Most of the time, I look at the books on the library’s shelves and am excited at the prospect of finding my new favorite book. However, every once in a while, I look at all of the books and become dejected, knowing that there are thousands and thousands of amazing books published that I will not have the time to read.
So, when I am looking for something new to read in my limited time—and, contrary to popular belief, librarians do not get to read all day at work—I ask myself, should I reread a favorite? Should I read a title or author in my favorite genre? Or, should I branch out and read a book that is different from my normal choice?
It’s a difficult decision to make, but I find that branching out and trying a new category or a new author is very rewarding. It allows me, in a professional capacity, to recommend titles outside my favorite genre. It also gives me a better understanding of the world around me, and I find some of my new favorite books and authors.
If I hadn’t read outside my usual fare, I would have missed this year’s nuanced and inspiring Rappahannock Reads selection, Station Eleven, by Emily St. John Mandel. It’s about post-apocalyptic North America, but, whereas many novels in this genre focus on the immediate aftermath of the apocalyptic event and the struggle for human survival, Mandel’s novel focuses on what happens after the initial struggle is over. What do we, as humans, focus on, and what do we decide is important enough to preserve from our previous life? Station Eleven switches back and forth between several characters during Year Zero, when a pandemic wipes out most humans, and Year 20, when life is not as chaotic as it was during and directly after the pandemic. One set of characters focused on in Station Eleven is a group of wandering actors and musicians known as The Travelling Symphony. They trek from town to town around the Great Lakes region and perform Shakespeare, thus helping to preserve part of the culture from before the pandemic.
Station Eleven won the 2015 Arthur C. Clarke Award. It also was nominated for the National Book Award and was a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award.
For the culminating Rappahannock Reads event, the author will speak locally March 17 at 3 p.m. The event, sponsored by UMW Libraries, Germanna Community College and CTI, will be held at University Hall at the University of Mary Washington Stafford Campus.
In addition, Station Eleven features in the library’s Arts vs Apocalypse Mission in the Winter Reading Challenge. The mission includes recommended reading, learning more about Shakespeare, and a video of the author discussing Station Eleven. Adults can sign up for the Winter Reading Challenge on the library’s website, complete missions to earn badges and points toward monthly prizes, and join the Winter Reading Challenge Facebook group for weekly book discussions, trivia, giveaways, and more. Anyone who reads or listens to five books through the end of March can win a Winter Reading Challenge mug, but quantities are limited, so the sooner participants complete their five books, the more likely that the library will have mugs left to be claimed.
This article originally appeared in The Free Lance-Star.