It has been quite a week! I just realized that I have not done a blog post for this week or last week. That’s because we’ve been so busy getting ready to open and then we reopened this week. It’s good to be back, and it has been wonderful to see so many of our favorite patrons again.

I know a lot of people enjoy coming into the library to read, play, and hang out, and we appreciate that. Someday, we hope to get back to that. For now, though, we need to limit the number of people in the building, and ensure that there is enough space for proper physical distancing.

When you come into the library, you’ll notice some changes. In order to comply with social distancing requirements, much of our furniture has been put into storage for the time being. It looks a little empty, but we need to do this so we don’t have too many people gathering in one area.

Please be aware of how many people are already in the building when you enter. If it looks crowded, you may be asked to wait until others leave to come inside. Some spaces in our library can become more easily crowded, such as the children’s section and the teen section in the mezzanine. For that reason, we are asking only one family to use those spaces at a time.

In order to help prevent overcrowding, and ensure that everyone who wants to use the library is able to do so, we are asking everyone to limit their visits to 30 minutes or less.

Prior to the Stay at Home Order, we had already reduced the number of computer stations open to two. That has stayed the same. Because the terminals are limited, we are asking people to limit computer time to half an hour. If you need to use the computer for a longer time for work, school, applying for a job, or applying for unemployment, let us know. We will set you up on a different terminal upstairs where you can have more privacy and stay for a longer time. Also, if you need to use our WiFi for a longer period of time for one of the above-listed reasons, let our staff know. We will make accommodations for you downstairs in the Hyland Community Room.

To help keep your fellow patrons and our staff safe, we encourage wearing a mask when you come into the library. We also ask that you wash or sanitize your hands when you enter the building. There is a hand sanitizing station near the front entrance. Those entering through the side door can use the bathrooms to wash their hands.

We will continue to offer no-contact pickup for those who are not comfortable coming into the building.

There will be a learning curve for all of us as we adjust to these new safety measures. We ask for your patience and cooperation.

Favorite Book Club Picks

The Tracy Public Library’s book club has not met since February, and I am really missing it! I have been a part of the book club since it started in 2013. That was before I started working at the library.

We’ve covered about 80 books throughout the years, and I’m sure there will be many more to come. This week, I’ve been thinking about some of my favorite book club picks.

Watership Down, Richard Adams

“Watership Down” was the first book our book club read, so it holds a special place in my heart. It’s a new classic, but other than its name, I had no idea what this book was about. Like many book club books, this book about rabbits who face the destruction of their home due to the invasion of humans is likely not one I would have picked up on my own. It’s a very compelling story, although some in our club were a bit overwhelmed by the amount of description.

Sutton, J.R. Moehringer

“Sutton” by J.R. Moehringer is based on a true story about America’s most successful bank robber, Willie Sutton. At a time when banks were unpopular, the public cheered on this unlikely hero over a three-decade bank-robbing career. In Moehringer’s fictionalized account of Sutton’s life, he explores the motivations that made the man into a myth.

Plainsong, Kent Haruf

I knew the minute I read this book that it would be a great book club selection. “Plainsong” is a quiet book, a character study of a small town in Colorado. Haruf captures small-town life, the relationships within it, and the landscape surrounding it perfectly. If you haven’t read anything by Haruf, I highly recommend giving him a try.

O Pioneers!, Willa Cather

I read Willa Cather’s “O Pioneers!” in college, and revisited it along with our book club years later. Along the way, I somehow forgot just how beautiful this little book is. The main character is Alexandra Bergson, a strong-willed Swedish immigrant who inherits her family’s farm. A lot happens in this book, so don’t let its short length fool you. It’s perfect for book clubs who want to read a classic, but are looking for something that’s not too overwhelming.

Their Eyes Were Watching God, Zora Neale Hurston

“Their Eyes Were Watching God” is one of my favorite book club books, but I have a confession to make. I almost didn’t finish it. It’s written using dialect, meaning the author writes how the characters sound. I struggle with this a lot, for some reason, and sometimes it can make a book downright unreadable for me. Because this book was for book club, I had to finish whether I wanted to or not, so I found the audiobook version. It completely blew me away. It’s read by actress Ruby Dee, and she brings the story of free-spirit Janie Crawford alive.

The Glass Castle, Jeanette Walls

Jeanette Walls’ memoir, “The Glass Castle,” is unforgettable. In it, the author recounts her nomadic childhood with parents who were anything but ordinary. The romance of this lifestyle faded for Walls and her siblings as they grew, and each began to plot his or her way out. It’s a story of unconditional love in an unconventional family.

All of these books provide plenty to discuss, which, to me, is the mark of a great book club book. I always say that it doesn’t matter if everyone likes the book or not. What matters is that we have something to talk about. These books are also great for reading on your own.

Happy reading!


Keeping it Real with Non-Fiction

We’re in week six of the Stay at Home order, and some days it still doesn’t quite seem real. Maybe that is why non-fiction is so appealing to me right now.

As I mentioned last week, “Educated,” by Tara Westover, helped break me out of the little reading slump I was in. After I finished that, I picked up a mystery/thriller, but it didn’t quite work for me. I finished the book, but then decided to turn back to non-fiction. I’m now reading “When Books Went to War: The Stories That Helped Us Win World War II,” by Molly Guptill Manning.

Non-fiction teaches us and inspires us. In times of great uncertainty, it can be comforting to read about people who persevered in difficult times.

If you’re looking for a good non-fiction book, here are a few of my favorites:

The Devil in the White City, Erik Larson

“The Devil in the White City” is about two men, both of them intelligent, talented, and possessing great promise. One uses his talents as an architect to direct the building of the Chicago World’s Fair. The other builds a house of horrors, where he lures unsuspecting victims. Larson has a great talent for writing narrative non-fiction, and you really can’t go wrong in reading any of his books. “The Devil in the White City,” however, is my favorite.

Empty Mansions: The Mysterious Life of Huguette Clark and the Spending of a Great American Fortune

Huguette Clark was the daughter of copper industrialist W. A. Clark. She was raised in a 121-room mansion in New York City, and inherited millions. Yet when Clark died at age 104, she had lived in a simple hospital room for 20 years, despite being in good health and owning homes in New York, Connecticut, and California. “Empty Mansions” tells the story of this enigmatic woman, from her Gilded Age upbringing to the fight over her fortune following her death.

The End of Your Life Book Club, Will Schwalbe

Books can bring us together, even at the worst of times. “The End of Your Life Book Club” is a beautiful book about how the author and his mother bonded over the books they read together as she underwent treatment for terminal cancer.

Into Thin Air, Jon Krakauer

“Into Thin Air” was the book that made me fall in love with non-fiction. Jon Krakauer, both a journalist and a mountaineer, went to Mount Everest in the spring of 1996 to write a story for “Outside” magazine. What should have been a story of triumph turned to one of tragedy when a deadly storm struck, resulting in the deaths of several climbers – including Krakauer’s guide for the expedition.

A Moveable Feast, Ernest Hemingway

If you’ve ever wondered what it would have been like to live in Paris during the 1920s alongside Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Exra Pound, James Joyce, and Gertrude Stein, this book is your chance. In “A Moveable Feast,” Hemingway recounts what life was like for himself and other expatriate authors who lived in Europe at that time. It’s funny, moving, and deeply personal.

Non-fiction can be a great way to escape your own life for a while by seeing what it was like to live in someone else’s shoes. Whether you decide to pick up one of these books, or find something else that’s just right for you, I hope you have a good reading week.