Book City: What's Seattle's head librarian reading?

Marcellus Turner heads up Seattle's library system. With all those books at his disposal, which ones is he checking out to read at home?
Marcellus Turner, Seattle's city librarian.

Marcellus Turner, Seattle's city librarian. Seattle Public Library

Marcellus Turner started out in 4th grade shelving books in his school library in Mississippi. Fourteen months ago, he became the Director of the Seattle Public Library System, and he now oversees the Central Library and 26 branches that circulated 11,572,778 items last year. When MT, as he’s known by friends and library staff, went to his first Seafair parade last summer, he was delighted to see that so many of the people lining the streets were reading while waiting for the parade to start.

Val Easton: Do you have a book or two you’ve re-read over the years and will no doubt read again?

Marcellus Turner: I’m a big fan of Patrick Lencioni; I’m re-reading Getting Naked right now. He writes management books with great titles. Another one I like is Death By Meeting. They offer a whole different way of thinking about how you work with people.

VE: Have you read a truly great book lately? One you’d unhesitatingly recommend to friends and colleagues?

MT: Company by Max Barry, a novel set in Seattle.

VE: Do you get books from the library? Buy them? Download them?

MT: Before I came to Seattle, I lived in the Denver suburbs and listened to audio books while I commuted. I’m more urban here . . . now I’m a books-on-the-nightstand kind of guy. When I travel I check out electronic books to read on an iPad with Kindle access.

VE: How long is your library queue?

MT: It’s pretty short. I need to transfer my long written list to my library holds list. I walk over to Barnes and Noble on my lunch hour and hustle back with book titles to add to my queue.

VE: Do you read genre fiction?

MT: I love suspense, but only books by David Baldacci. I guess I find authors I like, more than genres. I’ve also gotten caught up in Philippa Gregory’s historical fiction set in Tudor England. She writes compelling and intricate plots The Other Boleyn Girl, was my first exposure to her work. I’ve read every one in Alexander McCall Smith’s series The No.1 Ladies’ Detective Agency.

VE: When and where do you settle down to read?

MT: At home I read in bed. I like to read when I fly, and I always have a book or magazines in my book bag to read when waiting for a meeting to start.

VE: Did you read a lot when you were a kid?

MT: I’m very much geographically challenged because I always read in the car when I was young. I never paid attention to where we were going. I remember sitting on the floor, facing backwards, with the book resting on the car seat and the dome light on so I could see to read. When I was growing up, I always surrounded myself with friends who read and we enjoyed trading books.

VE: What do you plan to read next?

MT: I’m resolved to read the books on my own bookshelf. I’ve moved a lot and always carry all these books around with me. And David Baldacci has a new book out…(The Innocent, April 2012).

VE: As a librarian, what’s your advice for us?

MT: Read for the pure pleasure of it.

Valerie Easton started her career as a librarian shelving books at Lake City Library when she was in high school. Now she writes full time, and has authored five books, including The New Low Maintenance Garden and her newest title Petal & Twig. She writes a weekly column and feature stories for Pacific Northwest magazine in the Seattle Times.


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Comments:

Posted Thu, Oct 25, 11:02 a.m. Inappropriate

Great! I am looking forward to this new column by Val Easton. The best questions to ask dinner guests is what new books they are reading; it gives instant insight into their personality. It will be fascinating to read this in winter months ahead.

Windcliff

Posted Tue, Oct 30, 6:05 p.m. Inappropriate

Let's hope they are more sophisticated readers than our head librarian.

AJ39

Posted Thu, Oct 25, 1:11 p.m. Inappropriate

I'm missing the U.S.'s great public libraries at the moment. Great book tips, and looking forward to more.

Posted Fri, Oct 26, 8:10 a.m. Inappropriate

Books and Gardens, Val Easton is a Northwest treasure always full of useful insight.

Mike Waller

MAW

Posted Fri, Oct 26, 1:54 p.m. Inappropriate

" I’m very much geographically challenged because I always read in the car when I was young. I never paid attention to where we were going."

My sister and I were huge back-seat readers. Apparently, when we were driving through Yellowstone, I had to ask which side of the car to look out when everyone exclaimed "There's an elk!" To this day, they insist I didn't want to take the time away from my book to look at both sides of the car.

sandik

Posted Sun, Oct 28, 5:15 p.m. Inappropriate

I'm going to love this column. The Q and A format works for me as well as Val's easy-going questions. Great vehicle to learn about what's a good read and why the interviewees think so, giving us an opportunity to learn more about them. I'm looking forward to seeing next week's story.

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