Wednesday, October 01, 2008

How to Ward Off Depression: The Library Card

Two summers ago, my friend Julie was whining about not knowing what to read and blaming it on her high school experience. The problem, she said, was that she was never given much assigned reading. And with no direction, she never felt like she knew what she should be reading. I took that as an invitation to Make a List. Because I am very bossy that way. By the end of the summer, Julie was the biggest Bronte Sisters fan you have ever seen.

But before you click out of this blog and wander over to some other e-place because you don't want someone telling you what to read, I will tell you that I am not going to sing the praises of the Bronte Sisters here. Although they were quite awesome and I am sure that you would enjoy their fine work immensely.

Instead, I would like to tell you that now is an ideal time to get reacquainted with your library card because these are hard times and you have no business spending your hard-earned money on frivolity. For days now -- and for weeks to come -- you have heard and will be hearing about ways to cut back. In response, we have developed a program called How to Ward Off Depression, which is not to say that you are depressed, nor should you be, and it is not to say that we are certainly facing a full-on economic depression. Because that would seem ... depressing. But everyone could stand to cut back. And cutting back can be easy -- fun, even -- if you heed some simple advice.

This is Step No. 1: Use Your Library Card.

I would be doing a disservice by just cutting you loose in the public library with no direction. So I give you today's post about library usage by providing a theme: journeys into simpler times.

We'll start chronologically. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn was published in 1943 and written by Betty Smith. If you missed it in high school English, know that it's never too late to enjoy a classic. And by classic, I don't mean boring or hard to understand. I mean, classically hard to put down. Set in 1912, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is a coming-of-age story about Francie, who survives hardship and hatred. Her love of reading and an ability to self-teach sustains her and ultimately pulls her out of the tenements of Williamsburg, N.Y. Lumping it under the category of "journeys into simpler times" may seem off-target, but this truly is a story of simplicity -- doing a lot with only a little.

Next, reach out for a copy of The Sandy Bottom Orchestra, a young adult novel by Garrison Keillor and a must-read for girls of all ages. The raw honesty between members of the Green family is enviable, and Rachel makes 14 not seem so horrible. In the end, you'll want to move to a small town and learn to play the violin.

And if you're a Garrison Keillor fan, you'll appreciate the trademark Keillor storytelling that plops you right into the thick of things. Gosh, I love Garrison Keillor. Not to the Secret Boyfriend level, but maybe to the Secret Favorite Neighbor level. I would sit on his screened porch every night and say, "Spin me another yarn, Garrison." And then we'd sing songs like "Fools Rush In" a cappella.

And finally, the third and final recommendation in today's installment is A Girl Named Zippyby Haven Kimmel. One of the first and most notable titles in the modern memoir genre, Kimmel takes us back to 1970s Mooreland, Indiana, where she grew up the youngest of three, seemingly taking notes about everyone around her. Nobody in the book is particularly outstanding or odd. Kimmel's gift is to take the ordinary and make it readable and laugh-out-loud funny. Like the way she describes the '70s crafts rage: "D├ęcoupage hit Mooreland pretty hard." Know that it's only one of hundreds of phrases you will want to read again and again. And then, after you read Zippy, pick up She Got Up Off the Couch, sort of a sequel. And THEN try some of Kimmel's fiction: The Solace of Leaving Early, Something Rising (Light and Swift) and The Used World. (Iodine has recently been released, but I have not yet read it and therefore cannot endorse it, although I am certain it is terrific.)

And there you have an antidote to depression -- emotional AND financial. You'll feel a little better about these hard times, enjoy a little escape and still have change in your pocket.

You're welcome.