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Five Book Friday!

And a very happy National Doughnut Day, beloved patrons!

Via the National WWI Museum

While you’re enjoying your doughnut-related deals today, here’s a little history about the celebration itself.

National Doughnut Day began in 1938 as a fundraiser for the Chicago branch of the Salvation Army, both as a way to help those harmed by the Great Depression, and to honor the work of “Sallies”, or women volunteers who made doughnuts, served coffee, and administered to the enlisted of the First World War.

About 250 Salvation Army volunteers traveled to the Western Front to work in service huts where soldiers could have a hot meal and coffee while on rest. These huts were generally abandoned buildings or scrap-metal shacks, it was a real struggle to bake at all, or to do so in sufficient quantities.  Instead, two intrepid Salvation Army volunteers (Ensign Margaret Sheldon and Adjutant Helen Purviance) came up with the idea of providing doughnuts, which could be made and cooked quickly and easily regardless of the setting. These are reported to have been an “instant hit” with soldiers, and Margaret Sheldon wrote of one busy day: “Today I made 22 pies, 300 doughnuts, 700 cups of coffee.”

Although the doughnut subsequently became popularly associated with the American Army abroad, it is not, in fact, the reason soldiers were referred to as “Doughboys.”  That’s actually a nickname that has its origins in the Mexican-American War of 1846-7.

So enjoy your doughnuts, beloved patrons, and while you do so, spare a thought for the brave women who made it possible!

And now, on to the books!

The Truffle Underground: A Tale of Mystery, Mayhem, and Manipulation in the Shadowy Market of the World’s Most Expensive FungusIf you, like us, are fond of cooking shows and cookbooks, you’ll know that there are few things in the world that scream “luxury” like truffles.  But what on earth is a truffle?  And why do we care so much? In this delightful book, Ryan Jacobs takes us beneath the gloss of star chefs and crystal-laden tables, to where the truffle supply chain is touched by theft, secrecy, sabotage, and fraud. Farmers patrol their fields with rifles and fear losing trade secrets to spies. Hunters plant poisoned meatballs to eliminate rival truffle-hunting dogs. Naive buyers and even knowledgeable experts are duped by liars and counterfeits.  Deeply reported and elegantly written, this page-turning exposé documents the dark, sometimes deadly crimes at each level of the truffle’s path from ground to plate, making sense of an industry that traffics in scarcity, seduction, and cash. Through it all, a question lingers: What, other than money, draws people to these dirt-covered jewels? An adventure for gourmets, travel enthusiasts, and trivia alike, this is a book that Publisher’s Weekly called a “fascinating work . . . This deeply researched and eye-opening account of the lengths people will go for wealth, gratification, and a taste of the prized fungus will captivate readers.”

The Volunteer: National-Book-Award finalist Salvatore Scibona’s fascinating new novel opens when a small boy, speaking an unknown language, is abandoned by his father at an international airport, with only the clothes on his back and a handful of money jammed in the pocket of his coat. But in order to understand this heartbreaking and indefensible decision, the story must return to the moment, decades earlier, when a young man named Vollie Frade, almost on a whim, enlists in the United States Marine Corps to fight in Vietnam. Breaking definitively from his rural Iowan parents, Vollie puts in motion an unimaginable chain of events, which sees him go to work for insidious people with intentions he cannot yet grasp. From the Cambodian jungle, to a flophouse in Queens, to a commune in New Mexico, Vollie’s path traces a secret history of life on the margins of America, culminating with an inevitable and terrible reckoning. By turns moving, frightening, insightful, and captivating, this is a book that manages to be both intimate and epic.  The New York Times Book Review agreed, calling this novel “Thrilling… Scibona has built a masterpiece.”

The Lost Letters of William Woolf: Irish author Helen Cullen has crafted a delightful tale about the power of love and the written word that will hold appeal for mystery-lovers and romance readers alike. Inside the walls of the Dead Letters Depot, letter detectives work to solve mysteries. They study missing zip codes, illegible handwriting, rain-smudged ink, lost address labels, torn packages, forgotten street names—all the many twists of fate behind missed birthdays, broken hearts, unheard confessions, pointless accusations, unpaid bills, unanswered prayers. Their mission is to unite lost mail with its intended recipients. But when letters arrive addressed simply to “My Great Love,” longtime letter detective William Woolf faces his greatest mystery to date. Written by a woman to the soulmate she hasn’t met yet, the missives capture William’s heart in ways he didn’t know possible. Soon, he finds himself torn between the realities of his own marriage and his world of letters, and his quest to follow the clues becomes a life-changing journey of love, hope, and courage.  The Irish Times loved this book, sending it on its way by calling it  “Enchanting, intriguing, deeply moving.”

Geek Girls Don’t Cry: Real-Life Lessons From Fictional Female Characters: What does it mean for a woman to be strong—especially in a world where our conception of a “hero” is still so heavily influenced by male characters and superheroes like Batman, Spider-Man, and Superman?  Here’s a book that takes its lessons from the great heroines and women heroes of fiction, offering advice tailor-made for fans of any age. Andrea Towers, who works in public relations at Marvel Entertainment, outlines some of the primary traits heroic women can call upon, like resilience, self-acceptance, and bravery, pulling in stories from real-life women as well as figures from the pop-culture pantheon. She also interviews the creators of our favorite fictional heroines, who discuss how they drew from their own experiences to develop these protagonists and how, conversely, their own creations continue to inspire them.  As much fun for heroines, women heroes, and those in training as it is for those looking for a behind-the-scenes glimpse of the making of comics and comic stories, this is a book that earned a starred review from Booklist, who celebrated “In a market flush with biographical anthologies of awesome, powerful, and sometimes unknown women, Towers’ book stands out, and not just because the women she discusses do not technically exist. She puts the creative in creative nonfiction as she takes the biographical details of fictional female characters and associates them with various real-life issues to empower and comfort readers.”

The Favorite Daughter: Readers looking for a gripping thriller to add to their beach bag or travel case, look no further.  Kaira Rouda’s newest novel is being hailed as one of the highlights of the early summer. Jane Harris lives in a sparkling home in an oceanfront gated community in Orange County. It’s a place that seems too beautiful to be touched by sadness. But exactly one year ago, Jane’s oldest daughter, Mary, died in a tragic accident and Jane has been grief-stricken ever since. Lost in a haze of anti-depressants, she’s barely even left the house. Now that’s all about to change.  It’s time for Jane to reclaim her life and her family. Jane’s husband, David, has planned a memorial service for Mary and three days later, their youngest daughter, Betsy, graduates high school. Yet as Jane reemerges into the world, it’s clear her family has changed without her. Her husband has been working long days—and nights—at the office. Her daughter seems distant, even secretive. And her beloved Mary was always such a good girl—dutiful and loving. But does someone know more about Mary, and about her last day, than they’ve revealed? How far will Jane go to find the truth?  Find out in this book that earned a starred review from Publisher’s Weekly, who called it “An exceptional psychological thriller.”

 

Until next week, beloved patrons–happy reading!

Five Book Friday!

With June starting in just a few short hours, dear patrons, it’s time to start celebrating all that summer in New England has to offer.  And if you’re looking for some more fun things to celebrate, here are some fun (and some downright quirky) days for you to plan a party!

June 4: Old Maid’s Day: Founded in 1948  by Marion Richards of Jeffersonville, Pennsylvania, this day was intended to counter the high rate of weddings in the month of June with a celebration of the accomplishments of unmarried women.

June 9: National Donald Duck Day: In honor of the first appearance the sailor-suited Disney Duck in the 1934 film The Wise Little Hen.  In LA Mayor Tom Bradley proclaimed the first National Donald Duck Day.  In return, Donald himself gave the city a silver statue of himself as a gift in memory of the big day!

June 14: National Strawberry Shortcake Day: In addition to flag day, this is also apparently a day to celebrate (and savor) a great summertime desert!  Although we couldn’t locate the origins of National Strawberry Shortcake Day, it appears that you can share your own experiences and celebrations with the hashtag #StrawberryShortcakeDay.

June 19: Juneteenth: It should be a national holiday, but until it is, we’ll be advocating a commemoration of official end of the institution of slavery in the United States. The celebration originated in Texas when Major General Gordon Granger made a public declaration in Galveston, Texas, that according to General Orders, Number 3, the Civil War was over and all slaves were now freed.  The long legacy of slavery remains very much a part of the US’s past and present, but this day marks an important milestone in American history nonetheless.

June 21: The First Day of Summer: In the Northern Hemisphere,  the summer solstice is when the Sun reaches its highest position in the sky and is the day with the longest period of daylight.  A day of religious, cultural, and social significance, this is the official beginning of a period of long days and (hopefully) new adventures!  We wish you all a very happy summer!

And now…on to the books (which is always a reason to celebrate!)

RebelBeverly Jenkins is a queen of the romance genre, and her new releases are always a cause for celebration.  In this first book in her Women Who Dare series, Jenkins introduces us to Valinda Lacy, whose mission in the steamy heart of New Orleans is to help the newly emancipated community survive and flourish. But soon she discovers that here, freedom can also mean danger. When thugs destroy the school she has set up and then target her, Valinda runs for her life—and straight into the arms of Captain Drake LeVeq. As an architect from an old New Orleans family, Drake has a deeply personal interest in rebuilding the city. Raised by strong women, he recognizes Valinda’s determination. And he can’t stop admiring—or wanting—her. But when Valinda’s father demands she return home to marry a man she doesn’t love, her daring rebellion draws Drake into an irresistible intrigue.  Jenkins doesn’t shy away from the difficult periods of American history, or the very real struggles of Black men and women in the period she discusses, but those elements only enrich her stories with real humanity, and make the powerful, redemptive love stories at their heart that much more important!  Library Journal loved this book, celebrating how “Post–Civil War New Orleans comes to violent life in the hands of a veteran writer and delivers a vibrant, instructive, totally romantic historical tale that will resonate with many readers today. Beautifully done.”

Becoming Dr. Seuss: Theodor Geisel and the Making of an American ImaginationDr. Seuss is a classic American icon. Whimsical and wonderful, his work has defined childhoods for generations. The silly, simple rhymes are a bottomless well of magic, his illustrations timeless favorites, and his wit endlessly enjoyable. Agonizing over word choices and rhymes, touching up drawings sometimes for years, he upheld a rigorous standard of perfection for his work. Geisel took his responsibility as a writer for children seriously, talking down to no reader, no matter how small.  Theodor Geisel, however, had a second, more radical side.  He had a successful career as an advertising man and then as a political cartoonist, his personal convictions appearing, not always subtly, throughout his books.  Geisel was a complicated man on an important mission. He introduced generations to the wonders of reading while teaching young people about empathy and how to treat others well.  In this fascinating biography. Brian Jay Jones gives us a glimpse into the many sides of Geisel’s character and artistry, allowing his adoring readers to see him as a well-rounded, complex, and fascinating individual.  NPR waxed rhapsodical about this book, declaring that Jones’ work is “perhaps the most complete, multidimensional look at the life of one of the most beloved authors and illustrators of our time…Jones goes above and beyond to contextualize Geisel in the larger picture at every moment of his life. [A] fascinating read that discusses the origin of the humorous, simple rhymes, bizarre creatures, and magic that characterized Geisel’s books while also showing the author’s more radical side as an unemployed wanderer who abandoned his doctoral studies, a successful advertising man, and a political cartoonist.”

MiddlegameSeanan McGuire’s imagination is seemingly endless, which is phenomenal news for her fans!  In this new stand-alone novel, we meet Roger–skilled with words, languages come easily to him. He instinctively understands how the world works through the power of story.  There is also Dodger, his twin. Numbers are her world, her obsession, her everything. All she understands, she does so through the power of math. Roger and Dodger aren’t exactly human, though they don’t realize it. They aren’t exactly gods, either. Not entirely. Not yet.  And finally, there is Reed, skilled in the alchemical arts like his progenitor before him. Reed created Dodger and her brother. He’s not their father. Not quite. But he has a plan: to raise the twins to the highest power, to ascend with them and claim their authority as his own.  Fans of Lev Grossman’s The Magicians will be pleased to hear that McGuire’s book is drawing lots of favorable comparisons to that series, and Booklist called it “an ambitious piece of world building from a master of the craft . . . thoroughly engaging.”

Deep Past: Eugene Linden’s book will appeal to science fiction readers and thriller fans alike, providing one of those intriguing summertime escapes we all crave at times. A routine dig in Kazakhstan takes a radical turn for thirty-two-year-old anthropologist Claire Knowland when a stranger turns up at the site with a bizarre find from a remote section of the desolate Kazakh Steppe. Her initial skepticism of this mysterious discovery gives way to a realization that the find will shake the very foundations of our understanding of evolution and intelligence.  Corrupt politics of Kazakhstan force Claire to take reckless chances with the discovery.  Among the allies she gathers in her fight to save herself and bring the discovery to light is Sergei Anachev, a brilliant but enigmatic Russian geologist who becomes her unlikely protector even as he deals with his own unknown crisis. Ultimately, Claire finds herself fighting not just for the discovery and her academic reputation, but for her very life as great power conflict engulfs the unstable region and an unscrupulous oligarch attempts to take advantage of the chaos. Linden himself has written several books on human evolution, so this is book, in the word of Lee Child (who wrote a blurb for it), is “An excellent thriller with real meat on the bones … makes you think as well as sweat.”

Professor Chandra Follows His Bliss: Rajeev Balasubramanyam has given us a delightful new curmudgeon to meet in this novel about finding ourselves in a world that seems to be moving too fast for introspection. Professor Chandra is an internationally renowned economist, divorced father of three (quite frankly baffling) children, recent victim of a bicycle hit-and-run—but so much more than the sum of his parts. In the moments after the accident, Professor Chandra doesn’t see his life flash before his eyes but his life’s work. He’s just narrowly missed the Nobel Prize (again), and even though he knows he should get straight back to his pie charts, his doctor has other ideas. All this work. All this success. All this stress. It’s killing him. He needs to take a break, start enjoying himself. In short, says his doctor, he should follow his bliss. Professor Chandra doesn’t know it yet, but he’s about to embark on the journey of a lifetime. A sensational story that manages to balance introspection and humor with elegance, Library Journal declared this book a “joyful, heartwarming novel . . . Balasubramanyam invests it with compassion, humor, and kindness. . . . Recommended for anyone looking for a satisfying, uplifting read.”

 

Until next week, beloved patrons–Happy Reading!

Some Advice For Your Summer Reading…

Today, we bring you some advice we first featured here in 2016.  A number of patrons come in with questions about how to care for their books during their summer sojourns, so we thought we’d bring this post back to help you get the best out of your summer and your summer reading picks!Summer-Reading-Guide-HERO

It’s getting to be that time of year again, dear readers, when we all begin looking around for books to take with us on our summer getaways, our beach days, or our ‘staycation’ days.  And, once again, your friendly neighborhood library staff are here to help you find that perfect book to take with you on your adventures, be they far-flung expeditions, or cozy retreats.

But traveling with books can be a little stressful.  Sand and sun and dirt and bug spray can all be dangerous for wee little innocent books.  We want to prolong their lives as long as possible, so that they can be enjoyed by a wide array of patrons, right?  So here is a quick tip that can help you and your books have a low-stress and fun summer…

One very general recommendation that we would like to make is that library books are very much like sandwiches: it’s much harder to enjoy them if they are sandy, or dunked in water (or carried off by a seagull, but that’s another story for another day).  So take care of your books the same way you would your lunch, as both are usually imperative to enjoying your vacation thoroughly.

It’s not a bad idea to put your books in a plastic bag (as long as both bag and book are 100% dry) in order to protect it from the elements.  You can also keep it safe in your cooler (again, ensuring that it remains dry), to protect it from sun, spray, and seagull damage.  Sand and dirt make sandwiches a little…gritty.  And they don’t make books too happy, either, so do your best to keep your books and your food above the ground at all times.  Treating your book like your sandwich ensures that all our books have a long and healthy life, and get to go on lots of adventures with lots of patrons, so everyone wins!

We wish you the best in your summer excursions, beloved patrons–and happy reading!

Summer Staff Picks!

Image result for summer reading beach

It’s that time of year again, beloved patrons, when we here at the Library share our summer reading selections!  Our library–and, indeed, the other NOBLE libraries–are fortunate indeed to be staffed with librarians of diverse reading, viewing, and listening habits, and in this series of weekly blog posts, we plan to bring you some of the titles they have recently enjoyed to help you choose your next favorite book, film, or album.

This year, we decided to extend our request for reading recommendations to the wider NOBLE network, and have been delighted to get a number of responses from library staff across the area.  This means not only do we have the chance to offer you a wealth of new recommendations from new Library staff members, but also we get to encourage you to visit all the libraries in the NOBLE network!  We hope you find plenty to enjoy in these recommendations, beloved patrons–feel free to let us know where your summer plans take you, and what literary, cinematic, or music adventures you enjoy!


From the Teen Room:

Bloom by Kevin Panetta, illustrated by Savanna Ganucheau: Now that high school is over, Ari is dying to move to the big city with his ultra-hip band―if he can just persuade his dad to let him quit his job at their struggling family bakery. Though he loved working there as a kid, Ari cannot fathom a life wasting away over rising dough and hot ovens. But while interviewing candidates for his replacement, Ari meets Hector, an easygoing guy who loves baking as much as Ari wants to escape it. As they become closer over batches of bread, love is ready to bloom . . . that is, if Ari doesn’t ruin everything.
From our staff: Bloom is a YA graphic novel about a teenage boy, Ari, who works in his family’s bakery. Ari wants desperately to move with his band and leave the bakery behind, but a budding summer romance with his new co-worker, Hector, makes him rethink his decision. The art by Savanna Ganucheau gives the story a cinematic quality, and the chemistry between Ari and Hector is so natural you will be rooting for them all the way.


From the West Branch: 

The Music Shop by Rachel Joyce, narrated by Steven Hartley: It is 1988. On a dead-end street in a run-down suburb there is a music shop that stands small and brightly lit, jam-packed with records of every kind. Like a beacon, the shop attracts the lonely, the sleepless, and the adrift; Frank, the shop’s owner, has a way of connecting his customers with just the piece of music they need. Then, one day, into his shop comes a beautiful young woman, Ilse Brauchmann, who asks Frank to teach her about music. Terrified of real closeness, Frank feels compelled to turn and run, yet he is drawn to this strangely still, mysterious woman with eyes as black as vinyl. But Ilse is not what she seems, and Frank has old wounds that threaten to reopen, as well as a past it seems he will never leave behind. Can a man who is so in tune with other people’s needs be so incapable of connecting with the one person who might save him?
From our staff:  I was initially introduced to this author because I read The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry for the Torigian Center Book Discussion.  It was a book I wouldn’t have chosen for myself but loved so much that I found myself looking for other books by the author.  I wasn’t disappointed with The Music Shop!  From the two books I’ve read by Joyce, she seems to weave interesting stories that are based on quirky characters who become a makeshift family throughout the story. This one is set in the late 1980s which was the time of my coming of age following high school.  I am a music lover so the setting and theme of the story were very appealing and nostalgic too as it revolves around the store owner’s commitment to vinyl records and eschews the change to CD.  It was a great story and I plan to read more of this author!


From the Public Service Desk (Main Branch): 

The Disaster Artist: My Life inside The Room, the Greatest Bad Movie Ever Made, written by Greg Sestero and Tom Bissell, read by Greg Sostero: In 2003, an independent film called The Room–starring and written, produced, directed by a mysteriously wealthy social misfit of indeterminate age and origin named Tommy Wiseau–made its disastrous debut in Los Angeles. Described by one reviewer as “like getting stabbed in the head,” the six-million-dollar film earned a grand total of $1800 at the box office and closed after two weeks. Ten years later, The Room is an international cult phenomenon. Thousands of fans wait in line for hours to attend screenings complete with costumes, audience rituals, merchandising, and thousands of plastic spoons. In this heartfelt, but blazingly honest memoir, actor Greg Sestero, Tommy’s costar and longtime best friend, recounts the film’s long, strange journey to infamy, unraveling mysteries for fans, as well as the question that plagues the uninitiated: how the hell did a movie this awful ever get made?
From Our Staff:  Greg Sestero is a marvelous audiobook performer!  His impressions, accents, and timing are terrific.  I was already a fan of The Room (I mean, insofar as one can be a fan of it…), but I think this audiobook would appeal even to those who have not seen it.  Greg’s story is a coming-of-age tale, an intriguing look into the inner workings of the movie business, and a wholly originally memoir about friendship and discovery that is worth a listen!  For the record, I thought the film was a pretty lame adaptation of this book, but it’s still a fun watch in and of itself.


Until next week, beloved patrons–enjoy your summer reading!

Five Book Friday!

Happy Friday, beloved patrons!  And very hearty congratulations to Jokha Alharthi, author of Celestial Bodies who was awarded the 2019 Man Booker International Prize this week!  The ceremony posted this video on Twitter to share the event with all of us:

Alharthi is not only the first Arab woman to win the Man Booker International Prize, but she is also the first female Omani novelist to have her book translated into English.  Celestial Bodies is set in the village of al-Awafi in Oman, where we encounter three sisters: Mayya, who marries Abdallah after a heartbreak; Asma, who marries from a sense of duty; and Khawla who rejects all offers while waiting for her beloved, who has emigrated to Canada. These three women and their families witness Oman evolve from a traditional, slave-owning society which is slowly redefining itself after the colonial era, to the crossroads of its complex present. Elegantly structured and taut, it tells of Oman’s coming-of-age through the prism of one family’s losses and loves.

Arabic author Jokha Alharthi (L) and translator Marilyn Booth after winning the Man Booker International Prize for Celestial Bodies in London on May 21, 2019
Via The BBC

Alharthi shares the award of £50,000 ($63,000) with her translator,  American academic Marilyn Booth.  In a statement quoted by the BBC, Alharthi said “I am thrilled that a window has been opened to the rich Arabic culture…Oman inspired me but I think international readers can relate to the human values in the book – freedom and love.”

We are delighted for both Jokha Alharthi and Marilyn Booth!

And now, on to some of the wonderful books that have graced our own shelves this week:

Sisters and Rebels: A Struggle for the Soul of America: Descendants of a prominent slaveholding family, Elizabeth, Grace, and Katharine Lumpkin grew up in a culture of white supremacy. But while Elizabeth remained a lifelong believer, her younger sisters chose vastly different lives. Seeking their fortunes in the North, Grace and Katharine reinvented themselves as radical thinkers whose literary works and organizing efforts brought the nation’s attention to issues of region, race, and labor.  Utilizing decades of archival research and interviews with the family, National Humanities Award–winning historian Jacquelyn Dowd Hall follows the divergent paths of the Lumpkin sisters, tracing the wounds and unsung victories of the past through to the contemporary moment, Hall revives a buried tradition of Southern expatriation and progressivism; explores the lost, revolutionary zeal of the early twentieth century; and muses on the fraught ties of sisterhood.  Kirkus Reviews gave this work a starred review, applauding how these “Sharply etched biographical portraits focus a compelling history.”

The Scent of Murder: Fan-favorite author Kylie Logan launches a new mystery series that moves away from her previous cozy mysteries into a more hard-boiled procedural that is sure to earn her a wealth of new fans.  The way Jazz Ramsey figures it, life is pretty good. She’s thirty-five years old and owns her own home in one of Cleveland’s most diverse, artsy, and interesting neighborhoods. She has a job she likes as an administrative assistant at an all-girls school, and a volunteer interest she’s passionate about―Jazz is a cadaver dog handler. Jazz is working with Luther, a cadaver dog in training. Luther is still learning cadaver work, so Jazz is putting him through his paces at an abandoned building that will soon be turned into pricey condos. When Luther signals a find, Jazz is stunned to see the body of a young woman who is dressed in black and wearing the kind of make-up and jewelry that Jazz used to see on the Goth kids back in high school. She’s even more shocked when she realizes that beneath the tattoos and the piercings and all that pale make up is a familiar face. The lead detective on the case is an old lover, and the murdered woman is an old student. Jazz finds herself sucked into the case, obsessed with learning the truth. An intense, engaging mystery, with a phenomenal sense of place, this is a series to watch!  Booklist agrees, noting that “The city itself is a character, transforming from its usual stereotype of a flyover city to a setting of intrigue. Dog lovers will enjoy the relationship between Jazz and her pets, and they’ll learn something about cadaver dogs as Jazz brings a killer to justice.”

Springtime in a Broken Mirror: The late Mario Benedetti’s work has been celebrated as among the best of his generation, drawing comparisons with other Latin American writers as Gabriel García Márquez, Carlos Fuentes.  This book, which is finally available in an English translation, deals with Santiago, a political prisoner in Uruguay, who was jailed after a brutal military coup that saw many of his comrades flee elsewhere. Santiago, feeling trapped, can do nothing but write letters to his family and try to stay sane. Far away, his nine-year-old daughter Beatrice wonders at the marvels of 1970s Buenos Aires, but her grandpa and mother—Santiago’s beautiful, careworn wife, Graciela—struggle to adjust to a life in exile.  This is a powerful book that sheds light on the ways in which world events shape and influence the lives and relationships of individuals, told in tender, heartfelt, and wrenchingly honest prose. Publisher’s Weekly gave it a starred review, calling it a “rich, heartbreaking novel. . . . Benedetti’s tender yet unflinching portrait of a family in the crushing straits of history is a welcome addition to the small (and hopefully growing) catalogue of his work that has been translated into English.”

The Confessions of Frannie LangtonSara Collins debut novel is drawing comparisons to Margaret Atwood’s Alias Grace, which is reason enough for us to look forward to reading it, but the description of this book grabbed our attention all on its own.  All of London is abuzz with the scandalous case of Frannie Langton, accused of the brutal double murder of her employers, renowned scientist George Benham and his eccentric French wife, Marguerite. Crowds pack the courtroom, eagerly following every twist, while the newspapers print lurid theories about the killings and the mysterious woman being tried at the Old Bailey. The testimonies against Frannie are damning. She is a seductress, a witch, a master manipulator, a whore. But Frannie claims she cannot recall what happened that fateful evening, even if remembering could save her life. She doesn’t know how she came to be covered in the victims’ blood. But she does have a tale to tell: a story of her childhood on a Jamaican plantation, her apprenticeship under a debauched scientist who stretched all bounds of ethics, and the events that brought her into the Benhams’ London home—and into a passionate and forbidden relationship. Though her testimony may seal her conviction, the truth will unmask the perpetrators of crimes far beyond murder and indict the whole of English society itself. Collins confronts the darkest parts of history and our humanity in this book with heart and integrity, and her work has earned a starred review from Kirkus Reviews, who called it “a bold and vibrant jolt to both the gothic and historical fiction genres. . . . Most of all, she has created in her title character a complex, melancholy, and trenchantly observant protagonist. . . . [a] gripping, groundbreaking debut.”

The Organs of Sense: Adam Ehrlich Sachs’ fiction debut is a delightfully absurd, joyfully imaginative romp through a re-imagined historical moment that will hold appeal for fans across a number of genres.  Set in 1666, the story begins when an astronomer makes a prediction shared by no one else in the world: at the stroke of noon on June 30 of that year, a solar eclipse will cast all of Europe into total darkness for four seconds. This astronomer is rumored to be using the longest telescope ever built, but he is also known to be blind; both his eyes having been plucked out some time before under mysterious circumstances. Is he mad? Or does he, despite this impairment, have an insight denied the other scholars of his day These questions intrigue the young Gottfried Leibniz―not yet the world-renowned polymath who would go on to discover calculus, but a nineteen-year-old whose faith in reason is shaky at best. Leibniz sets off to investigate the astronomer’s claim, and over the three hours remaining before the eclipse occurs―or fails to occur―the astronomer tells the scholar the haunting and hilarious story behind his strange prediction: a tale that ends up encompassing kings and princes, family squabbles, obsessive pursuits, insanity, philosophy, art, loss, and the horrors of war. This is a surprisingly deep little novel that hides its wisdom inside a tale rife with humor.  Library Journal adored it, giving it a starred review and celebrating how it is “filled with delightful tales of palace intrigue, sibling rivalry, and extensive forays into empirical thought and logic. Deep philosophy is applied to nearly everything that pops up, including the eating of soup. Yet despite these heavy themes, Sachs applies a liberal does of clever humor throughout; nearly everyone is a charlatan in what might be the most lighthearted work about the history of science ever published.”

Until next week, beloved patrons–Happy Reading!

Looking Ahead: Summer Programming!

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If you are anything like us, beloved patrons, today’s summer sunshine is a welcome relief from the rain and chill of the past month, and a bright reminder that summer is, actually just around the proverbial corner!  As such, we’re taking a look through out summer programming and getting terribly excited about the upcoming events, classes, and performances that will be coming to the Main Library and Branches in the month of June!  Take a look at some of the highlights below to see what we mean!

And please let us know what classes and programs you would like to see offered at the Library in the future.  We are here for you, so be sure to let us know your needs!

You can register for these programs on our website, by calling the library that is hosting the program, or by coming in and speaking to a friendly member of staff.  We look forward to seeing you at the Library soon!


At the Main Library

Monday, June 24, 7:00 – 8:00pm: Hikes Through History

A hike is more than a stroll through the woods when you know how the land was used in the past. In Massachusetts, many parks and trails have been carved out of historical sites, including Native villages, industrial sites, or grand estates.  Author/speaker Alison O’Leary, coauthor of the Appalachian Mountain Club’s Best Day Hikes Near Boston, will share her favorites through this hour-long program. Using maps and historic photos, she describes many day trip destinations with historical significance and interesting features in Eastern Massachusetts. Special effort is made to include varying levels of difficulty (flat and easy to steep and challenging) and variety of scenery. Best Day Hikes Near Boston (AMC Press 2017) is the second hiking book O’Leary has published; her first was Inns & Adventures: A History and Explorer’s Guide to New Hampshire, Vermont, and the Berkshires, coauthored with Michael Tougias (OnCape Publishing 2015). Their other coauthored book is So Close to Home: The True Story of an American Family’s Fight for Survival in WWII. In 2017 she won the Silver Charlie Award from the Florida Magazine Association for history writing.
This event is generously sponsored by The Friends of the Peabody Institute Libraries.


In the Creativity Lab

Monday, June 3: 6:30 – 8:30pm: Make Your Own Bumper Sticker

Learn how to use the Creativity Lab’s vinyl cutter to create professional-quality weatherproof bumper stickers that you can design yourself! Whether you want to write a message, cut a logo, or draw something from scratch, you can make it here.   This two-week class is for ages 9-adult. Space is limited so please sign up soon!


In the Teen Room

Wednesday, June 5: 6:30 – 8:30pm: Open Mic Night

Come share your songs, your stories, your poems, and your jokes at the library’s Open Mic Night!  Whether you’re a musician, storyteller, writer, comedian, or other type of entertainer, the mic is yours. The sign-up sheet goes out at 6 p.m., and performers can sign up on a first-come-first-serve basis.  And if performing’s really not your thing, that’s okay.  Come hang out, drink coffee, and support some inspiring local talent.   All ages welcome!  Hosted by Molly Pinto Madigan

 


At the West Branch

 

Tuesday, June 4: 6:30pm – 8:00pm: Let’s Talk About Social Security

Gilbert A. Gallant Jr., CFP, ChFC, MBA from Ledgewood Financial will be here to talk about the basics of Social Security benefits and to discuss strategies for claiming benefits. Join us to learn more about this important benefit. If you are considering retiring soon, this information may be a key for setting your goals. Registration is required. Space is limited. Call 978-935-3354 or email Kbryant@noblenet.org for more information and to register.


At the South Branch

Thursday, June 13, 7:00 – 8:00pm: Eating the Rainbow–Making Colorful Gnocchi

Easy to freeze and great in soup or on their own, gnocchi is a versatile pasta that is easier to make than you think! In this one hour class, Peabody native, Linda Sessa will teach participants how to make gnocchi with different vegetable bases such as avocados, spinach, and beets for eye-catching meals.  We ask that you please bring a cutting board as you will be joining in on all the fun! Participants may also want to consider bringing an apron.  Please Note: We will be using traditional wheat flour, so this is not a gluten-free event.  Space is limited and registration is required.


Happy Summer, beloved patrons!  We look forward to seeing you at the Library!

Five Book Friday!

And today, we mark with a heavy heart the passing of I.M. Pei, internationally-renowned architect and MIT alum, at the venerable age of 102.

Image result for im pei
I.M. Pei, via ArchDaily

Ieoh Ming Pei was born in Guangzhou China, to a family that could trace their lineage to the Ming Dynasty, and made their fortune in medicinal herbs.  He was raised in Hong Kong and Shanghai, and despite being unable to speak English, he decided to matriculate to the University of Pennsylvania to study architecture.  UPenn, however, was a program that remained focused on the Beaux-Arts period of architecture (think 18th and 19th century Parisian architecture), and Pei wanted something more modern.  He transferred to MIT, graduating in 1940.  He enrolled in Harvard School of Design for a graduate degree, but less than a month after starting the program, he suspended his work in order to join the National Defense Research Committee, which coordinated scientific research into US weapons technology during World War II. Pei’s background in architecture made him a valuable asset to the program.  As he was told by a fellow committee member, “If you know how to build you should also know how to destroy.”  Following the war, Pei returned to Harvard, and worked with Walter Gropius and Marcel Breuer, both leaders of the Bauhaus philosophy of architecture (a modernist movement that was influenced by arts and crafts design), which had been banned by the Nazi government.

Soon after the end of the Second World War, Pei’s career took off, and he was inundated with requests for projects and buildings.  One of the most important of his career was the John F. Kennedy library in Boston.  Although the design itself had to be modified due to location and planning trouble, the building launched Pei into the architectural stratosphere.  He would go on to design the Hancock Tower in Boston, as well as the glass pyramid outside the Louvre in Paris.  For more on Pei’s remarkable life, architectural ethos, and design history check out this fabulous selection of books available through the NOBLE network, or check with your favorite Public Services Staff to learn more.  You can also read The New York Times’ article on Pei’s Most Important Buildings, as well as the BBC’s coverage, which includes links to articles that highlight Pei’s long and storied career.  We join the world in acknowledging the work and life of this remarkable and charming man, and rejoice in the memories his building evoke.

And now, on to the books!

A Sin by Any Other Name: Reckoning with Racism and the Heritage of the South: The Reverend Robert W. Lee, descendant of Confederate General Robert E. Lee, was a little-known pastor at a small church in North Carolina until the Charlottesville protests, when he went public with his denunciation of white supremacy in a captivating speech at the MTV Video Music Awards. Support poured in from around the country, but so did threats of violence from people who opposed the Reverend’s message. In this riveting memoir, he narrates what it was like growing up as a Lee in the South, an experience that was colored by the world of the white Christian majority. He describes the widespread nostalgia for the Lost Cause and his gradual awakening to the unspoken assumptions of white supremacy which had, almost without him knowing it, distorted his values and even his Christian faith. In particular, Lee examines how many white Christians continue to be complicit in a culture of racism and injustice, and how after leaving his pulpit, he was welcomed into a growing movement of activists all across the South who are charting a new course for the region.  This powerful memoir, headed by a foreword by Rev. Dr. Bernice A. King, is a timely exploration of American culture and religion that Publisher’s Weekly called a “revealing memoir . . . open minded readers will appreciate Lee’s perspective on race in America as well as his story of working to overcome division, bigotry, and his own family’s fraught history.”

City of JasmineGerman author Olga Grjasnowa’s latest novel is one that doesn’t turn away from the heartbreak and horror of war, but also manages to focus on the light and humanity that can be present alongside it.  When Hammoudi, a young surgeon based in Paris, returns to Syria to renew his passport, he only expects to stay there a few days. But the authorities refuse to let him leave and Hammoudi finds himself caught up in the fight against the regime. Meanwhile, budding actress Amal has also joined the protests against the government and her own father, by whom she feels betrayed. Realising that they will never again be safe in their homeland, Amal and her boyfriend Youssef decide to flee to Europe in a desperate bid to survive.  But the path to safety brings its own risks, and Amal and Youssef once again narrowly escape death when their overcrowded ship sinks. Eventually they reach Germany, but soon discover that in this new life – where they are perceived as nothing but refugees – their struggle is far from over. Grjasnowa’s books have received rave reviews across Europe, and Library Journal noted that she “provides a close-as-skin understanding of what it’s like to suffer bombardment, torture, and dislocation while remaining human and hopeful… Highly recommended.”

Exhalation: Stories: Fans of the blockbuster film Arrival, which was based on one of Ted Chiang’s short stories, will be delighted to hear that a new collection of his tales have arrived, all of which focus on humanity’s longest and deepest questions through fantasy, science fiction, and a rich love of language. In “The Merchant and the Alchemist’s Gate,” a portal through time forces a fabric seller in ancient Baghdad to grapple with past mistakes and second chances. In “Exhalation,” an alien scientist makes a shocking discovery with ramifications that are literally universal. In “Anxiety Is the Dizziness of Freedom,” the ability to glimpse into alternate universes necessitates a radically new examination of the concepts of choice and free will. These stories span Chiang’s career, and earned a rave review from Joyce Carol Oates in the New Yorker, where she wrote “Chiang has explored conventional tropes of science fiction in highly unconventional ways. . . . Individual sentences possess the windowpane transparency that George Orwell advocated as a prose ideal. . . . It is both a surprise and a relief to encounter fiction that explores counterfactual worlds like these with . . . ardor and earnestness. . . . Human curiosity, for Chiang, is a nearly divine engine of progress.”

Game of Bones: Carolyn Haines’ latest mystery featuring southern private investigator Sarah Booth Delaney has a very timely title, but her humor and flair for small-town settings set this series well apart from the current HBO show.  Dr. Frank Hafner is an archeologist working on excavating a new-found Native American temple site in the Mississippi Delta. He’s also too handsome for his own good, and a bit of a flirt. Oddly enough, it’s the first quality that gets him in trouble when he discovers the ritualistic murder of one of his archeological crew. When Coleman Peters, Sheriff and Sarah Booth’s boyfriend, takes Dr. Hafner in for questioning in the murder, the accused doctor hires Sarah Booth to clear his name. Soon, Sarah Booth has uncovered a number of possible suspects, but she can’t narrow them down fast enough to stem the continuing violence that seems to trace back to Dr. Hafner’s dig. When Peter Deerstalker, a member of the Tunica tribe, mentions a curse, it doesn’t seem so far-fetched–especially when a young graduate student on the site claims someone on the site is searching for something much more precious than ancient pottery.  Something supernatural seems to be lurking in the Mississippi Delta, and it’s up to Sarah to determine the truth of the matter in this mystery that earned high praise from Publisher’s Weekly, who noted that “Distinctive characters and an atmospheric setting elevate this paranormal cozy. Series fans and newcomers alike will be satisfied.”

The Reckoning: Fans of Icelandic noir most likely know about Yrsa Sigurdardottir’s phenomenal work, but for those who don’t consider this your invitation to get started on her brooding and complex Children’s House series.  In this pule-pounding second book in the series, a chilling note predicting the deaths of six people is found in a school’s time capsule, ten years after it was buried. But surely, if a thirteen-year-old wrote it, it can’t be a real threat–can it?  Detective Huldar suspects he’s been given the investigation simply to keep him away from real police work. He turns to psychologist Freyja to help understand the child who hid the message. Soon, however, they find themselves at the heart of another shocking case. For the discovery of the letter coincides with a string of macabre events: body parts found in a garden, followed by the murder of the man who owned the house. His initials are BT, one of the names on the note. Huldar and Freyja must race to identify the writer, the victims and the murderer, before the rest of the targets are killed.  Booklist gave this super novel a glowing review, praising how “Sigurdardottir offsets sharp procedural elements and gruesome crimes with masterful character development and social commentary, creating a riveting, affecting thriller.”

Until next week, Beloved Patrons–happy reading!