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Reviewer Profile – Jeremiah J.


RevPro-JJ-largeOur featured Reviewer for October 2012 is Jeremiah J., of the Bennett Martin Public Library, downtown. Jeremiah’s still relatively new to working for the Lincoln City Libraries, but his reviews started showing up regularly on the Staff Recommendations pages of the BookGuide web site, and on the Staff Recommendations display at Bennett Martin Public Library, shortly after he started here in early 2012. Reading, and books, have featured prominently in Jeremiah’s life at various times, as you can see in his answers to our profile questions:

Would you care to share any personal info with our readers — such as where you grew up, what you read as a child, how long you’ve been with the libraries, etc.?

I grew up in Blue Eye, MO, an extremely small town in southwest Missouri that straddles the Missouri-Arkansas border. I believe the population of the Missouri side when I graduated was 112. The high school was not much bigger, but the school district did cover several neighboring towns. I graduated valedictorian in a class of 40. In 2007, I finished my Bachelor of Music Degree in piano performance with a minor in English Literature at Missouri State University in Springfield, MO (about an hour north of Blue Eye). In 2008, I auditioned for my Master of Music degree at the University of Nebraska – Lincoln and am now working to complete my doctorate degree.

I didn’t have a lot of books when I was really young (like age 1-3), and the closest library other than our school was a good 30-45 minutes away (remember, we lived in rural Missouri), so the cheapest and easiest thing to “read” at first with my parents was a phonebook — I remember going through and spotting popular logos like “Pizza Hut,” “Chevy,” and “McDonalds.” At some point I remember ‘graduating’ to a set of the Little Golden Books, and some popular children’s fairy tales and rhymes. Once in school, I remember our teacher reading The Boxcar Children by Gertrude Chandler Warner; I liked the series so much that I would literally get in contests with other students to see who could finish each book first. I remember after we had exhausted every single Boxcar Children book in the series, we moved on to Goosebumps by R.L. Stine. (Since then, they have came out with more– but at the time, I had read every single book in both series, numerous times).

How long have you been an active reader, and were there any particular books or authors or other people that “made you a reader”? Has there been any book or author that “changed your life” or strongly influenced you?

shadowcendrarsI remember reading from a very young age. One picture book that really stands out in my mind is Shadow by Blaise Cendrars, illustrated by Marcia Brown and translated from an African tribal poem. It has very dark and dramatic tribal illustrations. I remember reading it in 2nd grade and being extremely confused. Knowing that I was missing something, I kept trying to “figure it out” and waiting for some big revelation at the end which never comes (I’ve since learned that the beauty of some things in life is that they are not meant to be ‘figured out’). As I am typing this paragraph, I pulled it off the shelf to look and reflect on it, and I can honestly say I’m even more confused by it now…. (Maybe that’s the true evasiveness and meaning of the “shadow.”).

charlotteswebI remember reading Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White the first time in 3rd grade. It is one of my favorite books of all time. I eventually bought the movie, and even shared the book with a foreign exchange student as one of the great American must-read books. (At one point in my life, I even debated on getting a tattoo of a spiderweb that says “Humble”.) Also, Shel Silverstein’s books (especially Where the Sidewalk Ends) I read several times.

In middle-school and early high school, I remember not being as avid of a reader. I got distracted with other sports, activities, clubs, and organizations, and simply didn’t have the time anymore. One day, my high-school English teacher, Mrs. McGriff, asked us in Freshman English, “Who in here hates reading?” (Every male student’s hand in class went up… including mine.) Her response was a guffaw, “Nonsense! You just haven’t found anything that interests you!” That semester woke me up to a wide variety of interesting and diverse literature with topics from sci-fi to westerns, poetry and Shakespeare to non-fiction. I remember reading the short story “The Utterly Perfect Murder” by Ray Bradbury, and how well Mrs. McGriff could relate characters and rites of passage to real life. She was an extremely intelligent and well-rounded teacher and good at making life lessons out of every work we studied. It wasn’t an easy class, but it left a lasting impression on me.

How important are books and reading to you, currently?

In addition to working at the library (which I love), I am also a collegiate piano teacher and a doctorate student. Finding the time to read for pleasure is an cathartic and stress-relieving. At my busiest, I tend to rely on humor, comedy, and light-hearted reads (like Chelsea Handler’s books, David Sedaris, and Tina Fey). To keep from being stressed all the time, it’s nice to laugh and remember to not take life so seriously sometimes. So I’d say books, in that regard, are currently very important to me.

How do you select what books to read next?

I tend to read things that family or friends have suggested through word-of-mouth. From time to time, I will check the New York Times best-sellers and other lists (like the top downloaded e-books from the Lincoln City Libraries website). Since working at the library, I also rely on other Staff Recommendations from the BookGuide site.

When I first started working at the library, I remember checking-in books in the back and saying: “That looks good.” After about the twentieth time of saying this little mantra to myself, I decided to actually compose a reading list for personal pleasure (I never did this before, because most of the reading I do in graduate school is predetermined and chosen by the instructor). So now I jokingly have my “That Looks Good…” reading list.

What do you enjoy about writing book recommendations?

I really like sharing books and literature that motivated and inspired me. Any item that I can recommend to make someone’s life a little bit easier or more enjoyable is well worth sharing. I tend to recommend self-help books and non-fiction, in areas like personal finance, diet, and exercise, because I learned “the hard way,” and there is A LOT of misinformation regarding these subjects out there. However, I always enjoy sharing great fiction, a movie, and of course music as well.

What is your history with the Lincoln City Libraries – how long have you been a customer, and how long have you worked for LCL? Which locations?

I began working at Lincoln City Libraries in January of 2012. I am currently a Library Service Associate at Bennett Martin Public Library downtown, but occasionally work at South branch as well.

Are there any interesting book- or reading-related stories or bits of trivia in your past that you’d like to share with our readers?

  • claviercompanionnovdec2010I won a collegiate writing competition and had an article published in the Nov/Dec 2010 issue of Clavier Companion music magazine
  • Completely random: in 5th grade I was nominated and won “Best Reader” in the class
  • I wrote a book in Spanish (never published) called Las Espias Vacias [The Empty Spies]. The book is illustrated through digital photographs staged by our Spanish 3 language class
  • I once read the monumental book Ivanhoe in high school, after our English teacher told us to choose a “more challenging” book for a book report (other than the language and writing style, it was a great read after you get into it!)

Do you have a favorite literary-related website you like to visit or that you’d like to recommend? — Now let me be very clear– nothing can beat reading a great classic from cover to cover. However, this website provides the study tools to make reading and studying a little easier. It is a website compiled full of reading guides, synopses, discussion questions, practice exams, suggested essay questions, and key quotations. I found them extremely helpful in college courses. I wouldn’t rely 100% on the summaries as a crutch for school work, but they have great study tools for getting down to the basics of numerous classic books and classical literature in a reasonable amount of time.

necklaceand finally…

If there was only one author you could convince people to read, that author would be:

After reading The Da Vinci Code and Angels and Demons by Dan Brown, I would definitely recommend some of his other books: Deception Point – a political mystery thriller; Digital Fortress – a similar writing style involving cyber-hacking; and more recently The Lost Symbol, a continuation of his Robert Langdon series.!

I would also recommend The Necklace by Guy de Maupassant. The short story involves a certain appreciation for money, manual labor, and economic status; it is reminiscent of Around the World in 80 Days, by Jules Verne.

Booktalk Booklists from this reviewer
Fire and Ice (November 2013)
Musical Pairings (November 2015)

Read Jeremiah J.’s Reviews

Posted to the BookGuide site in October 2012 | Last updated in March 2016 sdc