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Friends of the Libraries: The benefits of good literature

Though many in this digital age maintain that print is headed toward extinction, a Dec. 15 article in the Los Angeles Times says this may not be so.

It seems that a number of online-only publications have begun to reconsider print — at least for “a boutique audience with small runs, sporadic issues (either quarterly or annually) and high quality.” Realizing that some people want to have something they can pick up rather than just read on the Internet, some publishers are comprising and putting to print “something someone will want to have on their shelf, just like a (vinyl) record.”

Another reason given for a return to print is that it is the only place ads aren’t ignored. Online, people have been able to skip over the ads — so much so that it is harder to sell advertising for the web. But “people buy magazines as much for the ads as for the content.”

The L.A. Times quotes others as saying that the web environment, though a powerful tool, promotes skimming rather than deep reading, that it lacks intimacy. Print receives descriptors like intimacy, permanence, authoritative and presence. But the quote I like best is, “The web is timelier, but paper lasts longer than browser tabs.”

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A column by Times writer David L. Ulin on Dec. 22 says that eBook sales appear to have flattened to about 25% of total book sales. At the same time, the American Booksellers Assn. reported sales rose by 8% in 2012 and similar numbers were expected in 2013. Part of this rise is helped by independent bookstores, which “excel organically, in their relationship to neighborhood clientele.” Ulin credits the independent publishers who are printing a number of notable books, including Lore Segal’s “Half the Kingdom” and Hilton Als’ “White Girls.”

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Benefits of reading good literature

Why do we read? Ulin says we read “not to be entertained or distracted, but to be connected, to experience a world, a life, a set of emotions we might not otherwise get to know.”

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Ruth Wimsatt, guest columnist at the Current and a licensed psychologist in Newport Beach, in her Dec. 12 column told of a recent study featured in Science magazine.

The study found that readers of literary fiction with its “complex characters and complicated inner worlds are more able to understand the motivations and multilayered lives of the people we encounter every day.”

This is opposed to genre fiction (mysteries, romances and popular fiction novels), which usually contains characters who are one-dimensional and the plots drive the books. I have to admit to being a mystery addict myself, but I know that reading good literature leaves you with a much more satisfied feeling. One author Wimsatt recommends is Alice Munro, mentioned below.

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At the Costa Mesa Donald Dungan Library

On Jan. 6, the Costa Mesa Book Club will be discussing Alice Munro’s book “Too Much Happiness,” published in 2010. Munro, whose short stories have appeared in New Yorker Magazine since the 1970s, initially wanted to write a novel, but because taking care of her small children took so much time, she found that short stories were something she could finish in a reasonable amount of time.

Later, she decided that she liked the form, and gave up the idea of a novel. Small towns and the people who inhabit them set the stage for her stories. This past fall, she was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. Munro is a Canadian, from southern Ontario.

Contact Samantha at (949) 646-8845 for more information and a list of upcoming book selections.

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Children’s programs will begin again in mid- or late January.

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At the Mesa Verde Library

Tracy Li, branch manager at the Mesa Verde Library, reports that Tuesday morning Storytime keeps attracting a big crowd. Thirty to 35 people have been attending this program lately. Families love the simple but lovely crafts that children can always take home. Though Storytime is taking a break the last two weeks of December, it will be back in mid-January.

MARY ELLEN GODDARD produced this column on behalf of the Friends of Costa Mesa Libraries, the Costa Mesa Library Foundation and the three Costa Mesa branches of the OC Public Libraries.


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