Some people channel surf. Some people web surf.
I like to library surf!
My county has 29 libraries within its borders, and I can order any book I want from their online catalog to be picked up at my nearest branch. Instead of relying on that service, though, I like to go to the other branches, further away and less familiar to me.
When I go to one of these unexplored branches, I sometimes walk up and down the aisles, looking at book spines and titles that catch my eye, pulling books from the shelf to see the cover or flip through the pages.
This is library surfing.
I trace this strange pastime back to one of my friends from middle and high school. Her mother was an English teacher, and when I would go to her house, I would see her mom's reading nook. She kept a stack of library books there on all sorts of different subjects. She might have a pile of books that covered topics as diverse as architecture, birds, English history, and trains. She had books about subjects that I would never dream would interest her. But they awaited her there, where she could pick them up for some in-depth study, or just to glance through for some tidbits of information or interesting pictures. I used to think to myself that when I grew up, I would do the same thing. (I guess it didn't occur to me that I didn't really need to be a grown up to do that!) And now that's what I do...wander the library aisles and check out whatever books catch my attention.
- Mathematics Minus Fear: I feel certain that I need not fear mathematics or assume any longer that I am hopeless when it comes to anything related to this topic. It's probably telling that I haven't picked up this book from my library basket to peruse yet!
- My Name is Jason. Mine too. Our story. Our way: This is such a fun and quirky book, marketed to teenagers. It is the story of two best friends, a black poet and a white artist, both named Jason, who try to make their way in the world, living together in New York City. The pages are a super-fun eclectic mix of art, photographs, and poetry.
- The Painter's Eye: Learning to Look at Contemporary American Art: This book explores the common vocabulary of art we can learn in order to discuss what makes a painting work and what the artist is trying to communicate. This book helps you at that very moment you stop in front of a piece of modern art and say, "I don't get it. What's that supposed to be?" or, "Geez, I could do that!" I am hoping that, as an artist, I can build a vocabulary for getting past our initial reactions that are often shallow critiques to discover why a particular painting is hanging on a museum or gallery wall.
|Any book with peeks inside artists' studios is a winner with me! This is Willem de Kooning at work.
|Here is Helen Frankenthaler. The book has photos of several other artists at work in their studio spaces.
|Is there more to this painting than a row of five hot dogs? This book will help me figure out
how to talk about a work of art like this one.
|Made in Japan, by Jean-Michel Basquiat
How can an art observer see this piece with a responsive eye?
The Painter's Eye addresses this question.
- Sketching Outdoors in Spring: 'Tis the season! Time to get outside and enjoy the fresh air and sunshine (it's coming soon, right?). This book will give me some inspiration to head outside with pencil and sketchbook, and not make things so difficult that I don't even try.
- Queen Victoria's Sketchbook: I didn't realize what an accomplished artist Queen Victoria was within the pages of her private sketchbook. This book shares her art instruction as a child, as well as her growth as an artist, and how she incorporated it into her life as queen. If she can rule an empire and keep her creative and artistic spirit alive, then I think we can make time for it in our own busy lives, too!
|Queen Victoria took her most successful drawings from albums she kept when she was
in Scotland, and pasted them into bound books on large pages.
|She and her family traveled incognito among the common people, and Queen Victoria
would make sketches of the local costume.
|In this picture, which (if my calculations are correct) Victoria made at age 13, she
records the first game of charades she observed at a large house party.
- 52 Small Changes: One Year to Happier, Healthier You: I love to give myself To Do lists, and this book plays right into that. Most are supremely do-able, and many are already underway in my life (drink more water, drink less soda, get enough sleep, that sort of thing).
- Crafting Calm: Projects and Practices for Creativity and Contemplation: Prayer flags, treasure maps, visual journals, shrines, prayer cards, wisdom dolls, collage mandalas....what's not to love?!
I don't think I would have found any of these books if I had relied on the online catalog or the shelves of my own nearby branch!
In case you've never tried library surfing yourself, I thought I would share this unusual pastime that I've been enjoying for a few years now. It keeps me surrounded by books (my favorite thing!) and constantly learning (another favorite thing!).
I always tell my girls, "It's a good day when you learn something new!"