Tag Archive | libraries

The Huntington Library and Gardens

Spring break is glorious. My family came to LA to visit me, and this past weekend, we went to The Huntington, a sort of museum/botanic garden in San Marino that comprises a research library, art galleries, and extensive gardens. The place is vast, and I feel as though we only scratched the surface of everything there is to explore there. We first visited the Library Exhibition Hall and then wandered through the Chinese Garden and a bit of the Japanese Garden.

The Huntington Library has huge collections, including many rare books, and a selection of the most dazzling specimens are on display in the Exhibition Hall. The prospect of seeing these treasures was, for me, the biggest draw of The Huntington, and I was not disappointed. The first glass case I approached upon entering the dim hall contained the Ellesmere manuscript of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, believed to have been produced around 1410, and that’s when I knew this visit was going to be amazing. Illuminated manuscripts make me really excited.

The Exhibition Hall contains twelve mini-exhibits, each of which is organized around one stand-out item. For instance, the contextualizing documents for the Ellesmere Chaucer included an exquisite book of hours and a legal document recording a transaction by a London widow named Emma. The next exhibit featured an original edition (I believe) of Milton’s Paradise Lost, as well as a variety of documents related to the English Civil War (there were lots of cool seals attached to these). Did you know Milton held the position of Secretary for Foreign Tongues? What a fantastic title.

The trove of books, manuscripts, documents, and letters in this one room was almost too much to take in, and I couldn’t possibly list every extraordinary thing I saw. There was the Gutenberg Bible, the Declaration of Independence (which, I noticed, had a note scrawled in the margin, perpendicular to the original text, saying that this copy had been found among so-and-so’s possessions and could it be kept in the family, please), the Shakespeare First Folio, the letter Susan B. Anthony wrote to Elizabeth Cady Stanton right after the former voted illegally in the 1872 presidential election, the documents related to Chinese immigration to the United States in the early 20th century… But I think my favorite piece was the copy of the First Book of Songs of John Dowland, an English Renaissance composer who wrote music for voice and for lute. This book was opened to a page that showed the bass, alto, and tenor parts to a song all oriented in different directions so that musicians could crowd around the book and each read their own part.

After leaving the library, we stopped by the North American Clivia Society’s show, which featured prize-winning clivias whose flowers ranged in color from green to pale yellow to peach to deep red.


We then strolled through 園 (Liú Fāng Yuán), the Garden of Flowing Fragrance, which is The Huntington’s Chinese Garden. It is not yet complete, but already it’s very large, with a pond, several bridges, multiple pavilions… There were pink blossoms on still leafless branches, water lilies in the pond, wisteria heavy with purple flowers, and even a tree peony in full bloom!

Chinese Garden

These carved panels depicting traditional Chinese instruments are inside 清越臺 (Qīng​ Yuè Tái), the Clear and Transcendent Pavilion. This is a pipa (left) and an erhu (right):

Pipa Erhu

And this is a qin (left) and some sort of flute (right):

Qin and flute

The tree peony! In March! No wonder I never know what time of year it is in Southern California.

Tree peony

Finally, we took a quick look at the Japanese Garden, which was equally lovely. Here is a glimpse of it:

Japanese Garden

So that was my first visit to The Huntington. Many gardens remain to be explored, and I didn’t even start on the art collections, but really, I would go back just to pore over Middle English manuscripts and Renaissance music scores!

The Books I Read in 2013

I’ve never taken stock of the books I’ve read in a calendar year before, but I was inspired to do so recently by other people posting about their 2013 in reading. While I don’t keep a list of the books I read, I almost always mention what book I’m currently reading in my journal, so I was able to figure out what books I read last year by skimming my 2013 journals. It’s possible (but, I think, unlikely) that I read a book without recording its title in my journal, and it’s also possible I skimmed the journals too fast and missed a book, but I think this list is pretty accurate.

Apparently I read 119 books in 2013. My guess is that this is an unusually high annual total for me in recent years. I suspect 2012 was also unusually high. This is because one has more time to read for pleasure as a volunteer than as a student (especially when one is a volunteer with an almost two-hour round trip bus commute every day). The vast majority of the books I read were borrowed from the library, so I hereby express my appreciation for the Rondo Community Outreach Library, the Edina and Southdale Libraries, and the Westwood Branch Library.

Without further ado, here are the books I read in 2013, in chronological order (titles in bold indicate books I was rereading):

I Am The Messenger Markus Zusak
Climbing the Stairs Padma Venkatraman
Traversée de la mangrove Maryse Condé
Come August, Come Freedom Gigi Amateau
Why We Broke Up Daniel Handler
Winter Wood Steve Augarde
Istanbul: Memories and the City Orhan Pamuk
Adaptation Malinda Lo
Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore Robin Sloan
The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency Alexander McCall Smith
Contes du vent et de la nuit Anatole Le Braz
Eona Alison Goodman
Victoire, les saveurs et les mots Maryse Condé
The Singer of All Songs Kate Constable
The Waterless Sea Kate Constable
The Tenth Power Kate Constable
The FitzOsbornes in Exile Michelle Cooper
A Ring of Endless Light Madeleine L’Engle
Troubling a Star Madeleine L’Engle
Boy21 Matthew Quick
The Water Mirror Kai Meyer
A Good Fall Ha Jin
Mona in the Promised Land Gish Jen
Unspoken Sarah Rees Brennan
The FitzOsbornes at War Michelle Cooper
Grave Mercy Robin LaFevers
The Madness Underneath Maureen Johnson
Anahita’s Woven Riddle Meghan Nuttall Sayres
Night Letter Meghan Nuttall Sayres
Mind Games Kiersten White
Sorcery and Cecelia Patricia Wrede and Caroline Stevermer
The Grand Tour Patricia Wrede and Caroline Stevermer
The Mislaid Magician Patricia Wrede and Caroline Stevermer
The Stone Light Kai Meyer
The Glass Word Kai Meyer
Silhouette of a Sparrow Beth Griffin
Balzac et la petite tailleuse chinoise Dai Sijie
Jellicoe Road Melina Marchetta
Railsea China Miéville
Trapped Michael Northrop
One Came Home Amy Timberlake
L’enfant qui tuait le temps Pierre Magnan
Vessel Sarah Beth Durst
Tiger Lily Jodi Lynn Anderson
Code Name Verity Elizabeth Wein
The Feverbird’s Claw Jane Kurtz
M is for Magic Neil Gaiman
The Year of the Death of Ricardo Reis José Saramago
Cain José Saramago
Midwinterblood Marcus Sedgwick
The Last Speakers K. David Harrison
Grimm Tales Philip Pullman
Yellowcake Margo Lanagan
Everything Asian Sung J. Woo
Finnikin of the Rock Melina Marchetta
Froi of the Exiles Melina Marchetta
Quintana of Charyn Melina Marchetta
Suite française Irène Némirovsky
The Woman Warrior Maxine Hong Kingston
I Am J Cris Beam
Pagan’s Crusade Catherine Jinks
Pagan in Exile Catherine Jinks
Pagan’s Vows Catherine Jinks
Pagan’s Scribe Catherine Jinks
Embassytown China Miéville
Perdido Street Station China Miéville
Prodigy Marie Lu
Prophecy Ellen Oh
The Difference Between You and Me Madeleine George
Incident at Badamya Dorothy Gilman
A Northern Light Jennifer Donnelly
47 Walter Mosley
My Name Is Not Easy Debby Dahl Edwardson
The Book of Heroes Miyuki Miyabe
Where Things Come Back John Corey Whaley
When You Reach Me Rebecca Stead
Blood Red Road Moira Young
The Snowstorm Beryl Netherclift
The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place: The Mysterious Howling Maryrose Wood
If I Ever Get Out of Here Eric Gansworth
Anna Dressed in Blood Kendare Blake
The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place: The Hidden Gallery Maryrose Wood
A Monster Calls Patrick Ness
Liar & Spy Rebecca Stead
Shadow and Bone Leigh Bardugo
Siege and Storm Leigh Bardugo
Seraphina Rachel Hartman
Lettres de mon moulin Alphonse Daudet
The Raven Boys Maggie Stiefvater
The Dream Thieves Maggie Stiefvater
This Song Will Save Your Life Leila Sales
A Great and Terrible Beauty Libba Bray
Rebel Angels Libba Bray
The Sweet Far Thing Libba Bray
The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place: The Unseen Guest Maryrose Wood
Sugar Jewell Parker Rhodes
The Wolves of Willoughby Chase Joan Aiken
The Curse of the Wendigo Rick Yancey
The Isle of Blood Rick Yancey
Mansfield Park Jane Austen
Podium Finish Beth Pond
Under Wildwood Colin Meloy
The Thief  Megan Whalen Turner
The Queen of Attolia Megan Whalen Turner
The King of Attolia Megan Whalen Turner
A Conspiracy of Kings Megan Whalen Turner
Freakboy Kristin Elizabeth Clark
White Crow Marcus Sedgwick
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe Benjamin Alire Sáenz
The Twistrose Key Tone Almhjell
If You Could Be Mine Sara Farizan
Tending the Garden Van Anderson
Cinder Marissa Meyer
Violins of Autumn Amy McAuley
Shadows on the Moon Zoë Marriott
The Thing About Luck Cynthia Kadohata
Boxers & Saints Gene Luen Yang
If You Find Me Emily Murdoch
Champion Marie Lu

You might notice I read (and, in particular, reread) quite a few series in 2013. Mostly this happened because I would notice all the books in a given series were available to be checked out at once at the library, so I would get them all in order to read them all in a row. And in the case of series I already loved and felt tempted to reread, I would think to myself, If not now, when?

Here are a few extra numbers, for fun:

  • Total books read: 119
  • Books in French: 7 (6%)
  • Books that were not novels: 10 (8%) (Non-fiction: 1; Short story collection: 6; Poetry: 1; Memoir: 2; also, Boxers & Saints, which I’m counting as one “book,” are graphic novels)
  • Books read in translation: 7 (6%) (Turkish: 1; German: 3; Portuguese: 2; Japanese: 1)
  • Books read for the first time: 95 (80%)
  • Books read not for the first time: 24 (20%)
  • Books by female authors: 82 (69%)
  • Books by male authors: 37 (31%)

My Top 13 New Books/Series of 2013* (roughly in chronological order):

  • Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore
  • The Montmaray Journals (Michelle Cooper)
  • Jellicoe Road
  • Railsea
  • Code Name Verity
  • The Difference Between You and Me
  • Where Things Come Back
  • When You Reach Me
  • Blood Red Road
  • The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place
  • The Dream Thieves
  • Under Wildwood
  • Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe

*I limited myself to books I read for the first time in 2013 because it is generally, though not universally, true that the books I reread are already among my favorites (that’s why I reread them). However, if this list were open to books/series I had read before, it would have to include The Pagan Quartet (Catherine Jinks), A Northern Light, Seraphina, The Raven Boys, and The Queen’s Thief (Megan Whalen Turner).