The Fastest Librarian Alive

Today’s nerdy blog is a little bit different…. A while back, my library’s writing group all drew random prompts. Fate was with me as mine was: If you could have any superpower what would it be? *cracks knuckles* I’d been preparing my whole life for a prompt like this. Today, I thought I’d share that story, mostly because: (A) It’s super nerdy; and (B) It was a ton of fun to write.

We’ll skip the origin story. As a dedicated comic nerd before I became an actual superhero—and, yes, I know how crazy that sounds, but hear me out—I know that origin stories are everyone’s least favorite. I mean, don’t get me wrong: You can’t have Batman without Crime Alley or Spider-Man without great power and great responsibility.      

          But we all know those stories. We want to get to the action, to the grit, to the “How will they save the day” and the “Does the day even deserve to be saved?”

          The latter is for edgier comics, though, and if my real life ever became a comic book, I doubt it would be all that edgy. I don’t think a 4’11” librarian can pull off the angst that, say… Daredevil can.

          That’s not to say I haven’t had some hard times in my life. But everybody has. Everyone has had wracking sobs and shaking fists. We’ve all been heartbroken and we’ve all been furious. The difference is whether we let those moments be our molds or our ladder rungs: Do they define us or do they lift us higher?

          I tend to lean towards the latter, because… well, like I said, I can’t pull off the doom and gloom.

          And besides the past is in the past… in the origin story. And this isn’t really an origin story. This is how Sarah Davidson became the fastest librarian alive.

          You wouldn’t think being a librarian has that many occupational hazards. (Though we tend to joke that the compulsion to take home a new book at the end of every work day is a real danger.)

          And, yeah, except for the occasional pulled muscle or papercut, things are pretty quiet.

          Minus the freak accident that gave me my powers: an early morning storm, a lightning bolt, and me working on the computer. I don’t know how, but somehow the electric shock that surged through the computer and into me… gave me super-speed!

          Super-speed is by far the best power. No more driving—because now running is actually faster! Plus, there are technically no speed limits for running. (But who would have guessed anyone would ever be hitting Mach 3?)

          Not that I can go my fastest. The speed would tear up the sidewalks.

          People are starting to talk about a strange blur throughout this normally quiet small town though. No one’s suspected superpowers… mostly because that idea is crazy.

          But super speed also comes with speed brain—which means I can think as fast as I can move. That comes in handy whenever I’m typing—those two books I’ve been wanting to write? I finished them last week.

          Now I just have to edit them….

          Unfortunately, super speed did not come with super motivation.

          Plus, I can vibrate my molecules fast enough to go through solid objects. Locked myself out of the house? No problem!

          I can also vibrate quickly enough that I appear invisible… though I haven’t experimented with that much… yet.

          But that’s not even the biggest plus to super speed. The best part? Superfast metabolism. This speed is always a part of me, even when I appear to be still. And that speed needs fuel—10,000 calories per day fuel. I can lose the weight I want, and then eat whatever I want just to maintain my new figure!  

          And that is especially good news for a chocoholic.

          It’s been a couple months since I got my speed, and I’ve grown pretty accustomed to it. I mean, there was definitely a learning curve (namely passing out a few times because I needed to eat and then there was that one time I meant to go get my mail, but I ended up in Fiji….)

          I never had any patience, but now with super-speed always itching at me, I find it’s nearly impossible to be still. I get up earlier in the morning and then I get three times as much done as I used to. Dishes, no matter how high they’re stacked, take only 5 minutes.

          I spend the rest of my free time writing (and wearing out my keyboard) and reading (I’ve already read 200 books this year!) And at work, I can put books away in a blink of an eye. I’ve also already scheduled all the employees for the next five years! And I’ve outlined programming for the next ten!

          Huh… maybe speed brain doesn’t mix well with being a planner….

          Of course, most of the time there are fellow librarians around. And that means I can’t use my speed (which is like asking a seven-year old with a water pistol not to shoot it). But I manage. I think I’m doing a pretty good job of hiding my powers (as long as no one looks at the floor under my desk—there’s a pretty good sized hole from my incessant foot tapping).

          About a week ago, I started wondering how else I could use my super speed. I’ve gotten ahead at work, at home, and with my hobbies. I’ve helped around the house at my parents’, and I’ve even let my engineer brother run some experiments on me.

          But today, as I was sitting at my desk, double-checking the schedule for October 2022 for the tenth time, I couldn’t help but wonder if I could do something more.

          I’m a pretty… normal person. I’ve never been one to rush into danger. I’m more than a bit squeamish, and I’m very introverted. Even when just reading comic books, I would find myself wondering how the characters could take such colossal risks.

          But then I started paying attention to the sirens. This might be a pretty small town, but it’s surprising how often sirens blare.

          And that’s when it hit me: Every comic I’d ever read: “With great power comes great responsibility.” “Life doesn’t give us purpose. We give life purpose.” “It’s not who I am underneath, but what I do that defines me.”

          What reason is there to have abilities if you don’t use them? And as I ran to the siren, I realized that was true of any ability, not just this strange super speed that had miraculously come my way. If you have the ability to write a story or give a speech that moves people, if you have the ability to open up young minds to the world around them, if you have the ability to make people laugh and forget their troubles—whatever it is, how can you not use it?

          This particular siren was just for a domestic dispute. Nothing I could help with. But there will be others—fires, or robberies, or who knows what—where my speed might be helpful.  

          I’ll keep an ear out, and my running shoes nearby. And in the meantime, I’ll keeping putting away books at lightning speed….          

Because I’m Sarah Davidson. And I’m the fastest librarian alive.


Note: I do not own any of the references to DC comics. I am simply referencing them in this parody work.

It’s Good to be Bad: Why We Love Antiheroes

Earlier this week, I wrote about the most famous “Boy Scout” there is–Superman. In case you’ve never heard that descriptor before, “Boy Scouts” are characters whose moral compass always point true north. They know right from wrong and they never waver. They epitomize hope and valor, and you know that, no matter what the odds, they will manage to save the day. If literature’s main goal is to hold up a mirror to humanity, then these characters show us what we can–and should–be.

Obviously, I’m a fan of Superman and characters like him. But there’s another type of character that, while on the complete other side of the spectrum, is just as important when holding up a mirror to humanity.

I’m talking about the antihero.

As much as I love my Boy Scouts, I’m a sucker for a good antihero. Characters you hate as often as you love. Characters that leave you shaking your head over their decisions. Characters that inspire cheers when they become better and groans when they backtrack to their old ways.

But why are these characters important? Well, the mirror they hold isn’t about ideals. It’s a bit more realistic. How? Well, for starters….

Severus Snape (Harry Potter)

From Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (2005)

Snape, Snape… Severus Snape. (Sorry, couldn’t resist.) But where do I even begin with this character? Loved by some, hated by others, he’s everyone’s worst nightmare of a teacher. While seemingly villainous on the outside, he spent years secretly protecting Harry and fighting against Voldemort. Snape was fueled by guilt and unrequited love. Does such motivation make him a good person? Were his actions ultimately heroic, if they did in fact help lead to the defeat of the Dark Lord? Honestly, there’s a lot of debate in the “Potterhead” community, and Snape is one the most polarizing characters. But here’s one thing I do know: Whatever else he might be, from the day he realized that all of his choices had led to nothing but destruction and despair (the day that Lily Potter was murdered)–from that day forward, whatever his motivations… his actions were always better. Not always nice. Far from perfect–but better. He fought for the light, rather than dark.

In short: The choices of your past do not determine your choices in your future.

Sherlock Holmes

From “The Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes” (1993)

Good old Sherlock Holmes. How many times has this character been revisited and interpreted throughout the decades. (My favorite is Benedict Cumberbatch’s “high-functioning sociopath.”) Whatever incarnation you prefer, however, one thing remains: Sherlock isn’t just a detective; he’s a mystery himself. Aloof and consciously separate from the rest of humanity, Sherlock is never quite able to relate to others. He could be a conniving mastermind, but instead… he solves mysteries. He finds justice.

Basically: You don’t have to be like everyone else to still help everyone else.

Red Hood (DC Comics)

From “Red Hood and the Outlaws, Vol. 1: Dark Trinity” (2017)

Since I’m the one writing this blog, you know a comic book character had to be coming, right? Red Hood: Jason Todd, the second Robin who came back from the grave with revenge in his heart. Who couldn’t understand why Batman hadn’t killed the Joker–why the clown was still alive when Batman knew that there was no chance of reform within his heart–and, worse, why he was still alive when he had beaten the teenage Jason to death. Jason is one of those characters who is constantly evolving: He began as an antagonist and has grown into an antihero. While he and Batman have very different philosophies, Jason still strives to protect the innocent and punish corruption. Batman refuses to kill; Jason on the other hand…. not so much. To paraphrase what he tells Batman: He takes out the ones who aren’t afraid. That’s not to say, however, that he always goes with that option. Often, he finds a way that doesn’t involve killing–usually letting his “I’m even worse than Batman” reputation precede him. He’s even started to come back into the Bat Family fold. In short: He may be the black sheep, but he’ll still always be there for back-up.

So: There is always opportunity–and ability–to grow and change.

These, of course, are only a tiny sampling of the wonderful world of antiheroes. Other characters that force us to look at the shades of gray, both in the world and within ourselves, are: Robin Hood, Gru, Holden Caulfiled, Jay Gatsby, Captain Jack Sparrow, Han Solo, Wolverine (one of my favorites!), Artemis Fowl, Deadpool…. The list can go on and on–just like these characters! Somehow, despite their mistakes and flaws; despite the worst that the world can throw at them; despite everyone telling them “no,” again and again–they keep going and going and going….

From classic literature to television hits, from heartwarming children’s movies to edgy comics–we can’t escape antiheroes.

And why would we want to? Sure, it’s exciting when a knight in shining armor wins the day, but there’s something about watching someone fall and get back up–someone who is far from perfect but who is at least trying–that is undeniably relatable. We all have a little bit of antihero in us (and, if we’re being honest, a bit of Boy Scout, too).

So what do we do with all of this? As writers, we create characters that people can relate to: Whether because they’re what we want to be or because we understand their struggles. As readers… well, as readers we hold on tight to see what’s coming next. Life is rarely predictable… and that is especially true in any story starring an antihero.

So, buckle up, buttercup. We’re in for a wild ride.


Sources:

Rowling, J.K. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. USA, Arthur A. Levine Books, 2005.

Doyle, Sir Arthur Conan. The Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. United States of America, The Reader’s Digest Association, 1993.

Lobdell, Scott. Red Hood and the Outlaws, Vol. 1: Dark Trinity. Burbank, CA, DC Comics, 2017.

Never Ask a Librarian This Question

My favorite part about being a librarian is helping someone find that perfect book: Whether it’s a cookbook with recipes that are just right for their dietary needs, a massive biography that will help a student write a report, or just the lastest can’t-put-down novel.

As an avid (and rather voracious) reader, the last one is my particular favorite. I love when I help someone find a story in which they can get swept away and lost in an adventure.

It’s easier, of course, when a patron gives us some guidelines: “I like John Grisham. Who can you recommend that’s similar to him?” Or: “I’m really into time travel.”

Criteria like that is a big help. However, if you want to make it harder on us (read as: if you want to see your librarian short-circuit like a robot), then ask: “What is your favorite book?”

“What is your favorite book?”

Why not just ask us what breath of air was our favorite?

You have to understand. We’re surrounded by books, and if you’re already a bookworm, then that sort of temptation is dangerous. You start reading books you don’t normally read, taking recommendations from fellow librarians even though you already have a Leaning Tower of Literature at home. You are inundated by novels and biographies; by how-to’s and comics; by literary fiction and fluffy feel-good stories.

So when you ask a librarian what his or her favorite book is… we have to do a miniature March Madness-style bracket in our head, pitting favorite books from every genre against each other, hoping to come up with that one, singular, perfect book in a matter of seconds….

And then we usually just ask, “Well, what kind of book are you looking for?”

In short: It’s nearly impossible for us to pick one favorite book. And I know that makes it hard when you’re looking for one, single recommendation.

So today, I thought I’d share some of my favorites. These are all books that captured my imagination, and–if you’re looking for a good book–I hope they will do the same for you.

Favorite “The Book Was Better Than the Movie”

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter by Seth Grahame-Smith

Just the concept of this book sounds absurd. So why did I read it? Well… because the concept of the book sounds absurd! I actually listened to this story on audiobook (which I would highly recommend, as it has musical interludes that match the tone of the story and provide wonderful atmosphere). I was shocked by how much I enjoyed it: As outlandish as the actual plot may have been, it was clear that Seth Grahame-Smith did a ton of research, carefully crafting his paranormal tale around real history. In comparison, the movie felt like little more than your run-of-the-mill action flick.

Favorite “Unexpected” Read

The Boy Next Door by Meg Cabot

I don’t read romance. In fact, I’m a bit like a second-grade boy when it comes to “mush.” Give me spaceships and explosions and detectives and… well, anything else! But a fellow librarian who also doesn’t like romance recommended this book to me… and, okay, I’ll admit it: The story was really cute. A modern epistolary novel (it’s written in emails), the story is a pretty basic case of mistaken identity, but Meg Cabot utilizes the email format to give each character a unique and engaging voice. The end result is a quick, fun read.

Favorite Young Adult

Looking for Alaska by John Green

I don’t reread books. I’m very much a one-and-done kind of bookworm… unless that book is Harry Potter. (I can’t even count how many times I devoured those during my childhood.) The other exception: Looking for Alaska. A heart-wrenching, but also beautiful novel that is carefully crafted around two “famous last word” quotes. This book is one of those that felt nothing short of enlightening to teenage-me. All of that, and John Green even still manages to throw in some humor. It’s a wonderful, wonderful book (but make sure you have some tissues nearby).

Favorite Graphic Novel

Batman: Hush by Jeph Loeb

Batman is known as the World’s Greatest Detective. As such, any good Batman story should first and foremost be a good mystery. Hush delivers just that and MORE. In addition to all the twists and turns, you also get: (1) Cameos from nearly every villain; (2) Catwoman and Bruce Wayne romance; (3) One of the best Batman v. Superman fights; (4) A returning character from Batman’s past (though I won’t say who because… spoilers!); and (5) A probing look into Bruce Wayne’s past and, ultimately, his psyche. Honestly, it seems impossible that so much could go on in one story arc without feeling cluttered, but somehow Jeph Loeb balances it all with finesse, giving the reader expert storytelling and character development alongside classic comic book action.

RUNNER-UP: Superman: Birthright by Mark Waid

Favorite Series

Wayward Pines by Blake Crouch

Like almost every kid who grew up in the ’90s, I adored Harry Potter. However, when making this list, The Boy Who Lived seemed like a bit of a cop-out. So while I would still easily call that my favorite series, I wanted to highlight another page-turner that I just read: The Wayward Pines trilogy. Action, suspense, and mystery all centered on just the right amount of sci-fi and set against a backdrop of perfectly understood human nature. This series has gone through several librarians, and from there, recommended to several patrons. It’s one of those stories you don’t want to say too much about–you just have to read it for yourself.

Favorite Nonfiction

It Ended Badly: Thirteen of the Worst Break-Ups in History by Jennifer Wright

I don’t read a lot of nonfiction. It’s just so hard for me to pick up a “real” story when there are so many fictional worlds still unexplored. That said… with a title like It Ended Badly: Thirteen of the Worst Break-Ups in History… how could I not pick it up? This book is full of stories that range from hilarious to tragic, all while told in a very conversational style that is very accessible and entertaining. It’s a perfect book to learn some history while also not feeling like you’re learning history.

Favorite Bestseller

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

I have no idea how long this book has been on the bestseller list, but it’s got to be close to two years now. It’s also a book that is nearly impossible to get your hands on at the library–the hold list continues to be staggering. With those kinds of stats, this must be one amazing book, right? The answer: Yes. From the characters to the atmosphere of the swamp setting to the questions it asks (and leaves the reader asking), this is a book that reminds us what books should be. You finish the story and immediately want to talk about it with someone else. The good news: LOTS of people have read it (and are still reading it) so it won’t be difficult to find a book-buddy to discuss Delia Owen’s tale of the Swamp Girl.

RUNNER-UP: A Man Called Ove by Frederik Backman