Losing a Library

My daughter is graduating from high school this spring. For all the new beginnings such an event promises, for parents there is also a sense of impending loss: perhaps one less lunch to pack each day, or one less person at the dinner table. For me, there’s an additional loss:  access to the school library.

As you might have guessed, I am a big fan of libraries. In Basel, my public library has a fabulous collection—in German. Granted, each branch has a small collection in English—one even has a very nice fiction selection—but access to the school library brought me access to a complete library: fiction, non-fiction, periodicals, databases, etc., all in English.

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As an international school library*, it has a broad scope, and the fiction collection features authors from a great many countries. I have discovered Canadian authors, Australian authors, and a host of other authors whose work had been translated into English.

I have a good relationship with the library staff; I probably check out more books than any other parent at the school. I could read about a book, suggest it to them, and, most of the time, they would not only order it but let me know when it had arrived. Reading a “Best of YA” list would send me to the online catalog to see what they had or to the librarians to check what was on their upcoming order list in order to get books I thought my daughter would like.They were also very nice about renewing (and re-renewing) books for me. Best of all, at the end of the school year, my daughter and I could check out an unlimited number of books for the summer. I think our record was thirty ( yes, 30).

With just seven weeks until the end of exams and thus the end of school enrollment, all that access is also coming to an end, so I am reading as fast as I can. Come mid-June, I may be signing up for my first GGG library card.

*Check out International School Library Month, celebrated each October

 

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Travel Fears

We are days away from embarking on the trip of a lifetime.  It’s time to assess my major fears about this trip and my plans to deal with them.

Crossing the Drake Passage, reputed to be some of the roughest open water on the planet. Ugh. I don’t do boats. But I am willing to do this one because I want to see Antarctica. So I am fully loaded with drugs to handle the seasickness of life on board and, I hope, the roughest the seas can throw at me. (‘Cause otherwise, I’ll be throwing it right back at them…)

Next, having enough to read. This was a major quandary. But I recently learned that our ship contains the largest floating library in Antarctica and has both non-fiction, which I assumed, and fiction, which I wasn’t sure about. So now I am fairly confident that the four books I have packed will be enough for the off-ship travel portion of our almost-month-long trip.

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Will all the books in the library published by Penguin?

 

Taking these two biggies off the table leaves me with just one final concern: Will there be enough chocolate on board?

Photo Credit: Flickr Photo by Antartica Bound used under CC License

My Favourite Day

Basel bills fasnacht as the three most beautiful days of the year (die drei schönsten Tage). It’s colourful and great fun and all that, but one of my favourite days of the year in Basel is actually the Anglican Church Christmas Bazaar.

It’s held each year on a Saturday in late November, and for me it’s a reminder that the expat community here is not unlike small-town America at their annual Peach Festival. I see all sorts of people I know – from friends from our Montessori kindergarten days to friends I’ve only met recently.  It’s fun to check in and catch up with everyone…after I’ve visited the upper floor.

My first stop is always the book sale upstairs. This being Switzerland, the books are organized not only by general category but also, within fiction, somewhat alphabetically. Therefore, if you’re looking to read something new by Tracy Chevalier, you can head right to the C’s and cross your fingers you got there before it was snatched up by another fan.

I adore watching the older ladies and gents armed with lists of authors they like and books in a series they’re looking for. I love picking up a book I’ve read and loved and recommending it to the stranger next to me. And I absolutely buy too many books each year, but with 10 for 15 chf, how can you go wrong?!

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Okay, so maybe things are getting a bit out hand…

 

Busy Town Basel

When I started this post, I don’t know for sure, but I had every reason to suspect that Richard Scarry got his inspiration for Busy Town from a Swiss city like Basel.

I loved Richard Scarry’s books—as a child, teen and parent. Remember Lowly Worm, with his little hat that, now that I think about is, definitely has a Germanic air to it, appearing on each page? In Busy Town, everyone is busy. And in Basel, people are busy in the same way.

Men at Work

Men at Work

On any given day you’ll come across mail carriers, bus drivers, painters, masons, plasterers, police officers, tram drivers, road workers, etc. etc., all working to keep the city running smoothly.

There are even work crews that clean the the bulbs in the street lights!

Another parallel to to Scarry’s characters is that all, Scarry’s pigs, cats and foxes and Basel’s people alike, wear uniforms appropriate to their task and occupation. The painters, gardeners, construction workers and sanitation crews have specific uniforms with special pockets and reflective tape. They also sport whatever protective gear is needed for the job at hand.

Swiss cities have special vehicles and machines for specific tasks, too: mini trucks that creep along walking trails for garbage crews, vacuum trucks to clean the tram lines, mail motorbikes, and so. Given that Swiss chocolate is so famous not because of the cocoa beans but because of the conching machines developed here, these specialized machine should come as no surprise. The machines and the people all work to keep Basel working like, well, clockwork.

Upon doing a bit more research into Richard Scarry, I discovered that he bought a chalet in Gstaad, Switzerland, in the 1970s and lived and worked there until his death in 1994. So there just may be something to those lederhosen-wearing cats after all!

My Big Year

My Big Year has nothing to do with birdwatching, though I certainly wouldn’t mind doing some of that in, say, Ecuador. No, my Big Year has to do with reading.

The first book I am reading this year for one of my book clubs is The Goldfinch. At 771 pages, it’s quite the tome.

When I first learned that was the book we would be reading, I groaned. Not because it’s a Big Book but because I found The Secret History, also by Donna Tartt, so incredibly awful that I vowed never to read another book of hers. Yet here I am. It’s amazing what book club can make you read.

Despite my initial reluctance, I am enjoying The Goldfinch immensely and, halfway through, can hardly put it down. Books to ReadWith this Big Book well on its way to completion, I have decided this year to tackle some of the other Big Books sitting on my shelf. They include Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follet (802 pages), Freedom by Jonathan Franzen (562 pages) and London by Edward Rutherford (1152 pages).

Wish me luck. Of course, I can always use the books for upper body toning if I don’t quite get around to reading them….