically, beautifully weird music video – has been running through my head for weeks, so I decided to find some more examples of popular music based on literature.
Countless acts, from Radiohead to Dead Kennedys to Stevie Wonder, have found inspiration in George Orwell’s 1984. David Bowie even aspired to produce a musical based on the dystopian novel. Orwell’s widow denied Bowie the rights, but some of the songs ended up on his Diamond Dogs album (“1984,” “Big Brother,” “We Are the Dead”). [3, 4, 5]
Musicians mine Middle Earth – the setting for J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogy, among other stories – for ideas, as well. Led Zeppelin indulged their Hobbital tendencies in such classics as “Ramble On,” “Over the Hills and Far Away,” “Misty Mountain Hop,” and “The Battle of Evermore.” Rush, Genesis, and Nickel Creek are some other acts who’ve referenced Bilbo et al. Comedy nerdcore duo Lords of the Rhymes exists solely to rap about Sauron and such. The fantasy epics are a favorite of metalheads, too: Blind Guardian, Summoning, Battlelore, Isengard, and Rivendell lead the way in the “Tolkien metal” genre. (Yes, that’s a thing.) [6, 7, 8, 9] But may we never forget the gold standard when it comes to Tolkien-related songs: Leonard Nimoy’s “The Ballad of Bilbo Baggins.” (Trust me: that video is a lot to take in, but you have to watch it.)
Many of the literary songs I’ve come across are much more subtle about their inspirations. Some of them quite surprised me, in fact. Listen to a few tracks from this list and see if you can figure out the connections for yourself. Then, check the links at the end of this post to read more about their bookish origins. And if you’re interested in books that were inspired by famous songs, check out this blog post.
ABBA, “The Piper” (The Stand by Steven King)
- Alt-J, “Breezeblocks” (Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak)
- The Beatles, “Tomorrow Never Knows” (The Psychedelic Experience: A Manual Based on the Tibetan Book of the Dead by Timothy Leary, Ralph Metzner, and Richard Alpert)
- Black Star (Mos Def & Talib Kwali), “Thieves in the Night” (The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison)
- Kate Bush, “Flower of the Mountain” (Ulysses by James Joyce)
- Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, “Red Right Hand” (Paradise Lost by John Milton)
- Chance the Rapper, “Same Drugs” (Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie)
- Devo, “Whip It” (Gravity’s Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon)
Celine Dion (but really Meat Loaf), “It’s All Coming Back to Me Now” (Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë)
- Manic Street Preachers, “Motorcycle Emptiness” (Rumble Fish by S.E. Hinton)
- Neutral Milk Hotel, “In the Aeroplane over the Sea” (The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank)
- Katy Perry, “Firework” (On the Road by Jack Kerouac)
- REM, “Disturbance at the Heron House” (Animal Farm by George Orwell)
- The Rolling Stones, “Sympathy for the Devil” (Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov)
- The Roots, “Act Won (Things Fall Apart)” (Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe)
- The Strokes, “Soma” (Brave New World by Aldous Huxley)
- T’Pau, “China in Your Hand” (Frankenstein by Mary Shelley)
- U2, “Shadows and Tall Trees” (Lord of the Flies by William Golding)
References and Further Reading:
- 1 – https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/susan_vreeland_726633
- 2 – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wuthering_Heights_(song)#Chart_performance
- 3- https://www.pastemagazine.com/articles/2017/02/10-songs-inspired-by-george-orwells-1984.html
- 4 – https://www.theguardian.com/childrens-books-site/2016/may/20/10-songs-inspired-by-literature
- 5 – http://www.openculture.com/2016/04/david-bowie-dreamed-of-turning-george-orwells-1984-into-a-musical.html
- 6 – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Works_inspired_by_J._R._R._Tolkien#Rock_music
- 7 – http://ultimateclassicrock.com/top-10-the-hobbit-lord-of-the-rings-songs/
- 8 – http://tolkiengateway.net/wiki/Category:Bands
- 9 – http://tolkiengateway.net/wiki/Tolkien_metal
by Chelsea Bennett, Reference Department
Treetops, aflame. The air, crisp. Bonfires, hot cider, plaid shirts as far as the eye can see: classic signs of winter. Here’s one more timeless association for you: whodunits. Whether you’re into the classics, the creepies, or the cozies, winter is the perfect time of year to shroud yourself in Mystery.
Publishing professional Valerie Peterson divides the Mystery genre into four main types, and many subgenres. She starts with the types: Hard-Boiled (moody detectives and femmes fatales), Soft-Boiled (similar, but less explicitly violent or sexy), Cozy (Miss Marple and her descendants), and Procedural (thorough analysis of cops and crimes). Within those types, you may find any combination of hijinks and capers, amateur sleuths, local flavor, daunting puzzles, gritty detectives, historical figures, cats, romance, and more. 
Unless you simply “hate being titillated,” there’s bound to be a Mystery out there for you. Below, I’ve listed some of the genre’s best-loved authors, both classic and modern. Since mystery writers love to stick with their characters, I’ll sometimes include a character or series name rather than a book title.
(Quick note: some Mysteries have more intense content than others, especially if they cross into Thriller territory. If you’re concerned about potential triggers, check out a site like www.doesthedogdie.com, which helps you steer clear of certain content. You can also check out our blog post about cozy mysteries!)
Jennifer Finney Boylan – Long Black Veil
K. Chesterton – Catholic priest and amateur detective Father Brown stars in 53 of Chesterton’s short stories.* Netflix has the BBC’s adaptation.
Agatha Christie – Christie’s 75 novels run the gamut from fun and cozy to truly chilling. Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot, her two most famous characters, each appear in dozens of works. And Then There Were None is a must-read, but Christie named Ordeal by Innocence and Crooked House as her favorites among her own books.*
Mary Higgins Clark –Where Are the Children?; A Stranger Is Watching; Loves Music, Loves to Dance
Harlan Coben – Tell No One; The Woods; Fool Me Once; the overlapping Myron Bolitar and Mickey Bolitar series (a sports agent and his nephew)
Wilkie Collins –The Law and the Lady; The Moonstone; The Woman in White
Michael Connelly – Harry Bosch series. This bestselling police procedural series forms the basis for Amazon’s TV series, Bosch.
Deborah Crombie – Duncan Kincaid & Gemma James series (Scotland Yard)
Colin Dexter –Inspector Morse series (a senior criminal investigator who loves Wagner, cryptic crossword puzzles, and cask ale)
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle – The character of Sherlock Holmes needs no introduction. Doyle’s non-Sherlockian mysteries include The Mystery of Cloomber, and short stories such as “J. Habakuk Jephson’s Statement.” *
Barry Eisler – Eisler is a former covert CIA operative, a trained lawyer, and a black belt martial artist. His three series each feature a different hero: assassin John Rain, black ops soldier Ben Treven, and SVU detective Livia Lone.
James Ellroy – The L.A. Quartet (The Black Dahlia; The Big Nowhere; L.A. Confidential; White Jazz)
Dashiell Hammett – Because of The Maltese Falcon, The Thin Man, and a host of series and short stories, The New York Times eulogized Hammett as “the dean of the… ‘hard-boiled’ school of detective fiction.”*
Kellye Garrett – Hollywood Homicide
Tess Gerritsen – The Bone Garden
Lamar Giles – Overturned (YA)
Alexia Gordon – The Gethsemane Brown Mysteries (an African-American classical musician)
Sue Grafton – Famous for her Alphabet Mystery series (A is for Alibi, etc.), Grafton passed away after completing Y is for Yesterday. “[As] far as we in the family are concerned, the alphabet now ends at Y,” wrote Grafton’s daughter. 
Carl Hiaasen – “America’s finest satirical novelist” is a “laugh-out-loud funny and thoroughly entertaining” “master of the revenge fantasy.”  Try Tourist Season, Strip Tease, Skin Tight, or Double Whammy for a taste of his madcap, Florida-based mysteries.
Patricia Highsmith – Strangers on a Train; Deep Water; The Glass Cell; The Talented Mr. Ripley
Tony Hillerman – Leaphorn & Chee series (Navajo Tribal Police)
Joe Ide – IQ series (an unconventional, unofficial detective)
P. D. James – Death Comes to Pemberly; Adam Dalgliesh series (Scotland Yard)
Iris Johansen – Eve Duncan series (a forensic sculptor)
Ausma Zehanat Khan – The Unquiet Dead
Laurie R. King – Mary Russell series (a teenage girl who becomes Sherlock Holmes’ apprentice)
Attica Locke – Jay Porter series (a struggling Texas lawyer)
Sujata Massey –Perveen Mistry series (historical fiction; India’s first female lawyer)
John Mortimer – Horace Rumpole is “an ageing London barrister who defends any and all clients.” 
Abir Mukherjee – Sam Wyndham (Scotland Yard, historical fiction)
Jo Nesbø – Brilliant and troubled, Harry Hole (pronounced Hoo-leh) comes from Oslo, Norway, but his work takes him around the world. The series has been translated into English out of order; Hole first appears in The Bat.*
Leonardo Padura – The Mario Conde quartet is on Netflix as the Four Seasons in Havana miniseries.*
Sara Paretsky – Fierce, independent, and sharp, private detective V. I. Warshawski (Victoria) specializes in white-collar crime.
Louise Penny – Chief Inspector Gamache (character-driven, set in provincial Quebec)*
Dr. Kwei Quartey – Darko Dawson (a detective in Ghana)
Marcie Rendon – Murder on the Red River
Tess Sharpe – Far from You (YA)
George Simenon – Simenon’s legendary detective Jules Maigret has been portrayed by a wide range of actors, from Shakespearean stars (Charles Laughton) to slapstick comics (Rowan Atkinson). But why not picture him for yourself? He appears in 76 novels and 28 short stories.
Dwayne Alexander Smith – Forty Acres; The Unkind Hours
Sherry Thomas – Lady Sherlock series
Stephanie Tromley – Trouble Is a Friend of Mine (YA)
Nicola Upson – Josephine Tey (British theatre in the 1930s)
Randy Wayne White – Doc Ford series (a marine biologist / ex-CIA)
* indicates quotations and stats were taken from Wikipedia pages about the authors and/or their works
by Chelsea Bennett, Reference Department
School’s back in session for Williamson County, and we’re looking forward to a great school year for our awesome teachers and students. But it’s been a summer to remember, thanks in part to WCPL’s Summer Reading Program! The theme was “Libraries Rock!” and you all – adults, teens, and kids alike – seemed to have a great time with it.
Nearly 70 adult patrons participated in the program, and they read almost 400 books among them! We gave out about 120 prizes, including lots of books (of course) and gift cards donated by beloved local shops and restaurants.*
This post focuses on a display aimed at our adult patrons, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t give a shout-out to our amazing teens and kids. One teen reader alone devoured 104 books throughout the summer! (Do we have a future writer here?) And 2,300 children throughout the Williamson County Public Library system participated by reading, reviewing, and attending events. I’m so impressed, y’all. (The teens’ and children’s departments also handed out tons of prizes.)
Our main floor book display stayed up all summer. In keeping with the Summer Reading Program’s theme, we featured books about readers and rockers, libraries and lyrics, bookshelves and the blues and – well, you get the picture. If you didn’t have the chance to make it through all the intriguing titles, we’ve got the list right here for you to peruse at your leisure. After all, summer in Middle Tennessee really lasts through September, right?
Biography & Memoir
- Unfaithful Music & Disappearing Ink by Elvis Costello (B COSTELLO)
- Sing for Your Life: a story of race, music, and family by Daniel Bergner (B GREEN)
- The World’s Strongest Librarian: a memoir of Tourette’s, faith, strength, and the power of family by Joshua Hanagarne (B HANAGARNE)
- Waylon: tales of my outlaw dad by Terry Jennings (B JENNINGS)
- It’s a Long Story: my life by Willie Nelson (B NELSON)
- Stand up Straight and Sing! by Jessye Norman (B NORMAN)
- Soul Serenade: rhythm, blues & coming of age through vinyl by Rashod Ollison (B OLLISON)
- The Universal Tone by Carlos Santana (B SANTANA)
- Turn Around Bright Eyes: the rituals of love and karaoke by Rob Sheffield (B SHEFFIELD)
- More Room in a Broken Heart: the true adventures of Carly Simon by Stephen Davis (B SIMON)
- M Train by Patti Smith (B SMITH)
- Hank: the short life and long country road of Hank Williams by Mark Ribowsky (B WILLIAMS)
- The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto by Mitch Albom (F ALBOM)
- Reservation Blues by Sherman Alexie (F ALE)
- A Pleasure to Burn: Fahrenheit 451 stories by Ray Bradbury (F BRA)
- People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks (F BRO)
- Telegraph Avenue by Michael Chabon (F CHA)
- Tender: a novel by Mark Childress (F CHI)
- The Archivist by Martha Cooley (F COO)
- Last Train to Memphis by Elsa Cook (F COOK)
- Marrying Mozart by Stephanie Cowell (F COW)
- Oh, Play That Thing by Roddy Doyle (F DOYLE)
- The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco (F ECO)
- The Geographer’s Library by Jon Fasman (F FAS)
- The Camel Bookmobile by Marsha Hamilton (F HAM)
- The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love by Oscar Hijuelos (F HIJ)
- High Fidelity by Nick Hornby (F HOR)
- Open Season by Linda Howard (F HOW)
- Nocturnes by Kazuo Ishiguro (F ISH)
- The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova (F KOSTOVA)
- White Tears by Hari Kunzru (F KUNZRU)
- The Borrower by Rebecca Makkai (F MAK)
- The Librarian and the Spy by Susan Mann (F MANN)
- Doctor Faustus by Thomas Mann (F MAN)
- Dragonsong by Anne McCaffrey (F MCCAFFREY)
- Amsterdam by Ian McEwan (F MCEWAN)
- Books Can Be Deceiving by Jenn McKinlay (F MCKINLAY)
- The Inner Circle by Brad Meltzer (F MEL)
- The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger (F NIF)
- The Song Is You by Arthur Phillips (F PHI)
- Never Mind the Pollacks by Neal Pollack (F POL)
- Accordion Crimes by Annie Proulx (F PRO)
- Vivaldi’s Virgins by Barbara Quick (F QUI)
- The Good Luck of Right Now by Matthew Quick (F QUICK)
- Bellweather Rhapsody by Kate Racculia (F RACCULIA)
- The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz (F RUI)
- The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield (F SETTERFIELD)
- Rock Bottom by Michael Shilling (F SHI)
- Say Goodbye: the Laurie Moss story by Lewis Shiner (F SHI)
- The Book of Speculation by Erika Swyler (F SWYLER)
- Do Not Say We Have Nothing by Madeleine Thien (F THIEN)
- Music & Silence by Rose Tremain (F TRE)
- This Book Is Overdue!: how librarians and cybrarians can save us all by Marilyn Johnson (020 JOH)
- Letter to a future lover: marginalia, errata, secrets, inscriptions, and other ephemera found in libraries by Ander Monson (020.8 MON)
- The Vanished Library: a wonder of the ancient world by Luciano Canfora (026.932 CAN)
- Library: an unquiet history by Matthew Battles (027 BAT)
- At home with books: how booklovers live with and care for their libraries by Estelle Ellis (027.1 ELL)
- The Library at Night by Alberto Manguel (027.4 MAN)
- Part of Our Lives: a people’s history of the American public library by Wayne A. Wiegand (027.473 WIE)
- America’s Library: the story of the Library of Congress, 1800-2000 by James Conaway (027.573 CON)
- Running the Books: the adventures of an accidental prison librarian by Avi Steinberg (027.665092 STE)
- Books that Build Character: a guide to teaching your child moral values through stories by William Kilpatrick (028.5 KIL)
- The Books that Changed My Life: reflections by 100 authors, actors, musicians, and other remarkable people by Bethanne Patrick, ed. (028.9 BOO)
- The Little Guide to Your Well-read Life by Steve Leveen (028.9 LEV)
- Bibliotherapy: the girl’s guide to books for every phase of our lives by Nancy Peske and Beverly West (028.9 PES)
- Remarkable Reads: 34 writers and their adventures in reading by J. Peder Zane, ed. (028.9 REM)
- Unpacking My Library: writers and their books by Leah Price, ed. (028.9 UNP)
- Honky-tonk Gospel: the story of sin and salvation in country music by Gene Edward Veith and Thomas L. Wilmeth (261.5 VEI)
- Taboo Tunes: a history of banned bands & censored songs by Peter Blecha (303.376 BLE)
- Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop: a history of the hip-hop generation by Jeff Chang (306.484249 CHA)
- Dewey: the small-town library cat who touched the world by Vicki Myron with Bret Witter (636.80929 MYR)
- Beethoven’s Hair by Russell Martin (780 MAR)
- And You Shall Know Us by the Trail of Our Vinyl: the Jewish past as told by the records we have loved and lost by Roger Bennett and Josh Kun (780.89924073 BEN)
- Mozart’s Starling by Lyanda Lynn Haupt (780.92 HAU)
- Waking the Spirit: a musician’s journey healing body, mind, and soul by Andrew Schulman (780.92 SCH)
- Beethoven’s Skull: dark, strange, and fascinating tales from the world of classical music and beyond by Tim Rayborn (780.922 RAY)
- Children of the Stone: the power of music in a hard land by Sandy Tolan (780.95695309051 TOL)
- Your Favorite Band Is Killing Me: what pop music rivalries reveal about the meaning of life by Steven Hyden (781.64 HYD)
- The Chitlin’ Circuit: and the road to rock ‘n’ roll by Preston Lauterbach (781.6408 LAU)
- Love Goes to Buildings on Fire: five years in New York that changed music forever by Will Hermes (781.6409747 HER)
- Pilgrimage to Dollywood: a country music road trip through Tennessee by Helen Morales (781.64209768 MOR)
- Higher Ground: Stevie Wonder, Aretha Franklin, Curtis Mayfield, and the rise and fall of American soul by Craig Werner (781.644 WER)
- The Book of Exodus: the making and meaning of Bob Marley and the Wailers’ album of the century by Vivien Goldman (781.646092 GOL)
- Bubblegum Music is the Naked Truth by Kim Cooper and David Smay, ed. (781.66 BUB)
- Corn Flakes with John Lennon: and other tales from a rock ‘n’ roll life by Robert Hilburn (781.66092 HIL)
- Language of the Spirit: an introduction to classical music by Jan Swafford (781.68 SWA)
- Go down Moses: a celebration of the African-American spiritual by Richard Newman (782.25 NEW)
- Shake It Up: great American writing on rock and pop from Elvis to Jay Z by Jonathan Letham and Kevin Dettmar, ed. (782.4216 SHA)
- Dark Midnight When I Rise: the story of the Jubilee Singers, who introduced the world to the music of Black America by Andrew Ward (782.42162 WAR)
- Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!: the story of pop music from Bill Haley to Beyoncé by Bob Stanley (782.4216309 STA)
- I Hate Myself and Want to Die: the 52 most depressing songs you’ve ever heard by Tom Reynolds (782.42164 REY)
- Hard Rain: a Dylan commentary by Tim Riley (782.42164 RIL)
- Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison: the making of a masterpiece by Michael Streissguth (782.421642092 STR)
- Who Shot Ya?: an illustrated history of hip hop by Ernie Paniccioli (782.421649 PAN)
- Songs in the Rough: from “Heartbreak Hotel” to “Rhythm nation” : rock’s greatest songs in first-draft form by Steven Bishop, ed. (782.42166 BIS)
- The Beatles Lyrics: the stories behind the music, including the handwritten drafts of more than 100 classic Beatles songs by Hunter Davies, ed. (782.42166 DAV)
- Alice Cooper, Golf Monster: a rock ‘n’ roller’s 12 steps to becoming a golf addict by Alice Cooper (782.42166092 COO)
- Danny Boy: the beloved Irish ballad by Malachy McCourt (782.4309415 MACC)
- The Soloist: a lost dream, an unlikely friendship, and the redemptive power of music by Steve Lopez (787.2092 LOP)
- In the Stacks: short stories about libraries and librarians by Michael Cart, ed. (808.83 IN)
- Leonard Cohen: poems and songs by Leonard Cohen (811 COH)
* Many thanks to our local sponsors, who provided prizes for our adult summer reading program:
- Belvedere Commons of Franklin
- Landmark Booksellers
- Mellow Mushroom
- Pueblo Real
- McCreary’s Irish Pub
- Frist Art Museum
- Handy Hardware
- Puckett’s Grocery & Restaurant
- Franklin Theatre
- Nashville Pet Products
by Chelsea Bennett, Reference Department
What Am I Going to Read Now?? We’ve all been there. After spending days – weeks –months! – devouring plotlines, falling in love with characters, forming a map of their world inside our heads, we all must reach The End. Closing a book after reading its last line can be bittersweet, to say the least. When you’ve exhausted your favorite author’s bibliography, pored through every volume of a series, or simply finished a Darn Good Book, you may find yourself in a Book Hangover.
That Darn Good Book can never – should never – be replaced in your heart. But you don’t have to suffer hopelessly through a Book Hangover. Assuage your pain by picking up another book. And not just any book: though millions of books are published each year, there are ways to increase your odds of finding love again. Friends, relatives, librarians, and critics can all be a great source of recommendations. And for the internet-connected book fiend, there’s another option: Readers’ Advisory Websites.
Despite the somewhat ominous phrasing (calling to mind the sternness of a Parental Advisory, or the anxiety of a Weather Advisory), a Readers’ Advisory Website (denoted here as “RAW”) can be a useful, entertaining tool. Essentially, a reader inputs preferences, and the RAW outputs suggestions. Those are the ones we’ll look at today. Review sites also fall under the umbrella of RAWs, so I’ll list some of those, too.
I had never used a Readers’ Advisory Website before researching them for this article, so I’m presenting them to you from a new user’s point of view. Here are my four picks.
Some RAWs are smarter than others. You don’t need a machine to tell you that you “might also enjoy” Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets if you liked Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. That’s accurate, but thoroughly unenlightening.
Best Results: Whichbook (https://www.whichbook.net/)
Perhaps the cleverest site I discovered is Whichbook. Its various search methods are fun to use and give spot-on results. Start by customizing your search with up to four criteria, adjustable on a sliding scale. (See screenshot.) You can also search by Character, Plot, and Setting; or get results by going to an author’s name, choosing a title, and clicking “Find similar books.”
The Whichbook team eschews bestseller lists in order to bring you curated selections you may not find elsewhere. All of their recommendations for me felt personally considered. I felt seen, known, loved – by a website!
Caveat: This site is based in the UK. I didn’t find some of the authors in our local library, but that’s what Inter-Library Loan requests are for.
Thorough Analysis: Allreaders (http://allreaders.com/)
Allreaders provides detailed reviews and a “specific, searchable breakdown of the plot, setting, character types, and style.” I enjoyed reading breakdowns of books I know. And I liked the layout of book recommendations “with storylines, themes & endings” similar to the book I searched for.
Allreaders’ Detailed Power Search (DPS) isn’t very pretty, but it gives so many options, some of them quite amusing. (Be sure you’re in the right genre first – here’s the link for Literature, and there are others.) I threw a lot of criteria into a search, requesting convoluted Plots & Themes, a unique Main Character, an elaborate Setting, and even a distinct Writing Style. DPS returned a long list of suggestions – some more intriguing than others. No suggestion matched every one of my crazy demands, of course. But if I were desperately seeking something new to read, I’d have fun browsing the results.
Easy Search: What Should I Read Next? (https://whatshouldireadnext.com)
If the minutiae of the first two search engines put you off, What Should I Read Next? may be the RAW for you. Simply type in an author or book you love. Results are tagged with keywords, so you can decide whether to follow up on the suggestions. You can click the keywords to find more books with the same tag. (One suggestion I got was tagged with “attempted assassination,” “cats,” and “time travel.” Now that’s a must-read!)
Fun Interface: Literature-Map (https://www.literature-map.com/)
Calling itself “The Tourist Map of Literature,” Literature-Map offers a unique visual approach. Enter your favorite writer’s name, and you’re rewarded with a clickable constellation of authors. “The closer two writers are,” claims Literature-Map, “the more likely someone will like both of them.” Searching for Jane Austen brought up a great variety of names to explore. I was impressed that David Sedaris, Harper Lee, and C. S. Lewis were among them, in addition to predictable results (Dickens, the Brontë sisters). Also included were Nicholas Sparks and Diana Gabaldon, so there’s truly a path for every taste.
Review Websites and Social Networks
Taking the time to browse review sites, you might stumble upon a fantastic book that otherwise lies outside of your field of vision. Here are some to check out.
- The Book Report Network (https://tbrnetwork.com/) comprises “six editorial websites … organized … by demographic and … interest.” Adults, young adults, teens, and kids all have their own specialized sites; reading groups and graphic novel fans are also provided for.
- Overbooked: The Next Chapter (http://overbooked.com/next-chapter/) looks at new releases, both eclectic and mainstream, to “encourage omnivorous reading.”
- With YourNextRead (http://www.yournextread.com/us/), you can “discover and share” by searching for recommendations, browsing user lists, and customizing your own book map. (Registration required for some features.)
- GoodReads (https://www.goodreads.com/) is a large social network of readers. Browse and create reviews and shelves (custom lists), add friends from Facebook, follow users with similar tastes, and even interact with authors who use the site. (Registration required for some features.)
That’s all from me. May your horizons broaden and your tastes refine. Have fun exploring! And check out the links below for even more RAWs not listed here.
Article Sources, and More RAW Suggestions
By Chelsea Bennett, Reference Department
Amidst Hollywood’s profusion of bigger-and-better sequels, nostalgic remakes, and “dark re-imaginings,” there’s a longer-standing trend: movies that are based on books. Some of these movies are so iconic – so visually spectacular – their worlds so complete – that audiences may be surprised to learn of any literary origins. (Think The Princess Bride, The Wizard of Oz, Trainspotting, Ready Player One, Mary Poppins, Die Hard…) Other adaptations are not quite so successful. (The Cat in the Hat, anyone?)
An early example of a book-to-film adaptation is a 1924 silent film called Greed, based on Frank Morris’s novel McTeague. The director’s vision led him to make a 9½ hour-long behemoth, but he was forced to cut it down to an “incoherent” two hours. (Most likely, the sentence, “The book is so much better than the movie,” was first uttered around this time.) Greed’s director, Erich Von Stroheim, had tried to be completely faithful to his source material. While that’s an admirable endeavor, it was the film’s downfall. (1)
These days, adapting a book for the big screen is an art form all its own. Just as a novel and a film are completely different mediums, so too are a novel and a screenplay. The team adapting the novel must remain true to the heart of the story. They must also choose which plot points to highlight or omit. Pacing often needs to change completely. Then there’s the daunting task of casting actors and creating worlds. Before any movie, these characters and places materialized inside thousands of readers’ imaginations. Entire fandoms wait in the wings, ready to adore or decry as soon as they glean tiny details from a promo trailer.
Like all art forms, there is going to be a lot of dreck. But there will be some shining examples, too. Gone with the Wind, Schindler’s List, Black Panther, To Kill a Mockingbird, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, The Lord of the Rings trilogy – these are some groundbreaking, enduring favorites that all made their first homes on bedside tables and in bookshelves. Each is a good example of how a film can omit certain original details (Scarlett O’Hara originally had two children by other men; jolly old Tom Bombadil was axed from Middle Earth altogether) while still capturing the story’s essence. (2) Andre Dubus III, whose novel The House of Sand and Fog was adapted into a well-received movie, says, “I’m all for giving filmmakers their creative due. As long as [they’re] loyal to the spirit.” (3)
Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining, based on the Steven King novel, is an interesting case of adaptation. It manages to polarize opinions like few films do. (If you ask Google, “Do people love The Shining?” you’ll see what I mean!) For its acting and its atmosphere, for technical precision, powerful visuals, and downright scariness, film buffs and horror enthusiasts hold The Shining in a place of reverence. (4) But fans of the book say the movie falls terribly short. King accuses the film’s main character of having “absolutely no arc at all” – quite damning, coming from the author himself. (5)
So it seems that both works are well worth appreciating, but should never be compared. I wonder if that’s true of all adaptations. Writer Bernhard Schlink offers this perspective: “As an author, you can’t expect a movie to be an illustration of the book. If that’s what you hope for, you shouldn’t sell the rights.” (6)
It’s fraught with peril, this business of turning a book into a movie. So why bother? As it turns out, sourcing stories from books is actually quite low-risk – despite the possibility of alienating fans. A popular book turned into a movie “can rise above the noise [and] competition from the internet, video games, and Netflix,” explains Hawk Otsby, co-writer of Children of Men. (7) This is just another way in which we as consumers can get our fill of the familiar. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing, as long as there’s still room for original and independent films to be made.
The year may be halfway over, but there are several upcoming adaptations to look forward to. Maybe you’ve heard buzz about Mowgli (a darker remake of The Jungle Book), Bel Canto (based on the Ann Patchett novel of the same name), Ashes in the Snow (a wartime drama adapted from Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys; the title was changed for obvious reasons), or Mary, Queen of Scots (from John Guy’s lauded biography of Mary Stuart, which in the UK carries the wonderful title of My Heart Is My Own). (8, 9, 10, 11)
The faithfulness of these films to their source material remains to be seen. And honestly, I’m ambivalent. A badly-done movie won’t detract from a book I love; and a well-done movie might point me in the direction of an author I’ll adore. Creatives absolutely deserve to be recognized – and paid – for their good work. If it takes a movie to make a great writer famous, so be it!
By Chelsea Bennett, Reference Department
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When confronted with a thriller, I used to think, “Here’s a novel that features guns, bombs, and lies. Probably some politics, too.” And while those elements might feature in some bestselling books, I now know how narrow my perception was. For I have probed past the whims of pop culture, and discovered some of the fascinating premises to be found within the realm of suspense, thriller, and crime novels. While this genre may not be new to you, I hope you’ll follow along with this two-part post, and perhaps leave your best recommendations at the end.
“Crime pays,” says journalist Anita Singh, writing for The Telegraph: “thrillers and detective novels now outsell all other fiction.”  It’s a broad category: these novels might be packed with fast-paced action (the Jason Bourne series), psychological drama (Gone Girl), or military intrigue (The Hunt for Red October). With high stakes and life-or-death outcomes, thrillers often become the basis for hit movies. And while supernatural or dystopian tales may have had a surge in popularity over recent years, thrillers continue to enthrall us because they could happen. Grounded in reality, often set in present-day, they let us imagine what life would be like if we got on the wrong side of a corrupt government – or a jealous lover.
But why would anyone want to do that? The late novelist and critic Mary McCarthy explained it this way: “We all live in suspense, from day to day, from hour to hour….” And, as writer Lisa Gardner adds, “…one of the appeals of suspense is [that we can] safely explore our innermost fears.”  In other words, we all live with a high degree of uncertainty in our lives. The more nervous, fragile, lonely, pessimistic, or uninformed we feel, the more we fear that uncertainty. When fiction addresses that primal fear, it allows us to take a breath, say to ourselves, “OK. What if?” and confront those worst-case scenarios. Fear often shrinks under scrutiny. And if we vicariously reach a satisfying solution through the deeds of our literary avatars, so much the better.
Today, we’ll start with the heavy hitters: the names that even I recognized! Then we’ll look at the classic works of literature that paved the way for those authors. Next week, we’ll scrounge up a few “deep cuts” – lesser-known works of suspense by authors who usually fit into a different genre. And we’ll highlight some of the women authors who are shaking things up in the realm of suspense.
- Ian Fleming, author of the James Bond Casino Royale is a classic. Fleming said, “While thrillers may not be Literature with a capital L, it is possible to write what I can best describe as ‘thrillers designed to be read as literature’.” 
- Robert Ludlum, creator of the character Jason Bourne. Ludlum died in 2001, but the wildly popular Bourne series continues, thanks to a collective of authors who carry his torch.
- Stieg Larsson’s Millennium series also continues posthumously, following the success of Larsson’s first three novels, beginning with The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.
- Tom Clancy created the Jack Ryan character in The Hunt for Red October. There are now more than 20 novels in the series.
- John le Carré introduced British intelligence officer George Smiley in Call for the Dead, and he appears in nine other novels, perhaps most famously in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.
- The Secret Agent: A Simple Tale by Joseph Conrad. A tale of terrorism, anarchy, and political intrigue, set in 1880s London.
- Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier. Although many modern reprints give this gothic work the appearance of a romance novel, it’s a psychological work that led to a rather faithful film adaptation by that master of suspense, Sir Alfred Hitchcock.
- A Study in Scarlet by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. This is the first appearance of Sherlock Holmes, star of four novels and many short stories by Doyle. Fans of the BBC series Sherlock may find the differences – and similarities – amusing.
- “The Murders in the Rue Morgue” by Edgar Allan Poe. Before there was Sherlock Holmes, there was C. Auguste Dupin, Poe’s amateur detective with uncanny skills of deduction. Dupin appears in two more of Poe’s stories.
- A Coffin for Dimitrios by Eric Ambler (also titled The Mask of Dimitrios). Charles Latimer is a mystery novelist becomes intrigued by a dead man’s past, which leads to dangerous consequences. The story is described as a hybrid of “spy thriller” and “detective noir.”  There is a sequel, The Intercom Conspiracy.
- The Mysteries of Udolpho by Ann Radcliffe. This is a “quintessential Gothic romance,” with a young heroine in both physical and psychological danger. Austen, Poe, and others were heavily influenced by Radcliffe. 
- The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins. “Pursuing questions of identity and insanity along the paths and corridors of English country houses and the madhouse, [it] is the first and most influential of the Victorian genre that combined Gothic horror with psychological realism.” 
That’s all for this week. Check back next week as I do my best to turn up some unexpected finds, and explore the success of women authors in this genre. Don’t forget to share your favorites (especially classics) in the comments below!
* A line you will recognize from either The Importance of Being Earnest or Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, depending on your tastes.
by Chelsea Bennett, Reference Department
Are you unusually overwhelmed at work? Do you fear that – contrary to your character – you are one careless comment away from smacking a coworker in the face, or bursting into tears in the break room? Can you no longer distinguish your personal life from your work life? If you’re otherwise healthy, but feeling out of sorts and out of control, maybe it’s time to take a mental health day.
A mental health day (MHD) is just like a sick day. Instead of staying home because of a sore throat or a twisted ankle, however, an employee takes this day off work for a legitimate wellness concern that may not present physically. Sometimes the need stems from a clinically diagnosed illness (i.e., Major Depressive Disorder), but not always. Depression, anxiety, grief, stress, and emotional trauma are some possible reasons to take a mental health day.
“That sounds like playing hooky,” you might say, skeptically. Indeed, our culture pressures us to put career first, ahead of family and sanity. You may know someone who missed a child’s birthday party, rescheduled an anniversary dinner, or cancelled a vacation due to being “on call” at a job that has nothing to do with life and death.
And there’s still a cultural stigma against mental illnesses. They often go ignored or misunderstood, and aren’t given the same consideration as a visible sickness or injury. People with depression, for example, are instructed to “buck up.” This places the demand for a cure back on the sick individual, rather than encouraging them to seek help. (Imagine telling someone with a broken leg to “walk it off!”)
I’m not suggesting we all abandon our jobs and start living like Thoreau in the woods. (Although that is my own personal plan for early retirement.) But I am suggesting we start to value mental health as a vital element of wellness. It’s irresponsible to show up to work if you’ve got a fever. It’s equally unwise to wait until you’re in psychological crisis mode before you take some time off work. When you see your emotional distress flare, consider scheduling a mental health day (people who know you well can help you spot the warning signs, too.)
Be sure the day is productive in some way. You’re not skiving off work; you’re taking care of yourself. Evaluate the reasons you are staying home from work, and decide what you need most. Is it sleep? Quality time with a loved one? An afternoon full of play? If a Netflix marathon usually leaves you sluggish and empty, skip it. This is a day to fill yourself up. Here are some elements you might incorporate into your MHD:
- Drink lots of water all day long, and eat healthy food. (Dehydration and poor nutrition amplify the effects of emotional stress.)
- Schedule an appointment with your therapist, counselor, or mentor; or catch up with a friend who will listen with compassion.
- Attend to personal issues that have been causing stress, such as a long to-do list or a wilting relationship.
- Get out in nature.
- Sleep in, or take a restorative nap during the day. Go to bed earlier than usual.
- Exercise, to get your mind and body back in sync. It should be something you enjoy, not a chore: yoga, swimming, shooting hoops, golfing, climbing rock walls, …
- Book a therapeutic massage.
- Drive a few towns over for a change of scenery.
- Put your phone on Do Not Disturb. This will help block out social media, e-mails, and marketing calls. (Most phones let you customize this option, so you can still get important calls from select contacts.)
- Do something creative and meditative, such as painting, writing, cooking, or gardening.
- Laugh – and cry! Both work wonders for stress relief. Watch a movie, listen to a podcast, or read a book that you know will engage your emotions.
During your mental health day, you may come up against a few lies, so be sure to equip yourself with the truth: Time spent resting is NOT time wasted. It is NOT weak to ask for help or to express your needs. You ARE worth taking care of! And self-care is NOT selfish!
If taking a paid day off isn’t an option at your job, you can still dedicate a day to your mental health. The same goes for those of you who work from home, or stay home as a caregiver to family members. You’ll have to be intentional with your scheduled days off. You may have to ask for more help and be firm with your boundaries. But you CAN do it, and it IS worth it.
None of these activities will cure a mental illness or replace a long-term management plan, of course. You may need to incorporate lifestyle changes, or find a counselor or medical professional whose job is to equip you to navigate life’s challenges. (Check the links at the end of this post for a starting point to that search.) But taking time to care for yourself in meaningful ways can help maintain a sense of balance, self-worth, and perspective. As the rallying cry goes, “Mental health is health!”
When you are ready to go back to work, I hope you notice that you’re feeling refreshed and in control. A healthy person can give more, and joyfully so, to all around them: at home, at work, and everywhere else.
A few links to help you search for a mental health care professional: