Library Book Stack | July/August 2020

Library Books | July and August 2020

This post is dedicated to the books I’ve checked out from the library to read through the rest of July and during August. Keep scrolling for all the titles. 

It’s been nearly nine months since I last wrote a post dedicated to library books I’ve checked out. The majority of those library-less months are due to COVID-19 closures, so it’s been quite impossible for me to write a post like this. Now though, many of the libraries here in Maine have started offering curbside pickup for holds and requests, and I thought it was time to take advantage of the service and support my library. So I put some books on hold, scheduled a pickup time, and now have seven library books sitting here next to me. My 20 Books of Summer TBR and 2020 Reading Challenge are screaming at me, but I’m going to pretend I do not hear them and tell you about the titles I borrowed and need to read before their return date at the end of August.

Library Book Stack | July/August 2020

I do want to briefly mention that the fact that nearly almost all of these are fairy tales/folkloric stories or collections is not a coincidence. My library has quite a great fairy tale/folklore section, and in addition to being great reads in general, I have become more and more interested in reading fairy tales as I’ve gotten further into my Reading Grimm’s Complete Fairy Tales project/series. So in order to save some time in searching through the online database for books to request, I did a keyword search for “fairy tale”, and then made a couple of other selections.


The Woman I Kept to Myself (Poems)
by Julia Alvarez

I was hoping to find Julia Alvarez’s new novel Afterlife when I typed her name in the library catalogue’s search bar, but someone has the only circulating copy checked out. So I took a look at her available titles and decided on this poetry collection.

SYNOPSIS: Since her first celebrated novel, How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents, [Julia Alvarez] has been expressing the passions and opinions of sisters and aunts, mothers and daughters, heroines and martyrs. In The Woman I Kept to Myself, seventy-five poems that weave together the narrative of a woman’s inner life, it is Alvarez’s own clear voice that sings out in every line. These are not poems of a woman discovering herself—Alvarez might say that’s what her twenties were for—but of a woman returning to herself. Now, in the middle of her life, she looks back as a way of understanding and celebrating the woman she has become. Her voice becomes all our voices as she speaks of failed loves and marriages, late-in-life love, politics and prejudices that haunt us. The humanity and humor that permeate even her darkest thoughts are offered to the reader in these wise and intimate poems.

  • 2004 edition

The Woman I Kept to Myself Book Cover | Julia Alvarez

Icelandic Folk and Fairy Tales
selected and translated with foreword and notes
by May and Hallberg Hallmundsson;
illustrations by Kjarten Gudjónsson

The table of contents lists out the tales under the following headings: Elves and Trolls | Ghosts and Sorcerers | Saints and Sinners | Miscellaneous Tales.

SYNOPSIS: Spanning the rich folk tradition from ghosts and elves to sorcerers, saints and outlaws, the stories reflect everyday life in Iceland through the centuries, throwing a unique light on the Icelandic character in humorous as well as serious circumstances. The Hallmundssons have selected and translated all the tales in this volume from the classic collection of 19th-century folklorist Jón Árnason, who devoted years of his life to recording stories preserved by oral tradition since the early days of Iceland’s history.

NOTES: “Nowhere does a nation bare its soul to the same extent as in its popular lore, its folktales. In the aggregate, such stories will tell all. They contain the people’s loftiest yearnings and deepest fears, their most ardent passions and hopes, their truest beliefs. They reveal their sense of honor, valor, and humor, their flights of imagination, their creative force — in short, the whole of their humanity as fashioned by the land in which they live.” (from the Foreward)

  • 2004 edition

Icelandic Folk and Fairy Tales Book Cover

Midnight Tales: A Woman’s Journey Through the Middle East
by Rosina-Fawzia Al-Rawi; translated by Monique Arav

This book did appear in the search results for “fairy tales”, but it does not actually fit into that description. The essays inside are a combination of Rosina-Fawzia Al-Rawi’s memories and experiences – literally “A Woman’s Journey Through the Middle East”. I’m considering this a collection of creative non-fiction, and will continue wondering how the online database has it tagged for it to show up under “fairy tales”…

The essays are organized and separated out into regions of the Middle East: Iraq | Lebanon | Syria | Kuwait | Egypt | The Emirates.

SYNOPSIS: “In actual fact, the only thing that matters in life is love, yet the inquisitive mind must be fed a few facts… Look at Baghdad!” commands Rosina-Fawzia al-Rawi’s lively and imperious aunt Fatima, one of the characters in this delightful collection of personal essays.

Aunt Fatima would have approved of this book, for as her niece turns her eye first on Baghdad and then all the lands of the Middle East, ending with her research into women’s customs in the Emirates, she devotes herself as a lover does to all the intimate details around her. Whether she recounts a trip to buy a rug, a childhood incident on a Lebanese playground, or explicates Arab poetry, al-Rawi’s collection is full of all that Aunt Fatima recommends- her beloved poetry, the ever-present history of these ancient lands, tender and intricate accounts of daily life, and quirky, nuanced tracings of the workings of the human heart.

  • 2006 edition

Midnight Tales: A Woman's Journey Through the Middle East Book Cover | Rosina-Fawzia Al-Rawi;

Latin American Folktales: Stories from Hispanic and Indian Traditions
edited and with an introduction by John Bierhorst

Over one hundred tales comprise this collection, and are separated into three sections: Early Colonial Legends | A Twentieth-Century Wake | Twentieth-Century Myths.

SYNOPSIS: The wisdom and artistry of Latin America’s storytellers preserve one of the world’s richest folktale traditions—combining the lore of medieval Europe, the ancient Near East, and pre-Columbian America. Gathered from twenty countries, including the United States, the stories are here brought together in a core collection of one hundred tales arranged in the form of a velorio, or wake, the most frequent occasion for public storytelling. The tales are preceded by a selection of early Colonial legends foreshadowing the themes of Latino folklore and are followed by a carefully chosen group of modern Indian myths that replay the basic stories in a contrasting key. Riddles, chain riddles, and folk prayers, part and parcel of the velorio, along with folktales, are introduced at appropriate junctures.

NOTES: “The greatest debt, however, is to the company of the dedicated folklorists and anthropologists that emerged at the beginning of the twentieth century and set about the task of recording Latino folklore nation by nation. Manuel J. Andrade, for the Dominican Republic; Delina Anibarro de Halushka, for Bolivia; Paulo Carvalho-Neto, for Ecuador; Susana Chertudi, for Argentina; and Ramón Laval, for Chile, are among the names that should be mentioned. Their publications will be found listed in the bibliography; their endeavors were a kind of systematics, akin to natural history, carefully preserving, labeling, and categorizing specimens of oral literature. Without their painstaking labor a compilation of this kind, which attempts to be panoramic, would not have been possible.” (from the Preface)

  • 2002 edition

Latin American Folktales: Stories from Hispanic and Indian Traditions Book Cover | John Bierhorst

Swedish Folktales & Legends
selected, translated, and edited
by Lone Thygesen Blecher and George Blecher

The table of contents promises a great number of tales under the following headings: Animal Tales | Trolls, Giants, Ghosts and Other Beings | True Dummies and Clever Folk | How to Win the Princess | Tales of Heroes and Heroines | Metamorphoses | Tales of Men and Women | Moral Tales | Parsons, the Good Lord, and the Evil One | Tall Tales, Superstitions, and Jingles.

SYNOPSIS: Swedish Folktales and Legends is a diverse and enchanting collection of more than one hundred and fifty tales, providing a representative sampling of Sweden’s folklore tradition, which was first recorded in the mid-nineteenth century (around the time of the Brothers Grimm). Drawn primarily from the Swedish National Folklore Archives and private collections, as well as from various other sources, they are all newly translated from the Swedish, many for the first time.

  • 1993 edition

Swedish Folktales & Legends Book Cover | Lone Thygesen Blecher and George Blecher

Yiddish Folktales
edited by Beatrice Silverman Weinreich;
translated by Leonard Wolf

The table of contents promises a great number of tales under the umbrellas of: Allegorical Tales | Children’s Tales | Wonder Tales | Pious Tales | Humorous Tales | Legends | Supernatural Tales.

SYNOPSIS: Drawn from the archives of the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research, and superbly translated, these tales document as never before the scope and color of Yiddish culture. Yiddish Folktales is the definitive volume of its genre and an important addition to the Pantheon Fairy Tale and Folklore Library, which has established itself as the premier presentation of the world’s folkloric traditions.

NOTES: “The jacket and many of the illustrations in this book were taken from examples of papirn-shnit (paper-cutting), a traditional Jewish folk art that was popular in nineteenth- and twentieth-century Poland and Russia. Various Jewish customs and holidays were associated with these paper-cuts. The mizrakh, the most impressive and intricate form, was hung on the eastern wall of homes and synagogues to indicate the direction of Jerusalem.” (from the Note on the Illustrations)

  • 1988 edition

Yiddish Folktales Book Cover | Beatrice Silverman Weinreich

Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters
by John Steptoe

This is the only children’s book on this list, and it also happens to be the only book on this list that I have read prior to checking it out. I did not recognize the title when browsing the library’s catalogue, but the summary jogged an elementary school story time memory and I wanted to read it again. I encourage you to learn more about John Steptoe (author and illustrator), and to experience this story and illustrations for yourself (side note: I will be returning this book to my library in a couple of days because I don’t need to keep it to myself for another month).

SYNOPSIS: Mufaro was a happy man. Everyone agreed that his two daughters were very beautiful. Nyasha was kind and considerate as well as beautiful, but everyone—except Mufaro—knew that Manyara was selfish, bad-tempered and spoiled. When the king decided to take a wife and invited “The Most Worthy and Beautiful Daughters in the Land” to appear before him, Mufaro declared proudly that only the king could choose between Nyasha and Manyara. Manyara, of course, didn’t agree, and set out to make certain that she would be chosen.

NOTES: “Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters was inspired by a story collected by G.M. Theal and published in 1895 in his book, Kaffir Folktales. The tale was collected from people living near the Zimbabwe ruins, a site that archaeologists now consider to have been a magnificent trade city built and occupied by indigenous Africans. Details in the illustrations for Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters are based on the architecture of the ruins and on the flora and fauna of the Zimbabwe region.” (from the back flap)

  • 1987 edition

Mufaro's Beautiful Daughters Book Cover | John Steptoe


None! All the books I requested were available to be checked out.



Now it’s your turn: tell me about the book or books you have checked out from the library – are your local or state libraries participating in curbside pickup, and have you participated in it? Are you still waiting for any holds to go through? Let’s talk below, and as always, feel free to leave your thoughts about the books I’ve mentioned here and if you have any recommendations I’d love to hear them!

Happy (and safe) reading!


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