2016 Reading Challenge, Part 4

Welcome to the fourth and final installment of our 2016 reading challenge! You can catch up on parts 1, 2, and 3 first, or just jump right into this section. Remember, we’ve taken these categories from PopSugar’s reading challenge, and you can download their handy printable list here.


  • A book of poetry
    • Chances are you’ve seen a Rumi quote somewhere — on an inspirational poster, candle, or mug. But have you ever sat down to read an entire Rumi poem? You can — with The Essential Rumi, which takes you through the 13th-century Persian poet’s greatest hits.
    • Rita Dove, who hails from Akron, Ohio, was the first African-American Poet Laureate, and the second African American to win the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry. Her poetry collection Mother Love focuses on the bonds between mothers and daughters.


  • The first book you see in a bookstore
    • Again, mileage will vary here. If you don’t find yourself in Books-a-Million or Costco’s book section very often, try walking into a library (the Eva B. Dykes Library included!) and checking out the first book you see in a display there. Right now, for Black History Month, our three displays feature prominent works of nonfiction, fiction, poetry, and drama by black creators. So if you’ve never read Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man, memorized Maya Angelou’s “Still I Rise,” or watched Jamie Foxx portray Ray Charles in the biopic Ray, now’s your chance!

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  • A classic from the 20th century
    • Jhumpa Lahiri’s book Interpreter of Maladies won a Pulitzer Prize for its elegant, bittersweet short stories, most of them concerning Indian characters. From a couple facing a stillbirth in a Boston blackout, to an unhappy family on their first trip to India, Lahiri’s writing has been praised for its clear language that doesn’t dwell on nostalgia.
    • Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle caused an uproar when it was published in 1906 — not because of its grim tale of a poor immigrant family who fell increasingly into debt, but because of his grisly descriptions of Chicago’s meatpacking plants. Instead of the socialist reforms Sinclair was calling for, the public responded by supporting legislation to regulate food purity and meat inspections. “I aimed for the public’s heart, but … hit it in the stomach,” Sinclair later noted sadly.


  • A book from the library
    • Think back to history class in elementary school. You learned about how Columbus sailed the ocean blue in 1492. You learned about the Mayflower in 1620. But what happened in the 130 years in between? In A Voyage Long and Strange: On the Trail of Vikings, Conquistadors, Lost Colonists, and Other Adventurers in Early America, Tony Horwitz will guide you through that “forgotten century” in American history. Some of the stories will be familiar, like the lost colony of Roanoke, but others are all but guaranteed to be completely new. Have you ever wondered, for example, what it’s like to experience a sweat lodge in subarctic Canada? Don’t worry, Horwitz spares no details.
    • Hailed as “a clever satire of our generation’s ever-intensifying obsession with health, diet, and body image,” Alexandra Kleeman’s dark debut novel You Too Can Have a Body Like Mine follows a young woman, known as A, whose life revolves around the perfect bodies she sees in ads and a TV show chronicling the adventures of Kandy Kat, the mascot for a synthetic dessert. Meanwhile, her roommate, B, is slipping further into starvation and obsession as she strives to model herself after A. As Slate said in its review of the book, “The book describes a consumer landscape just on the far side of plausible.”


  • An autobiography
    • The Hiding Place, by Corrie ten Boom, is an oft-cited story in Christian circles, but no matter how many times you’ve heard the story of how the ten Boom family helped hide Dutch Jews during the Holocaust, and were eventually caught and deported to prison camps themselves, it’s still worth reading it for yourself.
    • The story of Malala Yousafzai, the teenage girl and educational advocate who was shot in the head by the Taliban in 2012, is a widespread and well-known one. But like The Hiding Place, there’s no substitute for hearing the story in the author’s own voice. Malala’s book, I Am Malala, has been hailed for its compassionate, encouraging view of humanity.


  • A book about a road trip
    • Middle schoolers and high-school students across the country have fallen in love with Sherman Alexie’s pulls-no-punches voice in The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. For more of this author’s gritty humor, try Reservation Blues, the story of an all-Indian R&B band that hits the road with a magic guitar.
    • Bill Bryson’s introspective wit has endeared him to readers the world over, and his quirky, self-effacing travelogues are no exception. For one of his brightest works (literally), try In a Sunburned Country, his account of travels in the Land Down Under.


  • A book about a culture you’re unfamiliar with
    • The lives of women in Saudi Arabia have been the subject of much scrutiny — especially recently, when they’ve gained the rights to vote and drive. In Jean Sassoon’s Princess: A True Story of Life Behind the Veil in Saudi Arabia, a member of the Saudi royal family describes a life of uncountable wealth and unending luxuries — but very little personal freedom.
    • Sometimes it’s hard to tell what stories about North Korea are fact and which are fiction. Incredibly, the events Paul Fischer describes in A Kim Jong-Il Production are all true — the dictator really did kidnap his favorite South Korean actress and film director, bring them to Pyongyang, and force them to re-marry and make movies for him. How does their drama end? Read the book and find out.


  • A satirical book
    • No list of satirical books would be complete without C.S. Lewis’s classic epistolary novel, The Screwtape Letters, which follows senior demon Screwtape as he coaches his nephew Wormwood through his first mission on Earth.
    • In the same vein as The Screwtape Letters, but with screwball twists aplenty, Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman’s book Good Omens examines the nature of demonic influences on a modern world. While neither Pratchett nor Gaiman is Christian, the book nevertheless makes some interesting and powerful observations on the nature of good and evil that could serve as good discussion starters.


  • A book that takes place on an island
    • If you’ve ever been to Hawai’i, you know about its rich history as an independent monarchy. But did you know about its leper colony? Founded in 1866, the community of Kalaupapa on the island of Moloka’i was the mandatory residence for Hawaii’s lepers. The novel Moloka’i, by Alan Brennert, tells the story of a girl who is diagnosed with leprosy at age 7 and banished to the village.
    • Often used in English classes to show the power of a detailed setting, Richard Connell’s story “The Most Dangerous Game” will pin you to your seat throughout its action-packed 48 pages. The story, first published in 1924, follows American big-game hunter Sanger Rainsford as he’s forced to abandon his sinking ship and swim to notorious Ship-Trap Island. The island is home to a fellow wealthy hunter, General Zaroff, and as Rainsford eats a sumptuous dinner and settles into the luxurious guest suite, he thinks he’s lucked out … until Zaroff tells him the terms of his hospitality.


  • A book that’s guaranteed to bring you joy
    • First of all, as you read any book, remember Nancy Pearl’s rule of thumb for how big a chance you should give it: If you’re 50 years old or younger, try the first 50 pages. If you’re over 50, subtract your age from 100 and read that many pages. (I can only assume that if you’re over 100, other people are now contractually obligated to read your stories.)
    • That said, fans of all ages have found great joy in Anne Lamott’s nonfiction. To start off with, try Operating Instructions: A Journal of My Son’s First Year for the trials and tribulations of a 35-year-old single mom.
    • Have you ever opened your closet, thought “I should really clean this up,” and then closed it again? You’re not alone, and in The Illustrated Guide to the Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, organizing guru Marie Kondo will hold your hand through the gut-wrenching process of simplifying your living space — and your life.


Image credits: Iranian Mosque by brainin, portrait by tlreed97, henna by Unsplash, Plymouth Rock by robinhbooker0, Auschwitz by ChristopherPluta, Havasupai reservation by NRCPR, Riyadh stadium by Inde, angel by PeteLinforth, Hawaiian beach by HansenHimself, and closet by joakant, all on Pixabay.


5 Things to Do Over Christmas Break


Maybe you’ve got an internship over Christmas Break, or you’re going to help a family member with a project. Maybe you’re studying for the MCAT or working on grad school applications … or catching up on some much-needed sleep.

Regardless of what’s on your schedule, Christmas Break is a great time to try something new. Here are five ways you can do just that.

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1. Release the Crafter. Crafting doesn’t have to involve expensive equipment or a multi-store quest for the perfect shade of yarn. You probably have what you need for at least a few basic crafts, right there in your house. These five-pointed origami stars make great Christmas tree ornaments, or you could glue a bunch to a piece of twine for a garland. If your dresser is getting full, try turning old sweaters or socks into something more useful.


2. ‘Tis the season to be coding. Is it your dream to create the next hot social media site or best-selling app? Codecademy will lead you through short, engaging lessons on HTML, CSS, Java, Python, Ruby, and several other languages and projects. If you’re already a seasoned coder, Advent of Code is a great way to stretch your coding muscles.


3. Hit the trails.  Gather a group of friends and family and head to a favorite trail — or find a new favorite with a site like TrailLink or Trails.com.


4. Designate an offline day — or two or three. Bury your phone in your suitcase, turn off your laptop, and bring out the jigsaw puzzles and board games. You might be surprised at how relaxing it is to not be at the mercy of constant notifications.


5. Get reacquainted with your local public library. Has it been awhile since you went to your public library? Go and see what changes they’ve made since you were there last. They might have added video games, board games, a coffee shop, and other ways to help you relax over break. If nothing else, you’re certain to find some of your old favorites — and there’s nothing better than reconnecting with a great book over a hot drink.

What’s on your agenda for Christmas Break?


Image credits: Advent wreath from efes, coding from lmonk72, hiker from Unsplash, Settlers of Catan from dograapps, and library from klimkin on Pixabay. Paper stars from personal camera.


Database of the Month: Mango Languages

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Are you taking Spanish, French, Greek, or Hebrew at Oakwood?

Are you an international student who’s currently learning English as a foreign language?

Are you a voice student who’d like to practice French, German, or Italian pronunciation?

Are you preparing for an overseas mission trip or a semester abroad?

Do you just like learning new things?

If any of these apply to you, Mango Languages might be your new best friend. With over 70 languages to choose from (including rarely offered languages like Cherokee, Urdu, and Haitian Creole), Mango guides you through language acquisition using real-life conversations, not long lists of vocabulary and grammar rules. Each lesson is short and offers plenty of opportunities to test yourself and review previously acquired knowledge. You can even record yourself and compare your pronunciation to a native speaker’s.

Not persuaded that Mango could add value to your life? Let the Mango Languages team explain what makes their approach simple, effective, and fun.

To sign up for a free Mango account through the Eva B. Dykes Library, or to give it a test-run as a guest, visit this link: https://connect.mangolanguages.com/oakwood/start


The Month in Review: Going to the Fair

This month, Oakwood was proud to host a large number of academy students and their chaperones for Oakwood Live! 2015. Throughout the five-day preview, the campus buzzed with excitement and activity as the visitors experienced a food truck fair, a block party, mock classes, and many other events.


Another highlight of Oakwood Live! 2015 was the Academic Fair, which hosted booths from all the academic departments, as well as WJOU (Oakwood’s radio station) and Edible Arrangements (Oakwood’s newest industry, whose revenue helps support student scholarships).

The library never likes to miss out on a party, so of course we were there too.


Our display featured library materials representing a vast array of academic disciplines, as well as pens, candy, bookmarks, copies of The Leaf, and a playlist of TED Talks about the future of libraries. Through these materials, we were able to show future students the wide variety of resources and services the Eva B. Dykes Library could offer them.

Nearly 600 potential Oakwoodites (and over one hundred chaperones) came to campus for Oakwood Live! 2015. Though we probably didn’t talk to them all, we are confident that we made a good start at showing them how libraries can help them succeed. Since library skills are key to academic success, the students who matriculate at Oakwood already knowing about the Eva B. Dykes Library have a valuable skill in hand.

Thanks for coming to visit us, seniors, and best of luck as you finish your year. We’ll see you next fall!


Social Justice Symposium

It’s prime season for exhibits right now in the Eva B. Dykes Library! In addition to our Breast Cancer Awareness Month display, we’ve also just gained a moving exhibit from this week’s Social Justice Symposium.


The main part of the exhibit are these ballot booths, where you can try taking the test that African-Americans in Louisiana would have faced in 1963 when trying to register to vote.

If you’re not able to come to the library, you can find the same test here. At the end of the test, there’s a page explaining how registrars could (and did) use the confusing and paradoxical questions to fail would-be voters at their discretion. At the Civil Rights Movement Veterans’ site, there are more details about this particular test, and examples of other states’ voting tests.


If these tests have made you appreciate your voting rights even more, but you’re not sure how to register to vote, USA.gov can get you started on that process. Alabama residents might also find the state election center’s site helpful.


Breast Cancer Awareness Month @ Your Library


October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and the Eva B. Dykes Library is doing its part to honor this disease’s victims and fight against future occurrences. Our display in the library’s lobby features these items:

  • Books containing stories from survivors and advice from leading authorities
  • Pamphlets about breast health and self-exams from the Huntsville Hospital
  • “Courage,” “Strength,” “Survivor,” and other stickers
  • Commemorative cards to celebrate survivors, honor those who have died, and lift up those who are still in treatment


If you are unable to come to the library to check out our exhibit, you can still be a part of this event:

  • Send me an email (rbrothers[AT]oakwood[dot edu]) with the names of your loved ones who have been diagnosed with breast cancer. I will write them on cards and add them to our table’s border.
  • Check out this guide from the National Breast Cancer Foundation to conducting a breast self-exam.
  • Design and commit to an Early Detection Plan.
  • Use this resource from the National Mammography Program to find a location where you can receive a free mammogram.
  • Be aware that women aren’t the only ones who can get breast cancer — the American Cancer Society estimates that 2,350 men will be diagnosed in 2015.
  • Know that not every pink-ribbon product benefits breast cancer research. Think Before You Pink has some guidelines for making good purchasing decisions.
  • Participate in the Liz Hurley Ribbon Run on Saturday, October 17, or find another fundraising walk/run near you through Race for the Cure.


Display decorations and web buttons from the Chickabug blog.


New at the Library: The Leaf


The Eva B. Dykes Library has started a monthly newsletter called The Leaf. This month’s issue, a special Oakwood Live! edition, features testimonials from three of the library’s student workers. Future issues will include a Student Worker of the Month feature, FAQs, collection highlights, library news items, and student-submitted content. You can check out our first issue here.


Image credit: Hans on Pixabay.


Coming up: Graduate & Professional Schools Day


Are you considering a career in law, business, medicine, dentistry, physical therapy, public health, social work, or another field that requires further schooling?

Are you still exploring your options for professional or graduate education?

Would you like to network with the staff of some top programs, including Johns Hopkins University, Carnegie Mellon University, and the University of Alabama?

If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, then you’re in luck — Graduate and Professional Schools Day is quickly approaching on Monday, October 5, and it’s right nearby at Alabama A&M University from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. If you don’t have transportation, don’t worry — contact your department chair or Career Development Services for a ride.

For more information, contact CDS at 256-372-5692 or drop by their office at Patton Hall 101.


Image credit: DarkoStejanovic on Pixabay.