|photo: Jessica Tholmer
Mandi Harris is an accidental librarian at a public library in the Pacific Northwest. She never set out to be a children's librarian, but she fell in love with it and now finds herself with purple hair, wearing quirky aprons and considering story time the best part of her day.
On your nightstand now:
I just started Boy, Snow, Bird by Helen Oyeyemi. There's this feeling of falling I get when I read the first page of a particularly good book. It's as though the plot is pulling me down into it. My stomach flips, and I get chills. It's a rare feeling, but the first page of Boy, Snow, Bird gave it to me.
I have checked out Moriarty by Anthony Horowitz from the library about five times, and it keeps sitting on my nightstand. I'm sure it's feeling neglected by now, so I need to start it soon.
I also like to always be reading a YA or middle grade novel so I can have something to recommend to the library tweens and teens. Right now I'm reading Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai, Hook's Revenge by Heidi Schulz and The Invasion of the Tearling by Erika Johansen.
Favorite book when you were a child:
Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery was my safe and happy place. I didn't just want to be Anne--I thought I was her. I love how Anne is much too much. She reads too much, daydreams too much, laughs too much, talks too much, feels too much, is impulsive too much. She always keeps herself moving forward, even when life is too much.
Your top five authors:
Jasper Fforde, Cherie Priest, Isabel Allende, Roxane Gay, L.M. Montgomery.
Best books for story time:
Mo Willems's books are the easiest way to delight a group of children. I don't know a kid who doesn't love Pigeon, Duckling, Piggy, Gerald, Knuffle Bunny or Edwina (the dinosaur who didn't know she was extinct). If you want to get kids to laugh (and in my experience, making books fun is the easiest way to get kids to love reading), grab a book by Mo Willems. Laughter, books and kids: Does it get any more delightful than that?
Book you've faked reading:
I'm originally from Oregon, and lived in Eugene, home of Ken Kesey, for a long time. I've never admitted this to anyone, but... I have never read a single one of Kesey's novels, which is an unspeakable sin for anyone from Eugene. When I was a bookseller, I recommended his books, and I once had an intense discussion about them with a guy I was in love with. I was faking it the whole time. He never knew.
Book you're an evangelist for:
The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde. It's bookish sci-fi, fictional literary criticism. Oh, that doesn't sound interesting to anyone who wasn't an English major, does it? But it's full of action, adventure, intrigue, romance and conspiracies.
Its heroine, Thursday Next, lives in a world where books are so important, Shakespeare gangs and Marlowe gangs fight on the street, and the next big exploitable industry is traveling into books. My favorite part is that from the first book in the series to the last, Thursday ages from her mid-30s to her 50s. It is rare to find an older sci-fi heroine who drives the action and saves the day, but Thursday does it all with humor, humanity and a really cool car.
Book you've bought for the cover:
The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield.
Book that changed your life:
The Blue Castle by L.M. Montgomery. This is Montgomery's only book for adults; it is very hard to find a copy. It's the story of a spinster who leaves behind all she knows, all the rules of proper life she's always been taught, and moves to the woods (Okay, okay... she moves there with a handsome scoundrel who is hiding a secret or two, but a touch of shameless romance never hurt anyone).
Ostensibly, it's a love story, but to me it's always been the story of a dying woman letting go of life and finding herself in nature. I spent most of my 20s battling chronic illnesses, and this book gave me solace. When you are ill, you have to let go of both the life you thought you'd have and the life your health forces you to have, and find a new way of existing, a way to create yourself all over again.
Favorite line from a book:
"The opinions you avowed were rational," said Schedoni, "but the ardour of your imagination was apparent; and what ardent imagination ever was contented to trust to plain reasoning, or to the evidence of the senses? It may not willingly confine itself to the dull truths of this earth, but, eager to expand its faculties, to fill its capacity, and to experience its own peculiar delights, soars after new wonders into a world of its own!" --from The Italian by Ann Radcliffe
Which character you most relate to:
Anne Shirley, but I'm hoping to grow into Thursday Next.
Book you most want to read again for the first time:
Pure by Julianna Baggott. I can be irritable when it comes to dystopian YA. Sometimes it feels like the same book written a hundred times, just with different names and different overly complicated fascist post-apocalyptic governments.
I started Pure thinking I was getting another paint-by-numbers YA novel, but I was wrong. There are scenes from it that have stuck with me for years, particularly a scene with a group of mothers who have been fused to their young children. The mothers never get to see their children grow, learn and lead their own lives. The children are alive but not living. This scene was one of the most haunting, disturbing scenes I've ever read.