by Seth Warburton
Like Katmai’s fat bears searching for salmon, we librarians stand in a river of literature. But catching the right book at the right time, pulling it glistening and shiny and fresh from the stream is more difficult than it seems.
“How hard can it be?” you say, “You just stand there and the books come to you,” and you’re right. But firstly, cracking open a new book is something of a commitment; it takes some trust that what I’m reading will entertain or educate, that it will feel right for my mood, and that it will only bore or shock me as much as I’m willing to be bored or shocked. And secondly, don’t be so critical, man. Like a bear, it’s smart to have a caribou carcass cached where you can find it again at need, ready to sustain you when the salmon stays just out of reach.
When no new books feel right to me, I find I often return to the Discworld. Ten thousand miles wide, perched on the backs of four giant elephants, who in turn stand upon the shell of the world turtle A’Tuin, who swims through the cosmos, the Discworld is home to forty or so books by Terry Pratchett. A series in the loosest sense, any book can be picked up and read with no prior knowledge at all.
Diverse in focus and tone, there’s a Discworld book for everyone. Those who like a quirky detective, Peter Wimsey or Richard Jury, perhaps, can follow the City Watch’s Captain Vimes who catches murderers and manages to serve his diverse city with surprising compassion in books like “Men at Arms.” Readers of the recent rash of twisted fairytale retellings will enjoy “Witches Abroad.” The books starring Tiffany Aching, beginning with “The Wee Free Men” are wonderful coming-of-age tales for readers who love a plucky, resourceful heroine, or for those who find themselves missing their grandmothers. Perhaps the best way to enjoy the Discworld is to pick up the book in which Pratchett skewers the institution that’s currently confounding or infuriating you: office culture (“Eric,”), bureaucracy (“Going Postal”), intercollegiate athletics (“Unseen Academicals”), or even sexism (“Monstrous Regiment”), organized religion (“Small Gods”), or war (“Jingo”).
We hope that here at the Ames Public Library we can always find the perfect new book for you, but when none of them seem right, we’re also happy to help with a backup plan.