The Student News Site of Grand Valley State University

Grand Valley Lanthorn

The Student News Site of Grand Valley State University

Grand Valley Lanthorn

The Student News Site of Grand Valley State University

Grand Valley Lanthorn

The most popular books of 2023 at the Mary Idema Pew Library

GVL / Sam Nelson

There are 1,770,000 titles held in the Grand Valley State University library, a large library system that supports the campus community. Mary Idema Pew Library, which officially opened to the public on June 24, 2013, has a mass data collection of journals, books and style guides available for anyone connected to campus to reserve. There are a wide variety of books available for check out range including academic resources, adult nonfiction, fiction and other materials like CDs and DVDs available for students.

Business Liaison Librarian Cara Cadena said the university has rules for checking out different kinds of books, explaining the maximum amount of time a student can reserve a specific book varies. However, due to the popularity of online books, checking out physical books in print has significantly decreased at the Mary Idema Pew Library.
“Students can check out regular books for eight weeks and popular reading books for four weeks, so that is also a factor with these numbers,” Cadena said. “Our print circulation has been declining the

GVL / Sam Nelson

past several years as our users’ preferences lean more towards electronic (books).”

This could explain why the amount of physically reserved books from the library doesn’t exceed 20 checkouts, despite over 23,000 people having access to the library’s resources.

However, GVSU student Lauren Gilmore still likes to check out books at the GVSU library.

“Having a print book is way different than an online book, it just better,” Gilmore said.

The Mary Idema Pew Library provides check out records for the most popular books. The most popular books checked out at the GVSU Mary Idema Pew Library this year were primarily academic, pieces written about historical composites on a range of social issues, culture and music. Six out of the ten most checked-out books on campus in 2023 are academic.

Data from the Mary Idema Library was compiled into a list of the top 10 books reserved for the GVSU community during 2023. Below are the titles, authors and a brief synopsis of each book to provide an overview of the kinds of materials the GVSU community has spent the most time with last year.

  1. “The Norton Anthology of African American Literature” by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. – 26 checkouts

“The massive work gathers writings from six periods of black history: slavery and freedom; Reconstruction; the Harlem Renaissance; Realism, Naturalism and Modernism; the Black Arts Movement and the period since the 1970s,” according to the book’s description.

Henry Louis Gates, Jr. collected written pieces from over 120 historical African American authors and writers, giving readers the opportunity to learn from the most influential historical Black writing, as well as providing readers with exposure to the pioneers of Black American authorship. 

 2. “The Music Tree:  A Plan for Musical Growth at the Piano” by Frances Clark – 20 checkouts

A how-to piano book, “The Music Tree was written to help students learn a “variety of idioms encompassing folk, jazz, and pop. The creativity of the students is emphasized since they are given musical segments to rearrange, transpose, complete, or use as the basis for a new composition.”

“The Music Tree” is used frequently by students studying music and musical composition, often in entry level music classes at the university. Because the book is a how-to guide, students reserving it are able to follow along with author Frances Clark to learn more about composing music. Courses investigating music and music history are very popular at GVSU. Often, these kinds of courses are able to fulfill general education requirements from the university for a student with any major. 

Whether the students reserving this title are majoring in music or not, this book provides students with an easy-to-follow and easier-to-read explanation for a range of musical styles and genres when learning the piano.

  1. “The Jesuit Relations and Allied Documents: Travels and Explorations of the Jesuit Missionaries in New France, 1610-1791″  The original French, Latin, and Italian texts; with English translations and notes edited by Reuben Gold Thwaites – 14 checkouts

This collection of books and documents are centered around the Catholic Church and the influence it has. Throughout the book, Reuben Gold Thwaites discusses the history, rituals and writings that played a role in the creation of the largest Christian church in the world. 

Several documents and texts within this collection have been translated to English from their originally published language, providing background to students and scholars exploring global religious trends and history of the most powerful religious entity in the world. This book helps students or GVSU community members that are looking to explore origins and influences of Catholicism.

The book tackles how the role international social factors played in the establishment and development of the Church, including the religious importance of Vatican City in Rome, Italy.

  1. “I’m Glad my Mom Died” by Jennette McCurdy – 11 checkouts

As Jennette McCurdy was an influential part of many students’ childhoods due to her roles in popular 2010s kids’ TV shows like “iCarly” and “Sam & Cat,” it is no surprise the memoir made the most checked-out list on campus. 

The book is about how McCurdy was able to find both herself and stability within her life and “her struggles as a former child actor—including eating disorders, addiction, and a complicated relationship with her overbearing mother.” 

“I’m Glad my Mom Died” is based on the one-woman show of McCurdy’s life that she began touring in 2020, before everything was put on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

  1. “Conditional citizens: on Belonging in America” by Laila Lalami. – 11 checkouts

The author Laila Lalami wrote this book as an exploration of the “rights, liberties, and protections that are traditionally associated with American citizenship,” using her own experience as a Moroccan immigrant to a U.S. citizen to kickstart the work. 

The book is a historically significant piece of literature that walks the reader through the intrinsic workings of American immigration systems as well as providing readers with a personalized account to relate such processes with.

  1. “Atomic Habits: Tiny Changes, Remarkable Results: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones” by James Clear – 11 checkouts

 “Atomic Habits gives students and GVSU community members an outline to creating personal improvement and life strategies to follow. 

Throughout this literary work the author, James Clear, offers readers advice, tips and tricks to master small behaviors that can lead to a lifetime of bad-habit breaking, good-habit forming and practical strategies to produce a more improved sense of self and more organized life structure. 

This self-help book is a guide to personal improvement and many readers have felt Clear helped them to reframe their perspectives in a positive way, which creates lasting change in the trajectory of readers’ lives.

  1. “Pandora’s Locks: The Opening of the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Seaway” by Jeff Alexander – 8 checkouts

Jeff Alexander takes readers through the stories of the engineer and politicians that fought for the construction of the St. Lawrence Seaway. Alexander leads readers to see the historical relevance of the people involved that were “driven by hubris and handicapped by ignorance,” through the book’s storytelling and writing.

The historical book is especially relevant to Michigan, as it explores waterways connected to the state.

  1. “The Oboe” by Geoffrey Burgess and Bruce Haynes – 7 checkouts

This book examines the musical history of the instrument and the significance of oboe music in the 1600s. Geoffrey Burgess and Bruce Haynes take readers through the instruments’ prehistory and “subsequent development” in “The Oboe,” set in the mid-seventeenth century. 

  1. “Daisy Jones & the Six: a novel” by Taylor Jenkins Reid – 7 checkouts

This book was written by popular romance author Taylor Jenkins Reid, who also wrote the wildly popular “Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo.” Considering this, its popularity among students is not surprising and the story has even been evolved into a cinematic experience in Amazon Prime’s limited series adaptation of the same title. The story follows the rise of a rock group in the 1970s by telling the story of the lead singer, taking readers through the band’s mysterious and infamous breakup.

10. “Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow” by Gabrielle Zevin – 6 checkouts

This novel reimagines concepts of identity in multiple ways, creating a unique perspective of the human experience and the technologies, disabilities, failures and redemptions that go along with it. Intricately woven through the course of the novel, readers find that author Gabrielle Zevin hones in on themes relating to the innate human need for connection.

GVL / Sam Nelson
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About the Contributor
Emma Armijo, News Editor
Emma Armijo is the Lanthorn's News editor for the 2023-24 year. She previously worked with the Lanthorn for a year and a half as a news staff writer before joining the editorial team as the Arts and Entertainment editor in the winter of 2023. Emma enjoys all things creative like dance, music and drawing. Her aspirations after college include working as a professional in the dance industry and writing for a major print news organization, The New York Times. Graduating Winter 2025 Majors: Multimedia Journalism, Dance