Bookmark This! #12

In the heat of the summer, we’ve got some reading recommendations that really sizzle!  From books of poetry to French colonial Vietnam to Buddhist wisdom to inspirational letters, I hope you consider any one of the following suggestions for your reading pleasure.


Allison Agsten is Curator of Public Engagement at the Hammer Museum where she develops programs that create an exchange between artists and visitors. She grew up in a little town that was home to the second smallest public library in the country.

Allison recommends The Sore Throat and Other Poems by Aaron Kunin.

“This book reminded me of a lesson I learned looking at art and listening to music – you don’t need to understand it all to appreciate its beauty.  Aaron Kunin’s poems present themselves simply – his vocabulary in this book is self-limited to 170 words – but are rewardingly expansive and as confounding as can be.  A quote on the back of the book says, ‘How about someone from another planet?’  I’m not sure there is a higher recommendation.

On a practical note, a book of poems is ideal reading for those of us short on time, which is to say all of us, I’m sure.  I returned to poetry after my first child was born, in a search of intellectual sustenance that comes in small parcels.  This summer, I’ll enjoy the work of Kunin and other poets in the backyard while my boys play ball or on the airplane once everyone else has nodded off.”


Jené Brown is Manager of Strategic Initiatives and Partnerships in addition to Project Manager for the Los Angeles Public Library’s Innovation Leadership Program.  A seasoned library manager for the last 16 years, she enjoys knitting, especially creating pieces for babies, during her down time.

Jené recommends The World Will Follow Joy: Turning Madness into Flowers by Alice Walker.

“Powerful.  Inspirational.  Raw.  These words best describe the feelings that were engendered in me while reading the 64 poems in The World Will Follow Joy.  Alice Walker continues to be one of my favorite authors because her words are infused with wisdom and compassion that inspire action.  This book of poetry is best enjoyed while visiting the beach with the ocean as background music.  Her intense words make me believe that truly the world will follow joy and not this madness.  So many of us are ready for joy!  I am honored Ms. Walker signed my copy of TWWFJ after her talk at the 2013 American Library Association conference where she challenged librarians to think deeply and be change agents.  Though best known for her literary fiction, Alice Walker is a wonderful, thought-provoking poet.  The poem that resonated in my soul is on page 82.”


Kim Fay is a Member of the Library Foundation of Los Angeles.  She relied greatly on the Library when conducting research for her debut historical novel, The Map of Lost Memories, an Edgar Award Finalist for Best First Novel.  She is also the author of the food memoir, Communion: A Culinary Journey Through Vietnam, winner of the Gourmand World Cookbook Award for Best Asian Cuisine Book in the U.S.

Kim recommends The Sea Wall by Marguerite Duras.

“Having lived and/or worked in Vietnam and the surrounding region for nearly 20 years, I spend most of my reading time dug into books about that part of the world.  There are a few I regularly return to, and Marguerite Duras’ The Sea Wall is one of them.  Not widely known like her novel The Lover, this quiet story serves as a metaphor for the decline of French colonialism in Indochina.  With her life savings invested in a tract of coastal land, a French widow attempts to build a wall to hold back the floods that destroy her crops each year.  But her efforts are no match for the sea, and as the fortunes of her and her children decline, the landscape comes to represent the degradation of individuals in a hierarchal society.  From literary merit to historical document, this novel is a treasure on many levels.”


A proud vegetarian, Magic Chang works in the accounting department for the Library Foundation and previously owned a bookstore in Taiwan.

Magic recommends Introduction to The Heart Sutra: Buddha’s Essential Wisdom to Real Happiness by Henry Chang.

“Henry Chang’s Introduction to The Heart Sutra will interest all who are curious about discovering and understanding oneself.  If you are not familiar with eastern philosophy and thought, fear not!  Mr. Chang employs western references to clarify his examples.  The Heart Sutra focuses on the journey to happiness and tranquility and explains each section of this journey in a way that will be easy to digest.  You definitely won’t have to be Plato in order to enjoy this text!  After reading this book, I have become more aware of the daily actions and thoughts that I have that slow down my journey.  In addition to helping me become more aware of these roadblocks, this book has inspired me to become more in tune with my actions and thoughts in general.”


An intern with the Library Foundation, Karina Kletscher is a Senior at USC studying Narrative Studies and American Popular Culture.  When not reading or hanging out with friends she is immersed in a new science fiction/fantasy or historical drama miniseries on Netflix.  She is also obsessed with Pinterest.

Karina recommends Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke.

“There’s a character in the Victorian classic novel The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins who looks to his tattered copy of Robinson Crusoe for guidance by randomly opening to a page and choosing a sentence blindly with his finger.  Rilke’s letters are my Robinson Crusoe.  I first read this short compilation of letters the spring of my senior year in high school. The one-sided letters (Herr Kappus, the actual young poet, left out those he wrote to the famous writer) conjure up beautiful and haunting imagery and sage advice that I associate with the soul search the young poet and I were each attempting a century apart.  I always flip through my copy in difficult or slow times for a piece of that emotional and inspirational rush I felt while first reading.  ‘You are so young, you have not even begun… have patience with everything that is unsolved in your heart and try to cherish the questions themselves like closed rooms and like books written in a very strange tongue.’  I mean, how brilliant is that?”


For more summer reading, browse through any of the six million books that are available at the Central Library and 72 branches throughout the city and online at

Would you like to provide a recommendation for an upcoming issue of Bookmark This!?  Contact Erin Sapinoso at [email protected] to submit a suggestion.

Happy reading and stay tuned for next month’s issue of Bookmark This!

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