On the Shelf

On the Shelf

By Paul Guffin

How Many Books Do You Read?

According to a Gallup poll conducted December 1-16, 2021, United States adults are reading fewer books than previously. The poll question asked how many books people “read, either all or part way through” in the past year, taking into account all forms of books, including print books, electronic books, and audiobooks. The poll reveals that adults in this country read an average of 12.6 books during the previous 12 months, the smallest number that Gallup has measured in any prior survey dating back to 1990, when the number of books read was 15.3. The number climbed to 18.5 by 1999, and has been up and down since, with 2016 showing adults reading an average of 15.6 books per year.

Another way of looking at this is by the percentage of adults who read a certain number of books each year. In the 2021 survey, 17% of adults read no books at all, 40% read 1-5 books, 15% read 6-10 books, and 27% read more than 10 books. The largest change since 2016 was in those who read more than 10 books a year, dropping from 35% of adults in 2016 to the current 27%.

Where would you be found in these statistics? How many books did you read over the past twelve months? Your local library exists to provide you with the opportunity to read as many books as you would like to read. Here at the Downieville Library, you can find books organized in the following ways:

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On the Shelf

By Paul Guffin

Banned Books in the Downieville Library

Someone asked me recently what “banned” books we have in the Downieville Library. I had to admit I wasn’t sure; so, I decided to do a bit of research. First of all, where to find a “banned books” list? Since we’re a library, I decided to use the list provided by the Office for Intellectual Freedom of the American Library Association (https://www.oif.ala.org/oif/2020-banned-challenged-books-list/). It provides a list books banned and challenged in 2020 (the most recent year of accumulated data). There are 156 books on that list. Here are the ones we have in our library:

  • The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie
  • The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain
  • A Child Called “It”: One Child’s Courage to Survive, by Dave Pelzer
  • Anne Frank: Diary of a Young Girl, by Anne Frank
  • Between the World and Me, by Ta-Nehisi Coates
  • The Bluest Eye, by Toni Morrison
  • The Book Thief, by Marcus Zusak
  • The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, by Mark Haddon
  • Educated, by Tara Westover
  • The Fault in Our Stars, by John Green
  • The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • The Hate U Give, by Angie Thomas
  • I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, by Maya Angelou
  • The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini
  • Los Viajes de Babar, by Jean de Brunhoff (we don’t actually have this book, but we do have the English version, Babar’s Travels)
  • Of Mice and Men, by John Steinbeck
  • The Round House, by Louise Erdrich
  • The Thanksgiving Story, by Alice Dalgliesh
  • The Things They Carried, by Tim O’Brien
  • To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
  • The Ugly Duckling, by Lorinda Cauley & Hans Christian Andersen (not sure whether this is the edition we have)

I then decided to check out Powell’s Books in Portland, Oregon, which claims to be the largest independent bookstore in the world. Their listing of banned books for Banned Books Week in 2021 include these additional books, which can be found in our local library:

  • A Farewell to Arms, by Ernest Hemingway
  • The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, by Mark Twain
  • The Alchemist, by Paulo Coelho
  • Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley
  • City of Thieves, by David Benioff
  • Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley
  • The Glass Castle: A Memoir, by Jeannette Walls
  • Go Tell It on the Mountain, by James Baldwin
  • The Grapes of Wrath, by John Steinbeck
  • The Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood
  • Heart of Darkness, by Joseph Conrad
  • The House of the Spirits, by Isabel Allende
  • One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, by Ken Kesey
  • Year of Wonders, by Geraldine Brooks

I’m guessing that, in addition to these 35 books, we have others that have been banned at some time, by somebody, somewhere, for some reason. Also, for your future planning, please be advised that Banned Books Week this year is September 18-24. Perhaps we’ll have added more books to our list by then.

On the Shelf

By Paul Guffin

May, the Month

The month of May is the fifth month in both the Julian and Gregorian calendars. So, whether you’re an old-timer (Julian) or a modernista (Gregorian), you observe the month together. It is the third of seven months in the year to have a length of 31 days (and the fifth of twelve to have 28 days).

The name of the month entered the English language in the 1050s. It is drawn from the Old English Maius, which was borrowed directly from the Latin Maius, indicating the Greek goddess Maia. She was the daughter of Atlas and Pleione, and the oldest of the Pleiades (the companions of Artemis, goddess of the hunt). Because the Pleiades were daughters of Atlas, they were also called the Atlantides. Maia is the mother of Hermes (messenger of the Gods, and known as Mercury to the Romans), who was fathered by Zeus. The Romans also had a goddess named Maia, who embodied the concept of growth. So, it is possible that the two goddesses were conflated into the naming of the month. It should probably also be noted that the Roman poet Ovid provided a second etymology for the month’s name: he said that the month of May was named for the maiores (Latin for “elders”), and that the following month, June, was named for the iuniores (Latin for “young people”).

May’s birthstone is the emerald, emblematic of love and success. The month’s birth flowers are the Lily of the Valley and the Common Hawthorn. Zodiac minders will find the bull, Taurus, wandering through the first part of the month, and then being chased out of the month by a set of twins, the Gemini.

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On the Shelf

By Paul Guffin

Wiggling and Giggling at the Downieville Library

If you stop by the Downieville Library between 10:30 AM and noon on pretty much any Tuesday, you will discover that the normal library dictum of “Quiet” does not apply. That is because the “Wiggles-N-Giggles Playgroup” will be in full swing, and trying to keep pre-schoolers quiet just isn’t in the lesson or game plan.

The playgroup is a program of Sierra Nevada Children’s Services, and is led here by Shelly Fischer. All children, from newborn to those who have not yet started school, are invited to come and take part. Emphasis is on “play”, although there might also be some (probably brief) times of reading and listening. Also, a snack is provided. Adults who bring children must, as Shelly says, plan to “stay and play”.

Downieville Library’s part in this is offering a warm, comfortable space “among the books” for these young children and their caregivers to relax and enjoy one another and the space. The library is located in the basement of the Native Daughters’ Hall at 318 Commercial Street. For more information, please call Shelly at 289-3146.

What’s New on the Shelves of the Downieville Library

As you might already know, only occasionally does the library actually put brand new books on its shelves (usually as the result of a kind donation). However, there are pretty much always items that are new to the library. If they are books, they will most likely be found on the “New Books” shelf, straight ahead as you enter the library. Here’s the new “new to us” stuff waiting for your perusal:

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On the Shelf

By Paul Guffin

Earth and Its Day

As most of us possibly know, most of the planets in our solar system are named after Roman gods and goddesses (who, in their turn, were based on the Greek pantheon). Thus, moving outward from the sun:

  • Mercury, which travels the shortest orbit of all the planets, is named after the Roman messenger god who was known for his ability to travel quickly, due to the wings on his feet;
  • Venus, being the brightest object in our sky, is named after the goddess of love and beauty;
  • Mars, also called the “Red Planet”, is named after the Roman god of war, red being the color of blood and war;
  • Jupiter, the largest planet in the solar system, is named after the supreme god of the ancient Romans;
  • Saturn, with its abundance of moons, is named after the king of the Titans, who ruled before
  • Jupiter, and was also the god of agriculture and abundance;
  • Uranus, which was originally named Georges Star after King George III of England, is named after the original Roman sky god;
  • Neptune, thought for many years to lie on the edge of the solar system, is named after the Roman god of the sea; and,
  • poor disrespected Pluto, dark and cold, is named after the brother of Jupiter and Neptune, and the god of the underworld.

Of course, taking its place between the orbits of Venus and Mars is Earth. This is where the “most of the planets” being named after Roman gods comes to an end, because the planet on which we live is the only one in our solar system that doesn’t have a Greek-Roman etymological heritage. Here’s how the naming of our planet is described on the “HowStuffWorks” website (https://science.howstuffworks.com/who-named-planet-earth.htm):

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