All posts by peaadmin

Resolve to Read 2018!

We have a card catalog, and we know how to use it!

If you come into the Library this month, and take a look at our Card Catalog Display, you’ll notice our efforts to help you fulfill your New Year’s Resolution to read more/different/diverse (or all three!) books in 2018.  And even if you weren’t planning on reading more books, or more diverse books, I think it might be safe to say that our resolution suggestions are more fun, and easier to keep, than most that are out there.   After all, reading yields instant rewards, like improving your empathy, broadening your horizons, enriching your imagination, potentially lowering your blood pressure and improving your mood!

In our Card Catalog Display, we have two checklists for you to use to track your reading.   The first has been designed by Scholastic, and while it was designed for younger readers, honestly, there’s plenty there for grown-up readers, like “Reading a biography of a person you admire,” or “Read a book by an author who shares my birthday or Zodiac sign.”  My personal favorite on this list (and it was really difficult to choose!) is “Ask a friend or parent to grab ten random books. I have to close my eyes and pick one blindly. No matter what it is, I have to read it.”  I can almost guarantee you that this practice will result in you finding a new, terrific, edifying book that you’d never have imagined reading on your own.  And how sensational would it be to discover a new favorite book this year?!  There are 100 suggestions on this list for you to fulfill, all of which were designed by Scholastic to keep readers of any age enjoying and encountering new stories by new people all year long.

The second list we offer is from our friends at Book Riot.  Their “2018 Read Harder” Challenge has been sponsored by Libby and Overdrive–which, for those of you who download e-books and e-audiobooks from our website will know very well!  Book Riot designed their list with the goal of widening your reading horizons.  So the topics on their checklist involve items like “A book with a female protagonist over the age of 60” or “A mystery by a person of color or LGBTQ+ author,” both of which require a bit of looking, but are perspectives that I don’t often get in the books I read, so I’m very excited to get started with this.

The goal with this display, and with both these lists is to help you read books outside of your favorite authors or genres, and to help you expand your personal horizons by encountering viewpoints, ideas, and concepts that you might otherwise not.  There’s even a chance to reconcile with old enemies; Book Riot, for example, has an entry for “An assigned book you hated (or never finished).”  There have been many of those in my life.  And even if I  (or you?!) hate-read a book (as in, reading it merely to have the fodder to talk about how much you still hate this book), this is a chance to meet up with your former self, and see if you still share the same opinions about books.  I’m really eager to re-assess at the end of the year and see how far we’ve all come as readers!

Stay tuned here for some of our recommendations to help you through these reading challenges–and feel free to come by and share your new literary discoveries with us!

Re-Reading Martin Luther King Jr. Day

Martin Luther King Jr. Day is an American federal holiday that is observed on the third Monday of January each year, which is around Dr. King’s birthday (which was January 15).  For those of you who enjoyed a day off in honor of this inspiring and intrepid American hero, we sincerely hoped you enjoyed the day.

But what–or, rather, whom–precisely, are we celebrating when we observe Martin Luther King Jr. Day?  Yes, Dr. King was an American Baptist minister and one of the most visible spokespersons of the American Civil Rights Movement.  He is revered widely for his devotion to the practice of nonviolence and civil disobedience (refusing to recognize unjust laws, such as those preventing Black people from using public facilities and spaces that white people used).  Every year on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, we hear recordings of his “I Have A Dream Speech,” delivered at the Lincoln Memorial during the March on Washington, on August 28, 1963.  If you didn’t hear it, then here is a video below:


But it’s neither right nor fair to pretend that this speech, that this March, as fundamentally important as it was, is the only reason to celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.   He was an anti-war activist, a religious leader, an advocate of education reform,  and a vocal advocate for the poor and in favor of class overhaul.  So we wanted to take a moment to provide you with some Library materials that can help you get to know more about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the movement he led, his comrades in that movement, and his legacy in American, and, indeed, world history.

In addition, we also highly recommend checking out these online syllabi compiled by the leaders of the Black Lives Matter movement:

And this super-comprehensive syllabus, which includes videos, texts, and programs as well as texts, assembled by writer and public educator Candice Benbow:

And don’t forget to check out these texts, as well!

The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr.: After King’s assassination in 1968, King scholar Clayborne Carson pulled together the civil rights leader’s many writings and speeches and organized them into an autobiographical form. It’s an unusual genesis for an autobiography, but one that pays thoughtful homage to the giant of American rhetoric.  These collected documents pay homage to all sides of King’s life, his religious philosophy, his harsh criticisms of American culture as well as his devotion to improving it in non-violent ways.  Anyone looking to understand the true, deep wisdom, anger, determination, and devotion of Dr. King should put this book at the top of their ‘To-Read’ List.

My Life, My Love, My Legacy: Without the work of Coretta Scott King, the wife of Martin Luther King Jr., we would not have a Martin Luther King Jr. Day.  In addition to preserving and defending her husband’s legacy, Coretta Scott King was also a fierce, determined activist in her own right, taking on the male hegemony of the Civil Rights Movement and championing civil rights causes including gay rights and AIDS awareness. She has also served as a UN ambassador and played a key role in Nelson Mandela’s election.  This book, told by Coretta Scott King to the Rev. Dr. Barbara Reynolds, is the story of her early life, of her relationship with Martin Luther King Jr., and of her growth into a brave leader remained devoted to forgiving, nonviolent, and hope, even in the face of terrorism and violent hatred every single day of her life.  Honestly, if you read one book about the Civil Rights Movement and Dr. King’s legacy, make it this one.

Dear Martin: Nic Stone’s stunning novel not only offers a powerful portrayal of race relations in the United States today, but also questions the legacy of the Civil Rights Movement, and Dr. King’s nonviolent theories.  Justyce McAllister is top of his class and set for the Ivy League—but none of that matters to the police officer who just put him in handcuffs. And despite leaving his rough neighborhood behind, he can’t escape the scorn of his former peers or the ridicule of his new classmates.  Justyce looks to the teachings of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. for answers. But do they hold up anymore? He starts a journal to Dr. King to find out.  But when Justyce and his friend find themselves the victims of violent, brutal cruelty, it is up to him to find his way out alone.  The power of Stone’s work isn’t just in dealing with racism in a way that is both insightful and empathetic, but also in recognizing the way that racism as an institution affects People of Color and their relationships.  This isn’t an easy read by any stretch, but it’s a vital and a gripping one.

Jane Crow : the life of Pauli MurrayAt the forefront of the Civil Rights Movement, alongside such leaders as Martin Luther King, Jr. and Rosa Parks, lawyer and activist Pauli Murray stood as an outspoken woman who protested discrimination on the basis of race and sex.  In 1963, she publicly condemned the sexism of the Civil Rights Movement, in her speech “The Negro Woman and the Quest for Equality”.  In 1964, just months after Dr. King’s “I Have A Dream Speech,” she delivered a speech of her own in Washington, D.C., titled “Jim Crow and Jane Crow.”  In this speech, Murray emphasized that women’s rights needed to be part of the Civil Rights Movement.  Moreover, that women had been a part of the Civil Rights Movement from the very beginning, and deserved not only recognition, but a voice, and equality within the movement and the country.   In addition to helping found NOW (National Organization for Women), Murray was also a lawyer, a professor at Brandeis University, and was ordained as an Episcopal priest, making her among the first women ordained in the Episcopal Church.  This wonderful biography by Rosalind Rosenberg offers a poignant portrait of a figure who played pivotal roles in both the modern civil rights and women’s movements that shows the remarkable courage,  intellectual, and personal strength that all its leaders shared.

March: Book One, Two, and Three: Before he entered the United States Congress, Senator John Lewis was a leader in the Civil Rights Movement, suffering police violence and the rage of many in his native Alabama who opposed the movement.  Lewis knew Martin Luther King Jr., and worked with him on actions as diverse as  nonviolent lunch counter sit-ins to the 1963 March on Washington.  These graphic novels are Lewis’ autobiography, from growing up on a share-cropping farm in Alabama to taking his seat in the US Senate, intended not only to share the story of the Civil Rights Movement with younger readers, but also to help them learn the practices and philosophy of non-violent protest so that they could become the leaders for the next generation.  These books are stunningly illustrated and enormously powerful, and have plenty to teach readers of any age group.


Please come into the Library to learn more about Dr. King, and all those people involved in the Civil Rights Movement and its ongoing legacy.

Five Book Friday!

And a very happy Free For All birthday today to  Charles Perrault, French author, and one of the founders of the fairy tale genre.

Perrault’s portrait, approximately 1671-2

If you’ve ever read Cinderella, Puss In Boots, or Little Red Riding Hood, you’re familiar with Perrault’s work.  Born on this day in 1628 to a wealthy family, he trained as a lawyer, and began his career in government service, where he took part in the creation of the Academy of Sciences as well as the restoration of the Academy of Painting.  His career was quite the successful one: he was able to get his brother employed as a designer on the Louvre Museum, he convinced King Louis XIV to include thirty-nine fountains each representing one of the fables of Aesop in the labyrinth of Versailles in the gardens of Versailles, and gained a reputation as a writer, as well.  However, after being forced into retirement and unable to find other long-term employment, Perrault decided to dedicate himself to his children, publishing stories that he told and collected for them.   In 1697 he published Tales and Stories of the Past with Morals(Histoires ou Contes du Temps passé), subtitled Tales of Mother Goose (Les Contes de ma Mère l’Oye).  Mother Goose herself was not a real person, by the by, but instead was a kind of a wise woman of folklore who was known for dispensing homespun wisdom.  These tales which were all based on French popular tradition, became extremely popular in among Perrault’s former colleagues in the French court, and the book’s publication made him suddenly quite famous.  Although Perrault is often credited as the founder of the modern fairy tale genre, his writing was both informed and inspired by writers and storytellers like Le Jumel de Barneville, Baroness d’Aulnoy, who coined the phrase “fairy tale” and wrote tales as early as 1690.  

Although many of Perrault’s tales, like Cinderella and Puss In Boots remain generally the way he wrote them, a number of them were changed through re-telling.  For example, his Sleeping Beauty also exists as Little Briar Rose, which was a story collected by the Grimm Brothers a century later.  Additionally, his Little Red Riding Hood ended quite grimly, with Red getting eaten.  The story was meant as a warning for girls not only about the danger of the forest, but of the “wolves” (read: men) who might prey upon them as they attempted to make their way through that forest.   Though Charles Perrault died in Paris in 1703 at the age of 75, his stories live on today is countless adaptations, re-tellings, and in myriad versions through the years.

If you’d like to read more of Perrault’s stories, stop on by the Library!  Also, here are some of the new books that have wandered on to our shelves this week, and are eager to make your acquaintance:

The TransitionLuke Kennard’s first novel is a wickedly funny, elegant little dystopian novel that skewers everything from capitalism to dating with such skill and flair as to make even the darkest moments irresistible.  Set in Britain several years from now, the book focuses on Karl and Genevieve, a couple whose spending always seems greater than their earnings, and who are toeing the line of financial ruin.  When they trip over that line, however, Genevieve and Karl aren’t sent to prison, but to The Transition: a six‑month break from their normal lives, during which they will live with an older, more successful couple, and learn from them about all that boring adult stuff like financial planning , proper hygiene, and, with their help. save up enough money to buy a rabbit hutch on the bad side of town.  But even as Genevieve falls under the spell of The Transition, Karl can’t help but notice that somethings just don’t seem right.  Who left those scratched warnings on the bedpost, for example?  And what happens to those who are “B-streamed”?  And just what is going on in the basement?  Publisher’s Weekly loved this book enough to give it a starred (and boxed!) review, describing it as a “sharp, witty debut . . . Enlivened by crisp dialogue and Wildean epigrams… Kennard calibrates satire and sentiment, puncturing glib diagnoses of a generation’s shortcomings while producing a nuanced portrait of a marriage.”

The Widows of Malabar Hill: Inspired in part by Cornelia Sorabji, India’s first female attorney, this is a beautifully written mystery that captures the multicultural  setting 1920’s Bombay beautifully, and gives readers a fantastic new feminist sleuth to follow.  Perveen Mistry, the daughter of a respected Zoroastrian family, has just joined her father’s law firm, becoming one of the first female lawyers in India. Armed with a legal education from Oxford, Perveen also has a tragic personal history that makes women’s legal rights especially important to her.  When she is appointed to execute the will of Mr. Omar Farid, a wealthy Muslim mill owner who has left three widows, Perveen notices something strange: all three of the wives have signed over their full inheritance to a charity, leaving them nothing on which to survive.  Are these secluded women being taken advantage of by an unscrupulous guardian?  As Perveen tries to investigate, tensions escalate to murder. Now it is her responsibility to figure out what really happened on Malabar Hill, and to ensure that no innocent women or children are in further danger.  Perveen’s first case has been hailed as a ‘best of’ by a number of literary magazines and websites, with Booklist giving it a starred review, and saying “In addition to getting an unusual perspective on women’s rights and relationships, readers are treated to a full view of historical downtown Bombay—the shops and offices, the docks and old fort, and the huge variety of conveyances, characters, and religions—in an unforgettable olio that provides the perfect backdrop to the plot and subplots. Each of the many characters is uniquely described, flaws and all, which is the key to understanding their surprising roles in the well-constructed puzzle.”

Beau Death:  Anyone whose read any of Peter Lovesey’s mysteries featuring Bath detective Peter Diamond will know that these books very seldom disappoint, and this new installment is a corking good historical mystery that will keep new and old fans alike riveted.  A wrecking crew is demolishing a row of townhouses in order to build a grocery store when they uncover a skeleton in one of the attics. The dead man is wearing authentic 1760s garb and on the floor next to it is a white tricorn hat—the ostentatious signature accessory of Beau Nash, one of Bath’s most famous historical men-about-town, a fashion icon and incurable rake who, some say, ended up in a pauper’s grave. Or did the Beau actually end up in a townhouse attic? The Beau Nash Society will be all in a tizzy when the truth is revealed to them.  Chief Inspector Peter Diamond, who has been assigned to identify the remains, begins to fantasize about turning Nash scholarship on its ear. But one of his constables is stubbornly insisting the corpse can’t be Nash’s—the non-believer threatens to spoil Diamond’s favorite theory, especially when he offers some pretty irrefutable evidence. Is Diamond on a historical goose chase? Should he actually be investigating a much more modern murder?  Lovesey’s sense of place and his ability to capture characters effortlessly make each of these mysteries a delight, and he gets to put his talents to extra-good use here, comparing present-day Bath with the hedonistic fun-fair of Beau Nash’s time.  Kirkus Reviews gave this case a starred review, delighting in the way “Lovesey moves from one dexterously nested puzzle to the next with all the confidence of a magician who knows the audience won’t see through his deceptions no matter how slowly he unveils them.”

RoomiesThere are very few sure bets in this world, but a book by the writing team known as Christina Lauren is definitely one of them.  This delightful, snarky, steamy marriage-of-convenience romance is a treat, and Lauren’s ability to create emotional honesty and chemistry between protagonists just can’t be beat.  For months Holland Bakker has invented excuses to descend into the subway station near her apartment, drawn to the captivating music performed by her street musician crush. Lacking the nerve to actually talk to the gorgeous stranger, fate steps in one night in the form of a drunken attacker. Calvin Mcloughlin rescues her, but quickly disappears when the police start asking questions.  Using the only resource she has to pay the brilliant musician back, Holland gets Calvin an audition with her uncle, Broadway’s hottest musical director. When the tryout goes better than even Holland could have imagined, Calvin is set for a great entry into Broadway—until it comes to light that he’s in the country illegally, his student visa having expired years ago.  Seeing that her uncle needs Calvin as much as Calvin needs him, Holland impulsively marries the Irishman, her infatuation a secret only to him.  As their relationship evolves, however, and Calvin becomes the darling of Broadway, will Holland and Calvin to realize that they both stopped pretending a long time ago?  Though the very real fears of immigration may be treated a bit lightly here, the heart of this story is the terrific relationship between Holland and Calvin, and the way it brings out the best in both of them.  Entertainment Weekly agrees, noting, “Lauren masters rom-com banter and plotting, while also reminding us that the best entries in the genre are all about recognizing our own value regardless of relationship status. One of our 10 best romances of 2017.”

Meditation for Fidgety Skeptics: The title of this book alone is enough to attract attention, but Dan Harris backs it up with some simple, straightforward reasons for and approaches to meditation, based on his own experiences.  After having a panic attack on air in 2004, Harris was eager for a way to reduce his anxiety and help him focus.  This book is the result of that search, and of Harris’ cross-country quest to tackle the myths, misconceptions, and self-deceptions that stop people from meditating.  Along with his friend,  teacher and “Meditation MacGyver” Jeff Warren, Harris rented a former rock band’s tour bus and journeyed across eighteen states, talking to scores of would-be meditators—including parents, military cadets, police officers, and even a few celebrities–collecting their reasons for not meditating, and offering science-based ‘life hacks’ to help readers overcome them.  This thoroughly unique, genre-defying book featuring Harris’ one-of-a-kind insightful, sarcastic, and highly readable narrative voice, as well as plenty of down-to-earth advice for anyone looking to make a small change for the better in the new year.  Publisher’s Weekly helpfully notes that “Meditation newbies will particularly benefit from the topics covered: how to find time, how to sit, how to overcome self-judgment, and other FAQs about the powerful, life-changing practice the authors strive to unpack and promote in this clever guide.”


Until next week, beloved patrons–happy reading!

Talking about “Trashy”

Today, we’re taking a look back at a post from October 2015, an oldie-but-goodie that we hope you enjoy!

Yesterday, the fabulous book blog BookRiot posted a sensational review of “The Books That Made Us Romance Readers”–a collection of the books that changed their ideas of romance, and made them passionate, devoted genre readers.  It was a wonderful article, with some truly sensational recommendations.  But part of the introductory material really grabbed my attention: Author Nikki Steel mentioned her umbrage with The Word.  That Word that so grates on my own nerves.  That Word that always comes out when we talk about romance novels.


It’s a word that gets used so often in describing romances, and has been used for so long, that I think we may just take it for granted.  But we shouldn’t.  Because it’s a word loaded with so much meaning and judgement that it often keeps people from even picking up a romance novel, let alone enjoying all that it has to offer.

2015-05-05-1430841078-9909489-romancenovelreader1-thumbIf I told you that a specific genre comprised 13% of all adult fiction sold, and over 50% of all paperbacks purchased, had a regular readership of 29 million people, and collectively earned $1.44 billion last year (which is 20% of all adult fiction sales), what word would you use to describe that genre?  Powerful?  Probably.  Influential?  Certainly.  Trashy?  Most likely not…unless we are talking about romance.  We talk about spy novels, political thrillers, mysteries as “light reads”, “easy reads”, or “fun reads”.  But very, very seldom does anyone call these genres by the T word.  Also, I have never seen anyone act shyly about checking out or reading a book with explosions, military paraphernalia, or espionage-type briefcases and trench-coats on the covers.  Yet there remains a stigma about romances that no statistics can seem to shake.  Why?

In a career retrospective, playwright Vicky Featherstone recalled some advice she had been given years ago: “We’re really used to living in a society where the main narrative – politicians, kings, judges – the main narratives on-stage and in our lives are male-led. And actually, we don’t know whether we’re very good yet at watching a female narrative, especially with a flawed character.”  I hold that this fact is true on-stage, in our lives, and in our books, as well.  The idea of a male spy, a male army general, or a male detective isn’t at all revolutionary, or in any way dangerous.  They have a cultural sanction to be the heroes of the story, and to have women as their sidekicks, their assistants, their lovers, wives, girlfriends, or victims.  But the idea of a female spy (who isn’t  femme-fatale), a female general, or a female private eye presents a challenge to many.

Putting-Women-in-a-BoxFor centuries, female characters have been put in boxes.  Medea is insane; Lady Macbeth is a villain; Bella Swan in an ingenue; Hester Prynne is a victim.  And many people are still very uncomfortable when women break out of those boxes and become the uncontrollable, unpredictable heroine of their story (I’m looking at you, Gone Girl).  Male heroes don’t challenge the status quo, just as male-dominated narratives don’t make us think twice.  But women with narrative power calls all the things we consider ‘normal’ into question.  And it is, sadly, a part of human nature to strike out at things that make us uncomfortable–to deny them their power in order to make things go back to ‘normal’.


220729ede753d421406c10cf64228b4dHence, the unfortunate rationale of That Word, and a major reason for the stigma surrounding romance novels: women in charge of their own lives, calling their own shots, and demanding happiness on her own terms challenges most of the narratives we have read throughout history.  Perhaps most disheartening of all, though, it also stigmatizes readers.  Readers who, according to the stats, tend to be college-educated people with jobs and incomes.  But readers who are told time and again that romances aren’t “realistic” (because the idea zoo animals plotting to kill us all, or a zombie virus that can only be combatted by two male heroes is in any way more realistic?); that they give us an “unhealthy worldview” (if that were true, then we should all stop reading books about serial killers immediately).   That they give unreasonable expectations…

But breaking out of those boxes, and having limitless expectations is precisely what romances allow female characters to do–indeed, it rewards them for it; not necessarily with marriage or with a man, but, more importantly, with fulfillment and self-affirmation.  As the brilliant Maya Rodale explained in an article for Bustle: “the HEA [happily ever after] is the heroine’s reward for embarking on an adventure, defying expectations for herself, creating her own story, discovering what makes her happy and learning to live and love on her own terms. And the real reward isn’t the ring or the guy, it’s getting to be happy.”  They encourage their female readers not to settle, and to refuse to stay put in the box.

So rather than label romances with words that strip them, their characters, and their readers of power and agency, let’s find a new way to describe them, shall we?  Progressive?  Revolutionary?  Empowering?

…Or we can just start by calling them books.  And reminding readers that they have brains and feelings and the individual right to read whatever they want.



Fire and Fury and Wait Lists…

So, just in case you haven’t heard, there’s this book that’s just recently come out, written by Michael Wolffe, and titled Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House.  It’s been getting a wee bit of attention lately.

Via The Hill

Demand for this book was already quite high when it’s publication date was set for January 9.   But then the rollout plan, organized by publisher Henry Holt, were overwhelmed the Guardian published highlights from the embargoed book on the morning of Wednesday, January 3.  That move prompted New York magazine, which has first serial rights, to post its excerpts early, mid-day on January 3.  They were originally supposed to run on January 9, the day of the book’s original release.

This drove demand for the book sky-high, even as a lot of readers voiced displeasure at spending money that would in any way contribute to, or validate the sources that Wolff used.  And thus, a lot of people pointed out that public Libraries provide a terrific solution to this problem: access to the book, without paying money for it.  It’s literally the premise of a public Library, but it’s nice to see how many people were realizing how important and spectacular that is.

Henry Holt Logo

Then the cease and desist letter came from the President’s lawyers.  To which Henry Holt responded:  “Henry Holt confirms that we received a cease-and-desist letter from an attorney for President Trump. We see Fire and Fury as an extraordinary contribution to our national discourse, and are proceeding with the publication of the book.”  They moved up the publication date to Friday, January 5 (For the record, Books don’t come out on Fridays.  Books come out on Tuesdays.  Movies come out on Fridays.)

But then, we got a big snowstorm.  And that prevented a lot of packages from being delivered in a timely manner all along the east coast, which slowed the departure of the book from New York (as it did a great many pieople, as well), and driving up anticipation even further.

This week, Publisher’s Weekly put out an article entitled “Librarians Scrambling to Meet Demand for ‘Fire and Fury,'” a title which I find immensely annoying, because we work really hard every day to anticipate your needs and meet those to the best of our budgetary capabilities.  We’re not scrambling, so much as we’re dealing with this enormous demand and limited supply, just like everyone else.  However, the article does mention Massachusetts Libraries, specifically citing Watertown Public Library and the Minuteman Library Network (hello, Friends!).  So that’s a plus.  Time also ran an article pointing out the huge demand at Libraries for the book, which almost sounds like the good people at Time just realized we’re here and loaning out books and being awesome.  Sigh.

Anyways, this is the very long way of letting you know that within the NOBLE network, we have 176 holds on the print book and 17 on the CD audiobook with no copies live yet.  We also have  9 copies of the OverDrive ebook and 3 of the audiobook, and there are a lot of holds on those already.  We are waiting for further copies, but those are slow in coming.  In the meantime, however, we have a display of books that can help tide you over, get you thinking, and entertain you until we are able to fulfill your hold request.  Here are just a few you can find on the display in the man reading room of the Main Library.  And be sure to check in with your friendly Library staff for even more great ideas in the meantime!

Just an aside: we tried to be as wide-ranging as possible in our selections, including books that speak to themes in the media coverage of this book and responses to it by individuals.  We hope you enjoy!

Who Thought This Was a Good Idea? : And Other Questions You Should Have Answers to When You Work in the White House: Written by President Obama’s  former deputy chief of staff Alyssa Mastromonaco, this book is a surprising, strangely informative, and startlingly funny look behind the scenes at what it really takes to keep the President and the country running (the answer is a lot of briefing binders, apparently).  But, as we learn, for every historic occasion-meeting the queen at Buckingham Palace, bursting in on secret climate talks, or nailing a campaign speech in a hailstorm-there were dozens of less-than-perfect moments when it was up to Alyssa to save the day. Like the time she learned the hard way that there aren’t nearly enough bathrooms at the Vatican.   Mastromonaco’s memoir also offers some great career tips, even for those not looking to make it in D.C.: tips about confidence, about being kind, and about dedication, that make it a great read on any number of levels.

Bunk : the rise of hoaxes, humbug, plagiarists, phonies, post-facts, and fake news: In an interview about his 2017-National-Book-Award nominated work, poet and critic Kevin Young explained “I wanted to look at the bad side of lying. But the more I read the more I saw both that hoaxes aren’t about what people say they are and how often they were really about race.”  In every instance and example in his book–and there are many, and they are all fascinating–Young doesn’t just laugh about the American public’s willingness to swallow “fake news” stories, or about their inability to trust the truth when it’s illuminating.  Instead, he looks at the fears, the prejudices, and the suspicions that allowed the lies to grow, and prevents the acceptance of the truth.  The book is an insightful and well-written bit of history, but it’s also a powerful lesson about what makes us cry “fake” when we hear a particular story–and why we believe what we believe from the news and sources around us.

Lies my teacher told me : everything your American history textbook got wrong: And while we’re on the subject of fake stuff, let’s look at James W. Loewen’s book about American history textbooks, and the stories they tell.  After surveying eighteen leading high school American history texts, Professor Loewen concluded that not one does a decent job of making history interesting or memorable. Marred by an embarrassing combination of blind patriotism, mindless optimism, sheer misinformation, and outright lies, these books are just generally bad history…and lead to a lot of the misconceptions we have about American history and its peoples.  This is a thought-provoking, compelling, and nonpartisan texts that doesn’t pull its punches anywhere, providing the lessons we all probably should have known by now.

Who can you trust? : how technology brought us together and why it might drive us apart: In this revolutionary book, world-renowned trust expert Rachel Botsman reveals that we are at the tipping point of one of the biggest social transformations in human history–with fundamental consequences for everyone. A new world order is emerging: we might have lost faith in institutions and leaders, but millions of people rent their homes to total strangers, exchange digital currencies, or find themselves trusting a bot. This is the age of “distributed trust,” a paradigm shift driven by innovative technologies that are rewriting the rules of an all-too-human relationship.

If we are to benefit from this radical shift, we must understand the mechanics of how trust is built, managed, lost, and repaired in the digital age. In the first book to explain this new world, Botsman provides a detailed map of this uncharted landscape–and explores what’s next for humanity…

What Are You Doing (at the Library)?

As many of you know, dear readers, we strive to provide plenty of quality classes, events, and activities here at the Library, and though Winter keeps trying to thwart our plans, we have yet to be deterred from our goal!  Here’s a look at some of the events we have coming up in February for your delectation.  You can see the full list of events by checking out our Adult Events Calendar, our Children’s Room Calendar, and our Creativity Lab Calendar.

And, as always, our events are free for all.

At the Main Library:

iPad & iPhone Basics
Tuesday, February 13: 3:00pm – 5:00pm
Second Floor Tech Lab

In this 2-hour class, we’ll cover some of the basic functions of the Apple iPad & iPhone, including current operating system features and those on previous versions. We will explore basic set up of the device, touch screen gestures, your home screen, managing settings, privacy, and notifications, along with taking and storing/sharing photos, messaging, e-mail, apps, and additional functions as time allows.

Note: Please bring your iPhone or iPad if you want to follow along in class, as the library cannot provide devices to attendees.

At the Creativity Lab:

Digital Embroidery
Wednesday, February 24: 6:30pm – 8:30pm

Learn how to create your own custom embroidery with the Creativity Lab’s digital embroidery machine. This machine can take any digital image and stitch it into fabric. You can embroider a design of your own during the class, and afterward, you will be able to use the machine during any Open Lab session.

For ages 13-adult. Space is limited; please sign up in advance.

At the West Branch:

Georgia O’Keeffe: A Life of Art, Lecture and Slide Presentation with Meg Dall
Tuesday, February 6: 7:00pm – 8:00pm

For seven decades Georgia O’Keeffe was a major figure in American art. Remarkably she remained independent in her vision and finding the essentials in form, color, shape and light that illuminated her canvases. The images were drawn from her life experiences to places where she lived. The very landscape outside her window was the inspiration she drew from.  Come and see slides of O’Keeffe’s work as well as photographs of the artist and learn more about her life and work with Meg Dall.  Meg Dall is a teaching artist, who studied at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. She is
Director of Young @Art, an art appreciation program, and a former docent at the Guggenheim Museum’s LEARNING THROUGH ART program, the Boston Public Library and at Boston College’s McMullen Museum (Klee exhibit). In the past she has taught an Enrichment program at the Marblehead Community Public School.
This program is generously sponsored by The Friends of the Peabody Institute Library. Please register in advance to reserve a space.

Heritage Films presents Revere Beach Story and Pleasure Island Park History
Wednesday, February 14: 1:00pm – 2:00pm

Come join us for a 40 minute film presentation by local historian and film maker Dan Tremblay of Heritage Films! This particular film will focus on the history of Revere Beach and Pleasure Island Park.


As always, if there is a program, event, or class you’d like to see at the Library, let us know!  We are, after all, here because of and for you!

Five Book Friday!

The Library is closed today, beloved patrons, thanks to the Nor’easter yesterday…pardon, the ‘Bomb Cyclone’ that left two-foot drifts outside my house, and caused plenty of other headaches and heartaches around the state.  We sincerely hope you are all safe, warm, and enjoying a little pillow-fort book time.  We’re looking forward to welcoming you back to the Library tomorrow!  And if you’re eager for some new reading material, check out this selection of new books that braved the elements to settle onto our shelves this week:


J.K. Lasser’s Your Income Tax 2018Yeah, yeah, we know.  It’s no fun, and it’s super stressful.  But if you’re looking to do your own taxes this year, we’re here to help.  Check out the rest of our useful information on Tax Season help, too…tax forms should be here shortly, and our West Branch is accepting calls for people looking for help filling out their taxes.  Give them a call as soon as possible to secure a spot on the schedule: (978) 535-3354.

Green: A NovelSam Graham-Felsen is a former Obama campaign staffer, but his career as a novelist seems to be off to a terrific start.  His debut coming-of-age novel opens in Boston, in 1992.  David Greenfeld is one of the few white kids at the Martin Luther King, Jr., Middle School. Everybody clowns him, girls ignore him, and his hippie parents won’t even buy him a pair of Nikes, let alone transfer him to a private school. Unless he tests into the city’s best public high school—which, if practice tests are any indication, isn’t likely—he’ll be friendless for the foreseeable future.  Nobody’s more surprised than Dave when Marlon Wellings sticks up for him in the school cafeteria. Mar’s a loner from the public housing project on the corner of Dave’s own gentrifying block, and he confounds Dave’s assumptions about black culture: He’s nerdy and neurotic, a Celtics obsessive whose favorite player is the gawky, white Larry Bird. Before long, Mar’s coming over to Dave’s house every afternoon to watch vintage basketball tapes and plot their hustle to Harvard. But as Dave welcomes his new best friend into his world, he realizes how little he knows about Mar’s. Cracks gradually form in their relationship, and Dave starts to become aware of the breaks he’s been given—and that Mar has not.  Charming, fun, startlingly insightful and unflinchingly honest, this is a book that is as heart-warming as it is eye-opening, and was an Editor’s Pick by Library Journal, who raved that it “poignantly captures the tumultuous feelings of adolescence against the historical backdrop of a racially segregated city and country.” 

The Annotated African American Folklore: In this stunning book, Professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. and Maria Tatar have assembled a groundbreaking collection of folktales, myths, and legends that reveals and revitalizes the vibrant details of African American culture.  Arguing for the value of these deceptively simple stories as part of a sophisticated, complex, and heterogeneous cultural heritage, Gates and Tatar show how these remarkable stories deserve a place alongside the classic works of African American literature, and American literature more broadly.  Beginning with the figure of Anansi, the African trickster, master of improvisation―a spider who plots and weaves in scandalous ways―The Annotated African American Folktales then goes on to draw Caribbean and Creole tales into the orbit of the folkloric canon. It retrieves stories not seen since the Harlem Renaissance and brings back archival tales of “Negro folklore” that Booker T. Washington proclaimed had emanated from a “grapevine” that existed even before the American Revolution, stories brought over by slaves who had survived the Middle Passage.   This work is being hailed as the comprehensive and ambitious collection of African American folktales ever published in American literary history, and is a fascinating read for folklore, culture, and history fans alike.  Library Journal also wrote a terrific review for this book, noting that “Survival, both physical and spiritual, is the reality that underpins these stories, as is resilience in the face of unimaginable adversity. This valuable and much-needed anthology is highly recommended for readers interested in folklore and African American history.”

Mean:  Myriam Gurba is a queer spoken-word performer, visual artist, and writer from Santa Maria, California, and is also building an impressive career as a writer, artist (her work has been exhibited at the Museum of Latin American Art in Long Beach), and as an eighth-grade social studies teacher.  This new release combines true crime, memoir, and ghost story, to create a wholly original, thought-provoking, and starltingly comedic story of Gurba’s coming of age as a queer, mixed-race Chicana. Blending radical formal fluidity and caustic humor, Gurba takes on sexual violence, small towns, and race, turning what might be tragic into piercing, revealing comedy. This is a confident, intoxicating, brassy book that takes the cost of sexual assault, racism, misogyny, and homophobia deadly seriously.  This is by no means an easy read, but it’s a necessary one.  The New York Times agrees, saying “Mean calls for a fat, fluorescent trigger warning start to finish — and I say this admiringly. Gurba likes the feel of radioactive substances on her bare hands.”

The Wine Lover’s Daughter: Anyone who has settled in with a nice glass of red (or white) during this tough stretch of winter will appreciate Anne Fadiman’s memoir of growing up with one of the beverage’s most devoted aficionados.   An appreciation of wine–along with a plummy upper-crust accent, expensive suits, and an encyclopedic knowledge of Western literature–was an essential element of Clifton Fadiman’s escape from lower-middle-class Brooklyn to swanky Manhattan. But wine was not just a class-vaulting accessory; it was an object of ardent desire–from the glass of cheap Graves he drank in Paris in 1927 through the Château Lafite-Rothschild 1904 he drank to celebrate his eightieth birthday, when he and the bottle were exactly the same age, to the wines that sustained him in his last years, when he was blind but still buoyed, as always, by hedonism.  Wine is the spine of this touching memoir; the life and character of Fadiman’s father, along with her relationship with him and her own less ardent relationship with wine, are the flesh.  Ultimately this is a book about love, and the journeys on which it can take us that earned a starred review from Booklist, who said in its review, “In this crisp, scintillating, amusing, and affecting memoir, Anne incisively and lovingly portrays her brilliant and vital father and brings into fresh focus the dynamic world of twentieth-century books and America’s discovery of wine.”