June 18 • 03:04 AM

Librarians talk top shelf

Great books nearby to while away the winter blues

January 13, 2010
IMLAY CITY — Henry David Thoreau had some advice when it came to reading: "Read the best books first, or you may not have a chance to read them at all," he mused.

So it is in that spirit that we think of no better way to get straight to the top of the list than ask those whose lives and livelihoods revolve around books: librarians.

To kick off the new year we asked staff members at the Ruth Hughes Memorial Library for their personal picks—and to shed some light on the best bets to help warm up the winter months by cozying up to a book.

For Director Kristen Valyi-Hax, the best read she encountered in the past 12 months 'The Girls Who Went Away: A hidden history of women who surrendered for adoption in the decades before Roe v. Wade.'

Valyi-Hax says the non-fiction account is thought-provoking, heart-wrenching and enlightening.

"It's such a good read," Valyi-Hax says. "You always hear of these stories of how a 'girl got in trouble,' and was sent away. The author was given up for adoption and she went and interviewed all these women who had given children up for adoption of all races and all ages over a 20 to 25 year period."

The interviews, Valyi-Hax says, are with women who'd given up children from around the end of World War II up until the early 1970s—before Roe v. Wade.

"It's a story that has never been told," Valyi-Hax says.

The personal accounts changed her outlook about some things, she adds.

"It did cause me to review my opinion on whether or not adoption records should be open. I thought if a mom wants privacy she should be allowed to have it," Valyi-Hax says. "But what I'm coming to realize is most (moms) really didn't want to give their child up. There was family pressure, social pressure. Most did want to have contact and find out what happened."

The story also prompted Valyi-Hax to consider the limited access to contraceptives up until the mid-20th century.

"I was born in 1970 and it's interesting to read that they actually had to pass laws that said 'yes, unmarried people could buy birth control," she says. "These are things we take for granted today."

Equally intriguing is librarian Wendy Gottschalk's choice: 'The Lace Reader' by Brunonia Barry.

Ruth Hughes Library Director Kristen Valyi-Hax and librarian Diane Willick with variety of popular and interesting books available in Imlay City to help while away the long winter months. photo by Catherine Minolli.

The novel weaves an intriguing tale of a Salem woman who comes from a family of women who can foretell the future through patterns in lace. The disappearance of two girls prompt a return trip to Salem where the story unfolds.

It should come as no surprise that 'Miss Theresa' Pickering's favorite of the past year is 'Everything I need to know I learned from a children's book: Life lessons from notable people from all walks of life.'

Editor Anita Silvey asked actors, financiers, teachers, athletes, writers and many others to answer the question 'What children's book changed the way you see the world,' and what follows has been called "illuminating, inspiring and instructive."

For Diane Willick, The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield. The writer's first novel is described as "a closely plotted, clever foray into a world of secrets, confused identities, lies, and half-truths. The atmospheric story hangs together perfectly."

For those with vacation in mind, Valyi-Hax says a host of new travel books are available in the 'New Book' section.

"We have some on staying within the U.S., and even staying within Michigan," she says.

Other popular age-appropriate items Valyi-Hax and staff recommend include:

•Preschoolers: The 'Scana-mation' series picture books.

•Easy Readers: 'Elephant and Piggie,' by Mo Willems, the popular author of the Pigeon books.

•Elementary-middle schoolers: the '39 Clues' series (various authors) and 'The Warriors' books by Erin Hunter. "They're basically about a clan of cats," Valyi-Hax says.

•Teens: 'House of Knights' by P.C. Cast and Kristin Cast. "It seems to be the series a lot are going for after the Twilight books," Valyi-Hax says.

•Teens, lighter side: 'Magna' a collection of Japanese comic books.

"Theresa put together a fairly large collection," Valyi-Hax says. "They're popular and we're always looking for more suggestions from teens on what else to acquire."

•Adults: 'The Virgin River Trilogy' series by Robyn Carr; 'The Templar novels,' historical fiction by Jack Whyte; and 'The Gathering Storm,' by Robert Jordan, who wrote the 'Wheel of Time' series.

"Some people are coming in and re-reading all of them with this new book out," Valyi-Hax says.

She also reminds patrons that Ruth Hughes Library has a large collection of audio books, DVDs and video games including those for X-Box 360, Sony Playstation III and Nintendo Wii.

For more information call the library at 724-8043 and check the Town Talk section of this publication for free events and seminars.

Catherine Minolli is Managing Editor of the Tri-City Times. She began as a freelance writer with the Times in 1994. She enjoys the country life, including raising ducks and chickens.
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