Reading Habits: Mina Ivanova


Question 1)

 mina_ivanova_picDo you like to read? How would you describe yourself as a reader?

There is rarely a waking moment that I do not spend read. I read incessantly, voraciously. Currently, my reading diet consists almost exclusively of non-fiction, particularly critical and rhetorical theory. Difficult texts energize me, especially when the author manages to avoid obtuseness through clear, even artful prose and vivid examples. I am an active, critical reader, who–for better or worse–can rarely take off her analytical hat and let herself be completely absorbed by a book. The most recent work of fiction I read were José Saramago’s novels Blindness and Seeing.

Question 2)

What books would you recommend?

Paul Eisenstein and Todd McGowan’s book Rupture: On the Emergence of the Political. For a terrific and continuously updated sampling of great reads, I recommend visiting the website Brain Pickings–ʺa cross-disciplinary LEGO treasure chest, full of pieces spanning art, science, psychology, design, philosophy, history, politics, anthropology, and moreʺ–   maintained by my Bulgarian compatriot and MIT Futures Entertainment Fellow Maria Popova at

Question 3)

Do you remember the first book you read or any childhood favorites?

Growing up, I loved Swedish author Astrid Lindgren’s Pippi Longstocking, because of her irreverent, audacious, imaginative character. There were many wonderful Bulgarian children’s books, as well.

Question 4)

Have you always liked to read? Was there ever a person in your life who really inspired you to read?

The short answer is: yes. I learned to read very early, and I remember my conscious efforts to decipher the letters and words in the story-books that my parents and grandparents would read to me.

Question 5)

Did you read any interesting/memorable books when you were in college?

The work of Julia Kristeva was a major influence during my undergraduate years in Bulgaria, where I studied English and Linguistics (or what is referred to as philology). During my undergraduate years in the U.S., I found Naomi Klein’s work thought provoking. It sparked my interest in global ideological, political, and social justice issues.

The Writers’ Festival LibGuide is Now Available!

Featured imageThe Writers’ Festival is coming soon!  Less than a month away!

To help you learn more about the featured authors two of our amazing reference student assistants, Rachael Scott ’17 and Jillian Speck ’17, put together a helpful guide to resources about the authors.  On the guide you will find links to:

  • Works by the author available through McCain;
  • Interviews with the authors;
  • Signifiant videos of the author sharing their thoughts or reading their work; and
  • Critical reviews of each author’s work (when available).

So much fantastic stuff in one place.  Thanks Jillian and Rachael!

Reading Habits: Alan Koch

Question 1)

 alan_koch_picDo you like to read? How would you describe yourself as a reader?

I suppose if I said ʺno, I do not like to readʺ, then I wouldn’t be on this blog.

I’m a bit obsessive when it comes to reading. Once I start a book, finishing it becomes a high priority in my life. On the other hand, if I pick up a book I’m very excited about, I sometimes hesitate to start it because I know I will finish it quickly and then it’ll be all over. I rarely reread books.

Question 2)

What books would you recommend?

The best nonfiction book I’ve read recently is The Signal and the Noise: Why So Many Predictions Fail-but Some Don’t by Nate Silver. It helps us make sense in a world where we are deluged with data. I wish everybody would read it. (It’s not as math-y as it sounds.)

The best fiction book I’ve read recently is The Rook by Daniel O’Malley. I describe it as ʺHarry Potterʺ meets ʺThe Bourne Identityʺ, but that doesn’t do it justice.

Question 3)

Do you remember the first book you ever read or any childhood favorites?

We had a lot of Dr. Seuss books in the house, but I couldn’t tell you which one I read first.

My two favorite books from my elementary school years are Lizard Music by Daniel Pinkwater, and The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster. (Do not watch the movie version of The Phantom Tollbooth.)

Question 4)

Have you always liked to read? Was there ever a person in your life who really inspired you to read?

I have always liked reading, but there was a time in my life when I didn’t do it much (see below).

Certainly my inspiration to read is my mother. Throughout my whole life, she has loved to read in her spare time. There were always paperbacks scattered throughout the house. While I didn’t read many of the same books she did, she made the concept of ʺrecreational readingʺ a norm for me. After all, when you’re a child, and you want to know ʺwhat do people do in their spare time when they’re at home?ʺ the only source of data you have is your own family.

Question 5)

Did you read any interesting/memorable books when you were in college?

Honestly, I did not read a lot in college (outside of class, that is). Once I start a book, it tends to keep my attention until I finish it; I worried that reading too much would distract me from my classes. I figured I could read whatever I wanted after graduation. My thinking changed when I went to graduate school: once I realized that I would be in school for the rest of my life, I knew I had to find a better balance.

During breaks in college I would read when I could. The two books I remember the most were Chaos: Making a New Science by James Gleick, and The Stand by Stephen King. They’re very different books.

Citation Week: March 2nd – March 6th

DSC07391Reduce your stress by learning a better way to manage sources and cite your resources. From March 2nd – 6th, McCain Library is hosting Citation Week to answer all your questions.​ ​

Meet with a Librarian for personalized help by signing up for a 30 minute appointment: (you may need to forward the calendar that appears to the week of March 2nd).  During this appointment we can:

  • teach you about tools that will help you track and store research citation​s​ you find through the library databases or through general web searching; or
  • help you learn how to make citation decisions for difficult to cite sources.

Attend a workshop on a popular citation management tool. Workshops will be held on Friday, March 6 in McCain 211:

  • 1:00pm – 1:30pm: Zotero Basics
    2:00pm -2:30pm: RefWorks Basics

If these opportunities do not fit your schedule​,​ then check out the following resources:

Please note: McCain Library will not format your works cited page or bibliography, but we are here to help you learn the best way to do this yourself!

Focus on Copyright – It’s Fair Use Week

Fair Use Week 2015 is being celebrated nationally this week through Friday, February 27. Check out this cool infographic that shows its impact:

Also, remember that McCain Library maintains a LibGuide to help you navigate fair use questions in classroom settings.

McCain Library’s Award for Aspiring Librarians – Call for Nominations (by March 20)

Each spring, McCain Library sends out a call for nominations for the Arseneau Award.  This award was created by the Agnes Scott College Class of 1989 to honor the memory of their classmate Marjo Dobbs Arseneau, an academic librarian whose life was cut short by cancer.  At least nine past winners have gone on to complete library-related Master’s degrees and to pursue careers in libraries.

To be eligible (self-nominations are accepted), a nominee must be a current Agnes Scott College junior or senior:

  • committed to pursuing a career in librarianship by continuing her education in a Master of Library Science or Information Management program 


  • who has made significant contributions to McCain Library while working as a library student assistant.
The Arseneau Award includes a monetary prize intended to assist with graduate school costs. This year’s distribution will be $800.
A Google Form on which to submit your own information or a nomination (due by 5:00 pm on Friday, March 20) is available here: and on the library website under About/Awards.  (You will need to log in to Scottie Mail to access it.) 
People other than the McCain Library staff will help with the selection process, so please be thorough in completing the form.  Thank you for your assistance.  Any questions may be directed to Elizabeth Bagley.

Reading Habits: Amy Lovell


Question 1)

 amy_lovell_picDo you like to read? How would you describe yourself as a reader?

I love to read, but don’t always have as much time as I’d like for reading.  I read a lot of non-fiction, and love to discuss books I’ve read with other people who enjoyed them.

Question 2)

 What books would you recommend?

I like to recommend books that I found thought-provoking… I also enjoy lighter reading, but haven’t done as much of that recently.  A few recent books I have read and would recommend are listed here.

Half the Sky (the Agnes Reads book this year) is very high on my list for thought-provoking (and wrath-inducing) and I highly recommend it, but be prepared to get a bit angry and frustrated.

I Am Malala is a book I picked up in an airport over the summer to read during a flight, and I found it really interesting.  If you would like an advocate’s view of girls’ education, and a window into another culture that will help you think beyond the often simplistic view presented about women in Islam, this is the book for you.  Her affection for her homeland, her religion, and other aspects of her culture are clear, which makes this a poignant story as her family encounters threats and violence.

While we’re on the subject of women and opportunity, I also recommend Lean In (Sheryl Sandberg).  She has some important things to say about leadership and productivity in the workplace, and how we are all affected by issues of gender stereotyping and socialization (both conscious and unconscious).

Speaking of unconscious biases and other hazards of the human brain, Strangers to Ourselves (Timothy Wilson) discusses our adaptive unconscious brain functions and is a really interesting look at how we think even when we don’t know we’re doing it!  I think this book is a great companion read for the issues faced by introverts that are discussed in Quiet (Susan Cain).

Another great book about our brains is My Stroke of Insight (Jill Bolte Taylor), which documents the process of a stroke as experienced by a neuroscientist looking at herself from both inside and out.  She has a lot to say about how we understand the brain, how medical practice can improve in dealing with patients with brain injuries, and what it is possible to recover given the knowledge and the will to do so.

On the lighter side, two space books are fun and inspiring so I can recommend them as well:  Packing for Mars (Mary Roach) and My Dream of Stars (Anousheh Ansari).  Packing for Mars was recommended to me by Alan Koch, and is an in-depth look at what goes into human spaceflight in many ways that most people don’t consider.  The book is investigative and interesting, yet lighthearted, and acknowledges the humor that often intersects with humans in space.  Ansari’s book introduces the concept of space entrepreneurs, and documents her entire journey to the ISS, including her childhood dreams and nightmares in Iran.  It is another great read about a Muslim woman and her accomplishments as well as her lifelong love of space.

Question 3)

Do you remember the first book you read or any childhood favorites?

I don’t remember the first book I read, but as a child, I really loved the ʺLittle Bearʺ books.  As a parent, I loved reading them to my kids too – the stories are so sweet and true to the nature of childhood and imagination, I never get tired of them.  My other childhood favorites were funny books like Pippi Longstocking or things written by Dr. Seuss.

Question 4)

Have you always liked to read? Was there any person in your life who really inspired you to read?

I have loved to read since before I can remember. My mother taught me to read at an early age, and always encouraged my love of books. Whenever we moved to a new town, we’d get library cards right away, and would take me to the library often. I think every summer of my childhood, I joined one of those summer reading clubs that local libraries run.

Question 5)

Did you read any interesting/memorable books when you were in college?

I read Contact by Carl Sagan… it helped inspire my interest in astronomy and space exploration.  I did a lot of reading for my classes, and while I was in college, most of the pleasure reading I did was during the summers or other breaks when I didn’t have homework!