I always thought the ‘90’s were cool 

The cover shows a handheld landline phone with a beige stretchy spiral cord; since the casing is clear plastic, all the inner mechanical parts are visible, in shades of turquoise, pink, orange, and yellow.

By Eric L.

Although, I’ve become more confident recently.  

The Nineties: A Book by Chuck Klosterman is written in an extremely entertaining, journalistic style, a look back at the decade that has become so “in,” it’s “out.” Although, like Klosterman, I am almost a “caricature” of a “Gen X” caricature, so this book is a bit of an easy sell to someone like me. This is one of those time periods when something culturally progressive was happening, and to some extent, I’m a product of that. The art I experienced played a part, but perhaps I had a predilection for this sort of thing.  

However, this book is not just for aging hipsters like me. Klosterman successfully argues that what we remember from the decade, the stereotypes, may be quite different from the reality. He alludes to the fact that we always misremember things, or rely on the stereotypes of decades to classify them easily in our minds.  

Klosterman does an excellent job of highlighting all the things that I personally remember as positive for society, but the anecdotes and examples made me realize we have similar taste and beliefs. The films and the music were a considerable influence on my taste and my social awareness. He also mentions that art about the lives of Black people was consumed by white audiences like never before. The independent films and music were different than most things I had experienced before. Klosterman makes the remarkably interesting argument that the local video rental store, and later the chains, gave birth to the working-class auteur. In short, they could browse and watch films (e.g. Citizen Kane, Chinatown) multiple times which may have been only previously shown at an art house theatre. 

That said, Klosterman points out that Titanic was the biggest movie of the decade, and this hardly qualifies as progressive art. Moreover, Tupac sold more records than Nirvana, and Garth Brooks sold more than both put together (and really birthed new country). So why is it that balding guys with cowboy hats and tight jeans are not proffered as 1990’s stereotypes? 

The extremely high approval rating for a “liberal” President who was a serial philanderer and predator does not jibe with the ethos of 2020. Klosterman even asks the question many now ask: if the Democratic Party is worse off because of the Clintons. I was particularly interested in the discussion of the most successful third-party candidate in a century. The fact that Ross Perot received 19 percent of the vote almost seems unfathomable now. How the United States kind of “meddled” in the 1996 Russian democratic election is also an interesting sidebar. 

There are too many interesting sidebars to mention, but many are things we may have forgotten. For example, Michael Jordan, the most successful basketball player ever, decided to play minor league baseball, primarily because he was bored and tired. It came as a shock to America that baseball players and cyclists were using performance enhancing drugs to put on superhuman performances. 

These things may seem like minutiae to some, but I feel as though these events help us understand current America just a little bit better. 

One of the most important chapters is “CTRL + ALT + DELETE” – extremely interesting in that it describes the way people, mostly tech people or insiders, viewed the internet in the 1990s. It reads like people selling a dream that became a nightmare, sadly. Academic careers are, and will be, built on how computers and the internet altered society, as we have only begun to appreciate the changes in our behavior. One of the most salient points Klosterman makes in the book is to consider the differences in America from 1960 to 1990, and then consider the differences in America from 1990 until 2020. Imagine disembarking from a time machine in 2020 from the year 1990. He discusses how some of us recall how the world worked before widespread computer and internet use and I’m obviously among these folks. To be sure, I appreciate all the things that have improved in my life, but I do long for the good ol’ days, too! 

As a ‘90’s hipster, I do feel that the idea of physical place is something that is particularly important to a stable democratic society. And I want to let you know we offer this at the library. A young lady borrowing numerous films said “hey” to me as if she knew me, and I’d forgotten that we had a brief discussion about films. She is likely Gen Z, but had a very ‘90’s look. She was borrowing a stack again, including some Wes Anderson, and I said, “Have you ever seen his first film, Bottle Rocket?” She had not. I said, “I think it’s his best, or my favorite, we have it over there.” Borrow it. I had never seen another film like it in 1995. 

Lastly, The Nineties: A Book is on our adult summer reading list (and also available in eBook and eAudiobook format via OverDrive/Libby). Another great reason to come by the branch and see us for our complete adult summer reading suggestions!

Eric is a DIY Instructor and Research Specialist at the Elkridge branch. He enjoys reading, films, music, doing nearly anything outside, and people.

Welcome, Summer Readers!

Summer Readers Have Fun!: read books, do activities, win prizes. Text appears atop a sketch of a campground or local park with two figures in a canoe on a lake and horseshoes in the bottom right-hand corner.

What are your plans this summer? Hopefully, they include the library and all the wonderful summer reading fun that begins June 1.

Readers of every age (yes, every age) play the same game and track their progress on a gameboard or online. Gameboards are available at all branches and to print on demand in English, Spanish, Korean, and simplified Chinese at hclibrary.org/summer.

  • READ BOOKS, including eBooks, audiobooks, graphic novels, and more. Reading can be substituted for any activity. We have book lists available for every age group from pre-K through adults.
  • DO ACTIVITIES, chosen from the list provided on the gameboard and online via ReadSquared. All activities can be repeated.
  • WIN PRIZES! Visit hclibrary.org/summer to find out how your age group wins prizes.

Once you complete any combination of reading and activities, you are eligible for prizes (which differ for various ages). Summer reading is sponsored by Friends & Foundation of HCLS, and it’s part of the A+ Partnership with Howard County Public School System.

Visit our branches!
Have you visited all six locations, each with its own individual specialty:

  • Makerspace and new children’s area, Glenwood Branch
  • Equity Resource Center, Central Branch
  • New flowers and other plants at the Enchanted Garden, Miller Branch
  • Teen area and classroom, East Columbia Branch
  • DIY tools and classes, Elkridge Branch
  • Recording booth and study rooms, Savage Branch

We have books and resources to make you swoon in beautiful buildings that stay cool as the temperatures pick up. Make regular visits part of your summer routine and summer memories.

Classes, activities, and events happen all summer!
We offer a full complement of fun classes and events for babies and kids, teens, and adults! Great group classes are available every day! Visit hclibrary.org > classes & events to find all the terrific choices. We’re planning outdoor classes, hands-on, creative activities, and STEM classes for all ages. And, look for community celebrations happening at our branches throughout the summer. Check hclibrary.org/summer for details, coming soon.

Just for fun (because summer readers like to have fun!), check out this video:

Tails and Tales: Summer Reading at HCLS

A green and blue chameleon rests on a red book. The yellow banner reads: Tailes and Tales.

Howard County Library System invites you to participate in Summer Reading 2021: Tails & Tales! It keeps your family motivated to read all summer as you accomplish Missions each week. Summer Reading began June 1, and it runs through August 23.

Track your reading and play fun educational mini-games as you complete missions full of activities. Discover HCLS eResources along the way. Earn ten points to receive a free book! Earn points by either logging your books online or in a paper reading log, and then visit any HCLS branch between August 2 – 31 to pick up your book. Limit one book per reader, while supplies last. 

Choose between two versions: one for birth to age 10 and the other for ages 11-17. More information and book lists available at hclibrary.org/summer.

You can set up accounts at hcls.readsquared.com to track your progress, or you can download and print the paper version (in multiple languages this year). Each Monday, a new Mission is available online. You can enjoy the tasks listed or you can Imagine Your Own 20-minute Reading Activity by reading any way you like: Read or listen to an eBook;  a book you can hold in your hand; a chapter; a comic or graphic novel; or read a poem.

When you reach a total of 10 points, you have officially completed Summer Reading and may visit any HCLS Branch to pick up your book prize. (While supplies last; limit 1 book per reader).  What happens after you earn 10 points? Keep on reading! Continue reading, logging books, and completing mission activities.  

HCLS ADULT SUMMER READING CHALLENGE 2021 

A book lies open in grass with a pair of reading glasses resting on top. The frames are blue and the arms are multi

Give yourself some time to read, relax and learn this summer with our Adult Summer Reading Challenge. We encourage you to read in whatever format you like best: audiobooks, eBooks, graphic novels, and hold-in-your-hands books! As above, you can either track your progress online, or you can download and print a paper version.

Earn two points for each book you log. Earn a total of ten points to be automatically entered into the end of summer prize drawing! Create your own summer reading challenges or use our list of suggestions. Details at hclibrary.org/summer