C-SPL July Reader of the Month

Young woman holding a book in a wooded setting.

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Meet the C-SPL July 2023 Reader of the Month: Deidre Hively!

About Reader of the Month Deidre:

Hello! My name is Deidre Hively. I am coming up on two years of living in Dubuque, and getting my library card at Carnegie-Stout was one of the first things I did in this town.

I am eternally grateful for libraries because my reading appetite would be unsustainable otherwise. Any time someone recommends me a book or one catches my eye, I am looking it up in three different library catalogs. Libraries allow for reading to be low stakes: if you don’t like the book, no worries!

When it comes to deciding what to read, I am notorious for judging books by their cover. When I am re-shelving or just browsing, a pop of color or an interesting title will pull me in. From there, I gravitate to emotional stories about flawed characters. (When my spouse asks me how a book is, I often respond “Good, but sad.”)

As for how much I read, I take this cue from my dad. He always has a book with him and will squeeze in pages during any activity. I have made an effort to make reading my default leisure activity by keeping books everywhere. There’s always one in my bag, on my phone, on a table or nightstand, so any moment can be a time to read.

Reader of the Month Q & A:

Q. What book(s) are you currently reading?

A.  I am currently reading “The Murderbot Diaries” by Martha Wells for my family book club, “A Swim in a Pond in the Rain” by George Saunders (which is a refreshing dip back into my Russian literature degree), “Blood Meridian” by Cormac McCarthy as a buddy read with my spouse, “Mycelium Running” by Paul Stamets, and “The Silent Treatment” by Abbie Greaves.

Clearly, I have a lot going on at once, but having different books for different situations is what works for me. Reading a few books at once also gives me time to think about the material and sometimes find parallels between the topics.

Q. What is the best book you have read within the last year (or ever)?

A. I have such trouble deciding what the metric for the ‘best’ book is. How much I liked the characters? If I couldn’t stop thinking about it? Its beauty? A book that fit those criteria for me was “The School for Good Mothers” by Jessamine Chan. The protagonist, Frida, is my favorite type of person in a book. She has struggles that make us root for her, but enough flaws that remind us that she is human. I loved the slight Black Mirror bend to the story of raising robot children. The stakes and anguish of the story sucked me in. When I read the book last summer I could not put it down and read most of it in one afternoon.

Q. What is your ideal reading environment (location, sound, snacks, etc.)?

A. If it is warm outside, I am out there with a book. I love to read at the Dubuque Arboretum and Botanical Gardens. Just me, a book, blanket, and some pomegranate kombucha with the day to enjoy. If I truly have no plans other than reading and relaxing I will pick different spots in the park; perhaps starting near the koi pond, then moving to the hydrangeas, and finishing up in the conifers. If I can’t find an entire day to spend with myself, I’ll at least lounge in my hammock with the afternoon sun.

Q. What book are you most excited about reading next, and what about it is most exciting?

A. I’m excited to read “Understanding Comics” by Scott McCloud. I’ve informally learned how great comics are for storytelling by reading a plethora for leisure, but I only have a bit of true education on the topic. I found Art Spiegelman’s perspective in Metamaus added more depth to his books, even though I’ve read them numerous times, so I hope McCloud’s exploration of the theory of comics applies to the rest of the graphic novels and comics I spend time with.

Q. Have you discovered any exciting new authors or genres?
A. I struggle to break out of my emotional, troubled, contemporary fiction bubble, but I am picking up more science fiction lately! I enjoy things set in space or other worlds, so Ted Chiang’s stories in “Exhalation” and Martha Well’s “Murderbot Diaries” are right up my alley. They’re also short, making them a great fit for a little summer respite.

Q. Have you read any books recently that have changed the way you think about something?
A. Becky Chamber’s “A Psalm for the Wild-Built” and “A Prayer for the Crown-Shy” made me look at robots differently. A world where robots are not only sentient but autonomous and respected is wonderful but seems impossible today. I wondered what it would be like to live in a time when humans move away from petroleum and automation, and how my routines and appreciation for the earth would change. Mosscap, the robot protagonist, is on a pursuit to learn about humans and what they want. Listening to their perspective on humanity helped me appreciate my minute but worthwhile pursuits.

Q. What is something interesting you learned from a book?
A. Kate Beaton’s memoir “Ducks: Two Years in the Oil Sands,” taught me about the Athabasca oil sands in Alberta, Canada. Beaton describes leaving her home province of Nova Scotia for more lucrative and challenging work. Corporations like the one she worked for profit off environmental destruction and human turmoil, but they depend on people with the same needs as you and I. Everyone wants to provide for their family and to have a safe place to sleep.

Q. What book has been the most challenging for you to read? How did it challenge you?

A. “Tender is the Flesh” by Agustina Bazterrica was grotesquely vivid and morally difficult to take in. In a world where animals cannot be eaten, humans become a food source. Having seen the inside of a cattle processing plant, it was too easy to imagine a human in that same situation. This book made me sit with myself and ask whose life deserves to be taken. As challenging as this book was, it exemplifies what I admire in literature: a means to open your mind through stories.

Q. When do you decide to stop reading a book? In other words, do you read every book to the last page, or is there a moment when you decide to stop?

A. Some books are a pain to slog through, so I try to limit how much of that I put up with. I typically give a book 30 pages to capture my interest. If I’m not feeling it by then, back it goes. The only exception to this is for book clubs. I will do my absolute best to get through those (looking at you, The Language of Flowers). In those cases, I try to look for the book’s redeeming qualities, even if they pale in comparison to their shortfalls.

Q. Do you remember when your love for reading began?

A. I will admit, I don’t fully remember this event, but it captures my early fascination with books. As a wee thing, “Goodnight Moon” and “The Runaway Bunny” were on heavy rotation. My parents read these to me enough that one day I pointed out to my mom that there was a picture hanging in the great green room of a mother bunny fishing. As I got older and looked back on those pictures, I found it amazing that this story had a complete world inside it.

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