Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Games and Books

As I think I've mentioned, we've recently started checking out board games and card games in our library. Monopoly, Trouble, Battleship, Uno -- we've got 'em all. My boss started putting together a spreadsheet for patrons listing all the games with some basic information, like how many players they need, how long they take, that kind of thing, as well as links to online videos showing how to play them.

I spent yesterday filling out that spreadsheet. You haven't lived until you've watched 40 videos about gaming. And of course some of them were terrible, so I'd have to abandon them and look for another. It made for an interesting (?) couple of hours.

The experience made me think about games my brother and I had growing up -- Life, Stratego, Battleship, Monopoly, Perfection. One of my favorite games was Masterpiece, in which players adopt invented personas (such as Roxy "Big D" Warrenson or Baron Dietrich von Oberlitzer) and bid for artworks. Some of the paintings -- reproductions of real works from the Chicago Art Institute -- would turn out to be worth far more than the player paid, while others were worthless forgeries. Does anyone remember this game? If not, here's a video about how to play it! (Honestly, I don't think we ever played it correctly. I mostly just looked at the paintings. It taught me a lot about art, and when I went to the Chicago Art Institute years later I had a great time seeing all those paintings in person.)

We do still read books in our library, you'll be glad to know. I recently read Russell Banks' "Rule of the Bone," which I loved -- the first-person story of a sort of working-class delinquent version of Holden Caulfield.

And I just finished the third volume of Karl Ove Knausgaard's autobiographical "My Struggle" series. I was sort of dreading it, because although I really liked volume one, I was less enthusiastic about volume two (getting through it was my struggle). But I'd bought the third one already so I figured I'd see it through. Called "Boyhood Island,"  it turned out to be really good -- recollections of a childhood growing up in a small town on the Norwegian coast in the 1970s. Knausgaard's incredible level of detail can be annoying -- no one needs to describe a Kellogg's corn flake to me -- but I found his tales of tramping through the woods with friends and coping with his harsh father quite engrossing.

I think I might be done with Knausgaard now, though.

At the moment I'm reading "The Diary of a Bookseller" by Shaun Bythell, which I first heard about from Vivian. It's literally just that -- a day-to-day account of running a bookstore in the small Scottish community of Wigtown. It's a hoot, which proves that a good writer can make any story interesting.

(Photo: Fallen leaves in our back garden.)


  1. We are lucky enough to have several Libraries in our area and most are accessible out of hours. It's quite nice to go on a Sunday when there are hardly any people there.
    Several of our Libraries also do jigsaw loans which is handy as we no longer get to the car boots for them.
    Love the fallen leaves pic.

  2. Shirley and I visited Wigtown just last year. It is known as "Scotland's book town" and it is in a charming corner of Scotland - on a peninsula known as The Machars. As for the board game scheme, I still think it is a dumb idea - very much at odds with what libraries are for. If kids want to play board games they should go elsewhere or pursue the activity at home with their friends and families.

  3. I love the photo of the leaves. The Fall colors this year are just gorgeous. We had most of those games but not Masterpiece. I'm still in the process of re-reading the books on my bookshelf so that I can get rid of them to make room for more. As for the Library, it's one of my favorite places to spend time at. You have a wonderful day, hugs, Edna B.

  4. You just inspired me to step out of my back porch and take a picture of a Brandford pear leaf that fell during the night.
    You're getting a lot of reading done!
    I sort of love the games idea but when do the students have time to play them? Can they check them out? I sort of missed that part.

  5. you didn't mention Clue, one of my favorite games growing up. I heard on the news I think that some library is letting people use a 3 D printer and a laser etching machine.

  6. The library seem to be getting out of the habit of books and has gone to games and 3d printers now. We use the library to read and study, not to play games or build things. We had art classes for building things. Things have made a drastically change these days. I am wondering if its for better or worse. Maybe that's why the reading level is at a very low level these days. Keep the games at home for leisure time and let the library go back to being a learning room.

  7. I don't know why it surprises me that young people are still playing board games. But it surprises me even more that libraries have games for them to play. Makes me wonder if libraries had games when I was young. I just remembered a story from my very young days. My little sister (18 months younger than I) meticulously learned how to print her name so she could get a library card when my twin brother and I got ours. We so loved our neighborhood library back in the 1950s.

  8. I'm happy to hear that board games are still here and that kids have the opportunity to play them. When I taught math I found many games and used them. So look for math games. Hey, play them!

  9. I don't know that Masterpiece game but, I kind of wish I had. I'm betting I would have enjoyed it very much. When I was working in Chicago, I could walk to the art museum so I visited very often. I loved it there.

  10. I have missed out on so much with the board games and libraries. My dad was a construction worker and kind of like the military we moved often. Sometimes 2 or 3 times a year so I never stayed in one school to finish a single year until I was in the 8th grade and miraculously we stayed for 4 years but I got married and back then I couldn't be married and finish school, so I joined my new husband and got my GED instead. I am glad that they have done away with that stupid rule.
    But back to the library... I taught myself to read. I read any and everything, I loved poetry and I put on my blog the other day one of my favorites. It always brings a smile to my face because I have the real life version here at my house.

    I don't remember Perfection but I bet it was a fun game. We were card players at my house. Rummy 500 was our go to game and then Skip-Bo.
    Have a great autumn day!

  11. I've just put "The Diary of a Bookseller" on hold at my local library, based on your review of it. As a former bookseller I enjoy reading books about my fellows in the trade. I'm presently reading "My Journey to Lhasa" by Alexandra David-Neel, which is decidedly NOT about bookselling but interesting all the same.

  12. In reply to YP, I think it's good that libraries are expanding their lending collections beyond just books and music. Most board games are more than just games; they require reading skills, math skills (as Red pointed out), interpersonal skills, and often strategic thinking as well. Kids who don't do well with books can be hooked into reading by other things libraries offer.

    Even the word library is not solely book-oriented - it's more synonymous with "collection" in a general sense.

  13. thank you for breaking down the trilogy, I think I may start with the last of the lot, I do not want to struggle. I LOVE board games , tactile, especially monopoly with the little charms. No body plays them anymore, I just gave all of ours away except for one. " Cowgirls Ride The Trail of Truth" , it is a silly game but OK if you make up the rules of play as you go.

  14. That's a great picture of the autumn colours.

    Germany is board game mad. I must be the only person here who cannot stand the stuff, apart from the odd scabble challenge at xmas.

    There is a huge range of board games here, nothing as meh as Monopoly. Have you ever heard of "The settlers of Catan" ( There are cosplay events here with that game. (Shakes her head.)

  15. I loved your photo. I am an autumn sign so that image was right up my street! :-)

  16. Briony: Many libraries have gone to great lengths to make themselves more accessible to patrons, like operating on off hours or days, and offering materials one wouldn't normally associate with a library.

    YP: See, I don't think games are at odds with the purpose of a library. As long as patrons who want a silent space have it (and we do, in a separate room) then what does a little game-playing hurt? Some games can be educational, too.

    Edna: I'm trying to catch up on all my books, too. I always seem to have a surplus!

    Ms Moon: Students can play them during break or lunch or after school, and yes, they can be checked out and taken home.

    Ellen: We do have Clue as well -- although in England it's called Cluedo for some reason. The 3D printer and laser etching is a cool idea too! (We have a "Maker" lab elsewhere in the school that has equipment like that.)

    Angelicastar: Well, as I mentioned to YP above, games CAN be a learning tool. I honestly don't mind that libraries have diversified somewhat.

    Robin: Board games are actually HUGE among some kids and young adults. (And older adults too!) There's quite a gaming subculture out there.

    Red: We have some games that teach math skills -- particularly certain card games, I think.

    Sharon: I'm sure the Chicago Art Institute must have been involved in that game's creation.

    Beth: Well, bravo for developing your reading skills on your own! Reading teaches so much to kids. I'd say the primary requirement for anyone who wants to write well is to read.

    Catalyst: You're a former bookseller? Did I know that? I thought you were in TV journalism?

    Jenny-O: Yes! I agree!

    Linda Sue: I have never heard of that game. Must be a Wyoming thing. :)

    Sabine: I have actually PLAYED the Settlers of Catan! I know gaming is a huge thing in Europe. I don't play a lot of games either, but when I do, I find that I usually have fun. (Especially if there's wine.)

    Cuban: It's a great time of year!

  17. I love hearing that young people still play board games---I thought they'd mostly be blasting zombie brains in video games.
    Monopoly vs Grand Theft Auto... that's like going by foot vs going by rocket.

    Good for libraries for championing games that bring people together face-to-face! That's an endangered activity, and a good one for libraries to support.

    How bout Dungeons and Dragons? You could lock the kids in the library for a weekend with Cheetos, Mountain Dew, a rule book, and polydedral dice!

  18. I admire that you're always reading a book through. I'm so distracted lately, I seem to have several books going at once, and it takes me forever to finish them. When a book grabs me so hard that I can immersively sink into it till its done, I know that book is compelling. Educated was like that for me. Mostly though, I get seduced by screens, I'm not proud of this.