Introduction by Kendall McGowan, Access Services Evening Associate

The Access Services department employs about 40 Student Assistants, whose hard work is critical to keeping the University Libraries running smoothly. As full-time students, they spend their days doing readings for classes, then come to work at the library and help shelve, sort and maintain books, and connect patrons with the materials they’re looking for. For some, this would be more than enough literary activity! 

However, if you visit when one of our libraries is quiet and approach the student sitting at the front desk, you may find them unwinding by reading a book of their own. A few of the Student Assistants were kind enough to share their thoughts about the best books they've read recently.

A Gentle Reminder

Bianca Sparacino

Reviewed by Amelia Rodriguez

Out of the dozens of books I've read this year, A Gentle Reminder takes the cake. Written by Canadian author Bianca Sparacino, the book aims to address the beauty in chaos and how that imitates life. I've never had a book physically make a change in my life, and that's what I loved about this book.

This book is just quite honestly a gentle reminder on how your past can't ever define you. We as humans are living life for the first time and we need to be easier on ourselves. I'm a firm believer in books finding you when you need them the most. When they find you, it can be special, and that's exactly what this book is.

When my world started to go gray and bland, Bianca Sparacino gave it color. Finding a good poetry book is hard enough, but finding one that gives you comfort in the midst of chaos is gold. This is the type of book that you can pick up at any stage in your life and it will serve the purpose in giving you a gentle reminder.

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A Gentle Reminder's book cover
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Layaan Roufai in the stacks

Sassafrass, Cypress & Indigo

Ntozake Shange

Reviewed by Layaan Roufai

Sassafrass, Cypress & Indigo is a 1982 novel written by notable American playwright, author, and Black feminist Ntozake Shange. The story follows three sisters—Sassafrass, who maintains their cultural tradition of textile weaving even as she moves miles away from home; Cypress, a modern dancer who struggles to find her place in the ballet world; and Indigo, a writer through whose eyes this story is told. Taking place in 1960s and 1970s Charleston, South Carolina, the novel deals primarily with themes of spirituality, Black Arts, and womanhood. Weaving, a central aspect of the Gullah culture that Shange explores, binds these three women and their mother together. Shange spins a vulnerable, yet inspiring tale of following one’s passions through many failures, and speaks of the importance of having somewhere to return to.

I found this book particularly interesting for its take on what is traditionally considered women’s work, to tell a story of feminism. This novel is unique in the way Shange utilizes various forms of literature —poetry, diary entries, and even recipes—to communicate with the reader. I would recommend this book to readers of fiction who are especially interested in feminist literature and cultural narratives. Readers of bell hooks, who often references Shange’s work, or enjoyers of Toni Morrison may find the themes explored in this novel intriguing and relatable. This book, along with many others that deal with similar subject matter, can be found right here, at the University Libraries!


Natsume Sōseki

Reviewed by Soren Finch

When talking of Japanese literature, you can't help but mention the name Natsume Sōseki. Kokoro, his most famous book, follows two unnamed characters, a young man and an older figure known as Sensei. Sensei lets the young man get to know him by sharing his secrets which cast a shadow of guilt and suffering over his life.

This book is very delicate in every manner of the word. With a melancholic and minimalist writing style, the novel becomes very engaging. While it is very slow paced, Sōseki makes up for it with his beautiful way of writing which will leave you feeling in a daze days after. This is one of my favorite books because of the way I felt after reading it.

Sōseki puts little pieces of the puzzle on the table and leaves you to put the pieces together. Although this will not be everyone's cup of tea, if you are ready to dive into inner human emotions of sadness and truth, I believe this could be a perfect book for you.

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Kokoro's book cover
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Ishmael's book cover


Daniel Quinn

Reviewed by Chris Alcindor

Do you have the burning desire to save the world? From poverty, starvation, pollution, or even from yourself? Ishmael is a novel by Daniel Quinn about a gorilla who teaches his pupil and exposes the several widely accepted assumptions of modern society, such as human supremacy. The novel makes you ponder on the world that myths evoke through generations and on the catastrophic consequences for humankind and the environment. After reading this book, I started to understand the world and the universe through a different lens, understanding the implications of your actions and how you live your life in accordance with the world around you. I recommend this book to anyone who thinks that they don’t have an impact in the world or feels that they are just a minor character in the grand scheme of things. You are a pupil of life, and your mission is to experience the world around you and learn from more just your culture. Your actions matter, and one day, even you can save the world.

Gone Girl

Gillian Flynn

Reviewed by Citlaly Monroy 

When reading this book, I had no idea in which direction it would go. It was unpredictable and captivating from beginning to end. The book brings up conflicting feelings for the reader as we see the story of the main character unfold. We don't know whether or not she is a reliable narrator, and we don't know whether we should be rooting for her or not. This mystery thriller will keep you on the edge of your seat the entire time. The book touches on the complexities of a marriage, where there are layers of secrets that we uncover next to the narrator. The manipulation and gaslighting make us question our siding with the person we're supposed to trust telling the story.

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Gone Girl cover
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Adriana Grullon in the stacks

Wrong Place Wrong Time

Gillian McAllister

Reviewed by Adriana Grullon

When Jen witnesses her 18-year-old son, Todd, murder a man right in front of their home, her world is sent into chaos. Jen pleads with the police officers that her son is innocent and that there must have been a reason, but her son is taken into custody, and she can’t see him until the next day. She goes home and falls asleep, expecting to wake up to an empty house with just her husband and no Todd, but that doesn’t happen. Instead, she wakes up one day before the crime happens. Now every time she falls asleep, she is transported to a different day or year in the past. She needs to find a way to stop Todd from committing the crime before she goes back in time to a point where she didn’t even exist. Throughout this journey, Jen finds out many shocking secrets that turn her world upside down. This book will make you realize how someone close to you can live a double life yet hide it so well.

I really liked this book because it felt like I was a character in the story as well. The way it is written makes you feel like you are discovering new facts and putting them together alongside the main character. This book reminds me of the movies Groundhog Day and Happy Death Day because in both movies the main characters are stuck in time loops. This is a mystery and science fiction book but I would recommend it to anyone looking to escape reality and anyone that likes books where there are constant plot twists. This book can be found at the University Library in the Popular Books Collection.

A Series of Unfortunate Events

Lemony Snicket

Reviewed by Miliana Villalona

This series of books is a phenomenon. This book is a turning point in my life, where I started to get into reading. When I was younger, I struggled with reading. I never liked it, and
back in elementary school, I fell behind in my classes because of that. Growing up I didn't have bedtime stories like Dr. Seuss or the newest installment of Happily Ever After. My fifth grade teacher saw that I was struggling and suggested putting me in an after school program so that I can help boost my reading skills. I dreaded it because all I wanted to do was watch my favorite cartoons after school. When I started the program, I was always moving around, fidgeting with any item I could find. But as soon as we finished the first chapter of this book, I was hooked.

The book follows three orphaned children: Violet, the oldest who can turn anything into an invention; Klaus the middle child who reads enough books to fill up three libraries; and Sunny, an infant, who has razor-sharp teeth capable of biting through anything. After a house fire that took the lives of their parents, and left them with an enormous fortune, the children are placed in the hands of the
treacherous Count Olaf. Even though Count Olaf was the legal guardian of the three children, he was still under the supervision of a family friend responsible for the children's estate, Mr. Poe. He is not the brightest nor the most attentive. Count Olaf plans to find a way to get to the fortune the parents left them but he is stopped in multiple attempts by the children. This series goes on about multiple attempts of Count Olaf versus the children in multiple scenarios until one of them bites the dust.

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