Imagine this for me, will you? You open your email on your lunch break, dreading the amount of spam in your inbox because of that one time you bought a sweater from that random site (and had to return it because the material was super itchy, by the way). You start to select every new message, expecting to trash it all when….what’s this?! An email from the library?! Hooray! A new book is ready and waiting for you to come claim it and take it home and love it before passing it onto the next person. You do a little dance in your seat, drawing looks from your co-worker in the cube across the way. But you don’t care, you have new stuff to read!
Sound familiar, or is this just what I did today when I found out that not one but TWO of the books on my hold list were ready for me? Floating through the rest of the afternoon, I left work as soon as I could and stopped by the library on my way home, where I found Damnation Island: Poor, Sick, Mad, & Criminal in 19th Century New York by Stacy Hornand Asymmetry by Lisa Halliday waiting for me. I don’t know if this counts as a #libraryhaul, because it’s only two books, but I’m super excited to have these to add to my TBR for the next few weeks.
I wanted to read Damnation Island because the subtitle grabbed me immediately. I love reading historical nonfiction, especially about New York. I am also curious to learn more about the progression of mental health care in the US. I think historical context matters a lot in conversations of social policy. How did we get where we are now? How can we learn from our mistakes? When I walk through the city every day, I see so many homeless people who are clearly mentally ill. There is one man in particular who rants and raves at imaginary people most of the time, and I wonder what can be done to help him. A friend who works with a lot of mental health patents once told me that this is a sad reality for many people with mental illness. The system is not designed to care for them, and they don’t get the help they need. I am interested to learn more about that. And to focus more on the theme of my project this year, I hope Horn spends some time focusing on women’s experiences. Women seem to be labeled as “crazy” at an alarming rate even now, so I imagine their lives with true mental illness were horrific in the 19th century.
Asymmetry fulfills a little of my voyeuristic curiosity, since I am a big book nerd and was so intrigued by the author’s relationship with Philip Roth. But as I read more about the book, I realized that it was much more than auto-fiction. Halliday is playing with structure and storytelling, and I am excited to read it! I don’t know too much more about the book than that, so I’m looking forward to checking back in and sharing my thoughts soon.
Okay, I have a confession to make….I have lived in New York for nine years now, and only joined the library last year! Isn’t that crazy? I always looked at my ever-growing stack of books I own and felt like it wasn’t fair that I couldn’t add to them. But then I’d stare at my shelves, full of unread books, and think “there is nothing to read.” Joining the library fixed that. It injects a freshness into my TBR pile that I sometimes desperately crave. I will continue to own and hoard books, but I plan on being a library member for a long time.